Any big life change causes stress and worry, because everything is new and you're trying to figure it all out fast.
And if that new thing is a baby, getting it 'right' is so so so important that it can feel normal to be worried all the time and consumed by anxiety. Add in sleep deprivation and it can be very hard to tell what's 'normal' and what's not.
So how do you know if you're experiencing the 'normal' stress of motherhood or suffering from something more serious, like Postpartum Anxiety?
Postpartum Anxiety is discussed much less than Postpartum Depression, but is actually more common. Postpartum Anxiety happens when the adaptive levels of stress and worry that come with having baby tip over into unhelpful, painful, debilitating anxiety.
Some signs that you should reach out for help are:
- Uncontrollable, excessive worry and nervousness about everyday activities
- Intrusive, irrational worries of disaster or harm
- Ongoing physical tension such as tightness in your chest, jitters, insomnia, difficulty breathing
- Excessive, stressful urge to control and over-manage details of daily life
- Panic attacks involving loss of breath, foggy thinking, flush, feeling out of control
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms on a regular basis, you deserve help. If you ignore these struggles, your nervous system may become even more overwhelmed and make it hard for you to manage daily life and care for your child(ren).
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to make things better:
- Be honest and loving toward yourself about how much stress and anxiety you are experiencing.
- Let people you trust know that you are having a hard time and ask them to help you with day-to-day responsibilities.
- Prioritize sleep, even if it means someone else taking care of night wakings.
- Rely on others so you can get regular breaks. This can be very hard if you are suffering with anxiety because you will worry or feel guilty about taking a break, but your nervous system needs it.
- Give yourself permission to have a slow, boring schedule. Neither you nor the baby have to prove anything by being busy.
- Nurture your other interests, such as hobbies and friends, so you can balance out the demands of motherhood.
- Seek out help from a therapist. Find someone who is specially training in postpartum anxiety and is dedicated to helping you feel better as quickly as possible.
- Let your OB or other medical professional know. There are medications that can help.
Just because people don't talk much about Postpartum Anxiety doesn't mean it's not a common problem. You are not alone, and you are not 'crazy.' You are experiencing something that many women before you, and many women around you, have been through and recovered from.
It takes wisdom and courage to admit that you are struggling and ask for the help you need.
I know things can get better, and admitting that you no longer want to live with this anxiety is the first step.
With love and optimism,
* If you are afraid for your safety of the safety of your child(ren), please call an emergency service at 911, or crisis hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).