Dear URLife: I Just Had a Baby and I’m Feeling Stressed and Overwhelmed.
In this week’s column, we discuss an issue that is extremely common yet remains shrouded in stigma—the stress and anxiety that comes with newfound motherhood. Keep reading to find out how you can manage your responsibilities as a new mother, while also taking care of yourself.
Q: I am feeling overwhelmed with my responsibilities as a new mom. Help!
Dear reader, motherhood is a big transition in life. It's common for a new mother to feel overwhelmed, anxious and moody. And if you look at it, the stress that comes with being a new mother is quite logical. After all, you need time to recover from the difficult process of childbirth, while also figuring out how to care for this new little being in your life. There’s literally nothing that can prepare you for this seismic shift in your life that seemingly happens overnight. Even when your friends, relatives or your own mother tries to prepare you for the midnight feeding sessions, the diaper changes, and of course, the crying—the feeling of being a new mom is not something that you can truly understand until you experience it first hand.
Your body and brain are connected. They communicate with several signals that ultimately affect your mood. In this case, it’s the automatic stress response—also known as the fight or flight response. When you're stressed, you're bombarded with hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which affect how you feel, think, and move. That’s why it’s vital to take extra care of yourself during this time. Because while secreting stress hormones, your body is also capable of producing it’s antidote. When you use de-stressing techniques, fight or flight chemicals are replaced by the opposite—hormones and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins, which make you feel happy, relaxed and ready to take on future challenges.
The good news? Activating these hormones doesn't take much time and can even be done when you're with your baby. Let’s see how.
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Dr. Shreya Chakravarty is a psychologist at the Apollo Hospitals, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad and has over a decade’s experience in the field.
Get as much as sleep as you can
People don’t value the importance of a good night’s sleep until they become new parents. Countless feedings per night and unexpected diaper changes at 4 am can really test your patience; while the sleep deprivation that stems from it is bound to turn you into more cranky versions of yourselves. It’s easier said than done, but try to get sleep when you can. If possible, frame your routine in such a way that your baby’s resting time coincides with your own.
If you’ve just given birth, then you might want to talk to your doctor before performing any physical activity, but if it has been a few months then you may want to focus on getting a little more active. If you have indoor equipment like a treadmill, then it’ll be fairly easy to squeeze in a little walk or run here and there, but also make sure that you step out for some fresh air. If possible try and squeeze out some ‘me-time’ and go for a brief jog in your neighbourhood park. Make it a routine to get some form of exercise everyday.
This point is a no-brainer. It’s absolutely necessary to keep up your nutrient intake in the months following childbirth. Which is why it’s important to make healthy food items like green vegetables, legumes, fresh fruits and whole grains a sizeable part of your everyday meals. If you don’t feel like cooking yourself, get someone else to do it for you.
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Ask the people around you to contribute
It’s pretty likely that your family members and even the friends that are coming to visit will offer help. Don’t let that moment slip away as merely a formal gesture and accept their support. Be willing to let people help out with chores or watch the baby if they offer. Along with that, don’t be afraid to set healthy boundaries and voice your concerns if constant visits are adding to your stress.
Engage in self-care activities
The idea of taking a relaxing hot bath might seem like a distant memory right now but if you really want those happy hormones to be up and running, you have to figure out a way of doing things that make you happy. Things won’t exactly be the same as before, but you know what, they don’t have to be. Think of easy ways to incorporate these activities into your new routine. Read a few chapters of your favourite book while your baby is asleep. Hire someone to clean the house from time to time and light your favourite candle for some quick aromatherapy. Form an everyday routine where you get at least an hour to yourself while someone else can take care of the baby. And most importantly, don’t feel guilty while doing that. Remember that the more relaxed you are, the better you’ll get at motherhood.
Form a sisterhood with other new moms
If you ask someone that’s a mother figure in your life what was most valuable during their child’s infant years, they are most likely to say one word: support. While it’s great to have your husband and family around you, there’s nothing like the support that you receive from other new moms. Try to find a support group online and become a member. Speaking to these ladies will help you pick up tips and tricks to make your current situation better and ultimately you’ll realise that you’re not alone.
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