Congratulations! You’re a mamma now. Motherhood is wonderful, but it’s also a time of relentless busyness and chaos which can lead to completely normal feelings of anxiety and stress. Isn’t it interesting that when we are pregnant we prioritise our health first. We are encouraged to be careful with what we eat, drink, how much exercise and rest and this is deemed legitimately important as it’s ‘for the baby’. But when baby is born, we feel it’s no longer valid to put our health and wellbeing first. This is where the mindset needs to change. Doing something that feels indulgent often produces feelings of ‘mum guilt’ but remember this is still ‘for the baby’. As the saying goes “happy mum, happy everyone!” I know that I’m much more pleasant to be around if my cup is filled! It’s too common that our physical well-being is being neglected and when this is overlooked, stress can very easily build up and tip us into ill health. Coupled with busy-ness of life, worrying about bills, chores etc, poor diet choices: too much sugar or caffeine can overload your system and cause more stress. Overtime, chronic stress can lead to hormonal imbalances, brain fog, fatigue and loss of physical decline. We need to remind ourselves that making babies and giving birth is a huge physical change and we need to acknowledge and honour the recovery!
If you feel as if you’ve been let loose with absolutely no guidance about how to help yourself on this crucial road to recovery, Seek advice from a pelvic and women’s health physio early. We can help you rebuild your reserves through relaxation, breathing and movements. It’s never too late to focus on your physical recovery. Here are my go-to’s for self -care to help build your postnatal mind, body and spirit. Ultimately, this will nurture your nervous system and emotional recovery.
Rest. This may not necessarily mean sleep. When your baby cat naps every 20 mins, getting enough sleep can be challenging. Instead of stressing about getting your solid 8 hours sleep, it may help to incorporate 5-10 mins of rest or mindfulness in your day even if it is just being still and shutting your eyes with some belly breathing.
Breathe, and take it slow. Your central nervous system will thank you for this. Learning how to breathe properly will help switch off unwanted tension and truly relax. Just taking five slow deep breathes regularly will help you to recharge, soothe your nervous system and help calm you out of negative responses. Combining breathe with mindfulness will relax tense muscles and encourage a sense of calm and wellbeing, release endorphins, causing you to feel more relaxed and positive. Additionally, it will also improve the quality of your sleep which will help reduce fatigue and stress. Seek advice from a pelvic and women’s health physio if you’d like to learn the proper way to breathe.
Try to move your body daily! Moving your body doesn’t have to be pounding the pavements or pumping weights at the gym. Be curious with your body and do something you enjoy! Essentially, working out what your body needs in order to thrive. It can be walking to the letterbox, swimming with your baby, turning on some music and busting out moves in the kitchen. All this means is oxygenating your body and producing those happy hormones – endorphins!! Don’t fear movement, but equally don’t do too much too soon. It’s a tricky balance of just enough but not too much. Avoid returning back into running or any other high impact exercise just yet. Recent guidelines suggest running should be avoided until 3-6 months post natal at the earliest. If you’re not sure about what movement is appropriate, check in with your pelvic health physiotherapist to ensure you’re on the correct path to recovery and return to exercise.
Be Kind. Physical changes to our bodies such as scars, stretch marks and boobs can leave feelings of self confidence and a change in identity. This can spiral negatively, leading to self-doubt and self-criticism which impacts on your overall health and happiness. Body image is so intrinsic to happiness and identity, and postnatally this can take a real beating. Learning to accept these changes once you’re a mum can help soften and connect to our bodies better, and do our best to listen and be kind to it. Give yourself permission to love your body, try not to waste energy being hateful of your body. Be curious with your feelings even if you think ‘it’s not that serious’. It may help to voice your feelings to a close friend or a health professional. We need to reject the ‘bounce back’ culture because it makes mums feel like they are failing again which can have profound mental health repercussions. Please seek help, there should be no stigma with reaching out for guidance in this time.
I’ll leave you with this “I want to leave this place knowing I did something with my body other than trying to make it look perfect” - rupi kaur
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