When they say it’s the hardest job in the world they aren’t joking! Raising children is the equivalent of having 2.5 jobs. It is physically demanding, mentally draining, emotionally exhausting and if you’re doing it right, it comes with unbelievable amounts of worry and guilt.
With maternal mental health awareness week coming up I wanted to share some of the strategies for coping that I teach in my workshops:
- Take care of yourself! This is the first and most important thing. I’m sure you’ve heard the old “put your own oxygen mask on first” analogy, but it really is so important. Because being a parent is such brutally hard work, you need to be in tip top shape to be in with a chance of getting through it. What you eat, how you move, sleep, relax, what you wear and put on your skin all add up to how well you look after yourself. On my day workshops we spend time going through each of these areas to see where we can improve. Because we are all different there is no one answer, but we all need to find the right balance for ourselves.
- Talk to someone. Whether it is a friend, relative or fellow mum at the play park, it is so important to share how you are feeling if things are getting on top of you. Sometimes even just exchanging a sigh and an eye roll with a fellow parent can help you feel less alone in the struggle. The only thing worse than going through a tough time is going through it alone. If your mood is very low and you are struggling with day to day life, it is important to talk to a professional. Your GP, midwife or health visitor can all help, as can a professional counsellor. Obviously postnatal depression is a medical condition, caused by physiological changes and chemical imbalances in the brain, but I also think that a lot of what gets diagnosed as postnatal depression are natural feelings of loss and isolation as new (and not so new) mothers are trying to adjust to their intense and overwhelming reality. Talking about it is the only way to make sense of your feelings and find the right solutions for you.
- Don’t try to be perfect. Having high standards and expectations of yourself as a parent is ultimately a good thing – it means you care and want what’s best for your child(ren). But perfection is an impossible goal and striving for it will only make you miserable. Learn to embrace “good enough” by recognising the good things you do. Keeping a daily journal can help you focus on all the positives instead of beating yourself up over any perceived failings.
- Change your self talk. Think about how you would speak to a mum friend who was having a difficult time, then extend that same kindness to yourself. We are usually our own worst critic and this technique can help change your inner dialogue to a more positive and supportive one.
- Have fun. Try to think of ways you can have some fun every day, with and without your child(ren). This can give you a break from the seriousness and help lift your mood. Play a silly game, watch a funny program or read one of the many mum-blogs to get a laugh and release some of those feel-good hormones.
If you want to know more about my Nourish Day Workshops for mums or individual counselling sessions, please get in touch.