5 things not to say to a mother suffering from anxiety (and what you should say instead)

Photography:Rachel Burt Photography

By Haylee Hackenberg

Motherhood is tough. So is anxiety. And when combined, mothering through anxiety can sometimes feel impossible.

Mental health still faces a lot of stigma in Australia. As a result, there is a lot of misinformation floating around, so if the symptoms of anxiety (dizziness, sweaty palms, racing heart, nausea and panic attacks to name a few) aren’t bad enough, anxiety sufferers also have to deal with a whole heap of unsolicited advice. 

So, if you know a mum who is dealing with anxiety, here’s what NOT to say. 

1. “Oh, you’ll feel better if you just …” 

Different versions of this one include, “Oh, my friend/sister/neighbour’s aunty’s dog fixed her anxiety by …”. The end of the sentence is variable, but some honourable mentions include yoga, magnesium, a paleo diet, putting their kids in daycare, taking their kids out of daycare. You get the idea.

Anxiety is not a one-size-fits-all condition.

While some (or none) of these things might assist in helping someone manage their anxiety, trust me when I tell you we have probably already tried it, and we did not “feel better”. Managing anxiety is an ongoing battle and for most of us, there is no easy fix. 

2. “You’ll look back and realise these are the best years of your life” 

Say it with me: “Anxiety does not make me love my children any less”. I love motherhood. That doesn’t make it any easier. Worth it, definitely, but easy? Never. 

Sleep deprivation and the huge investment that is loving my children heightens my anxiety to levels they have never reached before. 

I will miss so much about these years of my life. I will miss the tiny hands curled through my hair while my children drift off to sleep. The sound of my children laughing and screaming “higher” on the swing. I will not miss the panic attacks, or the crippling fear that I might be messing up this motherhood gig. 

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