Nobody told me how anxious I would be after having my first son. I mean, I remember people saying I would stay awake at night wondering if my kid was still breathing (and that happened…more times than I care to admit,) but I was never adequately warned that there would be a lot more anxiety where that came from.
Shortly after having my first son, Micah, I developed postpartum depression and anxiety. Anxiety became an unfortunate friend for me. I was constantly exhausted, and I’m not talking about from a lack of sleep. I was having panic attacks over not just my child, but silly stuff like dishes and laundry. It seemed like I would never recover from the constant panic I was suffering from.
After suffering for almost an entire year, I knew I couldn’t be the only one struggling with anxiety. After talking to lots of friends and acquaintances, I realized new mom anxiety simply isn’t talked about.
We’re afraid of the honest truth
I think the problem we have with telling the truth about maternal anxiety is the many mothers feel inadequate when they mention it. It’s as if we believe if we put a front on of being able to handle it all, then maybe we really will handle it all. The truth is, you simply can’t handle it all. The great news is…it’s ok!
There is no written rule of motherhood that says you have to handle all the new stresses with perfect grace! If you’re feeling anxious about all of the major changes happening in your life after having your new bundle of joy, you’re not alone! According to Postpartum Support International, about 10% of women experience postpartum anxiety. It’s an unfortunate reality of motherhood, but it doesn’t have to be your future!
For many women suffering from postpartum anxiety, a necessary step to recovery is seeking professional help. If anxiety is a prevailing issue for you, I urge you to consider professional help from a doctor. On top of seeking professional help, these 6 tips have been vital in my progress in conquering anxiety. I pray these tips help you as much as they have helped me.
1- Supermom = Super ANXIETY
To put it simply, “Supermom” is a myth. If you fool yourself into thinking you can do all the things by yourself, then you’re going to drive yourself crazy. The moms who try to be “Supermom” drive themselves super crazy!
Nobody is able to handle it all, so do not feel afraid to ask for help!
Let me give you some examples of asking for help as a new mom:
- Have your parents or an in-law come over and watch the baby while you sleep or shower
- Ask friends or family to bring over food when they visit
- Let your spouse feed baby from time to time if possible
- Let trusted family/friends hold baby when visiting
There are so many examples I can share, but those are just a few.
It can be scary to ask for help, because you may be afraid of sounding incapable of handling motherhood. But asking for help is a major sign of strength! I know handing over your precious bundle of joy can be scary, even if you’re handing them over to your spouse. So that’s why I encourage you to let trusted people help you out! If that list is very narrow, that’s ok! Even just a few minutes of having your hands baby-free can be all you need.
Don’t let shame creep in when you ask for help! Everyone deserves a break, especially the ones who just brought life into this world!
2- Lower your expectations
For a lot of people, messy houses brings on anxiety. Perhaps eating microwave meals or freezer meals makes you feel inadequate. But if you think about it…..is a dirty house hurting your child? Is pizza delivery really going to make you less of a mom?
Let me give you an example:
I’ve never been a super clean person. Keeping a tidy house has NEVER been my strong suit. Yet the moment I came home with my son, it was as if there were spotlights on every single dust speck on my house. I started cleaning almost obsessively. One night after spending nearly an hour scrubbing my kitchen until my reflection saw its reflection, my husband looked at me and said, “cleaning isn’t helping you at all! You’re just cleaning to make you feel like a better mom, and that’s not helping anyone.”
Somehow, I correlated being a good mom to being an overly clean person, and instead I became a squeaky clean monster. Cleaning may be really cathartic for you, so good for you if it is! But for me, cleaning is what I do when I’m about to snap! There is NOTHING relaxing about cleaning for me!
I had to have a bit of a “come to Jesus” talk with myself and decide that my sanity is more important than a perfectly clean house. So nowadays, if I don’t get around to vacuuming that day, then life still goes on. If there are some dishes in the sink at bedtime, they’ll be there tomorrow. If the grass gets a little tall, it’s still going to be there to mow another day. I had to let it go.
Take inventory of the non-essential things that you feel like HAVE to get finished every day. Decide whether those things really have to be finished, or if they can wait. If life will still go on if you don’t do that one thing, then just let it go for another day.
3- The less “advice” the less anxiety
There is so much advice on the internet! And many times, you can Google something and get 600 different conflicting opinions on the same topic! No wonder new moms are freaking out!
If I were to go back and find what I searched on Google as a new mom, I’d probably be laughing myself into next year! I searched EVERYTHING!
“How to get baby to sleep.”
“Is spitting up 6 times a day normal?”
“Is green poop normal?”
You name it, I searched for it!
At some point, I realized that I clicked on almost every link Google had to offer for baby advice, yet I was still confused!
Nowadays, I don’t turn to the 100+ Facebook Mom groups for advice, but mainly the small handful of trusted sources I have like my mom, trusted mom friends, or our pediatrician. Sometimes searching out for advice can turn into information overload!
Instead of blowing up Google every 45 seconds, turn to your small handful of trusted sources. Instead of letting Google scare you that your child is dying because you Googled their symptoms, check with your pediatrician. It actually might be a simpler solution than the internet told you! Not all the internet has to offer is gold.
4- Develop household systems to keep things functioning
Going back to the very first point…if you try to be Supermom, you WILL drive yourself nuts! Simply put, you cannot create more than 24 hours in a day. Since you can’t create more time, you need to use the time you have effectively. That means finding SYSTEMS!
What are systems? They’re routines and processes that help make your life easier. I’m not talking about computer systems, but life systems.
One of the hardest things for me to figure out after having Micah was dinners. I LOVE to cook! But cooking became a major point of frustration when standing in the kitchen for an hour or two was out of the question with a screaming baby. So I had to figure out how to simplify dinner without relying on Chick-Fil-A every day (although I would gladly oblige!)
That was when I discovered meal prepping. I spent some time researching crockpot meals that all I had to do was dump the ingredients in the morning, and go on with my day. Yes, that required a tiny bit of planning, but the amount of time I saved made it worth it. For meal prepping help, I highly recommend checking out The Family Freezer. This website has helped me out tremendously with making delicious meals that take very little time to prep.
Maybe cooking isn’t a point of stress for you, but cleaning the house is. I recommend checking The Clean Mama. She has a wonderful routine for keeping your house clean all day long, and the best part is…it only takes 10 minutes a day!
Perhaps being woken up in the middle of the night is sending you over the edge. Could you and your spouse create a system for yourselves to make nights easier for everyone? Is grocery shopping frustrating you? Perhaps you can utilize a grocery delivery service, like Instacart!
My husband and I would take turns with night feedings, and if things got too frustrating, we could always “tap out.” When taking Micah to the grocery store became too much of a task for me to handle alone, we started using Instacart to have our groceries delivered. My husband and I began rotating at bath time and at dinner time when Micah began to eat solids.
Household systems are just routines that make the everyday flow that much easier. Just a forewarning, these are going to take time to develop! You may create a system and it flops the first time! Thats fine, try a different one! Not every system will work for everyone. Don’t be afraid of the trial and error, because you’ll be so glad when you find the systems that work for you!
5- Get some sleep
This sounds so counterintuitive to tell a mom, but I cannot stress how important it is to sleep!
Trust me, I know sleep is a rare commodity for new parents. I do NOT miss the days of being awake every 1-2 hours! But hear me out…
Lack of sleep is the #1 trigger for anxiety! When you are exhausted, your body doesn’t know how to respond to stress, therefore you are ALWAYS in fight or flight mode. Then you’re not just physically exhausted, but emotionally exhausted too!
It’s just like your baby. When they’re tired, they cry. Once they take a nap, they’re all better! Guess what, your adult self is exactly the same way! Your body NEEDS sleep!
I know the advice “sleep when the baby sleeps” is some severely overused advice, especially when there’s things that need to be done, but go back to Tip #1: Ditch the “Supermom” mentality. There is probably something that you think HAS to be done, but it really doesn’t need to be. If you’re peeling your eyes open because you have to fold laundry during nap time, then leave the laundry alone and take a nap!
Your laundry will be there later, but your sanity might not be!
I know you’re not going to get a full 8 hours of sleep, but some sleep is better than none! Perhaps if you have help around the house, you can work out a system (hello tip #4) that allows you to take a nap while the other person watches the baby.
Even Superwoman needs to sleep, so go take a nap!
6- Don’t be “just a mom”
Being a mom is hands down the greatest accomplishment I have ever had, but it is not my ONLY accomplishment!
If you only see yourself as a mom, then you’re missing out on the greatness God wants you to have.
If you’re familiar with Proverbs 31 in the Bible, there is a very familiar passage that refers to The Virtuous Woman. I’m not going to put the whole passage here, but if you read it you’re going to notice something really special about her:
She’s not “just a mom” and she’s not “just a wife,” she has other things that hold her interest as well. She’s an entrepreneur, a chef, and a woman with a life
Think about your hobbies, dreams, and goals. Do you have any? If not, that NEEDS to change for your own good! If you ONLY hobby is watching Bubble Guppies with your toddler, then find something that is purely you to give you some life. If your ONLY goal is to be a good mom, then what happens when your kid becomes an adult? Who will you be when that phase of your life is over?
“Mom” is not your only name. There is a human deep down under all that stale coffee and milk stained shirts. That human has dreams, desires, goals, and talents. You can’t be Superwoman, but you still can be be Better-Than-Average-Woman!
If you’re finding yourself feeling like “just a mom,” or “just a wife,” dig deep and pray about what more you really are and can be. Is there a craft you can learn to better other people or yourself? Perhaps you have a skill that someone can benefit from? Maybe you’re a really hospitable person and just want to be kind to others! Only you and Jesus know those answers.
Don’t abandon those skills, hobbies, dreams, and goals that make you the person you are for the sake of motherhood. Yes, you made a human, but you can make more than humans. Don’t quit creating past creating humans!
Anxiety is not a curse, it is a sign
During my year-long battle with postpartum depression and anxiety, I spent a lot of time rebuking the devil and shaking my fists in the air, demanding the torture be over. What I didn’t realize that the crippling anxiety wasn’t a curse from below, but a sign from above.
This may sound weird, but I don’t think Satan gave me anxiety. I think God was using my body’s natural response to stress to show me that I needed to change some things in my life before I lose my mind.
Don’t get me wrong, anxiety left unchecked is DEFINITELY a tactic of Satan to steal, kill, and destroy what God wants to do in you. But when we listen to where that anxiety is coming from, we may discover that the solution is not always in yelling at Satan, but making some simple changes to our lifestyle.
Perhaps the very thing you need to do to show Satan that his tactics have failed is to give him nothing to make you anxious over.
Satan wants you to stay anxious, God wants you to outsmart your anxiety.
So take some time and look over your life. Get right to the root of what’s causing your anxiety. Is it the lack of time? Perhaps a lack of control? Then see if any of these tips can be applied to that issue. Then anxiety won’t become a normal part of your motherhood story, but a thing you have overcome.
What have you done to conquer anxiety as a new mom? Let me know!
Need some more help calming and conquering anxiety? Consider signing up to receive my Calm and Control Anxiety Workbook! This workbook is my solution to keeping anxiety at bay! Sign up below to receive your FREE Calm and Control Anxiety Workbook.