Anxiety is no joke. The amount of times per week that I have to talk myself back down from a panic cannot be counted on one hand, let alone two. Everything about motherhood is extra. Extra stressful. Extra tiring. Extra overwhelming. Extra scary. You get it. Super e-x-t-r-a. All. The. Time.
I am an extra positive person as well. The extras extend to the “cup-half-full” side of me, but it takes work. So in preparing for my role as a new mom, I knew it was going to take some full-fledged mental gymnastics to keep my head in the game. Here are the top 10 ways that I coped with my anxieties as a new mom and kept the extra in check.
Prep for 6-8 weeks of the most exciting exhausting time of your life! I remember when my milk came in I was all of a sudden filled with so much anxiety that was a mix of all things positive and scary at the same time: overwhelming love; hate for the world in its current state; worry that I was doing everything wrong; and the big one...sorrow so deep over the loss of my independence. Yep. That was a big, fat, guilt-inducing emotion! I asked for hugs from my husband often during that time, and they actually worked. Brace yourself for the initial 6-8 weeks, knowing that this is going to be a huge transition hormonally, emotionally, physically, and psychologically.
Don’t even try to do all the things. I mean it. Just STAHP. Seriously, that is why people offer to help. If you are blessed enough to have a support system, utilize them! I had to remind myself often that as long as the baby is comfortable and cared for with love, she will survive! And most importantly, you will too. I would only allow myself to have one to two items on my to-do list each day. And most of the time, those two things were to shower and drink all the waters. Allow yourself the time and space to heal and take in every moment. And don’t let the anxiety of unanswered text messages and missed phone calls get to you. Everyone can wait. No text response is worth stressing yourself out about. I had to fight this urge every time I received communication via text or social media. Everyone can wait for pictures. They are just going to keep asking for more anyway.
Babies were born, and survived, without technology for centuries! There are so many great gadgets for new parents these days. I cannot tell you how many times I heard, “They never had this when I had my kids!” from those who went before me on the parenthood journey. There are also WAY too many choices of all things technology out there. Enough to, you guessed it, cause a panic attack. I made a point to set aside my constant fear of something happening to my daughter in her sleep, and opted for no monitor. “Gasp! What? No monitor? But what about all of the things?” Well you know what? It’s miraculous. She is plenty loud when she needs us. So I will sleep soundly (when I do sleep) until she lets me know she needs me, from down the hall.
Maybe don’t read every baby related article on Facebook. Unless it’s this one. Then you are in the right place. This is everything right now. Just kidding. You know the articles I’m talking about. The ones that warn you of every potential evil that has ever existed in the entire world. If you must read them (to set your anxiety about knowing you haven’t read them at ease) then do the following: make a list of one take away from the article that will help you be a more aware and attentive parent. Then be done with it. Don’t worry about needing to warn all other moms of this potential danger you had never heard of. I guarantee you they are already stressing themselves out over the same article. Move on.
Allow space for your mother’s intuition. There are so many opinions out there on what to do. Basically all the ways you can either set your baby up for the most emotionally fulfilling success, or on the flip side, all the ways you can traumatically injure them and destroy any hope for a bright future. But don’t worry…you ultimately get to decide. #nojudgementzone Yeah right! It’s a trap! BIG FAT JUDGEMENT ZONE!! Run! For real though, you are the one who is responsible for your child. In spite of all the well-intentioned advice, you have to go with your gut at the end of the day. You will be the one who learns your baby’s cues, and ultimately…you will figure it out one day at a time. Cut yourself some slack. This was one of the biggest threats to my new mom anxiety levels, and I had to monitor myself carefully. You of course may need to seek advice, a lot. But you will learn who your trusted sources are. Cling to them for dear life.
I reminded myself that the gas pains will subside, eventually. She won’t remember this gas- this too shall pass. This was the mantra I repeated to myself when she was crying non-stop each evening as she worked through the gas pains. Remember, their little systems are booting up. Everything has to work itself out and so you’ll go through some rough phases. But just as quick as the gas came, it went. It was an issue for maybe 2 weeks tops. Although it did feel like forever, and I felt myself spiraling down a few times. She won’t remember this gas- this too shall pass. Rinse and repeat.
Self-care really did give me a boost. Even running on empty, if I could at least take a nice hot shower I felt like I could take on the world! (But remember, only two to-do items per day!) For each person, self-care may look a bit different. For me it was shower, get dressed, put on a tad bit of makeup, enjoy a cup of delicious coffee and take my supplements. That was my power combo. And I’m talking about wearing a capsule wardrobe with a 5-minute makeup routine. Nothing fancy. And I wear the same red lipstick and hat every day. Because who has time to deal with all that post-partum alopecia? Not this chick. Find what packs a punch for you in the most efficient way possible, and this will go far in boosting your outlook when facing all these new anxieties.
Do not cave to the vain imaginations! What’s a vain imagination you ask? It’s all of the things you imagine are potentially going to happen. And then all of the responses you come up with, because now you are convinced they are going to happen. And now you are crying and dry heaving, because how are you going to deal with these things that just happened for crying out loud?! But wait, they haven’t happened yet. And I actually just made that all up in my mind. So really, it isn’t even truth because it hasn’t even occurred and may not occur. See where I’m going with this?
Give yourself and others around you and extra measure of grace. Especially if this is your first time caring for a little one. Remember that you have to get to know this sweet babe and/or babes. (Dear Lord, give them an extra measure of grace if it’s babies plural!) When it comes to all the small ways your anxiety wants to take over when you see someone else trying to change the diaper- slowly back away. Even if it is taking your husband a bajillion hours to change her, and he isn’t even putting the new diaper under the old one in case she starts peeing before he can get the new one on! ARGHHHH! But you know what he is doing? He’s bonding with the baby. Remember that. And she’s safe, even if there is an extra mess to clean up. He’s learning what it means to care for a baby too. Give your loved ones the space to grow alongside you. None of you have it all figured out, so just do your best.
SEE MORE: The Day I Stopped Saying "Hurry Up"
Slow down, and be in the moment. This is easier said than done. Because if you are like me, your anxiety will pull you under as the laundry piles up. And the dishes aren’t done. And the house takes on a particularly dusty hue. I finally got to the point where I started asking people to clean when they asked how they could help. Because I was too flipping tired to do anything other than care for my little one and occasionally venture out into the world from time to time. When the anxious thoughts would creep up, I would battle them back by thinking of all the precious time I was soaking up watching this little human being develop and change. It was all too important, and I had to protect that time at all cost.
Try out different ways to fight the anxiety that threatens to take you down. Try new things, don’t be afraid to fail, and keep going until you find little ways to relieve the overwhelm. No one expects you to be perfect, so don’t even put that on yourself. Most of all, make sure you talk about how you’re feeling with those whom you trust. It’s always best to speak out about your anxieties, so they don’t become the monsters in your head. And remember - you are not alone mama!
Disclaimer: This is a disclaimer about all the disclaimers, because anxiety. I in no way claim to know what I’m doing. I do not have a cure for anxiety. I’m just a girl with ideas. I found what worked for me and hope it helps you and yours. Please like me.
Misty Winesberry has been married for going on 9 years to her husband Jajuan Winesberry. They recently welcomed a baby girl making them a cozy family of three. As a multi-passionate career woman, Misty enjoys advocacy work in her spare time. While Misty and Jajuan photograph weddings primarily, they also share their story of hope and recovery while living with mental illness. Their desire is to fight stigma at every turn, making it easier for others who are struggling to find their voice. You can find them at their website, Facebook or their Instagram account.
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