I think I’ve always been an anxious person. A worrier, some might call it. But once I became a mum I really stepped it up a notch. In fact, my anxiety hit me like a tonne of bricks. It was like a thick fog engulfing me, making it hard to breathe.
The first time I gave these feelings a name was when I stopped breastfeeding. My hormones were going crazy and we were experiencing some times of change with my son being placed into a plagiocephaly helmet as well as undergoing intense physiotherapy for torticollis. I was anxious. I had anxiety.
It began with irrational thoughts that then escalated into full panic attacks. The stairs I’d walked on that day turned into potential death traps, with me picturing myself falling down with baby Gus in my arms. The right hand turn I’d done this morning was safe, but later in bed I’d go over the scene, thinking how if the driver hadn’t been paying attention he’d have slammed into us. The dog that barked as we walked past suddenly became a vicious, baby-attacking monster! All of these normal, day-to-day things, were festering in my mind, and becoming my worst nightmares.
After a few weeks of feeling panicked and suffering anxiety to a point of being out of control, I thought I should do something about it. And I’m so glad I did.
On the advice of a mother’s group friend, I visited a naturopath*. I was sceptical, but I’d heard amazing things and I was willing to give it a go. First up she quizzed me about my diet, which at the time consisted of a lot of sugar and caffeine and not much more. Two products that apparently make anxiety symptoms a lot worse.
I ditched these both completely, got myself on a heap of herbs (god knows what I was swallowing but it tasted a lot like dirt!) and started eating meals more regularly. The naturopath was very clear to me that forgetting to eat and then gorging on sugar and caffeine was not definitely not helping the situation!
And then it started to work.
Adding exercise and taking regular breaks also made a huge difference to my anxiety levels. But as we all know, staying on top of these things whilst looking after a young family, is a challenge. It wasn’t long before I slipped back into bad habits and felt that familiar rise of panic creeping back in.
Being aware of your own feelings and behaviours is part of the solution with anxiety. Recognising my triggers and doing something to address them, for me, was the start. And since I’ve done that, I’ve felt the anxiety start to lose its strength.
I think I’ll always be someone who has a certain level of anxiety in my life; it’s part of my personality. But it’s not okay for anxiety to start dominating your life. If you’re feeling anxious I would encourage you to seek professional help too.
Am I anxious or am I just worried?
According to PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia), the signs and symptoms of antenatal anxiety and depression can vary and may include:
- Panic attacks (a racing heart, palpitations, shortness of breath, shaking or feeling physically ‘detached’ from your surroundings)
- Persistent, generalised worry, often focused on fears for the health or wellbeing of the baby
- The development of obsessive or compulsive behaviours
- Abrupt mood swings
- Feeling constantly sad, low or crying for no obvious reason
What should I do if I feel I might have anxiety?
PANDA suggests that if you feel any of the above symptoms for more than two weeks you should seek help from a professional or somebody you trust. Talking about it makes a huge difference and you shouldn’t have to suffer in silence.
Depending on the style of healthcare you prefer this could be your GP, a counsellor or psychologist. Beyond Blue has a great reference here detailing different kinds of treatments.
Have you ever suffered from anxiety? Was it worse after having a baby?
*Naturopathy worked for this mum however we encourage you to seek whatever healthcare is best suited to your own personal situation.