6 Reasons why you are pushing others away

Is pushing others away a common pattern in your relationships? There may be times when you are baffled by your own actions. Why are you actively distancing yourself from someone you like? Everyone else seems to respect and like this person, so what’s making you so eager to get away? It’s a jumble of emotions and thoughts inside, and it’s hard to make sense of it all.

When we are triggered by others, it’s natural that we become avoidant. However, if we can take a moment to get curious, we can gain some clarity about what’s happening inside of our own system.

This post is for those who are wondering why they push others away. I hope these points offer some insight about why your system is caught in this pattern.

pushing others away. coping strategies. ambivalent about relationships

#1 It’s too exhausting

pushing others away to protect. depression, anxiety and mental health. too exhausting.

If you’re struggling with mental health, everything feels exhausting. While you may be aware that being social is a “good thing”, talking to others depletes all of your limited energy. It takes effort to keep a conversation going and maintain concentration. You don’t have the patience or tolerance for inane chitchat.

You don’t feel confident that others are genuinely interested in getting to know you. Can they really accept you and all of your anxieties and sadness?

Social pressures feels insurmountable when you’re already managing anxiety, depression, trauma, and other mental health concerns. Pushing others away feels not only like self-preservation, but also an act of compassionate for our loved ones.

#2 Is there a genuine concern for safety?

If we are triggered by others, we want to stop and consider: Is my safety or well-being feeling threatened by this person? Sometimes the answer doesn’t have to be complicated. Your alarm bells are fired up because there is a real concern for your health and safety. When this happens, listen to these fears.

There may be parts of you that question whether your worries are legitimate. Perhaps you’ve seen this person be gentle with others. Perhaps this individual has been kind to you during many occasions. You might question whether it was a fluke or a one-time incident of feeling unsafe. You may be struggling with the decision to leave.

pushing others away for safety. violent relationships. toxic relationships.

It’s hard to find clarity when there is a tug of war happening in our minds. A part of you is eager to call quits to this relationship, and another part of you says you’re being too impulsive. For many of us, it will feel impossible to reach a consensus.

When it comes to safety, we don’t want to take a chance. If you’re worried whether this person is a genuine threat, talk to someone. This could be a friend, a confidante or a therapist. I encourage you to connect with someone who is impartial. If this impartial person agrees that you’re unsafe, trust that answer. When you are safe, take the time and explore what’s happening inside of you. Get to know the parts of you that have normalized how this harmful person treats you.

#3 What parts of myself have I pushed away?

We tend to push away and exile the parts of ourselves that get us in trouble. We push down the parts of our personality that were shamed or met with negative responses from others.

exiling our personality. Pushing away others as protective behaviours. IFS and exiles.

For example, you may have been spontaneous, loud, and playful as a kid. But, whenever you showed up in this way, your parents would become upset. They would tell you to stop it, be quiet, or find something else to do. Your system adapted. You learned it was better to not be loud, spontaneous or playful. Instead, you stifled these aspects of your personality.

What does this have to do with pushing others away? When we notice others presenting as loud, spontaneous or playful, our system reacts. It’s not a conscious decision, but it is an immediate one. We feel annoyed with them. There may be an urge to react in the ways that our parents presented: we want to tell this person to stop it or be quiet. In order to stop feeling triggered, it feels safer to just avoid this person. By pushing this person away, we can continue to avoid reminders of our own exiled parts.

#4 Childhood trauma and the fear of responsibility

Childhood trauma teaches our system that we cannot be trusted to protect ourselves. No matter what you said, did, intended, or hoped, you couldn’t stop bad things from happening.

As traumatic events continue to occur, your system starts to lose faith in your ability to make things better. It ends up blaming you for being weak, incompetent, or making the wrong choices. It runs through numerous “what if’s” and “if only’s” scenarios because it genuinely believes you could have altered the outcome.

I’m not saying this line of reasoning is logical or valid. You were a child when this happened, and as a child, you had very little control or power in the world. But, this doesn’t stop your mind from wanting to have influence over these circumstances.

When we meet folks who remind us of these vulnerable states, it can trigger many fears inside of us. We become avoidant because we are overwhelmed at the idea of feeling responsible for a vulnerable person.

Your system doesn’t trust you to be capable of protecting yourself, so how could it trust you to take care of a young person? Rather than embrace this relationship, our minds protect by pushing the relationship away.

childhood trauma. pushing others away. fear of responsibility. protective parts and IFS.

#5 Fear of trusting others

You’ve lived and survived all this time, and somewhere along the way you’ve gotten hurt. You may have discovered your partner was having an affair. Perhaps you heard your parents complain about you when they thought you were asleep. Maybe friends have turned cruel and violent. Whatever the scenario, your system started to feel cautious about trust. In order to not get hurt again, you learned the best way to stay safe is to avoid closeness.

Pushing others away allows you to stay safe. You feel leery about needing someone else for help or support. Self-reliance means you never have to be vulnerable again.

pushing others away can lead to loneliness. Protective parts can create new problems. IFS

The above argument may feel very justifiable for some of you, and I do not question its ability to keep you safe. However, keeping yourself this closed off comes with some consequences.

Being human means we need social connection. From an evolutionary perspective, we could not survive in isolation. Loneliness creates further stressors to our physical and mental health.

# 6 You’re being pushed into something you’re not ready to face

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, our loved ones push us. They push us to face our fears, address our flaws, accept our limits, confront a hardship, or take a chance.

pushing others away. exiled parts. not ready to face our own parts. IFS in kitchener, ontario

Your spouse knows you avoided applying for that promotion. Your colleague heard you swearing at a client. Your friend tells you to stop wasting all your money at the casino. Your sibling keeps pestering you to attend AA meetings. Seeing your mother reminds you of how much abuse you experienced as a child.

Some of us are able to address our emotional scars. This takes time, patience, safety, support and a variety of emotional tools (e.g. validation, trauma processing). Eventually, by understanding and working through our emotions, our internal discomfort disappears. The other person is no longer seen as an enemy.

However, not everyone is ready to face these challenges. Sometimes, the other person does not have to say anything. Their presence alone reminds you of the parts of yourself that you are not ready to address. These reminders are incredibly painful. The safest option is to push others away rather than turn inwards.

Reach out

If you’re interested in learning more about these protective mechanisms in your own system, reach out!

Feel free to share this post! You never know who might need it.

Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW
Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW

Kasi Shan Therapy is located in Kitchener, Ontario. She offers in-person and online appointments supporting individuals with struggling with trauma and perinatal mental health.

Understanding why we personalize: How to move away from guilt and blame

Many of us fall into the trap of personalization. This is a type of thinking pattern where we take responsibility and blame ourselves for something, irrespective of whether we had any control over the outcome.

Consider the last time your partner was upset, your child had a meltdown, or your boss didn’t give you a promotion. What was the story in your head? For those of us who personalize, our thoughts are something along the lines of:

Saying sorry for things that are not our fault. If you personalize things, this post will help you better understand this part and what you can do to reduce this pattern.
  • I didn’t work hard enough
  • If only I had tried harder.
  • What could I have done differently?
  • I’m not good at this. I’m a screw up
  • They’re going to hate me.

When we personalize, we assume that we’ve done something wrong. We make meaning of the situation: it’s our fault and our actions have caused this screw up. Personalization does not take into consideration others’ influence. It does not take into account any external factors that could have affected the situation. Instead, we are to blame.

How we tend to deal with personalization:

Personalizing makes us avoid, stay quiet, work harder, and take on all the blame. Kasi Shan Therapy can help address patterns of personalization.

No one actually enjoys personalizing. It’s lousy to hear, “it’s all on me.” So our system tries to compensate when we are overwhelmed with guilt, shame, or low self-worth. Whether consciously or unconsciously, our minds find ways to prevent personalization from happening. We avoid people and situations who make us feel like screw ups. We work even harder to prevent mistakes from taking place. We stay quiet so that we don’t accidentally say something offensive or incorrect. We learn to accommodate and focus on pleasing others so that they won’t become upset with us. Sound familiar?

On the other hand, we’re human and we get triggered. Because there’s a tendency to take on all that blame, at some point in time, we fall into the trap of personalizing once again. When this happens, our systems try and extinguish that blame. We find ways to self-soothe, distract, and get rid of this internal discomfort. If you’re like me, you may go down the rabbit hole of researching “how to handle emotions”. Perhaps you go for a run or an intense workout trying to shake off these uncomfortable feelings. Or, you may become fraught with disgust and anger towards yourself. Ironically, when your system is filled with this self-hatred, it’s attempting to punish the guilt. It’s hoping that all that anger will somehow compensate for that uncomfortable feeling.

The Opposite of Personalizing: Blaming

blaming to balance personalizing. IFS. internal family systems therapy and polarizations. balancing your internal system.

Our minds are constantly attempting to find equilibrium. So when we personalize, there are also parts of us that try and compensate by blaming. We blame friends, colleagues, babies, family members for putting us in this position. We start to feel upset with them about who they are, their behaviours and their decisions. We may have thoughts like, “if only they weren’t this way… they are being so difficult… they are causing their own problems”. In hopes of trying to reduce the internal blame, we bring our attention outwards to other people.

The caveat here is that you still feel lousy. Now you’re balancing that line between being upset with yourself AND being upset with another person. There’s limited self-compassion in this space, and there is limited kindness towards the other person.

What can I do?

#1 Recognize that it is a part of you, not all of you.

Internal Family Systems therapy introduces the concept that our mind can be divided into various parts. There is a part of you that takes things personally. It is one part of your mind, your consciousness, your emotional state, your personality. When this feeling takes over, it gets incredibly big. However, it is one part. It is not all of you.

You have thousands of moments during the day when you shift out of personalizing to a different state of mind. You are filled with self-loathing, then become angry, then you try to distract yourself, and so forth. These are all parts and they step in and step away at any point in time. Our internal struggle worsens when we say, “I’m horrible. I’m a terrible person. I should have done something.” Instead, we can shift our perspective by recognizing that, “in this moment, there is a part of me that feels it’s horrible, believes it’s a terrible person, and wishes it had done things differently.”

# 2 Notice how this part shows up

There’s a huge shift in intensity when we start to identify and label our emotions. When we are in the emotion, our amygdala (the feeling centre in our brain) is highly activated. Naming the feeling activates our prefrontal cortex (considered the planning, decision-making and moderating behaviours part of our brain).

mindful awareness of body sensations. Emotions held in the body. personalization and Internal family systems therapy.

When you personalize, start with acknowledging this part. Slow it down and notice how you’re aware of this part taking over. Does it show up as a thought? What happens to your body when you personalize? What starts to feel heavy, tense, or jittery? Where in your body do you feel this sensation? Are there images that come to mind as you slow it down and focus on the personalization? Sometimes memories come up. Sometimes a visual comes to mind. See if it’s possible to stay curious and keep noticing.

These steps of naming and noticing help you shift out of being IN the emotion into becoming more aware and observant of your emotion.

#3 Take note of what you influenced and what you could not control

When we are no longer in an emotion, there is more space to see the bigger picture. When this happens, we can better appreciate the aspects of a situation that were and weren’t in our control. When we are no longer overwhelmed by shame, guilt, or blame, we know that we cannot control others, read their minds, or know what is going on in their worlds.

When we personalize, we come up with moral meanings about a situation. When we are not in this emotional state of personalizing, we can step back and look at the scenario more objectively. We can recognize that there are many other reasons that could impact these circumstances. Consider the following scenarios:

SituationMoral Meaning that Personalization takes on:Other Explainations
Baby will not stop cryingI am bad at parenting. The baby is learning a new skill, going through a growth spurt, is adjusting to sleeping independently. or feeling uncomfortable.
My spouse looks unhappyI am not making my spouse happy. I am not worthy of being in a relationship.My spouse had a tough day, slept poorly, heard some difficult news, needs some self-care time.
I did not get the promotionI am incompetentThere were others who had the required skills, have been at the company longer, have more experience, had more flexibility in their schedule and tasks.
They did not invite me to join them.I am unloveable. They did not invite me because they did not think I’d enjoy the activity, wanted to spend some time alone, intend to invite me for other activities in the future.
I made a social faux-pas I am a horrible human being. It is human to make mistakes. I can apologize and take accountability for my impact. I can trust myself to take the time for repair work in these relationships.

#4 There’s always a history

childhood trauma and personalization. learned behaviours for safety. Internal family systems therapy in Kitchener, Ontario.

We don’t automatically start to personalize from the moment we are born. This is a learned behaviour. As you get curious, notice if you can become open to understanding this history. How did your system learn to personalize? At what point did personalizing feel like the safest option? Perhaps you got blamed as a child. Maybe your caregivers continued to shame and tell you that you didn’t try hard enough. Maybe conflicts felt really scary during your lifetime. In these circumstances, it may have felt easier to become upset with yourself, rather than acknowledge the other person’s influence.

These initial onsets are what triggered this pattern of personalizing. When these initial wounds are addressed, your emotional state softens and no longer personalizes. A large piece of therapy is getting to these core wounds. Whether it’s that moment when your caregivers shamed, or that time when you got blamed as a kid, these moments stick with you. With therapy, we work at a slow and trusting pace to process these memories and unload all of the meaning, distress and vulnerabilities we’ve taken on from these moments in time.

Reach out

Let me know your thoughts about personalization. What do you notice about your system? What strategies do you use to reduce this internal distress?

Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW
Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW

Kasi Shan Therapy is located in Kitchener, Ontario. She offers in-person and online appointments supporting individuals with struggling with trauma and perinatal mental health.

When you can’t logic your way out of feeling

Your way of coping with the world is to intellectualize. You use your logic to talk yourself out of feeling a certain way. You’re able to stay away from the vulnerabilities inside by managing the situation with reason, problem solving, logic, and planning. Sounds pretty good, right? What could go wrong?

logical brain. Intellectualizing our feelings involves suppressing our emotions and using logic (planning, reasoning, problem solving) to avoid feeling vulnerable.

Intellectualizing feelings often means you’re telling your anxieties that they don’t make sense. Rather than creating space for that worry, you’re able to come up with reasonable explanations. That rude comment your friend made? No biggie, he’s having a bad day.

When you attend therapy, you can remain logical. You can list details about the traumatic event. It all feels matter of fact. No need to cry big tears about these things; it’s all in the past. In fact, it’s quite annoying that the therapist keeps asking about your feelings. You just want some tips and tools so you can move on.

Your logical brain is brilliant. It quickly steps into problem solving and reasoning. It figures out how to get rid of crummy situations and feelings. It’s a beautiful defence mechanism. The problem, however, is that the tough emotions and vulnerabilities don’t go away. No amount of logic actually fixes this problem.

The positive intentions behind intellectualizing feelings

Intellectualizing parts can play manager or firefighter roles (Internal Family Systems Therapy). These parts come up with a plan, reason, problem solve to prevent vulnerabilities from coming up or soothe when vulnerabilities are triggered.

Before we dive in, let’s take a look at what this logical brain of ours is trying to do. Internal Family Systems therapy recognizes that this pattern of intellectualizing as a part. Meaning, it is a part of our personality with its own agenda, fears, and perspectives. Sometimes, intellectualizing is a manager part that is trying to prevent a vulnerability from getting triggered. For example, you need to have that awful conversation today to ask your partner to help out more around the home. This stresses you out because you know it may lead to conflict. Rather than dealing with your fears of conflict, your intellectualizing part starts planning instead. It comes up with a schedule for what needs to get done, who will do what, the acceptable quality of completed chores, and so forth.

Firefighter parts (IFS) step in to help soothe your nerves when baby will not stop crying. Intellectualizing parts can be firefighter parts.

Sometimes, this intellectualizing part plays a firefighter role. It jumps in to extinguish those extreme emotions and vulnerabilities when they are triggered. For example, your baby is up for hours howling and refusing to go to bed. Your mind starts spinning about how you’re a terrible parent and how you’re not cut out for this whole newborn phase. Your intellectual part steps in to put out the fire and settle your insecurities. It goes down the Google rabbit hole of researching sleep training ideas.

This pattern of intellectualizing is a protective attempt to reduce the vulnerability underneath. We don’t have to sit with our our fears of conflict or deal with our insecurity of being a lousy parent. This logical part is aware that addressing these vulnerabilities feels too challenging. So, it comes up with a way to rationalize out of the situation. Having a plan feels more comforting than sitting with distress. So, how could this possibly go wrong?

What happens when you suppress feelings

Our vulnerabilities don’t go away just because we’ve intellectualized our feelings. While coming up with a plan may feel like we’re addressing the issue, we’re not actually getting to the root of the matter. Sure, your logical part may have a bunch of wonderful ideas, encouraging you to take a deep breath, see things differently, or research further. Doing these steps, while helpful, does not stop your heart from pounding, your mind from racing, or that sense of dread from taking over.

Intellectualizing feelings involves suppressing our emotions. This does not work as long-term solutions. Internal Family Systems Therapy in Kitchener, Ontario.

Unfortunately, your head cannot win over your heart forever. Despite using logic to push away or minimize emotions, that vulnerability keeps coming back up. If we’ve been suppressing these insecurities for a long time, they tend to erupt out of us in the most inconvenient ways. Despite sleep training research, you feel overwhelmed with helplessness whenever you’re around the baby. Irrespective of the chores list, you become fraught with guilt and start to doing everything yourself. That resentment towards your spouse continues to fester and grow.

This is the hardest consequence of using logic to address our emotions. While coming up with a coping plan works in the short-term, that vulnerable feeling is still left unaddressed. Those feelings keep showing up, reminding us over and over again that we still feel awful. We are simply pushing aside our fears for one more day, without actually dealing with those feelings.

When intellectual parts try to lead therapy

Intellectual parts leading therapy. Internal family systems therapy recognizes that logical or intellectual parts can try and lead therapy. Struggles with logic trying to work through emotions. stuck points in therapy. IFS therapy in Kitchener, ON

Sometimes our intellectual parts know therapy. They’ve been in enough sessions that they have a strong understanding of how they ought to be thinking or behaving. These parts will pipe in with comments like: “I know I should be more compassionate towards myself,” or, “If only this anxious part stopped showing up, I know things would get better.”

Our logical parts are really helpful and aware. They have good insight, and it’s important we listen to them. However, when they lead therapy, little transformative work gets done. Knowing something is different from feeling it. I can say, “I should be more self-compassionate”, but it doesn’t mean I have an iota of self-compassion when I’m anxious, or overwhelmed, or scared. Often times, these intellectual parts share feedback of what is the logical next step. But, rather than create change, these comments lead to more frustration that change is not happening. We rarely see improvement or healing despite knowing what to do.

Working with your intellectualizing parts

Get to know their fears:

what to do if you are intellectualizing your feelings.

Take some time for self-reflection. What is it that this logical part fears will happen if you get to the messiness underneath? Is it worried that you will become overwhelmed? Does this part feel like it’s pointless to review the past? Is it worried that others will judge you if you become emotional? When we understand why this intellectual part is stepping in, we can better support its fears and concerns.

Work with the fears in a safe way:

Once you understand the fears that trigger these intellectualizing parts, you are more aware of what is needed to build safety. This step will look differently for each person. For example, if your intellectualizing part is worried you’ll be judged if you were to open up, this part may remain cautious until the other person has gained your trust. One possibility is to open up about safer topics and see how the other person reacts. This helps your intellectualizing part continue to monitor for judgment. When it receives enough evidence that it’s okay to open up to this person, it will step back.

Addressing the core wound:

Until the underlying vulnerabilities are resolved, our protective system will want to keep protecting. This means actually working with the parts that feel like a lousy parent and the parts that fear conflict. The way to support these wounds will vary depending on the therapist you meet. The modalities I use to address these wounds include EMDR and IFS. These are just two therapy styles and there are many other options that different clinicians will take to work through these difficult, stuck points.

Reach out

 If you have any questions about the above details, reach out for a free consult. Your intellectualizing parts are working over-time. Therapy can offer a safe way to work with your intellectual parts and the vulnerabilities they are trying to protect.

Take care,


Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW
Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW

Kasi Shan Therapy is located in Kitchener, Ontario. She offers in-person and online appointments supporting individuals with struggling with trauma and perinatal mental health.

Little Known Ways to Surviving The Newborn Stage

If you are in your first few days of parenting, congratulations! Welcome to the club! 🙂 The newborn stage is exciting and petrifying. If you are a first time parent, you may be tested in ways that you’ve never dealt with previously. I hope the following tips will help you during these early days.

The 5 S’s.

A fussy baby is one of the hardest part of the newborn stage. It’s not like they can communicate through words, and chances are you’re starting to feel frustrated when you can’t figure out how to settle your little one. If you have heard of Harvey Karp and the Happiest Baby on the Block, this tip will seem familiar for you. Dr. Karp encourages a method that helps calm a fussy baby very quickly, which he refers to as the Five S’s:

Step 1. Swaddle:

Yes, it may seem that your baby hates being swaddled. Your baby may kick up a storm or try and escape those tight confines. However, the swaddle resembles the safe and snug cocoon of the womb, which will feel comforting and familiar. Keeping your little one swaddled also prevents him from accidentally waking himself up due to the Moro reflex. Rather than give up right at this stage, get your baby swaddled and move forward to the next step. (TIP: Using swaddles with a velcro attachment will make life much easier because it reduces the likelihood of babies wriggling out).

Step 2. Side/Stomach position:

When babies are lying on their back, it often feels like they are falling. They are likely to display the Moro reflex when this occurs. While sleeping on their back is necessary, holding them on their side or stomach is a fast way to help soothe a fussy baby.

Another influencing factor is that your little one is watching you trying to comfort her. Although you are using a soft and soothing approach, you may end up stimulating her by maintaining eye contact. The next time you are trying to settle your little one, try holding her in this hold, and see how she responds.

Step 3. Shushing:

Your current strategy may involve ensuring the house is completely silent when it’s time for baby’s nap. After all, having a quiet and dark environment is the ideal way for you to go to sleep. Ironically, a silent environment is not as helpful for babies. When babies are in the womb, things are loud. They can hear all sorts of noises coming from inside of you (e.g. blood flow) and from your external environments (e.g. conversations). Rather than keeping a quiet space, it’s best to include white noise to mimic these familiar rumbling and indistinct sounds. Try setting up a white noise machine (or using a free app on your phone) to help introduce some sound to their sleep environment.

Step 4. Swing

The fourth step: Swing

While gentle rocking or swinging motion will be helpful, what is most effective in calming a fussy baby is using a bobblehead-type movement. The womb is not a smooth, gentle place. Instead, it’s quite jiggly. Take a look at the following video to demonstrate how to create the right swinging movement.

Step 5. Suck/Soother

The soother is either your best friend or your nemesis at this point in time. Many parents find that their baby takes the soother right away and it is a fast way to stop the tears. There is an equal number of parents who have bought 14 different soothers and feel frustrated that their baby continues to gag or spit them out. I find this video really helpful for introducing a pacifier.

Seeing it all in action

The following video shows Harvey Karp incorporating all of these tips together. Again, the newborn stage involves a lot of tears. Putting the 5 S’s together is a fast and effective option to help your little one settle.

The 5 S’s in action

Beware of the Google Trap

google trap. anxious parents. Surviving the newborn stage.

It’s easy to keep researching things. If you are anything like me during my first postpartum experience, you will have diagnosed your baby with 20 medical issues (none of which were actually the case). This is super common, and everyone is aware of the vulnerability of searching on WebMD when anxieties are high. Rather than getting into this spiral, reach out to your health care team (e.g. lactation consultant, family doctor, nurses, social workers). You may worry about “bothering” your health team, but I promise you, they are used to parents reaching out. It is common to have questions , especially if this is your first baby. Whether you are struggling with breastfeeding, worried about baby’s health, questioning your relationship, you don’t have to figure it all out by yourself.

Stay Connected

Whether it’s an online forum or with your fellow friends and neighbours, it’s important to have others to talk to. Getting through the newborn stage is tough. There are a lot of questions and anxieties as the baby does new things (or doesn’t do new things). Please know that with every worry you have had, another parent has dealt with the same fear. Anxiety is normal.

Online communities (e.g. What to Expect) are especially helpful for addressing fears that occur in the middle of the night. There is almost always someone available to support you irrespective of the time of day. Speak to your friends, family, and partner. Sometimes our anxieties can escalate. In these moments, it’s helpful to talk them through with a grounded and non-judgemental person.

Get some sleep

In the beginning, when you are on a two-hour feeding cycle, it may seem that sleep is impossible. The idea of sleeping when baby sleeps feels like a joke. This baby never rests unless being held. Whatever the circumstances are with your baby’s sleep patterns (or lack thereof), you still need some rest. I encourage all parents to find opportunities for shift sleeping. Decide among yourselves who is a night owl and who prefers early mornings. Have a bottle ready and let your partner be in charge for those hours. Ideally, you are trying to get a 4-hour chunk of sleep so that you have the opportunity to enter REM sleep. Remind yourself that this is not permanent. While, it’s hard and challenging, your little one will eventually sleep through the night.

Know when your baby is in Active Sleep

I remember that I used to rush in whenever my kids made the slightest noise during the night. I’d assume they were awake, needing another feed, and that I would have to help them settle in some way or form. Unfortunately, my attempts to intervene only frustrated them. This is because I was actually interrupting their active sleep.

Active sleep is noisy! It involves grunting, squirming and even crying. Of course, in my sleep deprived and anxious state as a first time parent, I would see these cues and rush over to “soothe” my eldest, not knowing he was still resting. This tip involves identifying active sleep, and learning to stay out of the way when baby is resting. This video is a great resource to help you identify active sleep:

Attachment can take time

Some parents feel enamoured with their baby from day one. However, many parents do not feel this way. Building an attachment with your baby can take time. It is perfectly normal to feel scared, overwhelmed, confused, nervous or a variety of other emotions when you first meet your child. The newborn stage is meant to be a time where you develop a relationship. You get to know your child, and like any other relationships, you build trust and communication.

Will this tiny person ever stop crying?

There is a hormonal surge that kicks into full gear as soon as we hear the baby cry. You may be among the few who dash from one end of the house, leaping through obstacles in order to stop the tears ASAP. Alternatively, you may feel a rush of anger coursing through your body when you hear your baby wailing. Both responses are common. Our lovely friend, oxytocin has turned things up a notch making parents incredibly sensitive to a newborn crying.

When you hear someone in distress, it triggers you to respond. You will reach for your baby and start to sing, rock, or nurse. You will use any old tricks to help her calm down. However, if you have found this experience tiring or unsuccessful, those tears can make you feel plagued by helplessness and anger.

What to do if you feel anxious or angry about your baby’s tears:

  • Pause for 15 seconds. Yes, your natural instinct is to rush and rescue, but give yourself a moment to regulate. Give your baby a chance to settle.
  • Remind yourself it’s not personal. Your baby is not mad at you. You are not a bad parent. Babies cry. All. The. Time. It’s their only way of communicating. Sure, it makes your blood pressure skyrocket, but it’s the only way they can let you know something is up. Trying to decipher those tears will take time and practice, but you and your baby are doing your very best in figuring it out.
  • Write a plan for yourself. When your baby is fussy, what will you do? Perhaps you will follow the 5 S’s listed above. You may choose to sit in a rocking chair. You might whip out a bottle to nurse him back to calmness. Whatever option you decide, it’s helpful for you to feel confident and aware of your next step.
  • Ask to switch out. If you’ve already been taking care of a fussy infant all day, you may feel at your wit’s end. Tap out. Have your partner, friend, family member take over for an hour. Try and get out of the house during this time if you’re fighting the urge to run in and fix, correct, or offer suggestions. Take this time for self-care.
  • Shower yourself with positive affirmations. Ideally you’re saying these positive thoughts to yourself. However, if that is too hard, have a loved one reassure you. Get your daily reminder that you are doing your best. These difficult moments do not make you a bad parent.

Reach out

Postpartum anxiety and depression are common and difficult struggles. They go beyond the stressors of the newborn stage. You may find that you are constantly irritable, overwhelmed, unable to sleep, feeling miserable, or disinterested. If you are struggling, please do not stay silent. Your moods can get better. Reach out to find out more.


Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW
Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW

Kasi Shan Therapy is located in Kitchener, Ontario. She offers in-person and online appointments supporting individuals with struggling with trauma and perinatal mental health.