By Racheal Chapman
Upon dropping their cherished babes at the nursery gates, many parents perhaps have one (or more) of the following thoughts:
I’ll miss my babe!
Phew! I couldn’t bare any more tantrums this morning!
Pass the caffeine, I’ve been up since 4am....
Right, that’s 3 hours to do the washing/cleaning/ironing, let’s get on it!
Oo I can pee in peace this morning...
Not many however, will think:
‘Who is that suspicious looking person hanging around outside the gates?’ ‘Why don’t they have a child with them?’ ‘Why haven’t I seen them before?’ ‘Are they going to kidnap MY child?’
Not many then going on to sit in their car outside the gates because they couldn’t bare to go home. Just incase....what if?
Not many wait until they see the school caretaker greet the stranger with a friendly smile, a handshake and lead them into the office to sign in.
A tradesperson. Not a kidnapper.
After sharing this, and an array of other ‘irrational’ anxieties with my counsellor, she concluded that I CATASTROPHIZE. I imagine the worst case scenario, and that then seems to become my norm. And the worst case scenarios always involve something awful happening to my beloved children, or to me so that I’m not around for my children (every parents’ worst fears).
Three years on from the nursery-stranger incident and irrational anxieties still occupy my mind, but I don’t let them take up half as much space. I’ve learned to deal with - and in most cases - BANISH the extreme anxieties as soon as they enter my head.
I either use a technique which involves rationalising the thoughts or I occupy my mind with something entirely different-a song, a phrase, a verse, a happy memory.
But how do you rationalise such Irrational thoughts? Take your thoughts to court: this is a process which literally allows you to work through your thoughts, and find evidence for and against.
Example: ‘What if that air ambulance up in the sky is heading to my husband and kids? What if they’ve been involved in a serious car accident while I am here at work?’ Identify the unhelpful thoughts (my family have been involved in a car accident and the air ambulance is going to them).
Think of any facts that support the unhelpful thought (erm.....none other than there is an air ambulance in the sky).
Then think of facts AGAINST the unhelpful thought (I’ve not had any telephone calls telling me of an accident, my husband and kids weren’t due to be going out, the chance of them being involved in a car accident are slim).
Stop-take a breath-calm down.
Now determine a more realistic/balanced scenario, is there another way of looking at it? (Sadly the air ambulance may be going to a car crash, but equally it could be another emergency, and of all of the tens of thousands of people living in this locality, the chance is very slim that it’s destined for my husband and children).
Hypothetical or current? You notice the worry (air ambulance/husband and kids) Is it hypothetical or can I do something about it?
HYPOTHETICAL - let it go, redirect your thoughts. (Which in the above case, is the right course of action).
If it’s a current and realistic worry, put an action plan in place - what can I do about it, when and how?
If you can solve the worry/problem now, then do it and let go! If you can solve it later, schedule it in your phone diary, and let it go.
These may seem like time consuming solutions , but trust me, try it. And it’s rare these days that I even need to work through the full process. Often just a simple ‘is it hypothetical or real?’ or ‘what evidence is there?’ is more than enough.
Will I ever be free or irrational anxieties? I’m not sure I will. But do I let them beat me? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Be kind to your mind, be kind to yourself.