It was maternal mental health week last week and so I wanted to write this blog post in the aim to encourage all you mums out there to take a little extra care of yourself. Most mum's spend their days putting everyone else's needs above their own and feel like any self care or 'me time' is selfish and comes with a thick layer of mum guilt!
1 in 10 women suffer with mental health issues during or after pregnancy and they are so busy caring for everyone else that it often goes unnoticed or brushed under the carpet. There are many layers to mental health ranging from the odd down day to serious depression and beyond. Having mental health issues or post natal depression doesn't make you a failure or a bad mum and ignoring won't make it go away so be open and honest with someone and ask for help.
Whether you are the 1 in 10 that need help and support or one of the other 9 that are just tired and busy it's time to take a bit of extra care of yourself. It doesn't need to be grand or expensive or even take up much time but there are lots of different things that you can do to feel refreshed that will help in the long run for you to be a happier, calmer and more patient mum.When you think of the positive effects that a little self care will have on the rest of your family there really is nothing to feel guilty about. I mean no one can run on empty forever.
Don't forget that your children are watching and learning from everything you do so taking care of yourself and respecting yourself is a really important lesson to be teaching them. And if that doesn't convince you to take some time for yourself then I don't know what will.
Self care is all about taking care of your mind and body. So find things that make you feel inspired and excited and things that make you feel relaxed, refreshed and rested. There are always going to be other things that you 'should' be doing like the laundry or making tomorrows packed lunches but if you can start to see and understand the benefits of self care then it starts moving higher up the priority list. You mental health is more important than laundry, just saying!!!
Here are some of my suggestions of how you can do some simple things to take care of yourself ...
Find a way to physically relax and zone out, for me this is having a bath. This needs to be on your own without anyone children in the room!! This can be hard to do while the children are awake as you will still be able to hear them and they will probably try to join you so do it after they go to bed. You have to wash anyway so why not just once a week have a little relaxing soak. It forces you to slow down and get off your feet and the warm water will start to relax your muscles, making your body relax. If you can have a glass of wine in their too then even better!!
Saying 'no' to things. Play dates, parties, school PTAs, cake sales and sleep overs all seem like fun and games until you are suddenly snowed under with so many commitments that you don't have time to stop and think. And those school mum Whatsapp groups, who can keep up with all of those?! It is ok to occasionally (or more than occasionally if you like) say no to things. If your child does 5 different clubs and one more will tip you over the edge it is totally fine to tell them no. If another mum asks you to look after their children and you are feeling like you can barely look after your own then say no and just focus on what you can manage. People won't stop liking you or judge you for not doing absolutely everything if they do then they clearly have too much time on their hands to worry about what you are doing.
Spend time with friends. Remember when you weren't a mum and you used to go for long lunches and put the world to rights with your friends and even if you spent the whole time moaning you would come home feeling great, well those times are still important. Maybe you don't have times for long prosecco filled lunches but an afternoon cuppa and chat while the children nap or on your way back from work before you need to pick them up from childcare will do you the world of good.
Do something creative. This of course isn't everyone's bag but if you like being creative then this is great for relaxing the mind and just switching off for a bit. Do a bit of colouring or crochet or flower arranging. Or maybe its reading that's your thing or crossword puzzles, whatever it is that helps you to switch off and relax your busy overthinking mind that's full of to do lists, give it a go.
Spend time away from social media. Without realising it social media effects all of our mental health, I know that is a very sweeping statement and may not be completely true but it is so hard not to get caught up in comparing yourself to others that seem to have so much more than you. Looking at that perfect family with their perfect home all dressed in matching outfits while you go on the school run with jam in your hair is not going to make you feel great. Remember this is a sugar coated edited version of their lives so stop comparing yourself. Also people that post in a negative way can effect us just as much as being in a room with negative people. So have a break and if necessary unfollow people that cause you to feel negative, you are only seeing their content because you choose to. I would hate to think that anyone that follows me feels in anyway bad about what I post, I would rather they unfollow and do what is right for them.
Exercise. I know that half of you will be saying ' I wish I had time to exercise' and the rest of you are probably groaning at the thought. But we all know that being fitter and healthier is good for our mental health and exercise releases all sorts of endorphins. You don't have to join a gym if that's not your thing you can do a quick Youtube video in the privacy of your own home or go for a walk. You can even get your kids to join in and do it together, go to a baby yoga class or take them out in the pushchair and push them up a hill. As you can tell I am no fitness expert but you get the idea!
Lastly and most importantly I think and also the thing that takes up no time at all are all of the things that you tell yourself. You need to be kinder to yourself. I believe that you can re-train your brain and the way that you think, so if you tell yourself enough positive things about yourself you will eventually believe them. In turn this works the other way with negativity which is why so many of us believe so many bad things about ourselves. It feels weird to tell yourself you are great but think how amazing it would be to actually feel that you are great so it's worth a try. Don't tell yourself anything that you wouldn't tell your children, you wouldn't tell them they were ugly or stupid or not good enough so don't tell yourself. You deserve just as much praise as they do
So when should you practise self care? ALL THE TIME! Don't wait until you are feeling low or stressed to suddenly remember you are supposed to be taking care of yourself, make it part of your weekly routine. That 10 minute soak in the tub once or twice a week might just make everything slightly more manageable and prevent you getting overwhelmed and burning out.
Disclaimer: I am not suggesting that any of these things will solve post natal depression or other hormonal/chemical imbalances that cause mental health problems they are just suggestions of ways that mums and anyone else can feel better about themselves and take time to look after themselves. If you or someone you know is really struggling then professional help is the best way forward, I am not suggesting a bath or a walk will fix that.