I was born a stereotypical Jewish Mom. From an early age, I worried about everything and anything. The worries started out innocently enough; ladybugs, how I did on a test, and if I would ever be as tall as my siblings. As I got older, my worrying exploded to a wider range of things like terrorism and global warming to when my boyfriend would propose to if I forgot to shut the flat iron off before I left the house.
In the past, my worrying could get intense and manifest itself in physical form. When there was something on my mind, I suffered from painful migraines, stomach aches, and insomnia. My weight would fluctuate, up or down, depending on the particular worry. I would obsess over mundane tasks to distract myself, like organizing my closets. My anxiety never felt severe enough to require mediation; so I treated the medical side effects of my worrying, just never the root cause of my symptoms. I remained in limbo for years, until I become a Mom and decided to make a real change.
Initially, my worrying only intensified when I had my daughter. I worried about her health, her sleeping, reaching her developmental milestones, and even what kind psychological effect my parenting might have on her. I also played out scary scenarios in my mind. I imagined my daughter scooting past me when I opened the baby gate, and rolling down the big flight of stairs in our apartment. I saw her letting go of my hand in the supermarket parking lot, and running in front of an oncoming car. I played these images in my head and I shuttered. And I gripped my daughter’s hand even tighter.
It’s ironic, but even though I have more to worry about now that I am a Mom, having a child is what motivated me to change the way I worry. My daughter is the most precious thing in the world to me, and I don’t know what I would do if anything ever happened to her. But I also know that her emotional well being is just as important as her physical well-being. I have personally felt the strong physical effects of worrying, and that is not something I want to pass on to my daughter. So I worried about making my kid a worrier–passing along anxiety that manifests into migraines and insomnia. (That being said, I do want to pass along my fear of roller coasters. If you start googling “Kingda Ka,” “Kingda Ka deaths” is the one of the first options. Just something to think about).
The road to curtailing my worrying took time and a lot of effort. Kids are so sensitive to negative energy, so I started by saving my worrying for after my daughter went to sleep. Unfortunately, that meant my husband dealt with the brunt of my anxieties. Thankfully, he is a calm and patient man, and lucky for him, he often has to work nights. Airing my anxieties and fears out in the open made them less scary. Talking out my worries and breaking them down made them more manageable. As time went on, my worrying sessions became shorter and less intense.
Now when frightening scenarios pop into my head, I consciously take a deep breath and look at my daughter, who is safe and sound. I remind myself that while some things are out of my control, I am a responsible adult who takes great care when I’m with my daughter. Small as these efforts may sound, giving myself a reality check keeps me grounded, and the worries at bay.
Despite the great strides I have made, I am only a semi-reformed worrier. I still have an unrealistic fear of my daughter getting sunburn even while wearing sunscreen, and I worry about what will happen to her adorable pudge as she boycotts dinner everyday. But the form my worrying takes is vastly different. I tackle my worries in a rational, rather than emotional, way. I feel the change in myself, and it feels great. My migraines are more infrequent, and I have less sleepless nights. I feel lighter and happier. It’s these kinds of results that keep me on this path.
I know I’ll always worry about my daughter, but I have strong hopes that my coping mechanisms will keep the unhealthy perseverating to a minimum. If she ends up becoming a worrier anyway, then I’ll gladly pay for her therapy (I just worry I won’t be able to afford the steep cost).