Being a new parent is already stressful in its own right, but adding social anxiety to the mix can make you feel downright overwhelmed.
As a parent, you can no longer avoid experiences like going to the doctor or meeting with relatives. Thankfully, there are numerous ways to manage anxiety while navigating motherhood’s ins and outs.
Can I be a good mom if I have social anxiety?
The short answer: yes. You are an incredible mom, social anxiety or not.
Between nighttime feedings, diaper changes, and managing the house, it can be hard to catch your breath — much less sleep eight solid hours.
At the same time, your body probably looks and feels different, leaving you anxious about your identity. You’re getting used to doing everything with a baby by your side.
Couple that with the high expectations people place on new moms, and it’s completely understandable why you’re overwhelmed or have low self-esteem.
Some new moms also suffer from a social anxiety disorder. About 7% of people have this condition and experience extreme stress during everyday interactions, so if that sounds like you, you’re not alone.
The good news is that no matter how bad your anxiety feels, you can manage it.
Common anxiety-inducing events and how to handle them
Ready to tackle your social jitters? Here’s how to handle situations that might make you anxious.
1. Kids’ birthday parties
Birthday parties inevitably involve making small talk with other parents. You might feel pressured to come across as put-together, happy and comfortable when you’re feeling anything but.
You may also compare yourself to other parents and feel you don’t measure up.
However, it’s important to remember a birthday party is more about letting kids have fun than getting to know people. Other parents don’t expect you to be perfect, and being shy or unsure of yourself around new people is OK.
Remember — people invited you to the party because they liked you!
Introduce yourself to a few new people and get their contact information. If you want to make a great impression, offer to help clean up as the party winds down.
2. Going to the movies
Going to the movies might feel stressful because it involves leaving your baby at home — perhaps for the first time — and being around crowds of people. You also can’t answer potentially important phone calls from your partner because your phone will be off.
However, remember that a movie only lasts a couple of hours. The odds of something terrible happening in that time are minimal. You can also step out of the theater for a few minutes if you need a breather.
Getting snacks or using the restroom mid-movie is socially acceptable, so don’t worry about other people’s thoughts.
If you have a newborn, you can add finding a place to nurse, cleaning up spit-up, and racing to catch your flight while pushing a stroller to the list of reasons air travel is the worst. Once onboard, you might worry about keeping your baby quiet and comfortable.
It can be helpful to study a map of the airport so you can easily find food, bathrooms, and quiet spots to nurse once you arrive.
During your flight, remember crying babies and planes go hand and hand — people expect to hear kids making noise during their flight. That’s why everyone wears headphones!
You aren’t doing anything wrong; your baby might be uncomfortable with the air pressure and loud noises.
Bring a cozy blanket and pillow to help you and your baby settle in. Change their diaper before takeoff to lower the chances you’ll need to do it onboard.
If you need to use the restroom, carry your baby in a body sling. You can also leave your baby in the carrier and ask a flight attendant to watch them for you.
4. Family reunions
Big social gatherings can provoke anxiety in many people. If you just had a baby, you might feel like the spotlight is on you because everyone will want to meet your little bundle of joy.
Even with family members, it’s normal and healthy to set boundaries about holding your baby, feeding them, or anything else that makes you personally uncomfortable.
It would be best if you take breaks during the event. Walk around the block or sit in your car for a few minutes away from the festivities. Once you catch your breath, you can return recharged.
5. Girls’ night
You’re a rare exception if you’ve kept your house perfectly clean after having a baby. Your friends aren’t going to expect your home to look perfect — they want to hang out with you.
Even if dishes are in the sink, a pile of nursing blankets on the couch, and a week’s worth of unopened bills are on the coffee table, you can still host a girls’ night in.
Alternatively, you can have your partner or a babysitter take your baby for a few hours and have a girls’ night out. Don’t worry if your usual outfit doesn’t fit or you don’t like drinking as much as expected. This is your chance to kick back, relax and get your nails done while binging rom-com with your besties. You deserve it.
Remember to take care of yourself (it can help ease anxiety)
When you start feeling overwhelmed, look at your life as a whole. How are you sleeping? Are you eating several small, balanced meals throughout the day?
If you’re a new mom, it can be challenging to prioritize your health. But remember that taking care of your baby starts with caring for yourself. You may need to slow down and address your physical and mental health first — even if your newborn’s cries feel like an emergency.
Some of the most crucial areas to prioritize include eating correctly, getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, exercising, and showering. Reducing substances that could exacerbate your anxiety, in the long run, is also a good idea.
If you think medication could help you, talk to a doctor to see which types are safe when pregnant or breastfeeding. Medicine can’t do all the work for you, but it can be part of your healing journey.
Additional tips for managing social anxiety
Here are a few more ways to manage your anxiety:
- Keep up with current events so you can easily make small talk.
- Deep breathing, journaling, and meditation can help you learn to feel grounded.
- Prepare for events, but don’t overprepare. Find out when they’re happening and where.
- Rather than declining social events altogether, see if your partner can come along to help you with your baby. You can handle anxiety-inducing situations as a team.
- Practice being a good listener and asking open-ended questions so people can get to know you better.
Final words of advice: you’ve got this
Just as you can’t eliminate sadness or anger, you can’t eliminate anxiety — nor should you. However, you can manage it so it doesn’t control your life.
Although being a new mother can feel daunting, it’s also a joyful, rewarding experience — especially once your mental health is stable. You can overcome social anxiety to live your life to the fullest.
Other articles you might enjoy
Mia is a freelance writer and researcher with a passion for health and wellness and over 3+ years of experience. Mia is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine, an online healthy living publication.