Updated: Oct 1, 2020
I’m an anxious person.
Actually, scratch that. I am a confident, self-assured, go-getter type of person.
But on top of that, I am living with the reality that sometimes my mind tends to get the better of me and I end up feeling the exact opposite of that. Shy, withdrawn, extremely self-critical. Anxious. Constantly asking myself if I will ever be good enough to achieve what I set out to do for the day or speak to that really important person who I know would only ever wish good things for me.
It’s that age-old question. “What if?”.
What if I fail? What if I choke? What if all the expectations I put on myself eventually lead to nothing and people start to think that I’m not actually the person I aspire to be?
These questions are easy to deal with. All I need to do is put on some binaural beats, sage my surroundings, and get some fresh air. Grounding myself. Allowing myself to understand that when my mind moves at a million miles a minute, I can slow it down, and focus on what’s real and in front of me.
But what happens when your anxieties focus around your pregnancy?
At my 12-week scan, the sonographer discovered something “unusual” with my baby’s anatomy and asked me and my partner to come back two weeks later for a follow-up. Now, already you know that the questions are there. What if there’s something wrong with my baby? What if something I did at the start of my pregnancy results in me losing my baby? What if I caused this?
In my panic, I did the first thing every rational thinking person tells you not to. That’s right. I went to Google and searched endlessly for anecdotes of expectant mothers who had been told the same thing. They called the condition ‘megacystis’, a swelling or obstruction of the bladder which, for some, has proven fatal, though, for others, it corrected itself by the second scan two weeks later.
Engage anxious mind.
The past few months have been a cloud of never-ending questions. Though everything (thankfully) turned out fine by the 14-week scan, we still had follow-up appointments. Each one brought with it another “what if”.
Now, at almost 7 months pregnant, I am still plagued by the questions surrounding the health of my unborn baby. Will he be okay? Will she need surgery? Will I? And following that, the questions almost every mum-to-be asks: will I be a good mother?
It may seem normal to ask yourself these questions, and I’m sure it is. But for someone with anxiety, a simple question arises and it can take all day, or all week, to get rid of. My wondering about the health of my baby turns into an obsessive cycle of even more questions all with the worst-case scenario outcomes. I manage to convince myself that everything bad that can happen, will. This, of course, results in low mood, irritability, inability to speak, or even move without feeling like the world is coming to an end all because there was that one time my baby didn’t empty its bladder when it should have.
It’s hard to explain with such an example, so more on this later. What I actually wanted to focus on in this piece was how I got out of that mindset.
My therapist gave me a wonderful diagram explaining how our thoughts, mood, behaviour, and actions are all interlinked. One bad thought leads to a negative mindset, which makes you want to stay in bed all day, which in turn makes you feel worse. To the same effect, staying in bed all day makes you feel like poo, which reflects itself in negative thoughts.
So, what do I do when I notice a negative thought coming on? That’s right. I go make myself a cup of tea. Or get a yoghurt. Or sit on my exercise ball for a little bit. Basically, anything physical to literally shake the negativity from your body. Eating might not always help, and I’m definitely not promoting that, but moving will. It is a WHOLE lot easier than it sounds, I know because I live it every day. And by no means am I always capable of stopping these thoughts as they arise, but when you catch yourself in a spiral, just recognise that the only way back up is through you and you alone.
Remember, our thoughts affect how we feel and act. How we feel and act affects what we think and do. What we think and do affects how we think and feel. The Cognitive Triangle. It’s all interlinked. And once we understand it, our anxious thoughts are just that, thoughts.
I'm always looking for new ways to clear my head and awaken my body. Are anxious thoughts something you deal with? How do you recognise and manage them, if at all?