Self-Care for New Moms: When Baths & Exercise Feel Impossible
If I had a penny for the amount of times I've read "Mom's need to practice self care," I would be a millionaire. Wouldn't it be nice if it were that easy? Don't get me wrong - the advice is absolutely correct. But so often, the way self-care is discussed or suggested simply seems unattainable. Telling a new mom to exercise for an hour a day, to eat healthy and home cooked meals, or to go take a shopping trip alone - can feel just short of impossible. If you're able to do it, more power to you - go for it, and keep it up! But if those suggestions make you laugh, or even slightly panic, with thoughts like this...
"I don't have time for that!"
"I'm lucky if I can even get a bite to eat at all."
"What if my baby cries the whole time I'm gone?"
...I get it. And those are all very, very valid points.
So, how are new moms supposed to actually practice self-care - in a sustainable way? We know it's incredibly important during the postpartum period, but we also know it's really hard to achieve. Fortunately, there are other ways to practice it that might seem a little bit more manageable. Let's talk about some ideas...
1) Implement one thing a day that makes you smile. Maybe that's a quick text to a friend, or spending an extra five minutes sitting in the car to browse social media before going inside. Maybe it's watching an episode of a funny TV show while holding, feeding, or calming baby. Or listening to a funny podcast. Whatever it is, find something that brings you a little joy - and make it easy.
2) Practice meditation and deep breathing. No, I'm not talking about spending an hour a day on a yoga mat (though if you can swing it, go for it!). Apps like Insight Timer, Headpsace, and Expectful have meditations and breathing exercises ranging from 30 seconds to hours long. Pick an amount that seems manageable for you. The point is to be intentional - to set aside a few minutes every day to focus and calm your mind.
3) Try to get outside every day. Some days this might look like a walk, and other days, it might mean bundling yourself and baby up in 5 blankets and breathing in the winter air for 30 seconds before going back inside. Just make it a goal to breathe in some fresh air.
4) Seek counseling. Whether you're struggling with adjusting to motherhood, or feeling something a bit more intense, therapy for new moms can be immensely helpful. Virtual therapy is a great option if you don't have childcare or are nervous to leave baby. Looking for a therapist certified in perinatal mental health counseling is a great place to start.
5) Identify what you need help with - and know this will change. If you have someone offering you help, work on voicing exactly what you need. Try not to be afraid to ask someone to throw in the load of laundry for you so you can snuggle baby a little longer. Or to ask someone to take baby so you can get a nap in. By having a clear idea of what might be helpful for the minute/hour/day, you'll be more able to utilize your support system effectively.
The key to all of these ideas? Intentionality. Setting aside time for you does not have to be as difficult as it's often portrayed. By taking steps like the ones above, you'll be implementing self-care strategies that will soon become habits.
And remember, this type of self-care won't last forever. You will be able to take that bath - or go for that run - soon enough.
This blog is not a substitute for advice from a licensed healthcare professional. If you are in crisis, please call 911, 988, or go to your nearest emergency room.