Self-care

empty cupSELF-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.

Hot chocolate    colouring in

Eat – When I was really unwell with postnatal depression, I was spag bolhardly 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.

doggies

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.

Links:

http://cookingwithawallflower.com/2015/12/16/cinnamon-hot-chocolate/

 https://www.bookdepository.com/Mindfulness-Colouring-Book-Emma-Farrarons/9780752265629

 http://www.karenmartini.com/cook/recipes/chicken-corn-noodle-soup-polpette

http://karenmartini.com/cook/recipes/sneaky-spaghetti-bolognese

http://www.yogatogrow.com.au/

 http://www.fox.com.au/scoopla/music/blog/2015/6/foxs-ultimate-rnb-playlist/

 

 

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Guest Post – Zelma Broadfoot, The Postnatal Project

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I would like to thank Zelma Broadfoot from The Postnatal Project for the following piece written for Smiling After PND.  Zelma Broadfoot is the Founder of The Postnatal Project, a supportive and informative website and blog – incorporating a social work background with personal experience to create a safe place for parents and their families to explore treatment options and self-help solutions for a self-directed, sustainable and soulful recovery from postnatal depression. The Postnatal Project is dedicated to increasing awareness and reducing stigma of postnatal depression.

This is Zelma’s experience through postnatal depression….

My daughter, Cadence Grace, has just turned one. There were times where I didn’t think I’d make it – I didn’t think I’d survive what motherhood had presented me with. But I’m here – telling my story.

I entered the birthing arena clutching a hypnobirthing guidebook and a sense of ease. I left with scars. A large scar on my lower abdomen – and an even bigger scar in my heart and on my soul – memories, trauma, disappointment. But I didn’t see the second scar until we left the hospital. I remember sitting in the hospital bed – in excruciating pain, sleep deprived and still making sense of everything I had experienced – and saying to my fiancé, Brad: “isn’t it great that I avoided the day 3 blues? Everyone said I’d be crying my eyes out over nothing today.” Now that I look back, I didn’t avoid it. I just didn’t feel it – I was numb, empty, broken.

Everything suddenly felt like it was falling in around me. I imagined that I had dug a deep hole in the sand to protect myself. The sand was made up of grains of expectations, hopes, dreams and plans. Suddenly, I was no longer safe in my hole. The wind was stripping away the sand – grain by grain – living me bare, cold, scared and ashamed. Cadence cried. A lot. Breastfeeding hurt. A lot. I have never felt so helpless. This was not how I expected motherhood would be – but I couldn’t think that. Motherhood is beautiful, sacred, a blessing – it’s not meant to be this hard. There must be something wrong with me.

I started to feel panicked as soon as the sun would go down. My fiancé, Brad, would say: “Zel, are you alright?” I would say that I was. But the tears would flow – and they wouldn’t stop. We both agreed that it was the hormones and that I just needed some sleep.

Nights were the hardest. I was exhausted but I couldn’t sleep. I remember trying to use my hypnobirthing relaxation techniques – counting backwards from 40, pressing my tongue up against my teeth to relax my jaw and repeating positive affirmations. But a voice inside said “hypnobirthing didn’t help you then and it won’t help you now”. Cadence would feed every two hours and some nights, I would be awake until the next feeding – lying in bed, thinking about whether it would be better to die now while Cadence wouldn’t remember me. I recall thinking that she’d be better off, anyway.

These thoughts were overwhelming – I couldn’t keep them to myself any longer. I booked an appointment with my doctor the next day. I asked to complete an Edinburgh Scale. The midwife said “if you score 8 or higher, we might start thinking you’re experiencing postnatal depression”. She stopped adding up the scores half-way through. I felt relief. I felt like I was in safe hands.

I saw a psychologist for a while and maintained regular contact with my GP and clinic midwife. I also trialed some medication. I was very proactive in seeking support – even requesting a referral to a mother and baby unit in the city. But my blog and online resource has been paramount in moving forward, healing and choosing a path of recovery. Expressing my authentic self to the world – and helping others to know that they aren’t alone on this journey – has changed me. I feel free.

For more information about The Postnatal Project, please visit http://www.thepostnatalproject.com

You can also find The Postnatal Project on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Love and Smiles

Josie xx

If you, or someone you know has been touched by perinatal anxiety and depression, please call PANDA’s support helpline on 1300 726 306

On attending my first PANDA Annual Lunch 2016

Table settingSince 2008, PANDA have organised an annual lunch in memory of Louise Litus. Sadly, Louise took her own life in 2007. Louise had suffered Post Natal Depression after the birth of both her children. PANDA’s Annual Lunch is their biggest campaign to raise awareness and funds. The funds raised allow PANDA to continue their amazing work to support and educate the community about perinatal anxiety and depression.

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My father in law & I

Having had my own lived experience of perinatal anxiety and depression, and, being a PANDA Community Education Volunteer, I was excited about attending my first annual lunch. Moreover, my supportive husband and father in law came along too, which made the day even more special.

This year, PANDA held their lunch at ZINC at Federation Square. My husband and I had our wedding reception there, so I was also looking forward to being a guest at the venue. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a welcome drink and warm friendly faces of other PANDA volunteers who were helping out that day. The food served at the lunch was delicious. We enjoyed two courses; a Middle Eastern flavoured eye fillet steak and a raspberry chocolate slice for dessert, accompanied by beverages.

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Matt Tilley, our MC for the lunch

The lunch was MC’d by KIIS 101.1 FM’s Matt Tilley who is an ambassador for PANDA and has been doing the MC gig for the past 8 years. Matt is a father of three children and was warming, witty and engaging. The CEO of PANDA, Terri Smith, spoke about the story behind PANDA’s logo change and delivered key statistics from the helpline, in particular, 1 in 7 new mums and 1 in 10 new dads experience post natal depression.

There was also an On the Couch panel discussion involving Jenni Richardson (PANDA’s National Helpline and Program’s Manager, Miki Perkins (Social Affairs Journalist for The Age and Lisa Farrugia (PANDA champion and fellow Community Education Volunteer). The discussion centred on experiences of being a new parent; the joys and the challenges. Jenni enlightened us on what PANDA hears on the helpline and both Lisa and Miki spoke of their journey through perinatal anxiety and depression, which was also enlightening.

PANDA used several avenues to raise money that day; a live auction that included vouchers for massages, clothing, portraits, wineries, and, my favourite, a dinner at Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant at Crown (valued at $500) and many more. There was also a silent auction that included, but not limited to; vouchers for maternity wear, jewellery, prints, a baby gift box set and a lesson in methode tradionnelle at Domaine Chandon plus a picnic rug (I was out bided on this one). Finally, there was a raffle draw that included prizes such as makeup hamper, chocolate, wine and a wall clock to name a few. Guests were given gift bags, which included a Mumma Bubba bracelet, a special offer to join Placement Solutions and information about the services provided by PANDA. I was also lucky enough to win a book by the Publishing Queen on “how to write a book in less than 7 days.”

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A list of the live auction prizes

Overall, I felt that it was a successful day indeed, and, as I watched people leave the lunch and continue on with their lives I hoped that they would spread the message of the incredible work PANDA does for the community.

If you or anyone you know is struggling from perinatal anxiety or depression please contact PANDA’s national helpline on 1300 726 306.

Love and smiles

Josie

PANDA – http://www.panda.org.au/panda-events/annual-lunch?showall=&start=1

Miki Perkins’ journey through perinatal anxiety and depression –http://www.theage.com.au/national/perinatal-depression-in-just-a-few-short-weeks-i-went-mad-20151117-gl1daw

ZINC –  http://zincfedsq.com.au/

KIIS 101.1 FM – http://www.kiis1011.com.au/

What an anxiety attack looks and feels like to me.

Two steps forward, one giant leap backwards, well, that’s what my recent anxiety attack felt like to me. I hadn’t experienced an attack in about a year and then….BAM…I had one…on Easter Sunday. An anxiety attack is intense, awful and, for me, scary. My symptoms were a sense of losing control, emotionally distressing, I was crying, feeling panicky, I had chest pain and shortness of breath.

The day started out perfectly normal but on reflection, I can now understand why the attack happened. I had decided to host 20 people for Easter Sunday lunch at our place. A part of me thinks that the decision to host the lunch at our place was my way of saying I have recovered enough to do this – I got this. Well I did…..in part. I felt very excited about having our family over for lunch. I also knew it wouldn’t be too hard as family members were bringing dishes such as salads, dessert and other bits and pieces to help ease the load. I decided to prepare a lasagne, a roast chicken and lamb and some other side dishes. I thought this was all simple enough.

What I didn’t factor in was perfectionism. It is one of my personality traits and came to play in me having an anxiety attack. I find my perfectionism crippling because I am constantly setting high standards for myself and feel frustrated when I can’t meet those standards. I also find focussing on minute details time consuming and impede me from doing the task at hand. Perfectionism goes hand in hand with my Generalised Anxiety Disorder and most likely triggered my anxiety attack.

So, the perfectionist in me kept thinking that the food had to be perfect and ready on time, drinking glasses and cutlery had to spotless, house had to be clean. I was also thinking about how were we going to seat everyone? The weather was not looking too promising on the Sunday, yet when I decided to host; Melbourne was going through a patch of really good weather. We didn’t have a backup plan for seating and time was running out. I had also forgotten to buy other bits and pieces for when guests arrived. Not to mention my son had been wrapped around my leg seeking attention, and, may have been teething as he was clingier than usual.

So there I was, in the kitchen stirring the sauce for the lasagne, my son clinging to my leg, thoughts going over and over in my head about all the things that had to be perfect, and, I could feel the pressure building up. I started to panic…. I could feel a sharp pain in my chest and had trouble breathing. I became emotional and my husband came in from outside to see what was wrong. I told him that I thought I was starting to have an anxiety attack and then I lost control and could not breathe. He pulled out a chair and told me to put my head between my knees and to take breaths. The concentration on breathing really did help and I was able to overcome my anxiety attack quite quickly. I did notice that it was short lived as opposed to the attacks that I suffered when I had post-natal depression.

My husband was amazing and made me feel safe and supported so that I was able to compose myself quite quickly. On reflection, I pleased to say that lunch was a success and everyone, including myself had a great time. What I learnt from that experience is that I need to stop sweating the small stuff because it is the small things that take away from the bigger picture, such as how happy it makes me being in the company of the people I love, not whether the glasses or cutlery are spotless.

On a final note, I recently came across a pretty easy tip to remember, should I feel that a panic attack might be coming on. The tip was to look around you, find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing that you can taste. Apparently, it is called grounding and can help you when you feel like you are losing control of your surroundings. I am yet to try the method but am interested to hear if it is something you have heard of or, even tried?

Grounding technique taken from: http://www.7cups.com/forum/AnxietySupportCommunity_53/AnxietySupportResources_412/Antianxietypanicattacktechniques_25678/

Love and smiles!

Josie : )