Modern motherhood is designed for anxiety. From the comparison trap to societal pressures to work life balance to maintaining your marriage along the way—motherhood is sink or swim. For that reason, it’s not a surprise that so many moms experience anxiety.
What’s more surprising is how anxiety is something you can manage with the right tools. It requires redefining what anxiety even is, knowing what to do with anxiety when it arises, and practicing so you get in the habit of releasing your anxiety. All of this is doable once you know how. That’s exactly what this podcast is about.
You can get freedom from anxiety. There is a better way of living and experiencing modern motherhood. Tune into this Anxiety Podcast to get the complete process of letting go of anxiety once and for all.
Welcome to Mom On Purpose, where it’s all about helping moms overcome challenges and live their best lives. My hope is by being here, you are more inspired to become the mom you are made to be. I’m Natalie, your host, a wife, boy, mom, dog, mama, Chicagoan, and former lawyer turned professionally certified coach. If you’re here to grow, I can help. Let’s go.
Hello, my lovely friend. Today I want to talk with you about anxiety. I’m so passionate about this topic because I think there are so many misconceptions that I really want to set the record straight about so that you can really feel like you understand anxiety, what it is, how you can help yourself through it when you might need professional help, and how otherwise you can really find a lot of freedom from anxiety just by utilizing the tools that I am teaching you on today’s podcast.
So this is definitely going to be one that you want to re-Listen to whenever you are experiencing anxiety. The first misconception that I want to talk about is that anxiety is bad. That is a myth. Did you know that? The second misconception that I want to talk with you about is that it is strictly a medical issue. This is just not true. And the third misconception is that anxiety is best resolved with therapy and or medication. Also not true. Now, I am not pretending or claiming to be the one and only solution or thinking that coaching is the one and only solution for a lot of people. Medication and going to therapy are amazing solutions, but what I want to offer is an alternative solution that I think is left out. I think that most of the time people have like a very polarized all or nothing view about anxiety.
Either you don’t experience anxiety or if you do, you need therapy or medication and that is simply not true. You can utilize coaching. I like to think of coaching as psychology theory applied via these specific tools and get amazing results, experiencing less anxiety and when anxiety comes up, significantly reducing it by the way that you’re able to process it. So if you believe that you need clinical or professional help with your anxiety, please do not interpret this as um, a substitute for that. If you have generalized anxiety disorder or anything that’s diagnostic and really needs to be seen by a professional, please get professional help. I am very pro whatever tools work, the space that I work in is for the mom, the woman who is experiencing every day run of the mill anxiety as an emotion that is not necessarily a problem, but for the person who doesn’t know what it is or how to experience it, it feels like a huge problem.
So if that is you, my friend, know that anxiety is actually not bad. It is not a problem in the way that we think it’s a problem. What do I mean by that? Anxiety is a feeling. It’s a normal feeling. If you just think of um, paint swatches or paint samples and how many hundreds of paint samples you could think of the names for, I want you to think about feelings in the same way. Anxiety just being one of them. Anxiety is one feeling that we experience along with a full range of other feelings like happy and sad and joy and disappointment. Right now, anxiety has this sort of, um, buzz around it and I don’t necessarily think that’s bad. I just think that what’s often is left out of the conversation is the really root cause of anxiety, which is the healthy function of the human brain that is wired for survival.
Remember, the brain is not wired for happiness, it is wired for survival. So anxiety is a very natural response to what your brain perceives as a threat. Perceives as a key word there because in our modern everyday lives, what it perceives as a threat is very different than what actually might be a threat. So for example, if your child starts struggling with friends at school, your brain might cue danger, this is bad, this is a huge problem, and you might start to worry and feel a lot of anxiety about your child’s future friendships and your brain is triggering this anxiety as if it is survival, as if your life depends on it. And of course, intellectually we all know that your child’s friendships do not mean life or death for you or for your child, and yet it really feels that way because of the way the brain is constantly scanning for danger.
And when it does that and anxiety is triggered and it’s not actually something that you feel is a threat, it’s super helpful to understand how the brain is approaching that so that you can calm yourself down and so that you can think really deliberately about it. That’s where I come in. I can provide you with mental and emotional tools to really help you slow down those negative thoughts that are creating the anxiety and help you process the anxiety in your body. Instead of what I see most commonly is we resist it. Resisting it sounds like, oh no, here comes anxiety, this is bad, this isn’t normal, this shouldn’t be happening. That resistance makes it so much worse. And instead if you can normalize it as a feeling like, oh, this is just a feeling that I’m experiencing just like I experience disappointment, just like I experience frustration, just like I experience joy right now, I’m experiencing anxiety.
Do not mistake the simplicity of this for it being ineffective. It is simple and extremely effective. And how it works is you just name the anxiety when it comes up in your body. Oh, this is anxiety. I’m experiencing anxiety in my body. Now your brain is going to want to thought loop in your mind, it’s going to want to problem solve, it’s going to want to escape the anxiety. That’s not because the anxiety is a problem. It’s because your brain is wired for survival, which means it’s designed to avoid pain. Your brain does not know the difference between real pain that is a threat and the discomfort that you are experiencing from a feeling. So the feeling of anxiety in your body is not a threat to your survival, but your brain doesn’t know that. And so it will want to problem solve. It will want to try to solve your child’s problems with friends even though that is not what’s best for you or for your child in that moment.
What is most helpful for both you and your child in this example is for you to get to a state of calm, for you to get regulated, for you to process the anxiety and then for you to show up as the mom who you want to be from support, from confidence, from certainty, from love, from compassion. You’re much more capable of helping your child navigate whatever they are struggling with. When you show up from a feeling state, that is not anxiety. I often coach clients where their child is feeling anxious and then as mom, they feel anxious about their child’s anxiety. So it’s the simple human function of mirroring. Child feels anxious, we feel anxious about their anxiety. And when you take a step back and this is what we do in the Mom On Purpose membership and you really take a look at what’s going on, you can see, oh, me adding anxiety to my child’s anxiety is not helpful.
So what I’m going to do is do my part and process the feeling, choose better feeling thoughts, IE think on purpose, and then I’m going to show up for my child and support them so that whatever they’re going through, I am able to better help them because I’m showing up from a better thought and feeling. Hands down the biggest problem that I see with the run of the mill day-to-day anxiety is lack of awareness. So without understanding that anxiety is normal, that anxiety is a feeling that anxiety is caused by your thoughts, what’s happening in your brain without understanding those things, it’s so easy to catastrophize and make anxiety worse. That’s where that resistance comes into play. So having the awareness of these three components that anxiety is normal, that anxiety is a feeling, and that anxiety is caused by your brain, the thoughts that it is having is enough awareness that it will actually change your relationship with anxiety.
And when you change your relationship with anxiety, you change the way you experience it. It really is that simple and that life changing. The reason why lack of awareness is so problematic is what we do when we don’t have the awareness of anxiety being normal. Because if anxiety is just a feeling and you know how to process it, then you won’t avoid it. When you don’t understand these things and you do avoid anxiety, the action that you take will look like overeating over drinking, over scrolling, over shopping. It will be trying to escape that negative feeling in a very practical way. Let’s say you come home from work, it’s been a stressful day. You’re feeling anxious about what’s going on with your kids and your family and at work. And so you have wine and you get into a habit of this because your brain wants to seek pleasure.
Wine is pleasure, anxiety is pain. So you’re avoiding the pain of the anxiety and seeking the pleasure of the wine. The problem with this is that you will continue to need that false pleasure I call it because it’s an external pleasure. It’s not coming from within to release that feeling. Now when you learn the tools that I’m teaching you here, the simple awareness of the anxiety alone and you learn how to process it without needing to reach for the glass of wine, what happens is that you decrease anxiety. You allow it to move through you and you don’t drink the glass of wine every night. And so you stop escaping your life and you’re left with processing the feeling, which is a little bit uncomfortable. But I like to compare it to say after a workout, after a hard workout, you don’t feel great, but you don’t make it mean that something has gone wrong.
Instead, you tell the story that, oh, this is just what happens after I work out my muscles. I feel sore and a lot of discomfort. In the same way you can tell that story about processing a negative emotion like anxiety. Oh, this is the part where I’m feeling anxious as a normal human experience. Nothing has gone wrong, my brain is in overdrive. It’s fearing something about the future, some future unknown. It’s doing what it’s designed to do, being wired for survival. I can breathe through it, allow it without taking action that negatively impacts my life without over scrolling, without overeating, without over drinking, I can be with the feeling this is so powerful. It has the effect of drastically changing your life. I have coached clients and they have been able to lose over 50 pounds just from this tool alone because what they were doing was overeating to numb the anxiety.
They were feeling so much anxiety every day that they got in the habit of eating to feel better. When you allow the feeling and you don’t overeat, you lose the weight. So this is just one example. We all have different ways that we prefer to escape our negative emotions. For you, it might not be eating, it might be drinking, it might be scrolling, it might be shopping, it might be working. You can escape negative emotion with positive things. The way that you kind of can assess for yourself is in the moment, why are you doing the thing? So are you working because you plan to work or are you working because you’re avoiding a tough conversation that you need to have with your spouse? Or are you working out because you plan to work out because that’s who you want to be? Or is it because you are feeling anxious about something going on in your life?
Now I do think that there’s a balance of this. Of course, working out is going to have a net positive in some ways versus drinking wine or eating a bunch of ice cream when you’re processing an emotion. But you just want to be careful with using anything externally to release an emotion. If you can build the skillset of processing emotions just from naming the emotion, allowing it to be in your body and breathing through it, there is nothing in your life that you can’t handle. There is nothing that could ever be presented to you in the future that you can’t handle because you know how to process a feeling. It is the ultimate skillset that will help you navigate any challenge that you are facing. I think one of the hardest parts of doing this process that is so simple and so doable is that in the moment your brain really attaches to the problem and it feels really important to problem solve.
And your brain is just doing this because it’s wired for survival. It thinks that the threat is very dangerous to your survival. And so it wants to, what I call thought loop focus on the thoughts. And in doing so, you end up avoiding your body. You end up staying in your mind so much and thought looping so much that the anxiety gets bigger because you’re not actually processing it, you’re just spinning in thoughts. So you’re ruminating in all of these negative thoughts about whatever is going on. Meanwhile, the anxiety is growing and, um, feeling worse and worse in your body because you’re not processing it. So let’s take the example of your child’s grades. Let’s say that you were really concerned about their grades and you’re feeling a lot of anxiety about it. So your brain is having a thought like, I’m so concerned about my child’s future, and this fear about what could potentially happen with respect to their grades and how it would impact their life consumes your mind and you feel really anxious because those thoughts are creating anxiety.
It’s uncertainty about a future unknown. What your brain will be tempted to do is help your child change their actions so that you can feel better. Now, it is disguised under the really innocent, I’m just trying to help my child. I just want them to do well. I just want them to succeed. I don’t want them to, um, create worse circumstances for themselves or, or have worse challenges than than they otherwise should. And while this kind of mindset is well intended, it has the impact of trying to control what’s uncontrollable and it’s doing it from this place of feeling so anxious. What I say is, yes, help your child, but help them from a calm, empowered feeling state. So before you take action to try and help your child, check in with your body, are you feeling worried? Are you feeling anxious? If so, that’s a cue for you to work on yourself, to release the anxiety, to process the emotion before taking action to help your child.
You will be so much more effective at helping your child when you show up from confidence, when you show up from calm, from support, from love. So when your brain wants to ruminate about how you can help them do better in school or change their grades or whatever it is, that’s a cue for you to say, okay, brain, we’re not going to worry about that right now. We will get to it. But the first order of business is controlling what I can control is processing the anxiety so that I show up as my best for my sake and for my child’s sake. And the way that you do that is you go into your body. Now, I’m going over this a few times because the brain does not want to do it in the moment. In the moment the brain wants to focus on the problem.
It wants to stay in your mind, go into your body, tell your brain we will get to that. But right now the work is to name the anxiety, to allow it to breathe through it. And what I mean by that is to like open up to it. So imagine that you are holding the anxiety in your hand. That is kind of the visual. It’s not that you are the anxiety, you’re just feeling it and it’s okay. You can feel this uncomfortable emotion, just like you can feel the physical discomfort after a hard workout. You know that it will pass. In the same way naming the anxiety, noticing where it is in your body describing it. Is it hot? Is it cold? Is it tight? Where at in your body? Is it, is it in your shoulders? Is it in your chest? Is it in your stomach?
Is it moving? Is it central? Is it something that you would describe as a certain color? The more descriptive you can be in your body, the more you will focus on it in your body. And that’s a way of releasing it. I was coaching a client once and she was really resistant to this process and it almost seemed a little bit like it was beneath her. So if you can relate to that, I also can relate to that as someone who, um, likes to problem solve and and wants to kind of do hard things. And it seems like, so I’m just supposed to sit here with this emotion, but it is a much more active process than that. And I promise you it has a profound impact on your life because changing your feeling state, releasing the anxiety really is the first best step to solving a problem.
You want to get to calm, you want to release the anxiety and then choose the thoughts and feelings that you want to have to navigate that challenge. So focusing on the tightness and allowing it and breathing through it seems like it’s trivial, but it’s not. It’s actually everything. And the reason it seems trivial is because your brain is so smart. It will try every trick in the book to get you to focus on thoughts, but the more that you stay in your brain, the more you reject and resist and avoid the anxiety and the worse it gets. So go into your body when you are feeling anxiety. Know that it is a normal feeling created from your brain, and the more you normalize it as a feeling created from the brain, the more likely you will be to just process it and not make it a big deal.
I have had so much experience with feeling anxious, particularly when I’ve made really big changes in my life. When I got my dog Penny, I almost threw up. My brain had so much fear about the unknown. Now, intellectually I wanted to get a dog, but I had never had a dog. And so it felt very scary. So it’s not ever the actual circumstance. For those of you listening who have had dogs your whole life, it’s probably hard for you to even fathom that. But for me, it felt so real. For some of you listening, it will be something completely different. And so again, it’s never the circumstance. It’s how our brain perceives the circumstance. That’s why I love using that dog analogy because I think we all understand that, and I think that actually most of you listening probably haven’t had that experience. And so really seeing, oh yeah, it can be completely different based on how your brain interprets something is actually really comforting to know.
So for you, it might be what’s going on with your spouse at work, it might be what’s going on with your kids. It might be that you want to have more kids, who knows it is whatever is going on in that brain of yours. I want you to just understand that it is a healthy function of the brain because the brain is wired for survival. Nothing has gone wrong, my friend. Now, as I mentioned at the beginning, it is worth repeating here. This is not a substitute for treating generalized anxiety disorder. This is for anxiety that is a feeling that all healthy humans with a healthy functioning brain experience, if you experience, if you have generalized anxiety disorder or any other mental health condition, seeking professional help, getting a psychiatrist or a therapist or the medication that will really help is something that I highly recommend if that is the route that you need to go.
As I alluded to and mentioned in the beginning, my role is to offer solutions for the space. In between that all or nothing thinking, either you don’t experience anxiety or if you do, you need professional clinical help. Well, I say that is not true. Insofar as those are not the only options, there is a space in the middle where you are experiencing just run of the mill day-to-day anxiety. That is something that can seem problematic and yet can be completely managed with these tools. Your primitive brain is designed to keep you alive, and I can’t remove that part of the primitive brain for you, nor would you want me to. It is very helpful when there is an actual threat, but when your brain perceives a threat that isn’t a real threat to your survival, you can use these tools to have that part of your brain in the backseat and not in the driver’s seat, not leading your life.
Your prefrontal brain can be in charge. I like to remind myself to talk to myself more than I listen to myself. That means respond with your prefrontal cortex, kind of like your pinging ponging back and forth. When your brain says, what are we going to do? This is so horrible. You say, maybe brain, but we can solve this challenge as we go. Everything is figureoutable. We will navigate this. Don’t dismiss it. Don’t say that it’s ridiculous that you’re feeling anxiety. Just allow it. Love the body that you are in, including all of the feelings, and know that your feelings are not always in charge. You can respond to them by allowing them and by choosing to think and feel differently. So my friend, if you are experiencing anxiety, you are not alone and nothing has gone wrong, join me so you can experience coaching inside the Mom On Purpose membership, and I will help you change the negative thought patterns that create anxiety in the first place. This podcast is all about processing it once it’s there, but if you want to experience it less often, you can use thought work and coaching tools to do that. I promise you, your life will never be the same. Join me inside momonpurpose.com/coaching, and I would love to help you take this work to the next level. That’s what I have for you this week. I will talk with you next week. Take care.
Thank you for being here and listening. Now, head on over to momonpurpose.com/coaching to learn more about the Mom On Purpose membership, where we take all of this work to the next level.