mom anxiety

Welcome to my blog! I am Gayle Weill, LCSW, a licensed psychotherapist in private practice currently offering telehealth sessions for mothers in Florida, New York, and Connecticut. I have specialized training in Child-Parent Psychotherapy, EMDR, and Hypnosis. I am also nationally accredited as an adoption-competent therapist and certified as a facilitator of the Circle of Security-Parenting program, which promotes the attachment bond between parents and their young children. The goal of this blog post is to help moms identify and cope with anxiety because assisting moms in managing symptoms of anxiety is what I do best!

What does mom anxiety feel like?

A question that may come to mind is how do I know if I have anxiety as a mom? Everybody sometimes worries, so how does a mother know if what she is experiencing is normal? Below are some common signs of anxiety:

anxious mother syndrome

Is it normal to have anxiety as a mom?

Picture this: In pregnancy you experience an influx of hormonal fluctuations. Then there’s giving birth and your hormones continue to be completely out of whack. From baby blues, to postpartum anxiety, to postpartum depression – there are all sorts of things new moms can be vulnerable to. Not to mention, the all of a sudden added responsibility of a new baby that is completely dependent on you for everything. Oh and did I mention that there’s all sorts of conflicting opinions out there for new moms on the correct way to parent? Breast or bottle feed? Swaddle or not to swaddle? Pacifier or no pacifier? Sleep in your room or sleep in a nursery? You’re no stranger to these debates. And how about all the unsolicited advice or opinions from well-intentioned other mothers? It’s a lot for new moms to take in. It’s no wonder that mom anxiety is actually completely normal and brings about a lot of worry! New parent and seasoned parents alike can experience feelings of complete overwhelm, and this could lead to developing postpartum anxiety symptoms.

Diagnosed anxiety disorders in moms represent clinically significant levels of anxiety that interfere with daily functioning and require professional intervention. These disorders are characterized by persistent, excessive worry and often symptoms overlap with other mental health conditions.

On the other hand, everyday worries and stressors that parents experience are common and typically manageable within the scope of normal life challenges. These may include concerns about parenting decisions, financial pressures, work-life balance, and family dynamics. While these stressors can cause temporary distress, they do not necessarily meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder and don’t mean that there is anything wrong with one’s mental health.

The key difference lies in the severity, duration, and impact on daily life. Diagnosed anxiety disorders significantly impair functioning and require specialized treatment, whereas everyday worries are a normal part of life, don’t indicate any mental health challenge, and can often be managed with coping strategies and support from family and friends.

Tips for coping with anxiety as a mom

This section will discuss practical tips for moms to manage their anxiety levels, both independently and with support from others. These strategies aim to help with navigating the challenges of parenting while prioritizing mental well-being. Effective coping techniques can empower moms to find balance and resilience amidst the demands of motherhood and feeling anxious. These tips can assist in mitigating postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression, but they also can apply even after the postpartum period is over.

how to deal with a mother with anxiety disorder

Strategies to deal with motherhood anxiety independently

There are things moms can do on their own to manage anxiety symptoms, and things moms could do with the support from others for managing symptoms. Below are strategies that one can use to cope on their own.

1. Progressive muscle relaxation

One way to calm the body’s natural physical reaction to anxiety is by practicing this exercise, which includes intentionally tensing, holding, and then releasing each muscle group of the body, one muscle group at a time. Anxiety is not just emotional. When we experience something emotionally we may not realize it, but we also get physical symptoms. This exercise can help calm the muscle tension that comes along when one may feel anxious.

2. Maximize sleep

Like a car needs gas to drive, there’s no doubt about it that people need food and sleep to function and be their best selves. Poor sleep will only provide a greater risk of anxiety worsening. This could be hard when your baby is crying in the middle of the night, or if sleep is being disrupted because you just can’t stop your thoughts from spiraling out of control. Whatever the reason may be, it’s important to know that there are ways that one can improve their sleep to reduce anxiety.

worried mom syndrome

Baby crying in the middle of the night? That’s normal unfortunately, but there are sleep trainers out there who offer help on mitigating this issue, even for infants. One could simply follow popular sleep trainers on Instagram or Youtube and get a wealth of advice for free. And sleep trainers can be helpful even for parents who are uncomfortable with letting their child cry. It should be empowering for those with mom anxiety to know that answers are within their reach. Also, making sure to sleep when the baby is sleeping is popular advice for a reason!

What came first, the anxiety or the lack of sleep? To have anxiety means that you may feel unable to sleep due to your anxiety causing racing thoughts. But then again, you may have more anxiety due to lack of sleep. It’s hard to know if having anxiety caused the lack of sleep, or if the poor quality of sleep caused the anxiety. It could be a little of both. If your thoughts are spiraling out of control please know that it is possible to learn and practice ways for calming down racing thoughts to get more and better quality sleep. Don’t lose hope, sleep is possible if you prioritize finding a way to fix sleep challenges.

3. Caring for personal needs

You may love your child to the moon and back, as the expression goes, but despite popular misconception – it is not selfish to take care of yourself too. A common reaction may be to bristle at this suggestion. You might argue that your child has to come first, and that there’s no time for self-care. However, my response to that is how can you take care of your child if you aren’t first taking care of your own needs? It’s like they say before takeoff on an airplane – a parent has to put on his or her own oxygen mask if something goes wrong on the plane, before putting on the child’s mask. Self-care is not selfish, it is actually imperative for one’s mental health. Exercise, provide yourself with good nutrition, and do things that you find relaxing and enjoy doing.

mom anxiety symptoms

Tips for navigating anxiety and motherhood with others

Your healing journey to address mom anxiety doesn’t have to happen completely on your own. Below are tips for navigating these challenges with the help from others.

1. Social support

Taking care of your children can be time-consuming, and it may feel like there just isn’t time to catch up with your partner, or other loved ones. But don’t isolate yourself. Parenting doesn’t mean you have to lose out completely on adult conversation or contact. Make sure to talk with others, whether that be on the phone, online, or joining a support group. You’ll feel less alone in your feelings and friendship and support is so good for one’s mental health.

2. Therapy

You don’t have to do this alone, and it doesn’t have to be as hard as it may currently feel- seeking therapy fortunately no longer has the same stigma as it once did, and it doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you if you seek help from the right therapist for you. Here are some things therapy can help with:

motherhood and anxiety

If left untreated a mother’s anxiety could worsen and even interfere in her relationships with her children or other loved ones. However, if pursued, therapy can make a world of a difference with reducing mom anxiety for younger moms, millennial moms, and older moms too. A skilled therapist is an objective professional who is trained to help you feel less alone in your struggles with anxiety and depression. The therapist will make recommendations for decreasing anxiety and increasing parent-child attachment. He or she will want to know your family history in addition to getting a complete picture on the current stressors in order to understand how to best offer support specific to your unique needs.

3. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI)

There is hesitancy from some regarding medication due to stigma or concerns regarding possible side effects. However, for those open to exploring medication, SSRI’s are a type of medication that are known to help with mom anxiety, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum depression. Make an appointment with a qualified prescriber to explore medication options. Qualified prescribers include psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, primary care doctors, or OBGYNs.

4. Assistance with children

There is no doubt about it that parenting is a 24/7 job, and because of that it can be completely overwhelming at times. Just because it’s a fulltime job, doesn’t mean others can’t help out. Getting alone time can really help with new mom anxiety. Lean on your supports! If you don’t have family or friends nearby who can help out, prioritize getting a babysitter for a few hours a week or more.

anxiety as a mom

In my experience

As a psychotherapist with a speciality in mom anxiety, I have seen firsthand how the above tips can help those who are struggling with symptoms of anxiety. I am going to illustrate this with an example from my therapy practice.

*Client name is changed for the purposes of this blog post due to HIPPA confidentiality laws.

Jane came to me for therapy 6 weeks after having her second child. She didn’t feel like she was connecting with her baby, she reported feeling like her emotions were out of her control, and she doubted her ability to parent well. She told me about her brave move to seek therapy because she was afraid that all I was going to do was force her to take medication and then tell her to go home. I explained to her that I don’t force anyone to do anything, especially if it’s something they are uncomfortable doing. I explained to her why medication can be an incredible option to explore, but that there are also other options to help her feel better. We discussed who was available in her life to lean on for support. I let her know that not feeling connected to her baby is a sign of postpartum depression, and has no reflection on her parenting skills. On the contrary, it was actually a wonderful thing that she was able to admit this to me, for the guilt of lack of connection was really adding to her stress. I explained to her my opinion that pursuing therapy upon feeling lack of connection indicates motivation to gain connection, which I believe demonstrates very good parenting.

Even just normalizing for Jane that lack of connection is common, and due to postpartum depression, helped Jane to feel less like a failure and lifted some of the guilt that she felt. We discussed ways to help her feel more connected to her baby, such as being playful, making a lot of eye contact, talking with him even though he can’t yet understand, etc.

Jane was overwhelmed with the tasks of parenting. She was a stay at home mom who had a husband who worked full time out of the home, and family members who lived far away and couldn’t be of help. She was reluctant to get a babysitter due to finances. We discussed the importance of self-care, brainstormed ways that she could get a break during the day and ways she could get a babysitter without breaking the bank.

Jane wasn’t sleeping because her baby would frequently wake up during the night. She was also so anxious that her thoughts would keep her up. She described thoughts such as whether her older child felt ignored, or about all the things she was doing wrong in motherhood. I worked with her on reframing some of these negative thoughts, and we practiced together techniques for calming her body down when her mind spirals. I encouraged her to nap when her baby naps, and I educated her on newborn sleep best practices so that her baby would sleep better during the nighttime hours. When she explained about feeling unappreciated by her husband, we discussed and roleplayed ways in which she could more effectively communicate with him.

Being a new mom can feel beyond overwhelming which can make even the smallest task seem difficult. My overall goal when working with Jane was to help her feel supported and less overwhelmed.

anxiety and motherhood

Still struggling to cope with mom anxiety? I’m here to help. 

Motherhood and anxiety many times go hand in hand, but they don’t have to. Research shows that therapy can help. Worried mom syndrome does not have to rule your life any longer.

My approach to therapy is collaborative. I believe that the people I work with are the experts of their experiences. That being said however, I am kind but straightforward. I tell it like it is but in a compassionate way meant to help you feel better and make lasting changes. I support moms of all walks of life, whether that be new moms, or moms of older children. In therapy with me you’ll learn ways to cope with your anxious feelings. We can work together to get to the root of it, and come up with goals specific to your unique situation.

If you are struggling, remember that it doesn’t have to be this hard. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me for a free 15-minute therapy consultation to explore if therapy with me is a good fit for you.

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