But I hear from a lot of new mothers that they are taken aback by the anxious thoughts. And then they start worrying about how much they're worrying. It's a tough, but easy, spiral to fall into. Any of this sound familiar?
- What if I draw blood trying to trim a fingernail?
- What if I drop the baby trying to get him into the carrier?
- Is my baby eating/sleeping/awake/pooping enough?
- What if I fall while I'm walking with my baby?
- Practice 4-7-8 breathing - inhale to a count of 4, hold your breath to a count of 7, exhale to a count of 8. You can watch a video describing this exercise. If that seems too hard or complicated, even just exhaling for a count or two longer than your inhale can start to physically calm your body. The longer exhalation slows your breathing, decreases your heart rate and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and rest.
- A guided mindfulness meditation - there are lots of free recordings available online: here or here. Start with a simple breathing meditation or a body scan.
- Legs up the wall (it's as simple as sitting down next to a wall, laying back, and raising your feet up so your legs are straight against the wall) and a supported forward fold (sit cross legged, and fold forward; if you can, rest your forehead on something like blocks, pillows, your arms or fists) are two accessible yoga poses that can help reduce anxiety and alleviate insomnia.
However, if strategies like these aren't cutting it; if you're having panic attacks; if the constant stream of thoughts in your head is keeping you awake even while the baby's asleep; if you're avoiding activities like bath time or not going particular places because of fear, you might need some extra support to feel better.
Between 10-15% of women in the postpartum period will experience depression or anxiety. That's nearly 1 in 6. In my experience with new moms, the symptoms of anxiety are some of the most common. So here's what I want to make sure you hear: It's not your fault - it's not because of anything you did or didn't do. You are a good mother. And the even better news? You can feel like yourself again.
How? First off, if the thought of "doing" anything else feels overwhelming right now, enlist help. Your partner, a friend, a family member can take care of the logistics. Unsure how to ask for help? Email them this post. If a new mother sent this to you, tell her you love her, she's a good mother, and you will help her with these next steps.
- Connect with a therapist who specializes in postpartum issues.
- Try out a support group.
- Call your midwife or OB to make sure there's not an underlying health issue or to have a conversation about the pros and cons of medication.
- Don't know where to turn? Postpartum Support International has a hotline and lists resources across the country.
Have you made it to the other side of postpartum anxiety? What helped you? Please share in the comments.
"Stone Heart" (http://bit.ly/1onQYe5) by Irene Grassi is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.