What’s it like being a new mum then? No doubt plenty of adjectives spring to mind. If you’d asked me 9 years ago “stressful” would have been on my list. The complete lifestyle upheaval, responsibility, lack of sleep… all compounded by an imbalance of mood regulating hormones. No wonder looking after a new-born is ranked as one of the hardest jobs in the world. So do we just have to grin and bear it? Well, there are some easy, practical ways to make life a bit easier. Here are are few ideas:
Don’t compare yourself to other mums
This was a big failing of mine. I remember one time I felt totally inadequate as a new mum. After struggling over what seemed like several hours get myself and son to a local shopping mall, I met a neighbour who had just returned from taking her baby alone on a trip abroad. Only years later did I discover that she hadn’t been coping nearly as well as her outward image had me believe. Just focus on yourself and your family.
Ask for help
Decide what really matters and do those things to the best of your ability. Let the rest go or delegate. People like being asked to help out, it shows you trust and respect them.
Have some ‘me’ time (without any guilt)
It’s essential in every job to take time out every so often, motherhood is no different. It will do you both good to spend some time apart. Arrange child care and do something you genuinely enjoy. It will re-charge your emotional batteries.
Humans are social animals. Staying in all day alone with your baby is unlikely to lift your mood. Get out there, surround yourself with people who you find uplifting, empathetic and comfortable to be with.
The brain releases the mood-boosting hormone serotonin in response to sunlight hitting the retina. Even when cloudy, it is well worth getting outside every day for at least 10 minutes. Also, UV light on the skin is our main source of vitamin D to which the brain is also highly responsive.
You are what you eat and the brain is highly responsive to the nutrients (or lack of them) in your diet.
Prolonged zinc deficiency has been linked to emotional disorders including depression. Sources of zinc are red meat, shellfish, dairy foods, pumpkin seeds. hemp seeds, almonds, cashew and brazil nuts. Zinc is also a key element in every phase of the wound healing process.
Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for correct brain function, their use as a treatment for several types of depression is well established. Studies have shown that depression is less common in people who live in countries where oily fish forms a significant part of the diet. Top sources include mackerel, sardines, pilchards, herring, salmon, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts.
Numerous studies have concluded that fluctuating blood sugar levels produced by consuming refined carbohydrates worsen symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression. Eating complex carbohydrates ie. starchy, slow energy-release foods such as rice, potatoes, pasta and oatmeal will help to keep your mood steady.
Released in response to stress, the hormone cortisol has a direct impact on your physical health as it interferes with the wound healing processes. Caffeine and refined sugar increase cortisol secretion as does dehydration. Probiotic yoghurt, oatmeal, fruit and vegetable fibre can help to reduce cortisol levels.
Regular aerobic exercise
Suitable exercise (a different blog, another time!), at an intensity to get your heart rate up will cause the release of endorphins, our natural feel-good chemicals.
Fancy a deeper look at this subject? My (free) Mood Boosters for Mums ebook is yours to download; http://bit.ly/2EQZIa3
And finally, feeling some stress is entirely normal. If you are concerned that your health is being adversely affected or that you may be suffering from symptoms of depression, do please discuss it with your G.P. There is plenty of help for you out there.