OCD in moms is a mental health issue that requires a lot of self awareness, attention and mental redirecting. Here’s how you can start
OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is an area of anxiety that is often misunderstood, neglected, or flies under the radar.
Quite a large portion of women actually struggle with OCD in motherhood or pregnancy but they’re not even aware of it. Because of that, they don’t end up getting the support that they need. Since OCD is a mental health issue that’s so often misrepresented in pop culture and in mainstream conversation, so many people don’t relate to its symptoms.
When myths or stereotypes become so prevalent, they actually skew our personal definition or understanding of something. For example, when thinking of OCD, what comes up? Someone obsessed with showering multiple times a day? A person who has an odd need to count *everything*? An obsessive hand washer? Maybe someone who keeps their home spotlessly clean at all times?
These are some of the common stereotypes of a person suffering from OCD… but they leave a lot out of the conversation. That’s how our own experiences with OCD in motherhood get missed.
If you suspect you’re dealing with OCD (or you already know that you are) and you’re looking to get a better handle on your symptoms, you’re in the right place. Here, a more well-rounded explanation of OCD in motherhood plus three ways where you can start to manage your symptoms.
What does OCD in motherhood look like on a daily basis?
Because OCD is a type of anxiety, many people notice certain symptoms or anxious behaviours in themselves but assume it’s just anxiety—and nothing more. The most important distinction to make between OCD and general anxiety is that OCD is a loop. It starts with a thought or obsession which then triggers a response. It’s important to know that the response could be anything from hypervigilant cleaning to avoid food poisoning but it could also be overthinking, worrying, or ruminating.
Many people don’t realize that the compulsion or action that continues the OCD loop can be mental. So you may have a habit of ruminating over a conversation that has happened in the past or you worry endlessly until you have the right solution to a problem. That constant need to turn something over again and again in your mind may be getting in the way of other things but because you’re not scrubbing the bathroom counter for the sixth time today or you’re not pulling out the hand sanitizer every other minute, you don’t see it as OCD.
But think about it: if constantly washing, cleaning, tidying or counting is seen as a problem, shouldn’t stressful, non-stop overthinking or keeping yourself awake all night worrying alsobe recognized as an issue?
Here are some other examples of how OCD in motherhood could show up:
Having one specific intrusive thought related to school trips, outdoor sports, or the holidays that you can’t stop obsessing over, and you worry about what it means.
Being unable to mentally shut off after kids’ appointments with medical professionals, and then repeatedly checking on your child to help soothe your worries.
Feeling anxious about an upcoming trip and then overthinking all the details and never feeling fully prepared
Worrying about a feeling that you have toward your child, and then researching to make sure it’s normal, only to feel worried about it again.
Easing your symptoms: 3 ways to start managing your OCD
If you know that you’re dealing with OCD in motherhood, or you’d describe yourself as an anxious mom but suspect it’s more than just anxiety, this is a great jumping-off point.
These below suggestions are ways to start managing OCD. OCD in moms is a mental health issue that requires a lot of self awareness, attention and mental redirecting. Here’s how you can start:
Learn as much as possible
Knowledge is power. When you gain a deep understanding of anxiety in motherhood and OCD specifically, you’ll be better able to understand why it happens, who it affects, what symptoms might look like for the general population, and why OCD in moms is such a common experience.
Everything is treatable… but you can’t figure out how to treat something if you don’t know what you’re dealing with in the first place. Learn the difference between OCD and general anxiety. Follow the experts. Read what has been written by those in the niche. Ask questions. Visit a therapist to get more information. The more you understand, the less worrisome your own symptoms become.
Build self awareness
Once you know what OCD symptoms might look like for the general population (i.e. that it’s not just handwashing and step counting), you can start tuning into what OCD looks like for you!
Is there one intrusive thought in particular which you can’t stop going over in your mind? Has covid-related health anxiety got you stuck in some sort of ritual that you think will prevent illnesses for you and your family? Do certain types of conversations trigger you and leave you ruminating for an entire night?
Once you move beyond general knowledge, you can hone in on your own experience with OCD in motherhood. Identify your patterns, suspected triggers, energy levels, fears, and times when you most want to gain control. One tactic could be to journal. Write it down, get as specific as possible and really delve into the details. Do you over-research a lot? What topics do you generally seek out information on? Do you ruminate over a specific fear? What’s going on when that happens? Be explicit and detail-oriented in your own notes so you can gain as much awareness on your own patterns as possible.
Resist the compulsion
Even though the “compulsion” or “action” component is the thing that makes sufferers feel like they have control, it actually just perpetuates the cycle. You may feel as though you can manage a situation when you lean into your compulsions but really, they just add fuel to the fire. When you think about it, does repeating yesterday’s conversation in your head yet another time change the outcome? Does going through the vacation checklist for a 10th time prevent anything different than if you just re-checked once? Likely not.
What we want to do with all types of anxiety is learn to sit with the discomfort. The second guessing, the worrying, or the uncomfortable feelings will pass if you do not give them power over you. For people who are used to controlling, or actively fixing things, this can seem counterintuitive. If you’re dealing with OCD in motherhood though, the best way to start to deal with your symptoms is just by accepting them… but not engaging.
While focusing on becoming self-aware and accepting our OCD symptoms without engaging in our specific compulsions are important, getting better at anxiety management overall is essential. In my program Mama Calm, I teach all about anxiety, including the underlying causes and how to set yourself up for success when your triggers are firing.
You’re supposed to be enjoying the afternoon but then all of a sudden you think of one horrific possibility after another…
Picture this: you’re relaxing in your home, it’s the weekend, and you’re watching the snow gently falling as you sip a green tea. It should be a relaxing moment—there’s nothing urgently calling for your time and attention. But it’s often in supposedly “peaceful” times like these when your mind drifts and you catch yourself in a spiral of worst-case-scenario thinking.
Like your child getting hurt. Or sick. Becoming injured. Or even dying…
This can look like a lot of things for moms. You’re supposed to be enjoying the afternoon but then all of a sudden you think of one horrific possibility after another. Your baby getting SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Or RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). Or you wonder what will happen if your six-year-old gets in an accident while playing in the snow.
This is such a common experience in motherhood but it can be so easy to feel like it’s just you or that you’re dwelling in harmful, what-if thought patterns.
The excessive anxiety about a child getting hurt that we often feel as mothers isn’t exactly material for Instagram stories or the easiest topic to bring up at a coffee meet-up with mom friends. But it’s actually such a typical everyday experience for many mothers.
Here, I’m going to explain why we can’t stop thinking about our babies and kids getting hurt, sick, or even dying, why that’s a form of anxiety, and what to watch out for.
Anxiety about your child getting hurt: Common fears for moms
Sure, it may not be the most talked about subject and some moms might worry that they’re the only ones dealing with this. Just because it might not be commonly acknowledged though doesn’t mean that other parents aren’t having this same experience.
You might be dealing with catastrophic thinking multiple times a day or a couple times a week. And these thoughts or mini scenarios that play out in your mind could center around:
Illnesses like COVID, SIDS, RSV, leukemia, a pneumonia, appendicitis, chicken pox, or a bad case of the flu
Accidents like a child falling and breaking a limb, having to get stitches, or crashing while skiing or riding their bike
Getting hurt during everyday play like at the playground or slipping down the stairs
Coming down with less severe illnesses (like a common cold or stomach bug) at school or daycare
The specific fears that you might be focusing on are likely to change as your children get older. For example, maybe when they were a baby, you feared that they would stop breathing in their sleep. Now, you’re scared that your dare-devil nine-year-old is going to try something risky and fall.
Even though the thing that’s giving you anxiety changes, the mechanism is the same. So what’s going on?
Intrusive thoughts: What they are and how they show up
If everything in this post so far has defined your experience, you may be dealing with one or two specific categories of intrusive thoughts.
Have you heard of the term “intrusive thoughts,” before? If you’re a mom struggling with anxiety, you may have heard of this already.
Intrusive thoughts are those random, unexpected, and sometimes really horrific worries or irrational fears that pop into your mind without warning. They often relate to harm coming to your children. Even though they’re just thoughts, they can really negatively affect how a woman experiences motherhood.
Intrusive thoughts fall under four categories:
Physical injury: Sudden images pop into your head that involve your child getting hurt. This could be anything from tripping and scraping a knee to getting in a car accident.
Illness: This overlaps with health anxiety in some cases. This is the anxiety that your child will get sick, experience a major illness, or have to go to the hospital for something major.
Abuse: This is the worry that someone will abuse your kids. Oftentimes this area of intrusive thoughts focuses around sexual abuse.
Harm coming to you: As a mom and likely your childrens’ primary caregiver, you worry that something (like an accident or terminal illness) will happen to you and you won’t be able to care for your kids.
Even though intrusive thoughts exist purely in your mind, they can leave moms constantly fearing the worst or wondering if their thoughts could be premonitions. They interrupt your peace, your wellbeing, and your state of calm.
When anxiety starts to control you: What to watch for
It’s totally normal to have anxiety during motherhood or to deal with intrusive thoughts. Because you’re a mother to young, vulnerable children, you’re in a heightened state of awareness trying to catch potential threats before something harmful happens to your kids.
When we think of it this way, isn’t it easy to understand why almost all moms would experience anxiety about a child getting hurt or dealing with health mishaps?
Our anxious brains want to eliminate all of the risk and gain control in order to make sure that there’s no possible way our kids will get sick or hurt. But how realistic is that?
Part of life means getting hurt and getting sick. Everyone deals with varying degrees of injury and illness in their lifetime. Though it may be hard to sit with, you just can’t prevent it.
That isn’t to say you simply give up on normal precautions and preventive measures. Your kids still need to wear helmets, wash their hands, be careful at the playground, swim with adult supervision, etc. But the point here is that as a parent, you need to learn how to tolerate the fact that they too will get hurt. Phew, it’s hard though, isn’t it?
Parenting is about finding balance. How can you assess if you’re striking that balance… or if you’re putting too much energy into preventing the inevitable?
Ask yourself: “Am I helicopter parenting?” “Am I letting my child explore her environment and just be a kid?” “Am I stressing about horrific worst-case scenarios every so often or is this happening multiple times a day?” “How does it feel if I let go of controlling every single little thing?”
If you’re regularly imagining horrible scenarios involving your kids—like them getting hurt, sick, or even dying—you might be dealing with anxiety. If you want to learn more about how anxiety shows up in motherhood, and how to manage it, here’s a free masterclass where I teach all about it. Join here.
If you’ve ever worried about baby developmental milestones, what’s supposed to happen, when, and if your child is progressing at a normal pace…
The first few years of being a mom can be anxiety inducing and incredibly stressful. In fact, many women find it to be a stage of non-stop worrying, constantly feeling uneasy, and feeling under pressure all the time.
Anxiety about baby milestones or your infant’s development is something that really adds to the mental burden. For some women, this specific branch of anxiety even starts as early as the first weeks of pregnancy… and it can last into the toddler years. If you suspect that your anxiety about baby milestones is more than just normal mom worry, you’re in the right place. Here, I’m breaking down what anxiety about baby development is, how it shows up, what makes it worse, and where it comes from in the first place.
What does it mean to have anxiety about baby milestones?
In the first weeks, months and years of your child’s life, anxiety can be buzzing.
Your baby is learning how to do so many things independently of you. Seeing him/her sit upright, crawl, stand, walk and roll can be overwhelming for a number of reasons.
For starters, you might fear that your baby isn’t developing quickly enough. You wonder what’s supposed to happen, when, and if your child is developing at a normal pace… and whether or not they need support. That’s one of the most common ways that anxiety about infant development shows up.
There’s also the issue of perceived danger. So even if you are satisfied with the timeline of how your baby is developing (more on that later), now that she is crawling and climbing, you might notice yourself worrying that she’ll fall, put the wrong thing in her mouth, or get hurt. This looks like you assessing all potential dangers in your home, hovering too much, putting endless energy into trying to prevent accidents, or experiencing intrusive thoughts about harm coming to your child.
Why information overload and comparison don’t help
One thing that new parents should think about is the fact that information overload and comparing ourselves or our babies to others are both factors that add to our anxiety levels.
Think about all the information (parenting books, Instagram accounts, blogs, parenting professionals) that we have available in this day and age.
There’s such a thing as too much information. You can never know everything about the topic! You can’t absorb it all. In many ways, it’s great that we have more information, more knowledge and support than past generations, but the flip side of that is that we have so many more messages to parse through. That’s inherently stressful.
We also have more opportunities for self comparison. For example, a quick scroll through Instagram might have you noticing that someone else’s six-month-old baby is doing something that yours hasn’t. A look through an acquaintance’s feed might make you feel like your baby is behind because they aren’t rolling, climbing or walking like hers is.
The thing to remember here: there are no set deadlines for your baby. Allow him/her to develop in their own time and at their own pace.
Enter hustle culture
North American culture can be a competitive one. We can have a hard time unhooking from our need to hustle, do better, win, and compete. Many parents can apply that to their baby’s developmental milestones without even realizing or intending to. I say this not to bring shame or guilt, but to remind you that this school of thought is optional. And you can opt out of needing to be in the lead.
When you realize that this actually isn’t a race or contest, that can alleviate so much of the anxiety you’re struggling with.
Mothers especially are on the receiving end of so much societal pressure and double standards. You want to be the best mom, keep your baby safe, and do whatever your child needs in order for them to thrive and have the best opportunities. It’s understandable to feel that way.
At the same time, I want to give permission to unhook from these expectations if you’re hustling to the point where it’s costing you peace and time for necessary self-care.
One thing to try: simply observe your baby as she explores her surroundings. Keep an eye on her, but allow yourself to keep a distance and witness her develop rather than hustling to try to make her do anything. Remember that there’s no real deadline on crawling, standing or learning to walk and whether they do so earlier or later than other babies won’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things.
If you do have concerns about what’s normal, or how your child is developing, then talk to your doc, or a specialist who is trained in this area to make a proper assessment. Don’t just sit with your worries, and feel like you have to become the expert yourself.
Anxiety about baby milestones: Letting go
When supporting mothers who are struggling to let go of their anxiety about baby milestones or baby development, there’s a few things that I hear time and time again. “Is this just how it feels to be a mother?”, “Will I always worry this much?” and “What if my baby isn’t developing like all the others?” These are some of the most common concerns.
One thing to keep in mind is that no, it won’t always be like this.
The first few years of your child’s life come with an immense amount of pressure because so much is happening within such a short period of time. Think about it: your baby goes from being totally dependent on you to then growing, rolling, sitting, crawling, climbing and walking. That’s hard to keep pace with. It won’t always be this stressful. Anxieties won’t always run this high. One day, your baby will surpass all the milestones that you’re currently worrying about and you’ll almost forget about the stress this once caused.
Hey mama! If you’re here, then you might be struggling with anxiety and all the ways that it’s showing up in early motherhood. Parenting a small baby is a stressful time and you may feel like that’s on you. It’s not. As an expert in the field of perinatal mental health, it’s my intention to be honest about the difficulties of this stage in motherhood… and offer the solution. Mama Calm is my self-paced anxiety course targeted towards dealing with the most common triggers of this stage of life. One month from now, you can be feeling calm, at ease and like your old self again. Imagine that!
When it comes to worrying about whether or not you’re passing your anxiety onto your kids (spoiler, you didn’t!), there are more important things to think about.
“What if I pass my anxiety onto my kids?”
If you’re an anxiety sufferer, that question has probably crossed your mind at least a few times. Anxiety lives in the future, thrives off of your worries about the unknown and it grows every time you ask yourself, “What if?”
As mothers, we see ourselves reflected in our children.
Maybe your daughter inherited your curly hair or your sense of humour. You probably see elements of your personality in your son when you notice his sensitivity towards animals or his tendency to be a social butterfly just like you. Our kids inherit so many of our traits. They also pick up many of our habits or ways of being.
This has its pros (like how your child has picked up your partner’s concern for others) but it also has its cons (like you worrying about whether or not your kiddo is unintentionally copying your anxious behaviours).
It’s natural to worry so let’s give yourself some slack right away here. If you’re prone to anxiety, worries inevitably pop up! When it comes to worrying about whether or not you’re passing your anxiety into your kids though (spoiler, it’s not that simple), there are more important things to think about.
I’m going to lay out what those are so we can take unproductive anxiety, and direct it into powerful action.
Why the blame game doesn’t work and what to do instead
When you notice yourself fretting over your child’s anxiety and whether or not it’s your fault, try to gently remind yourself that the blame game doesn’t actually undo or improve matters.
Say, for example, your child is struggling with separation anxiety as you go on vacation or your son is extra nervous when starting a new after school activity. If you were able to confirm that you did in fact pass along your anxiety, would that make matters any better? Would it change the situation that you’re dealing with in any way?
Finding someone to blame (even if it’s yourself!) just doesn’t actually do anything productive.
So my first nudge for you is to shift your focus away from that question of “did I cause this?”
Also keep in mind that there are so many factors that contribute to anxiety. You can’t just pass your anxiety onto your child. It’s not that simple. And just because you struggle with your mood in this way, that doesn’t mean that your child automatically will as well.
Next time you are tempted to play the blame game, think about all of these factors which can contribute to a child’s anxiety. None of these are your fault!
Changes in routine or environment
The death of a loved one or pet
Difficulty in school
Trouble with friends
Physiology and genetics
Having a general disposition towards anxiety
See how none of these are your fault? I can’t repeat it enough: you didn’t cause this.
What your child’s anxiety might look like
Rather than asking, “Did I pass my anxiety onto my kids?” instead ask yourself, “How can I provide support for my anxious child?”
Keep in mind that feeling nervous or on-edge from time to time is completely normal. Your child might experience some anxiety ahead of a doctor’s appointment, a trip away from home, a presentation, or the first day of school. Experiencing anxiety every so often is different from having a problem with anxiety where it’s getting in the way of his/her daily functioning. That difference is really important.
When parenting an anxious child, get curious. Is there a certain sensitivity your child experiences? Does a particular situation seem to make them feel especially nervous?
It’s also important to understand the different types of anxiety. General anxiety disorder, OCD, phobias, social anxiety, and PTSD all fall under the anxiety umbrella. As a parent, you can learn about these for the purpose of familiarizing yourself. It’s not about labelling, it’s about knowing the context. A child with OCD, for example, might create certain routines or rituals while a child with general anxiety may fret about school performance or family health. A child with a phobia has a fear that is out of proportion to the threat.
How to support yourself and your child
Always know that people lead full and amazing lives with anxiety all the time. That goes for adults and for kids. Even though you might be worried about passing your anxiety onto your child, ask yourself what is the worst that can even happen if they do struggle with this mental health issue?
Of course, no parent wants their child to suffer but the bigger picture here is that if they do deal with anxiety, there’s so much you can do in the way of support.
Start by validating their experience. Anxiety is as hard to sit with for kids as it is for adults. Let them know that there is nothing wrong with their feelings, they aren’t wrong, and that they aren’t something to dismiss. In offering support and helping regulate your little one’s anxiety, these are some other things you can do:
Learn to calm your own anxiety, so your child can learn to co-regulate
Listen to soft music
Try meditations together
Use positive and uplifting mantras
Reassure them that this feeling will pass
Intentionally direct their attention elsewhere
Reach to a counsellor to get more support
The most important thing to know about your child’s anxiety is that it’s not your fault. You didn’t cause this, you didn’t pass your anxiety onto your child, and you aren’t the reason why he or she is struggling.
There are so many factors that can cause anxiety and there are also so many things that you can do to offer support. People live full and satisfying lives despite anxiety struggles all the time. Your child will be no different!
Since you’re here learning about anxiety, coping mechanisms, and ways to better regulate and live with it, I want to tell you about my program Mama Calm. This is the self-paced course where you learn the exact techniques and tools to manage anxiety for you and your whole family. Imagine actually knowing what to do next time you’re feeling overcome with anxiety. Picture being to stop anxiety in its tracks instead of letting it spiral. Learn more here.
Sleep training is a solution for a lot of people and that’s great. However it is not the solution for every person.
Before jumping into this topic, let me just say it honestly and to-the-point: this blog post here is not intended to be a judgment or assessment of what choices you’re making as a parent. Sleep training is a controversial topic in parenting. I’m not here to convince you to do it or not do it. There’s enough of that already. You’re here because you’re stressed about sleep (yours, your baby’s, your child’s) and I don’t intend to add to that.
This isn’t a message about sleep, this is an informational article about your feelings about sleep. That’s the anxiety that manifests as a result of many days or weeks of sleep deprivation. That’s the anxiety you feel in the middle of the night as you wait for your baby to wake up. It’s also the anxiety that has your self-talk sounding like, “I’m doing this wrong,” or “If I was any good at this, my baby would be able to sleep peacefully.”
That’s the issue I want to get at: the anxiety and depression that you as a mom might be feeling as a product of sleep training and the culture that surrounds it. There’s an entire industry built around sleep training: the programs, the books, the Instagram accounts, the clinics. Sleep training is presented as the solution. But if you’re suffering and you know that your mental health is taking a dive because of it, then I want to validate that experience and let you know that it’s not the only solution. Deal?
How you know sleeping training isn’t working for you
Sleep training doesn’t always work. And it doesn’t work for every single parent, child or baby. We’re all different, right? If you’re reading this, then you might have a hunch that something is off, that this isn’t working like you thought it would, or that you’re not supposed to feel this way.
Listen to your gut. You know what’s best for you. You know when something isn’t aligned. If you relate to the thoughts above or you catch yourself thinking, “Sleep training is stressing me out!” Then you’re in the right place.
If your gut is telling you something’s off, that’s worth investigating. Here’s some signs that sleep training isn’t working for you:
You’ve become obsessed with tracking everything around sleep, scheduling naptime and bedtime and the intensity of all this is adding to your anxiety.
Your inner critic has been raging because you try programs and you either can’t stick to them or they don’t work. That makes you feel like a failure.
You wonder if you’re actually giving your baby what she needs. When she doesn’t respond to the training method of choice, you feel awful. Cue the guilt.
Nobody is sleeping anyway. You’re exhausted and it’s all adding up.
Societal messages and expectations around all of this are resulting in anxiety that’s hard to manage. You feel like a bad mom and that everyone is doing this better.
You don’t want to stick to this method of parenting but you feel like you should.
Getting curious about other issues at play
That list can be hard to digest and sit with. I get that. So, what comes up when you think about this topic? Do you feel validated? Defensive? A mix of both? Sometimes when we’re exploring things that feel difficult, the reason why they feel so difficult or triggering is because something else is at play. There’s a root that goes deeper.
With sleep training, your baby’s sleep is presented as the problem. That looks like: my baby wakes up during the night, is fussy at naptime, cries a lot, and won’t settle. We might think that something is wrong here—either that your baby is somehow “different” from others or that your abilities are falling short.
The self-talk can sound like, “My baby is keeping me up night after night and won’t settle during naptime. It’s triggering my anxiety and the sleep deprivation is making me depressed.”
But what if your baby’s sleep wasn’t actually the full problem?
What if the problem was the societal conversation around this stuff? What if the problem is that you’re unsupported in this season of parenthood and were never given the right tools and support to deal with things like sleeplessness or mood challenges in the first place?
Perhaps the problem is also that there’s a lot of misinformation circulating around infants’ sleep to begin with…
If you’re overwhelmed with sleep and want to learn how to feel more calm and relaxed about it all, then check out this program I created, Stress Less About Baby’s Sleep. Just click the image below.
If you’ve established that this piece of motherhood (sleep training) isn’t aligned with you or your values and that it may actually be contributing to poor mental health, then the next part is to work towards letting go.
How does it feel to acknowledge that your baby’s sleep probably isn’t the entire problem? If it was, wouldn’t that part alone actually be so much easier to handle? If external pressure wasn’t a factor, if you didn’t feel like you were failing or doing something wrong, and if your inner critic wasn’t having an absolute party with this whole sleep training thing, wouldn’t that actually feel so much lighter?
So what if you could learn to let go of all of that? You’re allowed to recognize when something feels out of whack and then make a decision based on that knowledge or research further. Consider this your permission slip.
If you’re feeling a lot of stress and anxiety about your child’s sleep and want a solution outside of traditional sleep training, you’re in the right spot. Less Stress About Baby’s Sleep is my mini course that addresses some of the most common issues I hear from moms in this stage. If you’re anxious, sleep deprived and dreading both naptime and nighttime, this is the course for you.
Our hustle culture can actually reward things like perfectionism, high-functioning anxiety and even burnout. So it’s no wonder that some of us don’t even recognize this as a problem.
When you hear or read the term “high-functioning anxiety,” what comes up? Maybe you feel like high-functioning anxiety in motherhood isn’t that bad (you’re still meeting your day-to-day demands after all, right?) or that it’s even a good thing.
To be high-functioning means that you’re still appearing normal, showing up for your kids, and not dropping the ball despite feeling anxious much of the time.
That’s why many might dismiss it, allow it to go undetected, or even think it’s a good thing! That self-talk can sound like, “I don’t feel well but it’s not like I’m in bed all day. I packed the kids’ lunches, met the deadline, cooked a nutritious dinner… I’m doing well!”
Our hustle culture can actually reward things like perfectionism, high-functioning anxiety and even burnout. So it’s no wonder that some of us might internally pat ourselves on the back for being “such a perfectionist,” or “so anxious, but high functioning.”
But struggling with your mental health doesn’t feel good, does it? It doesn’t feel easy or sustainable. So let’s scrap the idea that we should be glamorizing high-functioning anxiety in motherhood and instead recognize it as a problem.
In order to do that, you may need to get honest with yourself and learn to spot the signs of this type of mental health difficulty. Here’s a few signs you or a friend may be struggling:
1. You look like you’re holding it all together—impressively so
Othersmight seem impressed or outright admire your ability to do it all, be everywhere, and hold down the show no matter the circumstances. You’re the mom who has her sh*& together. Every day. All day. Always.
But that might just be what it looks like.
On the surface, you appear to be thriving but beneath that, you may always feel like you’re barely just keeping it together day by day. Feel familiar? Been there. Remember: Just because someone (you, your strong friend, your sister in law) presents as though they have it all together, doesn’t mean that they actually do. This is how we might fail to recognize suffering.
2. You research everything related to motherhood
Are you like a walking encyclopedia of all things related to motherhood? Check in with yourself right now. Have you read all the books, all the blogs, been to the parenting experts, followed all the right parenting and nutrition accounts?
There’s such a thing as too much researching. High-functioning anxiety in motherhood often shows up as someone wanting to procure all the knowledge. While you may think that you’re just studying up to be the best mom you can possibly be, you’re actually fuelling your anxiety with information overload.
Think about it. There’s always going to be another book, a new parenting tactic, a different way of doing things. Let enough be enough and learn to let go.
3. You’re a perfectionist and tend to be hard on yourself
As mentioned earlier, society tends to reward perfectionism. We can think we just have high standards or are hard working or want the best for ourselves and our families.
The intention is great of course but there are two problems. Firstly, having unrealistically high standards often just means setting yourself up for failure.
Secondly, when you don’t live up to the sky-high expectations you set for yourself, you tend to be hard on yourself. That can look like self-critical thinking, allowing our self critic to go rogue, and tossing self acceptance out the window. That doesn’t just affect you, it impacts those around you. Is perfectionism really so great if this is the outcome?
4. You’re always on the go
You’re the mom volunteering at the field trips, you take the kids to soccer practice during the week, and your home looks like the set of a West Elm shoot. The go, go, go, lifestyle fuels anxiety because you never actually get a chance to recharge and take time for YOU!
It also sets a pace that ends up being unsustainable and often just results in burnout. What if you were to light a candle, drink some tea, watch a movie with the family, or order in for a change?
5. You look like a go-getter and struggle to say no
If the word “no” isn’t really in your vocabulary, you may be part of the large group of women who struggle with high-functioning anxiety in motherhood. Saying yes to everything means that your to-do list ends up being miles long and your plate is heaping full.
When you’re feeling anxious, you want to take things off your plate… not add to the chaos. This might be the time to reflect on why you say yes to everything and have a tendency to people please. There’s that saying, “Let it be easy,” which refers to allowing yourself space to breathe and giving yourself breaks. What can you say no to next time?
Being a perfectionist or being someone with high-functioning anxiety may be praised or even glamorized at times. It can be easy not to recognize this issue as a real problem that needs addressing because of this societal attitude.
What’s more is that those with high-functioning anxiety may appear to be doing well and therefore their issues may be dismissed, misunderstood or not seen as severe enough. Anxiety of all kinds is something that calls for additional support. Let this be a reminder that even if someone seems like they’re thriving, that may not actually be the case.
And if you’re looking for that additional support, my course Mama Calm is all about teaching moms how to get a handle on anxiety. It’s self-paced, self-directed and you get lifetime access for when life starts to feel chaotic. Learn more here.