As a new mom, taking care of your health, especially your mental health, can seem impossible. There’s taking care of the baby -- from feeding and burping, to changing and soothing. There’s taking care of domestic responsibilities -- cooking, cleaning, laundry, and shopping that have likely piled up. And finally (if there’s time), there’s taking care of personal relationships -- trying to find time for your partner, friends, and family members.
That act of stopping and evaluating how you're doing can feel like yet another thing on the laundry list of things to do. And self-care with postpartum depression can feel particularly challenging. Depressive and anxious symptoms can cause a new mom to feel debilitated and unable to accomplish even the most immediate tasks, let alone taking care of her own needs. Just one reason that here at The Motherhood Center, we take the concept of self-care with Postpartum Depression one step at a time.
First things first: It’s momentous to just identify a place to start. Just one small, accomplishable goal. It could be practicing deep breathing exercises for five minutes alone in your room with the door closed while your partner watches the baby. It could be watching an episode of your favorite show by yourself in bed with the blankets and pillows pulled up all around you. It could be taking a nice long bubble bath with scented candles.
We’ve pulled together a few of our favorites below. Should you set out to accomplish one of these self-care goals and find that it feels too difficult? It’s ok. You can try again tomorrow.
And after you are able to accomplish one of these self-care goals, and it brings you even a small sense of relief or satisfaction? Then -- and only then -- move on to another.
1. Take yourself somewhere.
Pick a destination -- inside, outside, anywhere that’s manageable to get to on your own easily. Buy yourself a morning coffee or muffin, or an ice cream on a hot day. Then go back home. You did it! You accomplished your mission. Couldn’t do it? You’re going to try again tomorrow.
2. Do some light exercise.
It is scientifically proven that exercise can boost the mood and mitigate anxiety. According to the American Psychological Association, just five minutes of moderate exercise can trigger a mood-boosting effect. And the mood benefits of physical activity extend beyond the short-term. Research shows that exercise can also help alleviate long-term depression. So whether it’s walking, jogging, yoga or going for a bike ride, exercise can bring you some relief.
3. Pamper your body.
Your body is amazing. Do you know that? Your body created and developed a life inside of you. Stop for a moment and let that set in. Then let’s take care of that body of yours. Get a massage, a facial, an acupuncture session, or a long, silent bubble bath with a good book. Your body has been through a lot during pregnancy and the postpartum period. It deserves to be pampered.
4. Keep a journal or work on a simple art project.
Getting down your thoughts, feelings, and ideas can be cathartic. It’s a way to purge the things that are uncomfortable, and at the same time, document the little glimmers of light and hope that you experience throughout the day.
Drawing and coloring can also be a therapeutic activity. A mandala (Sanskrit for “circle”) is a spiritual symbol used ritualistically to represent universal wholeness. Tracing, drawing, and coloring them is not only a way to express yourself visually, but their repetitive pattern-heavy nature soothes your brain, too. New and expecting moms with depression and anxiety find them centering and meditative. No need to stress over the colors you choose or being a “perfect” artist when you sit down to work. Instead, focus on the experience of being in the moment. Find ready-to-print mandalas we really love here https://www.thebalance.com/free-mandala-coloring-pages-4027232.
5. Reach out for help when you need it.
These self-care tips are essential tools to put into practice for any new mom. And if you’re suffering from Postpartum Depression, they work even better in tandem with clinical treatment. Talk therapy, medication, support groups, and -- in more severe cases -- a day-program, are all ways that can help you get better...and stay better. If you or someone you know is suffering from a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, call The Motherhood Center today at 212-335-0034, or learn about our treatment options by visiting www.themotherhoodcenter.com.
Paige Bellenbaum, LMSW is the Program Director at The Motherhood Center. After experiencing severe postpartum and depression after the birth of her son, once she got better she made it her plight to ensure that women would not have to suffer as she had. In 2016, she joined forces with The Motherhood Center founders, Dr. Catherine Birndorf and Billy Ingram, and together, with an excellent team of reproductive Psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers and specialists, treatment for mild to severe PPD symptoms is available for pregnant and new moms that are suffering. And the good news is, with treatment - everyone feels better.
If you think you have PPD - Call The Motherhood Center - 212.335.0034. We are here to tell you for sure if you have postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. And more importantly, if you do, we will provide the treatment you need to feel better. With the right treatment, EVERYONE feels better.