When it comes to anxiety in women there is NOTHING quite like becoming a mother to bring it on or, to make it worse. Motherhood is tough!
This article focuses on 'mothers’ but essentially the content will help any female in a long term caring role. If you identify as a mother, great! Keep reading, I really hope this article helps.
So, to begin... anxiety is common! You are not alone. You are not crazy. And you most certainly don’t need to suffer in silence!
Anxiety involves excessive day to day worry and an intense preoccupation with feelings of something bad being about to happen, either immediately or in the future. It’s an umbrella term that covers a variety of concerns in which symptoms can range from mild to severe and it effects millions of mothers all around the world.
As mums, we worry about our child being happy, about our child having friends, about our child eating enough or too much, about someone hurting our child, about our child being sad……. and on it goes. But, if the worry turns into obsession and stops us from living a comfortable, fully functioning life then it really is important to get support on board.
For some, support and relief might come from a friend or family member. For others, it might come from some regular time out from parenting to regroup and calm the nerves. And for others still, it may need to come from a qualified therapist who can listen to your story then offer you some helpful strategies and evidence based interventions to help you move through and beyond anxiety.
So, with the above in mind, I invite you to check out these friendly reminders below. Hopefully they will go some way towards settling your motherhood induced anxiety...
Remember, EVERY Mum has to learn
I know it’s cliché but, I’m going to say it anyway because it’s important. CHILDREN DON’T COME WITH INSTRUCTION MANUALS! Therefore, there is no ONE, exact, precise way to care for and raise them! Sit with that one for a while and absorb the freedom it oozes!
As mums, we have to learn, up-skill and find new ways of doing things. We have to adapt and we have to ‘go with the flow’. In other words, you don’t know what you don’t know! You learn through past experience, you learn through observation, you learn through trial and error, you learn by asking and, for many, you learn from overwhelm and breakdowns.
It frustrates me when professionals in the health industry (or allied health industry) tell mothers to “Trust your instinct” because this statement in itself implies that all mothers should just ‘know’ what to do. Whilst this well intended statement can soothe some mothers, for others it sets of anxiety in a huge way. Instinct alone will not resolve a baby’s excessive vomiting. Or a toddler’s raging temperature. Or a child’s refusal to go to school.
Mothering behaviours are NOT all instinctive and the sooner more people realise this the easier it will be for women the world over. Motherhood is a journey. You don’t just give birth and instinctively KNOW what to do! You learn and you grow.
Don’t compare yourself to other mothers
A woman’s journey through motherhood is personal. Contextual. And unique. No two journeys are the same. Simple! You go one way today and she goes another way tomorrow. We all walk different paths but end up at the same destination… let’s remember that!
In addition, children are obviously unique. Families are unique. Life stories are unique. And that is what makes humans so incredibly fascinating…. we are all so different. We all have different ways of doing the same things. We all have different morals, values, priorities and expectations. Yet we are all so similar.
Every mother has a struggle with some facet of parenting, it’s just a matter of when it’s our time. For some, the challenges come when our mini-me’s are infants but for others the struggles don’t arise until teenage years or beyond. It’s important to maintain perspective, you are not the only one learning and responding.
Comparing yourself to other mothers will only eat away at your confidence. It’ll destroy your sense of personal power and control over your parenting journey. And, most importantly, it is self sabotage 101. You WILL steal your own joy by comparing.
Social Media should be used for good, not for self-sabotage
In the all-consuming digital world we live in today it’s really easy to feel like we aren’t enough. Like we aren’t doing what others are doing. Like we don’t have what we ‘should’ have or like we don’t look like what we ‘should’ look like.
For the average person who struggles with low self-esteem, anxiety or depression, social media can be a recipe for mental health disaster. If you’re looking at, engaging with or following social media accounts that don’t inspire you, teach you, make you laugh, give you hope, make you smile or otherwise fill your heart… UNFOLLOW THEM! If it isn’t sparking joy…. ditch it!
Remember also that social media is NOT real life. It's a highlight reel. Most people post stuff about the best 10% of their life while the other 90% of real life remains behind closed doors. Do you post photos of yourself crying in the shower? Do you post videos of yourself screaming at your children to be quiet or hurry up? Do you post photos of your kid's 11th filthy nappy for the day (the one that nearly made you puke!?)? Right, you got it.
Choose your Mummy friends wisely
This is a huge one that is often overlooked when it comes to mental health for mothers. Have you heard that saying “Your tribe affects your vibe”? It’s totally true! If you are associating with happy, vibrant, positive mothers you too are more likely to become happy, vibrant and positive. We feed off the energy of others remember!
Conversely, if you are associating with mothers who are constantly judging other mothers, constantly shaming other mothers for their choices or constantly whinging about motherhood and how they hate it so much, what do you think will happen for you? Do you see yourself as benefiting from this community of people or do you see it as a recipe for anxiety?
Motherhood is tiring enough without having to withstand the energy leeches in life. So yes, be selective. Find people who warm your heart. Mums who ‘keep it real’ but keep it positive. Find Mothers who reassure and inspire you. Mothers who make you feel at ease or who make you laugh.
Great friendships are a huge protective factor when it comes to a person’s chances of developing mental health challenges such as anxiety.
Surrender to not being able to do it all
Read that one again. And again. Surrender to not being able to do it all.
Draw strength from knowing that NO mother has all bases covered. No mother remembers everything or nails every aspect of mothering. We all forget things. We all feel out of our depth sometimes and we most certainly all feel overwhelmed at some stage. And yes, we are all knee deep in dirty nappies. Kid vomit. Food projectiles. Saggy boobs. Stretch marks. Back chatting teenagers. Dirty stinky bedrooms. Whatever.
This journey isn’t ‘clean and sparkly’ for anyone. If a mother tries to convince you otherwise, run for the hills! Your bullsh!t alarm should be ringing girlfriend!
Remember, motherhood is a season. In the blink of any eye it’ll be over.
Your kids will fly the nest and then you’ll have plenty of time to cook fancy biscuits. Scrub your dirty floors. Paint that awesome portrait or take that indulgent holiday. But for now, you just have to do your best and know that it’s enough! Find new ways or quicker ways to do things. Lower your standards. Give yourself permission to not do it all.
The sooner you accept that you simply CAN NOT do it all, the sooner your anxiety will improve. And remember, you wouldn’t expect your spouse, or child or friend or colleague to ‘do it all’ so go easy on yourself!
Don’t lose sight of yourself!
We don’t cease being us after becoming a mother…right? Yes, things change… they have to. But it’s important to remember who you were before you took on the additional identity of ‘Mum’. Consider these questions;
What did you enjoy?
What made you happy?
What hobbies did you have?
What goals did you have?
What did you want for your life?
What did you want to achieve?
Make sure you make time, not find time, MAKE time for yourself! Fill your own cup first and fill the cups of other’s from your overflow. Have a hot cuppa. Read a few pages of your book. Watch the news. Go to yoga. Write in a journal. Get a job. Join a group. Set some goals. ANYTHING! So long as it makes you happy and, so long as it ties you to your pre-mother self.
When you care for yourself there is a ripple effect which travels right through your friends and family. A happier mum means happier kids or a happier partner or a happier colleague. People will fly high on the renewed sense of energy the REFRESHED you brings to the world. So, if you’re not yet past the guilt of looking after you FOR you… look after you for OTHERS until you’re ready to let go of the guilt.
Understand that your child wants YOU, not that other mother on Instagram
I’m going to keep this one simple because really, it is. Your kids don’t want ANYONE but you. To them, you are perfect. You are the right fit. You are the one.
They know you and they love you. They want you and they need YOU.
---To the world you are a mother but to your children, you are the world.---
Never think you aren’t enough because to them, you are. You’re more than enough.
A pretty Instagram feed doesn’t equate to motherhood success.
The latest and greatest baby mod-cons don’t equate to motherhood success.
A post baby 6 pack doesn’t equate to motherhood success.
A new Range Rover doesn’t equate to motherhood success.
A list of 402 completed Pinterest projects doesn’t equate to motherhood success.
And… a freshly baked batch of cookies on the bench doesn’t equate to motherhood success.
You, turning up day in, day out. Faults and imperfections. Best efforts and total dedication. Never giving up… THAT, is motherhood success.
So there you have it…
… 7 ways to help turn around motherhood induced anxiety. I really hope this helps those who need it because I believe all women deserve to live with optimum mental health as they travel their life journey. I believe that all women deserve to be the BEST version of themselves.
And, I believe all mothers matter. Especially you. You matter. x
If you liked this article you may also like my articles Living with anxiety… coping strategies to help you thrive and 5 Ways To Overhaul Your Mental Health TODAY. Remember… I’m here for you. I support women AUSTRALIA WIDE via in office sessions, phone and video calls. You can reach out to me here. It would be my pleasure to help you work through your anxiety. x
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Erica has a passion for Women’s Health. She works with women who want to be heard, supported and empowered! Erica is a survivor of many life experiences. A Mum. A travel lover. A green thumb in training and an eternal optimist!