On the morning I brought my son home from the hospital, I sat holding my baby and crying uncontrollably. I had never experienced something like this before. I literally had no idea why I was crying or how to make it stop, which brought on a few periods of laughing while crying. It was my first brush with all the emotions that parenthood brings. Big changes like this can jostle your sense of balance and make you feel things you don't even have a name for. Making sure you know ways to maintain your mental health as a new mom will keep you from feeling like you're going off the deep end.
Since that moment I brought my first baby home, there have been countless other moments of intense feelings. Many times I feel like I'm losing my mind (which usually follows losing my cool) and wonder where that carefree, fun loving, smiling woman I used to be has gone. It makes me feel better to know it's not just me. Loads of other moms have good days, bad days, and really bad days where they question their sanity. Accepting that this is part of the experience is the first step to keeping your spirits up. But as a mom, you must invest in yourself and find things that feed your mental wellbeing.
Don't let the hards days bring you down too much. Give yourself some love with these 11 ways to maintain your mental health as a new mom.
1. Give It Time
The first few weeks of motherhood can be a rocky road, but don't beat yourself up over the emotional rollercoaster you're experiencing. As the website for Mental Health American pointed out, mood swings are normal during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Often referred to this period as the baby blues, these feelings should start to fade away after two to three weeks after delivery. Give it time. If the feelings don't go away, or become more intense, you should talk to your doctor about a postpartum depression screening.
2. Think Positive
The messages you send yourself can be powerful — in both good and bad ways. According to Psychology Today, "how you think about yourself can have a powerful effect on how you feel." Give yourself reminders of how awesome you are and what you are doing right as a mother.
3. Get Some Shut Eye
I know it's hard to get quality sleep when you have a newborn to attend to, but not getting enough sleep can hurt your mental health. Lack of sleep can exacerbate mental health, as the website for Harvard Medical School reported. So grabbing as much shut eye as possible will give you an advantage at feeling your best each day.
4. Be Spontaneous
The routine of a newborn can get pretty boring, so why not switch things up to lift your spirits. As The University of Michigan's Health Services site suggested breaking up the monotony of schedules boosts mental health. Little things here and there can add excitement to your days and make you smile.
5. Chat It Up
It's easy to feel isolated when you're home with a baby all day, so make sure to stay engaged with the people in your life. Mental health can be influenced by communicating with others, according to Psych Central. Talking about your day, your feelings, or your favorite TV show with a partner or friend can have a positive effect on you, emotionally.
6. Find Other New Moms
It's always comforting to know other people identify with your experience. Having a group of people who support you is a great way to feel connected to others, as Everyday Health pointed out. Find some other new mamas either by asking around or through online meet up groups. Having your tribe will help take the edge off the rough days.
Going to burst into tears if you have to change one more diaper today? Time to tickle your funny bone. According to Psychology Today, laughter is good medicine for mental health. So watch your favorite funny movie or invite your most hilarious friend over for coffee and let the belly laughs begin.
8. Be Grateful
Staying mindful of all that you have to be grateful for can make a big difference in how you face problems. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that those who practiced gratitude journaling experienced more positive moods than participants who did not keep track of their gratitude.
Keep you zen in balance (or just give your brain a small rest) with a little meditation. Your overall wellbeing can be improved through meditation, as Forbes magazine reported. The benefits of being still and quieting the mind are experienced by your entire body.
10. Don't Feel Guilty
One of the hardest lessons for me to learn as a new mom was to leet go of guilt. There is no reason to punish yourself or feel bad if you want to watch trash TV while the baby naps instead of do the dishes. Once I cut myself some slack, I started feeling better.
11. Make Time For Yourself
Having some "me time" is not just a daydream, it's a necessity to surviving parenthood. Take it from health psychologist Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., who told Parenting magazine, "moms should have at least 15 to 20 minutes of "me" time a day to decompress, especially between afternoon and evening."