Managing Anxiety and The Empty Nest

I generally do a good job managing my own anxiety, but that all changes with certain events.  It’s summer, and my kids have been going up to visit family in Michigan during the summer, and they left over the weekend.  This is their third year going to visit, and since they lived there prior, they look forward to going for their favorite restaurants, to visit friends, and to have more to do instead of just being at home.  This weekend I put them on a plane, alone, and sent them north, but it isn’t as easy as you think.  Between putting them on a plane (something they can handle very well) and not having them around, my anxiety is high as I experience the empty nest for this week.

Sending my children on a plane alone, was hard the first time.  The flight is direct, and my parents wait for them on the other side, but the first time it happened I almost got very sick in the airport.  Between feeling light headed and nauseous, I wasn’t sure I had made the best decision.   I stressed until they made it to their destination, and found my family at the airport. Then I stressed while they were gone.  I know that lots of other families do this, not by choice but by necessity at times, but for me it creates crazy amounts of anxiety.  At 15 and 12, both my kids are very knowledgeable about airports .  They have both been traveling since they were 3 months old.  I admit that I dragged them to many places, and they have become excellent travelers.  They get excited and don’t seem phased by traveling alone, so I try not to share my anxiety with them.

While they are gone, I get a glimpse of how life will be without them.  Our dog, Milo, gets very lonely, and the house gets very quiet.  The empty nest, although for only a week this time, is hard.  Their laundry was done prior to their departure, so there are a few things to do, but not much.  Planning changes related to what to make for dinner.  There is no one to great me, to ask a million questions (ok, that’s an exaggeration but it feels that way sometimes) when I get home from being at work or out.  I’m forced to find other things to think about and do, but I can generally manage.

As I write this, it makes me think about how I manage anxiety.  I have a few ways.  I try to distract myself with other things.  I do some reality checking, like remembering that flying is safer than driving.  I do deep breathing on a regular basis, and other relaxation techniques.  I remember my basics of self-care, like eating better, getting enough sleep, and exercise.  I also talk with people regularly, get support, and remember how blessed I am.

When you have stressful events, whether it’s putting you children on a plane, or other events that you have to manage, remember to take care of yourself through the process.   Appreciate the empty nest when you can and remember that things will be okay.  Anxiety and an empty nest are all part of being happy for life.