Strategies to Help You Feel Better When You're Stressed
By Amy Morin, LCSW
There’s nothing that can prepare you for life as a new mom. Even when your friends try to explain the mid-night wake-ups, the crying, the diapering, and the nursing, it’s not something that can truly understand until you experience it yourself. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed as a new mom.
That’s why it’s vital to take care of yourself. In the first few weeks, a mother needs to focus simply on herself and her baby. Over time, things will start to get easier.
1. Limit Visits From Well-Meaning Friends and Family
Childbirth is a major ordeal for your body. You need time to recover from the difficult process while also figuring out how to care for this new little being in your life.
Although you might feel rude saying no to those who are excited to see your baby, you need to take time to focus on yourself and the baby. It’s okay to tell people that you’d prefer that they wait and not visit until you’re feeling ready.
2. Ask Visitors to Pitch In
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It’s likely that people will ask if you need anything. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help while you care for your newborn's basic needs.
Your loved ones truly want to help, and if asking them to stop to pick up a rotisserie chicken for dinner is helpful, don’t hesitate to ask.
Be willing to let people help out with a few household chores or watch the baby if they offer. Putting your dishes away for you while you rest on the couch or holding the baby while you take a shower can mean a lot when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
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3. Make Meals Easier
Even if you packed your freezer with meals before the baby was born, food will eventually run out and you’re going to be faced with trying to cook while you’re running on just a few hours of sleep.
Try not to let your heart rate go above 140 beats per minute.
4. Simplify Your Routine
Before the baby, you might have had a seven-step routine for getting ready to leave the house—one that included fashion, hair, makeup, accessories and more. Now, you might still have a seven-step routine, but it’s going to be focused around prepping bottles, packing diapers, and finding lost socks.
To prevent yourself from becoming completely overwhelmed, think about what part of the pre-mom routine was most important to you. If it’s the makeup that keeps you feeling like a human being, throw your hair into a pony and throw on some yoga pants—but take time to apply the foundation and mascara.
Likewise, it might be blow-drying your hair that allows you to feel like you’re somewhat put together, so try to get to that task every couple of days. Don’t forget that you’re still a person, and you’re allowed to take 10 minutes to put yourself together.
5. Find Your Tribe
If you ask veteran mothers what was most valuable during their child’s infant years, many will offer the same answer: support.
Of course, already-loved family and friends can provide support, but there’s something about finding other moms who are in the thick of it right along with you.
Find a new moms support group, either online (there are many closed groups on Facebook, meaning you can ask questions with the assurance that they won’t show up on your newsfeed) or in-person.
Check the hospital’s website to see if they host any support groups or ask around—those who have been in your shoes might have local groups to recommend.
6. Relax Your Housecleaning Standards
While you don’t want anything attracting bugs or rodents, too many moms stress that their once-picture-perfect home is now overrun with baby things.
Pare down on baby items by putting some in storage and let the rest go. No one expects the parents of an infant to have a pristine home.
7. Make Time to Exercise
You need to be cleared to exercise if you’re still in the early days after giving birth. But most new moms can walk as much as they would like.
There’s something about tucking the baby into a carrier, so she’s close to your chest, and getting out into the fresh air. If it’s winter, you can still tuck her in—just hop on a stationary bike or treadmill. There’s a good chance that the motion of you walking or spinning will put the baby to sleep.
If you’re aching to get back to the weight room or to your favorite step class, check into gyms with childcare. Most will take babies as early as 12 weeks—and the sooner you go, the more comfortable your little one will be in their care.
Dancing: Some forms of dancing could be a safe and fun way to get exercise during early pregnancy. Some women take salsa or jazz dance lessons. However, as your belly grows, you want to be cautious about your increasing lack of balance and also want to avoid jerky and bouncy movements.
8. Know the Signed of Becoming Overwhelmed
Many new moms describe their early days as the “most magical time of their lives”—and hearing those emotions from others can make you feel like there’s something defective with you if you start to feel overwhelmed.
Rest assured, there is nothing wrong with you. It’s just that those who are having a harder time aren’t as outspoken as those who are enjoying every moment. If you feel overwhelmed by the stress of parenting and you don’t find much joy in daily life, seek professional help.
Postpartum depression—or even the “baby blues”—are much more common than anyone realizes. Research shows that anywhere between 50 percent and 75 percent of new moms experience some sort of negative feelings after giving birth.
That means that moms who feel overwhelmed and stress aren’t outliers—they’re the norm. Postpartum depression can appear up to a year after the baby is born, so don’t dismiss the possibility if you’re six months in and just start to feel the mental pains of it all.