Self Love | How To Connect With Yourself Post-Baby
Self love takes time, it takes energy, and it takes focus. Yes, many people instinctively know how to care for themselves and love themselves, but there are few that, faced with the challenges that parenthood can bring, don’t waver from time to time.
For others, with every ounce of everything they’re made of going into feeding, minding, cleaning, cooking, there is zero time to be spent on nurturing themselves. Motherhood is still seen as something sacrificial, that you need to offer up your whole self for…but then what’s left if you’ve given your whole self? Of course, there are sacrifices to be made as a mother, but to be the mother you want to be, you must like yourself too, and we all need to be nurtured in some shape or form.
Clare Reed, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Practitioner and owner of CBT Dublin says that while self love can be hard to define, she sees its essence as being about looking after ourselves and treating ourselves with respect - in both mind and body. “I often get my ‘new mother’ clients to become a little more ‘self-ish’ too, being ‘self-ish’ means being a little bit more about themselves, it’s not such a negative word when considered this way, and this is no bad thing when they are entirely consumed with the demands of motherhood. It’s a bit like the adage of cobblers and shoes, cobblers can easily make shoes for all their customers to wear but haven’t the time to make their own, so their shoes are full of holes and scuffs! This is like a mother to a new born baby, everything else is prioritised except for themselves.
So how do we become more self-ish, without being selfish? Here are Clare’s top tips to ensure you’re loving yourself as you need to.
Somehow, some way, exercise has to happen; this is non-negotiable. Not to lose baby weight gain, but because it will make you better able to deal with everything life throws at you in these challenging post-birth months. Exercise will give you a big boost of serotonin and endorphins, making you feel more energised mentally and physically.” Sounds wonderful, but like most moms, it’s not finding the enthusiasm to get out for a run or to the gym, it’s how to escape the house for an hour. “Fortunately, we are living in the online age, every exercise is catered for on YouTube, whether it’s yoga, pilates, dance aerobics, or ballet, you can exercise at home with baby in full view,” says Clare.
Feed your Body and Mind
This can be one of the most challenging ones with a new little person. You’re not sleeping well, you’re drinking coffee by the bucket load and the only food you fancy eating is a hot scone with butter and jam, or giant chocolate chip cookies. The issue with this type of eating is that while it’s giving us instant gratification, it’s starving the body and mind of what it really needs. “Eating as best you can is vital and a sign of good self-love,” says Clare, who believes that planning is the key to getting yourself out of an unhealthy eating rut. “Plan nutritious and delicious meals in advance and why not get the groceries delivered, an easy solution to make sure you are not under pressure in the supermarket. Self-love means eating not just for your body, but for your mind and enabling you to take full advantage of all the healthy minerals, vitamins, protein and good carbohydrates we need to feel on top of things and feel great.
Keeping up Appearances
While getting out of your tracksuit bottoms and styling your hair might be the last thing on your mind when you’re in the midst of caring for a new baby, the power of some self-maintenance should not be underestimated. Even if it’s just keeping your hair in good shape, or choosing clothes that make you feel good about yourself, it will make a big difference to your mood.
An easy maintenance haircut that flatters and makes you feel good about yourself is vital. Slopping around in ‘comfies’ all day, every day will make you feel less than your normal bright self, but if that’s your choice, at least make sure they are clean! Clients I work with in the early days of depression often present in a dishevelled state, as they stop caring about themselves. This doesn’t have to be you.
Be kind to yourself
Apart from the physical, the self love that comes in the form of speaking kindly to yourself is possibly the most powerful. You are what you think, and so if all day, every day is spent chiding yourself for not keeping your baby to his routine, or not managing to get done all that you had planned, you’re going to end up feeling quite put upon. “Manage your expectations of yourself,” suggests Clare. “Lower the bar for success to give yourself a chance to have accomplishments through the day. Use encouraging and motivational language. Instead of ‘I should’, or ‘I shouldn’t’, use ‘I prefer’, ‘I will’ , or ‘I accept’ instead. A journal to write in is very handy, set aside 5 minutes at the end of each day to write down all the things you achieved in the day. Don’t miss out on chores; even doing the ironing is an accomplishment when you are looking after a newborn.
Ask for what you want
So many moms feel they should be able to do everything themselves. Most of these women had responsible jobs or high flying careers before giving birth - we’re used to being in charge, to being on top of things. Then, all of a sudden, we’re not, and it can be difficult to accept that. But according to Clare, self love also means asking for help when we need it. “A lot of mothers can get resentful of their partners, particularly if they are on maternity leave and feel isolated and alone. Don’t be a martyr and take on too much; letting resentment build will make you bitter and upset. If you need something, request it. No partner is a mind-reader, and setting little secret tests like hoping they will take you out for dinner for a treat, when they don’t know you have this in mind is petty, and fruitless. Say what you need politely from those around you. Let them know you need to be prioritised sometimes.
Making sure that your needs are taken care of will ensure you’re in a much better place to face all the other challenges that being a mom will throw at you. And you’ll love yourself a lot more too!
is led by Clare Reed, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and a leading specialist in anxiety and self-esteem disorders in Dublin. CBT helps improve self-esteem by teaching new ways of thinking through challenging the negative thoughts and gaining perspective and rationality via a range of techniques including belief change, hypothesis testing, behavioural experiments, relaxation and positive visualisation.