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Episode 23: Navigating Motherhood Anxiety

Updated: 4 days ago


Woman picking at nails
Mom with anxiety


Intro: 

Welcome to the "Wellness in Every Season" podcast, where we embark on a transformative journey towards achieving total wellness, even in the midst of overwhelming moments. I'm your host, Autumn Carter, and I'm thrilled to have you here.


This podcast is a sanctuary for all mothers out there, and we extend a warm invitation to anyone seeking guidance and inspiration. We believe in fostering an inclusive community where we learn and grow together, supporting each other during life's challenging transitions.


Join us as we step out of survival mode and discover the path to thriving, embracing wellness in every season of motherhood. From sleepless nights to new beginnings, we'll explore practical strategies, share heartfelt stories, and uncover the transformative power of self-care and self-love.


Together, we'll unlock the wisdom, strength, and resilience within ourselves, reminding one another that we're never alone on this beautiful, yet demanding, journey. It's time to prioritize your well-being and reclaim your joy, one season at a time.


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EPISODE INTRO

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Hello, wellness wanderers, and welcome back. This is episode 23 of Wellness in Every Season. I'm your host, Autumn Carter, here to guide you on our shared journey toward holistic well-being, no matter the season of life we find ourselves in.


In today's episode, titled "Navigating Motherhood Anxiety: Self-Care, Mindfulness, and Healthy Coping Strategies", we're going to delve into an all too common but often misunderstood facet of motherhood: anxiety. If you've ever felt a knot of worry in your stomach or a rush of adrenaline at the thought of managing your children's needs, daily chores, work, and your own self-care, know that you are not alone.


Motherhood is beautiful, but it can also be a source of anxiety and stress, which, left unchecked, can spill over into other aspects of our lives. We'll discuss what anxiety looks like in the context of motherhood and how it's a part of our shared human experience.


And don't worry, it's not all going to be about the challenges. We're also going to talk about strategies for managing anxiety healthily and effectively. We'll delve into unhealthy coping mechanisms like avoidance, suppression, and even dissociation, examining how they work, their effects, and how we can transition towards healthier alternatives.


I'll guide you through incorporating self-care into your routine, even when it seems impossible. We'll explore how you can weave it seamlessly into your day, especially during summer when the kids are home, and the usual routines may not apply.


We're also going to address a darker aspect of anxiety management: substance abuse. It's a tough topic, but one we need to face head-on to understand its implications and the steps to seek help if necessary.


And, wellness wanderers, I'm thrilled to share a beautiful mindfulness practice with you, tailored specifically for the anxious moments in motherhood. By the end of this episode, you'll have this practice in your toolkit, ready to ground you when the waves of anxiety roll in.


So join me, as we journey into understanding anxiety, motherhood, and the myriad ways we can nurture our well-being amidst the beautiful chaos of raising our little ones. It's going to be a journey of discovery, self-compassion, and empowerment.


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Key point #1:

Anxiety, that knot in your stomach or racing of your heart, is a natural part of life. It's a feeling we all have when we're unsure or worried about what's to come. But when it's intense and frequent, it can feel overwhelming and start to interfere with our daily lives.


Being a mom adds a new dimension to anxiety. One minute, you're cradling your newborn, awed by their tiny fingers and toes. The next minute, you're kept awake by worries about their health, wellbeing, or future. These worries can often feel magnified because of the intense love you have for your child and the immense responsibility you feel. This kind of concern is often called "mom anxiety," and it's something many mothers experience.


It's perfectly normal to worry as a mom. After all, your heart is walking around outside your body now. But, it's important to recognize when this anxiety becomes too much, when it keeps you up at night or prevents you from enjoying the special moments of motherhood.


If you notice that your worries and fears are taking up more space in your life than you'd like for longer than a couple of weeks, it's okay to seek help. It doesn't mean you're not a fantastic mom. In fact, it's a sign of strength, showing your deep care for your wellbeing and your child's. Seeking help can come in many forms, from opening up to a loved one, to attending therapy, talking to a life coach for moms, to practicing self-care routines, or even medication if needed.


Life is full of ebbs and flows, ups and downs, and motherhood is no exception. It's a journey, an adventure filled with laughter and tears, triumphs, and challenges. And throughout this journey, remember that it's okay to ask for help when you need it. You're not alone, and there are many resources available to you.


Your experience with anxiety is uniquely yours, and it's important to listen to what your feelings are telling you. If anxiety is causing distress or making it difficult for you to function, don't hesitate to reach out for help. You are the heart of your family, and taking care of yourself is one of the best things you can do for your loved ones. Remember, you're doing a great job, and it's okay to seek support when you need it.


Key point #2:

Listening to your anxiety involves paying close attention to your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. It's about trying to understand what your anxiety might be signaling about your needs or concerns. Here are a few steps to help you get started:


Start by acknowledging your feelings without judgment. Anxiety can often feel uncomfortable, and our natural reaction might be to avoid or ignore it. But try to give yourself permission to feel anxious. Notice where you feel anxiety in your body. Is your heart racing? Are your palms sweaty?


Ask yourself, what's causing this anxiety? Are you worried about your child's health or safety? Are you feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities? Are you not getting enough rest or self-care? Are you feeling pressured to be a 'perfect' mom? Your anxiety might be a signal that something in your life needs to be addressed.


Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be a helpful tool in understanding your anxiety. You can keep an "anxiety journal" where you note what you were doing when you felt anxious, what you think might have triggered it, and how you reacted. Over time, you might begin to see patterns.


These techniques can help you stay present and focused, making it easier to observe your thoughts and feelings without getting swept away by them. This can also help you better understand the messages your anxiety might be sending you.


Sometimes, it's hard to make sense of our feelings by ourselves. A mental health professional can provide valuable insights and help you navigate your anxiety. Don't hesitate to reach out for help if you're feeling overwhelmed.


Once you have a better understanding of what your anxiety is telling you, consider what steps you can take to address these issues. That might mean setting boundaries, asking for help, carving out time for self-care, or seeking professional treatment.


Remember, it's completely okay to feel anxious as a mom. It doesn't make you any less loving or capable. Your feelings are valid, and they deserve to be heard. By listening to your anxiety and understanding its triggers, you can take steps to manage it effectively and enjoy the beautiful, albeit challenging, journey of motherhood.


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Segment: Mindfulness Practice:

Now it is time for our mindfulness practice. Find a quiet, comfortable space where you can sit undisturbed for a few minutes. Settle into a comfortable position. You may choose to close your eyes, or you can keep them open with a soft gaze on a fixed point.


Begin by taking three deep breaths, inhaling slowly through your nose and exhaling gently through your mouth. As you do this, focus on the sensation of the breath entering your body, filling your lungs, and then leaving your body. This anchors you in the present moment.


Move your attention through your body, starting from your toes and moving up to your head. Note any areas of tension, discomfort, or ease. Don't try to change anything; just notice the sensations without judgment, thereby connecting with your physical presence.


Now, bring your attention to your role as a mother. Allow any feelings or thoughts about motherhood to arise, including those related to anxiety. Silently acknowledge, "Yes, being a mother sometimes brings anxiety and that's okay. It's a part of this journey."


Next, if you're feeling anxious about a particular situation, gently bring it to your mind. Visualize yourself going through the scenario, acknowledging what could go wrong. Then, picture yourself handling these challenges with grace and resilience. As you walk through this in your mind, you're preparing yourself to better manage these situations when or if they happen.


Imagine incorporating self-care into your daily routine. Visualize enjoying a few minutes of solitude with a book, taking a mindful walk, or savoring a cup of tea. Remind yourself that you are deserving of these moments of care.


Acknowledge any unhealthy coping mechanisms you may have used in the past, such as avoidance, suppression, or dissociation. Visualize these as objects in your hands, and with an exhale, imagine gently releasing them, letting them float away.


Return your focus back to your breath. With each inhale, visualize breathing in strength and resilience. With each exhale, imagine letting go of anxiety and stress. Remind yourself of your ability to navigate the complexities of motherhood and the steps you're taking to nurture your well-being.


After a few rounds of this, take one final deep breath, savoring the feeling of calm and presence. When you're ready, open your eyes slowly, bringing this sense of mindfulness into the rest of your day.


Mindfulness is a practice, and it's completely okay if your mind wanders or if you encounter difficult emotions during this exercise. The goal is not to empty your mind, but to be present with whatever comes up, meeting yourself with compassion and understanding.


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Key point #3:

While everyone may have different methods of coping with anxiety, some strategies can be counterproductive or even harmful. Here are some examples of negative ways people sometimes use to manage or prevent anxiety:


**Substance Use**: Some individuals may turn to alcohol, nicotine, or drugs in an attempt to manage their anxiety. These substances might provide temporary relief but they often exacerbate anxiety symptoms in the long run and can lead to addiction.


**Avoidance**: People often avoid situations or activities that make them feel anxious. While this may provide short-term relief, avoidance can reinforce the anxiety over time and limit your ability to fully participate in life.


**Overworking or Over-activity**: Some people may immerse themselves excessively in work or activities to distract themselves from their anxious feelings. This can lead to burnout and neglect of important areas of life like health, relationships, and self-care.


**Neglecting Self-Care**: Neglecting healthy habits like regular exercise, good nutrition, adequate sleep, and relaxation or leisure time can worsen anxiety symptoms.


**Suppression**: Trying to suppress or ignore anxious thoughts often leads to increased anxiety. This is known as the "rebound effect."


**Self-Criticism**: Criticizing oneself for feeling anxious can lead to feelings of shame and increased anxiety. This cycle can be harmful and counterproductive.


**Unhealthy Food Habits**: Some people may resort to overeating, particularly comfort food, or under-eating when they're anxious. Both can lead to physical health issues and don't address the root cause of the anxiety.


**Dissociation**: This is a mental process where a person disconnects from their thoughts, feelings, memories or sense of identity. People often use this as a psychological escape from their anxiety or stress. Frequent or severe dissociation can interfere with daily functioning and might indicate a more serious mental health issue.


Remember, if you're feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, it's okay to seek help from a mental health professional. They can provide you with healthier strategies and tools to cope with and manage anxiety effectively. You don't have to deal with this alone, and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.




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Key point #4:

When we experience intense feelings of anxiety or stress, our minds sometimes use methods like avoidance, suppression, and dissociation to protect us. During these moments, it might feel as if you're zoning out or observing yourself from an outsider's perspective. This protective barrier created by your mind, a phenomenon known as dissociation, can provide a temporary refuge from the overwhelming reality. However, like avoidance where we dodge anxiety-inducing situations, or suppression where we push down our anxious feelings, dissociation can keep us from confronting and managing these stressors, offering only short-term relief while the underlying triggers remain unaddressed.


If you find yourself in a state of dissociation and wish to return to the present, some grounding techniques can be helpful. Engage your senses and identify objects around you, focusing on what you can see, touch, hear, smell, and taste. This act of sensory awareness can reconnect you to your surroundings and the present moment. Alongside this, concentrate on your breath, taking slow, deep inhalations through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. As you feel your chest rise and fall with each breath, it can anchor you back into the present. Also, consider engaging your body. Whether it's stretching, going for a walk, or doing some light exercise, focusing on your bodily sensations and movements can bring you back to the here and now.


To prevent dissociation and manage anxiety over the long term, self-care and stress management are crucial. Spend time on activities that relax you and bring you joy, such as listening to music, reading a book, or simply enjoying a warm bath. Incorporating stress management techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga into your daily routine can also be beneficial. Sharing your feelings with trusted friends or family, if you're comfortable doing so, can provide relief as well.


Consistency in your daily routine can create a sense of stability and lessen stress. Having regular mealtimes, maintaining a steady sleep schedule, and setting fixed times for activities can keep dissociation in check. However, if dissociation starts to interfere with your everyday life, it's important to seek professional help. Therapists or counselors can provide valuable guidance tailored to your needs and help you navigate these experiences.


Navigating anxiety and stress requires patience and kindness towards yourself. It takes time to learn new coping mechanisms and to let go of unhelpful ones. Remember, you're doing your best, and that's the most important thing.


[Music]

Lifehack segment:

Today, I have a summer self-care lifehack for all the busy moms out there trying to juggle kids, work, home, and everything in between. This isn't about adding more to your plate; it's about integrating self-care into the routine you already have. And remember, wellness wanderers, self-care isn't selfish, it's necessary.


So here it goes, our Summer Self-Care Lifehack:


**Claim the quiet hours:** Early mornings or late evenings, when the house is still, make for perfect 'me' time. Even if it's just a peaceful coffee break or a few pages of your favorite book, it's your time to recharge.


**Walk and wonder:** Use your children's natural curiosity to your advantage. Take them for walks in the park or by the beach. While they explore, you can breathe in the tranquility of nature and even sneak in a little workout.


**Picnic with a purpose:** Plan a picnic, be it at a local park or your backyard. It's a thrill for the kids and a perfect chance for you to unwind under the sky.


**Home Spa Sessions:** Seize naptime or playtime to indulge in a relaxing bath, a rejuvenating face mask, or a DIY pedicure.


**Mindful Moments:** Find a calm spot, close your eyes, and visualize a serene place. A few minutes in this peaceful oasis can reset your mind. I use my safe space that I came up with help from my trauma therapist.


**Snack Right:** Prepare healthy snacks, for both you and the kids. Opt for nourishing choices that keep energy levels high throughout your day. Think whole fruits and veggies.


**Family Fitness:** Turn workout time into family time. Host a dance-off, initiate a friendly sports match, or pick a fun exercise video to do together.


**Creative Crafting:** Dive into an activity you love—painting, gardening, crafting—and involve the kids. It keeps them busy and gives you a moment of joy.


**Hydration Celebration:** Make a game out of staying hydrated. Set daily water goals with your kids and celebrate when you hit them.


**Gratitude Journal:** Spend a few minutes each day jotting down your thoughts or things you're grateful for. It's a wonderful wind-down ritual. I have a free gratitude journal guide on my website under resources.


**Breathe Together:** Teach your kids simple breathing exercises. They'll see it as a fun game; you'll get a moment of mindfulness.


And there you have it, a set of simple, doable self-care hacks for the busy summer ahead. Remember, wellness wanderers, it's about discovering what rejuvenates you and making space for it. After all, you can't pour from an empty cup.

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Key point #5:

It's indeed all too common for mothers, especially new moms, to put self-care on the back burner. When you're juggling the demands of taking care of a child, working, managing a household, and trying to keep up with social obligations, it's easy to forget to care for yourself. But self-care isn't a luxury—it's a necessity. It’s important to remember that you can't pour from an empty cup; taking care of yourself allows you to better care for those around you.


Adding self-care back into your life doesn't need to be overwhelming or time-consuming. Start small and gradually introduce changes into your daily routine. Here are some suggestions:


**Prioritize Rest**: Sleep is often one of the first things that gets sacrificed when you're busy, but it's crucial for physical and mental health. Aim for consistent sleep schedules and create a calming bedtime routine to signal to your body that it's time to rest. I will have a podcast episode on this in a little over a month.


**Healthy Eating**: Provide your body with the nourishment it needs. Try to incorporate more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your meals. Meal prep on weekends can make it easier to eat healthily during the week. I am working to get a nutritionist on the podcast to talk about this.


**Physical Activity**: Find a form of exercise you enjoy, whether it's yoga, walking, or dancing. Start with a few minutes a day and gradually increase. Remember, the goal is regular movement, not perfection.


**Mindful Moments**: Try to carve out a few minutes each day just for yourself, where you can breathe, meditate, read a book, or simply sit in silence. This small pause can refresh your mind and reduce stress.


**Stay Hydrated**: This simple act is often overlooked. Keep a bottle of water nearby to remind yourself to drink regularly.


**Stay Connected**: Keep in touch with friends and family. Social connections are important for mental health. Don’t hesitate to share your feelings or ask for help when you need it.


**Learn to Say No**: It's okay to turn down extra responsibilities that you can't take on. Setting boundaries is a crucial part of self-care.


The key to making self-care a habit is to make it part of your daily routine. At first, it may feel like a chore, but with time, it will become a natural part of your life. Choose one or two self-care activities to start with, and once they're a part of your routine, consider adding more.


Above all, remember that taking care of yourself is not selfish—it's a necessary act of love towards yourself that also benefits those around you. You are just as deserving of care and attention as the loved ones you care for.


Key point #6:

Substance abuse is unfortunately a common but destructive way some people try to cope with anxiety. The temporary relief offered by alcohol, drugs, or other substances might feel like a solution, but they often exacerbate anxiety and can lead to a host of other physical, emotional, and social problems.


When substances are used as a crutch for managing anxiety, a dangerous cycle begins. The substances might initially mask the feelings of anxiety, providing a brief period of relief. However, as their effects wear off, anxiety often returns, often at even higher levels than before. This can lead to increased use of the substance, and eventually, dependency.


If you or someone you know is using substances to manage anxiety, it's important to take steps towards healthier coping mechanisms. Here's what you can do:


**Seek Professional Help**: Reach out to a healthcare or mental health professional. They can provide guidance, resources, and treatment plans that can help address both the anxiety and the substance use. This might include therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, which is highly effective for treating anxiety disorders, or medications if deemed necessary.


**Reach out to Support Groups**: There are numerous support groups available, both in-person and online, for individuals grappling with substance abuse and anxiety. Connecting with others who are going through similar experiences can provide comfort, reduce feelings of isolation, and offer practical advice.


**Learn Healthy Coping Mechanisms**: This might include mindfulness, meditation, regular physical exercise, balanced nutrition, or a consistent sleep schedule.


**Stay Connected**: Maintaining relationships with supportive friends and family can make a significant difference. They can provide emotional support, encouragement, and assistance in making necessary lifestyle changes.


Remember, overcoming substance abuse and effectively managing anxiety is not a journey that needs to be taken alone. There is help available, and reaching out is the first step towards regaining control over your life and your health. Don't hesitate to seek the support you need and deserve.



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Segment: Coaching Questions

Here are some coaching questions that can help guide a discussion around the topics we've touched upon:


1. What does self-care mean to you, and how do you perceive its role in your life?

2. Can you share the current self-care practices that you have in place? Which aspects of these practices do you find most challenging?

3. How do you think incorporating self-care into your routine would affect your relationship with your family, especially your children?

4. What is one small, manageable change you could make today to prioritize your self-care?

5. Can you think of any creative ways to combine your self-care practices with caring for your children or spending time with them?

6. Have you ever noticed moments where you might be using unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as avoidance, suppression, or dissociation, to handle anxiety?

7. How do you typically respond when you notice feelings of anxiety, stress, or overwhelm?

8. If you've experienced moments of dissociation, what are some grounding techniques you've found helpful, or might be willing to try?

9. If applicable, have you ever felt that your use of substances is linked to your anxiety levels? If so, can you describe these instances?

10. What kind of support do you feel you need right now to help you better manage anxiety and prioritize self-care?

These open-ended questions can facilitate a deep and introspective conversation, helping to identify areas of growth, potential strategies, and next steps for improving anxiety management and self-care routines.


CLOSING REMARKS & EPISODE SUMMARY

Episode summary:

We've covered a lot of ground today, wellness wanderers. We've looked into the face of motherhood anxiety, uncovering the signs and discussing common but not-so-healthy coping mechanisms. We've also explored strategies for integrating self-care into your routine, even in the hustle and bustle of summertime with kids underfoot. I hope the mindfulness practice we shared will serve as a comforting tool for those challenging moments.

Remember, your journey to wellness is not a race. It's okay to take small steps, and it's absolutely okay to have tough days. The important part is to keep moving, keep exploring, and keep being kind to yourself.

Looking ahead, I'm excited about our topic for next week: we'll be discussing what ADHD looks like in most moms and exploring strategies to help. It's going to be another illuminating conversation that you won't want to miss.

Until then, wellness wanderers, keep shining, keep exploring, and remember, there's wellness to be found in every season of life.


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Outro:

Thank you for joining us on this week's refreshing wellness discussion. I'm Autumn Carter, your guide through the seasons of motherhood, and I hope you found inspiration and valuable insights during our time together.


If you resonate with the topics we explored today and want to continue your wellness journey, I invite you to follow me on Instagram at Moms Wellness in Every Season. There, you'll discover a wealth of ongoing wellness tips specifically curated for moms like you.


Sharing our podcast with others is an act of caring, and I invite you to spread the word by sharing, subscribing, and leaving a review wherever you enjoy your podcasts. Your support is deeply valuable to us and enables us to reach more mothers who are seeking transformation and empowerment.


If you have a specific topic you'd like us to cover in more detail or if you're interested in a free coaching consultation, don't hesitate to reach out. You can send me a direct message on Instagram or visit my website, wellnessineveryseason.com, to send an email. I'm here to support you on your wellness journey.


Thank you again for being a part of our vibrant community. I'm genuinely excited to connect with you, hear your stories, and continue this important discussion in the weeks to come.


Until next time, remember to prioritize your well-being, embrace every season with grace, and always strive for wellness in every aspect of your motherhood journey. Take care, and I can't wait to catch up with you soon.



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