This week marks 3 weeks since my husband has started his return to work. The return to work plan is a very slow progression back to his full-time hours and responsibilities. It will take him at least 12 weeks to return to full-time hours. He’s been off work suffering from anxiety (and likely depression) for the past 11 months. This week in my free FB group – REAL ENERGIZED MOMMA – my FREE training is based on the Nutrition & Anxiety framework that I’ve been using with my clients for the past 6 years. And today when I attempted to go live – multiple things went wrong. So I’m heeding the universes message to leave the training for another day and instead spend some time sharing my story of the past 12 months.
First a little background. I’ve seen and read multiple posts over the past year about how to help someone with anxiety but I haven’t seen many from the perspective of someone living with another person suffering from anxiety and actually feeling like their thriving through it – hence this post. My name is Cathy Richards. I’ve been a Registered Dietitian for over 18 years and have worked with a multitude of patients suffering from mental health disorders (including federal inmates and Canadian soldiers) so, I’ve seen the effects of mental illness from the perspective of a health practitioner but today I want to share with you my perspective as a wife and mother.
A lot of people have asked or wondered what’s caused my husbands anxiety and truthfully I’d argue that it’s not really that important in the grand scheme of things vs learning how to manage it and continue to live life as a family unit. We don’t know his family history (he’s adopted) so perhaps that has a role. Any dual working family with 3 young kids (2, 4 & 6) will tell you that life is stressful and busy. Pile a less than ideal work environment on top of the normal everyday stressors and maybe it adds up to anxiety & depression. Either way, it happened.
When I think back to the beginning, I remember feeling like super mom. Breakfast with Santa – solo with a 1 year old, 3 year old and 5 year old – no problem! I hoisted the baby into my back carrier and away we went. Thankfully we arrived early and snuck into see Santa before the line formed and no overstuffing with pancakes leading to surprise throw-ups this year (if it happens on city property – you have to complete an incident report!). The crying on the way home wasn’t so fun.
And for months it continued like this. I’d just pick up the lion’s share of the family responsibilities. I continued to work full-time, supporting my patients with their positive lifestyle changes by day and parenting my 3 young kids each night (the majority of the time solo – as my spouse was not able to help). In the spare moments between work and real life I’d sneak in my business building activities too. Occasionally, we’d get a bit of help from family who drove over an hour one way to visit so that I could go Christmas shopping for a few hours solo.
Thankfully through the generosity of family we were able to hire a nanny to help out with household chores and childcare. But the stress of the situation continued. It’s challenging as the spouse of someone suffering from anxiety to know that one small change in your approach to bedtime or an outing with the kids could lead to an anxiety attack for your spouse or at worst an argument. It’s like walking on eggshells indefinitely.
So you may be surprised that I would say it’s actually been the biggest year of growth for me as a mother, wife and individual. And though I’m still exhausted at times and feeling the effects of the long year behind us and the unknown ahead of us, I actually feel like on many levels I’m thriving. I owe that feeling of thriving to three main practices that I’ve incorporated into my life.
Self care practices
Self care can seem like an overused term across social media. It can look very different from one person to the next. When I discuss self care with my clients, I’m often referring to proper sleep hygiene, regular activity and spending time doing the things that bring them joy (light them up). For myself and my current situation self care looks a little bit different. It means – going to bed super early so that I can get up at 5 am and actually have a few minutes to myself. It means incorporating small things into my day that can raise my spirits (mini music breaks, audio books, 5 min facials while the kids are in the bath etc). It means trying to move my body each and every day (dog walks, living room dance parties with the family or a quick 15 minute workout). Through this past year, my consistency with self care has waned at times and I’ve immediately felt the effects on my mood and energy. Remembering that I don’t need to take hours to do self care and that I just need to be consistent is key.
Another area that I’ve spent a lot of time focussing on this year is my own mindset. Sure I’ve bought affirmation courses before and attended law of attraction sessions but I’ve never really taken the time to follow through. Life gets in the way and I always think – oh that’s interesting but it’ll have to wait. But you know what – when you’re living with someone who’s suffering all the feelings that go along with anxiety – keeping your mindset in check is so important. As an empath – I tend to absorb other people’s energy and for a long time it really dragged me down. Over the past 6 months I’ve really been focussing on daily mindset and energy work to keep the negative energy from impacting my days. It’s hard. When you’re living with someone who’s feeling frustrated with things, it’s really hard not to mirror that energy. A big part of my mindset work happens at 5 am when I’m having 30-60 minutes to myself before the kids wake -up. This also includes a simple 5 minute energy routine to keep me balanced. Thank- you Shelly for introducing me to Abraham Hicks and Donna Eden. Their work has been a game changer for me. Audio books have also been a lifesaver for my mindset and super easy to listen to on my commute. More recently, I’ve been delving into journaling.
As a Registered Dietitian, I’ve been using my Nutrition & Anxiety framework to help my clients navigate their mental health issues for the past 6-10 years. With my experience and training, I also know the effects of long term stress on our bodies and I’ve seen the effect of stress on my own body in the past 11 months. Abdominal weight gain, likely a combination of some emotional eating episodes, stress hormones, change in sleep patterns and reduced physical activity (my husband has only managed all 3 kids on his own for 2 days over the past year). But I’ve also seen the benefits of my consistent nutrition approach that’s a cornerstone of my Nutrition & Anxiety framework. Meal timing and meal balancing. By using a balanced meal approach including adequate protein (20-25 g), fat (10-15 g) and carbohydrate (25 g) combined with a regular meal timing strategy – I’ve been able to keep my energy up and survive the sometimes long days solo parenting. So despite the 10-15 pounds of increased stress/reduced sleep weight I’d 100% say that my consistent nutrition is the main reason I’ve been able to survive and actually thrive over this past year!
Things are definitely still challenging and the final outcome of his slow reintegration back to work is yet to be determined. But overall as a spouse living with someone suffering from anxiety – I’d say it’s an opportunity to build your resilience and focus on your self growth in many areas.
Are you living with a spouse suffering from anxiety? I’d love to hear your experience. If you’re interested in learning more about Nutrition & Anxiety – you can catch my FREE training here.