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This week marks 3 weeks since my husband has started his return to work. His return to work plan is a very slow progression back to his full-time hours and responsibilities over 12 weeks. He’s been off work suffering from anxiety (and likely depression) for the past 11 months. This week in my free Facebook group – Healthy Mompreneurs get Wealthy with Cathy Richards,RD – my FREE training is based on the Nutrition & Anxiety framework that I’ve been using with my clients for the past 6 years.

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 thriving through it – hence this post.

My name is Cathy Richards. I’ve been a Registered Dietitian for over 20 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.

Why did it happen? 

A lot of people have asked or wondered what’s caused my husbands anxiety but that’s not important. The real focus needs to be on dealing with it 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 and 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 and 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 one threw up this year. 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 solo each night (. 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  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 or at worst an argument. It’s like walking on eggshells indefinitely.

It’s been one of the biggest years of personal growth for me

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, 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

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.

  • going to bed super early so that I can get up at 5 am and actually have a few minutes to myself.
  • incorporating small things into my day that can raise my spirits (mini music breaks, audio books, 5 minute facials while the kids are in the bath etc).
  • trying to move my body each and every day (dog walks, living room dance parties with the family or a quick 15 minute workout).

The most important part of my self care practice has been remembering that I don’t need to take hours to do self care and that I just need to be consistent is key.

Mindset Work

Another area that I’ve spent a lot of time focusing 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 focusing 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.

Consistent Nutrition

As a Registered Dietitian, I’ve been using my Nutrition and Anxiety framework to help my clients navigate their mental health issues for the past 6 to 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!

The future

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.

Thriving Through a Year of my Spouse's Anxiety - Cathy Richards RD