It’s so easy as a new mum to focus exclusively on the little human wrapped up in our arms and totally forget about ourselves. I mean who wouldn’t?!
The problem is, that ignoring our own wellbeing through this period can make an already challenging time even more difficult. Lack of sleep, a plethora of outside advice, a totally new relationship to navigate and endless new things to learn is a tricky landscape to navigate, even for the most zen of us. I found to really enjoy the early months I needed to be in a good place myself. Makes sense doesn’t it? But it’s hard to do in the midst of the newborn haze, so I coach pregnant women to create a self care menu ready for the early days. I define self care as an act of love towards the self (this isn’t about hair / nails / massage that self care often gets tagged as on Instagram!). So here’s my top tips for self care in those early days:
RE-DEFINE WHAT A GOOD DAY LOOKS LIKE
Before becoming a mum many of us would rush to work, do a full day of meetings, lunch with a colleague, polish off a presentation and then get to a spin class after work. Post baby a good day for me was getting showered and out to the local coffee shop. Redefining what a good day looked like was one of the best things I ever did – one of the biggest adjustments to life as a new mum is learning to be ok with doing less and this simple trick really helped – so define it now, what does a good day like for you?
LEARN TO SAY NO
Slowing down and savoring the special time of the early months is one of the greatest joys, yet biggest challenges of being a new mum. Many of us are used rushing and busyness as a way of keeping feelings at bay or as a way to feel successful and validated. Slowing down might feel hard, counter-intuitive even, but I urge you to try, you will only get this time once so if you feel tempted to get busy ‘doing’ try just ‘being’.
Learning to say ‘no’ lovingly is a vital self care tool, if you have people pleasing tendencies like me this could feel hard, but remember agreeing to something (especially people visiting) when you don’t really want to is a subtle form of self-sabotage – it undermines your self worth. I struggle with saying no as the thing I fear most is rejection – that if I say no then the person or opportunity will never happen again. However what I’ve learnt is quite the opposite, that by saying no to others and yes to myself I’ve earned respect and trust from others.
GRATITUDE GRATITUDE GRATITUDE
Our brains are wired to focus on the negative, it’s a phenomenon called negativity bias, that’s why focussing each day on 5 things we’re grateful for is so effective, it puts a totally different lens on the day. Being grateful especially when we’re tired, lonely or struggling can feel hard, but those are the times to dig deep and list out at least 5 things you are grateful for, it can be simple as ‘good food to eat’. Try it for a least a week and I promise you will start to notice the difference. There are also some great apps available on the app store, I use one called ‘The Gratitude App’.
NOURISH YOURSELF TOO
It might sound like an obvious one, but many new mums I work with struggle to keep themselves nourished in the early days. Especially if you’re breastfeeding then it’s vital you drink enough water, general guidance is about 10 glasses a day. When we’re tired our bodies crave sugar and carbs, which ultimately will make us more tired, so ask for help and get friends and family to bring home cooked, nutritious meals when they visit.
BAN THE ‘S’ WORD
In my house the word ‘should’ is banned, we replace it with ‘could’ which is much more loving. If you’re constantly telling yourself what you ‘should’ be doing, catch it and replace it with ‘could’ – for example ‘I could go out but right now I’m choosing to let myself rest’. Cultivating self-compassion and kindness through the words we say to ourselves is a vital foundation for a strong relationship with our children, after all how we talk to ourselves is often how we talk to others. Psychologist Carla Marie Manly believes self-compassion is a necessary ingredient for a healthy relationship: “If an individual is geared toward neglecting the self while doting on others, this uneven balance will eventually take its toll. When a person has true compassion for the self, that compassion then supports healthy, balanced relationships.”