What can I do about my anxiety?

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Being a new mom or a mom with small kids can come with a little (or a lot!) of anxiety. You are responsible for a very vulnerable person and much of what you are going through will be new. My colleague Dr. Sarah Nunes, a registered psychologist and PhD had some great advice for managing anxiety in motherhood, she says

“I personally found a steep learning curve with my first child and found I was still unsure of things by my third. Here are some basic tips to manage the anxiety that comes with parenting a newborn or small child.”

Your anxiety might fluctuate depending on how much sleep you’ve had, if you’ve had any breaks from the child, and how much support you feel you are receiving.  Dr. Sarah Nunes, PhD, gives the following advice for moms to help manage their anxiety:

Understand that some anxiety is normal. Motherhood is a new endeavour with many unknowns; therefore, you might feel unsure and nervous. Alongside anxiety you may also experience mood changes (due to changing hormones and sleep deprivation), loneliness, and challenges with your partner adjusting to your new roles as parents.

Here are some things you can do to try and combat anxiety:

Try ways to relax in your home:

  • diaphragmatic breathing,
  • meditation can help anxiety – try playing a relaxing song and focusing on your breath.  There are also a few meditation apps that are available in the app store.
  • Do some self care – a hot relaxing bath, a massage or a short walk around your neighbourhood.
  • Its important to note that anxiety is common and although these things will not take away your anxiety completely, they will help you to feel more in control of it.

Ask for help from family or friends, and find some time for yourself:

  • Ask your partner to take the child out for an hour to yourself so you can de-stress.
  • Ask an in-law (if possible) to come over to be with the child so you can have sometime to yourself.
  • Find some down time when your child is at school or daycare to do some self care.
  • Hire outside help if you can afford it.

Try and pay attention to your extreme thoughts throughout the day

  • Try to notice when you are getting carried away with a particular thought and ask yourself if there is evidence for the truthfulness of the thought.
  • Notice the emotion that comes with the thought and label it (anger, sadness, guilt, frustration, resentment, grief, etc).
  • If you find yourself stuck in a negative thought, notice it without judgment and try gently redirecting it to a positive thought.  We all have negative thoughts!

Recognize when you are ruminating, or worrying excessively

  • When worrying no longer generates new ideas this is called rumination.
  • When this is happening, try to get busy doing something active or productive.  Go for a walk, do the dishes or some light housework, catch up on some reading or work you were behind on.  Sitting and focusing on the rumination often makes it worse.

Accept that some times your anxiety may be worse than others, and this is normal. Try and sit and tolerate your anxiety, and wait it out. It often will pass over time.

Please also give yourself permission to get professional help from your family doctor or a psychologist if you feel you need it. If anxiety worsens rather than getting better, or is impacting your everyday life with your child or children, seeking professional help can help you to process your new adjustment to motherhood and ultimately feel better.

Remember Motherhood is hard, but every mom deserves to enjoy their time alone and with their families.

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