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4 weeks ago · · 0 comments

Dealing with Anxiety In Motherhood

Dealing with Anxiety In Motherhood – How Well Do You Cope?

Dealing with Anxiety In MotherhoodAnxiety is common in motherhood

Being a mother and a therapist, I would have to say one of the most common emotions I observe in mothers is anxiety. Dealing with anxiety in motherhood is a very common struggle. Anxiety begins in pregnancy and often never leaves a mother, because with motherhood comes the worry, stress and concern for your child’s safety, wellbeing, security and happiness.

There are many stages of motherhood that lend themselves to anxiety. For instance, when a new baby arrives, you can begin to feel anxious about looking after this fragile new person who depends on you for survival. It is natural after birth to have anxieties, however, if these anxieties become debilitating, then there is a real risk to yourself, your child and your loved ones.

What is the difference between worry and anxiety?

General worry and stress disappear once you regain control and no longer feel fearful. A good example of this is feeling anxious the first time you have to present a speech at work, but after giving speeches several times, you now feel comfortable when asked to prepare a presentation. However, if this anxiety does not dissipate over time and you find yourself dealing with increasing anxiety, the anxiety then can become debilitating.

Beyond Blue defines anxiety as

… when these anxious feelings don’t go away – when they’re ongoing and happen without any particular reason or cause. It’s a serious condition that makes it hard to cope with daily life. Everyone feels anxious from time to time, but for someone experiencing anxiety, these feelings aren’t easily controlled.

The key elements in anxiety are:

  • the inability to control the anxiety
  • their ongoing nature
  • occurring at any time

Dealing with Anxiety In MotherhoodAnxiety can occur at any time and for any particular reason. Anxiety is also often linked with depression and low self esteem. In motherhood anxiety can often become debilitating because mothers often try to cope with anxious feelings alone. New mothers also often report being embarrassed or ashamed to admit they are not coping. This can lead to further anxiety – trying to become the perfect mother.

Here are just some of the common issues mothers report feeling anxious about:

  • a child becoming sick
  • children doing well enough in school
  • financial stress
  • relationship pressures
  • whether children are eating the right foods
  • lack of time
  • being about to manage the daily to-do lists
  • having a messy home
  • ageing parents
  • buying a bigger home
  • being able to afford a good school
  • keeping children safe
  • cyber bullying
  • meeting external expectations
  • what others might think of them

and the list goes on and on….

So you can see, how easy it is for mothers to become anxious, particularly if you as a mother are prone to anxiety, or you have experienced anxiety in the past.

Developing effective coping strategies for dealing with anxiety in motherhood is imperative to your health and the health of your loved ones

dealing with anxiety in motherhoodYou may have gone through life finding ways to just cope with anxiety symptoms, such as a racing heart, sweaty palms and rapid breathing. There are ways to control these physical symptoms of anxiety. Many people seek medical help for anxiety in the form of anti-anxiety medication. Whilst medication has it’s place, it is important to understand that medication only masks the underlying issues causing anxiety. Taken over prolonged periods of time, these drugs can also result in difficulty when trying to come off the drug – the anxiety reappears. As with any drug, there are also side-effects that you need to seriously consider. If you are looking for a product to take to support your anxiety, try a herbal remedy. For instance, Herbario in Melbourne Australia has a variety of herbal elixirs to support many mental and health conditions – including anxiety reduction drops.

So what are better solutions for dealing with anxiety in motherhood?

Dealing with mental stress

Often anxiety develops out of a fear of getting into trouble, being disapproved of or not liked. In such cases, the key is to challenge the negative thoughts.

Ask yourself:

a) are my thoughts rationale (e.g. it’s natural to be nervous before presenting, but I can relax because I know my topic really well)

b) how would I cope if my fears became a reality? (e.g. If I get asked a ‘hairy’ question, I can deflect and say that I’ll get back to the person with the right information. Further, if I forget what I’m saying, I have my notes to refer to. If people in the audience are bored, I can walk closer to them to re-engage them, or choose that moment to start an exercise to get them more involved)

This type of anxiety is trying to prevent you from getting hurt so it has it’s purpose. It helps you to decide whether a behaviour is worth the risk. However, often this fear extends way beyond what is healthy. So you need to question it.

Dealing with physical stress

Dealing with Anxiety In MotherhoodWhen your body becomes anxious (often due to mental stress), your body reacts in a physical manner. It sends signals to the brain that it’s time to get out of this situation to protect yourself from harm. Your body begins to react in order to push you to do something. If you just try to push through the anxiety, you can often become more stressed the moment you notice these physical signs taking shape.

During bouts of short term stress, there are quick and easy things you can do to reduce these physical reactions, such as a increased heartrate, sweaty palms and shortness of breath. The key is to find the method that works quickest for you.

Try some of these methods to see how quickly you can reduce your physical signs of stress:

  • Take a moment to stop and breathe in and out slowly to reduce your heartrate
  • Engage in physical activity to shake out the stress
  • Close your eyes and visualise yourself performing or coping well with your stressful situation
  • Talk to the person who is causing you stress, to clear the air

Anxiety is a natural physical and mental reaction. So it’s important to not berate yourself for being stressed. Your aim is to allow your anxiety to be there as a sign to help you and then manage your emotions accordingly. Instead of getting stressed about feeling anxious, ask yourself why you are having this reaction and get to the bottom of it. Try not to mask your feelings and you will have a much happier, healthy and fulfilling life.

 

Lizzie O’Halloran, BBSc, MASR, NLP Prac

Author of Perfect Mums: How To Survive The Emotional Rollercoaster of Motherhood & Refresh Your Life: 30 Day Motivational Weightloss Program

Having a New Baby: Getting Your Mindset Right In Pregnancy

9 months ago · · 0 comments

Having a New Baby: Getting Your Mindset Right In Pregnancy

Your New Baby

counselling for new mums having a new babyWhen you’re pregnant all you can think about is how wonderful life is going to be when you’re new baby arrives. Of course there are the usual anxieties about how things might change and how you’re going to cope with sleep deprivation and so on. However, no-one really talks about the expectations of parenting and that life cannot possibly stay the same – that it’s essential to make your child, yourself and your relationships a priority otherwise stress, depression and anxiety can easily set in.

We have a strange misconception about parenting that it should be easy. That mothers should be able to seamlessly work full time or part time, run the household, look after their health and happiness, be on top of their finances, maintain healthy relationships and just be calm, happy, fun, energetic and consistent parents all the time. But this is not the reality that befalls 99.9% of mothers in this world. Due to the fact the expectations do not meet reality, motherhood is often a shock for many new mums. Mothers can easily become confused about why it seems so tiring, difficult or not as seamless as expected and therefore can be left asking themselves regularly “why can’t I cope as well as I expected I would???”

But what if mothers were able to alter expectations and become more prepared for motherhood for their new baby as a result?

Having the right expectations

The first thing that needs to be altered in pregnancy is expectations. Specifically, the expectation that a child will just fit into your lifestlye, will always behave and will always give you time to yourself. The expectation should be that you have a child that needs you to make her your first priority, but not at the expense of yourself. You still need to look after your health and happiness but it’s important to understand that there will be times when you plan to do things a certain way and your child decides she needs you right now.

These instances are prime targets for high levels of stress. For instance, let’s say you have to pay some bills. You have been putting this off and now finally have a minute to pay the bills whilst your child sleeps. But, your new baby wakes up after 20 minutes and won’t settle down – she needs you right then. You start to feel resentful and angry that you can’t get a minute to yourself. However if instead of letting this resentment build up you took a breath and remembered your child has to be priority no 1, you would be able to think clearly for a minute to work out your best course of action to look after her needs and your own. You might put your baby in her sling and rock her to sleep and then sit on the computer to complete your bills.

Making your new baby a priority does not mean neglecting your own needs

One of the things that many mothers neglect is how to look after their own needs. They push through exhaustion, neglect to maintain a healthy diet, emotionally eat or drink to soothe negative feelings, worry about whether or not they are meeting the expectations of friends, family members, or the wider community, spend money they don’t really have in order to appear to be coping/or have the best dressed child and so on… When mothers neglect their own physical and mental health, it is very easy to feel insecure and allow self-doubt to impact confidence in parenting. Feeling insecure often leads to snappiness and fighting within relationships too. So, the key to maintaining a happy home and to achieve the goal of positive and consistent parenting – is to look after yourself as a mother so that you feel calm in the face of stress (e.g. when your baby won’t go to sleep or is having a tantrum in public), or to feel energetic when your child wants you to get down to his level and play. So, your health and happiness is paramount to the health and happiness of your child.

Motherhood is not meant to be perfect

You are going to make mistakes. This is part of being a human being. So, it’s really important to trust that being a Perfect Mum is not the goal of parenting. The goal is being the best mum you can be for your child. When you make mistakes, don’t criticism yourself. Just think through the situation and ask yourself “is there anything I can change that would make things easier or better?” That’s all you can ask of yourself.

Prioritise time for fun with your new baby

This is really important. Often mums feel guilty about all the tasks they ‘should’ be doing when they are playing with their child. Then they  feel guilty when they are undertaking these tasks – thinking they ‘should’ be playing with their child at that time. So they do not allow themselves to really enjoy the opportunities to have fun together and they never feel as though they are being ‘present” with their child. If you can relate to this, take a few minutes to schedule you day so that you can take opportunities to have fun with your child (for example going to the play centre or park together) and then feel relaxed and happy about having ‘you time’ or spending time on work or tasks during other times in the day. That way you create a balance and you and your child create special moments together that will last for every in your memory.

The key take-away

Always remind yourself why you had children. What was the reason you wanted to have a new baby and how can you alter your mindset to create more realistic and calming expectations of parenting. Being a mother is very taxing because children crave your attention. However, when you become mindful and set time together to have fun and relax, when you look after both your needs and the needs of your child and when you feel OK that things will not always go to plan, your live becomes easier and much less stressful. Plus, you can cope so much better when things don’t go the way your way.

new babyLizzie O’Halloran, BBSc, MASR, NLP Prac

Founder of Help For Mums and Author of Perfect Mum & Refresh Your Life

 

 

10 months ago · · 0 comments

How To Stop Feeling Guilty – Coping With Mother Guilt

How To Stop Feeling Guilty – Working Mother Guilt

As a working mother, one of the most challenging emotions to deal with is guilt. This negative feeling permeates through most of working mother’s lives, leaving mums feeling exhausted, anxious and with loads of self-doubt. However, no-one teaches mothers about how to stop feeling guilty. If guilt is not dealt with early in motherhood, it only gets worse and can significantly impact both personal and professional relationships.

Why is guilt such a big part of motherhood

How To Stop Feeling GuiltyOne of the biggest changes that occurs when you become a mother is this immediate sense of protection and responsibility for your child and his/her development. This instinct is seen in all cultures across the globe. Along with this instinct in human beings, comes judgement as mothers take responsibility for every aspect of their child’s life – from friendships, to academic performance and physical and mental wellbeing.

The problem with this sense of responsibility is that there is no perfect outcome, or a manual to guide mothers towards the perfect way to parent in order the assist her child to achieve the best outcomes.

There is no ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL. So mothers are left to judge themselves based on the opinions of others in their lives, social expectations, media portrayals of the perfect parent and on the ever changing landscape of research. The latter is often contradictory and very confusing and thus leaves many mothers stressed about whether or not their chosen parenting method is the ‘right’ one for their child. These feelings lead to constant guilt over whether or not they are doing the ‘right’ thing for their child. Further, mums are often too embarrassed to even begin to ask how to learn to stop feeling guilty in motherhood, for fear of admitting they are not perfect.

Is it possible to learn how to stop feeling guilty when there are so many conflicting guides on parenting?

Research into parenting is often at polar opposites. For instance, one researcher will find that babies should not be left alone for one moment. They should be carried all the time and co-sleep safely with parents. Another, equally respected researcher will find that babies are best placed in a routine, should be sleeping safely in a cot and this cot should be in a separate room. These researchers and popular opinion lead parents to have particular views on best parenting.

These views often result in criticism of other parents for not adhering to perceived best parenting styles. For instance, stay at home mothers may assume working mothers are not providing the best care for their child, whereas working mothers may believe they are providing the best example for their child. So you can see why it’s so easy for mothers to feel stressed, depressed and full of guilt and self doubt. However, the reason for these feelings is that parents are focussed on the wrong aspect of parenting – the method, rather than the outcome.

Low self-esteem: the culprit and the savour

Research shows that women in general have low self-esteem (low levels of confidence, self worth and self belief). In motherhood, this level of self-esteem is tested even further. Mothers often find it very difficult to trust they are doing the right thing for their child. There is often self-doubt and worry over their chosen parenting styles. There is also a huge amount of self-criticism when things do not go according to plan or expectation (e.g. a child acting out in public, or achieving poor grades).

However, those mothers that have invested in themselves to boost self-esteem and self-confidence find parenting much easier. They research the best parenting methods to suit their lives and their child’s best interests. Mothers with high confidence can block-out the opinions of ‘well-wishers’ and criticisers trying to tell them their way is the best parenting method. These mothers know that one of the biggest mistakes the population in general makes is assuming there is a ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL approach to parenting.

Mothers with a higher self esteem know that children differ significantly due to their temperament, personality type, family customs and cultural and religious norms. Most importantly they know that the best way to measure a parenting style success is in their child’s level of health, happiness, safety and security. These are the key elements of parenting success.

The key to good parenting and thus learning how to stop feeling guilty

The key to good parenting is not whether or not you are using a particular method – it’s in regularly evaluating your method to assess the outcomes. For instance, regardless of whether you are co-sleeping or using controlled crying with your baby, if he/she is safe, secure, healthy and happy that’s all that matters.

If any of these four elements are compromised, then yes it’s time to re-evaluate and modify your parenting style accordingly. Similarly, if you are working full-time and feeling highly stressed on a regular basis and you can see this is having a negative impact on your children, then it’s time to change something. If you’re working full time, but managing your stress well and have a positive and healthy relationship with your children and they are healthy, happy, safe and secure – you do not need to feel guilty and you do not need to change anything! The core element here is NOT working full-time, it’s the outcome for your child and for your personal health too.

Good parenting comes from creating a lifestyle that best suits your needs and those of your family. That’s what really matters. What hold most mums back from trusting they can ‘have it all’ is lack of self-belief and an expectation that they need to live up to other people’s expectations of good parenting. In order to trust that in yourself, it’s imperative that you invest in yourself to build your self-confidence and self esteem.

Begin building your self-esteem in motherhood now

Download these two free books

  1. How to understand your child’s temperament from birth
  2. 5 everyday ways to add serious self-confidence to your life

 

lizzie o'halloran - How To Stop Feeling Guilty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lizzie O’Halloran, Founder of Help For Mums