Self-care as a concept sometimes gets a bit of a bad rap. Some people think its selfish or indulgent but in fact it’s quite the opposite.
Looking after ourselves is a way to take some responsibility for our own health and helps us: maintain our focus, make better decisions, think more clearly, reduce stress, get organised, lift our mood, lessen anxiety and then have the energy to be able to look after others as well. It helps us to feel more settled, strong and physically well too.
Self-care helps us look after our body, mind and soul all at once. There is a direct relationship between self-care and wellbeing. It helps us find some balance, happiness and connection.
If we can lead by example and show our children how to take care of ourselves then they too, learn how to do so, which increases their resilience and strategies to manage life’s stresses.
When you have a baby, it can be a time of mixed emotions and not always happy ones! It is common to feel overwhelmed, isolated, low in mood, exhausted with little or no deep sleep, irritable and other forms of emotional distress.
Practical help can lighten your load. Can you arrange some help with the cleaning, household work such as gardening, shopping and washing? If you have friends or family offering support,
even though you haven’t needed it before, you could accept it, see how it feels to get some extra support and if it works for you. Then re-look at it. Parenting means expanding our tool kit and how we do things.
Opening up the conversation and sharing your feelings as an expectant or new parent is the most important first step in reaching out. It can also be the most difficult, so be gentle with yourself and reach out to someone you know well and trust.
If you are experiencing any emotional distress, it is especially important to share this and to access support. Relationships too are key but can go off course after a baby. Talking, as well as sharing your distress, lessens the isolation and could bring you closer to someone as you share how you really are. You can find out more about accessing support here
New parents can get lost amongst all the apps, books, Facebook pages and Instagram accounts. These often do not show the reality of being a parent and can place extra pressure on those starting out, to live up to a life and appearance that is not real and superficial. Do research, rely on trusted sources only, be kind and gentle on yourself as you make mistakes, and work your way
through this new time in your life.
Observe your baby and try to get to know them and be guided by what you see and feel too. You won’t always get it right, but you will get there. Chat with trusted people and be guided with what feels right. Seek help if you need. It’s a strength, not a failure to do so. Stay in the present and take a breath!
Planning some time out and self-care is critical to look after your emotional and physical wellbeing. Talk to your partner or support people about how to schedule this in regularly and you will see a difference in how you think and feel. It can lift mood and lessen anxiety. Look up when you go outside, get fresh air, go for a gentle walk, look at nature, dance and sing!
Plan something enjoyable on the weekend. Cuddle your pet, observe your baby when they are settled and notice the littlest things you can about their facial expressions or their hairline. Prioritise what really matters. Drink your favourite tea in your most favourite mug and take time to do this. Take a longer shower/bath when your partner is around and use body lotion to embrace the self-care ideas.
Be kind and gentle with yourself as you lean into this new role. It takes time, and you have your lifetime to connect with your child to work on this two-way relationship and develop your own way of parenting.