Recently I was talking with a good friend about anxiety and how for many there seems to be a simmering anxiety waiting to rear its ugly head at any moment. We were discussing some of the different causes of anxiety and triggers in our own lives that can cause us to go from feeling somewhat anxious to a full-blown panic attack in a matter of moments.
This isn’t surprising given that life, in general, has its ups and downs and as parents of teens we have a lot on our plate. But add the umbrella of COVID to the mix and our ability to cope and deal with stress and anxiety shifts.
In the past few years, anxiety and depression have skyrocketed in adults, teens, and children. According to the American Psychological Association and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Data, “rates of anxiety and depression among U.S. adults were about 4 times higher between April 2020 and August 2021 than they were in 2019. Some of the sharpest increases were among males, Asian Americans, young adults, and parents with children in the home.” We have no doubt seen the news stories on this and heard about the continuing rise of anxiety and depression as COVID continues to shift and the mandates related to COVID shift as well.
There are several factors that lead to extreme stress, anxiety, and/or burnout. The first is that there is a reoccurring situation over which we feel we have no control. This lack of control of the situation makes us feel powerless. The second factor is that there is a negative part of the situation that occurs randomly, hurting us in some way either physically, mentally, or emotionally and because it’s unpredictable we can’t anticipate when and where it will happen.
An example of this would be an abusive relationship. The person who is being abused feels a lack of control over their partner’s harmful behavior and doesn’t know when it’s going to occur. The stress caused by the anticipation of the partner being abusive takes a psychological and physical toll on the person being abused and in an effort to regain control the person being abused may trigger the partner so that the abuse happens at the moment, rather than randomly.
In this example, the person who is being abused is trying to assert some control over an uncontrollable situation which is a natural reaction to being in this position. Yet, the solution here isn’t stopping the abuse and may actually trigger more abuse, not less.
Being exposed to a harmful situation like abuse or even a perceived harmful situation on an ongoing basis, feeling like we have no control, and anticipating that it will happen again, but not knowing when is at the heart of exhaustion, burnout, and anxiety.
We could all use more resilience in our lives and a very effective way of becoming more resilient is looking at your life and honestly assessing what you truly have control over. What you will find is that the only thing you have control over is yourself and how you spend your time.
Once we truly accept that we can’t control others, just how we respond to them-this opens up a whole new world of possibilities about who we spend our time with. This article on setting healthy boundaries is a great place to start: https://positivepsychology.com/great-self-care-setting-healthy-boundaries/
Another way to regain control in your life is to determine how you are going to spend your time. If you don’t plan your days, somebody else will and they won’t reflect what is truly important to you in fact you will find that your time may be wasted.
One way that I have found to be truly effective in planning my days is to focus on the top three things that are most important to me in my life.
Each day I have one goal for each that I create time for. I block this time out on my calendar and then during the day, I check in with myself once in the mid-morning and also in the mid-afternoon to see how my day is going. I ask myself if there are any changes I need to make to my plans for the day so that I spend time on each of my three priorities and readjust as necessary.
Since I have started focusing on just three top priorities each day I find that I get more done, and have more time for other things that I enjoy. Prioritizing the top three things in your life each day-everyday helps us stay focused on what is important and to build lives that are truly meaningful because they reflect what we value.
Establishing boundaries in our lives gives us the room and flexibility to create days where we enjoy how we’re spending our time/ which is what life is all about. When we take back control of our time and set healthy boundaries with the people we spend time with, we become less anxious and more resilient. With energy and excitement for each day ahead.
Untangled by Lisa Damour. If like me you’re a mom of a pre-teen or teen girl this book is a must-read. It clearly lays out the seven developmental stages our girls go through on their journey to adulthood and how we can support them in their journey without losing our sanity and maintaining a positive and healthy relationship with them. https://www.drlisadamour.com/untangled/
Have a wonderful week!