If you have postpartum anxiety, getting through each night is challenging. This is the time when your anxious thoughts start to get out of control, and your mind cannot slow down enough to either get or stay asleep. And when you have a newborn or your baby still isn’t sleeping through the night, sleep is a necessity for you as the mother.
Postpartum anxiety is anxiety that appears during the postpartum period, which is usually up to 1 year postpartum but can extend longer. Your anxiety can take many forms. You can have physical symptoms of panic, such as muscle tightening, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, dizziness, sweating or cold chills, or shaking. You might even have panic attacks, which are acute (short-term but intense) periods of time when you have extreme physical symptoms of anxiety and often feel like you’re having a heart attack.
Your anxiety can also look like having “racing thoughts”, or your mind is always thinking, swirling, and moving so fast that you are unable to relax and take a break. Possibly you’re worrying about what might happen in the future, whether you are doing things with your baby “the right way”, or how to manage your baby’s crying spells. Maybe you’re anxious about breastfeeding or feeling guilty about not breastfeeding.
Regardless of how your postpartum anxiety presents, you’re having trouble getting through the nights. Either you cannot fall asleep despite being physically exhausted, or you can fall asleep but you wake up several times during the night panicking and your mind racing again. Some mothers even wake up very early in the morning and cannot return to sleep despite your baby sleeping.
Here are some tips to help you clear your mind before you go to sleep at night so you can get better rest and manage your postpartum anxiety:
Spend 5-10 minutes every night before you fall asleep getting all of your thoughts or worries out of your mind and into your journal before you fall asleep.
Practice tensing and then relaxing all the muscles in your body progressively, one at a time, spending 5 seconds on each tensing movement and 5 seconds on each relaxing movement
Bringing yourself back into the present will help your mind tear itself away from the future worries. You can think about what you’re doing right now, in the moment, and stay there as long as you can.
Meditation is a more advanced form of mindfulness, and can be challenging. Read our blog on how to get started: A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation. Or choose a guided meditation to listen to that will help relax you.
Engage all of your senses and describe in your mind 5 things you can see; 4 things you can touch; 3 things you can hear; 2 things you can smell; and 1 thing you can taste.
Pick up a book that is light in topic and is pleasurable and relaxing to read.
There are many relaxing yoga poses that help you move your thoughts from your worries and into your body and how your body is feeling.
Taking deep breaths (also called diaphragmatic breathing) and letting them out slowly through your nose can also help you move from your thoughts back into your body.
Visualize yourself, in your mind, relaxing and resting. If you have any tense areas of your body, visualize that area turning to mush or flowing water until you are more relaxed.
This is not an exhaustive list of activities to do at night before falling asleep, and perhaps you’ve found something not on here that works for you. Regardless, I suggest trying ONE of these activities for several nights in a row and see if you notice any difference in your sleep.
You can learn to turn off your thoughts at night so you can get your much-needed rest, but it will take a bit of time and practice. There is no “easy button” for managing your postpartum anxiety. But you can work hard to give yourself a break from your anxiety at night so you can sleep better and have more to work with during the day.
If you’re interested in talking with a caring, experienced postpartum therapist at Catalyss Counseling and you live in Colorado, contact us for a free 20-minute phone consultation. We can help you manage your postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, pregnancy loss, and/or birth trauma.
How We Can Help
We are currently enrolling for our postpartum support group.
Explore your emotions, share daily challenges and feel less alone in motherhood.
For moms up to 1 year postpartum who are ready to go from feeling lonely and overwhelmed to connected and understood.
This group is hosted by Kristen Dammer.
If you are looking for general support, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how we can help you, follow these simple steps:
Contact us today for a free 20-minute phone consultation
Begin your journey towards a calmer, more relaxed life
Other Therapy Services Available at Catalyss Counseling:
Here at Catalyss Counseling, we want to meet all of your counseling needs in the Denver area. Our supportive therapists provide depression counseling, therapy for caregiver stress, grief and loss therapy, stress management counseling and more. We also have specialists in trauma and PTSD, women's issues, pregnancy and postpartum depression or anxiety, pregnancy loss and miscarriage, and birth trauma. For therapists, we can also provide clinical supervision! We look forward to connecting with you to help support your journey today.
Shannon Heers is a psychotherapist, clinical supervisor, guest blogger, and the owner of a group psychotherapy practice in the Denver area. Shannon helps adults in professional careers manage anxiety, depression, work-life balance, and grief and loss. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.