Anxious Mums author Dr Jodi Richardson offers suggestions for taking care of your mental health in the early days of motherhood.
Believe me when I tell you that not all the following ideas will be a good fit for every new mum. Some of my suggestions involve recruiting, or accepting help, keeping in mind that asking anything extra of a new mum can be overwhelming. What I would like to suggest is that you give each a try if you possibly can and see how you feel. After that, continue with whichever make the most noticeable difference to how you think and feel. Any of the following can help boost your mood, your confidence, your mental health and your wellbeing – and you don’t have to wait until you ‘feel like it’. Equally, it’s tempting to try to manage on your own, but people want to help, and those batteries of yours will need recharging! You can be anxious and still make a start, and thus continue to go about doing the activities (or activity) that are important to you. When you do, you’ll start reaping the benefits and they will, in turn, help to propel you forward to continue, and to feel better.
Try this... Ask someone you trust to mind your baby
So you can... Enjoy a lovely long shower, go for a walk, go to your favourite café and pick up a cuppa, sit on the beach, play with one of your older children one-on-one, have a facial, take a bath, spend time with your partner, take a nap, have your hair cut or coloured or both, rest.
Try this... Organise help in the house
So you can... Feel less overwhelmed by the washing, cooking, cleaning, your pets, errands, your older kids, your work.
Try this... Say yes when help is offered
So you can... Feel more on top of things, get out of the house, have a few meals readymade for you, or muffins (mini-meals for new mums), breathe.
Try this... Head out for a walk with your baby in a sling, a pouch or their pram
So you can... Escape the ‘four walls’, enjoy some fresh air and fresh faces. If you’re ready to start moving more quickly (with your doctor’s nod), take the pram and jog a little, walk a little then repeat.
Try this... When your baby is asleep, or while you’re feeding, take 10–20 slow, deep breaths
So you can... Start to settle your amygdala, relax your body and calm your anxious mind.
Try this... Only follow other mums on social media who keep it real
So you can... Avoid unhelpful and potentially anxiety-provoking comparisons, understand and feel understood, have a laugh, connect with other mums.
Try this... Find a gym, a pool or a yoga studio that offers childcare
So you can... Take time out for yourself to exercise* and socialise and give your gorgeous bundle the chance for lots of lovely cuddles with new people.
Try this... List the friends and family members who you can talk to about anything
So you can... Have their names top of mind if you’re feeling anxious or your mood is slumping in a way that can only be revived by a good chat.
Try this... Choose a colour that helps you feel calm
So you can... Look for and focus on anything that colour when your anxiety starts to bubble up so you can return to the present and settle your thoughts.
Try this... List things that are in your control
So you can... Save your energy for thinking about only that which is under your influence; it can help to note down what you can and can’t control.
Try this... Make a plan with your partner about how they can specifically help
So you can... Firstly, learn what they’re comfortable and confident doing, build your partner’s confidence to take on new responsibilities where needed and free yourself up from doing the lion’s (lioness’s) share of the work if that’s what’s happening for you.
* I’m the first to admit that I actually found this really hard to do. As desperate as I was to get back into regular exercise, I was overwhelmed by guilt at the thought of popping Hunter, or both kids, into care while I did a workout in the gym. Deep inside me was a belief that to be a good mum – not even a great mum, just a good mum – I had to spend almost every waking minute with my children. I could never reconcile how much better I could have been as a parent if I’d actually taken more time out for myself.