All of a sudden there’s this new tiny life to look after, and there are so many new things to learn and get used to. Even those new parents for whom caring for a baby comes relatively easy can experience times of stress and exhaustion. So stress, at least part of the time, is normal. But ongoing stress that feels overwhelming can lead to postnatal anxiety and depression.
'Weeks went by of me living in a daze where I was forgetful, quickly overwhelmed, exhausted, alone, and generally feeling inadequate.'
Expectations of parenthood can add stress
Many women and men come to parenting with the belief that parenthood will be nothing but joyful, that they will bond with their baby immediately. The depictions of parenthood in the media, in popular culture and in traditions passed down through families often misrepresent a life period that can actually be extremely challenging.
These expectations can add a sense of pressure to new parents who are finding the new role more difficult than expected.
Accepting that many of the beliefs around parenting are misconceptions or myths can go a long way towards helping people realise it is okay to struggle, to have doubts and to experience ups and downs.
Self-care to manage stress
Stress does not have to lead to serious mental health concerns. Sometimes the best way to keep stress at bay is to be conscious of your own needs and going a little easy on yourself. This includes:
- Taking time out for yourself
- Being realistic about how much you can do
- Looking after your own needs – after caring for your little one so much, be selfish occasionally!
- Accepting help from your support networks including family, friends and other new parents (when they offer, resist the temptation to say “No, I’ll be OK”!)
- Recognising that this difficult period will end
- Eating as well as possible and trying to do a little light exercise and
- Recognising the signs in yourself when stress is becoming too much.
Asking for help
Many people have trouble asking for help. They may feel shame because they are not coping with the stress of caring for a new baby, or guilt because the stress is making them feel frustrated and resentful.
At PANDA we recognise that adjusting to early parenthood can trigger many complex thoughts and cause stress for you or your partner. We encourage you to understand that any expectations you had around parenting can affect how you view your new reality, and pressure to meet or exceed those expectations can add to your stress.
We encourage you to give yourself time to learn through experience, without judging yourself against your own or other people’s expectations. We encourage you to take care of your own physical and mental health through being easy on yourself and taking some time out for yourself. And we encourage you to ask for help if you feel it is all becoming too much.