Dealing with PND & Anxiety in early motherhood

By Amanda Cavallaro (The Anxiety Wellness Queen)

The transition into motherhood can be bitter sweet for many. The excitement of starting this new beginning with your new bundle of joy not only brings about a learning experience but significant challenges and changes to your life. For many mothers, these challenges and changes are difficult to adjust to and they find themselves dealing with emotional, psychological and physical struggles.

Postnatal Depression (PND) and Anxiety are common mental health conditions new mums experience during this transition. PND can often be difficult to identify due to the typical ‘Baby Blues’ that so many women experience postpartum, unfortunately this can make things confusing. PND is commonly suffered by a new mum following childbirth and typically arises due to a combination of psychological challenges and adjustments, hormonal changes and result of fatigue or trauma.

Postnatal Depression affects up to 1 in 7 women and symptoms usually develop between 1 month and up to a year after the birth of their child.

Common symptoms of postnatal depression include, but are not restricted to:
- Low Mood
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Feelings of guilt or shame
- Emotional ( you might find yourself crying a lot more than usual )
- Feelings of anger and irritability
- Fear of being alone
- Insomnia
- Reoccurring negative thoughts
- Loss of interest (of things you usually would be interested in)
- Changes in appetite
- Feeling unmotivated
- Withdrawing from social situations
- Thoughts about harming yourself or your baby
- Feeling unable to cope
- Loss of concentration
- Loss of confidence and self esteem
- Feelings of anxiety, stress and panic

Awareness and Treatments of PND has come such a long way over the years and it has really been fantastic for women to feel heard, understood and given the proper care, support and treatment during this difficult time. Treatments for PND vary depending on a person’s individual needs and situation, either way addressing this early on is very important in the recovery process.

Likewise, Anxiety is also another very common issue women are dealing with in motherhood. Unlike PND, perinatal anxiety is only newly spoken about although women have been dealing with the symptoms and stress of it for many years! Depression and anxiety often work hand in hand and are interlinked in many ways.

Anxiety, alike depression does not discriminate age, gender or culture and the symptoms and severity differs from person to person. A woman who has experienced anxiety prior to pregnancy is at a higher risk of also experiencing it during her pregnancy and motherhood. Some of the common symptoms of anxiety may include:

- Irritability
- Panic Attacks (which include racing heart, sweaty palms, shortness of breath, feelings of nausea etc..)
- Hot or cold flushes
- Dizziness
- Tightening of chest
- Fast breathing
- Feelings of restlessness
- Excessive worry
- Excessive Fear
- Obsessive thinking
- Catastrophising
- Avoidance of situations, people or places that make you feel anxious
- Obsessive Compulsive tendencies
- Dry Mouth
- Tingling in hands and feet
- Problems sleeping
- Muscle tension

The most common cause of anxiety has been debated about for years although it really comes down to a combination of genetics, life experiences and environmental factors that contribute to the onset of anxiety. The most reassuring thing is that both anxiety and depression ARE treatable and there IS hope and a light at the end of the tunnel even though it may not feel like it at the time.

Below are some tips that you can implement to help manage your anxiety and depression

1) SUPPORT
During this difficult time the support of your family, friends, professionals and partner is very important. Once again, every woman’s needs are so different therefore ensuring you have the care you need to tailor to your needs and wellbeing is what really matters. We are so lucky that technology has come such a long way, giving us access to online education and support groups as well.

2) ASK FOR HELP
If you don’t feel right please reach out and ask for help. Speak to your GP, Maternity Nurse or health care professional and just let them know what your concerns are, that will then enable them to discuss all options with you and direct you to receive the appropriate help. And there are many options out there!

3) KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Learning more about and understanding what you’re going through really does help in the treatment as it removes a lot of the fear of the ‘unknown’.

4) PRACTISE SAYING YES
The world we live in often portrays the message that as a mother we are super hero’s that need to do everything by ourselves (YES in regards to mums being amazing superwomen and a big NO to having to feel like you need to take on the world on your own) this is just a reminder that its ok to say YES every now and then, if people offer help in those early or even later stages of motherhood just say YES! Yes to a home cooked meal, a hand around the house, a nap while someone looks after bub, yes to dropping the kids at school and picking up some milk for you. We all have those bad days and you are at no exception - You can’t do it all and by no means are you expected to!

5) TAKE SOME TIME OUT
Making sure you put aside some much needed you time is SOOOO important. It doesn’t have to be anything $$ or major, just some time for you to recharge, regroup and become ready for whatever the day throws your way. This could be a nice warm bath when everyone goes to bed or putting your feet up with a nice hot tea or coffee when bub is taking a nap. There is no need to feel guilty for taking some time away - as they say you cant pour from an empty cup!

6) REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Motherhood is really portrayed in a very fairy-tale like way these days in magazines, TV and social media. We are shown the ‘expected’ way to look, act, feed, feel and think. Those expectations have had such a huge negative impact on women all across the globe. This is just a reminder to have realistic expectations of yourself during this time, its ok if you don’t get 35 loads of washing on today, its ok if you don’t have your hair washed today, its ok not to have a picture perfect looking house, its ok to have an all day pyjama day sometimes ( I loveeee those days!) For goodness sake, you have a lot on your plate, don’t be too hard on yourself you are doing the best you can. Listen to your body and what its telling you, it will give you the cues.

At the end of the day its important I reiterate that you ARE doing the best you can so please don’t be too hard on yourself, motherhood is one of the hardest jobs in the world!

- Amanda Cavallaro (The Anxiety Wellness Queen)

CLICK HERE TO CONNECT WITH AMANDA AND HER WEBSITE AND TO DOWNLOAD HER TOP 10 TIPS TO MANAGING YOUR STRESS & ANXIETY

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Using Mindfulness in Pregnancy

By Amanda Cavallaro (The Anxiety Wellness Queen)

“Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence”.  Eckhart Tolle

The modern life we live in can be quite complicated at times. Our attention is demanded in so many different areas that we find ourselves constantly on the go. Trying to keep up with our busy schedules, work, kids, family and friends invites stress and anxiety right through our doors! Even when we find time to relax, our minds are always wandering. Pregnancy and motherhood is one of the most precious, intriguing, rewarding, empowering yet fearful and stressful times in our lives. Therefore caring for your mental health and emotional well being should be placed high on your priority list!

It is amazing how far mental health awareness has come, to shed light, support and educate women and their loved ones about important issues such as Pre/Postnatal Depression. Women are becoming more knowledgeable and aware to look out for signs that may be of concern, thus receiving the care they need and deserve. Pre/Postnatal Anxiety, is another pressing issue. The statistics are continuously increasing and it is now estimated that 1 in 3 women will experience anxiety. Regrettably it is one of the most common mental health conditions in Australia today. Fear and anxiety often happens when you are physically in the here and now, although your mind is wandering in the future. Thankfully research is beginning to demonstrate the positive effects of practices such as mindfulness during pregnancy, to help reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

So...What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the awareness of being in the present moment by paying attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them. It’s the practice of slowing down the mind rather than letting it wander in so many different directions. Unlike some of the other practices, the beauty of mindfulness is that with awareness you notice your thoughts and you then allow them to come and go without any judgement and interpretation. It’s important to understand that learning how to be present in your life takes time and practice! You have most likely practiced mindfulness on several occasions without even realizing.

Elisha Goldstein, a mindfulness expert, talks about practicing mindfulness in 2 ways – Formally and Informally. When practicing formally, you are ‘Intentionally’ setting aside time in your day to practice. By focusing and meditating on your breathing, your emotions and your thoughts with awareness. Informal Mindfulness practice incorporates the same sort of technique into your everyday life and tasks. You can do this by simply consciously being aware during your daily tasks.

Pregnancy and motherhood is a great time to learn and practice Mindfulness. It encourages awareness and a real sense of curiosity, it can be one of the most important tools that you learn during pregnancy and carry through to motherhood. Pregnancy can create a sense of fear and vulnerability. Mostly due to the unknown. Not knowing what will happen next, how you will feel and the constant change in physical sensations. Having the knowledge and tools that mindfulness provides can be a God send!

Mindfulness for Anxiety

Anxiety has a way of capturing your undivided attention! It consumes your thoughts, your body, feelings, and emotions. One of the common key elements of anxiety, is focusing on the future. The future, meaning a year from now, a month from now or even what could happen later that night. There is A LOT of ‘What Ifs’ involved and as a result making you feel more and more anxious. So then HOW does mindfulness come into the picture I hear you ask?

Mindfulness focuses on the here and now, the present moment. The total opposite to anxiety. It’s about training the brain to A) Slow Down & B) Discover this wonderful sense of awareness you have hidden within, removing all the chaos and enabling you to focus.

Have you ever had the experience of getting in the car to go somewhere and then before you know it.. YOU'ER THERE. How miraculous hey? The strange part is, most of the time you have no memory of the steps you took to get there, because so much of what we do is on auto pilot. With anxiety, your mind wonders constantly, mindfulness teaches you to pay attention to the moment by using awareness, observation and a sense of curiosity.

Practicing mindfulness can be experienced ‘Informally’. You achieve this by placing your focus on the task at hand, such as, eating, showering, walking, cooking etc.. For example, while eating your breakfast you may already be thinking about what your day has in store for you, what you are going to wear for the function on Saturday or what is on the menu for dinner. When you introduce a more mindful approach, you are then able to take note of the aromas from your meal, the tastes, the textures, the visual aspects, such as the colours of your food. Using all your senses is KEY and a good way to start.

Why is Mindfulness important during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, we can spend so much time thinking and worrying about what’s ahead, that we spend little time enjoying the now. Part of the reason anxiety increases so much for women during pregnancy is that so much of the process is out of our control. It is scary not knowing how things are going, what the different pregnancy symptoms are and if they are considered "normal". Women often worry about having everything organised for the nursery, wondering what will happen during the labour and how they will cope when the baby arrives. So much pressure is put on a couple to make the perfect decisions, such as birthing choices, eating healthy, exercising and taking vitamins. If there is anything you take away from today’s post I would like to highlight that taking care of your mental health needs during your pregnancy is just as important as your physical health.

Top 5 Benefits of practicing Mindfulness during Pregnancy

1. REDUCES STRESS, ANXIETY AND WORRY
Practicing Mindfulness during pregnancy has been shown to lower a mother’s stress and anxiety levels and improve overall emotional and physical health. Mindfulness allows you to alleviate the feelings of guilt and judgement by placing your focus on the present moment.

2. CONNECT TO YOUR CHANGING BODY
Let’s face it. There is so much going on during pregnancy that we often can’t keep up! Mindfulness practice allows you to tune in and listen to your body and its needs. There is no better time to be in touch with your body than now!

3. GREAT PREPARATION FOR THE BIRTH
Focus and awareness during the birthing experience is essential and ties in very well with #2. Understanding that some things are out of our control and being able to go with the flow is part of the recipe for a positive birthing experience.

4. CREATES A POSITIVE MINDSET DURING LABOUR
The first thing we hear when we fall pregnant is everyone’s horror stories! Which in turn only creates more fear and anxiety. Mindfulness allows you to notice any potential negative thoughts during your birth
without getting caught up in it all. Simply just by observing, letting it go and continuing to be present of the sensations and happenings of the NOW.

5. SELF CARE AND COMPASSION
We often judge ourselves based on expectations, social norms and feelings of fear and anxiety. Mindfulness supports self-compassion through the pregnancy process because it allows us to observe our feelings and thoughts with self-awareness. This is very important because we often hide the way we feel due to the guilt or fear of experiencing them.

- Amanda Cavallaro (The Anxiety Wellness Queen)

CLICK HERE TO CONNECT WITH AMANDA AND HER WEBSITE

 

Follow The Anxiety Wellness Queen on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM and TWITTER

If you're a new or pregnant mama, please feel free to join our Facebook support group over at Find Your Village – a truly supportive community of new and experienced mamas where you can vent frustrations or share your excitement in a space that is free from judgment. Whether you are suffering from anxiety or sleep deprivation we are here!

If you haven’t already joined our mailing list, please do so you can be notified of our blogs as soon as they go live! Added bonus when you sign up - you will also receive your FREE download of "Your New Mum Checklist" - all the checklists you'll ever need when planning for baby, all in the one place, plus additional parenting tips around Baby Sleep, Feeding and Nutrition.