My Experience with Postpartum Anxiety + 10 Things That Helped

25 06

Let me first start out by saying Motherhood is the most wonderful gift I’ve been given. I feel an immense about of gratitude for two healthy pregnancies, births and babies. The past 3+ years have been the most empowering, life changing and joyful time of my life. I want to focus on this and at the same time be transparent about the more challenging side of postpartum. My hope in sharing my experience, is to help open up the dialogue around the postpartum time in a mother’s life as well as tools that helped me move through it. The ups and downs are all part of the journey and that’s OK! It’s important to note that everyone’s experience looks different and finding what works for YOU is key.

Alright sooooooo, you have a baby and you’re “supposed” to “bounce back” in a month… or three?!! Who THE FUCK came up with that?? AND yes, I’m going to keep it real. In our society I’ve found the conversation about moms post baby to be… oh ya, a whole lot of nothing. We spend so much time focused on the first, second and third trimester. BUT what about the actual birthing time and 4th trimester (postpartum)? Experiencing the birth of your own child and having a little to care for is life changing in so many ways. Feeling DIFFERENT is normal. I will never be the same after having my boys. This is part of the motherhood journey and I’ve been navigating all the physical, emotional and spiritual shifts that comes along with it.

After having Ford (my first baby), I did not have a well rounded understanding of what postpartum looked like. From my own physical body healing from birth and feeding demands for baby to the lovely hormones swings, sleep deprivation, nurturing my own body and anxiety. As I mentioned above, care for mom post baby is not widely discussed and or “acceptable”. Thankfully I had my midwife to help guide me and allow me the understanding that taking care of myself would only help me in motherhood. I learned SO much from her and felt more prepared with baby number two. If I didn’t go down the homebirth journey, I’m not sure I would have had any support. THIS is why I want to share with y’all. If I can shed light via my experience perhaps we can support others on their journey. Here are links to my other postpartum posts: Postpartum Mom Care First 30 Days, Postpartum Journey Fourth Trimester, Why I Had My Hormones Tested Before Pregnancy & Postpartum, Supplements I Take Postpartum, & Postpartum Freezer Meal Ideas, Snacks & Nutritious Food List.

Now let’s get into the main topic today, anxiety. This is something I’ve experienced different times throughout my life however it was the most extreme in the past 6 months. This is why I’m referring to it as “Postpartum” anxiety. Having kids triggered many things in me – good and “bad” (turned out to be a blessing): i.e. softened my emotional compass, developed an understanding of my own inner power as well as bringing up fears I didn’t know I had.

After having two kiddos back-to-back (17 months apart) my physical, mental and emotional state broke the F down. For me, it didn’t happen until after West (baby number two) because I got pregnant so soon after Ford (when he was 9 months). My body did not have time to fully recover, regulate, etc. Essentially I hit a breaking point when West was around 7 months. I had been in survival mode for the past 2 years and my body was like, TIME OUT! And let’s be clear, I took care of myself much better this go around. Meaning right after birth, having support around to help with Ford, eating nutritious foods and taking time for myself with self-care items like: baths, face masks, walking. More about my healthy habits on this post: The Daily Habits That Changed My Life. I note this because regardless of your preparedness/experience, you can still suffer from anxiety, depression, hormone imbalance, etc.

What I’m discussing today is much deeper: life purpose, spiritual connection, past emotional experiences and how that played a role in my motherhood journey. I was not prepared for all of the BIG emotional pieces within my own soul that came up when I had my children. Come to find these were the things that were at the root of my anxiety.

SO how did I discover this??

First and foremost, it took TIME, inward reflection and effort. It did not happen overnight and many times it was a little terrifying. I came to point where my anxiety was getting so bad that I started to experience panic attacks in the middle of the night. If you’ve had one, you know how out of control you feel. My physical body also began to break down with extreme neck pain causing nerve issues in my head along with ear blockage that caused vertigo. This did not help with my anxiety, only heighten it. Needless to say I was at a point where I needed to SLOW down and take care of myself. I am grateful to have a supportive husband and the space to explore what was going on with me. I’m aware it’s a luxury that not everyone has.

What did my anxiety look/feel like?

Physically it felt like I had an elephant sitting on my chest and I couldn’t breath. I know many can relate. The majority of my anxious thoughts were around something happening to me or my kids. Basically the fear of separation from them. It would spiral from there and I couldn’t get my mind to calm down. Looking back the thought pattern was irrational however when you’re in anxiety, it’s hard to get ahold of it. I came to realize much of my anxiety was coming from two things [1] my own experiences I had when I was younger paired with a lot of fear based thinking and [2] what was going on with me physically. Figuring out the source was a HUGE weight off of my chest. It made sense, I could start to pull back the layers and truly heal.

What did I do to help?

I went into it FULL force. To address my physical issues I started to go to a chiropractor and acupuncturist weekly. With my big babies, I was literally flinging them around and not being mindful of my body. I relearned how to stand properly (foundation training) and strengthened my back. Yes, I know it sounds silly but not having good posture for years, breastfeeding and carrying the boys, was causing extreme physical issues. Now, I have little to no pain.

For anxiety, I’ve done/still continue to do many things. After experiencing it for months and having panic attacks, I felt extremely helpless. To be transparent, I did not want to take any medication. If you’ve been following me, you know I prefer a more natural, holistic approach. However I do believe western medicine has a place. I was encouraged by a few of my dear friends to speak with my doctor about having something “just in case”. I ended up getting prescribed a medicine, and felt comfort in knowing I had it. Fortunately I haven’t needed to take it.

Overall the daily/weekly practices I’ve incorporated into my life has calmed my spirit and brought me to a deeper connection with myself. In turn my anxiety has significantly decreased. Slowing down and being still was the biggest gift I gave to myself. I’ve come to a better place of acceptance and understanding with where I’m at in life.

10 Things that Have Helped with my Anxiety

[1] Therapy – I have gone to therapy throughout my life. This go around it has been extremely helpful during this massive shift in my life (having kids). Talking through my own childhood experiences, what triggers me and how I want to raise my kids are all topics I’m working through. I’ve found acknowledgment and understanding of emotions that are deeply rooted within me has allowed for healing to happen. Therapy is a safe space where I can unpack my experiences, emotions around them and come up with a plan to help in my everyday life.

[2] Energy/Spiritual Healing – This looks different for many, but for me, this has become a place to tap into my spiritual being, intuition and connection with myself. I found a wonderful person to help guide and teach me in my spiritual awakening. I’ve found a deeper connection to God and the Universe which has made me feel more grounded in my journey. I now find gratitude in my anxiety as it brought me to this place. Emotions in the body are signs of what’s going on with our soul if we stop and pay attention.

[3] Prayer – I have incorporated daily prayer into my morning routine. Starting the day with a rooted, spiritual practice helps align my soul for the rest of the day. I understand this looks different for everyone. For me, I focus on the connection with God and sending love and light to those around me.

[4] Meditation – Like prayer meditation has become part of my morning routine. One of the first things I do when I wake up. This can be guided and/or sitting in stillness. It took me MANY years to get to a place where I look forward to the quiet space in between my thoughts. Looking inward has completely shifted my being. These are the guided meditations I like: CalmMindful Living, Kenneth Soares & Sarah Hall.

[5] Journaling – My journal is around me at all times. After I meditate, sit in stillness or go on a walk I tend to have thoughts I want to write down. When I was a child I used to write all the time whether it be to express something emotional or my creativity. I find it very therapeutic and calming. The physical act of writing also helps me release whatever I’m feeling.

[6] Hormone Balance – During pregnancy and postpartum hormones are all over the place. AND truly every month if you are still having your cycle. However there is a healthy “balance” when you feel your best – you know ladies. If it’s out of wack it can effect so many different things – mood, weight, anxiety, libido and more. As women hormones will always play a huge role in our life so I recommend getting to know them 😉 I had mine tested post baby and breastfeeding – blog post about it here. They were essentially in the “basement” as my naturopath doc called it. SO I have been on natural herb supplements + allowing my body the time to “regulate” post baby. In my case It’s taken about a year to feel like myself. When I was deep in my anxiety and just not feeling great, getting to a place of gratitude with by body helped me turn the corner. Rather than feeling frustrated or that I needed to “fix” what was going on with me, I surrendered. Acceptance played a huge role in my healing journey.

[7] Moving my Body – Staying active is probably the most impactful consistent tool I’ve done throughout my life to alleviate stress. Thanks to those hormones called endorphins! I continued to move my body through my pregnancies, which I believe helped with my overall recovery, losing baby weight and maintaining muscle. I’ve continued to workout at least 5 days a week as well as give myself the REST it needs. SO important! When my anxiety is high I love to get outside, go for a walk and listen to an inspiring podcast. Other times I need to move slow and do something like pilates or yoga where I can tune into my mind and body. If you listen, your bod will tell you what it needs!

[8] Limited Social Media – This one has been important for me as being “ON” social media is part of my job. However I’ve come to realize having healthy boundaries around social media and being on my phone makes an impact on my mood. The amount of time I spent just scrolling or going down a rabbit hole was not the best use of my time. I now have different priorities and would rather spend that time being present with my kids, creating beautiful content, listening to a podcast, making a nutritious meal for my family etc. I am much more intentional when I share on social media paired with the time I spend consuming others content.

[9] Eating Nutritious Foods + ENOUGH – After having babies, there is always SO much to do – right?? I get it, but taking the time to eat nutritious foods is SO important paired with eating ENOUGH! After I was done breastfeeding I started back with intermittent fasting, not eating until around 11 or Noon. Come to find this did not work well for my body and was playing a role in elevating my anxiety. I noticed once I started to eat a meal around 8AM, my anxiety would not spike. Stay nourished throughout the day with quality food helped with me mood. I make time to plan and prep food at the beginning of the week for me and my family. I’ve found this is helpful in brining my stress down about “what do I make for dinner” as well as ensuring we are all consuming quality, nutritious meals.

[10] Quality Sleep – Sounds pretty simple, right?! If I am well rested, I tend to have less anxiety. I’m very mindful of my sleep. Now that both babies are sleeping through the night I make it a priority to do the same. This mean I am winding down for bed around 8PM, no longer on my phone and asleep by 9-9:30PM. How do I do this? Luke and I eat with our kids every night around 6PM, not after they go to sleep. This allows my body time to breakdown my food as well as giving me time to unwind. Whether that be reading, taking an epsom salt bath, listening to a podcast, etc. We do not watch a lot of TV at night or are on our phones. Blue light can interfere with circadian rhythm. I want my natural melatonin to kick in so I’m mindful of light during the evening. Going to sleep and waking up around the same time each day is important! Sleep is a big topic in the wellness space right now. There’s so much information and the best way I have learned about it is via podcasts – here’s one I like. I also track my sleep using an OURA ring – highly recommend!

meditation app calm

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