“There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.” — John Green
With May being Maternal Mental Health Awareness month, Linsey Lally, founder of The Happy Mum Coach shared her top tips to look after your mental health and wellbeing in the perinatal period - during May & beyond.
Linsey Lally is a Maternal Wellbeing Coach and is the founder of 'The Happy Mum Community'. She is passionate about helping mums live a happy and fulfilled life whilst fully enjoying their babies. Linsey experienced undiagnosed Postnatal Depression which led her on a journey of personal development, healing, and transformation. She worked in a number of HR roles in a series of Blue-Chip Companies for over 15 years and has coached and mentored hundreds of women returning from maternity leave. She has recognised that more work needs to be done to support women on their motherhood journey and is championing change in this area. Linsey works with women on a 121 basis and she also has recently opened the doors to The Happy Mum Community which supports new mums in their first year of motherhood.
Linsey’s Tips For Looking After Your Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Perinatal Period:
More than 1 in 10 women will develop a mental illness during pregnancy or during the first year after having a baby and the majority of those women will hide the severity of how they feel.
Many women that work with me on a one-to-one basis will say that they felt they should feel grateful, that they shouldn't feel any negative feelings and that this should be the best time of their life. I just want to take this opportunity to let you know that from the moment a woman conceives a baby she is going through a transition and this continues through pregnancy, birth, becoming a mother and then through all the challenges that motherhood brings, she then has to decide whether to go back to work vs not going back to work. It is a lot and not to be underestimated.
Being aware of how you are feeling is so important to any human but as you navigate these changes in your life, I urge you to check in with yourself on a regular basis and ask yourself how you are feeling. By doing this it will give you an opportunity to have an awareness of your thoughts and feelings.
Take care of you
You will instinctively take care of your baby before you put your own needs first. this is instinctual, but it is incredibly important that you prioritise yourself, even if it's for a few minutes each day.
One way to think about your needs each day is to look at the acronym SNOWBALL:
S is for SLEEP - I know you will hear time and time again to sleep when the baby sleeps and of course I would recommend this, if at all possible, but just sitting down and resting your body when your baby is sleeping will give you some downtime.
N is for Nutrition - as always, it's all about balance and realistically I think it's important to eat what you fancy and will make you feel good, but also make sure you are eating lots of protein which aids recovery after birth and lots of fiber to keep you regular.
O is for Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Fish oils have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression in new mums.
W is for Walking - Getting outside and walking in nature is hugely beneficial to everyone's mental health and wellbeing. As a mum who has likely been up in the night with her baby and may not have had much interaction with others, getting outside for a walk each day will lift your mood.
B is for Baby Breaks. Taking short breaks away from your baby will help you feel more like yourself again. You don't have to leave the house necessarily but leaving your baby with your partner while you take a bath by yourself will give you some much-needed time to relax and reconnect with yourself.
A is for Adult Time. Spending time with other adults, even if it's a phone call will maintain important relationships in your life.
L is for Liquids. Try to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day and more if you are breastfeeding.
L is for Laughter. Remember to laugh and give yourself a break. Phone the friend that makes you laugh or put on the TV show that guarantees to make you laugh.
Build your "village"
Most of us don't have the luxury of having a ready-made "village" around us. There used to be a time where all the family members in the form of mothers, aunts, grandma's and cousins would take care of everything while a woman stayed in bed with her baby and her focus was her recovery, feeding and getting to know her baby. Sometimes family members would breastfeed the baby if the mum was too exhausted.
In modern parenthood, we don't have this luxury so we have to build this village ourselves. Find your tribe of women that want to be there for you, to take care of you, to get advice from, to talk to, because it's so important.
Give yourself what you need each day
Each morning when you wake up, ask yourself what you need today and if you can, give yourself exactly that. It could be something as simple as a hot bath or asking your Partner to take the baby for a walk while you rest for half an hour.
By asking yourself this question, it allows you to keep connected to yourself and your needs. By meeting your baby's needs constantly, it often means that your needs and desires are pushed to the bottom of the pile.
A happy mum equals a happy baby and by checking in with yourself each day and meeting your own needs is a great step in this direction.
Connect with your body – breathe!
Giving yourself some time each day to reconnect with yourself will help you feel in tune with your body and will increase feelings of calm. One way to connect your mind to your body is through breath. If you are feeling anxious or stressed, then deep breathing will help you to feel calmer as it will activate your parasympathetic nervous system and will take your body out of 'fight or flight response'.
Start by making sure that you are either sitting, standing or lying comfortably
Breathe in through your nose (4 seconds)
Hold your breath (7 seconds)
Exhale slowly through your mouth (8 seconds)
Repeat this exercise for 3-5 minutes or until you feel calmer
Top tip: make sure that you are breathing from your abdomen and not your chest. As you breathe in, feel your belly rise. As you breathe out, feel your belly lower. The hand on your belly should move more than the one that is on your chest.
I have shared some of my favourite top tips to look after your mental health and emotional wellbeing as a new mum or mum-to-be, but I always recommend taking what you find helpful and then continue to practice what works best for you.
If you are struggling with any difficult emotions or your mental health, please reach out to someone you trust and also speak to your GP and Health Visitor.
You can also visit the following charities who can also support you.