I know it can be tough when you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious, but I want you to know that there is hope. It might feel like the light at the end of the tunnel is far off and dim right now, but I promise you it’s there. And the more you work on taking care of yourself and your own well-being, the brighter and closer that light will become. I know it can be tough to see it right now, but the fog will lift and the end of this tough time is possible.
I wanted to share some of my own experiences with postpartum anxiety, because I know it can be a tough journey. I want you to know that you’re not alone and that there is hope for feeling better. It was a hard time for me too, and I had no idea what was happening or why I was feeling so overwhelmed. But through learning about anxiety and self care, I’ve grown and learned so much about myself. I hope my story can provide some hope and support for you on your journey.
Some things I’ve learned about overcoming postpartum anxiety
Postpartum anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder that can occur in the weeks or months following childbirth. It is important for new mothers to recognize the signs of postpartum anxiety and seek help if needed. Left untreated, postpartum anxiety can have serious consequences for both mother and the child. By addressing postpartum anxiety and seeking help, moms can take steps to improve their own mental health and well-being, as well as the health and well-being of their family.
Be Self Aware
It’s important to be mindful of your mental health and check in with yourself regularly. Just like you would do a monthly self breast exam to look for signs of cancer, take some time each month to reflect on your well-being and ask yourself some tough questions. Consider how you’re doing, what’s been bothering you, and what has impacted your life recently. Being self aware can help you to identify any issues and take steps to address them.
I learned this lesson the hard way when I was struggling with postpartum anxiety. I was so out of touch with my body and my mental state that I didn’t even realize what was going on. I was just trying to survive and get through each day. But once I had an emotional breakdown and my husband helped me to see that something was off, I realized the importance of being self aware and seeking help.
If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with your partner about postpartum issues and the warning signs to look for. Your partner is probably the person who knows you best, and they can be a great source of support and encouragement if you’re struggling. My husband has been my rock during my postpartum journey, and it was with his help that I built up the courage to talk to my doctor and seek treatment. He has also been there to hold me, calm me down, and offer gentle encouragement when I needed it. It’s so important to have a supportive partner who can help you navigate the challenges of postpartum anxiety.
Know Your Triggers
The most important thing I’ve learned about dealing with my postpartum anxiety is that there are anxiety triggers, and they can be different for everyone. It was a difficult exercise for me because there were times when I felt that literally everything in my life was a anxiety trigger, but once I really understood what my stress triggers were, it benefited me enormously. Once I figured out what was really triggering my anxiety, I was able to deal with those situations and overcome them. I’ll tell you more about how to do that in a moment.
My triggers include:
- Being in heavy traffic
- Being in large crowds, especially when it’s noisy and busy
- Being late or in a hurry, or people waiting behind me (for example, when I’m rushing to get the kids ready for school, or when people are waiting in line behind me at the supermarket)
- Feeling stressed or threatened by others
- Too many loud noises at once, such as children crying.
- Any situation that could hurt or harm my kids
It’s important to stay proactive about maintaining a healthy mind, even when you feel like you’re doing well. This is especially true during the prenatal and postpartum stages, when hormones and emotions can be all over the place. If you let your guard down, that’s when postpartum anxiety (or other mental health issues) can sneak up on you. I know this from experience – I thought I was happy and on top of things, but postpartum anxiety caught me off guard and I wasn’t even aware of how I was feeling until it was full-blown.
It’s also important to be aware of the different types of postpartum and prenatal mental health issues that can arise. I was only familiar with postpartum depression, and when I didn’t fit into that category, I felt even more isolated and alone. That’s why it’s so important for both you and your partner to educate yourselves about the postpartum period – it’s better to be prepared and aware than to be caught off guard.
If you’ve overcome postpartum anxiety in the past, it’s important to continue with your self care routine to prevent it from sneaking back in. Don’t let your guard down just because you’re feeling better – make sure to keep up with your self care practices to maintain your mental health.
How I am overcoming postpartum anxiety
Research, study, apply
I learned a lot about postpartum anxiety and how our brains function from the reading and research that I did for several hours. I believe that just having more information about it was beneficial to me.
I found and purchased “The Pregnancy and Postpartum Anxiety Workbook” by Pamela S. Wiegartz from Amazon. I actually went back and read this quite a few times, and then I put into practice the information that I had gained from it. Every day, I would give myself some time to work through the workbook, engage in some truly profound reflection, and even write in a notebook about some of the thoughts that I was experiencing. This helped me so much! The workbook offers a wide variety of strategies for coping as well as practical advice for addressing postpartum anxiety. I highly recommend this book for any woman who is going though postpartum anxiety. Because there are so many helpful coping strategies contained inside it, it was the first resource I utilized when I initially started, and I still use it.
Let my body and mind rest
Postpartum anxiety can have physical effects on your body as well as mental ones. I personally experienced exhaustion and a lack of motivation when I was struggling with postpartum anxiety. Many people don’t realize that anxiety can manifest physically, but it makes sense when you think about it – months of worrying and having scary thoughts can take a toll on your body. You might feel exhausted, unable to focus, have high blood pressure and a rapid heartbeat, shake or feel jittery, or experience disassociation.
To let my body and mind rest, I had to make some changes to my lifestyle. We cut back on our activities and opened up our schedules to allow for more relaxation time at home. I also had to be intentional about my time and make sure I was getting enough rest. If I started to feel stressed or anxious, I knew it was time to slow down and take a break.
I used to think that taking naps was a waste of time, but I’ve learned that sleep and naps are actually really important for overcoming postpartum anxiety. In addition to trying to get enough sleep at night (which can be tough with a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night), I found that taking short naps during the day helped to refresh me and make a difference in my energy levels.
Fuel my body with good food
I used to think that people eat healthy just to get their body shape or lose weight, but now I realize that some people eat for their brain! That was true for me too. So changing my diet helped me overcome postpartum anxiety:
I stopped drinking sodas and other sugary drinks/eliminated almost all sugar from my diet.
I’ll talk more about this in another post, but once I did, I noticed a huge difference. Sugar is very harmful to the body and especially the mind. Initially, I was experiencing withdrawal, which made my anxiety worse. But I made it through and after a few weeks I felt much better.
Drink lots of water
I always thought I was pretty good at hydration, especially as a nursing mother, but I realized I was limiting myself. I’ve upped my water intake to at least 3 liters a day, with a liter being my main goal. It was hard at first, but once I stuck to it, it got easier and my body actually felt hungry for water. This got rid of many anxiety headaches and increased my energy levels.
I made sure I was eating well
Like I said, I never followed a strict diet because I’m not trying to lose weight. And I wouldn’t even call it a diet, I just eat nutritious foods. I’ve tried to limit processed foods as much as possible and eat only fresh vegetables, fruits and meats. Protein is an important part of the diet in overcoming postpartum anxiety, as well as plenty of omega 3s such as fish, avocados and nuts.
Started taking vitamins and supplements
Anxiety is not just a chemical imbalance in the brain, but it can also be a vitamin deficiency. The most important vitamin to help overcome postpartum anxiety is various forms of vitamin B. They work together and help a lot. I have also started taking quality probiotics to help flush out bad gut bacteria, which has been shown to help overcome postpartum anxiety and depression.
Below is a list of the vitamins and supplements I took that made a world of a difference in my mood and outlook on life:
- Life 9 Probiotic (9 strain probiotic/prebiotic)
- Super B (complete vitamin B with Riboflavin and Thiamin)
- Omega 3 (omega 3 supplement with fish oil)
Lots of praying, and soul searching
I’ve learned that when you are feeling fearful, stressed out, anxious, or overwhelmed with life; you need to give it all to God. I know some people think it’s hypocritical to say you are a believer in God who struggles with anxiety, because technically, if you are filled with fear it means you aren’t fully trusting God. But I know for myself, as well as many other, anxiety happens. Anxiety is the devil prowling around trying to steal your joy, and you have to lean on God for strength to fight back.
I started journaling about the scriptures I was reading, and then I would add a prayer according to that scripture to my life. I started really truly taking time (multiple times a day, actually) to get to a quiet place that I could focus and talk with God. I honestly felt such a huge relief just sweep over me after a few weeks of doing this. I started seeing little moments in my day to day life that helped me remember I’m not in this alone, and with God it’s possible to find the light in overcoming postpartum anxiety.
Doing things that brought me joy
To find joy again, I sat down with a notepad and made two lists – one of things that drained me and another of things that fueled me. This exercise was tough and required some serious soul searching, but it was a helpful reminder of how far I had strayed from my passions and interests while dealing with postpartum anxiety.
I made a conscious effort to cut out as many draining activities as possible and focus on the things that fueled me instead. It wasn’t easy, but once I started putting this into practice, I started to find joy in simple things again. I danced and laughed with my kids, explored the outdoors with them, watched the sunset almost every night, went on a day date with my husband and acted like a kid, spent time with our animals and horse, and remembered how much I enjoyed crocheting. I was actively working to make myself happy again.
I have written many blog posts about my love of essential oils. I even wrote an article during pregnancy about essential oils to use for stress and anxiety. I guess what I meant to say was “these are the oils I use because I’m struggling with my life right now!”. Anyway, a few months after my son was born, I realized I hadn’t used an oil in a long time. I was so stressed and anxious/depressed that I didn’t even follow my own advice and fell out of my routine.
I started a new strict oil routine. Ylang Ylang is one of the best oils for anxiety, so I put a drop on the back of my neck every morning and evening. I also put a drop of lavender behind each ear in the morning, and I also smear Stress Away during the day. If I had a hard day, I would take baths in Epsom salt with lavender and ylang-ylang. I also smear lavender and Calm and Soothe at night to prevent bad dreams.
After a good week of doing this routine consistently, I have already noticed that I feel calmer and more relaxed. There are still situations that make me anxious, but using these oils really makes me feel better. The essential oils have grounded me and I have had great success in overcoming postpartum anxiety.
I know how hard it can be to motivate yourself to exercise over and over again. Add anxiety or depression to the mix and it’s the last thing you want to do. I understand, I really do. When I talked to my doctor, she stressed the importance of at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. I didn’t realize how much I was weighed down by my anxiety until I resolved to exercise more. So for Christmas I got a FitBit, and it has made a huge difference.
I realized how inactive I had been during the day. The FitBit reminded me to take steps every hour, and I slowly reached my goals. I also tried walking and recently started running again. It’s hard to force yourself to get up and exercise, but once you do, I promise you’ll feel better.
Some more truth to overcoming postpartum anxiety
I want to get real and raw with you for a moment. For 2 1/2 months, I was on an anti-anxiety medication. I was scared and ashamed to be taking medication for a mental illness. Only my husband, my doctor, and I knew about it because I was embarrassed and felt weak.
But here’s the truth: taking medication for a mental illness does not make you weak, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’re treating an illness in your body, just like you would treat an infection with antibiotics. Part of the reason I kept it such a secret was because I live in a small town where everyone knows everyone, and mental health issues are considered taboo. I was afraid people would think I was crazy, label me as weak, or think I was a bad mother. But the truth is, overcoming postpartum anxiety and depression takes a lot of strength and self growth.
My doctor reassured me that I’m not alone and that there are actually a lot of moms in my area who are in the same situation and using medication. That made me realize that there are plenty of others who were scared and ashamed just like me. So I want to tell you – don’t be ashamed or scared. It’s a normal thing. That’s why I’m pushing back against the stigma, being open, and spreading hope. I want to help other moms before worrying about what others might think.
With that being said, once I made some major lifestyle changes, I was able to go off of my medication. It felt freeing. I was worried about withdrawals, but I stayed strong with my self care routine and things have been going great. I really believe that if you put in the effort, make positive changes in your life, and have a positive mindset about your mental health, you can overcome anxiety and find joy again. Of course, there will be ups and downs and there will still be moments of anxiety and stress, but I’m in a much better place than I was a year ago and there is light and happiness in my life again.