Some days you just feel like the crazy train is off the rails and it’s headed right towards a dumpster fire. You know what? You’re a parent…it’s gonna be like that for A WHILE! Somewhere close to forever, most likely. So below I’ve listed some of my tried-and-true’s for coping with stress. Some may speak to you, and some may not. What’s most important is acknowledging the stress (or whatever negativity you’re feeling), and making a plan to process it so you don’t get bogged down.
1) Set the oven timer – Half of you are saying “Girl, we’re having a meltdown, not baking a cake!” And that’s exactly the point. As I said earlier, it’s important to let it out. It’s also important to not let it consume you.
Set a timer for 10 minutes (or longer, if it’s really a doozy!).
Make sure your partner (or your care team, if you’re in the NICU) is aware that you are taking a break, and someone is keeping an eye or ear on your baby.
Give yourself that amount of time to yourself to do whatever it is you need to in order to process what you’re feeling.
Don’t be shy. Scream, cry, ball up those fists, stomp your feet, etc. This is YOUR time to shine (or not). If you’re currently residing in the NICU, you may need to get creative, and ask a member of the care team what your options are for “getting away” for a few minutes, so you don’t cause concern for those around you.
When the timer goes off, take a breath, and move on to what’s next.
2) Redirect your energy – Speaking of baking a cake, it’s one of my favorite things to do when I’m stressed. Not baking per se, because I’m absolutely horrible at it, but I LOVE cooking, and I’ve been doing A LOT of it these days. Just find your “THING” and focus on it. Here are a few hobbies that I hear a lot from parents when they need some time to chill out and refocus their energy:
Knitting / crochet
DIY mani / pedi
Word searches, crossword puzzles, sudoku
3) Exercise – The most important thing about exercise for my brand new mamas out there is to make sure you have been cleared for physical activity by your doctor. If you have had a C-section, or significant trauma during labor, your may need to go at it slowly, so make sure you consult your doctor before starting anything new. If you’re in the NICU, your options may be limited, but visit with your care team to see what options you have for getting your steps in! I’ve listed a few resources I like to use for at home workouts, and they all offer free access levels!
(RMHC of Arkoma is in no way affiliated with any of the above links.)
4) Eat something HEALTHY! – During times of stress, people tend to use food as a coping mechanism. This can often have adverse effects, because we usually choose foods with high sugar and fat content, which can leave you feeling sluggish about 20 minutes after your plate is empty. I’m never gonna tell you not to eat. As I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, I LOVE food. The key is to choose something nutritious AND delicious. Go for a flavored greek yogurt or a piece of fruit, as opposed to a bag of chips, and you’ll be in great shape!
5) Soak up some sun! – This one may be a bit of a challenge if you’re in the NICU, due to possible COVID-19 restrictions, so check with your care team members before venturing out of the hospital. If you’re at home, put on your most fashionable PPE, and get outside. Even if it’s just to sit in your driveway or backyard for a few minutes, the vitamin D will do you a world of good! According to the World Health Organization, anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes of sunlight 2 to 3 times per week can increase serotonin levels!
6) Be with your baby – If you are able to hold your baby, skin to skin contact (also known as Kangaroo Care) can be one of the BEST ways to lift your spirits! This valuable bonding activity not only releases wonderful endorphins for you, it also helps improve your baby’s overall health! If you’re still in the early stages of your NICU journey and aren’t able to hold your little one just yet, you can still talk to, sing to, smell and touch them. All of these things will be beneficial to both of you.
7) Talk to your partner or a member of your support system – Sometimes we just need to vent, and it’s important to have one or two people you can turn to,in order to have that need met. When I need to vent to my fiancé, it’s most productive to tell him (BEFORE I launch into my rant) “I don’t need you to fix anything, I just need to get it out.” That way, I know what type of feedback to expect from him, and he doesn’t feel pressure from me to solve a problem.
Lastly, you should know that there are some things a pedicure or a walk in the park just can’t fix, and it is perfectly okay. If it’s been several days or weeks, and you just can’t shake the negative thoughts or feelings, it is critically important that you talk to a healthcare professional – your OB-GYN, primary care provider, or a counselor / therapist. Being a new parent is tough stuff, and you should never feel like you have to deal with it alone. The most productive thing you can do is seek help so you can feel better, for both yourself and your new baby.
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