How art and music helped me conquer my new-mom anxiety
It’s not unheard of for moms to go through a rough time after having a child – in fact, it’s pretty common. There are massive changes, lifestyle adjustments, and feelings that mothers go through within a relatively short amount of time after birth. It can be overwhelming. We’ve all heard of the baby blues, and it manifests itself in various ways — sometimes anxiety or depression, or even a looming sense of emptiness. Although I was lucky enough not to suffer from postpartum depression, I did experience social anxiety. It didn’t start immediately after childbirth, though — so I thought I was in the clear.
Boy, was I wrong.
Anxiety reared its ugly head into my life around nine months after my son was born.
My routine became sitting at home all day – I didn’t want to go out, see people, or interact with anyone besides my immediate family. I felt self-conscious, nervous, and constantly uneasy. The thought of leaving the house made my stomach lurch. My mind was inundated with negative thoughts. I became severely withdrawn, losing interest in my hobbies — and in most things that required leaving the house.
Looking back, I’m pretty sure this anxiety was largely based around my fears of losing my pre-baby self.
I also felt incredibly unattractive and frumpy. I was constantly giving too much significance to the idea of other people judging me negatively.
This anxiety caused me to stay at home for almost a year — aside from going to doctor’s appointments for me or my son. Going shopping, taking trips to the park, eating at restaurants, and enjoying nights out with friends stopped completely. I simply couldn’t get myself out the door.
I eventually came to the realization that this fretful, overthinking feeling couldn’t continue — it was bad for me, and more importantly, it wasn’t great for my son.
I looked into self-help remedies for anxiety, and I came across a few ideas that I decided to try: art therapy, ylang ylang essential oil, daily positive affirmations, and three-minute meditation.
Ylang ylang smells delicious, but it didn’t uplift my spirits or take my mind off my negative feelings. I had high hopes for daily positive affirmations, but they didn’t get me out of the house or out of my rut. And meditation was great in the moment — but as soon as it was over, my mind was back in overdrive.
So, what did help me?
Well, art therapy did. It helped me quite a bit. I was skeptical, but drawing and creating definitely took my mind off my anxiety, thanks to its playful nature. It gave me something to look forward to, provided structure in my day, and encouraged me to express myself artistically. It made me feel as though I had accomplished something every day. I would sit there making patterns, drawing flowers, and creating gradient swatches, and it improved my dreary feeling — to an extent.
My main saving grace was music.
Good, high-energy music. Music that would get me out of my bed. Music that would motivate me to do things. Music that would give me the confidence to step out of the front door.
I never took music seriously as a means of overcoming my social anxiety but it honestly did wonders for me. If you watch Grey’s Anatomy, you’ll know that Meredith and Cristina loved to put on music and “dance it out” with friends and family when things got tough.
It’s actually scientifically proven that dance can boost your self-confidence and increase your levels of happiness, so dance carefree around your living room when you feel that angst. Allow the bad vibes to dissipate. Try dance therapy, where you can get involved with group activities and support.
It might sound silly to some people, and it might not be beneficial for all — but it worked for me.
Hannah Nwoko is a London-based mama, writer, and digital content editor. She loves everything Shondaland, travel, and design. You can find her on Twitter @hannahnwo.