Feeling anxious is a normal part of every day life for many. Often the gravity of it is determined by how we deal with it. For most of us, it’s preventable or at least lessened by making sure that we are looking after ourselves. For new mums in particular, it’s easy to forget that and when combined with the pressures of caring for a whole new human 24/7 - that in most cases they just spent nine months giving up their bodies to grow themselves - and dealing with the huge upheaval in lifestyle and responsibility, meaning anxiety can creep in.
Our co-founder Stefanie had a baby in December last year. She got the keys to her new home three days after finding out she was pregnant last April and was in the midst of working full-time, organising The List Live and keeping other various projects on The List going as a side hustle. Now on maternity leave from her other job where she will return part time after the summer, she is balancing running The List with life as a first time mum. For Mental Health Awareness Week’s focus on anxiety, she shares how she keeps stress and anxiety at bay and ensures that she focuses on what is a priority in her life.
Most of my anxiety stems from stress and overwhelm. I know that about myself. I’ve always put too much on my plate and then become paralysed with overwhelm and got nothing done. I even wrote about it years ago on my own blog. It’s just a part of my personality as a creative thinker, which I’ve come to accept. I’m constantly coming up with ideas and setting new goals. I have a bit of a reputation for having a lot on amongst friends and family - I’m often complimented in a “I don’t know how you do it all” kinda way. At least I take it as a compliment. I wear productivity as a badge of honour. Which means that I wear my unproductivity as a disappointment. The older I get, I realise that it’s not about pressures from others - it’s almost entirely self inflicted. And if I can put things on my list, then I can for sure take them off again! As a new mum, I’m also finding it easier to prioritise my home life than it was before. My daughter has to be number one. And I’m at home a lot more than before so I have to stay on top of the mess and the laundry or my anxiety spikes again. Tidy space, tidy mind. But I’ve also learnt that the moments I spend lying on the floor playing peekaboo with my little girl are just as important as, if not more than, hitting an article deadline. It’s also brilliant for your mental health to spend half an hour seeing how many times you can make a baby giggle. Try it.
I’ve always been a yogi - since I was about 16 and they did it sometimes on Sky Sports in the mornings live from Australia (am I the only one who remembers that?!) Even if I’m not in a regular practice I still carry the teachings of yoga throughout my daily life. And I recognise when I’m not doing that, I have more moments of anxiety and I have to consciously make time for it again in my week. It works as a moving meditation for me. But I’ve also got more into meditation in the past few years. Once you lose that need to aim for perfection sitting in silence like a monk, you realise the benefits of it for stilling the mind. I find guided meditations the best to help me focus on the task in hand and stop writing more lists of ideas in my head! I always used to do yoga in addition to my workouts because it was so important for me mentally. I never saw it as the physical workout and sometimes would skip it if I only had time to do one. Now I’m very much the other way - plus it’s actually a really great workout - and becomes even more of one the more you do it. So win win.
I’m talking about the absolute basics here. I have a young baby. It’s really easy to skip a shower when you’re a new mum. A friend recently said to me she doesn’t think she has time to look in the mirror anymore and I got exactly what she meant. I care very little about what I look like these days (and what other people think), but I know I have to look after myself to feel good. I’ve made it a priority to shower every day since I became a mum even if I’ve done nothing all day and it’s at 11pm at night. It’s often the only time I’m alone with my thoughts. I’m even doing cold showers for some cold water therapy which I’m convinced has helped immensely with my anxiety and resilience - much more to come on that in another list.
If I’m leaving the house, I’ll spend a good 30 seconds putting on SPF, tinted moisturiser* and mascara. I also tidy up my fringe even if my hair is piled on top of my head (big pro to having a fringe when you have a lot of hair to deal with). I’ll make sure the leggings I’m wearing actually match the jumper I’m putting on (read: black) It’s these little things that make me feel better about myself and all add up to making me feel calmer and more confident. Can’t promise that my legs are always shaved though.
I had bouts of anxiety postpartum every day at 3 or 4pm for the first few months. I couldn’t explain it. Nothing would specifically cause it. I wasn’t worried about anything or under huge amounts of stress. In fact, I’ve enjoyed becoming a mum and feel quite confident with it. That mid-afternoon feeling of dread would be the moment I knew I needed to get outside or go and have a (cold) shower and get dressed if I hadn’t managed it that day (and it was raining. Although I’m starting to not care about rain and get out anyway - unless it’s a huge downpour, then admittedly I do reconsider!)
I don’t remember when those moments stopped. I think I just made sure I wasn't at home on the sofa alone at that time of day for a while. I’m still preventative with it and just get out every day with the pram - often twice to coincide with the baby’s morning and evening naps. I stick on a podcast and get out. It’s often at the point where I’m frazzled from being inside and she needs to sleep cos she’s a little grumpy and so it works so well for both of us. I always feel amazing afterwards. And she’s so happy having slept in nature and woken up to stare at the trees. She’s noticeably a much happier baby when we’ve spent time outside - noticing that in her is just a reminder for me that we all need to get outside. It’s a core part of our message here at The List - and for good reason. Get outside!
When stressed and overwhelmed, I tend to reach for one of 3 things: caffeine, sugar or wine. And I know I’m not the only one. However I know that it’s cutting down on these things that makes me feel better mentally. After years of living on Instagram for my job and spending time in the fitness influencer space, I was once well and truly entrenched in diet culture and I rejected it all a few years ago. So I no longer go on diets, track food or count calories. Neither do I move my body to burn off food OR label foods good or bad. Recently, I've reintroduced cornerstones of healthy living back into my life without the restrictions. Making a green juice in a morning is an easy way to get both nutrition and hydration into me quickly with my hands full. Plus the sound of the Nutribullet* always gets a little person’s attention. I pre-portion ingredients and freeze them to make it really easy for myself. I’m a big fan of a hard green juice so it’s spinach, celery, ginger, half an apple and lemon juice for me. Then even if I’m grabbing toast all day, I know I’ve started well. In the evenings once the baby is in bed, we make a Mindful Chef recipe - at least 3 or 4 times a week. I like it because it has a heavy emphasis on health and vegetables, which I’ve heard from friends isn’t always the case with these recipe boxes. And I’m not just saying this because we work with them - I recommend them to everyone I speak to!
I do all of these things because they make me feel better. I know that looking after myself helps keep anxious feelings at bay. I’d love to hear more about how you help your anxiety. Tell us over on Instagram @thelistgsy using #ToHelpMyAnxiety. Tag @mentalhealthfoundation and @guernseymind too.
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