I have to admit being a new parent has taken a toll on my wife and I. Don’t get me wrong; the arrival of our baby girl is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. However, because our baby is now at the centre of our life, it has been mentally challenging since even getting a good night’s sleep or a decent meal has suddenly become a real task.
Mental health issues are too often brushed off, especially when it is our own. However, ignoring the problem does not mean it does not exist or will go away on its own. Since it will take a few years before things ease up, my wife and I did our homework to come up with a guide which can help us and other parents out there.
Begin with taking care of your physical health
Whether you’re a mother or a father, the first step to having a healthy mental state is to have a healthy body. Three key points to achieve this are as follows:
Get a good sleep: Make sure you’re getting enough rest. Sleep whenever you can, especially when the baby is sleeping. You and your partner can take turns to feed or change the baby at night. Remember that when you’re tired, you aren’t thinking clearly and your mood will suffer.
Maintain a balanced diet: Eating nutritious food will help you recover and is especially important for women who are breastfeeding. Fish oils, for instance, can help reduce anxiety and depression and is recommended for new mums because of its Omega 3 fatty acids. Also, try to drink at least two quarts of water per day.
Exercise regularly: Exercise will not only improve your health and maintain your weight but also improve your mood. For women, it helps their body recover from giving birth. If you don’t have time to go to the gym, the best exercise for now is probably walking with your baby.
Dealing with Postpartum Depression
In the first few weeks of caring for a new-born, most new mums go through a myriad of emotions – anxiousness, sadness, frustration, tiredness and feeling overwhelmed – a condition known as “baby blues”. It does get better as the weeks go by, but for some women, it doesn’t and that’s known as postpartum depression.
Such a condition makes it difficult for the mother to take care of her baby. Therefore, it is important for the husband to be there and support his spouse as this is no one’s fault. Postpartum depression is treatable through focusing on self-care (as mentioned above) as well as going for counselling and taking medication prescribed by a doctor. Emotional support from friends and family members are also important for the recovery process.
Take baby breaks
While it is true that your life revolves around your new baby, it does not necessarily mean dedicating 24/7 to your child. When you can, you should take some time away from your baby.
During this period, try to do what you enjoy to make you feel like yourself again, or maybe engage in relaxing activities such as listening to soothing music, watching feel-good movies or practising yoga.
Find emotional support
Don’t rely just on just your partner. You should find someone you can be yourself and share your feelings with. Having someone to confide in and share your experiences is crucial.
Believe in your own ‘style’
Too many opinions from well-meaning people can muddle your mind easily. Everyone has a different point of view on how a baby should be raised and you mustn’t try to keep to their expectations. It’s more important to care for your baby in the way that works best for you. This, of course, needs a lot of practice, commitment and determination.
Never give up! It will get easier.