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March 24, 2020
By Nicole Arzt, LMFT
We’re in unprecedented times. The coronavirus is spreading fiercely and many are being advised, or ordered, to stay at home. This pandemic has impacted the entire world; no doubt, we’re all living in a defining moment of history.
New mothers are already juggling the intense emotions associated with parenting. From coping with breastfeeding issues to sleep deprivation to new relationship changes, each day brings new challenges. The coronavirus throws a fierce and seemingly terrifying obstacle in an already difficult arena.
That said, you can protect yourself and your family while staying sane. It is possible to manage your stress. Let’s explore the best tips.
It’s okay to feel scared right now. Most of us are scared! It’s also okay to feel frustrated, confused, or sad. When significant life events happen, they impact our mood and our daily routine. This disruption can make us feel like we’re out of control.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, acceptance is the first step towards managing your stress. When you suppress, minimize, or rationalize your feelings, you discredit them. And if you engage in this pattern repeatedly, you essentially discredit yourself.
You should move away from labeling feelings as “good” or “bad.” Remember, they are just natural reactions to stimuli. Moreover, they aren’t stagnant. They evolve and change as time moves on. Trust that even the most challenging feelings can and do pass.
With most of us quarantining, it’s easy for the hours and days to blur together. If you’re a new mother, you might be used to this fuzzy blending of time. However, research continues to show the benefits of implementing routine and structure. In fact, most modern advice for new parents assumes that a schedule, however flexible, is the key to better sleep and quality of life.
There’s no doubt that the coronavirus does limit some of our usual conveniences. You aren’t spending time with loved ones, eating out at your favorite restaurants, or going shopping. But, as a new mother, you may not have been doing those activities frequently, anyway!
Regardless of the circumstances, consider writing down a routine from wake-up to bedtime. It’s important to remember to schedule in time for yourself.
We can access news from all around the world at any given moment. While some news can be informative, you need to consider your sources. Consider limiting your exposure to reputable organizations like the CDC and the World Health Organization.
Be mindful of social media consumption. The Internet can cultivate a toxic ‘hivemind’ effect, and with everyone talking about the coronavirus, it’s likely to make you feel obsessive as well. Set limits for yourself and do your best to stick with them.
Instead of honing in on the media, focus on how you can make the most of this time. What about extra tummy time with your little one? How about a dance party? What about looking in the garden and teaching your baby about the grass and flowers?
Parenting can be lonely. And while social distancing prohibits most of our daily physical interactions, there’s no need to isolate during this time. New mothers need connection. Humans need connection. Furthermore, we benefit most from our loved ones during vulnerable and uncertain times.
Consider the following suggestions for social connection:
With a baby, you have a perfect excuse to maintain connection. Everyone wants those delicious pictures of your special bundle. They’ll want to know if she’s smiling or crawling or eating solids. Keep family posted, and be sure to send frequent pictures and videos.
Many women struggle with postpartum anxiety after childbirth. Postpartum anxiety includes symptoms of constant worry and panic, feelings of dread about the future, and racing or ntrusive thoughts. It may also include physical symptoms like fatigue, hyperventilation, panic attacks, and nausea.
Postpartum anxiety is hard enough to cope with when life is normal. But when you throw a life-changing pandemic into the mix, it can escalate these symptoms to another level.
A licensed therapist or psychologist can help you with your anxiety. They can teach you strategies for stress management. They can also show you how to challenge and reframe negative thoughts that maintain your anxious feelings.
Moreover, it helps to have a safe and nonjudgmental space to explore your emotions. We all know that parenting is hard. Processing your experience with a supportive and trusted professional offers guidance during this journey.
The world may feel bleak right now. We all have questions, and we don’t know what’s going to happen next. We all need to hang tightly during this time.
Gratitude can help us stay sane and humble. When things start feeling overwhelming, count your blessings. Write them down. Reflect on them. After all, in this scary time, we are all forced to focus on what matters most.
Nicole Arzt is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with nearly a decade of experience treating women's issues related to parenting and family dynamics, complex trauma, and substance use disorders. She is the proud mama of her newborn son.
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