Anxiety and Motherhood
Managing Anxiety among ‘mums to be’ and ‘new mums’
Leanne Hall, BabyLove Spokesperson and Clinical Psychologist
Becoming a mum is an exciting time. However, it can also be an anxious time for a lot of women. For the most part this is very normal, partly because there are just so many unknowns. However, for today’s mums, they face the added pressures and expectations of social media, and living up to society’s idealized expectations of motherhood. And the trouble is, unless you live in a completely technology free zone, don’t own a smartphone, and avoid all magazines and TV, these expectations are everywhere!
Anxiety doesn’t just come from striving to achieve the unachievable. Around 60-70% of new mums will feel anxious from time to time. For many this will come and go. Most of this anxiety comes from learning to adjust to their new role as “mum” (or their expanding family), while juggling the demands of multiple roles. However, combine this with the added pressure of trying to be the “perfect” mum – and you have a double dose of anxiety.
But what drives anxiety?
We all like to think that we have control over tomorrow, we plan and we think ahead. Anxiety is our brain’s way of reminding us that in fact anything can happen! Curve balls can be thrown, the unexpected can hit at any time. When you’re a new mum, this curve ball comes in the form of a baby! You simply can’t predict what tomorrow will bring when you’re a new mum! The reality is that “perfection” doesn’t exist. We can’t live up to idealistic expectations, and sometimes nothing goes according to plan!
Anxiety can manifest as a range of symptoms; such as sleeplessness, appetite and weight changes, feeling overwhelmed and on edge, and poor concentration and memory.
So what can mums do to help manage their anxiety? Here are my top 5 tips.
- Know that it is normal. You are not alone in feeling anxious, with more than half of new mums experiencing degrees of anxiety around motherhood.
- Get off the Technology. Invest more time in having fun and being present with your child, and less on sharing social media moments. Whilst it is great to share your latest pics with family and friends, don’t be consumed with online and always remember that what you see online is not always representative of reality! Perfection does not exist!
- Take time out for yourself. Leave the kids with your rellies or partner, and do something for you. This is not about being selfish it’s about practicing self-care. You can’t nurture others from an empty cup.
- Say Yes! When people offer to help, say Yes. And be proactive in seeking out assistance. Knowing your limits and asking for help is a proactive way of coping.
- Engage your intuition. Reconnect with yourself and be more confident in your parenting. From a weekly yoga class to daily breathing and meditation, these are ways that you can reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone), restore balance and feel calmer.
As a parent, you will most likely always experience some level of anxiety about your offspring, and so it is important to try to make anxiety your friend. Think of it as tap on the shoulder rather than a bad thing.