As soon as we become parents we can be vulnerable and feel our anxiety rising. As wonderful as it is to give birth and bring a new baby into the world, it can be scary too. And it can feel overwhelming at times. Here are some practical ways you can manage your anxiety when it hits you. Simple and actionable ways you can feel calmer and more in control.
Parents are feeling anxiety three times more since we experienced the first lockdown and the start of the pandemic a year ago. But anxiety has been felt by parents since the dawn of time and we are no strangers to it. However, if it increases, it can present mental and physical health problems, which is an additional threat to our children too. So finding ways to manage anxiety has never been more important for us and also our families.
So what is anxiety and how can we manage it?
Believe it or not, anxiety is a normal part of us. It’s there to keep us safe when we think or experience something is going to happen. I like to think of my anxiety like an inner lioness. A fierce protector that is getting me into high alert should I need to defend myself or my children. However, she is hyper vigilant and often appears when I don’t actually need her. So those thoughts that tell me there is danger (or has been), may not be so realistic. But my lioness doesn’t differentiate between fact and imagination, and by realising that, we are able to take the first steps to tame her.
In essence, if we can welcome anxiety and see it for what it is, it often lessens as soon as we do so. By recognising anxiety for what it is, we in effect, take back a smidgen of control and can process in a more healthy way. Once we see anxiety for what it is; our inner protector, we can take steps to become more rational-minded and calm again.
So what does anxiety feel like?
Often anxiety feels like a racing heart, a tight chest, sweaty palms, dry mouth and a feeling of wanting to run, hide or an inability to think clearly. It is triggered by a thought, or by an experience. Once we notice it, we can take steps to master it, although at first, we may have an inner experience that would have us believe it’s the other way around (it is master of us!).
As with everything in life, if we practice it enough, it becomes habit. So here are my top tips to practice when you are feeling fine as well as when you start to notice anxiety standing guard and creeping into your thoughts and feelings.
5 steps to manage your anxiety
- Notice the thought/anxiety – Say to yourself “I notice that I am having the thought that…. or “I notice I am feeling…”.
- Name it – This is anxiety/anger/frustration/fear, etc.
- Ground yourself with a hand on heart anchor – Cross your arms around your chest – really allow yourself to feel held. Say to yourself “I am held, I am safe” . Take as long as you need until you feel your calm mode kicking in. Visualise being held and safe too.
- Breathe – Take 5 deep breaths in through your nose and out of your mouth – with a longer exhale. Think about the oxygen coming in, and the stress going out…
- Affirm – Say to yourself: “These are just thoughts and I know my reality is…. It will be okay/ I know I can do this / I am safe”
If you can, get used to this when you are feeling normal, so that you can be conditioned to spring from anxious to calm when you really need to. But also, practice befriending your inner protector, as you never know when you really will need it and it’s there to guard you and keep you safe.
If you would like to know more about my work as The Mamma Coach and how I can support you 1:1 or with Beyond Birth: A Mindful Guide to Early Parenting and the groups and Mental Wellbeing Practitioner Training, then please see the website www.themammacoach.com or get in touch with me here [email protected]
We have more information and support if you are suffering with PND or anxiety here.
And, if you are worrying about how your baby or child is coping in the pandemic we have some top tips from a clinical psychologist.