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Agony Aunt – Worried Wendy fears for her daughters health

Dear KCY,
I’m a fairly anxious person and I’ve found yoga has helped me enormously to let go of that anxiety. But how do you let go of specific events that cause anxiety? Case in point….my lovely daughter has recently been diagnosed with a walnut allergy and has to now carry an epipen with her everywhere she goes. She hasn’t yet needed it and she may never need it, but her doctor has prescribed her one as a precaution. 

No matter how much I try to soothe my anxieties around this new development, I find it gets late at night and I’m basically laid flat with fear for her. I’m staying really upbeat around her, but the strain is getting to me. I want to beat this before it starts to impact on our quality of life – any tips would be greatly appreciated!

Worried Mum.

Dear Worried Mum

So for the first time in this column, I decided to seek some serious outside help to assist me with answering your email. I have a very close friend with a VERY serious nut allergy and I wanted to get her thoughts on your situation as she is also a Mama. So ‘Ms Nonuts’ has helped me with some advice from someone who’s lived this reality all her life and I’ve added in a bit of a yogic approach on how to combat the fear and worry.

Solid advice from Ms Nonuts:

Oh you poor thing! Your situation  is understandably concerning and as every parent will know, there is nothing more terrifying than the thought that your child is in danger, whatever that danger looks like, it’s enough to keep us awake at night. 

However, my first piece of practical advice would be to find an immunologist that you really trust and find out how serious the nut allergy is, what will happen is she ingests a nut (although maybe she has already had a reaction?) but for me there is nothing like being armed with all the facts, it gives me a sense of power and control where before it was all an unknown.

My other piece of advice is stay away from the search engine, I think we’ve all played Dr Google when worried about our children and it brings up nothing but horror stories and worse case scenarios. Having researched it myself, I know that the stats on deaths/serious incidents from allergies show they are actually pretty rare, don’t let Dr Google tell you otherwise. 

And of course your daughter will take cues from you as to how to approach this (as with all the other risks in life). She will look to Mama to see whether this is a risk to be managed, like any other risk, or as something to live in fear of. It’s so hard to even contemplate anything happening to your child… There are so many dangers out in the world it sometimes takes my breath away! But I’d like to share an anecdote from my own childhood when my own Mama must have been facing all the same fears you are right now.

One of my first memories was as a 3.5 year old at preschool, sitting in a circle on the floor as the snack got passed around. They were cookies in the shape of Grover from Sesame Street. I reached for one and just at the last moment smelled peanut butter and pulled my hand away. My mum had taught me to avoid peanuts and I did- the first time I ever ate one was 20 years later at a party (inadvertently)- I had my epipen, experienced anaphylaxis and used it- I received medical attention in time and was fine.

Your daughter will learn early too. Because you will teach her. Teach her to love food. Teach her how to cook and love ingredients and she will be empowered to control and create what she eats now and for the rest of her life. 

Yogic advice from KCY:

Oh worried Mama. I feel your pain. Literally feel it. I’ve been there, laid up with fear about the most ridiculous things with no basis whatsoever. You know, whats that rash, could it be meningitis…what’s that cough, is it croup…he keeps falling over, is it childhood cancer…excuse my French here but f**k me, us parents TORTURE ourselves in fear that anything could hurt our babies. And you have something more real to worry about, so that just compounds everything and makes it even scarier.

But…and I think you know what I’m going to say before I type this, fear breeds anxiety, anxiety breeds fear, the spiral of this will take you down and as Ms NoNuts so rightly said, your daughter will take her cues on how to deal with this from you. If you come from a place of anxiety and fear so will she. So my gorgeous Mama, it’s time to pull the tough boots out of the closet like you’ve done so many times before in your life as a parent, dust them off, put them on and (wo)man up for the sake of your daughter. You have to show her how to deal with this from a place of information and intelligence.

And in gathering this information and intelligence for your daughter, so will you arm yourself with facts and as Ms Nonuts highlighted, there is nothing like solid facts to help you feel in control and empowered.

And what to do in the meantime to help deal with those nagging worries that wake you in the night?

1. Do your practice. I know yoga helps you stay calm and focused (it’s one of the main reasons I practice!) so start a daily sadhana. This does not have to be an hour a day on the mat. Find 15 mins to do a daily home practice, this could be three sun salutations and some pranayama (I’d recommend alternate nostril breath for balance and calm).

2. Fit a restorative class into your weekly class schedule. Find the balance between your active asana which helps quiet the brain and strengthen the body and the deep nourishing at a cellular level that a restorative practice gives you.

3. Chant. Chanting is bloody magic. I was in a shocker of a mood last week, worried about jobs and bills and finding a house and then I started playing with my new harmonium and I literally felt the worries being lifted off my shoulder. I’d recommend the Om Tryambakam mantra. You can sing along with my badly on my Facebook page or Youtube a more professional version! Sing it in the car, sing it loud!

4. Share your fears and watch them dissolve. Find other Mama’s in the same situation, other adults who have lived with nut allergies, your fellow yogi’s, your yoga teacher, your partner, your friends…voice your fears clearly without shame and you will feel supported and released by the prison of fear I promise.

Yoga means union, union between body and breath, union between you and the divine, union between you and every other living thing on this planet. We are a deeply compassionate race. Share your woes and feel the big arms of your community wrap around you and hold you tight while you navigate this journey with your daughter.

Just remember to wear your tough boot.

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