Being a new mom can feel incredibly overwhelming. Last week on the blog, we discussed three maternal mental health issues, including postpartum depression, anxiety, and isolation, and how to cope.
This week, we’re continuing our #RealTalk about motherhood by talking about why self-care is so important as well as 12 effective and actionable self-care tips for new moms.
What Is Self-Care?
Self-care takes many different forms. Self-care can include physical activities that benefit your health (like exercise, getting enough sleep, healthy eating), purely pleasurable activities (baths, manicures, Netflix), or simply responding in a more positive way to stressful situations.
At its core, “self-care means having an evident shift in mental energy,” explains Kali Rogers, a mental health counselor and founder of Blush Life Coaching. “Instead of focusing on what others want from you, self-care involves shutting down those thoughts and focusing completely on what you need in the moment.”
While this may make self-care sound a little, well, self-centered, it’s actually quite the opposite. Self-care enables you to be your most productive, energetic, and all-around happiest self — which in turn helps you be more present for your baby, your partner, and everyone else around you.
One thing self-care isn’t: Beating yourself up or feeling any sort of guilt for not doing X or Y. Rather than view self-care as another thing to add to your to-do list, view it as a shift in mindset. In other words, don’t feel bad for not reading that book you promised yourself read before bed -- let alone not getting your nails done or all the dishes put away by the end of the day.
12 Ways New Moms Can Practice Self-Care
Self-care for new moms is essential, says Perri Shaw Borish, LCSW, a maternal mental health specialist and founder of Whole Heart Maternal Mental Health. If you’re not taking care of yourself, taking care of your baby will seem exponentially more stressful. However, we know it can be hard for new moms to take the time needed to practice self-care.
The good news? Self-care doesn’t need to involve anything fancy. Although all those Instagram posts suggest otherwise, self-care is really not about face masks, bubble baths, or lighting candles and reading a book. (Thank goodness!)
Instead, self-care for new moms is all about the little things, Borish notes. Before we get into the list, the number-one most important tip is to ask for help.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need from the people in your life,” Borish says. Ask your partner, a friend, or a neighbor to take care the baby while you make time to do some of the following. Pick and choose whatever appeals to you -- remember, self-care is all about YOU.
- Take a walk around the block. (Bonus: Research shows that getting into the great outdoors can help boost your mood and bust stress!)
- Take a shower. (Daily!)
- Buy yourself some fresh flowers, or a low-maintenance plant.
- Have a cup of tea.
- Eliminate any feelings of shame, guilt, or obligation for at least one hour.
- Say “no” to anything that drains your energy.
- Eat a healthy meal (ideally, that someone else makes for you!)
- Get a solid eight hours of sleep.
- Think kind thoughts to yourself.
- Go to your favorite postnatal yoga class.
- Meditate for 10 minutes.
- Watch a funny TV show — without multitasking!