Mums – have you ever felt so worried about what might happen to your baby if you take them outside the house? Maybe you’ll be involved in a traffic accident, or your child might catch a dangerous illness?
This is a natural reaction to a massive life event, and helps you integrate the new responsibilities that you have with your usual life and routine.
Mention them to any other new parent and you will soon find yourself bonding over the irrational anxieties that make up new parenthood.
However, when these concerns become so real that you are scared of leaving the house or allowing your children to meet new friends, it may be time to seek help.
This week sees Mental Health Awareness Week (May 12-18), and is the perfect time to become Anxiety Aware.
Anxiety can be a useful emotion sometimes – encouraging us to make our houses safer or our senses more aware of where our children and what they are doing – however it can also take over our lives as parents.
Here are five tips from the experts on managing the thoughts or physical symptoms, which might help you live with anxiety.
- Start the conversation. Discuss how you feel with someone you trust – GP, partner or close friend. Sometimes just having the conversation can help you feel less alone and give you the support that you need to get back on track. On line forums such as Headcase, started by writer and journalist Liz Fraser to share people’s experience of “head wobbles”, can help you to make sense of what you are experiencing.
- Look after yourself. Eating well and getting regular exercise can help with your physical and mental wellbeing. Avoiding caffeine and sugar will cut out ‘rushes’ and the ‘lows’ that follow them, and can lead to a good night’s sleep. Getting into shape can be a helpful boost to your self-esteem as well.
- Meditation, mindfulness and yoga. The organisations that back Mental Health Awareness Week advise you to give your mind space to be calm and still. Meditation, mindfulness (being alive in the moment) and yoga can give you an outlet to find a quiet space to relax and approach your daily life with renewed energy or strength.
- Know your limits. If you are experiencing chronic or acute anxiety episodes, think carefully about how far you extend yourself as a parent. If friends or family are leaning on you too much, leaving you no time for yourself or your own children, consider how you can gently let go of some of those burdens. If you keep a record of what triggers your anxiety and you can identify the worst triggers, then you can avoid those situations until you are better equipped to deal with them.
- Get help. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be immensely helpful, giving you the tools to rationalise and control a lot of what it happening to you. CBT can be delivered in many different ways, in person with an individual therapist or online via new resources such as Thinkwell, run by PsychologyOnline.
Sigrid Daniel is a parenting expert for carer recruitment site Care.com.