Recognizing Postpartum Anxiety: Common Symptoms and How to Seek Help

When your baby cries in public, do you immediately focus on the eyes around you? Do you think people judge you for being a “bad” mother? Do you feel more fear for your child than joy?

You may be experiencing postpartum anxiety, a close cousin of postpartum depression. Once family and friends start gushing over the new baby and how exciting of a time this is, it can quickly induce a sense of guilt for not being upbeat and grateful every moment of every day.

Know that you have nothing to feel guilty for, and most importantly, you are not alone.

How Common is Postpartum Anxiety?

According to the American Pregnancy Association, 10% of new mothers are affected by postpartum anxiety, and many more go undiagnosed. If left untreated, postpartum anxiety can turn into a lifelong battle with anxiety.

However, feeling some anxiety is understandable. An unfamiliar part of your identity is forming—you are a protector now. Of course, some anxiety is going to come with this new, very real responsibility, but when it gets in the way of your happiness and productivity, it could be time to dig deeper.

What Are The Potential Triggers?

25-35% of postpartum anxiety cases begin during pregnancy, but most occur anytime between birth and the child’s first birthday. For some, weaning off of breastfeeding can cause out-of-control anxiety. For others, the feelings of edginess after giving birth never seems to cease, and for good reason.

Pregnancy kick-starts a huge hormonal uptick in us. Within 24 hours of giving birth, those hormone levels drop back down to close to zero. For anyone, this would require some change to regain a sense of normalcy.

What Symptoms Should I Look For?

Mental Symptoms

In general, anxiety disorders are characterized by new feelings of excessive worry, spiraling thoughts, and overall dread. You may feel hyper-vigilant, always on edge, and ready for disaster to strike at any moment. If you lost a sense of normalcy that used to be characterized by routine, calmness, and balance, counseling can help you get back on your feet.

Physical Symptoms

Anxiety manifests itself in both mental and physical ways. Physically, it can show as hot flashes, unexplained dizziness, difficulty sleeping (whether having trouble falling or staying asleep), rapid heartbeat, or unexplained nausea. If you struggle with some or all of these symptoms, it may be time to seek professional help.

How Can I Get Help?

Once the baby arrives, everything changes—chaotic sleeping schedules, extra amounts of responsibility, new relationship expectations… The list of anxiety-inducing adjustments goes on.

So what can you do? Well, you can count on a combination of support from loved ones as well as therapy. Postpartum lifestyles can lead to feelings of loneliness. Hiding away from friends and family with nothing to listen to but your own intrusive thoughts will only lead to more anxiety.

Talk to someone to lighten the load. Understand that you are allowed to vent about your new lifestyle. After all, it is stressful!

Learn to ask for a break from baby duties—they say it takes a village to raise a child, and it is never too late to start building yours.

Work to change irrational thinking patterns. As a new mother, you are going to feel deep concern for your baby. However, anxiety can fill our minds with fears that are irrational and less-than-helpful to consider. Working with a therapist can help you break down thought patterns that lead to unproductive spirals—does green poop mean your baby is deathly ill, or is that just what baby poop looks like sometimes?

Try to fit relaxation techniques into your day, like meditation or mindfulness training. Exercise can help ease anxiety, too, and both will contribute toward a better night’s sleep.

Overall, remember that taking care of yourself is taking care of your baby. It is not selfish or weak to seek help—it is responsible and mature of you to do so. Once you are ready to take the next step at beating postpartum anxiety, reach out to one of our counselors.

Signs Your Teen Might Be Anxious About Returning to School—What to Do About It

Change can cause anyone to feel more anxiety than usual, but change while your body experiences dramatic hormonal growth? A perfect storm.

As summer draws to a close, parents may notice that their bright and bubbly teen is spending more time in their bedroom, avoiding summer practices, and growing more irritable by the minute. While return-to-school anxiety is real for many students every year, it should not impede their social and mental health.

Let’s go over how you can best support your teen this school year, and how the pandemic may contribute to their anxiety.

Early Signs of Anxiety

Think back to pre-pandemic times. Did your child make a habit of missing class because of stress? While a mental health day is important now and then, once it becomes the only way to de-stress from school, it is time to intervene.

Early signs can also look like repeated visits to the school nurse or calls and texts asking to leave early. All these stressors may be enhanced under the haze of COVID-19.

What Do We Consider “Normal” Anxiety Now?

Remember that anxiety is a normal human emotion, just like sadness, excitement, and annoyance. It is particularly useful for identifying threats in our environment, as well as risks before making tough calls. Anxiety keeps us safe by nature.

However, it becomes problematic when our fear level becomes higher than the threat in the environment.

But let’s be clear: the nature of this pandemic shifted our understanding of what “normal” and “harmful” amounts of anxiety look like. Anxiety becomes harmful for teens when they experience…

  • Lower grades
  • Less time spent with friends
  • Lower school attendance
  • Unexplained headaches or stomach aches

Our trained counselors can help teens cope with school-related anxiety if at-home efforts do not seem to be enough.

Ways To Best Support Your Teen At Home

Have a Positive COVID-19 Test Plan

If your child is afraid of testing positive, do not promise them a future that is out of your control. Instead, come up with a plan together to feel as prepared as you can. This will ease more of their anxiety than ignoring their concern altogether.

The CDC is a great resource for staying up-to-date on COVID precautions and protocol. You should also reach out to your school about their plan for positive COVID-19 cases.

Be A Steady and Predictable Element in Their Life

Before the pandemic, did you pack them the same lunch every day? Toss in a handwritten motivational note? Whip up breakfast on test days? Ask yourself what routines worked pre-pandemic and re-establish the most successful ones.

In addition, try to provide a consistent and non-judgemental listening ear. A lot of a person’s anxiety can clear up just by knowing someone is always there to talk to when things become too much.

Work Collaboratively

Empower your teen and their ability to problem-solve by asking them guided questions, like…

  • How much do you feel capable of doing right now?
  • How can I support you?
  • Is there anyone else you want help from?
  • How can we make going back to school easier?

Remember that children are resilient and adaptable by nature, and it is our job to highlight how to self-regulate anxiety. Consider admitting any time you feel anxious yourself. You could say, “This day wiped me out. Want to go on a walk through the Metropark?”

With the right modeling and messaging from parents, teens can overcome their anxiety and reap the benefits of in-person schooling again. If the constant worry ever becomes debilitating for your child, trust that our counselors can help. Make an appointment today and together, we can get back on track.