It’s common for major life events to trigger stress. With a new baby, you have to make adjustments to your behavior, habits, and routines to fit into a new life. Even though you can mentally prepared for months, you can never really understand how having a baby is going to affect you, and making such large changes in such a short amount of time doesn’t leave you much room to adjust. Hello, stress!
Some stress in your regular day-to-day life is normal. Feeling a small amount of stress about getting places on time can help motivate you to wake up with your alarm and head out the door. A lot of stress can be harmful. You might be so stressed that you can’t fall asleep at night because you’re worried about missing your alarm in the morning.
As you might have realized, having a new baby is much more significant than is getting somewhere on time. (And, uh, your punctuality might take a hit too.) So how much stress is normal in this situation? One way to understand if your stress levels are normal is to identify the reasons for your stress and how that stress is affecting you.
Stress can be a very general term ranging from a feeling of “I wish this weren’t happening” to “I can’t do anything because I’m panicking.” The most common definition of stress is fairly general, and is defined by the American Institute of Stress as, “A condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” That is, stress is generally the feeling that what you need to do is more than what you can do.
That’s the root of stress – you feel like you can’t do something. The reaction to that feeling can vary between people and situations. If little moments like hearing your baby cry or running out of diapers give you a little bit of stress, you’re probably within a healthy range of emotions. If taking your baby to the hospital gives you high amounts of stress, you’re a normal parent. However, if small things stress you out to the point where you can’t function, or if you feel stressed all or most of the time, you might be experiencing too much stress.
A key indicator that you’re too stressed is if your stress is having a negative effect on your life or your health. High stress levels can cause high blood pressure, trigger stomach ulcers, or make you exhausted or depressed. Over long periods of time, high stress levels can even cause long-term health impacts such as damage to your heart and blood vessels. Sometimes, a healthy diet, fresh air, and a good support system can combat stress, but not always. If you’re feeling overly stressed, your healthcare provider or a mental health provider will be able to work with you to determine next steps and treatment for your stress.
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Infant and toddler health: newborn care.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. September 29. 2015. Web.
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Benson, Herbert; Allen, Robert L. “How much stress is too much?” Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business Publishing. September 1980. Web.
“What is stress?” The American Institute of Stress. The American Institute of Stress. 2016. Web.
- Steve Tovian, PhD et al. “Stress effects on the body.” APA. American Psychological Association, 2017. Web.