Having a self-care mentality: How to Think about It
The way we think about our needs can often get in the way of taking the first step.
It’s not all or nothing
You are not asking for 10 hours of sleep, or a week-long yoga retreat. What you did to take care of yourself before babies and what you can do now is different. A little goes a long way.
You are worth it and you deserve it
You may or may not believe that right now if you are feeling down and caring for new tiny human. Practice simple statements that seem semi-believable to you that remind you that you have basic mental, emotional, and physical needs. (Like: “I deserve self-care,” or “My needs are important too.”) These affirmations can be helpful motivators.
I don’t have to do it like she does
Comparisons are nasty little thoughts that set us up for self-sabotage, perfectionism, and a continued spiral of depression and anxiety. Your circumstances are unique and your self-care has to fit your life, your family, and your baby’s developmental needs. The point of self-care is about you, where you are, and what you can reasonably do. The point of self-care is not anyone else.
Self-acceptance and self-compassion
Being really honest about where you are mentally, emotionally, and physically is essential. You need to start where you are today, not where you would like to be, or where you’ve been. This can be so difficult when where you are today is far from where you thought you would be. That is where self-compassion comes in—to remind yourself to be gentle with you when you are struggling.
Taking Action: What to Do about It
If you don’t know where to start and you are seriously sleep deprived, then sleep is where you need to start, hands down. Without proper sleep, your mind and body just are not going to function to keep you going.
Identify what you need
A daily self-check-in to get in the habit of asking yourself what you need in order to get through the day. This may seem like a foreign concept at first but this self-awareness practice is key to getting to know your needs as a new parent.
Ask for Help
Start the conversation with your partner, family, friends, or work place.
Keep it small and reasonable
Start with small, basic ways to practice self-care that can be managed in small doses.
Having a system or check-list can be a helpful reminder. Here are examples of a couple of acronyms you can use. Or make your own!
Gentle with self:
Practice a self-compassion statement instead of self-criticism when I notice myself struggling
Five minutes of deep breathing
Make one healthy meal for myself
Listen to upbeat music/funny podcast
Stretch for 15 minutes/take a walk
Call a friend
Have my partner do one feeding so I can get one longer stretch of sleep OR
Ask a friend/ family member to come over for a couple of hours so I can get a nap
A few minutes meditate/ breathe deep/ take a shower
Talk with partner/ friend/ family member. Ask yourself this:
Do I need to vent? Do I need a laugh? Do I need to hear about what they have been up to?
Eating and Exercise:
Eat one healthy meal and move for 10 minutes.
Getting on the course of realistic, sincere, committed self-care will benefit you and everyone in your family by extension, and you know what? You deserve it.