This is a toughie. Writing about motherhood anxiety. It’s never easy facing reality, is it?
Aren’t we all anxious to some degree?
Anxious mums seem to be the norm now, after two-plus years of surviving a pandemic, attempting to function in everyday life when life is simply not normal anymore.
A mum wants what’s best for her child that’s the truth. To be a good mother is to worry, so goes the saying! I’ll vouch for that.
Nevertheless, the early years of motherhood in particular can be fraught with more serious concerns, those such as social anxiety, depressive symptoms, mental health issues, a generalized anxiety disorder, you name it.
New mums are struggling with it.
Anxiety in Motherhood
Motherhood anxiety hits you like a punch to the gut. It comes out of nowhere.
Sitting on your bed after long days alone, the weeks go on and mums persist with holding back the tears.
The important thing to know is there’s something called the “baby blues”, which a lot of women go through after the birth of their baby.
This usually lasts no more than two weeks. These can be challenging times for a new mum, but it’s short lived.
Just knowing this fact can reassure her that she’s doing fine and once her hormones regulate themselves, she’ll feel much better.
If this continues though, and the anxious thoughts become too much, or symptoms of postpartum depression arise, it’s important to seek the help of mental health professionals. I cannot stress this enough.
Mums imagine many bad things happening in the post partum period if they’re experiencing anxiety.
And this can go on and on in daily life for a long time if it’s not nipped in the bud.
Anxiety symptoms can include (but are not limited to) hot flushes, a racing heart, foggy head, tingling in the arms and feet and feeling like you can’t breathe. Irrational and persistent negative thoughts such as:
Are they OK?
Will they be OK?
Am I OK?
Am I messing them up?
Have they had too much screen time?
Am I a good mum?
Have I damaged my child?
Do they love me?
Do they hate me?
Do I love him more than her?
Am I going mad?
In the early days of motherhood, going well into the first year, it’s too easy to become an anxious person. Lets be real here.
New mums have little to no time to themselves and not much energy, coupled with sleep deprivation, poor physical health, mom guilt, and an overload of social media showcasing mums who can ‘do it all’.
Is it any wonder so many new mums struggle?
She’s left feeling deflated, miserable, and downright beaten by motherhood.
How to Improve Things
The first thing to understand is that small changes lead to big things.
New mums need support and they must ask for it. They need encouragement. To be told they’re doing really well.
Friends with babies who’re the same or similar age are needed to spend time outside the house, say in a play park so they can get some fresh air.
They also need to see different people for some variety and head space.
On a basic level, the best thing a new mum can do to help her anxiety is to get some physical exercise.
It’s a simple thing, but exercise releases endorphins, which are the ‘feel good’ hormones in the body. A short walk or a yoga practise is a great way to boost a new mums mood.
Just take it gently in those early days, and always clear an exercise regime at your postpartum appointment with the doctor.
Secondly, how to deal with the fear of the unknown? All those niggling worries and ‘What if’s’ which hit late at night when it’s time to sleep?
Mindfulness may be the answer you’re looking for. Mindfulness is a proven practise to get you more in tune with the present moment and has been used to improve symptoms of mental illness.
Start trying to be more Mindful when you’re experiencing anxiety.
A really simple technique is to focus on your feet, on the sensation of the feet touching the floor. Scrunch up your toes and tune into how it feels. Notice things like temperature, tingles, wetness or dryness, and simply acknowledge that this is your experience.
Mindfulness does not make meaning out of anything. It simply trains us to focus on ‘What is happening right now’, and in doing so, can lead us away from anxious thoughts and sensations.
Another tip is to improve communication skills in your immediate family. If you’ve got a partner, talk to them about how you’re feeling.
There’s no right time to do this, but the more you put it off, the harder it’ll be.
Opening up and talking about anxiety can be a tremendous relief from the noise of the mind.
When you’re talking, it takes your mind off your thoughts and physical sensations, and brings you back to the present moment.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking about your anxiety, try writing down your fears and thoughts by journaling. I’ve written an extensive guide on journaling which you may like to look at for guidance.
Difficult Times Don’t Last Forever
A last piece of advice with motherhood anxiety is to know that difficult times don’t stay forever and you will get through this.
Good things will come and you can help them come quicker by focusing some time on your own needs.
Simple things like time to yourself for a hot bath, reading a charming novel once baby’s asleep, getting into a craft or starting a new hobby, and getting some much needed sleep will all help you feel so much better.
And don’t forget about the support of other family members. A daily phone call in the early days can be so welcoming for a new mum and help her feel like she’s not doing this on her own.
From a medical perspective, a visit to the GP *should* prioritise therapy over drugs nowadays, but this is still recent news (you can read the article here from the BBC) so it may not be in practice all over the country yet.
It soon will be though which is great news.
The mother can request therapy though and decline medication if she wishes. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the most recognised for anxiety treatments with a good track record.
If you prefer to take a more proactive approach to your anxiety, take a look at my Busting Anxiety In Motherhood programme which incorprates habit change, Mindfulness practise, NLP and other proven anxiety relieving methods.
You can always contact me privately if you’d like further support. No new mum is ever on her own. Help is available and support is out there.
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