Many of us have heard the analogy about securing our own oxygen mask before helping others. Unfortunately, too many new moms do not realize that the age-old saying applies to them, too.
For that reason, serious mental health conditions, like postpartum anxiety and depression, often go untreated. If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression after birth, know that it is normal. “The high hormonal changes and fluctuations that occur during and after childbirth could cause mothers to feel intense mood swings called ‘the baby blues’ which affects 80% of mothers,” according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Plus, another 9% go on to be officially diagnosed with postpartum anxiety and another 13% meet the diagnostic requirements for postpartum depression.
One of the ways to combat anxiety, depression, or blue feelings is to prioritize self-care. That’s right. Treat yourself after giving birth. You deserve it!
Put yourself first so that you will have the mental bandwidth and physical capacity to care for others, especially — you guessed it — your baby. Here are some ideas to prioritize self care after giving birth.
Pretty Up Your Home
Believe it or not, making sure your home isn’t overrun by baby toys and diapers goes a long way toward self care after giving birth. Many experienced moms and midwives recommend keeping baby things in the nursery and/or strictly nearby your baby’s bassinet, not trailing through the hall and up the stairs. To maximize the benefits of these boundaries, take it a step (or two) further. Do that by improving your home.
“In its Home and Happiness Survey, the home remodeling and design site discovered that people who recently remodeled or redecorated are happier and more relaxed,” CultureMap Dallas reveals. Make significant changes that beautify your home and make it that much more pleasant to live in. Consider:
- Installing a pool. New pool installation is more popular than ever. With more people staying home and spending more of their quality time in and around the house, pools are an increasingly popular luxury.
- Focusing on outdoor areas. As with pools, greater amounts of time in and near our homes inspire us to improve the looks of them. New moms are more likely to soak in the great outdoors from their own backyards rather than making a lengthy or involved trip with a newborn in tow. Make your backyard somewhere you enjoy spending time. Do that by repairing sidewalks and patio surfaces, adding colorful flowers and decorative planters, and/or investing in a fire pit. Fire pits provide the relaxing benefits of a campfire safely contained in your backyard.
- Adding a splash of color. Another renovation to consider is finally getting around to repainting the rooms in your home. “Living with colors that are harmonious with your psyche can have a profound effect on how you feel about living in your home,” RE/MAX writes. Neutral colors, like beige, pale gray, and creams may appeal to prospective home buyers, but they do not nurture or stimulate your emotional well-being. If your goal is happiness, consider painting rooms yellow, sky blue, or bright green. Yellow promotes positivity, sky blue encourages productivity and restful sleep, and bright green energizes whoever happens to be in the room.
Self care after giving birth isn’t always straightforward. You may think that going camping is the last thing you want to do with a new baby. With appropriate adjustments, camping can be the exact reprieve you need. Why?
Spending time outside and particularly in the woods is good for our mental health. Science and centuries-old Eastern principles back that up. According to New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), spending a day in the woods has the potential to boost your immune system, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and reduce stress. The act is so effective it has been practiced by Eastern cultures for hundreds and hundreds of years. In Japan, the practice is called forest bathing or shinrin-yoku. Studies in Japan show that sitting or walking in the forest is vastly more beneficial to your mood than walking along a suburban or city street.
To practice self care after giving birth, alter camping experiences to be more amenable to you and your baby as a new mom. That means doing whatever is best for you. Look into luxury RV rentals and campsites with full electrical and utility hookups. Consider glamping — glamorous camping — that gives you all the finery and comfort of a first-class hotel while still immersing you in the woods. Camp 10-15 minutes away from your home, so you can comfortably travel back and forth should you forget anything. If all else fails, camp in your backyard. No, it’s not the same, but having some of the experiences can promote the same relaxation and confer some of the same mental health benefits.
Get a Tattoo
Speaking of unconventional ideas, a surprising number of women get a tattoo as part of their self care after giving birth. Why a tattoo? There are several possible reasons.
For many women, heading out to the tattoo studio and finally getting that tattoo brings on a sense of courageous accomplishment. Too many of us avoid the things we want to do because we are afraid. We do not ask for a raise because we’re afraid of being shut down. We don’t change careers because we fear failure, and we do not get tattoos because we fear we may regret them someday, just like our mothers said.
In reality, taking a leap of faith can have tremendous benefits. Taking small leaps of faith encourages us to take bigger leaps of faith. In other words, getting that tattoo may ultimately give us the courage to quit our job and try our hand at a brand new career.
“Fear constricts rather than expands who we are,” Psychology Today writes. Courage, on the other hand, opens up possibilities. It makes us friendlier, more creative, and a happier person.
So go ahead. Get that tattoo, especially if you have any fears about doing it. Overcoming those fears will change you for the better. Plus, new moms should feel free to get any tattoos they wish. According to Healthline, it is safe to get tattoos while breastfeeding. It is even safe to get tattoos on your breasts.
Explore New Hobbies
When it comes to self care after giving birth, an overwhelming number of women discuss identity — or feeling as if they are sinking away from themselves and becoming a mom to a newborn and nothing more. One way to prevent that from happening and to keep a firm grasp on your identity as a separate person is to explore new hobbies.
The good news is that the hobby you choose doesn’t matter as long as you stick to it. Explore different hobbies. Try walking, running, painting, gardening, hiking, cooking, or winemaking. Whatever sticks — whatever makes you happy — is the best hobby for you. Sticking to a hobby will help improve your mood and, depending on that hobby, may even afford you some precious time alone.
If you want to produce more endorphins and get in shape, keep an eye out for bicycle sales and take up cycling. If you want to take up a social hobby, try your hand at winemaking and invite friends over to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Self care after giving birth can be as versatile and flexible as you like as long as it ultimately benefits you. Explore a variety of hobbies until you find one that you want to work into your routine for good.
Straighten Your Teeth
Another surprising self care tip is to straighten your teeth. After giving birth, a trip to the dentist for a cleaning is most likely past due. Pregnancy hormones can make your gums more sensitive and lead to inflammation and bleeding. Professional cleaning can help remove plaque and stubborn residue. Leaving the dentist with healthier gums and whiter teeth is a good start, but when it comes to truly improving your confidence, it may not be enough on its own.
That is where a cosmetic dentist comes in. “A third of adults admit to being unhappy with their smile,” Patient reveals. Another 27% cover their mouths whenever they laugh or smile. Never again! Ask your doctor about clear teeth straighteners and regain your self-confidence.
Plus, misaligned teeth do more than negatively impact your self-esteem. Misaligned or crooked teeth are more difficult to clean. This can lead to greater instances of problems, like gingivitis, cavities, and halitosis. After straightening your teeth, nearly all patients find them easier to clean and keep clean on an ongoing basis.
Unfortunately, having a baby can have a negative effect on your self-confidence. According to Scary Mommy, the majority of surveyed women admit that they felt less confident for as many as three years after giving birth to their baby.
Do what you can to prioritize you and take proactive steps to feel better about your looks. For many people, that means straightening their teeth to finally get that dazzling white smile they have always wanted.
After your pregnancy is the perfect time to begin using straight aligners. Not only does it contribute to your self care after giving birth, it is wise to wait until after pregnancy to avoid acid erosion from morning sickness and gum inflammation from hormones.
Finally, one of the most important things to know about self care after giving birth is that it is absolutely critical not to go it alone.
Sometimes, a visit to the orthodontist or a new, colorful living room wallcovering is not enough to relieve your symptoms. That’s okay. Realize that these things may go a long way to boost your confidence and to temporarily lift your spirits. That is a great start, but sometimes these things are not a cure-all. In fact, anything you do on your own may be a good foundation but these coping strategies will be markedly more effective with help.
For lasting relief from persistent symptoms of anxiety and depression, work with a mental health professional. Seek professional help if your symptoms last two or more weeks, or if they interfere with your day-to-day activities. “If you feel empty, emotionless, or sad all or most of the time for longer than 2 weeks during or after pregnancy, reach out for help,” the Office On Women’s Health (OWH) recommends.
Further, know that talking to a mental health professional may look very different than the stereotypical depiction on television or in movies. Your therapist may decide that you would benefit most from group therapy and will encourage you to take part in a support group for new moms suffering from postpartum depression. Your therapist may explore several different modalities with you until you find one that fits.
These modalities may include cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness, or even art therapy. The first will entail completing almost homework-like assignments to put your thoughts and feelings under the miscroscope, sort out what is true and what is not true, and reframe thoughts as necessary. The second stresses staying present and may involve breathing exercises or meditation to help you do it. Finally, art therapy uses “creative techniques such as drawing, painting, collage, coloring, or sculpting to help people express themselves artistically and examine the psychological and emotional undertones in their art,” Pscyhology Today writes.
Don’t let stigma stop you from getting the help you need. Know that you are not alone, and prioritize your mental health as part of your self care after giving birth.
Having a baby is not easy. Pregnancy takes its toll physically and emotionally. After giving birth, women are tasked with recovering while caring for a new infant and adjusting to motherhood. New parents notoriously do not sleep well as they work with their baby to establish new sleep routines. All of these things can contribute to stress and, left unchecked, that stress can easily get out of hand.
To keep stress at bay, proactively prioritize self care after giving birth. Make your home a comfortable and pleasant place to be. Get a tattoo because you always wanted one or because you are brave enough to do it. Do whatever you can to boost your self-confidence, and, if symptoms of anxiety or depression persist, do not be afraid to get help.