Motherhood and anxiety

Becoming a mum is a huge life changing event, which can impact greatly on our mental health. We are told that pregnancy and post-pregnancy are one of the happiest times of our lives.

So what happens when it isn’t? We feel that there is something wrong with us. We compare ourselves to other mums. We end up feeling overwhelmed and anxious. We hide how we feel. We put on our ‘mask’. The mask hides the often panicky and anxious feelings, the mood swings, the tears and the low confidence.

 “How are you?”- someone asks.“I’m grand, fine, I’m good”- you answer.

How many times a day do you tell yourself or tell other people this? The mask you have created shows the world “I’m grand, fine, I’m good”. It does not show the world the depths of fear, worry and depression you feel. Yet wearing this mask can be exhausting.

When someone asks you “How are you?” part of you might want to tell them the truth, BUT then fear hits us. Fear feeds Miss Anxiety, allowing her to create negative thoughts, assumptions and beliefs, leading to thoughts like; “Will I be judged? Will I be seen as not coping? Will they think I am a bad mum? Will I be a burden to them?” So you answer “I’m grand, fine, I’m good”. Whilst telling ourselves, that these feelings will pass, I am a modern mum, just keep going. BUT what if these feelings don’t pass, what if you don’t talk, will you be wearing your mask for years?

If you can relate to this, please know you are not alone.

If you find yourself unable to sleep due to racing and repetitive thoughts. If you find yourself making excuses to avoid meeting friends, going places or phoning into work sick. If when you get in your car or close the front door, you start to cry, know that you are not alone. Know that you are not a failure. Know that you are not a bad mum.

It is believed we have over 60,000 thoughts per day. Yet the thoughts we attach an emotion to can become very real to us. We create a story and play out what will happen in our minds. We convince ourselves this is what is going to happen. We are feeling the emotions involved and our body is physically responding by our muscles tensing, our stomachs feeling sick or we have a panic attack. All this from a thought, a thought that if you break it down, you probably have little or no evidence to back up. Yet we assume that these terrible things will happen.

Examples of Anxious Negative Thoughts:

  • “I can’t”
  • “What if”
  • “Yes, but”.

 “Coping with anxiety can be overwhelming. It may trigger your fight or flight response, while using all of your physical and mental energy”.

Living with anxiety every day can be exhausting. It is always present no matter what you are doing, or how much you need to focus on different tasks. It can impact on your daily life, and spill over into other areas, such as your relationships, your job and completing household chores. This can make you feel even more overwhelmed.


  • The impact of anxiety on your brain

During times of increased anxiety, the brain can be so overwhelmed with stress, that it will reduce the levels of energy it provides to different areas of your body. This can lead to digestion problems or tension headaches, which can be caused by feeling more stressed and overwhelmed.

  • The impact of anxiety on your mental health

When we talk about feeling overwhelmed, we are talking about how anxiety usually causes us severe stress that affects our thoughts. Anxiety makes it so hard to focus on anything other than your anxiety, therefore the more you focus on anxiety, the more anxiety you will feel. Some people may feel a lot of emotional distress, causing them to cry, become more irritable or lose hope that their anxiety will stop.

Anxiety or panic attack sufferers often feel that they have no control over their situation, and that anxiety is now controlling them.

  • The impact of anxiety on your physical health

Anxiety can lead to physical symptoms; however physical symptoms can often lead to anxiety. Severe anxiety leads to physical ailments especially during an anxiety attack such as:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Tightness of the chest
  • Difficulty in catching a breath
  • Feeling sick

How to manage your anxiety

Anxiety can be managed. The best way to stop feeling overwhelmed from anxiety is to learn to control it. Below are some tips that may be useful, in overcoming the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety:


  1. Distraction: 

It can be difficult to distract yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed. However, it can be done. By calling a friend and talking on the phone, your mind finds it hard to focus on your anxiety and talk on the phone at the same time.

  1. Go For a Walk:

Walking also makes it difficult for you mind to focus on your anxiety. Listening to music, or a radio programme can also distract your mind from anxious thoughts. Walking also moves blood around your body, and this helps to control your breathing and your heart rate.

  1. Controlled Breathing:

Controlling your breathing is important, as anxiety symptoms can create new anxiety symptoms. Breathing in slowly, and breathing out slowly can help if you are hyperventilating. When someone experiences a panic attack, they can hyperventilate. Hyperventilating stops your body from creating enough carbon dioxide, because you are breathing it out too quickly. This can lead to chest pains and feeling dizzy.

  1. Keep a diary:

When your thoughts are too overwhelming, another effective thing to try is writing your thoughts down. This has been shown to have a positive effect on our mind. Our thoughts have been released from our mind and we can now see them in black and white. This can also help to clarify your thoughts.

  1. Exercise:

Exercise is also a powerful tool to combat feeling overwhelmed. It uses up energy and tires out your muscles, whilst improves your breathing so that your symptoms are not as severe. Exercise is not only beneficial for your physical health, but for your mental health too.

  1. CBT:

CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is a technique used in counselling to help manage anxiety. You can try this at home by separating yourself from your thoughts by rewording them. For example you may say to yourself: “If I go to that meeting, I will make a fool of myself” or “I’m having the thought that if I go to that meeting, I will make a fool of myself.”

The power of this new way of thinking is that you are taking a step back from your anxious thought. When you add “I’m having the thought that…” you take away some of the anxiety’s fear. It’s not always about stopping anxious thoughts but about changing them.

So what can you do?

  • Mammy Meet Up

Find yourself a group of other mums. There are a number of groups such as Mama Squad in Letterkenny and Tea & Toast in Buncrana. You may find that it is through a Parent & Toddler group or a Breastfeeding support group that you find a group. For others it may be just a group that meets to go for a walk or go to the gym. What matters is that you find others that you can talk to – and have some fun along the way

  • Counselling

If you feel you are struggling with your emotions then counselling may help. Counselling offers you a safe space to talk about how you’re feeling. You will not be judged. Your doctor can refer you to a counsellor, alternatively you can see what counsellors are available in your area. If you feel anxiety is controlling you, and you are constantly feeling overwhelmed, talking to a trained professional can offer you the support and help you need to move forward.

(Contributed by Sarah Barr New Beginnings Counselling 0864477867)





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Safer Internet Day takes place next Tuesday, 7th February 2023. Sadly more than 1 in 4 young people in Ireland have experienced cyberbullying, yet only 60% of victims tell their parents. As teenagers and children spend more time on the internet, ensuring it's a safe space is ever more important. To encourage conversation about life online and help parents keep their children safe, I'd like to share a free resource created by It's a comprehensive guide which includes things like:
  • How to reduce the risks online
  • How to recognise cyber bullying and grooming
  • How to educate children on cyber safety
  • How to set up parental controls on devices
I thought it may be useful to share the link to the guide - - which you can include on your website ahead of Safer Internet Day, to help parents and children who may need some extra support. We've also put together some handy top tips you can use on your website: 10 tips to keep your children safe online
  1. Talk about it:Make time to chat about online risks and how to use the internet safelyas soon as they're old enough to go online. Encourage your children to speak to you about what they view online and empower them to act if they're worried about anything.
  2. Recognise the risks: Educate yourself about the potential dangers children could face online so  it’s easier to spot warning signs. Get to know what platforms your children use, and learn about dangers such as phishing, grooming and cyberbullying.
  3. Teach the do's and don'ts: Be clear about the non-negotiables.  For example, teach your child not to share personal details or photos with strangers and instruct them not to click on links to unknown websites or texts. Do encourage your child to question what they see and only accept friend requests from people they know.
  4. Spot the signs: Pay attention to your children's behaviour whilst on and off their devices. Being alert to changes in your child can help prevent problems from escalating. Some warning signs are withdrawing from friends or family, sleeping and eating problems or losing interest in previously loved hobbies or interests.
  5. Set boundaries:Let your children know what they can and can't do on the internet from the get-go. Agree on what devices they can use, when, and how long they can spend online. As they get older, explaining and negotiating boundaries may be more effective.
  6. Take 'parental' control: These ready-made boundaries put parents in control of what children can see online. They can be set up through your internet provider at device level to block specific websites and filter out inappropriate content.
  7. Be social media savvy:  The popularity of social media apps like TikTok and Snapchat makes it harder to keep track of what your child is accessing online.  Fortunately, each social media platform has its own privacy settings and safety tips for parents. Check them out before you let children have their own accounts.
  8. Protect from harm:Install antivirus software on family devices to minimise the risk of cyber attacks or scams. Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for extra security on your online accounts. This can also stop children from signing into services they're not allowed to use.
  9. Set a great example:  You're the greatest 'influencer' in your children's lives when they're young.  Limiting your time online, discussing dangers you've come across, and questioning what you view can help reinforce the rules you are setting for your children and, in turn, influence their online behaviour.
  10. Seek support:The more you learn about online dangers, the better equipped you'll be to handle them. There are some great resources like  webwise.ieinternetmatters.organd to help you recognise and reduce online dangers and seek advice if you think your child is experiencing cyberbullying or is at risk online.
        Short videos on the Importance of Play have recently launched which was a collaboration between North Central CFSN and Lifestart Services.   Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5 Volume 6

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books ( and also on  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from

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