e036 – Managing Anxiety with Dr. Carly Crewe
Dr. Carly Crewe is the mother of twin three-year-old girls, a Canadian small-town family doctor from rural Alberta and an online anxiety coach for moms. After suffering considerably with her own postpartum mental illness, Carly became passionate about helping women overcome their own mental health struggles across the spectrum of motherhood.
Carly is extremely passionate about mental health education and advocacy, with a special focus on maternal mental health. In her clinical work as a family doctor, she spends a large proportion of her time helping to optimize mental health patients through counseling and medications as well as running postpartum support groups in her local community.
Carly was recently awarded the Outstanding New Professional Award by the Alberta College of Family Physicians in recognition of her exemplary work-life balance and dedication to her family, patients, colleagues, and community. Through her private coaching, group coaching program and online course, Carly provides the education and support for women to adopt healthy mindsets related to their anxiety, learn strategies to manage their thoughts and emotions in the moment and regain control of their lives so they can be present and do motherhood on their own terms.
Remember to do motherhood on your own terms. There are so many choices and drama around doing things "right" and we often lose the perspective that there is no "right". How much of our anxiety is built from someone else telling you to parent and what the correct way is when it doesn't align for you. How much stress do we place on our shoulders based on this fact?
What is anxiety? Where does it come from? Everyone feels anxious at some point, it has evolved from our fight or flight evolutionary response. Needing to be alert and aware all the time is coded into our DNA from the time we lived in caves and under constant threat. Now in modern society we still have the anxiety response but it is triggered by things that may not be a direct threat, but it still causes the anxious response. It's important to learn how to manage the anxiety so that it is an appropriate response if needed, say if your child is about to run into the street. It can protect us, but it can also be harmful.
In a recent New York Times article, How Parents are Robbing Their Children of Adulthood, the concept of "snowplow parenting" is discussed. Parents can have a habit of removing all obstacles and plowing the way for our children because we as parents are so anxious and worried about our children so much. We are not allowing them the autonomy to explore and learn the hard way and allow them to make mistakes and get hurt. We learn from our mistakes, and we need to allow our children to make them. We pass anxiety on to our children when we "snowplow" parent. We mitigate our own discomfort when we clear the way for our children to not get hurt. But when we get hit with something that triggers our anxiety, we have to bring out the strategies that help every time we are faced with our anxious moment. When we eliminate the stressors in our child's life we limit their ability to learn how to mitigate that discomfort for themselves. We need to manage our discomfort so that they can manage their own discomfort. It is important to end this loop and let our children fail and fall.
By removing all the obstacles, we are preparing our children for a false world. A lot of mothers struggle with anger while raising children. And from the feelings of anger comes the feelings of guilt and shame for being angry at very real things to be angry about. But our children need us to get angry. They need their most loving person to get angry with them so they can learn how to regulate it and adjust their actions. They need to learn the limits of human interactions and learn boundaries and what happens when you press against someone's boundaries. When you have an anxiety disorder, the feelings of anger, guilt, and shame are amped up. There is a healthy level of anger and irritability that we need to model for our children. Dr. Denaye Barahona from Simple Families talks a lot about what we want our kids to learn and that we need to show them all the facets of human emotion and interaction.
The most important thing to managing anxiety in a healthy way is to have the correct mindset. When we cultivate the mindset that anxiety is an important piece of our brain. Similar to a fire alarm in a building. When it functions normally, the alarm goes off when there's a fire to protect us. But sometimes we have a more sensitive alarm that is triggered with just a bit of smoke. We still need fire alarms, but it just needs a little fine-tuning.
First, Identify when you are in an anxious moment. Catch yourself when you are in a moment of anxiety. Watch your body for physical signs of anxiety, the pit in your stomach, the clenched fists, and begin calling it out. If we try to suppress it, it comes back stronger. When you get stuck in the anxiety vortex, it is important to distract yourself. Call a friend, go work out, find a job to give your brain and "shut" it down, since we really can't multitask. Thoughts are a choice, and we can choose to engage our brain with something else.
When we name our anxiety we can start to separate those thoughts from ourselves. When you struggle with anxiety it is as if you have a mean girl living in your head saying all of the worst things about you. But rather than having those thoughts define you, you can separate it and blame the anxiety. Instead of the Depression is a symptom of living in the past. Anxiety is the fear of the future. When you live in the moment all of your senses are engaged in the present. We get lost in stories, that we tell ourselves about the past, the future and what other people are thinking about, this is where our emotions live. Learn to identify if you are living in the stories or living in the present. Ways to engage your senses to reorient yourself into the present.
Using the 5 Senses Strategy from Anxiety Canada can help ground you in the highs of anxious moments. By working on our mindset and practicing helpful strategies in the moment, we are better equipped to deal with the struggles of motherhood. Anxiety, depression, loneliness and every single one is normal, okay, and you are still doing an amazing job. It is okay to talk to someone, It is okay to take medication when it is needed so that we can focus on the work we need and want. Sometimes medication is needed to turn the volume down on the noise filling our brains before we can begin to make room for the mindset work. There is no shame in talking to someone and taking the route to wellness that works for you and your unique needs.
Anxiety in motherhood comes from the perfect mother we try to attain that is amplified by the Pinterest moms, social media highlight reels and incessant opinions that are thrown at us with every choice. When it becomes insurmountable, reach out to a coach, a therapist, your physician, and learn tactics and strategies that can help you. You're not alone, mama.
Connect with Dr. Carly Crewe:
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