Wellness Series: Understanding and overcoming anxiety

In Features, Mind Health, Motherhood, Stories, Wellness by Nicole Fuge


Anxiety is a growing problem for modern mothers; one could say it is a current pandemic of its own. So let’s unpack what motherhood anxiety looks and feels like, and what we can do to beat it.

This feature is Part 1 of our Wellness Series in partnership with Nanit, tackling some of the biggest challenges faced by mothers today. Read Part 2 here, read Part 3 here, and sign up to our newsletter for more.

It’s the familiar feeling that returns at the same time every day – right before bedtime. A heaviness in your chest brought on by the fact you are worried about how much [or rather how little] sleep you will have that night.

This is anxiety. And it’s plaguing mamas.

More than just everyday worry or fear, it is a constant sense of unease, and there is no doubt that it is disrupting our daily lives.

For us mums, this anxiety often strikes where we feel the most pressure. You know, areas where we feel like we have to have it all together, to be perfect, or where we need to have control.


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What is motherhood anxiety?

Motherhood anxiety can actually manifest in many ways, both physically and emotionally. And while it can feel different for every mama, there are some common signs and symptoms that many of us experience – so it’s good to know what they look and feel like.

Physical symptoms may include:

  • Persistent fatigue [even after you manage to have a good night’s sleep].
  • Tension headaches [these often feel like a tight band around your forehead].
  • Stomach issues [you might feel nauseous, butterflies in your tummy, or even experience irritable bowel syndrome].
  • Restlessness or difficulty relaxing [when you finally get a moment’s rest, you still feel like you can’t stop].
  • Rapid heartbeat, palpitations or a tightness in the chest [even when you take a few slow deep breaths, it won’t go away].

Emotional symptoms may include:

  • Non-stop worry about your child’s health, safety, and wellbeing.
  • Fear of making mistakes or not being a ‘good enough’ mother.
  • Overthinking and planning for every possible outcome – often leading to decision paralysis.
  • Difficulty concentrating due to intrusive thoughts and worries.
  • Constantly feeling on edge or a sense of dread.

Motherhood anxiety has become the silent pandemic of today’s mothers because of the ongoing cycle of worry we experience. It is crippling. It doesn’t stop. And because these thoughts about our child’s wellbeing consume our minds, there is little space for anything else. You may even feel these anxieties surface around routine tasks and decisions, which only lead to heightened stress and unease.

It’s like everything just feels too hard.

Anxiety can also feel like you’re in a constant state of hypervigilance – you’re always alert and ready to jump into action to protect your kiddo, even when there’s no real threat.

This can lead to exhaustion and burnout, because being on high alert all the time doesn’t allow room for relaxation or downtime.

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When peak anxiety hits … the trifecta

It is no secret that the dinner, bath, and bedtime routine is a common source of anxiety for many mamas.

When we’re doing our best to make our way through a minefield of meltdowns and unpredictable behaviour … at any moment someone is going to blow their top.


The task of cooking dinner is often off to a stressful start – it is witching hour and your sweet babe just doesn’t want to be put down, and your toddler is a tornado tearing the house apart.

Then, once you finally sit down to eat, you have a whole other set of obstacles. Will dinner end up tossed on the floor? Or fed to the dog? Or will your kiddo flat out refuse to eat what you’ve put in front of them, despite that being their fav meal two days ago?


This is supposed to be a soothing transition to bedtime, but sometimes it feels anything but calming.

Checking the water temp a million times making sure it’s not too hot or too cold. Trying to wash hair without your child screaming blue murder. Wondering whether the soap you bought is the best for your baby’s skin. Annnd then there’s trying to get them out of the bath without another tantrum.


Ahhh bedtime. By now, you’re probs feeling like your heart is going to beat right out of your chest, right?

Because getting your little one to sleep can feel like a Herculean task. The constant cycle of rocking, singing, or feeding, only to have them wake up the moment they’re put down.

Then there’s the lingering worry about sleep associations, late-night wake-ups, and infamous sleep regressions.

Why mums are so anxious about baby sleep

Babies don’t come with a manual [wouldn’t it be amazing if they did?!], and therefore their sleep patterns can be as individual as they are. This unpredictability can cause a lot of stress.

Will they sleep for an hour or just 15 minutes? Will they wake up once or multiple times in the night? Not knowing what to expect can keep you on edge.

And because, as mums, we are made to feel like our babies should be sleeping through by a certain age, or should be getting a certain amount of sleep – when they’re not, we feel like we’ve done something wrong. That we’ve failed.

Sleep associations and societal expectations

When we give in to our baby’s needs, we are made to believe that we’re creating ‘bad habits’. Or that these sleep associations [things like rocking to sleep, nursing to sleep, or using a dummy/pacifier] might be difficult to break later. This fear of doing something ‘wrong’ can lead to a lot of anxiety.

Night wakings

When your baby wakes up frequently during the night, it’s not just the lack of sleep that can cause stress, but also the worry about why they’re waking up. Is the baby hungry? Are they sick? Too hot or too cold? Are they going through a developmental milestone? Or are they just in need of comfort? Each cry in the night can send your mind [and heart] racing.

SIDS anxiety

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the most common cause of anxiety for parents in the newborn phase. Even when you’ve done everything right – placed your baby on their back to sleep, kept the cot free of blankets and toys, and maintained a smoke-free environment, the fear can still linger.


Are they sleeping through yet? This is a question parents are asked ALL THE TIME. No wonder baby sleep causes us so much anxiety! Hearing about other babies who sleep through the night or take long, restful naps during the day can also make you feel anxious because you start wondering if something is wrong with your baby or you as a mum.

Impact on daily life

When you’re a new mum, it can feel like baby sleep is all consuming – obsessing over sleep schedules and awake windows. You may even find yourself planning everything around nap times or turning down social activities for fear of disrupting their sleep routine.

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10 ways to overcome motherhood anxiety
1. Practice self-care

Taking care of your physical health can have a profound impact on your mental wellbeing. Things like nourishing yourself, moving your body in ways that make you happy, and getting as much sleep as you can. This changes depending on the season of motherhood you are in, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Just focus on the quality of your sleep over the quantity.

2. Seek support

You don’t have to go through this alone. Talking to mum friends or family members can make a world of difference. Or think about joining a support group for mothers, where you can share your experiences and learn from others going through the same challenges. If your anxiety is severe or persistent, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. Therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be highly effective in managing anxiety. In some cases, medication may be recommended.

3. Invest in a smart baby monitor that tracks sleep

Not only does a smart baby monitor give you an extra set of eyes and ears, but with sleep tracking, it takes the guesswork out of your baby’s sleep patterns so you can better understand your little one, and feel more in control. Having a monitor that allows you to see your baby from anywhere at any time, reports on their breathing motion (without any electronic tracker having to be worn), and provides sleep analytics, is absolute gold. We recommend the Nanit Pro Camera. And we’re not the only ones – 71% of mamas using it say they feel less anxious.

4. Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques

Things like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help reduce anxiety by calming the mind and body. Even a few minutes a day can make a massive difference.

5. Challenge negative thinking

Anxiety often involves patterns of negative or worrisome thinking. Cognitive-behavioral techniques can help you identify these patterns and develop healthier, more positive ways of thinking.

6. Set realistic expectations

This is a biggie. Once you accept that you’re not perfect [none of us are!] and that it’s ok to make mistakes, you will feel that weight melt away. Remember that motherhood is a journey of learning and growth, and no one expects you to have all the answers.

7. Prioritise and delegate

Know that not everything needs to be done right away, and not everything needs to be done by you. Prioritise what’s most important and consider delegating tasks when possible. You do not need to be everything to everyone!

8. Cut down caffeine and alcohol

It’s hard when you feel like you’re running on empty and you reach for that glorious cup of coffee in the morning. Or you want to reward yourself for surviving the day, with a glass of wine. But sometimes these habits only exacerbate the problem – leading to more anxiety and disrupt your sleep even more. So try to cut down and consider other alternatives.

9. Practice gratitude

Taking time each day to reflect on the positive aspects of your life can help shift your focus away from worries and fears.

10. Stay connected

Motherhood can feel really lonely, but the most important thing to know is that you’re not alone. Maintaining relationships and social activities can provide a much-needed sense of community and support.

Motherhood anxiety is normal and something so many mamas are experiencing, but that doesn’t mean you have to grit your teeth and push through. Make the changes you need to make this season of motherhood what you want it to be. You deserve it, mama.


Gidget Foundation
Beyond Blue

This feature is Part 1 of our Wellness Series in partnership with Nanit, tackling some of the biggest challenges faced by mothers today. Read Part 2 here and sign up to our newsletter for more.

Disclaimer: No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical or health advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional. Please refer to our Medical and Health Disclaimer for further information.