Reviewed by Physician Ignatius Ooi Yong Chin, Physician Brandon Yew and Dr Andre Budihardjo, MM
Tips To Help Soothe Generalized Anxiety Disorder In New Parents
Published | 7 min read
A certain about of anxiety in new parents is normal and even useful. But what happens when that anxiety becomes so crippling you can't function? Learn about generalized anxiety disorder and how to treat it here.
Generalized anxiety disorder is unlike other anxiety you may feel as a parent. In fact, it’s normal for new
However, generalized anxiety disorder occurs when the anxiety doesn’t let up – or becomes so bad that you can’t function. If left untreated, this anxiety can become paralyzing and lead to health problems for you and your baby.
Read on to learn how to identify generalized anxiety disorder and tips for managing the condition using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and other natural remedies.
What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Some anxiety in dealing with life’s challenges is normal, and even useful, as it’s our body’s way of warning us of danger. It focuses our attention on getting out of harm’s way.
Generalized anxiety disorder, however, is a condition in which the anxiety itself gets in the way of safety and well-being.
What causes it?
In TCM, most anxiety disorders are caused by emotions, chronic illness, weak
“Irregular lifestyle habits, staying up late at night, an unhealthy diet, and frequent consumption of fried, pungent, and spicy foods will cause yin–yang imbalances, Qi Stagnation, Blood Stasis, and Deficiencies in the body, all of which can contribute to anxiety.”
Eu Yan Sang TCM Physician Ooi Yong Chin
In Western medicine, it’s unclear what causes generalized anxiety disorder, but researchers and healthcare professionals believe the condition is influenced by a combination of factors:
- Chemical imbalance: Long-term
heavy stresssometimes can create an imbalance in brain chemistry. Stress in medical terms isn’t actually just about psychological stress but also physical stress. So, heavy stress in this case can also mean overworking and lack of sleep, not just feeling stress.
- Medical conditions:
Diabetes mellitus patients are at risk of having generalized anxiety disorder. The prevalence of GAD was significantly higher in T2DM patients than in the general population between 2000 and 2010. Other chronic illnesses (such as heart disease and cancer) or other mental health disorder (such as depressive disorder) will also increase the risk.
- Family history: Those with generalized anxiety disorder often have other relatives with a history of mental health disorders in the family.
- Psychological disposition: Certain personality traits such as being a perfectionist may make a person more likely to develop the condition.
- Environmental triggers: Major tragedies or sudden drastic changes can increase the risk of developing GAD for those already predisposed to anxiety.
What Does Generalized Anxiety Disorder Feel Like?
If you have generalized anxiety disorder, you’ll often have a constant stream of worrying thoughts that cycle through your mind endlessly. You feel as if you’re unable to control these thoughts from repeating or spiraling.
Reena (not her real name), 36s, is a stay-at-home mom. She had a lot of anxiety and doubts about whether she’d be a good mother.
When she was pregnant with her first child at 26, she recalled having racing thoughts and questioning herself.
This psychological symptom is accompanied by physical symptoms such as:
- Irritability or being on edge
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Difficulty getting quality sleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Body aches
Meanwhile, Michael (not his real name), a 38-year-old teacher, remembers having a constant emotional rush of worry over the responsibilities of becoming a father at 30 and losing a certain sense of freedom and lifestyle. “I had anxiety wanting to do many things at the same time, lacking focus,” he reveals.
How To Overcome Generalized Anxiety Disorder As A New Parent
If you feel you might have generalized anxiety disorder, it’s essential to reach out to your doctor to determine the best course of action for you.
Not addressing the condition could lead to worsening symptoms at a time when you need to be at your best both for yourself and your child.
A psychiatrist may prescribe anti-anxiety medication, talk therapy, or both. Talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy, may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to reduce your anxiety.
In addition to professional medical treatment, there are some things you can do to help with your anxiety:
- Practice a healthy and balanced lifestyle including stress management
- Avoid substance abuse
- Join a support group for other first-time parents
Michael says that what helped reduce his worrying was to let himself focus on one thing at a time deliberately and to have clear boundaries.
“Make sure to leave work-related activities at work and dedicate your full attention to your child when spending time with them,” he reflects.
Keep in mind that parental anxiety can also affect your child’s development. Young children look to their parents to ascertain whether they are safe. Infants can sense when their parent isn’t feeling safe and would in turn feel unsafe.
According to TCM Real Medical Senior Physician Brandon Yew, while getting help from mental health experts is necessary for those with the condition, TCM has a lot to offer as a supplemental treatment, too. TCM also echoes taking care of overall health to avoid anxiety from getting out of hand in the first place.
“TCM can help with the physical symptoms of the disorder through herbal medication, acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, gua sha (scraping), tuina (Chinese manual therapy) and blood-letting. These are all formulated carefully by a TCM physician to address the unique body constitution of every individual patient.”
TCM Physician Brandon Yew
Acupuncture and acupressure
One study found that acupuncture was more effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety than control conditions. The analysis also revealed that acupuncture works better when used earlier in the treatment of anxiety.
While waiting for a TCM appointment and evaluation, you can try self-massaging these acupoints:
- He Gu (LI4) improves overall qi and blood flow, calming the mind and soothing the nerves
- Shen Men (HT7) calms the Heart and soothes the mind and nerves
- Nei Guan (PC6) calms the Heart and stomach
- Bai Hui (DU20) helps calm the mind
- Tai Chong (LR3) eases the Liver to relieve mental stress
TCM herbal formulations such as Xiao Yao San rebalance the Liver and Spleen, where emotions such as anger and anxiety are regulated. Studies have shown that this formula works well in treating insomnia combined with anxiety.
Several calming TCM decoctions such as Ning Shen decoction that contain ingredients like Solomon’s Seal (huang jing) have been shown in animal models to have calming and quality sleep-promoting properties. They can increase non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and reduce rapid eye movement (REM).
Lingzhi is a medicinal mushroom that contains adaptogenic properties. It helps the body cope with stress, calms the nervous system, and reduces cortisol levels, allowing you to feel calm and relaxed with less anxiety.
Remember to seek the advice of a qualified TCM physician prior to taking any of the above herbal formulas or remedies.
Don’t Stress – Your Best Is Good Enough
Reena’s oldest son is now 10 and has a little brother. She advises, “Try to do what you can and let that be good enough. If you have a baby and you don’t have time to clean the house, then accept that. Things don’t have to be perfectly neat and clean all the time. Make time for ‘me time’ – remember to love and care for yourself, too.”
How do you manage your stress and anxiety levels as a new parent? Share your tips with us in the comments below.
- Cleveland Clinic. 2020. Anxiety Disorders. [online] Available at: <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9536-anxiety-disorders>
- Cleveland Clinic. 2020. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). [online] Available at: <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/23940-generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad>
- Pregnancy, Birth, and Baby, HealthDirect, Australian Government. 2022. Anxiety and Parenthood. [online] Available at: <https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/anxiety-and-parenthood>
- BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2020. Maternal postpartum feeding anxiety was associated with infant feeding practices: results from the mother-infant cohort study of China. [online] Available at: <https://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12884-020-03483-w>
- Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2019. Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis: Anxiety and Depressive Disorders in Offspring of Parents with Anxiety Disorders. [online] Available at: <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30577938/>
- Annals of General Psychiatry. 2021. Effectiveness of acupuncture on anxiety disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. [online] Available at: <https://annals-general-psychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12991-021-00327-5>
- Medicine. 2021. Clinical efficacy and safety of traditional Chinese medicine Xiao Yao San in insomnia combined with anxiety. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8556059/>
- Food Science and Biotechnology. 2018. Isolation of a sleep-promoting compound from Polygonatum sibiricum rhizome. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6233407/>
- Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry. 2020. Generalized anxiety disorder in type 2 diabetes mellitus: prevalence and clinical characteristics.
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