Never is there such a rollercoaster of emotion than in early motherhood.
One moment we can be immersed in absolute wonderment, and the next we're overtaken by a wave of… overwhelm. When we're tired, it can feel harder to ground, calm and reassure ourselves as feelings come and go.
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As a mum-of-three, and a psychotherapist, I have had plenty of experiences of navigating the huge variety of motherhood emotions with my clients, and more often with myself, on a tired Wednesday afternoon when it feels that everyone wants a piece of me, yet I have only dregs!
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In my new book, The Little Book of Calm for New Mums: grounding words for the highs, the lows and the moments in-between, you’ll find words of support for many emotions that all new mums face.
Here are ten of the most common new mum emotions and experiences, with a top tip of tried and tested advice on how to handle them…
Know this for sure: anxiety distorts any statistics you might read on a midnight Google scroll, leaving you fearing the worst with an almost certain confidence that it is going to happen to you.
Remind yourself that someone else’s experience or story doesn’t dictate your outcome. So when your mind rushes to play the 'what if' game, halt the spiral of thoughts in their tracks by counting back from 100 in threes!
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Baby blues are a wave of low mood and mild depression that comes shortly after having your baby. It can be triggered by low energy levels and the huge hormonal shifts happening in your body.
Please be gentle on yourself. Whether you've had your first or fifth baby, your life has changed overnight. Monitor your moods, and if the fleeting baby blues turn into lingering grey clouds, seek support from a midwife or doctor.
Comparison can motivate us to seek new experiences and improve aspects of our ability or personality. However, it can also give our self-esteem a hit. Become aware of those times you are comparing yourself to others. Remember that we all have different behind-the-scenes realities.
After years of being a therapist, the one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that everyone has their battles to fight, their insecurities and their challenges. Remembering this can help take some of the self-destructive power out of comparison.
The Little of Calm for New Mums, £11.04, Amazon
Feeling like a burden
So many of us find it easier to support others than to ask for or accept support ourselves. Challenging the fear of being a burden on others can be life-changing. We want to teach our children that they, too, are worthy of support, and nothing is more powerful than modeling this.
Remind yourself that friendships ebb and flow. Sometimes one person needs more support than the other, and then things will switch again! This is your time and your turn to be supported as you navigate new motherhood.
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The most important thing to remember about mum guilt is that it's there as a little red flag to prompt you to do something. It might be prompting you to seek some support, meet a need, find a new tip or tool to help yourself when you come up against the same challenge next time. When we use feelings of guilt like a stick with which to beat ourselves up, we negatively affect our confidence and wellbeing.
Next time you feel guilty, how might you tweak, change or equip yourself with something, and then, knowing that the guilt has served its purpose, let it go?
Despite being exhausted, it is so common for new mums to find that once their baby is sound asleep, they can't fall asleep themselves. Often when we're tired, we can add so much more pressure onto our opportunities to sleep.
One of my favourite tips is to remind myself that all rest is good, helpful and productive, even if it's not sleep.
Use a simple breathing technique such as inhaling for four and exhaling for seven to calm any adrenaline or stress. Then encourage yourself to try and enjoy this calm, quiet, restful time. Removing the pressure to sleep can actually usher it in!
Author and psychotherapist Anna Mathur
Overwhelm hits when we have to repeatedly push past the limits of our resources. Perhaps it's the need to keep moving through your day despite exhaustion, or feeding your baby when you yourself could do with a big meal. Maybe it's the times you have to look after your baby when you're unwell and would benefit from a day in bed.
When you're feeling overwhelmed, consider what on your to-do list you can delay, delegate or delete! You really can't do it all, and when you’re feeling overwhelmed, now is the time to see what you can take off your plate.
Crying itself is a productive, healing release. It’s a way of letting go of something that is being held in, whether you can label or name the feeling or not. Our reaction is often to hold tears back or apologise for them, but by letting them go, you welcome a release of happy hormones.
If you feel alone, consider calling someone who has historically been kind and supportive. If you find yourself feeling tearful a lot, monitor it and seek support if needed.
Never have I been on the receiving end of so much advice than when I became a mother! Advice from passers-by, advice from friends, advice fed by algorithms on news feeds. When it all feels a little overwhelming, remember that just because something works for someone else and their baby, it doesn't mean it's right for you.
Turn your attention to your gut feeling and see if it aligns with the advice you've been given. If it's not for you, it doesn't automatically mean you're doing something wrong. It’s because you're doing it your way.
I think we place a lot of pressure on ourselves to know what we're doing the moment we step into motherhood.
Isn't it an immense amount of pressure to be putting on ourselves when you consider how you'd feel stepping into a new work role you’d never done, in an industry you’d never worked in? You'd acknowledge that you would need to learn on the job, lean on the experiences of others and ask lots of questions as you grew in confidence.
Motherhood is exactly the same. Each baby I've had has brought with it different needs and characteristics for me to get to grips with. Remind yourself that we grow as we go. It takes time to learn the ropes, and it’s a kind thing to do to give yourself breathing space to learn on the job. Most of all, try to approach your feelings with the kindness and compassion you offer a friend.
Feelings aren't facts, they are simply emotions that move through us, changing in intensity and shape. It can be so easy to want to change, analyse, judge or dismiss them entirely.
As we gain clarity on our emotions, we grow in confidence in knowing that they will pass through us, and what feels intense right now will soften in time. If you are struggling in any way or feel like certain emotions just get 'stuck', please do seek support by contacting a trusted friend or professional.
The Little Book of Calm for New Mums by Anna Mathur, Penguin Life, publishing 26 May (£12.99)
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