Chloe Brotheridge is a hypnotherapist, coach and mentor at www.calmer-you.com and the host of The Calmer You Podcast. She specialises in helping people calm stress and anxiety and feel more confident. She's the author of two books published by Penguin, the best selling The Anxiety Solution and ‘The Confidence Solution'. Find her on Instagram @ChloeBrotheridge.
We spoke to Chloe on her best tips to calm anxiety as a new mum.
Postnatal depression can often take the spotlight but postpartum anxiety is just as common. Like any anxiety, there is a sense of fear around something going wrong. This time, it’s primarily linked to caring for baby; not doing something right, not doing something enough, doing something wrong, and on it goes.
While excessive worry about the health and welfare of baby can be an obvious sign, there are others too. These can include racing thoughts, feeling constantly on edge, having intrusive thoughts, a sensation that something terrible is about to happen, feeling agitated and deeply stressed about life. Physical symptoms of anxiety can also be common, such as a shortness of breath and shallow breathing, dizziness, excessive sweating and nausea.
If you notice yourself feeling anxious, there’s always help at hand. As a first step, it’s a good idea to speak to your health visitor or GP. It’s also important to share how you’re feeling with those who love you. They only want the best for you, especially at this time, and you’re not letting anyone down or disappointing them by sharing how you’re really feeling.
Signs to look out for that you might have anxiety as a new mum
Being a new mum is supposed to be the best time of our life. We’re expected to feel so filled with love and joy that nothing can dent our happiness.
Yes, it’s amazing - but often the reality of being a new mum can be different to what we expected. It can feel overwhelming, hard, upsetting at times and a whole host of other emotions, all at once.
There are so many factors that impact our health and happiness, even without a baby, but add the intense experience of childbirth into the mix along with lack of sleep, the sudden responsibility, the hormones rushing through our system and the influx of well-wishers and messages, and it can suddenly start to all feel like too much.
It can be hard to admit you're struggling when the expectation is that you should be enjoying every minute.
Putting on a mask of happiness and joy, when inside you’re feeling anything but, can be extremely stressful and tiring, when there’s already so much on your shoulders.
So how can we manage our anxiety and stress as a new mum?
While opening up can be the hardest thing, it is often the most worthwhile. Here are five other ways to calm anxiety as a new mum:
1) Prioritise rest
While it may be hard to catch up on sleep as a new mum, when you make it your priority it can have a powerful impact on your health. When we’re tired, our adrenals pump out more cortisol because our bodies perceive the lack of sleep as a threat. Cortisol is a stress hormone so the less sleep we have, the more it can add to our anxiety. So, catch up on rest as much as you can and you’ll feel all the better, and calmer, for it.
2) Remember you're not alone
A big step in feeling calmer is remembering you're not alone. Having a baby is a huge, life-changing event and can take some adjustment. You might find yourself spending long periods of time alone with just you and your baby which can be isolating and lonely. So, when you’re feeling lonely or anxious, just picking up the phone or inviting a friend over can make a world of difference and take your mind off those anxious thoughts. There’s also lots of support groups out there, from breastfeeding groups to baby massage, which bring new mums together.
3) Speak to yourself as you would a friend
Self-compassion is one of the most important skills any of us can build, and it's especially useful during anxious times. If you had a friend who you loved more than anyone else in the world, and they were going through a hard time, what would you say to them? What would your tone of voice sound like and what words would you share to comfort and reassure them? Now say these words to yourself and show yourself the love and compassion you need at this time. You’re doing an amazing job, you just need to trust in yourself.
4) Accept help (and learn to ask for it)
Accepting help can be difficult when you're used to handling everything yourself, or being the one to help others . Motherhood isn’t called the hardest job in the world for nothing. Suddenly you go from working a 9-5 job to one that is 24/7. And as much as we might like to think of ourselves as capable and independent, the truth is most of us are going to need help in our new demanding role. While stubbornness can be a good thing, it often gets in the way of receiving the help we really need. If you have visitors, let them know how they can help out, whether it’s bringing round some food, holding the baby so you can have a shower, hanging out the washing or emptying the dishwasher. People actually like to help and feel useful so don’t deprive them of that! Let them help because they’ll want to and you’ll need it.
5) Remember 'this too shall pass'
When those long nights seem to last forever, whether it’s when you're struggling with some aspect of feeding your baby or they have colic, know that nothing lasts forever. Almost everything is a stage and will pass, often sooner than you think. Every difficult thing you’ve ever had to do in your life has been and gone, and this moment of time is no exception. Take a deep breath and remember that everything passes and there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.