So since my last post, things got worse before they got better. I had every intention when I started this blog that I would be posting regularly, however, life and my sanity occupied my time.
On a brighter note, I am feeling far more like myself this past week, and reading Chrissy Teigan’s article for Glamour Mag about her struggles with postnatal depression has spurred me on to accept that it’s ok not to feel ok, and that the most important thing to do is to talk it out.
I have decided to base this blog post on the things that have helped me to feel more like myself, and I hope that even one or two of these tips may help another mother (or anyone for the matter) who is struggling with a low mood.
1) Get Up, Get Showered, Get Dressed…. this one sounds so simple, but when your mood is in your boots, it’s the last thing you want to do. I had an awful habit since Ellie was born that I would get up and try to have my breakfast straight away, feed and change Ellie and then start into housework still in my PJs. I would then only get myself showered and dressed closer to midday. I found it’s not a good habit to get into, and I find now that I have a better morning when I get myself ready and presentable looking before I even go downstairs. Even when I am under the weather and sick, I always find that a shower makes me feel better. When my mood is low it has the same effect, so it’s best to start my day with one straight away when I get up rather than put other tasks first.
2) Give yourself a job each day to get out … I always remember my mother saying when she was a stay at home Mammy that she would always walk to the shopping centre everyday to get out of the house. It’s so important not to stay cooped up in a house with just a baby and yourself day in, day out. Even if it’s just a ten minute walk to go and get a carton of milk. It’s amazing what a little bit of fresh air and adult interaction/ conversation can do to lift your mood. Even yesterday the guy serving me in the post office brightened my day with his small talk and friendliness whilst I was buying stamps.
3) Accept Help… as a new mother I think there is so much pressure to appear to ‘have your shit together’. I spent the first 8 weeks or so of Ellie’s life very reluctant to take people up on offers to help because I didn’t want to appear like I wasn’t coping. I didn’t realise how much help actually helps until I started to accept offers from family to take Ellie for an hour or so, here and there. It’s amazing how nice it can be for your head to simply go for a walk alone or to browse in the shops buggy free. It doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy my babies’ company, (I often find I miss her after a couple of hours anyways!) it just means that I am aware it’s important not to leave all the work to me and that I deserve the break now and again!
4) Talk it out with your partner…. this one can be tricky, as you may expect them to just know that you’re not feeling right and that your mood is crap. I figured that I didn’t need to explain in detail how I felt to my parnter, as I guessed that he just knew from all my crying and mood swings. I took it for granted that he knew about the ‘baby blues’ . I assumed that he knew that I needed his support and his presence to help me feel better. This wasn’t a clever notion on my part, as I kept losing the head with him when he continued going about his usual weekly tasks. I felt like he didn’t give a shit about me or my feelings and that he was happy to put his needs first. I was beginning to resent him for something he didn’t know about. It wasn’t until it blew up one evening while I was a blubbering mess and I explained to him how I felt. He was none the wiser I was that bad, and had assumed that I was just being cranky and moody from lack of sleep. Now that we have talked it out, he knows that I need him around when he comes home from work, and that some evenings his plans (such as football training etc) will have to go on the back burner if I’ve had a bad day. This won’t last forever, but for the moment I need to be a bit selfish and rely on him more as ultimately my wellbeing is important to be a good mother to his baby. After all, it takes two to tango, and I need my partner!
5) Treat Yo’self….. when you become a mother your focus shifts from you, to baby. It’s no longer about your needs first. I found that any time I got out to the shops, I was buying for the baby or for the house. I hadn’t bought myself a thing in weeks. I’m not talking about extravagant purchases, but a simple trip to Penneys to focus on me felt so so good! I only picked up a few tops and socks, but it lifted my mood so much. In the coming days afterwards, wearing my few new bits made me feel good, so I think I can justify €20 every few weeks to keep for myself!
6) Exercise! I am a big advocate of this and I refused to see a doctor to go on any sort of antidepressants as, for me, I know that I get my ‘high’and ‘feel good’ endorphins from exercise (and yes, I have been on antidepressants before in the past and found that they didn’t do anything for me). On my bad days I still need to push myself to get out to the gym for a workout, but I ALWAYS feel so much better afterwards. Exercise has such a positive effect on mental health and I find it’s so under utilised as a coping mechanism.
7) Eat Well….when you’re new to the whole ‘Motherhood’ thing, you may find that any sort of healthy eating plan goes out the window. I never dreamed that I’d end up eating half the crap I have since I had Ellie. When your tired and feel low you reach for all the bad stuff…. caffeine, refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, processed foods… you name it! All of which, have terrible effects on your mood. I found that sugar led to wanting more sugar…. processed foods bloated me and made me feel fat and that caffeine gave me a ‘hit’ for an hour or two and then I’d crash. I’ve scaled back on all of these and I certainly feel the benefits. I still may be guilty of too much caffeine, but I am going back to eating as ‘clean’ as I can, which makes me feel better overall.
8) Learn how to nap! I never ever understood how people could go for a nap in the middle of the day. I felt that there was far more productive things I could be doing with my time, and napping would be seen as ‘lazy’. Let me tell you…. for the first time last week I napped when the tiredness got too much and I felt AH-MAZING afterwards. It recharged my batteries and helped me to focus on tasks with better clarity for the rest of the evening. I still am struggling with the idea of just allowing myself a nap, but how I felt afterwards sure bet the ‘over tired zombie’ feeling I had beforehand.
9) Glam it up…. this one may not be important to some, but I found I kinda let my appearance wain after I had Ellie. Not in a vain way, but I always enjoyed doing my hair, make up and tan before I had her as it makes me feel good. When she arrived I felt like “what’s the point?” But there is a point. I’m only in my twenties and it’s important not to think that I can’t look nice anymore. Last week I did my tan, nails and spent a bit more time doing my hair and make up and I felt so good going out. I wasn’t doing anything special, but even my partner complimented that I looked good which in turn made me feel like a million dollars.
10) Make plans and stick to them ….. it’s so important to try and get out and interact with friends and family when your feeling low. I am terrible for getting myself into such a low mood that I feel I can’t see people and I can’t motivate myself to make plans to see people. I always feel so much better after meeting with a pal for a chat and getting my mind off whatever is consuming me. The last two weeks I have made dates to meet friends for a coffee and a catch up and it has helped hugely with clearing my head and realising I am so lucky to have such a supportive group of friends and family around me. The most horrible feeling, is feeling alone when you’re suffering with depression/low mood, so make sure you accept invites/ plans to get out for catch up. It’s hard to fight the inner voice telling you to stay cooped up, but you are the only person to try and block that out.
I hope the above can offer a bit of guidance for anyone else on the same boat as myself. The main thought that gets me through each day is that my struggles are shared by so many women and mothers alike. The things I worry about that I’m doing wrong, another mother is worrying about the same things as well.