How to Handle Mommy Stressby Katlyn Joy | October 25, 2010 12:00 AM
While being a mother likely consumed your thoughts and dreams for months or even years prior to your baby's birth, reality can be jarring at times. Yes, you knew it would be hard and you relished the idea of the challenge because of all the joys associated with parenting a new little baby.
However, no one can really prepare you for the realities of sleep deprivation, lack of hygiene, loss of personal identity and the crushing isolation that often accompanies new moms. Even if you can get one of the above, it's unlikely to feel too mood-boosting. After all, how great is a shower when no one is likely to smell you for days. Or how much socializing do you desire when you are so brain-dead from days of little sleep that your communication skills are reduced to nearly inaudible grunts?
So how to deal is the question. First, find comfort in the universality of your stressed-out new mommydom. Every mom experiences the stress and blues of becoming a parent. However, many times moms cover up their exhaustion and fear with a plastic smile and coos at their little darling.
Don't go it alone. If you are a full time mom, make sure your partner knows how much help you need and do be specific. Don't just say, "I can't do it all!" instead try suggesting, "If you could throw a load of laundry into the washer before leaving for work, that would really help me out."
Have a support system particularly of experienced mothers, your own if workable, or borrow someone else. They can be great at telling you not to worry, and that things will work out because they have proof (in you!) that they will. They may not be up to date on the latest child rearing techniques or immunizations, however. But the trade off is still worthwhile.
Besides experienced moms, reach out to others in the trenches, new moms like you. Some rec centers, churches or community groups have new mother's groups where you can go and commiserate, encourage and maybe even relax for a bit. Relationships can grow from those connections and can be invaluable to a new mom, especially if she lacks a family support system in the area.
You have to carve out little moments of non-stress in your life. Get a bubble bath when your partner spends some one-on-one time with baby. Read a book during baby's nap. When you run out for diapers, grab one of those fifteen minute massages at a kiosk, or just buy yourself a magazine or a treat from the smoothie stand.
Learn some simple yoga or relaxation stretches and do those when you get up or get ready for bed. Even a few minutes of deep breathing can provide some calmness into your day.
If you don't take good care of you, you'll be less than able to care for your loved ones especially a demanding baby. So buy good food and eat well, do whatever you can to get some quality sleep whenever possible, and get moving. Exercise will help your body return to normal or better status, and will help you feel better mentally and emotionally as well. Plus exercise is something you can do with your baby. Take a walk with your little one and both of you can enjoy some fresh air and new scenery.
Connect with Loved Ones
If you have a partner, you two still need time to be just you two. Get a sitter regularly and get away from it all together, even if it's only an hour or two a week the benefits are huge. Plus you'll be less likely to feel as isolated and stressed out.
Also, don't forget your old friends particularly those without kids in tow. Sometimes our relationships become all about the baby. That's not necessarily healthy, and your old friends most likely miss you. It's nice to be an individual once in awhile and not just someones mommy or milk-holder.
When the Stress is Too Much
Some babies are more demanding than others, and some mothering situations are more difficult due to health, financial or other factors. If the stress is overwhelming you and you no longer feel like you can cope you should seek out help. When you can't function normally, feel excessively stressed or depressed most days, and the blues are just not lifting talk to your doctor. Hormones and lifestyle changes can wreak havoc on the strongest of people and it is perfectly OK to admit you need some help right now.Katlyn Joy is a freelance writer with a Master's of Arts in Creative Writing. She is mom to seven children, and lives in Denver, Colorado.
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