After the excitement of bringing home your new baby begins to fade into long days (and nights!) of feedings and diaper changes, it isn’t uncommon for new mothers to experience the highest highs…but also the lowest lows. While it’s an amazing season of life, it can also be tiring and downright emotional.
And while some days we know it can feel next to impossible to put your own needs first, finding ways to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with a newborn is important. Not only for your mental and physical health, mama—but for your baby’s well-being too. While there’s never a one-size-fits-all way to tackle all of the different emotions you’ll experience after baby, here are a few simple things you can try to help reduce feelings of postpartum stress and anxiety.
Move Your Body
We completely recognize that as a new mama, you’re exhausted—not to mention busy caring for baby all day long—and that adding exercise to your daily activities simply might not feel realistic. However, moving your body after your doctor clears you for physical activity—even in the smallest ways—can help you to work through some of the stressful feelings of motherhood and also create the feel-good endorphins that trigger positive emotions in your body.
We’re not suggesting that you should train to run a marathon (that is, of course, unless you want to!). Start slow, and ease in when you find time—even a few squats while rocking baby, or some push-ups during naptime are a great way to start getting back in touch with your body. And as you get the hang of motherhood and begin to find a routine that works for you and baby, you may start to find yourself with more time for other types of exercise that makes you feel good—like taking a walk outside, practicing yoga or doing a workout video.
Get Enough Sleep
We know that getting enough sleep during the newborn phase can feel next to impossible most days—and long, tiring nights. But doing your best to get enough rest (whenever baby allows it) can truly do wonders for your mental state. Sleep deprivation can cause low-energy, crankiness and irritability, and can heighten feelings of stress and anxiety—things that can make the long days of parenthood feel even longer and more difficult.
While we know you have a lot on your plate as a new mom, do your best to lay down and get some shut-eye when your baby sleeps. Give yourself permission to nap instead of folding the laundry or washing dishes at naptime. Turn off the TV at night and go to bed early! And while it might feel outside of your comfort zone—put your pride aside and Ask. For. Help. Ask your partner, a friend or a family member to come over and snuggle with baby while you take a 30-minute nap—trust us, they’ll be happy to help, and you’ll wake up feeling thankful for some uninterrupted rest.
Take Care of Your Hygiene
It’s easy to forget simple hygienic tasks when you’re a brand new mom. You might ask yourself questions like “when is the last time I showered?” or “did I brush my teeth today?” more often than you’d care to admit But you’ll be amazed at how much routine self care like a hot shower and clean teeth can provide a mood boost like no other.
Fill Your Own Cup
When you fly on an airline, the safety instructions recommend putting your own oxygen mask on before assisting others. The motherhood manual (if it existed) would say the same. Carving out time to do things that you enjoy outside of your role as a mother is incredibly important (and fulfilling). Spend a few minutes to read a book, listen to a podcast, watch your favorite movie or do a hobby you enjoy whenever possible.
If the stress or anxiety of parenthood feels overwhelming in the moment—give your baby to your partner or place them in a safe space (like their crib). Step away and take a moment to stop, take a few deep breaths, and calm your mind. Remind yourself that you’re doing an amazing job (because, mama—you really are), and that the difficult moments will pass. You’ve got this!
While many new mothers experience some mood changes after giving birth, 15–20% experience more significant symptoms. If you have feelings of anger, sadness, change in appetite, guilt, lack of interest in the baby, hopelessness, extreme worries/fears, or the feeling of losing control, contact your doctor. Postpartum depression and anxiety occur in many new mothers, and there are a number of successful treatment options. Visit our health library for more information postpartum depression.
Remember—you are not alone, and we’re here to help!