By Viviana Villalobos, PsyD, LPC
Becoming a parent can be one of the most exciting and terrifying moments of your life. Bringing home a newborn and learning how to manage your life and care for this tiny human can be overwhelming. We are told to rely on our “village” to help us during the “dark ages” of isolation and surviving on little to no sleep. Becoming a parent during Covid increased parental isolation and feelings of anxiety and self-doubt. In a pre-Covid era we had our parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and so on willing to lend a hand and provide us with a break or just to have a proper shower.
Anxiety in new parents is pretty common; one in five postpartum or pregnant women experience depressive and anxious feelings. Many women will downplay their emotions and think others have it worse and will not verbalize their emotions. Maternal mental health is a term that is getting more attention these days. Below are the 5 things you can do during this this time to ensure that you are taking care of yourself as you begin this new chapter of your life:
- Find Online Support Groups
To help combat the isolation of being a new mom and having to socially distance yourself from others it is important to find your network. You will feel less alone if you are able to connect with others. Postpartum Support International has multiple online support groups that you can join.
- Move your Body
Movement can be a tricky thing to talk about. We don’t want to focus on movement being for weight loss or food compensation, but rather as a way to offer kindness to your body and mind. Movement can be a way to promote social, mental, emotional and physical health.
- It’s okay to not be okay
You have to be able to feel the feelings to be able to move through them. If you are not okay talking about it, reach out to someone for help. Strength comes in admitting to yourself “I need help.”
- Set Boundaries
Being able to set boundaries is one of the fundamentals of being a new parent. You want to feel that you are in control during a time when you are trying to figure it all out. It’s okay to say no to things; your time and energy is very limited during this time. If it exhausts you or makes you feel guilty, “JUST SAY NO.”
- Know the signs
Before you can ask for help, you need to know if what you are feeling is normal or if it’s time to seek professional help. Here is a list of signs to look out for and to speak with your doctor about:
- Feeling disconnected from your baby, children, partner, loved ones, pets
- Trouble falling asleep
- Trouble staying asleep (not in reference to a newborn or child waking you up)
- Trouble concentrating
- Changes in appetite
- Lack of energy (that doesn’t go away with adequate sleep)
- Tearfulness or spells of crying
- Trouble making decisions
- Weight changes
- Physical ailments (headaches, stomachaches, increased illnesses, heart palpitations)
- Intrusive thoughts
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or your loved ones
The best person to talk to about your mental health during this time is a therapist/psychiatrist who specializes in postpartum and pregnancy mental health. You can find local specialists via the Postpartum Support International Helpline, (800) 944-4773, and their new online provider directory.
The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone and that there is help and support out there for you.