Becoming A Less Anxious Parent
Although there are countless books, classes, videos, and online communities to help expectant parents know what to expect when they welcome their new baby into their lives, nothing can truly prepare a person for parenthood until that baby actually enters the world! The early days of parenting are filled with worries, from dealing with illnesses, to managing life with very little sleep, to feeding problems, to concerns about development. No matter how much you prepare yourself for mom life, parenthood can be a struggle. However, with a little patience and determination, you can practice living a less anxious life when it comes to your motherhood journey.
Anxiety is normal, especially when you are faced with a new situation, but it can quickly become a disruptive factor in your life. Anxiety can cause irritability, insomnia, rapid heart rate, difficulty concentrating, panic attacks, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, and difficulty managing relationships. In motherhood, anxiety can emerge as unsubstantiated fears about your child’s health, doubts about your abilities as a mother, strong feelings of being overwhelmed and exhausted, difficulty communicating with your spouse, difficulty resting and practicing self care, and feelings of stress and isolation.
If your feelings of stress and anxiousness are making it increasingly difficult to go about your daily life, consider talking to your doctor about whether you might be dealing with postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, common mood disorders that many women face in the first year after giving birth.
If your anxiousness tends to come and go, there are many ways you can adjust your daily routine to help you keep the stress at a minimum.
1. Incorporate exercise into your routine.
Physical activity provides two things that are key to feeling happy and relaxed: endorphins and serotonin. Exercise helps you feel better both physically and emotionally. Working out also provides a helpful distraction from daily stressors. Even if you feel busy caring for your little one, aim to exercise at least 3-4 times a week for at least 30 minutes. Anything that gets your heart pumping counts as physical activity, so even a brisk neighborhood walk with your baby in the stroller can be a refreshing way to elevate your mood!
2. Ditch the coffee or other caffeinated drinks and snacks.
How do you survive mom life without caffeine? Thankfully, it is possible. Caffeine affects your nervous system, which can give you a temporary jolt of energy or trigger your anxiety. Coffee, chocolate, soda, and energy drinks should only be consumed in moderation. If you struggle with anxiety, opt for drinks and treats without caffeine, such a decaf herbal tea, sparkling water, or lemonade.
3. Get enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation can raise anxiety levels. Most adults need 8-9 hours of sleep per night, but if you have a baby that wakes frequently throughout the night to eat or get a diaper change, this can be impossible. Try to rest during the day when your baby naps, or ask your spouse or another caregiver to watch the baby while you catch up on some much-needed rest. If you have trouble falling asleep, make sure that your bedtime routine is relaxing, and that you try to go to bed at the same time every night. Instead of scrolling through social media until your eyes become droopy, try reading a book, putting on lotion, or doing gentle stretches.
4. Eat a well balanced diet.
Consuming too much sugar can lead to feelings of restlessness and nervousness. Drinking too much caffeine has a similar effect. If you’re feeling anxious, you might be tempted to skip meals, but this only causes a drop in blood sugar and an increase in cortisol, a stress hormone. Make sure you eat at least three meals a day, and enjoy a healthy snack when you feel hungry. Taking care of your body is also taking care of your mind!
5. Say “no” to the things that don’t matter.
Stress and anxiety can come from doing too much. As a mother, it’s easy to overextend our energy by trying to be supermom. One of the best things mothers can do for their mental health is to realize that it’s okay not to be on top of things at all times. It’s okay if the laundry piles up for a few days. It’s okay if the toys remained scattered across the room like a tornado hit. It’s okay not to attend every neighborhood playdate. It’s okay not to have time to exercise and “get your body back” right after giving birth. It’s okay to be too exhausted sometimes to be fully present for your spouse. Early parenthood is a season of life, and it means making adjustments to your priorities. Choose the things that matter to you, and don’t sweat the small stuff!
6. Build a trustworthy support system.
Find a trustworthy friend, relative, or doctor to become your emotional support. It’s important to find people we can confide in and talk to about our stressors. Having a special person in your life who you know you can depend on will make a huge difference in your mental health.
7. Carve out time to take a break.
Nobody can be a parent 24/7, for eternity. As you navigate the early years of parenthood, it’s important to find time to take a break from being “Mom.” Whether you go out for a cup of coffee with a friend, go to gym for a weekly spin class, or go on a date night with your partner, try to find time to take a breather.
8. Practicing breathing, meditation, or yoga.
Mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga have all been known to have positive results when it comes to managing stress and anxiety. If you’re not sure where to begin, there are meditation classes available in many places or online, and there are also several phone apps you can download to practice breathing and guided meditation on your own. Yoga and gentle stretching teach you to be in tune with your body and your breathing, which can help center your thoughts in stressful times.
Remember mama, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at times. Find your support system, live a healthy lifestyle, and practice mindfulness so that you can start to live with less anxiety and spend more time enjoying those special moments with your little ones.
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.