How many times have you heard a new mum say, “Having a baby has been one of the easiest things I’ve ever done”?
Hopefully your answer is none (and if you do hear someone say that, don’t believe them, don’t become new-mum-besties and back away slowly…)
This is because having a baby is HARD and at times overwhelming, especially when running on such little sleep.
However, this doesn’t mean that we should just put up with it and accept the overwhelm. Whilst I can’t promise you more sleep or reduce the mountain of laundry, I can share with you my five top tips (based on general Cognitive Behaviour Therapy techniques) for reducing the overwhelm of motherhood:
1. Prioritise a maximum of three tasks per day.
It may sound simple, but putting a limit on what we need to get done is often overlooked and we end up trying to do too much, in too short a time, on too little sleep. Prioritise a maximum of three tasks per day. What needs to be done first? Is it achievable to do these three tasks? If not, cut it back to one or two tasks. If yes, make a plan of how you’ll fit it into your day.
2. It’s OK to say “no” to people.
When we find ourselves saying “yes” to friends or family and later regretting it because we have too much on our plate, it can add to that feeling of overwhelm. Being a mum means that free time is often minimal, so it’s OK to say “no” or “not this week”. I’m not saying you have to reject all offers of socialising or never help a friend in need ever again, but it’s important to put your own needs first, which occasionally means saying “no”.
3. Try to reduce the physical symptoms of overwhelm or anxiety with controlled breathing.
Feelings of overwhelm are often accompanied with physical symptoms of anxiety: increased rate of breath, sweating or claminess, brain fog, increased heart rate, etc. Try this: Each evening this week set aside time to practice controlled breathing on your own. Sit somewhere comfortably and set a timer for three minutes. Breathe in for three, two, one, and out for three, two one. Repeat for three minutes. Next time you start to feel overwhelmed take one or two controlled breaths to help reduce the physical symptoms of overwhelm and anxiety.
4. Delegate responsibilities, chores or tasks.
Tell your partner, family or friends that you need help rather than doing it all yourself. Sometimes, family and friends see us doing everything and see us not asking for help, and therefore think that we have it all together and are coping well. Tell those around you what you need.
5. It’s OK to not feel OK all of the time.
But it’s not OK to keep it to yourself and struggle on. If you feel that the overwhelm of motherhood is getting too much and that it’s affecting your ability to enjoy being a mum, then reach out for professional support, starting with your GP or one of these online services:
www.lifeline.org.au – or call 13 11 14