How You Feel Matters, part 2:
How to care for your mental health during conception, pregnancy, and postpartum
Bridget Cross, LCSW, PMH-C
In part 1 of this blog, we looked at the importance of planning for your mental and emotional wellbeing as you embark on the journey toward having a baby. The first recommendation we explored was connecting with others by finding a community of social support – so important, especially during the isolation of COVID-19.
Today, we’ll focus on ways to connect with yourself as you navigate conception, pregnancy, and postpartum. So often in this season of life, I hear from women that they feel they’ve “disappeared,” like they no longer know themselves, what they think, or what they like to do. While this can be a common response to the tremendous transition into parenthood, this feeling can also increase our vulnerability to depression or other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs).
And so, my #2 suggestion: Find an activity you can do every day that is just for you.Choose something that makes you feel mentally and physically good and at peace. Choose something you can do without having to consider or care for another person. Choose something that helps you feel connected to yourself in body, mind, and spirit. Most important: know that there are no wrong choices. What you choose is totally specific to you and will not look the same for all.
You may have an idea right away of what you want to do – if so, terrific. If you’re struggling to come up with ideas, no problem. You are not alone. I’ll give you some examples of activities that have helped me or women I’ve worked with: physical exercise, yoga, creative art or crafting, reading, playing with a pet, self-massage, meditation, prayer, journaling, take an online class, singing, building or DIY projects, cooking or baking, adult coloring, talking with an old friend, gardening, listening to a podcast, dancing.
If it feels hard to find time or space for your activity, start small. Commit to 1 minute of your activity each day and slowly try to increase to 5, 10, 30 minutes, maybe you reach an hour, maybe more. The key is: make this gesture to yourself that you will spend some amount of time each day focusing your attention exclusively on you. Spend at least a week building your activity into your regular daily routine and notice any shifts in how you feel, what you think, how your family operates, or how others respond to you.
Time spent exploring and getting to know yourself is a necessary ingredient to mental health. When you feel more in touch with your authentic self, your emotional wellbeing is better supported. You and your family will benefit.