Your mental health
Being a mum is hard work, with many demands placed on us. And yet there are things we can do to lessen the load, and to manage symptoms of postnatal depression and anxiety. Here are our 5 top tips for your maternal mental health!
Motherhood is a balancing act, and one that we can’t fail. Yet many of us, with our high unrealistic expectations, often feel like we have failed or get it wrong. By accepting the imperfect, knowing that we don’t need to get it right, and knowing that our children actually benefit from us failing them in manageable ways, we can let go of that pressure. Try repeating to yourself, ‘OK is enough’ or ‘this doesn’t need to be right or perfect.’
A key aspect of our wellbeing involves looking after ourselves. Self-care is the activities and actions we carry out in order to care for and protect ourselves, with the goal of improving our wellbeing. It asks ‘what we need’ and responds to these needs. Yet self-care needs time; something which mothers and mothers-to-be often lack. However in the same way you would MOT your car in order for it to carry you safely, you need this too in order to keep well. Do something daily to care for yourself, even if it’s taking 10 minutes out to focus on your breath.
Sleep is vital to our everyday functioning, hormones, immune function and emotional health. We often accept that when pregnant, or with a new baby, that we will just not have good sleep. However better sleep is something we can work towards Do what works for you, and try not to feel guilty about sleeping in the day, or having powernaps. Good sleep often involves preparation, routine, and changes to our sleep environment; however as with a flower, if we tend to our sleep, then it will grow.
The benefits of exercise are endless – including the triggering of our neurotransmitters linked to happiness. A recent study has even shown that a short sudden burst of exercise is more effective than medication in managing low mood, like postnatal depression. As mums we need to find different ways to exercise, so if you can’t get out, do star jumps in the lounge, dance to music or sneak out for a quick run.
Self-compassion doesn’t have to be about cheerleading, or seeing the positive in everything, but it is about being kind to yourself, promoting a gentle feeling of warmth and care. It’s just like the compassion we feel for others but directed towards ourselves! We step away from self-critique and judgment and move towards helping ourselves. When you notice you are judging yourself, try imagining how you would respond to a friend who you care about, if they were in the same situation. This helps you tap into a more compassionate response.
AUTHOR: DR JO GEE
Dr Jo Gee is a psychotherapist and specialist in women’s health. She is also the co-founder of The Luna Hive. Jo offers individual and group psychotherapy in Guildford and at the Priory Hospital Roehampton.