You find yourself awake in the middle of the night. Your mind racing. You’re unable to relax or take a break – even when the baby is sleeping. You can’t eat (or you eat mindlessly throughout the day). You’re afraid to leave the baby with anyone else (or be alone with the baby yourself). You worry constantly about something happening to your baby – or to you- or to your partner...
Does any of this sound familiar? You are NOT alone.
As many as 1 in 10 new moms experience anxiety - whether alone or combined with feelings of depression. With postpartum anxiety, a mom may have constant worries about her baby's health and her ability to be a good mom. She is likely to worry about something bad happening. She may wonder how she's going to balance her work and home life, her relationship, or even caring for multiple children. She may become restless and moody, have disturbances with eating and sleeping, or experience physical symptoms like a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, or insomnia.
If this sounds like you, I encourage you to reach out to your healthcare provider or schedule an appointment to see a counselor. Postpartum anxiety is very treatable and can be managed well with help. But, if left untreated, it can interfere with your ability to bond to your baby – and enjoy motherhood as a whole. In the meantime, here are 5 ways you can begin to improve your mindset and manage your anxiety better:
Practice Self Care
As a new mom, it’s very easy to lose track of the ability to care for yourself (wait, I haven’t showered in 3 days??) but when you’re also struggling with anxiety, it becomes increasingly important to maintain that sense of “self”. Work with your partner and/or family to preserve time for you to eat, sleep and bathe regularly. Even if that’s as small as making meals ahead of time, buying extra snacks to keep in your diaper bag, trading off night shifts (or, if nursing, teaching baby to take a bottle so your partner can give a Dream Feed while you catch up on sleep). Sleep deprivation is one of the leading contributors to PMAD (perinatal mood and anxiety disorders), so working with your support system to make sure you get that sleep is crucial to you and your baby's health.
Any type of exercise – yoga, walking, pilates, stretching – can ease depression and anxiety by helping to release the feel-good hormones. Of course, as a new mom it can often feel like you don’t have time to sit down or eat a meal – much less squeeze in a workout. That’s ok! Even a quick walk around the block while baby naps in the carrier or stroller, going up and down the stairs a few times or doing some quick stretches before bed is enough to make a difference. Just try to do something - no matter how small - every day. Once you're approved for exercise, and if you can find 10 minutes a day, I would highly recommend checking out Robin Long at The Balanced Life. Her quick pilates workouts and embracing grace attitude is exactly what a new mom needs to feel good again. (No affiliate sponsorship – I am just a big fan!).
Find Your Support System
When you’re struggling with anxiety and cooped up in the house with a small baby, it can feel like you’re in this all alone. Or like you’re the only one who feels this way. Trust me, you are not the only one who feels this way – and finding your support network can really help keep those feelings of isolation in check. There are lots of ways to find your “tribe” – reconnect with old friends, seek the support of the women in your family, find a neighborhood mom’s group or an online support network.
Learn Mindfulness Techniques
I’ve written on this before, but I truly believe that incorporating mindfulness into your day can help alleviate those feelings of anxiety and panic you may be feeling. Mindfulness allows for the acknowledgment of the anxious feelings – but without judgment. Even deep breathing for counts of 10 helps the body calm and relax away from the intense – often fast paced shallow chest breathing – of anxiety and panic. These are some of my favorite quick meditations – and they are perfect for beginners to try!
Learn your Triggers
Anxiety can occur for any reason – or no reason at all. But, there are definitely things that can worsen your anxiety. For new moms, it can be SO many things – as physiological as sleep deprivation, hunger or fear (fight/flight response) or as complex as family history or a traumatic birth experience. These “triggers” can be managed more effectively once they’re identified though. One way to start to figure out what your triggers/causes are is to keep a journal. By noting when you’re feeling more anxious or panicky and what happened around that time (or what you were thinking of), you can start to identify those things that may be making you feel worse – and then discuss/work through them with your birth worker, counselor or close family member.
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As a maternal mental health and pediatric sleep expert, I am passionate about helping tired mamas thrive throughout the many seasons of motherhood. I'm a Nationally Certified Professional Life Coach and Masters Level Therapist specializing in parental mental wellness, marriage/partnership strength and pediatric sleep and soothing.
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