It’s Maternal Mental Health Week and we’re bringing you a NESSpert to help you re-prioritise your mental wellbeing. Thank you Awareness Calendar Gods, this reminder was well overdue.
Making time for your mental health isn’t always at the top of the to-do list for busy mums. When you’re wading through the depths of dirty laundry, pooey bottoms and breastmilk that doesn’t want to abide by your schedule, mental wellbeing gets forgotten. The irony is that we really need to take care of our mental health in order to contend with the craziness of motherhood.
This week Dr. Ritz Birah, a Consultant Counselling Psychologist, also known as @themummypsychologist on Instagram. Dr. Ritz is a specialist in Clinical Neuroscience Resilience, and as a fellow warrior mum, is the perfect person to talk to us about maternal mental health:
“Mental health is understanding that we experience a variety of emotions, which can’t always be ‘positive’. All feelings and emotions are totally normal, and we should be honest about how we’re feeling. We can’t always be feeling happy, excited or calm, and we shouldn’t expect ourselves to.
Mums may think that they should only be experiencing these positive emotions because they have a baby, which is something to feel happy about. Unfortunately, that’s not realistic. Because we can feel nice emotions, we can feel ones that are not so nice, such as worry or sadness.”
Dr. Ritz’s top five tips for improving maternal mental health
Set your self-care intention for the day
As soon as you wake up, set three small self-care intentions you want to carry out that day. It doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering. We can’t all get a hot stone massage and a blow-dry every day *we wish*.
Do something simple to make yourself feel better. Some of my favourite self-care intentions are simply brushing my hair, or putting lip balm on. It’s easy for busy mums to enter a whirlwind of chores and realise they’ve had the same mum bun on their head for the last three days. Take a couple of minutes to do something that’s good for you, even if it’s just listening to a favourite song that makes you feel happy.
Practice being more present with yourself and with your child
When there’s lots to get done, our minds rush at 100 miles an hour. It’s difficult not to let our busy thoughts distract us. We’re always thinking about what we need to do or things that might be worrying us, especially at the moment. Our phones are also a huge culprit in this. Hands up who’s guilty of over-scrolling? 🙋♀️🙋♀️ It’s okay to admit we use them more than we should.
There’s a few things we can do to help us stay more present. You could try some mindfulness practice by listening to guided meditations. ‘Mindfulness’ gets thrown around a lot, but it basically means bringing your mind back to the present moment.
Other ways to do this include looking at your surroundings and listing 10 things you can touch, or pouring yourself a glass of water and drinking it very slowly. These are great sensory tricks to bring the present into focus. Really think about how the things around you look and feel, or the temperature of your drink. These practices should help calm busy minds.
Carve out moments for yourself
It occurred to me that when we have some self-care time, such as going to a pilates class or having a coffee with a friend, we normally have some extra moments to ourselves. This might be as little as the car journey there and back, but it helps carve out space for busy mums to have moments to themselves.
Try to keep carving out this time at home. So, for example, if you only have half an hour to workout in the house, try to give yourself five minutes either side of the workout to ease into self-care time and ease back out of it. This could help create some really valuable headspace and distance.
Stop comparing you and your baby to others
This is always a challenge for mums, who might be concerned with how their child is progressing, and what milestones they are hitting. Comparison is especially challenging in lockdown, when we have a lot more time to think and judge ourselves.
Don’t worry about what other mothers and babies are doing. Bring your thoughts back to you and your journey. Let your thoughts and feelings be guided by your child. Enjoy where you both are in your journey, because this is really precious time.
List three gratitude's before bed
At the end of the day, name three things you’re grateful for in your life right now. First, think of something your baby does that makes you happy, whether that’s them laughing, or trying a new food. Next, think of something you’re grateful for in your home environment, such as someone else that helps carry the load, or simply your dishwasher for making life that much easier. And finally, choose something you’re grateful for within yourself. This might be your culinary skills or the fact you called a friend today. Pick these gratitudes as you wind down for the evening. This fosters a good mindset to end the day and start the next one.
💪 Mums, you’re doing an amazing job 💪
To all mums out there, you are doing amazing. You’re turning up for your child every day and that’s what being an amazing mum is. We all go through good times and really difficult times, and that’s totally normal. Please know that you’re valued and doing a great job, and reach out if you’re struggling with maternal mental health.
Thank you Dr. Ritz Birah for your expert advice ❤