Is post-natal anxiety turning you into a bag of nerves?
We’re all familiar with the term “post-baby blues”, but did you know it’s not uncommon for new mums to develop “post-baby fears, phobias and anxieties” too?
Around 8% of new mums all over the world are thought to suffer with what’s known as generalized anxiety disorder, characterised by feelings of nervousness and constantly feeling on edge.
So if this sounds like something you’ve been experiencing, you can rest assured that it’s pretty common and no, you’re not going mad. On the face of it, it’s hardly surprising given the strain childbirth can put on a woman’s body in terms of physical shock, hormonal fluctuations and sleep deprivation.
With time these feelings should begin to fade – for some mums though, these feelings of anxiety can go on to develop into more serious conditions such as panic attacks and phobias.
In my hypnotherapy practice, it’s not unusual for me to see mums two or three years after they’ve had a baby, confused as to why they’ve suddenly developed a fear of flying or travelling in lifts.
Phobias do not simply involve intense fear, they can seem completely irrational, quite random and persist over a long period of time. I’ve come across people who have phobias of buttons, zips, tomatoes and pens that go ‘click’ at the top. As long as people are able to avoid the object of their fears, they feel fine, but once the feelings of panic begin to attach themselves to ordinary everyday objects, the stress of avoidance becomes too much to bear.
Only when the embarrassment of having the problem becomes too big, do many mums start to think about seeking help. Talking therapies such as NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) that offer solutions through techniques, will be the most beneficial in these instances.
In the meantime, if you can feel yourself turning into “a bag of nerves”, these tips will help to alleviate some of your symptoms:
TOP TIPS FOR REDUCING ANXIETY
- Diet: Be aware that certain foods alter our stress and anxiety levels as well as create mood swings. Foods to eat plenty of include: porridge, boiled potatoes, brown rice, wholegrain breads, fish, turkey, chicken, cottage cheese, avocados, beans, plenty of fruit and vegetables in general.
- Avoid toxins: Reduce caffeine levels eg. coffee, tea, chocolate, coffee-flavoured ice-cream and cakes. Be aware of the stimulating effects of cheese, red meat, alcohol and nicotine. It’s also wise to reduce salt intake.
- Exercise: The higher our physical tension levels, the more likely it is that we will experience bouts of anxiety. Regular exercise (at least 20 minutes each day) such as walking, will use up excess adrenaline and release endorphins.
- Laughter: Laughing in response to day-to-day problems may not be an obvious choice for most of us, but experts are agreed that it may be the best medicine and the quickest way to change your brain chemistry. Watch funny movies, TV programmes or listen to comedy on the radio on a regular basis.
- Box up your worries: Irritating, niggling thoughts that simply don’t want to go away can simply wear you down. Acknowledging these messages is often all you need to do. Find a box (old shoebox will do) and each time you feel worried, get some paper and write down your worry. Think about what might be making you feel like this and write this down too. Then fold the paper, put it into your box, put the lid firmly on and place it somewhere out of sight. Continue to do this with each worry that comes into your mind. Then, at the end of the week, open your box, empty out the pieces of paper – you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover that most of the worries took care of themselves, without requiring any action from you.
- Create a special place: Our bodies respond to the images that are going through our minds at the time – even if we’re not necessarily aware that they’re there. Ever watched a scary movie and felt feelings of panic? Even though you knew the scenario wasn’t happening for real, your body responded to what it saw.
In just the same way, it’s possible to induce feelings of calmness by introducing good pictures into your mind. Create a really relaxing picture for yourself – a tropical beach with fine golden sand, a place in the countryside or a place indoors that you find nice, calming and relaxing. Take 5 minutes out each day to close your eyes and just lose yourself in this image. With a little practice, you’ll be able to visualise your special place whenever you’re experiencing feelings of anxiety, without needing to close your eyes to get the benefits.