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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

  1. Notice the thought/anxiety – Say to yourself “I notice that I am having the thought that…. or “I notice I am feeling…”.
  2. Name it  – This is anxiety/anger/frustration/fear, etc.
  3. 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.
  4. 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…
  5. 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.

Are you a new mum? Becoming a parent is one of the most challenging things we can do. There’s the broken sleep, breastfeeding and changes to your body to contend with.  Add to that the challenges of Covid-19, and you may feel like everything’s just a bit too much.  Mums need to look after their mental well being as much as their physical well being. And we know that postnatal depression can affect as many as 30% of new mums.

But what do you do when life with your new baby isn’t quite as rosy as everybody said it was going to be? What if you can’t stop worrying. If you feel isolated. Or your mood is consistently low? 

Melodies for Mums

Breathe Arts Health Research are currently running, Melodies for Mums. This free support is a singing programme for new mothers who may be experiencing anxiety, low mood, stress, loneliness and possibly be at risk of or have postnatal depression.   

This isn’t your average mum and baby music group. Firstly, it is completely free, ensuring accessibility for women of all socio-economic backgrounds. Groups of 10 – 12 women are led by a trained musician. Instead of popular nursery rhymes, women learn everything from folk songs and lullabies to gospel, in a range of languages making it a culturally inclusive environment. The songs explored are focused on creatively stimulating and challenging the women taking part, which makes them different from many mum and baby groups.  

While the little ones will definitely get a lot out of the session, we’re specifically here to support mums. We want to offer mothers a joyful shared experience, that connects them to other women as well as their baby. There’s no need to share or go over anything that’s troubling you in the sessions. Just show up and get ready to sing! 

maternal mental health - happy mum and baby

Pioneering research into maternal mental health

Melodies for Mums is a model based on really pioneering research which, for the first time ever, looked at the benefits of singing on symptoms of Postnatal depression specifically.  We know that PND affects between 13-30% of new mothers… a broad bracket because so many mums don’t seek help or recognise their symptoms of being something more serious than the baby blues. So it’s hard to know exact numbers… but its high! And of course, during and as a result of this pandemic, the fear is this number will drastically increase.   

This research by Royal College of Music and Imperial College London investigated the impact on PND symptoms across three groups – 10 weeks of social care, social and play activity and singing activity. It was the singing programme that showed a faster improvement in PND symptoms, 1month earlier than the others. With PND, we know it’s important to address symptoms as early as possible so this was a key finding. 

How singing can improve mental wellbeing in new mums

From this research, we also know:  

  • Stress hormone levels (cortozol) levels reduced in mothers after singing activity 
  • There was a 41% reduction in symptoms of PND in 73% of women who took part
  • Opportunity to meet other mothers facing challenges in a familiar group setting, which is important for maternal mental health
  • Improved mother and baby bonding through singing over play 
  • Gives women an emotional outlet where they can express themselves 
  • A tool to use at home with baby – improving confidence 

How Covid has impacted mental health of new mums

Navigating through the pandemic as a new parent, must be extremely challenging. Especially with less tangible support available, prolonged periods of time without seeing friends and family and disrupted daily routines. There is a concern that mums suffering with maternal mental health will not be able to access the support they need.     

Recognising that lots of services, offers of care and activities are on hold because of COVID, Melodies for Mums has been redesigned to deliver the programme online. Running the sessions in this way increases the opportunity for mothers to get involved, as the location is not an issue. It also gives mothers who would ordinarily feel shy in group settings the freedom to join from the comfort of their own homes.    

Melodies for Mums is recruiting for a number of online programmes, open to women with young babies up to 9months, from across the UK. To sign up

Visit www.breatheahr.org or email us at [email protected] to sign up.   

Hannah Dye – Head of Programmes, Breathe Arts Health Research 

If you have PND we have a wealth of information, support and help in our PND section.

maternal mental health - Hannah Dye from Breathe Arts Health Research

 

#Shoutie Selfie – why we need to shout about mental health this year more than ever before

We are in our 5th year of running our annual Shoutie Selfie campaign. It was started by Emily (co-founder of Happity) back in 2017 – when she ran MummyLinks. Since then it has gone from strength to strength. Now in 2021 – after the year of the pandemic – we all need to shout loud about mental health more than ever.

What is everyone shouting about?

Do you know five parents? One of them is struggling with a mental health issue. And the likelihood is that all of them struggle with loneliness as some point each week.

Do you know which of your parent friends are struggling? I bet you don’t. And not because you’re a bad friend, but because they are probably hiding it from you.

This is what #ShoutieSelfie is all about. It’s about showing parents that are struggling that you love and support them. That they are not alone, and that it’s ok to feel they way they are.

shout selfie - why we need to shout about mental health

Why we need to shout loud about mental health

Luckily mental health issues have been getting more and more airtime. Celebs are talking out about it (watch this space for their #ShoutieSelfies!) and normal parents like us are too.

And it’s important, because no parent should feel alone in this.

That’s why I launched #Shoutie Selfie back in 2017 – to help parents out their struggling with their mental health to know they are not alone. I launched it because after struggling for 2 years with Post-Natal Depression and anxiety I started to share my experience and realised it wasn’t just me who was struggling – and knowing that helped me on my road to recovery.

The success of #Shoutie Selfie

I launched it in 2017 (with just 10 days planning and 2 months social media experience, but bags and bags of energy and passion!) and it was a great success. It got maternal mental health trending in just 30 minutes of launching, and a million impressions in the first week.

It’s been a huge success, with over 10 million impressions and the support of amazing charities, organisations and celebrities such as BBC5Live, HeadsTogether, Baby Buddy, NCT, PANDAS, World mental health day, Binky and Jane Felstead, Anna Williamson, Josh Paterson and many more!

#ShoutieSelfie 2021

This year with the pandemic we’re facing a mental health crisis.

The Health Foundation research found that:

More than two-thirds of adults in the UK (69%) report feeling somewhat or very worried about the effect COVID-19 is having on their life. The most common issues affecting wellbeing are worry about the future (63%), feeling stressed or anxious (56%) and feeling bored (49%).

Our own research at Happity in the past years has found that 93% of mums are lonely each week. And that struggling with loneliness makes you 50% more likely to struggle with your mental health.

And with perinatel mental health struggles, even before Covid-19, costing the UK £8.1bn for each one-year cohort of births, something needs to be done.

We need to be supporting each other in understand why looking after our mental health is so important, and how to do it.

How to do a #ShoutieSelfie

So, if you love someone who is struggling – or have/are struggling yourself – of even if don’t know of anyone struggling but want to let those around you know that you support and don’t judge them, please:

  1. Take a selfie of you shouting (feel free to write #ShoutieSelfie on it if you fancy!)
  2. If you’d like to us the official wording make sure you are signed up to our newsletter to hear updates before the big day!
  3. Post it using #ShoutieSelfie on Wednesday 5th May on your social media platforms, tagging 5 friends who understand if you can so they can take part too!
  4. Tag Happity (@happityapp on Twitter and FB, and @happity.co.uk on IG!) and we will share your post 🙂

What to write in your #ShoutieSelfie post

You can, of course, write your own words to explain why you are posting your #ShoutieSelfie. But, if you prefer, we have put together some words that you can use on each of the different social media channels that you can copy and paste.

Instagram:

This is my #ShoutieSelfie
 
It’s to help raise awareness of maternal mental health. And to let anyone suffering know they are NOT alone.

This year, more than ever, so many of us have struggled with our mental health. I’m posting my #ShoutieSelfie to let you know that if you are struggling I support you, I understand you, and I don’t judge you.

I shout loud to let you know it’s OK to not be OK. There’s no stigma. BUT there IS support and help – and things WILL get better.

I shout to raise awareness that we need more free and easily accessible support for those suffering with poor mental health.

I shout because nobody should feel alone.

Will you post your #ShoutieSelfie too?

Tag 5 friends who understand and @happity.co.uk for shares

Facebook:

This is my #ShoutieSelfie
 
It’s to help raise awareness of maternal mental health. And to let anyone suffering know they are NOT alone.

This year, more than ever, so many of us have struggled with our mental health. I’m posting my #ShoutieSelfie to let you know that if you are struggling I support you, I understand you, and I don’t judge you.

I shout loud to let you know it’s OK to not be OK. There’s no stigma. BUT there IS support and help – and things WILL get better.

I shout to raise awareness that we need more free and easily accessible support for those suffering with poor mental health.

I shout because nobody should feel alone.

Will you post your #ShoutieSelfie too?

Tag 5 friends who understand and @happityapp for shares

Twitter:

This is my #ShoutieSelfie. 
If you are struggling with mental health I’m shouting that I support you, I don’t judge you, and you are not alone.
Will you post your #ShoutieSelfie too? 
Tag 5 friends who understand & @happityapp for retweets 

If you want to see more updates about #ShoutieSelfie and Happity please follow us on InstagramFacebook or Twitter.

Let’s do something great!

Need help with your mental health?

If you need support with your mental health please click here.

Supporting Organisations

NCT
Pandas
MMHA
World Mental Health Day
Best Beginnings
Heads Together
Baby Buddy
BBC 5 Live
ITN
Glamour
Channel 5 News
19/01/2018 by Emily Tredget

Last week I asked the lovely mamas in my Facebook group “What do you wish more people understood about PND?” I was surprised at how many responses I got, and wanted to share them. From mums who want to help bust the myths of postnatal depression and to end the stigma.

Why it’s so important for mums to speak out to bust PND myths

I want to share what mums had to say so that any other new mums struggling out there can take strength and courage from their words. So that any family or friend supporting someone with PND can understand them more fully. Because both the sufferer, and those caring around them need to understand what PND is. Without the sufferer realising what they are fighting they often won’t get help. And without those around them understanding as best they can, the sufferer may feel judged or uncared for.

Below are the responses I received. Some are quite similar, but I wanted to share different mums’ ways of putting it with the hope that it would resonate with many mums struggling currently.

“What do you wish more people understood about PND to bust the myths?”

busting the myths of postnatal depressionHere are some of the myths about postnatal depression mums want people to know and the reality they want more to understand:

What PND looks and feels like:

 

 

 

 

  • It presents itself differently in people, and you can experience it more than once.
  • I wish that I understood I had it earlier.
  • I wish I knew I was not alone and that PND is so common
  • Just because it looks like you are coping and you keep telling everyone you are fine doesn’t mean you are.
  • For some of us its more about anxiety as opposed to feeling down.
  • Mine was stress and just feeling down rather than anything more sinister, but it’s still very isolating, especially when there seem to be no support groups you can just drop in to. That was all I needed really, plus practical help. Drugs and CBT were on offer but were completely not what I needed! And I wasn’t asked what I would’ve found helpful.
  • It’s not just feelings of sadness….it can be feelings of anger/sadness too. And present in many different symptoms. Oh and it’s not just straight after your baby is born, it can come on later.
  • It doesn’t only happen immediately after baby is born and sometimes can build up over a few months.
  • There is hope and recovery from PND but anti depressants shouldn’t be the first port of call for doctors. I know for me mine was caused by chronic insomnia not just sleepless nights with a new baby. I physically couldn’t sleep at any time even for 30 mins over a period of 18 weeks.

The myths surrounding PND that we need to bust:

  • That it’s an illness that isn’t your fault. And that needing meds isn’t a negative thing.
  • I wish more people understood the difference between ‘baby blues’ and PND and weren’t so quick to dismiss feelings of PND as ‘normal’.
  • That it’s an illness not a weakness.
  • That it’s a real illness and that we aren’t making it up because we are too tired.
  • That you can still appear to be functioning normally and looking after your baby well.
  • However under the surface things are not OK- and you are not making it up.
  • That getting more sleep is a quick fix – it goes deeper than that.
  • It’s OK to have PND. It’s not a disease, it’s not catching, and it’s OK, in fact more than OK to talk about it. Don’t be embarrassed, just talk. It really, really helps.

We have lots of support, advice and places to go to seek support in the PND section of our blog.

Pandas Foundation is a wonderful first port of call.