What to do when you’re feeling anxious after having your baby

Feeling anxious after having your baby is very normal. In fact, it makes sense that a certain level of anxiety is a biological response TO having a baby. A new Mum needs to be on high alert to ensure that she keeps her baby safe.  But for those of us who live in worlds where we don’t have dangers at every turn, our ‘high alertness’ can manifest as a form of paralysing anxiety that has no specific direction or destination.

The combination of hormones, lack of sleep (which tends to make anxiety worse) and the inability to practise any sort of self care when you have a newborn; can all lead to an overwhelming feelings of anxiety in the days, weeks and months after having a baby.

Added to that, the feeling that you SHOULD be enjoying this time with your baby, can mean that you feel less willing to tell anyone about how you’re feeling and instead just hope that these feelings go away on their own.  In the work that I do, I often find that women who have experienced infertility challenges to even get to their baby, struggle with anxiety even more strongly and feel even less willing to ask for help. 

Sometimes these feelings fade on their own, and sometimes they persist and grow and become something that dominates your experience of motherhood (and not in a good way).

If you’ve never had anxiety before you may not even know to call what you’re feeling ‘anxiety’. I certainly didn’t when I had my first. In fact, it wasn’t until I was trying to have my 3rd baby (and was struggling with my own fertility journey) that I even realised what I had been experiencing all these years WAS anxiety.

feeling anxious after having your baby

If you’re feeling any of the following, it is possible that you are experiencing a degree of postnatal anxiety.

–          Constantly feeling on edge or worried

–          Racing heart or sweaty palms

–          Change in weight or appetite

–          Panic attacks

–          Trouble sleeping (even when your baby is asleep)

–          Feeling like you can’t relax

–          Mood changes – feeling angry or crying more than normal

–          Feeling out of control

–          Memory changes

–          Feeling scared about being alone with your baby

–          Poor self esteem or changes in confidence

What to do if you are feeling anxious after having your baby

Ask for help

You might feel unwilling to do this, but talking to someone about how you feel is a really important part of managing postnatal anxiety. You might choose to talk to your partner, a parent or a close friend.  Regular appointments with a counsellor can also help if you find that your feelings of anxiety continue to linger.

Rest

I know. I’ve just told the mother of a small baby to get more rest, which is pretty tricky when you have a tiny dictator who probably doesn’t like sleeping all that much. But anxiety is so much worse when you’re sleep deprived, so where possible choose sleep when you can.  Even if this means letting other things go; like washing, cooking, etc.  If it’s possible to do so you might consider hiring someone to help out with these things or call in support from family or friends so that you can choose sleep instead. 

Take time to feel like you

While it might feel like you need to spend all your time with your baby, taking a short time away can actually help to ease your anxiety. Taking the time to do something you love outside your baby can help you find a good perspective and balance which can help to ease some of your symptoms of anxiety. 

Learn your triggers

Start to observe what makes your anxiety worse and avoid those triggers.  Common triggers include: alcohol, caffeine, skipping meals / not eating properly, not enough sleep, etc. I found the book First, we make the beast beautiful by Sarah Wilson a really helpful way to learn about anxiety and I recommend it often to the women I work with.

Move your body

Moving your body, even just going for a short walk around your house a couple of times while holding your baby can help to shift some feelings of anxiety.  A gentle yoga class, while your baby lies beside you can be another way to help ease anxious feelings.  

Most importantly though, don’t put the pressure of ‘having to exercise’ on your list, which inevitably creates more anxiety. Movement can be as simple as a 5 minute stretch before bed and shouldn’t be something that you resent having to do, but rather look forward to doing. 

If you’d like to practise some postnatal yoga, try this yin class below. Or check out my Online Yoga Circle for my full range of postnatal classes.

I think an important thing to remember when you’re feeling anxious after having your baby is that you won’t always feel this way. Anxiety can be helped through learning what triggers yours and how to look after yourself so that these feelings don’t overwhelm you. In the meantime I’m sending you love. Mothering with anxiety is no easy gig. You’ve got this.

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