3 powerful mindset shifts I made to quit anxiety as a single mum
The first tip I’ll share is to begin to understand that our thoughts aren’t real. Maybe it’s a controversial one, but to illustrate it let’s do a simple thought experiment. Pick any in animate object around you right now. A book, a chair. Maybe your phone. Now, consider that no matter how hard you think about the object, your thought about it will NEVER be the thing itself. Thoughts are only ever an interpretation of the world around us. They operate like a feedback system, so even if you didn’t catch yourself having a negative thought, you’ll know you did, because you’ll feel rubbish! And that doesn’t *necessarily* mean everything is sh1t, but rather that you have been giving your attention to the negatives rather than the positives, or that you are perceiving things as purely negative rather than actively looking for the positives. It takes practice and awareness to retrain your brain to focus more on the positives, but every time you do, the neural connections strengthen and it becomes easier and easier until your brain gets wise and automates it for you!
We have lives that have outstripped our evolutionary development. What does that mean? It’s means that your body is reacting to threats to your physical or mental wellbeing as if they’re literally a threat to your life. You go into fight/ fright/ flight/ freeze/ submit, which are all controlled by an area of the brain called the amygdala. It keeps us safe from things like being run over by a bus, or an attack from a sabre tooth tiger, it’s not so useful when you’re attempting to parent your kids, or working out your budget for the month. There are simple and effective ways to hack this, many of which involve using your physiology to show your brain that there’s nothing to worry about. Breathing deep, extending your out-breath and dropping your tongue to the base of your mouth are just 3 ways of many more that can calm your body and mind, and allow for more rational (and pleasant!) responses.
This last tip is a counter intuitive one, and it builds on the idea of becoming self aware, so that rather than being totally absorbed in your own process, you get to witness and decide... is this serving me? If something comes up for you and you begin to feel tense, anxious or panicky, you can just observe the thought for a moment. Perhaps it’s something about your kids, about money or work, or your ex. It can be anything, it just needs to be making you feel uncomfortable. For this process, you take the thought to it’s worst possible conclusion. If it’s that you’re not sure you can make rent this month, notice what it is you’re allowing that to mean. Does it mean you’re useless? You’ve failed? You’ve let people down? Does it mean you’ll be homeless? Destitute?
When we notice the thoughts we are having, that are creating the feelings and a pretty rubbish experience, it’s useful to start to look at the meaning we’re making. Because remember, if it’s in the future, you cannot be 100% sure it will happen. So all the time spent worrying gets in the way of creative problem solving. There are more powerful and creative questions to be asking, no matter what the current situation, than ‘how could I have let this happen?’.
Take that negative thought to it’s worst possible conclusion, and then question the validity of it. Is it true? What else could you begin to believe instead, that would give you a chance to be happier, calmer and more positive?