This week on #PNDHour, we will be talking about self-care. Self-care is more than going for a massage or getting our nails done. It’s vital in terms of anyone’s recovery from depression and should be prioritised for all carers in all settings.
In our PND Hour, we will of course be talking about mums and dads and especially those who have been diagnosed with any perinatal mental health illness. I firmly believe that my PND was caused by not taking enough care of myself (overcoming PND guilt) – emotionally, physically and mentally so I’m extremely passionate about self-care for all parents.
Here’s some ways that we can all self-care – this is not an exhaustive list nor do I do all of these but it’s here to give everyone ways to self-care. All of these are achievable, affordable and take small amounts of time.
1. Take time for you
When we have children, it’s very easy for them to consume our whole entire universe. However, we each NEED time to ourselves. We’re not talking here, weekends away in a spa (even though that would be lush), but time each day for you to do something you want – read a book, lie in a bath, crochet, watch a film – some small thing each and every day that is for you. If you’ve got a new baby – ask someone to hold the baby or take the baby for a walk so you can do this. As your baby gets older and you feel ready, find a morning or an afternoon a week where you can leave the baby and go for a coffee or something else you choose to do (gym, massage, hair etc). Nurturing yourself allows you then to nurture your baby in the way you choose.
2. Look after yourself
Eat a healthyish diet, drink lots of water, curb caffeine drinks, watch how much sugar you’re eating, limit alcohol consumption, exercise and get to bed at reasonable times. Take your medication if you’re on it.
3. Spend time with people who make you feel good
My big theory in life is that people are either drains or radiators – either they drain all your energy or they radiate energy into you – make sure you surround yourself with radiators who when you leave, you leave feeling good. If someone drains all the energy from you – limit or don’t spend time with them. You have a choice.
4. Ask for help
If you need help – ask for it – this can be from friends, family and neighbours, paid help, or getting help from the voluntary sector. This could be help with your baby – get a postnatal doula or maternity nurse, help with you house – hire a cleaner, help with laundry – seek out local launderettes to do a service wash, hire a counsellor if you need counselling or seek it out through you local charity – you might even have access to it through any private medical insurance through your work or your own. Often we just don’t feel we can ask – but asking if you’re not coping it will allow life to get easier and if often worth the relatively small expense. There are lots of local charities such as Home-Start that offer a volunteer a couple of hours a week if you meet certain criteria. I hold no guilt now asking my family to watch our children at the weekend so we can get just a couple of hours peace. If they can’t help it’s never an issue, but if they can, it’s so welcomed! And I feel no guilt over having a lovely cleaner – I couldn’t be without her as I feel I clean and tidy all the time, so having a wonderful friend coming in once a week to clean my house and coming home to a clean house is one of the things that makes me happy.
Laughing is known to make you feel better so spend time watching a funny film, try laughing at your situation (have you seen the Breastfeeding blues), laugh at the lovely things your kids do, laugh with your friends on a Friday night – look out for those funny clips that make you laugh and watch again and again.
For me, music is something that if I’m feeling stressed really helps to change the situation. If the kids are driving me mad, I find getting in the car with some good music helps to relieve the situation and we all sing along. Putting music on in the house helps dulls the brain chatter and a bit of dancing with the kids can lift us all.
Meditation is something I don’t do enough of, yet when I do take the small time to do it, it really helps the brain chatter and clears negativity from me. It’s insanely simple yet effective and lots of apps now such as Headspace, which cost barely anything, help guide you through a simple mediation. Being mindful in our everyday life has been shown to be effective – again something I don’t do enough of. I spent long times in my recovery doing mindful walks with the buggy at sleep times and it made a huge difference to the day.
8. Saying no
Saying no is a hard one as there’s so many times we all feel we ‘must’ do something. There are of course, things that we all must do. However, if there are things that we really can’t face, that will make us feel ill, that will drain all our little energy we have, then say NO. Often it’s the fear of saying No and the what-ifs rather than the actual repercussion.
9. Letting go
Letting go of the guilt, of the anxiety, of the fear of saying no, of the need to be perfect, of so many other things – let go of them all and spend that energy on more positive outlets such as focussing on what you want to achieve.
10. Take time away from social media
I am the worst person for being attached to my phone and specifically facebook and twitter – yet I find when I do take that break, I feel so much better. I’m also really strict at keeping my profile clean of people who stress me out or think it’s OK to pop a dig there to whoever they want. I do actively block people not so they can’t see me, but so I don’t need to see them and let them interfere with my own headspace.
11. Focus on the things you want
I’m not talking here about perfection, a clean house, a size 10 figure, but spending time planning the bigger goals in life and taking positive pro-active steps to achieve them – that can be education, learning to drive, saving for a new house, changing career – anything that will positively impact your life. Instead of focussing on all the negativity, use your amazing brain to focus on visualising having the things you want.
12. Block out all negativity
In this post I’ve talked about learning to say no, social media, and letting go of guilt – I really feel blocking out all negativity in your life, whether the news or people or things that upset you is a way to self-care.
13. Do kind things
There’s a lot of evidence to show that doing a kind deed for others can make you feel happier and wealthier emotionally – so each day do one kind thing for someone else – it doesn’t need to be huge – you will feel better for it.
14. Be grateful
As we’ve all see in the #100daysofhappiness, being grateful for all we have in our life, helps us to self-care by reflecting on all the good in our lives. I recently saw a challenge to post 50 grateful things every day – I reckon we all have AT LEAST 50 things in our life to be grateful for.
So, join us on #PNDHour (8pm, Wednesday 20th August, on Twitter) to talk about #selfcare and how we can prioritise ourselves a bit more to get AND stay well. Follow either myself (@NurtureMeEd) or Rosey (@PNDandMe) to join in the chat.
Much love, Tricia xxxx