How’s your Mental Health, Mama?
“I don’t feel down everyday, so I shouldn’t seek help”.
“She’s got it so much worse than me and she “manages”, so I won’t reach out for support”.
“I should just harden up, I wanted kids”.
“My parents managed, so I should just get on with it and stop complaining”.
Any of these sound familiar?
The Way you Feel Matters.
Your mental health matters. There will always be someone better or worse off than you – that does not make you any less deserving of help and support.
We each have different triggers, different levels of how much stress we can handle. We CANNOT compare ourselves to others. We don’t always know the full story, we don’t know their past, we don’t know their children, we don’t know their relationships, their financial situation, or how their physical and mental health is currently.
Focus on YOU, Mama. How are YOU feeling? If you are struggling, in any way, no matter how big or small. Reach out. Reach out and NEVER be afraid to ask for support. Motherhood is HARD. There is no denying that, so let’s all support each other, instead of comparing and judging. Reaching out for support is incredibly strong, do not be afraid to ask for what you need.
Here are a few ways to check in with your mental health:
1. Check in with yourself, how do you feel, really? Carve out some alone time and sit with your thoughts, journal, or chat with a close friend, whom you can share anything with. Get it all out. Name the emotion you are feeling, allow it to be. Accept that is how you are feeling right now.
2. Now that you know HOW you feel, let’s look at the WHY? Are you stressed? Why? Is it because you are saying yes to everything and everyone and getting overwhelmed? Is it because you are finding it hard being a first time Mum, but are too scared to ask for help, in case of judgement, so you keep going, getting more and more stressed? Are you exhausted? Why? Is it because you are staying up for 3 hours after baby has gone to bed, then getting up for the night feeds, then doing everything during the day, looking after baby, cleaning, cooking, then doing the night-time routine? Dig deep, and find the root cause. Keep asking why, until you get to the root cause of the emotion you are feeling.
3. Now that you know why you are feeling the way you are, you can take steps to improve your situation. If it’s exhaustion, can you go to bed earlier, or ask your partner and friends or family for support? Can you cook big batches and freeze them for you and baby? What can you do to reduce stress? To improve sleep? To feel better? What can you minimise or eliminate? What can you ask for support with? Start saying no, setting boundaries with yourself and others. Feel empowered to do what you need to do to improve your mental health. Writing down what increases and decreases your stress may help, then you can easily look at it and see what you can reduce or eliminate!
4. We are all individuals and it is important to find ways to nourish your mental health that work for YOU. Everyday, find small moments to do things you love, to care and nurture yourself, mind, body and soul. It may be a walk, alone in nature, yoga, meditation, a coconut milk hot chocolate, reading a good book, listening to a podcast, a massage, watching a funny movie, making an epic salad. What do these small moments look like for you? How many small moments can you fit into your day, for moments of joy, just for you? Injecting mindful moments into our day and being present, can really help to shift us out of our heads.
5. Who can you ask for support? Friends? family members? your partner? Your Dr? Other Mums in your playgroup? An outside support service like Healthline? A Coach? A counsellor? There are many ways we can be supported. Reach out and find the support that YOU need, at this point in YOUR Motherhood journey.
Just as we check in with our physical health, we must regularly check in with our mental health. Try and make it a habit of checking in with yourself each morning or evening, before you go to bed. How am I feeling? Am I coping right now? Could I do with tweaking some things in my life to better support me? Do I need to reach out for a bit of support right now? What can I do to look after my mental health right now?
From the bottom of my heart, I want you to know that it is ALWAYS ok to feel the way you feel. You got this, Mama!
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the journey of Motherhood. When you are a sleep deprived, emotional, stress ball, your thoughts and mindsets are often not very positive and optimistic. It’s important to squeeze in some “you” time into your day and some mindful moments to break up the hours of having a little human (or two!) demanding your attention. Here’s 10 tried and true (by yours truly), steps to inject some much needed Mindful moments in your busy day.
- Vitamin N. Nature that is. Get out into nature EVERYDAY, whether its 5 minutes or 2 hours, fit in what you can. Preferably child and technology free. If that’s not possible, take a moment to close your eyes, with child, listen to the birds, the wind. Touch your hands and feet against the earth. Be present. Nature is a wonderful, free, abundant resource for clearing our minds, instantly calming our frazzled Mum brains and great at putting things into perspective.
- As easy as it is to get fish and chips when you are a sleep deprived mess, try not to. Fuelling your body with nourishing food, really does nourish your mind in return. Do what you can to ensure that you have access to healthy wholefoods. Cook big batches at dinner time and freeze portions for your lunch. Make easy breakfasts like smoothies, chia puddings and overnight oats. Stick to simple meals for dinner, or get your partner to cook. Drink water, all the water, and reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake. The better your body feels, the easier for your mind to flip negatives to positives, to be clearer- and you don’t have the added guilt of binge eating crap!
- Ask for Support. Please. Never, ever be afraid to ask for help if you are struggling. Whether it be house cleaning, cooking dinner, babysitting, or just an ear to listen. Reach out, get those feelings out of your body! Do this, however suits you. It could be journaling, a Facebook live, talking to a close friend or relative or screaming into your pillow. Do what works for YOU! Ask for what you need. Know that it is NOT weak to ask for help or admit you are struggling, in fact, it is incredibly strong. You know how you feel, you know what you need, and you ask for it – amazing!!
- The simple act of listing a few things you are grateful for each day, often puts those hard times into perspective. You can write them down each evening, think them, say them out loud to your family and share. There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for, whether it be something small like a roof over your head, or something big like winning the lotto!
- Become aware each time you catch your mind wandering down the negativity spiral. When you catch yourself, switch it. So, “I can’t do this anymore”, could be switched to “this is only temporary, I can get through this”. Use affirmations if they call to you. Find the positive. Ask for support, do what you need to do to help your negative thoughts and mindsets. A more positive mindset = a happier Mama.
- Yes, I know, it’s hard to sleep with little humans waking at all hours. Sleep when you can, as much as you can. If that means the washing piles up while you take a nap during the day, so be it. Sleep is imperative for your health, mind, body and soul. It is often demoted after the birth of our babies, but, we must aim for as much as possible. The more sleep we get, the easier it is to be mindful, to think clearly, to be happier and in turn the more sleep we get the more our bodies heal and re-generate.
- When you are feeling overwhelmed, STOP. Breathe. Deep, diaphragmatic breaths. Lie with one hand on your chest and one on your belly. Breathe in deeply through your nose, your belly should rise and your chest should stay relatively still. Release through the mouth. Repeat until you feel calm. Do this as often as you need to! If you are on the go, take some deep breaths while driving or pushing the pram.
- As hard as it is to move our bodies when we are super tired and feeling blah, it’s another key ingredient to snapping out of those funks and feeling good. I don’t mean go to a Pump class everyday, I mean go for a walk, do a bit of yoga at home, go for a run. Something that you enjoy, that you can do with the kids or when your partner get’s home. You’ll feel so much better after, trust me!
- Practise being present. It’s all too easy to sit and scroll Instagram while your children play. To watch TV while you are eating. To multitask. However, all that we end up doing is several things half-assed. Try and inject 100% present moments in your day. Fully engage with your children, talk to a friend and be THERE, listening. Not thinking about what you have to do later. Be present. The past has been, the future is yet to come. By focusing on the present, we get to truly LIVE. Bonus, it improves the connections and relationships with those around you as you are putting all your energy into being present and engaging with them, with no distractions.
- Yes, changing a mindset or habit won’t happen overnight. Stick with it, cultivate that awareness, practise the above steps, until it becomes your new reality.
Remember, it takes a while for a new habit to become ingrained. Start small. Set reminders on your phone. Know that just a few minutes here and there is enough!
I’ve always known I was going to be a mum. I believed it without a doubt. I had no idea when, I had no idea who with, I just KNEW.
I didn’t grow up around babies. The women around me never talked openly about the ups and downs of motherhood. All I knew was what I had heard and seen from society – movies, books, magazines. It was all left wide open, unanswered. Even in antenatal class these things were brushed over. It was a quick crash course in what options of painkillers you have, one lesson on how to swaddle and bath your baby, natural birth vs. Caesarean and the options of where to birth with all the pros and cons.
I had no idea what I was doing. But I trusted. I knew I was meant to be a mum.
It started with pregnancy. I had no idea it would be so emotionally, physically and mentally demanding. You only ever hear of pregnancies being two things – an absolute breeze and they loved it, or a nightmare they hated! Same with the birth: mostly I’d heard how horrible it was from other women. My plans for an all natural birth at a birthing centre went out the window and after a 31-hour labour, no sleep for three days, no food, 1.5L of blood loss and an episiotomy, my son was born, healthy and well in the hospital. I was cleaned up, stitched up and put into a shared room with another mum and her crying baby. I was so weak I needed help to go to the toilet, and to lift my son so I could feed him. My partner could not stay with me – I was left alone, hours after giving birth to my son. I was scared, tired, so tired, hungry, sore, weak and lonely. The nurses did their best, but there was a strike on, and each time I’d have someone new with different opinions, which was confusing. I had no idea how to breastfeed properly. It did not come naturally to me. It hurt, a lot. I worried my son wasn’t getting anything, but I knew I had to keep trying.
Again, each midwife had different opinions on how to get my son to feed and sleep, again, confusing. I began to go with my gut and listen to what felt aligned to me instinctively, intuitively.
After a blood transfusion, I transferred to the birthing centre. My partner was able to stay with me for two nights. I had a proper bed and proper food (don’t get me started on how a woman is supposed to heal when given sugar-laden cereal with an extra sugar packet on the side!) and more support. Again, each midwife had different opinions on how to get my son to feed and sleep, again, confusing. I began to go with my gut and listen to what felt aligned to me instinctively, intuitively. I sat in the feeding chair like a zombie, holding my son and hoping he was getting nourishment, gritting my teeth through any pain.
On the fourth day after I gave birth my milk came in – yay things were working! We started to get the hang of this breastfeeding thing, the pain slowly started to wane, and we found our rhythm. I was still very weak, severely sleep deprived and sore when I went home. I had a week and a half of my mum and partner to help me adjust to caring for this helpless little human 24/7. NOT ENOUGH TIME, BY THE WAY! Some women are lucky to have family around for longer; not me.
This little human needs me. I am his source of food. I am his world. I accept that, I love him more than anything on this earth; that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Those first few weeks when Dan went back to work were hard. I was still healing and sore. I was stuck in the chair feeding for hours then holding and rocking my baby to sleep for hours. Showering, eating and going to the toilet were my priorities after ensuring my son was happy. The isolation and lack of independence hit. I wasn’t in a place I grew up in. I knew a handful of people, no family. I knew one person with a baby, several months older than mine and the girls in my antenatal class I’d only met a few times – their babies were all 4-6 weeks older than mine. I have always been a very independent person; being stuck in the house with a baby on me, was hard. It still is! I want desperately to have my body to myself for a few moments. I want to just go for a drive or SOMETHING by myself for however long I want. I couldn’t, I can’t. This little human needs me. I am his source of food. I am his world. I accept that, I love him more than anything on this earth; that doesn’t mean it’s easy. There’s an adjustment period needed. Patience and presence required.
I began reading through posts on online mum groups I had been added to, thinking that there would be other mothers out there going through what I was. There was. For a while it was nice to have the reassurance, nice to know I wasn’t alone. Then the nastiness came through. The comparing, the judgement, the arguing, the rudeness. I thought we were in this together? I thought as women, as mums, we all understood the ups and downs, we all understood that we each have different babies and different ways of parenting? There was a dark side to these mum groups I didn’t want to be a part of. I retreated and decided to focus on my mama intuition. It gets stronger by the day. I spend my time speaking to mamas who are supportive and non-judgemental. I get out for walks with my son, and I nip off for an hour or two when I can.
There was a dark side to these mum groups I didn’t want to be a part of. I retreated and decided to focus on my mama intuition. It gets stronger by the day. I spend my time speaking to mamas who are supportive and non-judgemental
Being a new mum is a crazy ride. It is the most beautiful, yet most difficult thing I have ever done. His smile melts my heart. I have never known a love like this. I share my story because I want women to know it’s OK to struggle sometimes. It’s OK to feel lonely. It’s OK to ask for support. It’s OK to share the raw truth. No matter what, we are ALL in this journey together. Let’s help other new mums by being open and honest about this crazy beautiful journey. Remember, we are all doing our best, and that is enough.