Anxiety has become an unwelcome companion for me. Waking up, greeted by the sick feeling in my stomach is pretty much a daily occurrence. As a new mum (and even now at times, if I’m honest) one of my biggest anxiety triggers was leaving my children. I became terrified of my babies feeling abandoned by me. At its worst, anxiety has been so extreme that I have become afraid of and panicking at seeing a police helicopter overhead because I have been convinced that they were hunting for me and that I was going to be taken away by them. I have avoided driving (the longest period was for 18 months) because I couldn’t bear the idea of abandoning my children if I had a car crash. It meant that I struggled with any family gathering where others would want to cuddle my babies, because I didn’t want them to worry I wasn’t there. Hearing my baby cry, even for a second, was too hard, because I didn’t want them to feel abandoned by me. Leaving one of my (especially an at the time breastfed) babies even to pop to the shop which was five minutes away, was impossible. Anyway, I could go on but enough of that, you get the idea...
Now I know that all of these are my issues from my own childhood, and I’m working on it. But the tricky thing is that these things often come up when we have our own children and so we’ve got to battle them at the same time as trying to raise our children to be happy and healthy, loved and attached.
So what’s a mama to do when she’s struggling with all of this, trying to understand that her own experiences are having an impact on her parenting experience, not mess up her own children, and then becomes overwhelmed with anxiety and the pressures of motherhood. (Sleep deprivation and hormones are a feeder for my anxiety).
(A side note, if any of these thoughts resonate with you, or you experience anxiety which is affecting your everyday, please reach out for help from your GP.)
Well babywearing was certainly a massive parenting game changer for me. In the early days of motherhood I didn’t piece all of this together. I didn’t realise that what I was feeling was anxiety because I had no level of comparison. I had no idea if this was normal or not. And the general mood around me was one of expectation of celebration and then leaving the parents to it. So I didn’t sit down and realise that I was suffering from postnatal anxiety triggered by fears of abandoning my child which was a reflection of my own childhood experiences (and I certainly don’t quite understand it all now). And I didn’t link babywearing with a lessening of my anxiety for some time. It just felt good and right. I felt held together in a way that is hard to explain, but for those of you who get it, I know you understand what I mean.
I could breathe a sigh of relief. In the moment of carrying the baby, I could meet their needs. I wasn’t worrying that they would be feeling abandoned. (Again, totally my issue...).
And babywearing works both ways. Actually one of the reasons to pick up the sling for me and my eldest, and give it a try, was because my baby didn’t want to be put down. So the need for closeness was mutual.
Fast forward a few years and the fortunate meeting between me and Ruth (one of our dance teachers) happened. And long story short, dance-sling was born.
What’s all of my anxiety got to do with dance-sling I hear you ask?
Well, we all know this, parenting can be hard, add in any kind of mental health struggle and things can get a bit erm, messy. So much advice for things like anxiety is very wholesome. Do some yoga, practise meditation, focus on your breathing, do something creative just for you, have some me time. Go to bed early, eat well. All of this advice, great though it is, didn’t feel within my grasp. Because I was a mum and a mum with anxiety over leaving her children at that.
And so the concept of having a dance class where it truly is something for parents WITHOUT having to leave their babies (and the babies love it) is clearly something I believe in.
Dance can heal.
It’s not just me who has struggled with anxiety. Around one in five women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth. And it’s thought that of the general population one in four of us are suffering. The world is a tricky enough place to live in these days. If we can have an hour in the week to do something that will help us, in our very chemical make-up, to feel better, this can have far reaching powers. A happy parent is a parent more able to parent. What does that mean, well, those days when my anxiety spikes I’m not on top parenting form. I simply can’t be.
And there is real science behind the power of dance and baby wearing in combination and I’m a massive fan of giving my body the best chance I can of dealing with any anxiety.
During a dance class we experience exercise endorphins. The bodies own happy hormones. Natural painkillers. Lifting the mood making us feel happy. Not only that but “regular exercise can positively impact serotonin levels in your brain. Raising your levels of serotonin boosts your mood and overall sense of well-being. It can also help improve your appetite and sleep cycles, which are often negatively affected by depression.”
Regular exercise also helps balance your body’s level of stress hormones, such as adrenaline. Adrenaline plays a crucial role in your fight-or-flight response, but too much of it can damage your health.
While babywearing we experience a rush of oxytocin - the love hormone. Bonding us with our babies. Making us feel loved, them feel loved. Connecting us together. This means that our attachment deepens, and here is the magic. This attachment connection has a life long impact on our babies brain. Babywearing can build attachment, attachment can build healthy brains. “For a child who is well attached to us, we are her home base from which to venture into the world, her retreat to fall back to, her fountainhead of inspiration.” (Hold on to your kids). And for us too, oxytocin helps lower the cortisol we produce. Lowering blood pressure. (Great for someone with a racing heart from anxiety). Which in turn can have an effect on our oestrogen production and effect our mood that way. Seriously this stuff is powerful.
Do you have to be struggling with anxiety to come to dance class to feel all this magic? Nope, these chemical/hormonal reactions, they are for everyone. WIN!
Is dance-sling going to cure any anxiety on its own? Well, no. But it is an activity that is on your side. It is an hour to work hard on getting the brain to focus on something completely different. It’s an hour where baby is most likely to be chilled out in the sling. An hour to let go of the worry.
And of course, we’d love to welcome you to dance-sling. You can book a spot here: