“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” ~Leo Buscalgia
If you weren't a worrier before you had kids, I can guarantee that the moment you found out you were pregnant, you became one (at least a little). We all worry, but women tend to worry more than men, and mothers even more. Why is it that being a mother automatically makes you Google, “red bumps on neck,” even when you know it’s only a rash?
Worry is like pre-paving a path to somewhere you may never end up, and it saps the energy from your present. One neuroscientist, Kelly Lambert, Ph.D., explains that we get into trouble when we generate worry beyond immediate threats. This can include imagining everything from losing our jobs to the world ending. "The lab rats we study are in the moment–when the threat is gone, they're not stressed anymore. But our frontal cortex has the ability to imagine things happening, and that's a feature of the brain exclusive to humans."
Not only do we think about the potential disaster or danger, we also imagine how we’ll avoid it. Sometimes our worst fear, especially with children, is being caught unprepared. This is the reason, as parents, we drive five miles under the speed limit and stop longer at stop signs. If we as parents can prevent (or at least think we are preventing) a car accident, then we feel we’ve fulfilled even just a fraction of our duty to our children.
Unfortunately, worrying can interrupt your happiness. That feeling that everything’s okay never truly sets in for parents, and it’s worse when your kids are young. Our brains are constantly scanning the environment, even our own homes, looking for that one thing that might go wrong.
Think back on your childhood though… no seatbelt laws, lead paint, popcorn ceilings that contained asbestos; so why do we seem to worry more than our mothers did? For one thing, there are products out there that tell you to buy covers for your outlet covers. Seems silly right? But the advertising for these types of products make us feel a step behind.
There are ways to reduce your anxieties. The simplest way is to literally avert your eyes. For example, if you’re anxious about your finances, hand off the bill-paying to your spouse that day. This will actually help your brain to calm down and let rationality return. Another way is to meditate. If you’re not into that however, you can go for a walk, drink a cup of tea, or listen to your favorite song. Just do something to take your mind off of whatever you're worrying about. It's wasted energy (and most moms have precious little energy to spare).