Introduce these 12 happy mum habits into your day and watch what happens.
MEET THE EXPERT
Justina Perry is a wellness expert and founder of MamaBabyBliss, mamababybliss.com
You’re doing an amazing job looking after your baby, but to be the best mum you can be, you need to look after yourself too. As sure as the leaves fall off the trees in autumn, your own needs fall by the wayside when you become a mum, and your attention naturally gets directed to looking after your youngster. But being a mum is a tough, 24-hour job, and you need to channel just a little of that energy back towards caring for your emotional health to cope well.
“When you’ve had a baby, a lot of emphasis is placed on physically healthy habits, such as allowing yourself to relax when your baby sleeps, eating as well as you can and doing some gentle exercise,” says wellness expert Justina Perry. “And while these are incredibly important, it’s just as essential to put daily habits in place that help you feel emotionally happy and healthy too.”
“Pregnancy hormones, sleep deprivation and a complete shift in your day-to-day routine can all have an effect on your mental health, and putting some simple measures in place to check how you’re feeling and boost your mood can make a big difference.” So it’s time to redress the balance. Add these quick and easy daily habits into your life and they will help you feel happier and more able to manage the ups and downs of being a mum.
Identify your needs
We’re often so busy thinking about our baby’s needs, that our own desires get pushed to one side. According to a recent study, we need to meet three primal emotional needs if we are to feel content and satisfied, regardless of our circumstances: feeling free and in control of our own lives; being able to initiate and pursue ideas that challenge and stretch us; and having close connections to others, whether it’s a partner, friends and family or the wider community. Just take a moment now, and think about how you would rate how each need is being met in your life, on a scale of one to 10? If any fall below a seven, commit to making a small step to improve your score. And it can just be a small step: go out for a coffee while your partner looks after your youngster, write down your hopes and dreams for your family, or just take the time to chat to your neighbour next time you see her.
Commit to ‘me time’
“We all need a bit of time to ourselves, to recharge our batteries and take a breather,” says Justina, “so decide what time works best for you, when you can hand the responsibility of your baby over to someone else who you trust. Make a commitment to set aside 15 minutes every day to relax or do something that you enjoy, whether it’s drinking a hot cup of tea, reading a magazine or taking a bath. Set an alarm if it helps. Many of us feel guilty about carving out this time for ourselves. But before you talk yourself out of it, think what you’d say to a friend in the same position. If she was caring for her baby, sleep-deprived and juggling a million different things, you’d say ‘of course you deserve 15 minutes out of 24 hours when you’re working so hard!’ And it’s time to apply this kindness to yourself.”
Think kinder thoughts
Take this kindness to the next level too. Us mums are often our own worst critics, so when a negative thought next pops into your head, take a second to acknowledge what you’ve just said to yourself. “Chances are you wouldn’t be so critical to a friend or want to hurt her feelings, so why dismiss your own feelings in this way?” asks Justina. “Instead of thinking, ‘I didn’t even manage to get out of the house today’ or ‘I was so late for baby group today’, check how you’re speaking to yourself and reframe your thoughts to something kinder. By instantly turning the thought around to “We didn’t have a great night’s sleep so we decided to take it easy and play in the garden today’ or ‘Even though things weren’t going smoothly this morning, I still made the effort to go to baby group’, you remove the self-blame from your thoughts.”
Create a happy jar
The busier life gets, the harder it is to remember all those teeny-tiny mum-moments of happiness that happen in your day. But creating a happy jar will keep them fresh in your mind. “By consciously making an effort to notice these moments and physically writing them down, you can help change your mindset and look for the positive in everyday situations,” says Justina. “Take a large empty jar, decorate it, if you like, and keep a stack of post-it notes next to it. And the next time your baby gives you a big gummy smile, a stranger helps you carry your buggy up some steps, you notice a spectacular sunrise when you’re up doing the early morning feed or your youngster actually eats some broccoli, write it on a post-it and stuff it into your jar. Make it a Sunday-night habit to read through them all to give yourself a reminder of beautiful moments you’ve experienced.” You’ll be surprised how many you’ve forgotten already, and feeling grateful for the good things in your life and expressing appreciation for them, no matter how small, can challenge negative thought patterns and help you feel happier over time.
Tap into your creativity
“Becoming a mum creates a big shift in your life, and going from working, studying or having a creative hobby to looking after your baby full-time can lead to feelings of unfulfilment, no matter how much you adore your baby,” says Justina. “Finding a creative outlet can be a big help, as not only does it give you a sense of achievement, it’s also a great way to let out and explore your feelings.” Write a blog, leave a pad of paper and a pencil out so you can doodle while you’re on the phone, or start a family scrapbook —whichever way you choose to express yourself creatively, it’ll help you deal with new feelings and emotions.
Ask someone to listen
Talking is another positive outlet as sharing thoughts, concerns and feelings can help disperse worries. Whether it’s in person, on the phone or via FaceTime, connecting with another person for as little as five minutes a day, and talking about how you’re feeling, rather than how your baby’s doing, can help you feel acknowledged and listened to. Ask your partner, mum or friend to provide a listening ear, and make it a regular time, whether that’s while tea’s cooking or before EastEnders starts. Explain that you don’t need them to provide a solution—just to listen—as getting into the habit of letting everything out can really take the weight off your shoulders.
Try saying yes
“Many of us are reluctant to say yes to offers of help as we don’t want others to think we’re not managing,” says Justina. “But the truth is, you don’t need to be supermum and do everything yourself. If a friend offers to bring pudding round when you’ve invited her for dinner, or do the washing up after, say ‘Yes please!’ and let them get on with it. Helping a friend can be a wonderful feeling. Most people feel honoured and appreciated when someone trusts and values them enough to accept their help.”
Stash instant pick-me-ups
Trying to get out of the door with a baby in tow is hard work, and there will be days where you don’t have time to brush your hair or put a bit of lippy on. “But these little acts of self-care can be the things that make you feel human and help you feel like yourself,” says Justina. “Instead of trying to do everything before you leave the house, save yourself the stress and keep a mum-bag of products such as lip gloss or perfume in your handbag, car or changing bag to give yourself an instant confidence boost wherever you are.”
“Organising fun activities andthinking about future goals probably came a lot more naturally to your pre-baby self, but just because you’ve had a baby, it doesn’t mean that this has to change,” says Justina. “Writing a list of dreams and goals that you would like to do or achieve can help you keep your sense of identity when you become a mum. But this list isn”t about putting pressure on yourself, it’s more about creating things to look forward to.” Think about the different areas of your life such as your relationship, family, places and people you want to visit, your career, future holidays and house and garden projects, and do something every week to work towards these dreams. They don’t have to be big or expensive ideas—it might be spending half an hour online looking at possible destinations for a family holiday, finding out what evening classes are on at your local college, or drawing out a plan for the veggie patch you’ll get round to next year. The key is to make your list all about you and activities that excite you.
Adjust your expectations Being a mum is really hard work, so ditch your former expectations of yourself. Whatever kind of mum you thought you’d be, whatever expectations you set yourself up for, just let them go. Being a mum is unpredictable, even if the same things do happen day after day! And once you make this last little change, you’ll discover your smile will find its way back. | MB