Motherhood is hard sometimes, right?
Well, anxiety can sometimes pop up just to make everything a little bit harder.
Anxiety as a mother can feel overwhelming, or like you’re losing control, and it can impact you in a mild way or become quite severe.
As a new mum myself, I totally get it. I’d like to share with you a few really simple, practical ways you can cope with “mum anxiety” on a daily basis.
We breathe all day – obviously – but it is very rare for most of us to take a conscious breath or check in with our breathing.
Breathing exercises seem almost too simple, but that’s what makes them so powerful. You can use your breath in a number of ways to cope with anxiety.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or on the edge of an outburst, give yourself the time to take one deep breath, in and out, before you act or respond.
It takes practice to create this space between trigger and outburst, but once you do it a few times it’ll become second nature.
Taking a breath before responding gives you a chance to respond consciously, instead of on auto-pilot. It can often prevent you from doing or saying something you regret later.
GET IN YOUR BODY
Anxiety can often feel like your mind is moving too fast for your body, and you just can’t stop the thoughts whirring around in your head. Breathing consciously helps you to get out of your head and back into your body.
Take a deep breath, plant your feet on the ground if you can, and notice how it feels to be in your body.
This quick exercise can often help the mind to quiet down, even just a little, so that you can think a little more clearly.
Anxiety is a hyper-state of the nervous system, and breathing can actually send a physiological signal to your nervous system that it is time to calm down.
You can use this technique throughout the day when you need to calm down, and it’s as simple as exhaling for longer than you inhale. So you might count your breaths – in for 1, 2, out for 3, 4, 5, 6.
I actually use this to get to sleep almost every night, and it works so well!
MINDFULNESS & MEDITATION
I find the word meditation tends to scare a lot of people off, but I’m not suggesting you do an hour of daily meditation here. Even just 5 or 10 minutes of meditation or mindfulness practice can have a huge flow on effect for the rest of your day.
The reason it works is this …
Imagine your nervous system operates on a scale of 0-10, 10 being most hyper and anxious and 0 being the most calm, relaxed state.
If your default starting point is a 5 or 6, and you have a rough day – the kids are triggering you, you’ve got work deadlines, the house is a mess – then you’re escalating to a 8 or 9 pretty easily.
When you meditate, especially when it’s a regular practice, you re-train your nervous system to operate in a more calm state. So now your starting point is a 1 or 2, and the kids & work deadlines and mess are still the same – but they’re only bringing you up to a 5 or 6 instead of all the way up to full blown anxiety.
I like to use a free app like Insight Timer to find my guided meditations – give it a go and see how it changes your mum anxiety.
Check out a range of meditation apps here: 9 Apps to learn meditation and improve your life through mindfulness.
This technique is particularly helpful for anyone who experiences panic attacks, or anything similar.
When your anxiety is feeling unmanageable, bring your awareness into the room and try to focus on things in your immediate environment.
For example, you might try to name three things in the room. You might count how many red things you can see. Simple awareness exercises like this help you to focus on something other than what has triggered your anxiety, and help to clear your mind so that you can think just a little clearer.
If your kids are old enough, you can even teach them this technique so that if they see you escalating, or experiencing a panic attack, they can remind you of this and help you come out of it. They might say “Mummy, remember, name three things in this room!” and that could be enough to bring your mum anxiety levels back down to manageable.
You can also do this exercise for your child when they get overwhelmed or upset, so it works both ways. It’s a really nice, easy technique that anyone can use.
PLANT MEDICINE FOR MUM ANXIETY
Essential oils are a great way to calm down your nervous system and reduce stress.
Try diffusing the oils in a particular room or throughout the house, or even wear them as perfume so that the scent is with you throughout the day. My favourite calming oils are:
- Ylang Ylang
If you’re able to take a little time for yourself, treat yourself to a herbal tea.
The below are all available as tea and are known for their calming effect on the nervous system:
- Lemon Balm
Plus, just the act of sitting down to drink a cup of tea is relaxing in itself! If you’re not able to sit down and savour it, pop your tea in a thermos so you can at least enjoy it warm.
I say this from my own experience as a mum, and from working with many clients who are mums: The days that you’re hard on yourself, beating yourself up for everything, feeling “not good enough” or stuck in perfectionism are the hardest days as a mum.
Self-compassion may not be a cure for anxiety, particularly if you have a diagnosed anxiety condition, but it sure does make living with anxiety a hell of a lot easier.
Self-compassion is really just about being kinder and gentler towards yourself. It’s about not expecting yourself to be perfect. It’s about allowing the house to be messy, or letting the kids to skip a bath one day, and not beating yourself up about it. It’s about extending the same compassion and kindness to yourself as you do to your children.
We’re all figuring it out as we go along. We’re all making mistakes and learning every day. We’re all just doing the best we can. Reminding yourself of that can have a huge impact on your stress and anxiety throughout the day.
When you’re in the thick of it, anxiety can feel big, overwhelming and sometimes scary.
Try one or a few of the techniques above, and see what changes you notice in yourself and your nervous system. With a little support and some simple tools, you may just find your mum anxiety becomes easier to manage on a daily basis.
And as always, reach out to your mum friends for support. You are never alone in motherhood.