SELF-CARE – the things you do to replenish your mental, physical and emotional health or “filling up your cup”.
When I first became a mum, all I could think of was my baby and his wellbeing. I also felt guilty if I was not 100% focussed on him. Ultimately, I forgot to take care of myself. Part of my recovery from postnatal depression was to think of self-care strategies that I could use, particularly when my “cup” was starting to empty. Here are a few that I turn to:
Sleep – I love it. Who doesn’t? Babies and toddlers – that’s who! My son, Leo seems to wake often and early. When I don’t get enough sleep I start to feel really anxious. When I am anxious, I struggle to fall sleep. Some strategies I use to help me relax and unwind before bed are to make myself a cup of camomile tea with a teaspoon of honey, or, a mug of hot chocolate. I use hot milk instead of boiling water and a stick of cinnamon. The smell of cinnamon and something about hot milk makes me sleepy. Other times, I will pull out my mindfulness colouring in book and do some colouring.
Eat – When I was really unwell with postnatal depression, I was hardly eating. I was lucky though, that family and friends noticed and helped with cooking meals or brought lunch over and made sure I was eating. Since recovering, I have now found a new love for cooking and eating. At the moment, I love to cook up a big batch of soup, which lasts a few days in the fridge. My favourite at the moment is Karen Martini’s chicken and corn soup. I also cook a whole pot of bolognaise sauce which I freeze in batches. Sometimes, pretty rarely actually, we will organise a babysitter for Leo and hubby and I will enjoy a meal at one of our favourite restaurants – I wish we did this more often!
Exercise – I am not a fan of exercise; however, I do enjoy taking our dog for a walk to the local park. We usually meet other dog walkers there and it makes me happy seeing him play and run around with the other doggies. Another thing I do which I never thought I would enjoy is yoga. I find the breathing exercises and different poses help me to stay focussed and quiet my mind. My favourite classes at the moment are power flow and yin.
Other strategies I use for self-care:
Shower time – In the past, I would never leave Leo out of my sight – this meant putting him in a bouncer and bringing him into the bathroom with me while I showered. As I started to recover I really started to enjoy showering alone. Having that space to myself allows me to switch off.
Music – Those who know me well, know that I love my RnB – hello Fox FM’s RnB Fridays! I make any excuse to get in the car with Leo and we (mainly me) bop along to the music. I am also a closet Taylor Swift fan and will put her music on when I am doing mundane tasks like folding the washing. In fact, Taylor Swift’s Shake it off was one of the first songs I really enjoyed when I started to feel better.
Asking for help – I still find this difficult, but I am definitely so much better at it than I was in the past. I get help with the cooking, whereby, family will cook us lunch or dinner. I also get help with babysitting so that I can go to my appointments or go out for dinner. I also find calling my family and friends and having a good chat over the phone, particularly when I am having bad day, really helps. I do believe in the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” and I only wish I had asked for help sooner!
Speaking to a professional – For me, this means once a month, or, sometimes once a fortnight; I will meet with my psychologist for an hour. Having that hour to talk to my psychologist helps me make meaning of all my thoughts and feelings. I am usually reluctant to go prior to the session, but afterwards I am grateful I went.
So there you have it, these are just a few self-care strategies I use to look after myself and they work for me. What are some of yours?
Love and smiles Josie xx
If you or someone you know has been touched by perinatal anxiety or depression please contact PANDA’s national helpline on 1300 726 306.