Postpartum Anxiety

The topics of mental health and mom-ing go hand in hand. This week I’m sharing a guest post from one of our community members, Dr. Jill Shuster, registered psychologist. Jill and I were discussing the issues that affect us as moms, both new and experienced and she graciously agreed to share her expertise. Dr. Shuster works with children and adolescents at the Toronto District School Board and in private Practice at the Possibilities Clinic. She’s passionate about increasing awareness of mental health issues. I know this will help our new mamas tremendously.

xo J

Becoming a mother turns your life upside down. There is nothing quite like those first days of snuggles and the wonder of getting to know your baby. For me, the adjustment hit me closer to a month after my son was born. The trail of excited visitors and adrenaline was dwindling, the lack of sleep was definitely kicking in, my body was aching, and I found myself faced with the question, “Now what?” My days pre-baby were filled with a feeling of identify and accomplishment that I derived from my career as a psychologist as well as a sense of control over how I spent my time (e.g., going to the washroom and showering when I wanted). My days post-baby felt busy from dawn til dusk but my sense of accomplishment was replaced by a sense of tiredness and sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the monotony of the nurse, sleep (baby, not me), diaper change, nurse again, cycle.

Awareness about postpartum depression is increasing, but a recent study found that postpartum anxiety is actually more common, affecting more than 15% of pregnant and postpartum women. What can make postpartum anxiety tricky to identify is that like other mental health conditions, its symptoms exist on a continuum with commonly occurring behaviours. Perinatal mood disorders are temporary and treatable and if your mood or anxiety levels are causing you distress, it is important to follow-up with your physician for support and more information. For more information about specific symptoms, check out this website

For the new moms (or even well-seasoned moms), there are many things that may help manage lower levels of anxiety. For myself, getting outside for walks was extremely helpful. Taking small breaks from my baby also gave me a chance to feel like my old-self and have a mental break from managing my baby’s needs. To help me with eating healthy, my husband would leave a smoothie for me in the fridge before he left for work.

In the months after my son was born, I also did some online yoga classes. I liked that I could choose classes as short as 15 minutes, which often coincided with my son’s nap length!

For most people, thinking and implementing the following tools will be helpful for managing anxiety:

  • Healthy eating,
  • Any type of self-care or “me-time”,
  • Exercise and/or spending time outside (hello stroller fit classes!;),
  • Sleep, when possible;
  • Mindfulness

Here is a quick mindfulness exercise. Being mindful means paying attention to the present moment, exactly as it is, which is a contrast from what we usually do when we are anxious.

I like this activity because it can be done anytime and anywhere. Take a few slow breaths and ask yourself: What are three things I can hear? What are three things I can see? What are three things I can smell? Think of these answers to yourself slowly, one at a time. How does your body feel after doing this exercise?

What strategies have you found helpful to manage feelings of anxiety? We’d love to hear from you and so would your fellow moms!

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