Our Women’s First Postpartum: Conquering Worry – Part 3

Our Women’s First Postpartum: Conquering Worry – Part 3

How to dig yourself out of extreme worry

In Part 3 of Conquering Worry: Understanding Catastrophic Worry & Ways to Persevere by Nathaniel Valera, I will discuss solutions to challenge extreme negative thoughts leading some mothers into postpartum symptoms.

Many good things come from healing the mind. This is a decision mothers must make for themselves and their babies. Though the world may see you as something that you are not staying true to yourself and doing what is best for you should always come first. As they say, you cannot pour from an empty cup. When overwhelmed, it is more challenging to think positively, but it’s possible.

Valera’s article introduces a five-step plan for tackling concerns created by Doctors Pamela Wiegartz and Kevin Gyoerkoe, who specialize in mental health and assist parents suffering from catastrophic worry. He states the five-step plan is “ideal for redirection and stabilization in both immediate, dire circumstances of stress and during times of reflection.”

The plan is displayed as follows:

  1. Practice relaxation
  2. Determine whether your worry is productive
  3. Change your thoughts
  4. Use exposure and response prevention
  5. Accept uncertainty

In step one, Practice Relaxation, it focuses on stillness. When anxious and focused on the negative, unwanted symptoms occur such as muscle tension, nausea, insomnia, and lack of concentration.

These symptoms can be reversed by relaxation. According to Valera, “common relaxation techniques include diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery, all of which can significantly aid a frantic, worrisome parent in immediate situations or during reflection.” Other techniques include yoga, tuning into a favorite show, or spending time with loved ones help to alleviate stress.

Step twoDetermine Productivity of Stress, offers advice about using your energy to be productive. Productive worry shifts how you see your concerns and instead allows you to focus on what you should be worried about, like getting the right car seat. 

Valera addresses productive worry as three main features:

  1. It’s focused on the present or immediate future
  2. The problem is specific and likely to occur
  3. There are definite steps you can take to solve the problem

For step threeChange Your Thinking, I always say this is easier said than done. If we could all wake up with a new mindset, worry would not exist. However, this is the real world, and most women experience fear as they enter the world of motherhood. 

Four steps to shift your mindset include:

  1. Counter catastrophic thinking – preparing yourself for any outcome helps ease worries. Thinking things like “how likely will this incident occur?” shifts the mindset that the result will be negative.
  2. Examine the evidence: Assess both sides of the outcome to come to a more reasonable thought process.
  1. Cost-benefit analysis: Analyze when you must be decisive. Look at the good and bad and be in the moment rather than focusing on what good goes wrong. 
  2. Double standard technique: This is simple. Would you tell someone very close to you the negative thoughts you tell yourself? Most likely, no. So feed your mind positive thoughts. 

Step fourPractice Exposure and Response Prevention, also known as (ERP). Valera states, “exposure provides a glimpse into the ‘what if’s of parenthood, working by identifying concerns and exposing oneself to their concerns over and over.”

Writing out your fears is what this is all about. As anxiety-inducing as it seems, it helps to familiarize yourself with the thought. Once you have repeatedly exposed yourself to the idea multiple times, it relieves the anxiety because you have processed the scenario and figured out how to cope if it ever occurred. 

Lastly, step fiveAccept Uncertainty. The unknown is a part of life. As soon as it is embraced, the easier life becomes. Parents will never know everything and are only capable of so much. Giving themselves grace and understanding to face scenarios as they occur will create peace.

This series was meant to enlighten and provide hope. Parenting is easily one of the most challenging choices to make. It comes with a ton of responsibility and is an ultimate sacrifice, but it is one of the most incredible journeys to take with the right tools and mindset. Good luck and be well!

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