Anxiety is a really big one for many mothers, especially new moms.
It might feel like a huge weight on your shoulders when you become responsible for a little life for the first time, and the worries and the fears just keep on coming.
This might especially be true if you didn’t have much experience with babies before you became a mom. This was the case for me! I had no idea what was normal baby behaviour and what was a sign of a problem, or whether I was doing things “right”. My baby’s first cold seemed like a really, really big deal and a genuine cause for concern (Would he have trouble breathing at night from the congestion? How can I make him more comfortable when he can’t blow his nose? And a snotsucker, really??) And now after two kids I barely bat an eye when the sniffles hit our house YET AGAIN!
But if you’re a new mother who’s in uncharted territory, it is easy to get caught up in lots of worries, big and small.
And anxiety can really get in the way of your motherhood experience. Maybe your worries occupy your thoughts a lot of the time, and you feel tense and stressed out making it difficult to enjoy motherhood and really bond with your baby.
Have you been given the advice to take some deep breaths, or just relax, or focus on the positive?
But what if that's just not working for you? Or maybe it works for a few minutes but then you're back to feeling anxious again.
Little tricks and tools for calming anxiety can be helpful for a short time, but they may be more of a band-aid solution rather than getting to the root of the issue.
Like all feelings, anxiety and fear usually respond best to being faced and worked through rather than being repressed or forced away.
Feelings have purpose. They are messengers there to help us and guide us to grow and learn. They may feel uncomfortable sometimes, but they are actually there to help us on our journeys to become more aware humans.
In my case, when I was a new mom feeling so much anxiety about my newborn’s health and well-being, there were really some underlying issues going on that weren’t resolved until I allowed myself to lean into my anxiety and be open to what it had to teach me.
Often, anxiety comes from a deep place within us, a younger part of ourselves that needs a chance to be heard and understood- our inner child.
I had huge expectations on myself as a mother about doing things RIGHT. I felt I wasn’t good enough unless I was perfect. This was an old wound from childhood (when my parents had huge expectations on me) and that was triggered for me when I became a mom: I wanted to know how to be a great mother, I wanted to do it perfectly. I wanted a rule book to follow. But there wasn’t one. So I felt a lot of anxiety because I was stuck in my wound with no way to soothe it.
I was feeling lost and needing guidance (and I was turning to a lot of baby books and websites for ANY kind of advice) when I was really out of touch with my intuition, my own inner knowing of how I needed to mother and what was best for my baby.
What my anxiety was trying to tell me was that I needed help and support. And that I needed to listen to my own inner wisdom. And that I was ok no matter what, imperfect mothering and all.
My anxiety had big and important messages for me, something I would have missed if deep breathing and relaxation techniques were the only things I had turned to.
So how do you access your anxiety’s wisdom and learn from it so you can TRULY relax?
Invite your anxiety in. Take a seat beside it. Ask it what it has to share with you. You can do this through journaling or having a conversation with yourself. Allow yourself to lean into your anxiety, really feel it, knowing it can’t actually hurt you. It’s just a feeling.
And do this with lots of self-compassion. Imagine you’re your own mother. This is your inner child speaking, after all. Your inner child deserves as much gentleness and love as your baby does.
Be open to your body’s inner wisdom- you may be surprised about what you actually need! Honour your needs as much as you can. You can be the best mother you can be when your own needs are met.
For some women, anxieties can really feel like they’re taking over your life. You may be having really disturbing fears, you’re too anxious to sleep (even when your baby isn’t keeping you up) or you’re having trouble getting through the day. Post-partum anxiety is a real condition, and it is a very brave and important step to reach out for help. Even if your anxieties are mild, many moms still benefit by having someone to talk to!
Many women experience huge relief and a greater sense of ease and peace once they have taken steps to work with (not against) their anxiety. And children benefit so much from a more peaceful, relaxed mama! ☮
If you're struggling with anxiety as a mom, I offer individual and group counselling that can help you get to the root of your anxiety issues and enjoy a more peaceful experience of motherhood. Check out my services here.
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Katherine Aucoin, Motherhood Counsellor
Hi Mamas! My name is Katherine and I'm a motherhood counsellor and a mom to two little boys. I'm here to offer tools, insights and support to help you be the best mom you can be for your children AND yourself.