6 Tips to Enhance Your Emotional Health Postpartum
What if I told you that there were things you could do to bolster your mental health postpartum? Oftentimes I hear women speak about Postpartum Depression as something that is unavoidable, like it’s something they “hope” won’t happen to them. And yes, the truth is that some women are more at risk of developing a postpartum mental health disorder like Postpartum Depression, Anxiety or OCD (yes there is more than just PPD that women struggle with!) if they have struggled with mental health disorder in the past, but it is not a certainty.
What I do know for sure, is that our expectations, our self-talk, and whether or not we ask for help, play a big role in our emotional functioning postpartum.
I myself struggled with the baby blues, and had thoughts that at times really scared me. I felt inadequate as a mother, as a wife, and felt so far away from myself that I didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t connect with my baby girl right away and my relationship with my husband became its own challenge on top of everything else.
I reached a low that I had never experienced before.
My saving grace was reaching out to my own therapist, and having a network of new moms that I could speak my truth to. My baby blues subsided when I felt heard, when my feelings were normalized, and when I felt less alone. My emotional state definitely may have worsened if I kept all of those feelings to myself, and trust me, I was tempted to because I felt ashamed. But I decided that I would not let shame keep me silent, and I spoke up. The decision to own my experience, no matter how shameful I perceived it to be, changed everything.
You can do the same.
To help avoid the baby blues or a postpartum mental health condition, women can be proactive and take charge of their emotional health. Regardless of what is done proactively, some women may end up struggling with a postpartum disorder, and there is still great help available if this occurs. The important thing is to seek it!
However, I am strong believer in preventative mental health and I believe that the rates of postpartum disorders would lessen if women felt more validated, less isolated and were able to share their truth. Here are some tips I have compiled for the new mom and mom-to-be:
Have realistic expectations: Don’t buy into societal myths that portray pregnancy and postpartum through rose colored glasses. I cannot emphasize this enough. Part of what happens to women is that they buy into the narrative about pregnancy and postpartum which idealizes what it is to have a baby. Having unrealistic expectations about having a baby can bring you to a pretty low low when reality sets in. You need to know that in the first weeks postpartum you will probably cry more than you laugh, and that this time will most likely be the hardest of your life. It gets so much better, but know what to expect. (As much as you can)
Ask for help: As frequently as you need to!!! There is nothing wrong with this. You are not superhuman you are not supposed to function perfectly on little to no sleep, raging hormones and a body that has been through physical trauma. Ask for help, and take it when it is offered. Even if it’s a five-minute break to shower, eat a meal, or rest. You may not think five minutes can make a difference, but it does.
Talk to people who get it: Lean on the people who understand and can handle your truth. Other moms are a great resource, especially those who you can be truly vulnerable with. Being able to share your absolute truth to someone that can receive it, is one of the best things you can do for your emotional health. Texting or calling them when you are having a rough moment is a way to relieve yourself of stress. It can be especially challenging if you don’t have this person, and you are stepping into motherhood while your friends are still in other phases of life. If this is the case for you, there are so many resources out there. Locally, there are breastfeeding support groups and groups for new moms. Usually the local hospital puts these on. If you are not feeling like you have anyone you can be 100% honest with, please seek therapeutic support. Do not let it get to the point that you are not functioning to get help.
Make time for just you: If you are a type A personality like myself, it is hard to step away from the baby even when you have help. Please do it. Even if it is just to leave and get coffee, please make time for just you. You need to recharge any chance you get. As hard as it is to be away from your baby, you have to remind yourself that your baby deserves a healthy recharged you; not an angry, tired, frustrated you. This may be unavoidable sometimes, so please take the help when it is offered!
Reconnect with things that gave you purpose before motherhood: Whether it’s a show, a book, working out, getting together with friends….make time for this. Prioritize this any way that you can and do the things that bring you joy, peace and solace. You are not a bad mother for prioritizing yourself. You need to continue doing the things that make you, you. Continuing to nurture yourself is imperative for your emotional wellness and the healthier you are, the more your baby benefits.
Seek therapy: Therapy can be utilized as a great preventative resource. If you are a mom-to-be, it can be a great time to start couples or individual counseling to prepare for the big transition ahead. There are many tools you can gain in therapy that will help safeguard your relationship and help you transition from couple to first time parents. If you are past this point and you are a new mom, chances are, the struggle is real. The postpartum period is particularly tough, and there are very real moments of overwhelming emotion and strife. Postpartum is also a great time to seek therapy. Wherever you are in your parenting journey, it is never a bad idea to seek therapeutic support.
I hope you found these tips useful! If you are a mom or mom-to-be looking to bolster or restore her emotional health, click here to schedule an appointment. My passion is working with and empowering women, and I would love to assist you wherever you are on your journey to motherhood!