Homeschooling with Anxiety
As I sit here, typing up this blog post – I have a ginormous mug of coffee beside me, a massive headache, and circles under my eyes like you don’t even know – homeschooling with anxiety can definitely be ANYTHING but pretty! I had a really difficult night last night, and I thought – if I’m struggling, someone else out there is also.
So here I sit, groggily writing this to you (and wondering if there’s a way I can mainline my coffee to get it in my system a little faster).
I have had anxiety disorder since I was a young child. It can be one of the most isolating, terrifying, and overwhelming things to go through. To live every day like you’re constantly on the brink of suffocating, hardly able to enjoy the simplest things.
As I went through childhood, teenagehood, and into young adulthood – I didn’t know it was a “thing”, I just thought these were some weird quirks of mine.
Later on, in college, a doctor finally suggested that what I had thought all this time were just “uniqueness”, was in fact anxiety disorder. I thought I had a pretty good handle on it most of my life, knew my triggers and knew how to handle it.
Then I added homeschooling into the mix, and I have been forced to look my disorder squarely in the eyes and see it for what it is. And to see the effects it was having on my life. I thought I was tough, I thought I could handle it on my own. Until I couldn’t, and when I finally ‘gave in’ and decided to be more proactive about my mental and emotional wellness, it became a much easier burden to bear.
On top of my OWN anxiety disorder, my oldest also deals with his own anxiety. (I’ve talked about it a little in THIS POST)
So, for both of us, the journey has not always been easy, the way hasn’t always seemed clear. We have had very dark, stormy days when one or both of us have been struggling with our anxiety.
My Disclaimer Before We Start:
I am not a medical doctor, nor am I a psychologist. I am not a social worker or any other certified mental health worker.
I am a Mom, homeschooling my two crazy kiddos – and coping with anxiety disorder. What this can mean for me, how it manifests in my life – can be very very different for the next person. Triggers, coping mechanisms, helps – are all unique to each person.
So, while I cannot dispense medical advice here, nor would I want to – what I CAN offer you here are:
5 Tips to Survive Homeschooling With Anxiety:
I’m not going to give a long description here of what precisely constitutes ‘anxiety disorder’, but to sum it up in MY own words (remember, I’m not a doctor – if you are concerned that you may be suffering with anxiety, please check in with your medical professional): anxiety disorder is when your mind and body are constantly on “HIGH ALERT”. Essentially, your brain goes into “fight or flight” on a more frequent basis than someone who doesn’t have anxiety disorder.
It isn’t “feeling a bit nervous” or having a sleepless night because you’re worried about which math curriculum you should choose – those happen to ALL of us homeschooling mamas. Where anxiety becomes a disorder is when it interferes with your life, and your ability to homeschool to your best ability. It’s in the intensity, and the frequency.
So what can we do to make homeschooling with anxiety a little less overwhelming?
- Get Some Medical Advice. Don’t just read through google and think you’ve got yourself diagnosed. Anxiety symptoms can be hard to spot, they can be very unlike what you would expect them to be. So make sure you find a medical professional you can connect with, and be honest. If things are going on that you can’t otherwise explain – tell them. Get a solid health checkup, because there are often some symptoms of Anxiety Disorder that cross over and can be symptoms of many things (I have a B12 deficiency that also shares some of the symptoms of a anxiety attack being triggered, for instance).
- Understand Your Anxiety. I journal, I talk to a counsellor at my MD’s office, I have spent a lot of time recently just trying to get a handle on what MY triggers are, and what my responses are. I have dealt with this anxiety since I was a young child, maybe 5 years old? But homeschooling with anxiety has been an entirely new ballgame. I think many home educating moms feel pretty anxious from time to time, but when your body REACTS to stress and anxiety in more intense ways than most people – it can feel suffocating. SO understanding WHAT anxiety means, what it does, why your body goes through the physical reactions it does – those are what will help YOU find your coping strategies.
- Know You’re Not Alone! So many people deal with this disorder, sadly most deal with it quietly and never reach out to others. One of the best things (and most terrifying)I did for my own anxiety, was to join a 6 week workshop for managing stress and anxiety. The things I learned in that class were game-changers for me. But what was most important for me to learn: I am not the only one struggling with this. These other funny, intelligent, successful people in the room with me are all people who feel the way I do, react similarly to things, and feel anxiety in the same ways. Knowing I wasn’t alone in this was a very powerful moment.
- Ask For Help (And if someone offers – TAKE the help!) This is a different one than my tip to see your doctor. I don’t mean ask for medical help. I mean – open up to the people who you trust the most. Tell them what it is you’re going through, what is scary, and what you need! Anxiety is one of those “invisible illnesses” – it is easy to just put on some make up, touch up your hair, put on a happy smile and no one would ever know. But one of the most important things we can do as moms who are homeschooling with anxiety – ask for help. Reach out. Let people in and let them know. Often for me, if I’m feeling the anxiety bubbling to the surface, all I have to do is let my partner know “Hey I’m feeling kind of ramped up, I’m not sure what it’s about” and he says “I got you” and sometimes just knowing that the craziness in my head has been told to someone else, is enough to reduce the anxiety a little.
- Set Boundaries. This has been a particularly hard one for me. It’s taken me a couple of years to understand that I can’t do All The Things, go to All The Places, and even teach on All The Days. Some days I wake up and feel great, we are productive, and the day goes awesome. Other days, I know by the time I’m sipping on my first coffee that I’m feeling a bit twitchy that day, and short-tempered and so we say “hey let’s go for a hike today, kids” or “wanna just have a documentary and popcorn day?”. Know your limits, set boundaries that are healthy for you, and don’t feel like you have to do all the things all the time. You can’t. And that’s okay.
Bonus Tip (and arguably the most important one!):
Find Your Joy! Find the things that bring you peace and happiness and a sense of safety. DO those things. Every day. Make time and space in your life for the things that make your heart sing. Feel a panic attack coming on? Drop your lesson plans, and go for a nature walk or paint or go to the local market. Whatever brings you that simple sense of peace and quiet in your heart – go do that. Homeschooling SHOULD be full of joyful moments, and homeschooling with anxiety shouldn’t take those moments away.
Some Closing Thoughts on Homeschooling With Anxiety:
Don’t let your anxiety steal the joy from your life.
Don’t let it make you feel alone or powerless or weak.
You are not.
You are amazing, you are giving your children the blessing and gift of being educated at home. But it is NOT easy, for any of us. But if you’re finding it hard to travel this road, reach out. Ask for support, get a solid diagnosis, and honour your limits.
It might feel impossible right now, or when you’re having a bad day, but it isn’t. You can do this!
Comment below, or reach out to me privately if you’d like, and let me know how YOU find ways to cope while homeschooling with anxiety.