5 Self-Care Tips For New Parents
Early parenthood is full of adventures – loving visitors stopping by to share your joy, lifelong memories formed in an instant, and learning experiences you’re excited to weather on the fly.
Yes, embracing a new life is enriching – and it’s also, from time to time, exhausting. The happiness our children bring us is infinite, but the responsibilities underlying their well-being can quickly surmount into overwhelm. Rather than letting the overwhelm topple over into stress and anxiety, take a step back to check in with yourself – your well-being is important!
Here are five ways you can sneak in some crucial self-care to help you maintain your mental and emotional well-being:
Take breaks when you can, where you can
Need some replenishment? No need to go full-on spa day! Especially for new parents, short breaks (preferably on the regular) are far more practical. “I recommend any type of break, even for a few minutes,” says Dr. Terri Bacow, a clinical psychologist in NYC who works with new parents.
The next time a friend or family member pops by to visit baby, take advantage of the short solace with a mini-break:
- Go into your own space (e.g., your bedroom), shut the door, and do one of your hobbies. This can be watching a favorite TV show or reading your latest magazine – whatever is relaxing for you!
- Take a long shower. Or, better yet, a soak in the tub! Personal grooming, such as brushing your hair or cleaning your teeth, are also good ways to give back to yourself.
- Take your time eating a snack. Energy begins with food intake, so find a snack that is both yummy and healthy. Savor each bite!
- Close your eyes and practice deep breathing. This is a break that can literally last seconds – but still, help you refresh.
- Get outside for some sun and fresh air. (Baby can join you for this one!) Getting out of your house or apartment can be beneficial for your mind, allowing you a chance to catch a break in a different environment.
- Call your best friend or a close family member and talk about how you’re feeling. A short conversation to describe your day may help you process what’s going on with you as a parent.
- Find a short podcast or meditation to listen to while you’re in the car. Getting your mind off of your to-do list and onto a topic that you enjoy may give you a much-needed mental break.
There’s no break from being a parent; once you’re in the club, you’re in it for life. Finding some time to mentally rest, then, will help you recharge and stay energized for juggling the multiple demands of raising your family.
- Consider joining a new mom or new dad’s group
Joining a group of people going through similar experiences might stop you from accidentally isolating yourself. After all, points out Dr. Bacow, being alone with an infant is relaxing – but it’s also relentless.
Plus, parenting groups give you the potential to make some great friends! In finding social connection, you’re taking care of yourself by finding invaluable social support.
With more people to talk to, you can hear other people’s experiences – both the good and the bad – and hopefully feel a little bit of relief that you aren’t going through this whole parenting process alone. Groups also provide a safe space for asking (seemingly obvious) questions and getting feedback, which is invaluable for anyone.
- Practice easy mindfulness exercises
Mindfulness is growing in popularity, and with good reason: One review of several studies on mindfulness practices revealed that regular practice leads to a range of improved psychological outcomes, including reduced anxiety and a greater sense of personal well-being .
However, as a new parent, chances are that you’re not exactly looking to take up any extra new hobbies. The great thing about mindfulness is that you can incorporate these techniques into your daily life!
Here are some easy examples of mindfulness practices:
- Meditation. The practice of trained awareness comes in many different forms, from gratitude meditations to visualization and body scans.
- Breathing. Paying attention and being intentional about a few breaths help your mind and body relax. An easy exercise to memorize for on-the-go mindfulness is square breathing.
- Journaling. Getting into the flow of writing helps you process your feelings by putting them down in words. The beauty of journaling is that it doesn’t matter how your writing turns out – whether you choose to share your takeaways or navigate them on paper, it’s blissfully free of pressure.
- Learn about potential perinatal mental health concerns
As with any endeavor in life, the more you know, the more prepared you’ll be – and this is also the case with the months leading up to, and after, your child’s arrival.
By learning about different emotional reactions to having a new baby, including symptomology and intervention, you can keep an eye out for any signs of distress.
Here are a few scenarios that may happen after childbirth:
- Postpartum depression: Estimated to affect approximately 12% of new moms in the postpartum stage; symptoms include lower mood, feelings of intense overwhelm, and possibly harmful thoughts.
- Postpartum psychosis: This is much rarer than other kinds of perinatal mental health challenges, and may include delusions, hallucinations, or otherwise disturbed thought and behavior in the period after a baby’s birth.
- “Baby blues”: Fairly common (estimated to affect 60-80% of new moms). Symptoms of anxiety or depression that go away without treatment within a few weeks.
- Reactions to difficult pregnancies or difficult labors, such as postpartum anxiety or PTSD.
If you notice yourself experiencing symptoms of any of these experiences, you can reach out directly for help, or ask your partner or a trusted friend or family member to help you find help.
- Consider seeing a therapist
There is perhaps no better time in life to talk with a therapist than when you’re raising kids – your therapist may be a great source of support by being available to converse about your emotions regarding the experience, as well as other events in your life.
When searching for a perinatal specialist, look for someone with specific training in the topic – this includes a deep (and perhaps certified) understanding of attachment theories, perinatal mood disorders, and life transitions.
As with any other therapist, make sure they’re a great fit for you – in hopes that this therapeutic alliance will help you process and understand your new role as a parent.
Becoming a parent is one of the most exciting times in our lives – but with the pressures of taking care of a new baby and living up to societal expectations of what parenthood should look like, the chance for missing out on self-care is at a high. So, to avoid burnout and to find ways to be fully present with your little one, finding ways to maintain positive mental health is ever important.
This is a guest post from Zencare, a website that helps people find their ideal talk therapist. Visit Zencare.co to browse their vetted network of top therapists – using criteria like insurance, sliding scale, location, and specialties. You can also directly book a free assessment call from the Zencare site!