Wednesday, February 10, 2016

motherhood and the anxiety switch

On Tuesday morning Poet woke up with mosquito bites on her feet. This isn't particularly unusual during an Australian summer but considering I'd seen a red back spider the day before, I was a little concerned. I rubbed some lavender oil into her feet to stop the itching and I didn't think about it again till I picked her up from pre-school. I watched her put on her sandals on, saw the pinkish dots and all-of-a-sudden I was wracked with anxiety and ready to take her to the doctor, regardless of the fact that she wasn't complaining about itching or stinging. "They feel like nothing," she said.

I chatted to a few friends at the school gate and we all decided that she seemed fine and I was probably just worrying unnecessarily. And then we spoke about motherhood and worry and the fact that as soon as we birthed our firstborns it was like an anxiety switch went on. Even the most carefree and confident among us experiences some sort of motherhood-induced anxiety.

Today, after a somewhat sleepless night, I started thinking about my anxiety triggers; many of which are unavoidable at this stage of motherhood. Exhaustion is pretty powerful at setting off my switch, as is solo-parenting and a sudden influx of work. And when they all combine? Pass the rescue remedy!

Over the years I've come to notice the early, physical effects of anxiety and I understand the importance of working through it sooner rather than later. A few things that help:

- early nights : even if my sleep is broken, if I can get a few good hours in before midnight I'm in a much better frame of mind the next morning. I follow a bedtime routine and make sure lights are out before 10pm.

- listmaking : with a constant stream of emails hitting my inbox, various stories that need to be written and photo editing to be done, I can quickly become overwhelmed with work. I find that the lists that go 'round in my head aren't all that realistic and if I'm not conscious of my words, I can easily utter this one (which only exacerbates my anxiety). But, when I write to-dos on my list (which is attached to the fridge) I can see what needs to be done and subsequently, I don't have to remind myself to do it later.

- exercise : even if it's a ten minute walk around the block, getting out of the house, out of my head, and working up a sweat can ease my worry and boost my mood.

What are your anxiety triggers and how do you work through them?

also : 10 ways to ease anxiety and how to ease fear and worry in pregnancy.


  1. I really suffer with motherhood induced anxiety. I wondered if I was always anxious but in conversation with my own mum she said she had no recollection of previous anxiousness.. So now with two under 4 I rely heavily on the mantra "let your hopes outweigh your fears" and a good lot of deep breathing. Thanks for your post X

  2. Tiredness / exhaustion, being sick (child or especially self/both), solo parenting (big time - This always coincides with tiredness) and pregnancy hormones. This week all 4 have plagued me. It's been rough.

  3. Thank you for posting about this, it is a new thing for me! Motherhood-induced anxiety (always related to baby's health) bit me a couple of months ago, when my son was about four months old. My favourite trick is a hot tea with a sudoku to get my brain thinking logically again. A slightly weirder one is to watch a British comedy quiz like 'QI' or 'would I lie to you' - I find a giggle and a ludicrous story gives me a bit of perspective!

    1. Omg, QI is one of my coping mechanisms too! Haven't seen Would I Lie to You.

  4. Love this post and I am looking forward to reading the others you referenced.

  5. Took me a few not-so-great days to realise that phd + toddlers = bad. So I never attempt work when I am in mummy mode, I do daycare & the kindness of grandparents instead. Has made me really understand the physical side effects & how to avoid the triggers :)

  6. Took me a few not-so-great days to realise that phd + toddlers = bad. So I never attempt work when I am in mummy mode, I do daycare & the kindness of grandparents instead. Has made me really understand the physical side effects & how to avoid the triggers :)

  7. Oh, I feel you. Seriously. My anxiety triggers are: EVERYTHING. I might be a bit of an extreme example, though. I try to keep my mind occupied to keep the anxiety at bay. Menial chores and routines are key for me. And photo editing. Hence the 365 thing. If it's really bad (like, I'm either going to pass out or throw up) I do online crosswords.

  8. it's so true! making big decisions, not getting enough sleep and feeling tired and sick push me over the edge. Although I recently learned my iron is very low so hopefully that will be on the up soon. I am like you, list making is key! get it out of my head and on paper!

  9. I think my own middle-of-the-night fretting has caused me more sleepless nights than the kids. I think it's our generation's conscientiousness - we want to do this parenting thing RIGHT. I do believe that the trigger is actually being raised in the self-esteem 'praise' culture. We fear we won't be any good if we don't do things worthy enough to garner praise. Or something. CLEARLY I am still thinking all this stuff through!! What I will say is: represent. x

  10. It's good to know I'm not the only one. My trigger is sickness. I feel I can juggle it all so long as we don't slow down. Sickness is a full stop. I realise getting sick is a sign of how needed a stop is, but still I worry about letting others down. My oxygen masks are as you mentioned. Also no alcohol during the week. I'm reading This Book Will Make you Calm by Dr Jessamy Hibberd. I'm finding the exercises really helpful.


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