World Mental Health Day 2021

#WorldMentalHealthDay   
#SelfCare
#LoveYourself

A super quick post that’s one day late for World Mental Health Day.  I wanted to remind you that self care is paramount.  Here are the 3 daily minimum actions you need to take (adapted from my friend Kayla’s weekly FriYays):

  1. stay hydrated
  2. move your body a few times a week (as in don’t sit on your tush all the time – it’s not good for your heart and back especially as you get older)
  3. eat fruit and/or veggies at least once daily

You are important no matter what negative voices you hear in your head and/or from those around you.

If you are a mother or father, you must ensure you are taking good care of yourself physically and mentally in order to take care of your child(ren).  If you aren’t in a good place physically and/or mentally, then you cannot take care of your child(ren) to the fullest extent possible.  The ol’ airplane oxygen mask analogy for self care.

Just as you would see a doctor for a medical issue (like a cardiologist for a heart/circulatory issue, pulmonogist for a lung issue, gastroenterologist for a stomach issue…you get the picture), you should see one of the below types of mental healthcare professionals for any mental issue that your brain is battling with.  Now, don’t see or hear the word “mental” and run in the opposite direction.  Don’t let any of those negative thoughts others may have about that word (derived thanks to inaccurate depictions in movies/TV) scare you from getting help.  After all, your brain is the most powerful and complex organ in the human body without which the rest of your body cannot function properly.  And the brain is taken for granted far too often.  Unlike the other organs, your brain enables you to feel emotions, think, analyze, calculate, reason, etc….you get the picture.  And I wouldn’t be the first person to say that everyone could stand to talk to a mental healthcare practitioner at some point in their lives over a particularly challenging situation, like death of parent or other loved one, difficulties at work or in school, etc.  It’s rare for a person to be able to naturally cope with all issues without help.  Seeing a mental healthcare professional is NOT a sign of weakness.  You should NOT feel ashamed for doing so.

Bottom line, you would not be taking adequate care of yourself if you don’t also take care of your brain and all that it has the power to do.

Type of Mental-Health Professional Degree(s)/Licensing Can Prescribe Meds?

Yes/No

What They Do
Psychologist PhD or PsyD in counseling and clinical psychology No (with the exception of a few states) A psychologist possesses training/expertise in human behavior and mental health. They evaluate and treat people with mental-health problems and can also provide counseling.
Psychiatrist MD=Doctor of Medicine Yes A psychiatrist is essentially a medical doctor who—having studied and trained in the assessment, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mental illnesses—can  diagnose and treat people with mental-health problems. In addition to the ability to prescribe medications, some can also provide counseling. Some psychiatrists only offer therapy. Some do not offer therapy but focus on psychotropic medications. Some offer a combination of both therapy and medication.
Social Worker CSW=clinical social worker

MSW=clinical social worker with a master’s degree along with training and experience in psychotherapy

LSW=licensed social worker

LCSW =licensed clinical social worker who has passed a state licensing examination in social work

ACSW=social worker who has passed a national certification examination in social work

No A social worker focuses on helping people improve their emotional health and well-being. They help people work out personal and/or family issues, function in their environment by focusing on the positive in situations, identify resources, establish support systems, and improve relationships with others. They understand and call upon people’s strengths to overcome challenges and issues to the best of their abilities.
Psychiatric Nurse Advanced practice registered nurse who also holds a master of science degree in nursing or doctor of nursing practice (DNP/DrNP) and who specializes in psychiatric mental-health nursing. Yes (in most states) A psychiatric nurse assesses, diagnoses, and treats individuals with psychiatric problems/disorders. In some states, they are licensed to practice psychotherapy independently.

A Reminder to New Moms: Get Outside As Much As You Can

If you’re a new mom and seeing this blog post, then I’m glad, cuz this post was written with you in mind!

There is a reason–actually, reasons–why people say you need to get outside as much as you can after you’ve recovered from childbirth.

Sunlight is good for you.
Click here for a post about the benefits of sunlight.

PLUS

Fresh air and exercise are good for you.  Being cooped up is NOT good for you.  
Refer to my past post “3 Pieces of Basic Advice for the New Mom.”
Exercise can be as simple as walking around your neighborhood (or in a mall in bad weather) to get that circulation going…and of course, brisk walking is better and once you feel up to it, jogging  is great for burning some of the pregnancy weight off.  Being cooped up paves the way to increased feelings of isolation, which feeds depression, negative thoughts and even a bit of agoraphobia–all of which happened to me when I got hit at 6 weeks postpartum with PPD.  I’m not saying that being cooped up for long periods of time will definitely lead to depression, negative thoughts and agoraphobia, but nothing good comes out of seclusion after you’ve had a baby. We are social beings that need a certain amount of interaction with others.  Just being around people, but not necessarily interacting to a great degree with any particular person(s), has its benefits.  Social support is a whole other matter that I’ve blogged about a lot in the past.

Of course, all this stuff is purely common sense, but with the whirlwind that makes up the first postpartum weeks, a first-time mother that doesn’t have a baby expert (doula or relative) helping out will need these reminders that self care is just as important as baby care.  If you’re anything like the overwhelmed and exhausted wreck that I was after I left the hospital 7 days after I gave birth and experienced childbirth complications, the basic necessity of getting outside will fall by the wayside all too easily.

By doing this for you, you are also doing this for the baby.

A healthy mom means a healthy baby.

 

 

Postpartum Support International’s 2015 Blog Hop – Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month

On the eve of Mother’s Day, here I am struggling with a blog post for the 3rd annual Postpartum Support International (PSI) Blog Hop for Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month.  The topic of the blog hop is “You are not alone: Focus on Support Groups and Resources.”

PSI Blog Hop Badge by Lauren Hale

Please consider joining the blog hop to help spread awareness!  All you have to do is go to the Dr. Christi Hibbert’s blog, and read the guidelines.  There, you will see all the other blogs who are participating in this blog hop.  You have all month in which to join the blog hop.

Support Groups and Resources can be in the form of local organizations, like PPD support groups in a local hospital or in your community (too many to name, but I do list many under my Support Groups/Local Resources links on my blog, in addition to all the local resources listed on the PSI resources page).  You can also find a number of excellent online PPD communities for support, like the closed Facebook groups Postpartum Progress#PPDChat Support, and Postpartum Support International.

I saw a post earlier tonight that inspired me to write the below “poem.”  I’m not sure what I wrote constitutes poetry, but at least you can see I tried to rhyme.  That’s all I remember from my high school days of writing and reading poetry.

I was just telling my husband earlier tonight how it seemed that more mom friends I know are either indifferent about Mother’s Day or dreading it for one reason or another.  Even this morning’s Z100 phone tap was focused on a son’s pretending to argue with his mom about having a big get-together at Peter Luger’s Steakhouse for Mother’s Day.  She was dead set against it because she historically has never wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day (and she could have a very good reason but we don’t know what that is….and neither does the son, apparently).

Before my own motherhood journey that made me realize that not all motherhood experiences are glowing from the get-go or at all, I just assumed that all mothers looked forward to Mother’s Day because it was a day that celebrates and acknowledges mothers for all their love and hard work.

Now, after having gone through what I went through and meeting many new moms in the past ten years, I know there are a lot of moms wishing there wasn’t such a thing as Mother’s Day. It’s these moms I want to dedicate today’s post to.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Are you pretending to look forward to Mother’s Day
When all you really want to do is treat it like any other day?
Or be left alone so you don’t have to spend the extra energy showing your children
How happy you are they remembered to abide with the tradition
Of a card, flowers, gift and/or brunch or dinner out.
After all, that’s what Mother’s Day is really about….

Or is it?

I know that for some women, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of certain things.
I won’t bring up the reasons for the pain for fear of triggering negative feelings.
Whatever the reason,
Know that you are not alone.
Just like childbirth and motherhood experiences always appear so smooth and happy,
They aren’t…..it just appears that way.
It’s natural for you to feel alone if you had any childbirth or postpartum difficulties.
But there are communities
Of women out there who share a similar deal
As you and can help  you to heal.

So, if you are feeling low
And don’t feel up to celebrating Mother’s Day, then say so.
No point in pretending to say and do
Whatever people expect of you.
Like have a whole big to-do
With the extended family, in-laws too.

The important thing–and it should be every day–
Not just on Mother’s Day (a good ol’ Hallmark Day),
Is that you focus on self care.
Whether it be sleeping in and then sipping a hot cup o’ joe, lounging in PJs, getting a manicure,
Watching a flick or two, sipping a glass o’ wine or two, reading
A favorite book, or a day free of laundry, dishes, cooking and cleaning.
You deserve to treat yourself in such a way
Not just on Mother’s Day, but every day.

With love,
Ivy

Guest Post over at Mama’s Comfort Camp: Happy First Birthday!

MCCBadg_member
My friend Yael Saar is a mama on a mission to remove guilt and shame from parenting in order to make room for joy and love. She is the Founder and Keeper of the Mama’s Comfort Camp, a Facebook community that functions as a safe haven and refueling station for hundreds of moms from around the world. This community is free and open to moms of kids of any age, and we share our laughter, tears, and triumphs, all the while normalizing motherhood struggles and bridging the gap between expectations and reality in a uniquely nurturing environment.
I’m so happy to be one of the Campers, and I would love for you to join us.
Please check out my guest post written to celebrate the first birthday of the wonderful community that Yael and her Den Mothers have created.

Self Appreciation Daily: Accentuate the Positive Blog Hop!

Jaime over at James & Jax is introducing a weekly blog hop.  What a great way to kick off the new year!

I promised I would link up before the end of the week, so here I am.  I sat there for a while tonight, pondering what I did this week that deserves a pat on the back.  Other than the relatively stand-up job I did at work this past week, it took me a while to come up with the rest.

I hope that by participating in this weekly blog hop, it will help me stay more focused on the things I do well, and help build on the confidence that I know is growing over time.  Self awareness and self appreciation is an evolutionary process that takes time and occurs over a life time.   My self confidence and self esteem have been steadily growing.  Given how stark my outlook was as a teenager, I am truly amazed and thrilled that I have come this far.  This growth has occurred mostly from the time I emerged from my postpartum depression (PPD) through the publication of my book.

But it isn’t stopping with the end of my book writing journey.  I’m going to challenge myself to take more notice of the things that I do each and every day that deserve more than to be forgotten–basically taken for granted– by the next day.  My memory finds anything past a day challenging to remember as I get older.

Thank you, Jaime for this inspiration that, blog hop or no blog hop, we all need to focus more on self care, in terms of taking better care of ourselves, as well as patting ourselves on the back for not just the big accomplishments but the little ones that are all too often easily ignored.

Well, here is my list of things I want to pat myself on the back for this week:

  1. Not only did I make it through one helluva stressful week at work, I handled it with confidence and managing to stay organized and meeting deadlines, while not letting the stress get the better of me like it has done so often in the past.
  2. I handled seeing and even talking to the two people that made me feel bad in a previous encounter like a real trooper.  The thought of seeing one of them twice a week and the other one once a week for the next couple of months is not having the kind of impact (i.e., dread) it would’ve had on me in years past.
  3. I handled my daughter’s breakdown on day 1 of her new swim class, new instructor and new pool like a trooper, in my opinion (which is saying a lot, since I’m pretty hard on myself usually).  Thankfully, she didn’t spend too much time crying and before I knew it, she was swimming in the pool….and I avoided the kind of embarrassing episode that left me looking helpless and defeated in the past.
  4. I survived another week of my lovely–and sometimes very long and irritating– commute to/from the City.  I didn’t let 4 separate occurrences of my 10 pet peeves I encountered get to me.
  5. Granted, I’m nowhere near the level of chauffering my other friends do with their multiple kids and their various weekend activities.  But I think I am doing a decent job as schedule keeper/chauffeur, if I do say so myself!  I always make sure my daughter and I get up 1-1/2 hours before any weekend activities, including Chinese school, ballet, and swimming.  That gives us time to eat breakfast (and she’s a very slow eater) and get some TV or playtime in before leaving home.  Transitioning environments has always been somewhat of a challenge for our daughter, but thankfully, she is getting better about it as she gets older!

Please click on the “I’m Doing It Right” button below to check out Jaime’s post and the other blog hop participants’ posts, and consider joining us in this weekly blog hop!  If you can’t join weekly, that’s alright, just join when you can!  It just might make a positive difference in your outlook!

This Mother’s Day – Let’s Focus on What Really Matters

THIS MOTHER’S DAY – LET’S FOCUS ON WHAT REALLY MATTERS

What’s all this recent fuss?
This fuss with yet another ploy
By media to add fuel to the fire
Of moms who breast-feed versus bottle-feed
Of moms who attachment parent, the seemingly new trend,
And of moms like me who are like, what is attachment parenting (or AP) anyway?

Why the lingo?
Why the mompetition?
Why not community?
Why not support for each other?
Why don’t we honor mothers the way other cultures do?

Well, let me tell you why.
Our society is one in which the primary goal is success,
And who’s best at this or that.
Who’s best at motherhood.
Who’s best at their career.
Who breast-feeds the longest.
Who returns to their pre-baby body the quickest.

Our culture is more bent on pitting mother against mother
Than finding ways for them to support each other.
Through the years, our culture has lost its way.
Just think….
Why is good childcare hard to find?
Why is info on PPD so hard to find?
Why are support services for new moms so hard to find?
What are medical professionals who know how to recognize
And treat PPD correctly so hard to find?

Who gives a rat’s tush….
If someone breast-feeds for a few days versus three years?
If someone bottle-feeds because they choose to do so?
If someone bottle feeds because they and/or their baby had to have a….
Life-saving procedure
Or was sick
And had difficulty breastfeeding
And had very little support?
If someone does “AP” or doesn’t even know what the heck that term means
Does it really matter?
And why someone have to even come up with it in the first place?

Haven’t parents been parenting for thousands of years?
Babies have turned out just fine,
And in some ways, even better than they are today!
Were there electronic gadgets and fancy terms for childcare decades ago?
My peers and I grew up without all that
And I would like to think we turned out just fine!

If we want our babies to grow up fine
We feed, hold, kiss, hug, and interact (read/sing/play) with them.
We do the best we can given our personal situation.
Doesn’t matter how expensive our toys are
Or how fancy the name of the trend du jour is,
Or whether we end up bottle-feeding for whatever the reason may be.
Bonding will happen.
Babies will thrive.

Don’t give in to our society’s myopic ploy.
A ploy with a focus on situations that encourage moms to compete with each other.
A society with mothers feeling alone,
Mothers feeling stressed out,
And mothers feeling like they’re not mom enough.
A society that provides very little in the way of
New mom support services,
Comprehensive maternal health (mental/medical) care services,
And awareness campaigns to bust the stigma surrounding perinatal mental health!
And you wonder why the number of moms with PPD are one in eight!
We are bringing it upon ourselves!

What can we do to change things, you ask?
Let’s end the mompetition.
Let’s have moms be supportive of each other.
Let’s create support services to help new mothers and their families.
Let’s have a society that honors its mothers
Not just on Mother’s Day but always!

For all the moms out there, remember self care.
Without it, you cannot care for your babies.
They need you.
As long as you’re doing what YOU feel is right for you and your baby…
And given YOUR situation…
Then filter out all the media tactics and mompetitive attitudes…
Take a deep breath and repeat after me:
“I AM MOM ENOUGH, AND I WON’T FORGET IT.”

For all those who have a mom (or two) you care about
And will be celebrating Mother’s Day with her today,
Please remember (especially if this is a new mom) that the greatest gift
You can give her is emotional and practical support.
Don’t provide advice unless she asks you for it.
Do provide a shoulder to cry on if she’s having a rough day.
Do provide help so she can get the rest she needs
And/or time to do something just for herself,
And last but not least,
Remind her that SHE IS MOM ENOUGH AND SHE SHOULD NOT FORGET IT.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

A wish from one mother to another!

xx

September 14, 2011 Nurturing Yourself from Within Teleconference Hosted by SPARKS

On September 14th, SPARKS will be hosting a teleconference, led by SPARK’s Confidential Crisis Hotline Coordinator, Rivky Glicksman, on the topic of “Nurturing Yourself from Within.”

Here are the Call-In Details:

  • 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM EST (a time slot conveniently arranged to allow the expectant/new mom who might still be working to participate at home and after their babies/children have gone to sleep and/or can be taken care of by the husband after his return from work). 
  • Dial-in Number and Password: 718-873-0922, Dial 9, PIN #2757. 

For more information on SPARKS and their mission to help mothers and their families, please visit their website or call 718-2-SPARKS (277-2757) for the hotline or other questions.

 This teleconference is for women of all ages and stages. It is completely confidential.  Please spread the word!

August 3, 2011 Empowering Your Birth Teleconference Hosted by SPARKS

Back in March, I blogged about my experience as an attendee of the SPARKS appreciation and tribute luncheon at the US Capitol.  The SPARKS mission is just what the acronym stands for–Serving Pre and Post-Natal Women and Families with Awareness, Relief, Knowledge and Support. 

On August 3rd, SPARKS will be carrying out each point of the 5-letter acronym by way of a teleconference!  As the second of a 3-part series on “Pregnancy, Birth, and Beyond,” this teleconference, led by SPARK’s hotline coordinator, will be focused on “Empowering Your Birth” and self care/nurturing the expectant and new mother–key to the prevention of postpartum depression. 

Here are the Call-In Details:

  • 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM EST (a time slot conveniently arranged to allow the expectant/new mom who might still be working to participate at home and after their babies/children have gone to sleep and/or can be taken care of by the husband after his return from work). 
  • Dial-in Number and Password: 718-873-0922, Dial 9, PIN #2757. 

For more information on SPARKS and their mission to help mothers and their families, please visit their website or call 718-2-SPARKS (277-2757) for the hotline or other questions.

Please spread the word to expectant and new moms!

Last Day of the 21-Day Self-Care Challenge

Well, that was a very quick 21 days!   I’m sure you found how rewarding taking a few minutes each day to do something for yourself truly is.  

As we go about our daily lives, let’s not forget to include taking care of ourselves on our lists of things to do.  Take care of yourself physically, mentally, spiritually.  Eat well.  Exercise.  Get enough sleep.  Meditate.  Do something that you enjoy and feels rewarding to you, like reading, writing, cooking, drawing, singing, or some other hobby.   Treat yourself to an occasional manicure and/or pedicure.  Join a charitable organization that meets once a month and finds ways to give back to your community and raises funds for a worthy cause.

A friend of mine just sent me a short note after seeing my status on LinkedIn that said that I am headed to the annual Postpartum Support International/Marce Society conference taking place in Pittsburgh for the next few days.  He said “Glad to see you’re keeping up with your passion!”    Yes, my passion is learning all there is to learn about postpartum depression (PPD) and sharing that knowledge through my writing.  I am very much looking forward to meeting my fellow bloggers Katherine Stone, Lauren Hale (for the 1st time), and Amber Koter-Puline (also for the 1st time).  I look forward to seeing my other friends from PSI, like Jane Honickman, Wendy Davis, and Birdie Gunyon Meyer.  I also look forward to meeting others who are experts on the subject and heavily involved in postpartum support groups, like Liz Friedman of MotherWoman.

Life is a gift and each one of us should make the most of it.   Find what it takes to be happy and healthy, which includes making time for yourself and finding your passion.

Thank you, Diane Sanford and Anne Dunnewold, for leading this self-care challenge!

Halfway Point of the Self-Care Challenge: Loving Yourself

Today is Day 11 of the self-care challenge, and today’s mantra is:  “I love me, with all my strengths and human faults.”

Why am I tuning in now, after being quiet since my last post, which was day 1 of the self-care challenge?  Well, for one thing, I just got back yesterday from Disney World, having a great dose of time off away the realities of the daily grind made up of the stress of work and the cooling weather–neither of which I care for very much.   Second, we are exactly halfway through the 21-day self-care challenge and I couldn’t not set aside some time today to reach out to my blog readers.  And lastly, today’s mantra has special significance for me.

It is healthy–and actually quite critical–for each and every individual out there to value herself/himself.  Despite what you may have been told while growing up, you are important and you are able to overcome challenges at home, at school, at work, and among peers as long as you put your mind to it.   It all has to do with mindset, which is determined by heredity.  Is your personality more passive than aggressive, more shy than outgoing, more serious than humorous?  It is also determined by environmental factors, such as 1) how much you are nurtured, encouraged and supported by your parents from the time you are an infant through your teenage years, 2) the examples your parents and other elders in your life set for you, and 3) your life experiences.

Remember to focus on your strengths, realizing of course that we all do have shortcomings, as NO ONE IS PERFECT.  I’ve found that discovering your strengths doesn’t stop with the end of your school years.   You will continue to discover and build on your strengths and talents all throughout life.   Life has so much to offer.  So many different things to take interest in.  So many places to see and explore.  So much culture.  So many chances to help and make a difference for others.

I spent the majority (about 30 yrs) of my life disliking myself, not feeling like life was worth living, and incessantly comparing myself to others around me who were more attractive, smart and talented than me.  Well, first of all, remember the age-old saying “Beauty is only skin deep.”   I believe that inner beauty is far more important than physical beauty.  Physical beauty will only last you so long, but inner beauty can only get more vibrant as you become older and more mature.  While it’s very easy and tempting to compare yourself to others, don’t do it.  It’s a total waste of your time.  Every individual is unique.  Every individual has her/his own talents.

While I was in school, I felt so mediocre.  Nothing I did seemed special.  I wasn’t particularly smart enough to score consistent A’s or get scholarships.  I did well in English, but never cared to read the books I was assigned, let alone write papers about them.  I sucked at taking standardized exams, like the PSATs and SATs.  And yet, I got into a good school and am doing okay for myself today.

Aside from singing in choirs, I didn’t have any interest in art (because I suck at drawing and painting) or dancing (which I now regret).  I didn’t play sports–in fact, I hated all team sports.  I have no doubt that things would’ve been different had I not been so shy and withdrawn.  I don’t remember much of my childhood, though I do know that I was reluctant to do much of anything.   I used to think that my parents could’ve tried harder to introduce me to different things (like gymnastics, dancing or soccer) and try to figure out what I liked to do or was good at doing.  Now that I have a daughter that is also shy and withdrawn, I know that it’s not that easy to get such a child to take interest in a whole lot–even if you do your best at supporting and encouraging.    What I’ve learned is that there is a time for everything, and for some people, that time comes later in life.   I broke out of my shy shell of a person gradually through the years, but particularly once I got out of college and started finding out who I really am.  Nowadays, one would never think that I was that shy.  Put me in a roomful of strangers and I can talk to practically everyone as if I’d known them all their lives.  Just don’t put me in front of that roomful of people, and I’ll be just fine.  Yes, like many others out there, I have this fear of public speaking, which I’ve been working on by way of public speaking classes, the latest of which was an absolutely wonderful class at NYU.

As Diane and Anne are encouraging you to do, write down at least 5 things you love about yourself.   Here are my 6 things that I love about myself (and those who know me well know that I am NOT the bragging type):

1.  My ability to empathize with others

2.  My ability to write

3.  My ability to truly see and appreciate the beauty of nature and outdoor settings through photography

4.  My persistence (or shall I say perseverance)

5.  My work ethic…perhaps that is why I’ve been able to survive so many changes and a recession with 1 company for 21 years

6.  My ability to see the positive in my negative experiences, such as my postpartum depression (PPD)

Now, it’s your turn.  Don’t be bashful.

NOTE:  In case you’re wondering if I’ve digressed from the topic of PPD, I haven’t really because self care is key to one’s mental health.  My past posts on the risk factors of PPD and self care during the postpartum months all tie in to how important it is for new moms to be nurtured so they can, in turn, nurture their babies.

Join the Self Care Challenge!

For practical self care tips comprised of really quick (10-15 min) and simple strategies that will hopefully inspire you to lead a healthier lifestyle, visit the Living the Self Care blog starting today, October 6th, through October 26th.  You can sign up for daily reminders to check in for the trip/strategy of the day by subscribing to the Living the Self Care Challenge blog.  Please share your experience and thoughts about the tips/strategies with Drs. Diane Sanford and Anne Dunnewold by leaving a comment on their blog and/or Facebook page and/or tweeting them using #SelfCareChal or @RealMomExperts.

As a Self Care Challenge Champion, I encourage you to share these strategies with friends and family members, and via your own blogs, Facebook and Twitter. 

My last blog post was coincidentally about self care and the importance of new moms taking care of themselves.   Self care is important, in general.  It shouldn’t just be a focus during certain times of your life, as in during pregnancy and postpartum.  It should be programmed into your daily routine.  It should be your way of life.  Exercise, getting enough rest, eating nutritiously, meditation/yoga, pursuing interests that are fulfilling and make you happy (e.g., hobbies, reading, writing, blogging, volunteering, outdoor activities) are but some self care examples.  A happy, healthy person will be less susceptible to physical and mental health issues.   And that’s a fact.

The Myth That Loving Your Baby Means Never Taking a Break

Okay, so you now have a brand-new, completely helpless infant to take care of.  Loving your baby (and your other children if you have any) means never needing to take breaks from her.  Somehow, new mothers all seem to feel guilty at the mere thought of taking a break, convinced that taking time for themselves makes them selfish and bad moms.  C’mon….how ridiculous is that? 

Sure, your priorities have shifted and you need to take care of your new bundle of joy.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t have any time to yourself or time to rest.  You can’t take care of yourself, let alone your baby when you’re completely drained.  You can’t continue on an empty tank, not allowing your body to restore your energy in the form of sleep and adequate nutrition.  You are, after all a human being, not a super-being or the Energizer® bunny that keeps going and going and going.  No one, not even the Energizer® bunny, can run on empty.  The bunny can’t keep on going and going and going without new batteries. If you deprive your body of the sleep, nutrition and rest it needs, there is only so much time before your body will send up a warning flag and succumb to the stressors with which you are faced.  Sure, you put the needs of your baby before yourself.  You make sure she’s fed, cleaned and comforted.  But at the end of the day (figuratively, not literally), you must also be sure to tend to your own needs.  With energy, you can put more energy into mothering.  Can’t be more logical than that!

Mothers should be allowed/allow themselves to take breaks from the baby at least once a day.  If getting more sleep means having someone watch your baby so you can sleep soundly for 4-5 hour blocks and/or take a nap, then so be it.   This may mean arranging for that person to take the baby out while you nap or have the baby stay with them overnight.  Remember, the more well-rested you are, the better off the baby will be. 

If you cannot manage to find a small block of time to nap each day, then the least you can do is close your eyes for a few minutes every couple of hours.  You know you need help when you start to feel like you can’t manage on your own.  You should not wait until you get to that point, especially women at high risk for PPD.  You need to have a postpartum wellness plan lined up and ready to go upon your baby’s arrival.  The plan should include ensuring you have someone to help you each day for the first couple of months so you can get a 4-5 hour block of uninterrupted sleep each day, as well as take breaks from the baby once a day.  In most cases, you won’t be able to rely on your significant other because they need to go to work.  So perhaps your mother, mother-in-law, housekeeper, or nanny.  Someone.  If you don’t already have a cleaning person, hire one to come by once a week, once every other week or once a month. 

 Importance Of Self Care

 “Taking care of yourself is self respect not selfishness.” – Anonymous

What I learned from my PPD experience is the importance of taking care of yourself.  In fact, taking care of yourself is a necessity, NOT a luxury!  Aside from getting as much rest/sleep as possible, here are some tips that I hope you will seriously consider adopting for yourself!

 You’ll be a lot better off if you lower your expectations for yourself:

  • Don’t feel compelled to go to social gatherings or host any parties, particularly if you’re not feeling up to it.  There will be plenty of opportunities down the road for all that. 
  • Don’t expect to keep up with all your chores in addition to caring for the baby, all on your own.  Don’t expect to keep a perfect household in the first months postpartum, unless of course, you can hire a housekeeper.  Don’t push yourself too hard, and don’t feel bad for not being able to do it all.   No new mother can do it all by herself.  It’s simply unrealistic.  Do what you can manage, get your husband or someone else to help with the rest, or just do it later.  This includes making your bed.  There’s no need to make it everyday.  Doesn’t even matter if the clothes you wear are wrinkled or worn several times already that week.  Remember, your priorities are caring for your baby and making sure you get as much rest as possible.  The key is to minimize your stress as much as possible and avoid overexerting yourself.
  • Don’t feel compelled to pick up the phone every time it rings.  Let the answering machine do its job every now and then, especially when you’re busy with the baby or when you’re trying to get some sleep.  In fact, if and when you do try to sleep, you should try to forward the calls to voicemail so you won’t be disturbed.

Nothing Wrong With Doing Something Nice For Yourself…In Fact You Deserve It

  • Do take the time at least once in the first 3 months to treat yourself to a trip to a beauty salon or massage parlor.  Do something you wouldn’t usually think of doing, like get a makeover, a completely new hairdo, a facial or a massage.  Or do something that you simply haven’t had time to do and is long overdue, like get a perm, highlights, hair coloring, pedicure and/or manicure.  It may be something you can do yourself that you simply haven’t been able to find the time or energy to do since the baby’s arrival, like put on makeup, pluck your brows, or put nail polish on your fingernails and toenails.  However, if you are breastfeeding you may want to put off a perm, highlights and hair coloring, since the chemicals can get into the bloodstream and into your milk.  I’ve been getting highlights since before I got married in 2000 and had to put it off from the time I got pregnant until I changed over to formula feedings.  I was feeling unkempt, not having had a haircut in a while and unsightly, with highlights grown out and long grey roots showing.  I can’t tell you what a relief it was to finally get my hair cut and highlighted again.  I felt rejuvenated, a new person!

Importance of a Healthy, Balanced Diet

  • Do maintain a healthy, balanced diet.  Remember, your body has gone through a series of huge biological changes.  It shouldn’t have to be explained that sleeping, eating and staying hydrated are the 3 minimum and essential requirements for a person to stay alive.  Your body requires adequate amounts of all three to recover from childbirth and recharge each day.  Poor nutrition, sleep deprivation and dehydration will make you more vulnerable to illness and stress, putting you at greater risk for PPD. You must be sure to make time to eat (nutritiously).  Make sure you get enough carbs, fiber and protein.  It is never acceptable to not eat because you can’t seem to find the time to do so because of all the new pressures and responsibilities you now have—not to mention you desperately want to return to your pre-pregnancy weight and figure.  Now’s not the time to cut back on the nutrition your body needs to recover and—if you’re breastfeeding—what your baby needs to get from your milk.  If you’re not healthy, it makes taking care of your baby all the more difficult.  Never mind that your body has just undergone huge changes, blood loss and trauma (some more than others).  If you’re like me and suffer from a loss in appetite and weight, you will cause things like vitamin deficiencies, which in turn, can contribute to fatigue and make your PPD worse.  Yes, another vicious cycle to try to avoid! 
    • To repair your body and bring it back to its former condition, as well as develop enough milk and prevent anemia, be sure to eat enough protein.  Tofu, beans, nuts and of course meat are great sources of protein. 
    • To help with constipation, which is common in the first week as your body recovers from childbirth, not to mention a common side effect of antidepressants—eat foods high in fiber, like fruits, veggies and even beans.  There is no prep work needed for pre-cut veggies (e.g., baby carrots), bagged salads, bananas, and grapes.
    • Rather than eating 2-3 large meals a day, you may be better off with small meals throughout the day.
  • Do avoid sugar, including soda and foods high in carbs, since it can cause rapid swings in your blood sugar level that can cause mood changes.  The key to keeping your mood stable is by maintaining your blood sugar at a constant level.  If you’re experiencing a loss of appetite, try to eat small, nutritious meals throughout the day.  Avoid junk foods that are quick and easy ways to satisfy your hunger but have no nutritional value.  If you want something quick and easy to eat, yogurt is a healthier option than Tasty Cakes, Twinkies or candy bars.  Frozen dinners like Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine or even Subway sandwiches are healthier options than fast-food meals from McD’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc.  Despite my lack of appetite, I made sure to stick with my 3 meals by eating oatmeal (carbs) for breakfast, ramen (carbs) and bok choy or a caesar salad with grilled chicken (protein) for lunch, soup with meat and veggies for dinner and yogurt if I got hungry again later in the night.  Temporarily, my husband hat to eat cooked dinners alone because I didn’t have the appetite to eat more than a couple bites of food at any given time. 
  • Do avoid caffeine since it can cause mood changes, an increase in cortisol levels, and even insomnia.  Coffee, tea and soda all have decaffeinated (reduced caffeine) and caffeine free (no caffeine at all) versions. During my PPD, I abstained completely from caffeine.  If you are a regular coffee, tea or soda drinker, it will be especially tough to abstain during the first weeks when you are completely exhausted and want to get a caffeine boost to start off your day and/or keep you awake during the day and/or night.  It was tough for me, but not impossible, to go completely without coffee during my PPD.  Fortunately, I had already weaned myself during pregnancy to only drinking a small cup of decaffeinated coffee per day, which helped me avoid the usual headaches I get from missing my traditional morning cup o’ joe.
  • Do avoid alcohol, since it is a depressant that can cause sleep disruption.  Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is not a sleep aid.  It may cause drowsiness and help you fall asleep, but it doesn’t help keep you asleep and may in fact keep you up the rest of the night.  It is especially important to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages while you are still breastfeeding—even if you are tempted to relieve your stress with a glass of wine or two or to believe advice you may have received about alcohol’s ability to promote milk supply/milk letdown—since alcohol can be carried through breast milk to the baby.