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Maternal Mental Health and How To Look After It

Our minds

They bloom like flowers

They shed their leaves

Like trees

They go through moments of madness

They become a place of peace

Our minds are with us always

They govern our day to day

So what do you say, about opening it up

To make sure they stay okay?

As a mother and more specifically as a breastfeeding mother, it is easy to feel touched out, to be sleep deprived, to feel isolated or always on call! These things all add too or take from our mental health.

I’m not one to shy away from talking about mental health! It’s a taboo and it shouldn’t be! Just like our physical health, our mental health affects our day to day, how we interact with others and the world. If it’s in good health – everything can flow easily but if it is not, then life can be tough! Really really tough!

I’ve been through both, places of bliss, love and light and spaces of darkness, pain and plight. It bewilders me a little that it is my mental state that changes and not necessarily circumstances in life.

It helps to talk about it, especially to friends and professionals. Whether you are in a good mental space or not. It’s like your physical health, you put some effort in to keep your body healthy and in shape and if you … break a leg, you go to get help. Why do we not speak about mental health more generally? Why do we worry about getting professional help when things feel ‘broken’?

Today, I feel … Blurgh. And I have worried about my mental health. I’ve made a note in my To Dos to check in with a therapist to help me stay on track because I am aware that as the days get darker, my mind may follow suit. Maybe not – I’m hopeful! But I’m going to prepare (#summerbodyready ?! More like #wintermindready).

Here are my top tips on how to look after your mental health as a new mum.

Get some sleep According to The Sleep Foundation ‘It’s well-established that sleep is essential to our physical and mental health.‘ So let’s listen to the professional and sleep when the baby sleeps – the laundry can wait!

Eat well and Stay Hydrated

You are what you eat. Have you ever heard of that! That goes for you body and your mind. The Mind Charity have explained that ‘as well as affecting our physical health, what we eat may also affect the way we feel.‘ So it is important to eat well and stay hydrated.

Get some sunlight

Research by the NHS has shown that, ‘a lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is linked to feelings of depression.’ So try to get out into the sunshine as often as you can.

Manage stressThe Mental Health Organisation describe stress as, ‘a feeling of being under abnormal pressure.‘ Which can result from a number of circumstances. They recommend three step to help manage stress to better improve your mental health. Realise when it is causing you a problem, Identify the causes and Review your lifestyle.

Exercise Sometime when you are feeling low, exercise is the last thing you want to do! But… professional at the NHS explain that, ‘Regular exercise can boost your mood if you have depression, and it’s especially useful for people with mild to moderate depression.‘ I encourage to do things before recognising signs of a strained mental health in order to prevent it. Make exercise a lifestyle.

Ask for help When you’re breastfeeding it may feel like you’re the only one that can do anything for your baby. There are many things that others can do to help you physically and mentally.

Keep a gratitude journal Harvard Health at Harvard Medical School have published a scientific article in their journal entitled Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier . There is so much scientific evidence which proves that gratitude does improve your mental health. Gratitude Journals such as the one by Chaneen Saliee on Chic and Discreet Moments For Me: A Journal for Gratitude and Self Love, allows for short moments each day to be grateful.

Do your research

There is often a stigma around mental illness, it is this stigma which may prevent people going to get help when they need it. These stigmas run deep in a society and individuals may not even know they are subject to it, according to The Community and Health Research Unit . Doing your research and developing your knowledge of mental health and the things that affect you will help to make sure you stay on to of your mental health and it will help you to develop your own ideas about it. This may also help you to understand what you need to do when you are beginning to feel a shift in how you feel.

Slow down

We live in such a fast paced society which is so full of high expectations all of the time. It’s the norm, we don’t often have time to take stock of our emotions and pushing through discomfort is just part of our day-to-day existence.

But when it comes to your mental health, this non-stop mentality can be enormously damaging and can trigger a gradual descent into serious mental illness. Says writer and lifestyle reporter Natalie Morris.

Slow down. Take stock. Get to know how you feel, how you are doing and take note of any patterns.

Lower your expectations

It’s the expectations that cause us the most stress. We constantly resit the flow of life when we have expectation upon expectation back up in a long line stringing throughout our lives. What happens is, we have an expectation, “the baby will wake at 3am feed for 30 minutes and then go back to sleep.” We rely on that expectation. But when it doesn’t happen that way, when the baby doesn’t go back to sleep after 30 minutes we become frustrated, annoyed even. We begin to feel anxious thinking about what else wrong may happen next and we end up in a mental tangle.

If we lower our expectations of what we can be or do during early motherhood, then I think our minds would appreciate the peace. As a result too, we’d probably get even more done that way.

#Breastfeeding #mentalhealth

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