Once a woman has a baby her whole life changes. It is no longer about herself and her needs anymore. A little person’s needs have to be met first. Most of us are prepared for this, at least in theory. What makes it harder is putting this into practice.
There is of course a learning curve, but in that curve, stress levels naturally go up. I remember thinking that if I took even five minutes to have a cup of coffee I was neglecting my son, my house, something. I quickly learned that thinking along these lines would lead to exhaustion, frustration, and feeling overwhelmed.
I would need to learn to ask from help from my partner, my mother who lived nearby, and even advice from friends on what worked/didn’t work for them. I started going back to doing things I enjoyed before my son was born: yoga, aerobics, walks (with and without baby), and gradually I gravitated to meditation to help still my mind, my anxious thoughts, and other stresses that went through my brain.
I also uncovered many ways new Moms can de-stress by reading great articles and books. I began to see a pattern. For some Moms, it was doing things outside of the home. For others, it was staying home. Regardless, all any of us can do is experiment with what we feel works best for us as women and Moms. We need to trust our gut. So here are 15 ways new Moms can de-stress.
15 Ask The SO To Help
This is a tough one for most women, as many tend to think that since they are home with baby all day, they must do all the housework and baby work. Not true. And fortunately more partners are realizing that running a home and raising a family is the responsibility of both parties in the house.
Of course, the partner who is home with baby will prioritize the top things to do like making sure everyone has food to eat and clothes to wear when baby is settled, but other cleaning and organizing tasks (including the partner who is not home with baby taking over tending to baby when they get home), is a great way to let Mom relax after a busy day.
As long as both parties are in agreement and have down time, this can work. But don't treat him like a maid, ask him to do tasks he's comfortable with.
14 Take Five
Sounds funny, but sometimes we need to actually “schedule in” me time. Where a lot of Moms, myself included, sometimes go wrong, is by thinking they HAVE to make sure they take a huge amount of time each day to unwind or they are doing it wrong. Obviously, who wouldn’t want to relax for a thirty or sixty minute chunk every day, but sometimes that is not realistic for a busy Mama.
That is why setting a reasonable time with a timer to have some time alone, even if just five to ten minutes a day, will help a woman clear her head, turn off anxiety, and re-prioritize her needs for a few minutes. A Mom can even set several five minute breathers when baby is napping, or before he/she is up in the am or is asleep in pm.
By doing this it gives mom a much needed break, and allows her some sense of me time.
13 Do Some Yoga Or Meditate
I know. I drive a lot of my friends crazy talking about how meditation and yoga have saved me, because, well, they have. Now I’m FAR from an expert at either, and while I challenge myself to go deeper into being mindful on a good day, most days I squeeze in my tools at the beginning of the day before my son is up or is otherwise occupied.
There are so many amazing guided meditations out there on the internet and other great online programs. The meditations and yoga routines range from ten to thirty minutes a day. Once again, a tired and busy Mama can easily try these out at her convenience. And give it time. Some days will be easier than others, but even five minutes of one of these a day will make a difference in a woman's stress level.
You only have to try it once to see if it works for you.
12 Get A Massage
This is not financially or easily accessible for some moms due to finding a sitter to stay with baby, but if a woman can, treating herself to a massage every few months can do wonders for her body, mind and spirit. There are also mom and baby massages that can help her and her child.
These places teach Moms to massage their babies which help both to relax, and let’s face it, a relaxed Mom is a Mom who is free better able to parent, enjoy her life, and bond with her baby more. If Moms want to go solo for a massage and can get a family member, friend or partner to watch baby, many spas offer gift certificates which can be purchased with points off of credit cards. It is the gift that keeps on giving.
Another thing to consider is getting a spouse to give the massage. This increases intimacy and helps to keep the bonds of love alive between the two of you.
11 Get Back Into An Old Hobby
For many Moms, once baby comes into the picture they briefly forget that they were someone before being this little person’s mother. That’s normal, just remember it’s not only OK, but healthy to have one’s own interests and pursue them like before or even find new ones. Some Moms love going to a book club, some join writers groups, while some Moms love chess, knitting, painting, dancing, singing, or playing an instrument.
The important thing is that it helps her unwind and get away from her worries and that she goes back home feeling happy and balanced. Moms can even experiment with new hobbies. Some have taken up dance classes or karate lessons. Again, this could be done at home online or in person. Mom gets to choose the activity and pencil that time in for her.
There's a certain satisfaction we get when we do something we like and can see it through to completion.
10 Get Outside
As Winston S. Churchill once famously quoted, “a change is as good as a rest.” A lot of times it can be true. Sitting inside and staring at the walks can become isolating and downright depressing for many Moms and their babies. Getting outside is good to change the scenery around oneself, but also to breathe in nice, crisp fresh air. More studies are showing the connection that being in nature around trees, bodies of water, and plant life can have on our mental well-being.
The more people are in touch with nature, the calmer they are. This goes for children too. So Mom getting outside, helps her and her child de-stress and look at life in a more positive way. Walking is also great exercise which also helps us feel good so going out is good all around.
Fresh air can do a world of good for a person who feels cooped up all the time. So get outside and go for a short walk.
9 Talk To Some Friends
Ah yes, our Mommy friends. These ladies are truly most Moms salvation if she has done her homework, and made sure the Mom friends she has are supportive, loving, patient and make her laugh her head off or let her cry when she needs that.
A woman meets these Moms friends through Mom and baby playgroups, sometimes through prenatal groups, or if these women are already her BFF’s from before kids and then start having kids at the same time, well, even better. Moms can plan weekly conversations by phone, online or weekly or monthly.
Talking with one’s friends (especially if these are friends from before baby), can help a woman remember who she is inside and always will be. This is very important for being able to process and handle stress appropriately in the present and future. There is a psychological component to women that craves social interaction, that's why without it women can become grouchy, lonely and withdrawn.
8 Learn Something New
Ok, this is probably better to do when baby is a little older and sleeping the night so a Mom is actually able to stay awake and learn in the class, but this is a great way to expand one’s mind and do something that is outside being a Mom. It could be anything like taking a cooking class, a sewing or knitting class, a writing, reading or language class, whatever interests her most.
The great thing today is that Mom can do it from the comfort of her home via her laptop or if she needs to physically get out, there are many community centers and colleges/universities offering courses at night when it is easier to get out of the house.
Sometimes she can even find women’s community centers that offer courses in the daytime and have FREE babysitting on site. Some public libraries offer courses in Adobe suite and teach HTML and other useful tools to people who sign up for the classes and hold a library card.Lots of options are available.
7 Get Moving!
Exercising is SO important for our overall mental health, and not every Mom is motivated to go walking in her neighborhood, work out with videos or online videos at home, or has buddies who will push her to exercise by exercising alongside her. Some women need the little push to go somewhere, a gym or fitness facility, which can help them get or feel more fit and healthy.
Many of these places offer specials and trainers to help. The other good thing about going to a gym, is that Moms can meet new people and again get out and have a change of scenery. She can find out about different specials and offers of classes at her community center. Here the costs are less than a gym membership if money is tight so it is a win/win.
The human body creates more serotonin when it gets worked out, which means that people who work out are usually happier than their couch potato counter parts.
6 Get Networking
Women’s groups whether at one’s place of worship, entrepreneur, preschool/daycare, or even a volunteer organization for a cause close to the woman’s heart, can really open up doors for communication, helping others, and building one’s own network for friendship and business opportunities.
This is great if and when Mom wants to go back into the paid workforce at some point in the future. A good women’s group, whether for professional or personal reasons, will help a Mom feel uplifted, positive, and definitively decrease her stress level and help her be more resilient in her life.
Moms should definitively not feel forced to join groups if they do not feel ready, but if they do, there are many great options and places a new Mom can go to network, make friends, and learn about motherhood and other things. This may also give them a leg up when they return to work, because it will show her enthusiasm for her job.
5 Have A Ladies Night
Ok here is everything moms need to know about GOING OUT WITH THE GIRLS. This is important. Even if Moms can’t go out every month, maybe try and go every two or three months. Getting out with friends either for dinner, a movie, drinks, a spa, or even a nature walk, can really help recharge the body’s battery.
Moms tend to talk about other things besides kids, they laugh, reminisce, and just have fun. This is a good recipe for any kind of happiness, and will help reduce stress of all kinds in a new Mom’s life. Moms can even take turns hosting nights at each other’s homes, as long as the baby is being well looked after and is not distracted with a houseful of people.
My friends and I have gone for movies, dinner, coffee and most recently a Hammam Spa Night. Talk to your circle of friends and see who's down and make a real effort to get together.
4 Join Parenting Groups
Online parent groups are wonderful ways to connect for the tired new Moms whose babies have erratic sleep schedules that prevent Moms from going (or having too much energy to go out), in the day. Many of the Moms in these groups pop in and out all day, but most are in either the early am or late pm hours when baby is sleeping.
Moms can connect with one another with pictures, words and even Skype with other Moms in their city or halfway around the world. It’s amazing! Many times these friendships can even grow from online into in person friendships when the women meet one day and baby friendships can emerge too.
The importance of talking, sharing and supporting other Moms goes a long way towards a woman’s own mental health staying positive. Knowing there's someone out there going through the same thing, or simply having someone who gives solid advice is pretty priceless to a new mom.
3 Get A Cat Or Dog
This can be viewed as either more work and therefore more stress for some Moms, (ie animal care, both in terms of cleaning, feeding, and spending time and money on), but for many Moms, especially those that had dogs and cats before baby was born, animals have a soothing and relaxing effect on many people’s mental health.
Animals can help Moms feel less isolated and alone. Both cats and dogs have been shown to reduce stress levels in people’s bodies, and Moms have the bonus of teaching their children how kind animals are if babies grow up in the same home as a cat or dog.
These same babies also learn about responsibility and taking care of someone’s needs outside their own. This is all very important for handling their later life stress. Kids will become more resilient.
There's been some studies that look at the health benefits for pet owners and the research says that people who pet their animals and spend time with them are happier because the affection is returned and there's some sort of serotonin release humans get from animal interactions with their pets.
2 Hire A Mother’s Helper/Babysitter
Again, this depends on financial circumstances in most cases, but if a new Mom is really stuck and has no family or friends nearby to give her a baby breather, she can hire a mother’s helper to stay with baby while she recharges by resting, relaxing or even getting out and running some errands ALONE. I remember how excited I was if my son was with his grandma and I could go grocery shopping by myself.
It felt like a vacation in those early Mommy days! Mom can also stay nearby or in the home when the Mother’s Helper is there, and catch up on other things. The main idea is she can relax and take care of herself or things other than baby. A Mom can find great Mother’s helpers through neighbors, on school job boards, or through daycares in her community.
So there are some of the ways new Moms can de-stress. There are many more as well, as many ways as there are Moms. A Mom just has to be inventive, be true to herself, and remember that doing what she needs to do to take care of herself, benefits everyone in the family. A strong mother means a strong family unit.
1 Go On A Date
This one is much harder to schedule, particularly when baby is little and energy is low for both parents. But this is just as important as ladies nights. A Mom and her partner need to both relax and recharge. They also need to get away from parenting roles either at home or elsewhere and reconnect on an intimate level.
If getting a sitter is impossible and there are no friends or family nearby to help, parents can try scheduling in a movie, a romantic takeout or order in dinner after baby is asleep at night, or an early or later lunch when baby is napping. If Mom and her partner have extra energy, they can even try getting romantic AND dinner.
There are also walks, going for coffee or dinner out if a family or friend can stay with baby even for an hour. Making the effort for the relationship will be worth it, because life isn't always a bed of roses.