I'm so anxious about my baby – if there's a spot on her skin I think she's got a serious illness, and I'm frightened she won't meet her milestones. How can I calm down and enjoy motherhood more?
Psychotherapist and maternal mental health expert Anna Mathur, author of Mind Over Mother, says: "As mothers, we become more vigilant and aware of risks and possibilities. So, be kind to yourself first and foremost. It's incredibly common to have these concerns.
"Anxiety makes you aware of risk, signalling to your body to respond quickly in order to preserve life. However, when this response is consistently activated unnecessarily by fear-based thoughts, it hinders your ability to enjoy the good things in life.
"Anxiety provides a sense of false control. We may feel that if we live through every worrying potential in our mind, we'd be better equipped to deal with it in reality. However, what actually happens is we feel feelings of fear or grief unnecessarily.
"While we can't control what thoughts pop into our mind, we can take control of how we respond to them. Here are my favourite techniques to calm your thoughts and reclaim control when fear strikes…
"When you find yourself playing the 'what if' game, halt the spiral by counting back from 100 in threes. This will distract your mind from the cycle of overthinking.
"Be wary of where you search for information on health and symptoms. Knowledge can be power until we overwhelm ourselves with it. Choose factual, educational websites rather than trawling through personal experiences, or speak with a doctor.
"Use a mantra such as 'I'll cross that bridge IF I get to it'. Remind yourself you've successfully lived through tough challenges in the past. Therefore, you're stronger than you may be giving yourself credit for.
"Re-ground yourself in the present. Thoughts about the future are based on assumption, whereas what's happening in the present is real. One grounding technique is to focus on the sounds, textures and smells around you.
"Ensure your basic needs are being met. Self-care is a cornerstone of good mental health. Do what you can to meet your needs for rest, connection and sustenance. When you're depleted, it's harder to rationalise anxious thoughts.
"List five to 10 things in your life you're grateful for. Gratitude doesn't devalue very valid emotions; it simply brings balance to them. Gratitude draws attention from focusing purely on what could go wrong, to what is going right.
"If you continue to find yourself regularly feeling fearful and anxious, speak to your doctor or a therapist. While anxiety is common, there are so many ways to successfully ensure it doesn't impact your enjoyment of motherhood."