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During my incredibly rough pregnancy, one of the ways I helped myself get through each day was to envisage my life once my baby was here. I imagined I’d be calm, relaxed and take everything that new motherhood threw at me in my stride.
Then I gave birth, and reality set in.
Instead of peacefully rocking my sweet baby in the glider, taking him out with me to the mall, grocery shopping, or for walks around the neighborhood, I found myself riddled with anxiety.
He had terrible colic, and would spend hours and hours screaming intensely. Obviously, this did nothing to help my anxiety levels.
I was paranoid that the neighbors would be able to hear him screaming and call the police with a noise complaint.
I was too scared to take him out incase he started screaming and people would start shooting me dirty looks.
What happened if he had a poo-splosion in his stroller (or worse, in the baby carrier?!) What happens if his pacifier fell on the floor? What happens if some person who has a cold wants to stick their head in his stroller and start coughing all over him? What happens if another kid wants to touch him with their sticky, dirty hands? What happens if we get stuck in traffic right around his dinner time?
There were a million what ifs that ran through my head which caused extreme anxiety, to the point where I barely left my house for months.
My little guy is turning two in a week, and he’s now transformed from that colicky, screaming, unpredictable nuclear weapon (i.e. my darling baby :D) to a sweet, hilarious, smart, but still dramatic toddler.
He’s my little sidekick, my wingman, my best friend and now our days together are full of adventure. I no longer suffer from anxiety as a mom (ok, maybe a bit when I flew 40 hours from Australia to North Carolina by myself with him a few months ago.)
But as it turns out, anxiety as a new mom is pretty common. It makes sense, really.
You go from being a happy-go-lucky person who only has yourself to worry about to being 100% responsible for the life and wellbeing of a tiny, unpredictable human that you only just met and don’t even know yet…
If any of this sounds familiar to you, then I want you to keep reading. (Even if it doesn’t, keep reading because you could help a new mama who IS suffering from anxiety.)
After battling through terrible anxiety for months as a new mom, I decided that enough was enough. I was sick of staying home all day every day, sick of being constantly fearful, and sick of not enjoying life with my future BFF.
I decided to deal with my anxiety head on, and now I want to share those tips with you.
How to Cope With Anxiety as a New Mom
I think the first thing to recognize is that a little bit of anxiety as a new mom is quite normal. My doctor said those exact words to me, and it completely made sense.
You’re anxious to do the best for your child. You want to make sure he’s healthy, clean, well-fed, etc., and as a new mom, you’ve never done any of this before, so it stands to reason that you might feel a bit of anxiety.
However, if that anxiety is crippling to the point where you can’t breathe properly, you can’t leave the house, you’re losing weight, etc., then that’s when you need to learn some coping strategies.
TALK TO A THERAPIST
This is something that I put off for too long, but it was one of the best things I ever did. I started seeing a therapist once per week and after initially being completely aversive to the idea, it actually became something I looked forward to every week.
I think there are two keys to this being successful:
- You need to find a therapist you click with
- You need to let go and be honest
I actually met with two different therapists, an older female and a younger male. You’d think that the older female would probably be the better fit, given that she was a mom and and, obviously, a female.
But while she was a sweet lady, we just didn’t click. There was nothing wrong with her as a therapist, she just wasn’t the right therapist for me.
Then I met with a male therapist, about 20 years younger than my first therapist. He was a literal godsend. I felt like he completely “got me” and helped me tremendously.
This brings me to point number two – you need to let go and be honest.
Your therapist isn’t there to judge you, make you feel stupid, worthless, or to laugh at your thoughts and feelings.
But for them to be able to successfully work with you, they need you to be honest. This is the only way you’re going to be able to work through your anxiety, so let go and tell the truth about how you’re going.
DON’T FEED YOUR FEARS
A big part of the reason why I had so much new mom anxiety was because I was CONSTANTLY googling every single thing my baby did and becoming paranoid. If he sneezed, I was afraid he was getting the flu. If he coughed, I think it might turn into whooping cough. If I saw a spot on his back, I immediately thought he might have the measles.
While it’s certainly important to be educated and aware, I know that I overreacted and part of this is because I was constantly googling and reading stories of various illnesses and diseases.
I fed my fears, and I constantly had a “worst case scenario” outlook, despite knowing deep down inside that nothing was wrong.
If you’re doing the same, I’d encourage you to stop googling every single little thing your baby does. Babies will cough, just like adults cough. Babies sneeze, just like we do. They’re little humans, after all!
Your mama intuition will kick in and allow you to know when and if something is truly wrong. This actually did happen to me, when my little guy was 5 months old.
He had a red, swollen, weeping eye, so I took him to the doctor. The doctor told me it was pinkeye and that I had to put an ointment in the inside rim of his eye 2-3 times a day.
I picked up the ointment from the pharmacy, went home and tried to apply it. The closer I looked at his eye, the more I felt deep down inside that this wasn’t pinkeye, and that it was something more serious (I just didn’t know what.)
The next morning, his eye looked even worst so I took him to the urgent care. We saw a different doctor this time, who immediately told me that my son had preseptal cellulitis, which can become fatal in children under 6 months of age.
He was admitted to the hospital for an entire week, until the infection was under control.
Moral of the story? I trusted my gut and I was right. Trust your gut – if you truly believe something is wrong, then see a doctor. But don’t let tiny, completely normal things cause you stress and anxiety.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
One of the reasons why my anxiety was particularly bad was because I was completely isolated from friends and family when my son was a newborn.
We are a military family, and we were stationed in Tennessee at the time. My entire family lives in Australia and the friends I had in Tennessee had all PCS’d to different states. I had virtually no-one to turn to for help.
If you’re living near family and/or friends, please don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to tell your family or close friends that you’re struggling. If they don’t know, they can’t help.
If you’re isolated like I was, then try to find a group of people you can turn to. That might mean joining your local church if you’re religious or going to a moms group – try to find a group of women you click with.
Regular exercise is scientifically proven to help relieve stress, anxiety and depression. Additionally, if you’re carrying around extra baby weight that you want to lose, this can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression, and of course, regular exercise will help you lose weight, too.
There are lots of gyms that offer free or low-cost childcare. If joining a gym is out of your budget or you’d rather exercise at home, then I recommend checking out Aaptiv. It’s an excellent workout app that gives you access to hundreds of instructor-led workouts, including everything from yoga to weight training, walking, running, elliptical and more. It’s like having a personal trainer with you 24/7 – I am kind of obsessed with it!
You can get a free 30-day trial of Aaptiv here (after that is only $8.33/month.)
NATURAL SUPPLEMENTS FOR ANXIETY
Let me preface this by saying that I’m not a doctor, and of course, you should always consult with your medical professional before you take any supplements. I’m not telling you to take any of these supplements, I’m just listing some supplements that are thought to be helpful for dealing with anxiety.
I’m not anti-prescription medication by any means, however I do like to explore natural avenues whenever possible.
The following are some of the most popular natural supplements for anxiety:
THIS TOO, SHALL PASS
There’s no denying that the newborn stage can be stressful, but it’s so important to remember that it doesn’t last forever.
There are going to be moments where you feel at your wits end. You’re sleep deprived, baby won’t stop crying, you’ve got a clogged milk duct, you haven’t prepared anything for dinner, the dog needs to be let out and your cell phone is ringing… It’s enough to make anyone anxious.
But remember, it’s just a moment in time.
It will pass.
Baby will settle and go to sleep. Take a hot shower and massage out your clogged milk duct. Order takeout if you need to. Ignore your cell phone if it’s not important. Let the dog out. Then lay down and try to rest.
The days may be long, but the years are short. Enjoy that sweet newborn of yours while their still tiny <3