After the birth of my first child I was extremely anxious about everything. I felt overwhelmed with all the protocols I needed to follow about how often my baby should sleep, when to feed, how to
feed etc. Even the simple things, like when am I expected to shower and what if the baby starts
screaming while I’m in the shower? Is the baby warm or cool enough? How do I manage leaving the
house with the baby? I even had nightmares about leaving the baby in the car! Heaven forbid if
someone wanted to pop in, I felt overwhelmed by the thought of tidying the whole house and needing to entertain.
To top it off, my husband was travelling, and although I had my mum on call, it was my responsibility to look after this baby.
This was the start of my post-natal depletion, which continued after the birth of my second child, by which stage I was quite a mess! I experienced hair loss, fatigue , weight loss and constant anxiousness. If you can relate to this, rest assured that you are not the only one.
My saving grace was when my mum took me to a naturopath, which changed my life.
I began researching about post-natal conditions, but all that seemed to come up was post-natal
depression, and no real information on the other symptoms I was experiencing.
Eventually, I discovered that I was suffering from post-natal depletion, which makes complete sense
right? I mean, your whole being – physically, physiologically, mentally, emotionally – has been turned
upside down! But, as you know, the focus is all on that beautiful new baby you have brought into the
world (which is completely natural) and no one is really thinking about mum, including mum!
So here are my 5 favourite ways to reduce anxiousness as a new mum…
- Learn to say no
I think this becomes especially important when we have more than 1 child. Most mums I see in clinic are pulled every which way between commitments with their older children (sports, playdates etc.), family/social commitments and possibly work commitments. If you really want to recover well after having a baby, you need to allow yourself the time to recover. Too often mums think they need to “bounce back” and soldier on as before, but believe me, this is a recipe for disaster.
Saying no to RSVPs and setting boundaries to allow for “you time” will reduce the stress, improve your mood and energy levels, and most definitely reduce that anxiousness.
2. See allied health professionals
A naturopath can assess possible nutrient deficiencies or hormonal changes, and can offer herbal medicine to improve your energy levels to cope with all the changes. There may be blood tests required to ensure levels are optimum and to check if your thyroid is functioning well. I also take a big picture approach to educate you on lifestyle changes that will support your needs.
There are plenty of options in the naturopath tool kit to help reduce anxiousness that are safe whilst breastfeeding and/or taking other medications.
Massage therapists, acupuncture, yoga / mindfulness instructors, chiro and physio may also be part of your recovery plan.
3. Be mindful of stimulants
It’s really important to not be relying on coffees to get you through the day. Whilst 1 coffee may be fine, it can be habit-forming, where 1 becomes 2, then 2 becomes 3, especially if you are at home or super tired.
Caffeine may further deplete your body and can heighten anxiety in a big way – I know this from personal experience!
This also goes for black tea, so sticking to herbal teas would be a much better option.
4. Practice deep breathing daily
Deep breathing can be a fantastic way to reduce feelings of anxiousness. You may not realise it, but we spend most of the time shallow breathing, which leads to a lack of oxygen to the brain, in turn affecting your mental state.
Get into the habit of taking 5-10 deep breaths daily – not just when you feel anxious – because if it becomes a habit, it is easier to remember it when you do start feeling anxious!
Find a quiet spot to sit or lie down and count to 6 whilst breathing in, then count to 6 whilst breathing out…..it may not be 6 to start with – it doesn’t matter and there should be no judgement attached to it like “why can’t I do this?” or “I’m hopeless at this” because if you do it once a day, every day, it will improve (a bit like going to the gym). You may want to add some relaxing background music or a metronome count to keep you focused on your breathing, rather than worrying about what needs to be done.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Your partner, family, friends (any support network) and allied health professionals like myself want what’s best for you, so if you are struggling, don’t internalise this because that will drive your anxiety though the roof. Trying to do everything yourself doesn’t work, and it will definitely affect your health and ability to recover well.
This may mean help with meals or cleaning, or just an hour of babysitting….whatever you need to reduce your anxiety will help you be the best mum!
In summary, it’s normal to feel anxious when bringing a new human into the world. It’s important to prioritise your time in a way that promotes recuperation and healing, which will have long term benefits for you and the whole family. If you are concerned about how you feel, speak to an allied healthcare professional for advice, and most importantly be kind to yourself and breathe…..
I hope you found these tips useful, and should you have any further queries I would love to see you in clinic!
P.S – I also know and work with many wonderful allied health professionals if you need advice on who to see or where to go