Motherhood anxiety involves frequent worrying and concern about various things. Worrying can be related to your children’s wellbeing or it can go beyond that to more general events and situations.
The toll of feeling on edge and trying to control anxiety can be overwhelming and isolating for many women. Often feeling shamed, there is a reluctance to share with other people that you may not be feeling your best.
As a therapist in Rockland County, NY that provides therapy for new mom anxiety, I can attest that you are not alone. If you are experiencing anxiety for the first time after giving birth, it can be an unwelcome surprise.
Postpartum anxiety is one way that anxiety can present itself. But, motherhood anxiety can begin at anytime for new moms and veteran moms alike. Being a mother involves taking on great responsibility and stress. Some worrying is normal and helps to keep yourself and your children safe.
But, sometimes anxiety can begin to affect your day to day life. You may begin to feel too anxious, keyed up, and overwhelmed more often than not. It is important to take the time to check in with yourself when this is happening. Ignoring the signs of anxiety can lead to more suffering over time.
So, when is motherhood anxiety something that you need to pay attention to?
Signs of Motherhood Anxiety
Mom anxiety is a term used only to group a common feeling that mothers in general feel. For example, having a baby that won’t take naps, is a worry that many mothers will experience. Trying to soothe and console a crying baby when nothing seems to be working, is another.
Thoughts about being a good mother, doing and saying the right thing, providing healthy meals and raising independent children are common. Mothers of all ages and stages can relate to these worries at one time or another.
However, the actual symptoms of anxiety are characterized by the following:
- worrying often about various things
- difficulty controlling worries
- restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge
- muscle tension
- feeling easily tired or fatigue
- trouble with concentration
- sleep difficulty (i.e., difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or early awakening)
As a parent, some of these symptoms may present themselves at varying degrees and at different times. When you are experiencing many of these symptoms most of the time, it is time to reach out for support. Speaking with an experienced mental health counselor can help you understand and control motherhood anxiety.
Common Themes in Motherhood Anxiety
Will I Be a Good Mother If I Don’t Have Positive Examples?
Trauma and complicated relationship experiences with your family of origin and with your own mother can influence your feelings about being a mom.
Mom anxiety can be exacerbated by thoughts about your own relationship history with your mother. You may not have received validation, comfort or experienced a satisfying and loving relationship with your own mother. This can plant a seed of doubt and fear about how you will parent your own children.
While there is truth in the theory that we tend to unconsciously repeat previous relationship patterns, it is also true that we can stop unwanted behaviors. We can choose to do differently than what was done to us.
Each generation has new opportunities and capacity to heal from generational trauma. You are not to blame and are not defined by what has happened to you. Building a family life that is true to your own vision and version of family and motherhood is possible.
You can do this by increasing awareness about positive parenting practices. Make conscious decisions not to repeat unhelpful strategies you learned in the past.
Instead, take the time to examine what positive values you believe in most about motherhood. Is it being loving, respectful, patient, emotionally available, supportive, empathic, etc..? What kind of relationship do you want to have with your own children?
Align yourself with the positive values you believe in and make choices that will help you live within the integrity of these values.
Make a commitment to continue to grow personally. Seek therapy to heal old family and relational wounds. Learning more about yourself, how to care for and meet your own needs will inform how you can care for your children.
Select your own positive mom role models. Surround yourself with other women and mothers that you admire and that make positive parenting choices. These are just a few options that can help you feel less worried about your ability to be a good mother.
Will I Love My Second Baby As Much As My First?
Your capacity for love is limitless. Each child you add to your family will come with their own personality and special qualities that makes them unique.
Rather than comparing your love, imagine creating a unique bond to each child. They are separate beings and will hold separate but equally meaningful places in your heart.
Social Anxiety in Motherhood
In addition to the usual changes one can expect, your social experiences will also change during motherhood. You will enter into social interactions with people that have contact with your child.
Interactions with pediatricians, daycare workers, babysitters, teachers, extended family members, and any one else that is in a helping role. And then there are other mothers and parents that you may see at school, birthday parties, and other child friendly functions.
For mothers with social anxiety, this can be quite a challenge. It can be difficult to speak up and make friends. This is because social anxiety makes a person feel fear of being judged, humiliated, embarrassed in social situations.
In addition, social anxiety often involves use of avoidant strategies to cope. For example, declining a play date invite due to worrying about having to talk with the child’s parent.
Social anxiety can be exacerbated in motherhood because there are numerous social situations you will encounter as a parent. Many are actually unavoidable, such as an imminent medical visit. Other situations will involve you needing to advocate for your child.
Social anxiety in motherhood is one way that anxiety can show up and make you doubt yourself as a parent. Therapy for anxiety can help you get to the root of the issue and improve your social life.
Motherhood Depression vs. Anxiety
Motherhood depression can be experienced independently or together with motherhood anxiety. While many women look forward to the joys of parenting, depression in motherhood can make it feel less fun. Depression can make doing everyday tasks for and with your children extra effortful. There is often a feeling of doom and gloom, low motivation, and low energy that hovers over the day.
For moms, it can be especially surprising to discover that they have depression. This is because we are told that tiredness, eating the kids’ leftovers, and poor sleep are par for the course.
This is not entirely true. Yes, motherhood involves certain sacrifices and putting yourself second when your child is in need. Yes, it is normal to feel exhausted and low energy. But, this is a temporary experience. Often times, you can bounce back quickly after a good rest. Depression is a real condition that lasts longer.
Motherhood depression is different than motherhood anxiety and is differentiated based on symptoms. The symptoms of depression include:
- loss of interest in doing things, including once enjoyed activities
- depressed mood or feelings of sadness; crying
- sleep difficulties beyond regular sleep disruption due to caring for your baby
- appetite disturbance (i.e., lack of appetite, overeating)
- feelings of guilt
- trouble concentrating
- low energy and low motivation
Motherhood anxiety involves more worrying. This includes worrying about the future, and worrying about your baby or children.
In addition, anxiety symptoms are often experienced physically, in the body as well. For example, heart palpitations, sweating, feelings of numbing and tingling, shortness of breath, light headedness, trembling, and feelings of restlessness.
Regardless of which of these symptoms you experience, know that you are not alone. Many women and mothers are dealing with this all over the world. Anxiety and depression are common and treatable health concerns.
Speaking with a mental health provider or your primary care provider about your experience, can help you feel better.
How To Deal With New Mom Anxiety?
Becoming a new mom is a joyous time for many people. But, having a baby for the first time also means that you are doing everything for the first time.
It is not unusual for new moms to experience some anxiety.
Address Feelings of Shame and Guilt
Mothering is is not an innate experience to all women and everyone differs in terms of comfort level. Some new moms may feel more frustrated and anxious than happy and excited about having children. However, admitting this to other people can stir up feelings of shame and guilt.
With so many people congratulating new moms and saying things like, “you’ll figure it out as you go”, there is a silent agreement that everything is ok. The implication is that you will manage it all on your own.
You may have a hard time admitting to yourself or to others that you don’t feel confident or at ease with your new baby. In fact, the opposite feelings of nervousness, overwhelm, fear, and uncertainty are there in place of happiness and confidence.
Many women with new mom anxiety fear appearing incompetent, underprepared, or being judged as a “bad mom”. Feelings of shame and guilt often accompany new mom anxiety.
Shame is a complex emotion that makes us feel and believe that we are a failure or unworthy. Telling another person that you are struggling can be difficult. Especially, when you are worried that they will judge you, leave you, or humiliate you.
In order to protect themselves from shame, many people stay silent instead. New moms may be hesitant to admit that they are tired of breastfeeding, or that they did not shower yesterday, and are actually looking forward to the end of maternity leave.
Silence often leads to more despair. Talk to someone when you are feeling worried or stressed. Addressing these feelings head on rather than letting them fester can get you feeling better more quickly.
Seek out therapy if you feel guilty that you are imposing too much on your family members. A therapist will help you learn to control anxiety symptoms and address all of the mom anxiety feelings you are having.
New moms are often isolated for several hours in the day or night. Responsibilities of feeding, bathing, changing, and putting the baby to sleep are usually done alone.
Mom anxiety can increase and sometimes worsen when you are by yourself most of the time. This is because we can get caught up in familiar cycles of worrying that include the same thoughts over and over again.
For new moms, this is truly difficult. Because unless you already have a strong network of people that can come over, you are basically alone with the baby.
This is especially true if you are the one to get up for midnight feedings. Or when you are the only one to comfort one of your children with nightmares or other bedtime needs.
It is important to reduce isolation in any way you can. Do you know any other mothers besides yourself? Do you have someone you can call on to keep you company?
If you aren’t able to rely on a friend, take your child on a walk or visit a local store. Being around other people can distract you from your worries.
Find a Motherhood Support Network
Make new friends that are mothers. Seek out social groups in your local neighborhood that cater to mothers and new mom experiences. This is a great way to meet with like-minded people or gain a new perspective and tips on motherhood.
In addition to reducing feelings of isolation and increasing activity, you will learn that you are not alone. You will speak with people who have gone through the process before and may be willing to help you.
Maintain Physical Activity
Moving the body and staying active helps reduce stress and anxiety. Many studies have shown that physical movement and exercise is beneficial to overall mental health.
With the consent of your medical provider, start an exercise routine. Create an exercise plan that you are able to do a few times a week.
Exercise can improve mental clarity, increase concentration, and help improve sleep. It can also serve as a way to reduce the muscle tension symptoms of anxiety.
Practice Mindfulness to Relieve Stress
Mindfulness helps to reduce stress and control anxiety. When you feel overstimulated and anxious, a five senses grounding technique for anxiety will bring you back to the present moment. Practice observing and tuning into your immediate surroundings to increase awareness and center yourself.
This simple practice is very powerful in bringing your mind away from its worries and into a more peaceful and calm state.
Connect with a Therapist For New Mom Anxiety
Anxiety is treatable. Motherhood is a difficult task to take on and you are doing the best you can. But, there is help out there and you don’t have to keep doing it all on your own.
Talking with a therapist and addressing motherhood anxiety can help you feel better and get back to enjoying life. To schedule a complimentary consultation, call or schedule online.