Self care is important in maintaining physical and mental well being – and when you have just had anew baby that is especially important.
thanks to Ashley for he second guest blog!
Bringing a new baby into the world is a magical event. Your life becomes infinitely more fulfilling, your love is abundant and your schedule is now filled to the brim as a caretaker. But being a caretaker means taking care of you, too.
It’s not selfish to practice self-care. Even as a provider and nurturer of others, you still need to look out for yourself. If you’re not at your best, then how are you supposed to be there for your baby? Between the diaper changing and feedings throughout the day, make some time for self-care, too.
Take care of yourself by taking a day off, especially if you’re the primary caretaker. The first few months will be hard for moms because you’re feeding constantly, but pumping breast milk into a bottle will reduce the amount of time your baby needs to be attached to your body. Just because a new life depends on you for survival doesn’t mean that you can’t take an occasional breather for yourself. Some moms say that they barely have time for a shower or a workout when they’re caring for a newborn. Well, you should make time while your baby is napping, or take a few hours off each week to do things for you. Being a great parent doesn’t mean that you have to be glued to your child 24/7.
Many parents stop being lovers and resort to being co-parents, which eats away at the fabric of the relationship. The whole point of your relationship wasn’t to build up into something great, only to end at this point. A baby is supposed to enhance your bond, not replace it. Your relationship doesn’t need to take a backseat to parenting if you can find simple ways to keep the romance alive and care for the love that you have. Go on a date night so that your relationship doesn’t suffer, or cuddle on the couch after the baby is put to rest. You’re not bad parents if you’re not always putting baby first.
Let Someone Else Take Over
Since Dad can’t breastfeed, it would be fair if he handles the diaper changes, bathing, burping and bottle-feeding more than Mom does. As a new mom, let your partner share some of the duties of childrearing. As a new dad, pick up responsibilities whenever you can to alleviate your partner’s burden of 24/7 parenting. Both parents: Don’t hesitate to hire a sitter to watch the baby even when you’re both at home. You don’t need a night out in order to hire help. Sometimes you just need someone to babysit while you’re organizing the house or taking a night off from parenting duties.
Reduce Stress at Home
When your place is overwhelmed and cluttered, you’ll feel overwhelmed. There’s enough stress that comes with raising a baby, so why add more stress by living amongst chaos? A decluttered home and a peaceful bedroom will lead to a relaxed living space and a soothing environment for a good night’s sleep. They say that once you become a parent, you never get a full night of sleep again. That doesn’t have to be the case. To get the elusive sleep that new parents always lose, you can train your baby to sleep so that you can sleep. It may be hard to get a full night’s rest with a newborn baby at home, but there are ways to catch those Zzz’s whenever possible.
Chances are that you’re not only a good parent, but you’re also trying to be a good spouse. The baby is getting the best part of you, and your partner is getting the leftovers that aren’t exhausted. It’s tempting to always make sacrifices for your child because that’s the instinct of a parent. You want to feed them first because you don’t want them to feel hungry. But if you don’t care for yourself, then who will be around to care for the baby? A happy parent leads to a happy baby, and a person who runs out of steam can’t take care of others.
Photo Credit: Pexels
As it is mental health day on 10th October I have uploaded a video about mainlining our mental well being.
You can view the video here
In addition you can download the PDF mental wellbeing
And for those of you who are serious about maintaining your mental well being there is an action plan you can complete mental wellbeing action plan
Hope you find it helpful and if you’ve any tips pr comments please add them below.
Delighted to publish the first guest blog!!
Having a baby presents a whole range of challenges for any new parent but if you are a parent with a disability then these challenges can be even greater. In this blog Ashley shares some really practical advice about ways of overcoming some of these challenges.
People with disabilities can adapt creatively to the demands of raising children as they do to their own specific needs. In turn, their little ones naturally adapt to their unique parenting styles.
According to your accessibility challenges, follow the tips below to find strategies for transforming your home into a functional, safe environment for raising a baby as a disabled parent.
Parents with mobility limitations need step-free entrances to their homes in order to provide extra stability and support for transporting their child and other supplies, such as baby accessories or groceries. Replacing steps with a ramp is simple and affordable. Pre-made ramps are available for purchase, and DIY ramp instructions can be found online. If building, pay close attention to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines for ramp width and slope: both indoor and outdoor ramps should have a slope no greater than 1 inch of height for every 12 inches of length. Additionally, the surface of the ramp should be coated with either non-skid deck paint or adhesive strips to prevent slipping.
For ease of mobility throughout your home, install an inexpensive skid-resistant flooring option such as linoleum or vinyl. This change will benefit your baby as well, preventing slips and falls as they learn to crawl and, eventually, to walk. To avoid tripping on uneven textures, secure heavy-duty plastic mats or runners beneath movable carpets or rugs to keep them in place.
If requiring a wheelchair, walker or transfer chair, your doorways must stretch at least 32 inches wide for safe and easy clearance. Installing offset or expandable hinges will provide up to 2 inches of extra space without the expense and headache of making structural changes to the door frame itself. Plus, this adjustment is reversible–return the door to normal by simply replacing the original hardware and carry the spacious hinges with you to your next home.
When mobility is limited, moving from room to room to accomplish different tasks can cost time and energy. Prior to the arrival of your baby, take note of your current habits. You might have a few favorite spots in your home where you spend most of your time and that are set up for comfort and easy access. These spaces can also serve as play and care areas for your baby, with a few adjustments. Purchase or build your own small, rolling workstation with a tabletop for changing and storage beneath for bottles, cloths, toys and other supplies, bringing the nursery and the kitchen to you.
Vision difficulty can be especially dangerous when caring for a baby. The sensitivity of their new skin, nasal passages and digestive tracts makes it important to use the correct products. When distinguishing between formula, snacks, soap and lotion, label items with tactile strips. Such products come in a variety of forms, such as Bumpons, self-adhesive raised plastic markers; Tacti-mark, a liquid that sets hard; color-indicating buttons; and self-adhesive locator dots. Alternatively, try wrapping different products in a specific number of rubber bands or rounds of yarn for tactile identification.
You may feel overwhelmed by hearing limitations, believing such challenges will prevent you from ever leaving your baby’s side. However, the Summer Infant Babble Band, a wearable monitor with two pieces–one for your arm and one for placement close to your baby–provides freedom with peace of mind for parents who are hearing impaired. You can set the monitor that lasts eight hours between charges. It features ‘vibrate’, ‘light up’ or both options to notify you when your child makes a sound. You will always be aware when your baby is in need of a diaper change, a snack or a nap.
Parents with disabilities are compassionate parents who adapt in order to overcome barriers and provide happy, healthy homes for their children. By making these small changes to your nest, you, too, can successfully care for yourself and your baby.
First Published in Affinity Magazine
I’ve heard a few times recently people saying things like ‘I couldn’t help it’ ‘they made me do it’ or ‘well it wasn’t my fault it was because …….’. Well let’s just set one thing straight. Unless someone literally has a gun to your head or is putting you under threat – you have a choice.
But I also understand that it doesn’t always feel like we have much of choice. So let’s look at some strategies we can use to ensure that we are always aware that we are in control of our own actions and so can always exercise a choice about those, even if we can’t choose some of the things that are happening to us or around us. In fact lot of things can happen that we have no control or choice over – but even then we can exercise control of our response, we can make a choice.
The steps below will help everyone be able to be more aware that we can always make a choice and that actually those choices will have an impact on our future.
Take time to react
It happens to all of us, people upset, or hurt us, stuff happens that makes us angry or unhappy and of course it is a very human response to react. However when we have lots of emotions our reaction may not be measured and sometimes we might actually make a situation worse by reacting when we are ‘emotional’. It might not be easy but just giving yourself a moment, even just a few seconds can mean that we are better able to choose to react in a different way. Yes it might make us feel instantly better in the short term to throw something or yell at someone, or make a rude gesture when driving but usually it doesn’t really help the situation, in fact sometimes it can make it a whole lot worse. So give yourself a minute take a deep breath and then choose how you will react.
Don’t be influenced by others
I was talking with someone recently who was embroiled in a long and difficult legal battle. During the course of the conversation I asked why she had initially decided to take this route when it seemed there would have been other options. She suggested that a couple of friends had persuaded her as it wasn’t right to let her adversary ‘get away with it’. I don’t think her friends meant to be unhelpful or give bad advice but of course they weren’t having to live through the consequences of the action. So be cautious about accepting advice from people who won’t have to accept the consequences of YOUR action.
Think about the consequences
The advantage of taking even just a minute before you react means you can consider the consequences of what you feel like doing and sometimes that will be enough to help you to make a different choice. I’m fairly confident that there won’t be anyone reading this who doesn’t regret some consequence for a choice they made or an action they took. Of course some consequences may be unforeseen BUT if we stop for a moment many could be anticipated and often a different reaction can avoid some unfortunate consequences.
Choices are Cumulative
Sometimes the impact of choices won’t be seen immediately but over time they can have a big impact. Think about a person who makes a choice to overeat, we’ve all done it and the consequences if it is an occasional choice may not be great but if this is a repeated choice then this will impact your weight and potentially health. Similarly if we always make the ‘safe’ choice and refuse to take a risk or never stray out of our comfort zone the long term impact may be that we restrict our personal growth in some way.
Feelings are NOT choices
People, if I ask them about a choice they have made, will often refer to feelings. But feelings, while they are real and can have a great influence upon us, are not choices or actions. We have feelings but we can still choose how we act or react. Imagine someone who is feeling very sad, maybe they have suffered a disappointment or loss. The feelings might be awful but the feelings don’t make you stay in bed all day, or snap at everyone, they are choices we make, yes they may stem for the feelings but feelings never ‘make’ us do things. We can still choose how we act even when we are experiencing extreme emotions.
The Good News
So the good news is that whatever life is throwing at us and at times it might be pretty grim and we might feel battered by what is happening we always have a choice, which means that we are not victims but actually we can be empowered to choose the life we want in all sorts of ways.
Are you happy with your life? There may be some aspects that could be improved but the first step is to acknowledge that as humans we need not be passive but we can every day in every situation, even those situations we wish we hadn’t found ourselves in, make some positive choices.
For my blog post this week I have gathered together a nmber of earlier posts about revision and exams into a downloadable ebook Keep Calm and Pass your Exams.
This was first published in Affintity Magazine but I think its helpfulfor evry one to know a bit about the hormones that impact our happiness.
Our state of happiness depends on a whole range of factors, some would say genetic predisposition plays a part as well as our current situation, but it’s probably fair to say that most of us want to be happy and if there were steps we could take to be happier we’d at least consider them.
I acknowledge that of course there are some people who struggle with specific mental or physical illnesses which may have an impact on the biochemistry of the brain but for the rest of us understanding our happy hormones and what we can do to boost these will almost certainly have a positive impact on our mood and sense of well-being.
What are our Happy Hormones?
Strictly speaking happy hormones aren’t all hormones. One of the chemicals you will have probably heard of as being responsible for happiness is Seratonin which is a mood boosting neurotransmitter and dopamine, another neuro transmitter which drives our brains rewards system.
Then there is Oestrogen and progesterone, you’ll all have heard of those hormones and know that an imbalance of these can cause irritability. Specifically Oestrogen is responsible in part for the formation of serotonin and it helps to keep our mood steady. Good levels of oestrogen protect us from irritability and anxiety. Progesterone too protects us from irritability and is also thought to have a role in helping us sleep well. Then there is something called oxytocin which is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter and seems to have an impact on our levels of satisfaction, this particular one seems to have more of an impact on women than men. In addition there are endorphins which can dull pain and increase our feelings of pleasure.
But it is also worth knowing about Cortisol – often called the stress hormone – it is released in response to fear and stress and prolonged high levels of this can have numerous negative effects on the body, such as lowering the immune system, increasing weight gain, interfering with learning and memory and also increasing the risk of depression and mental health problems.
But before you start feeling gloomy because your state of happiness is at the mercy of chemicals – let’s stop with the science and see what we can do to give ourselves the best possible chance of happiness.
The Food we eat
There is a growing body of evidence that shows that what we eat has a powerful impact on almost every aspect of our bodies functioning. I know that sometimes the advice can seem contradictory but actually there are only a couple of very simple guidelines to follow. Try to avoid processed food – basically it will be full of heaven knows what and introduce lots of negative toxins to the body. Eat fresh food whenever you can and include at the very least five portions (new research indicates seven or even tem portions a day may be better) of fruit and vegetables each day and try to include an array of colours – that way you can make sure you’ll be getting all the vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients, probiotics etc that you need.
Specifically carbohydrates boost serotonin but it’s best to use high fibre sources which are more long lasting – but it also explains why crave sweet starchy comfort food when we feel low. To boost progesterone and oestrogen levels include spinach, asparagus eggs, salmon – oh and don’t forget dark chocolate in your diet. Eating spicy foods can also help as they can trigger endorphin production. You can read more about mood boosting foods here
It will come as no surprise that exercise is good for us. Exercise is one of the few things that can release serotonin and unless we have driven ourselves into the ground we nearly always feel better after we have exercised. For some simple exercise you can start today have a read of this article
Enjoy a good laugh
Actually enjoying a good laugh will also help with endorphin production – so if you are feeling down watch a comedy not a weepy, read a funny book or spend time with that friend who you always have a laugh with.
Feel Good Activities
Oxytocin production is increased when you are doing pleasurable things – so enjoy time with friends or family, indulge yourself in some way perhaps with massage – or even a spot of retail therapy. We all know we enjoy a hug and actually physical contact like that is good for us so give you partner or family members a hug and enjoy the boost that will give to your happy hormones.
Keep Stress in Check
Learning how to manage our stress is important for each and every one of us not least because it can keep our cortisol levels in check, so a long walk or a relaxing bath will help and try adding some aromatherapy, a scented candle or bath oil as these can help to stimulate endorphins. As can listening to music and singing which will also give a release of Dopamine. There is also evidence to suggest that being outdoors in the sun is beneficial for boosting our mood – we might not get as many chances as we’d like but a bit of sun will definitely be a mood boost.
Get something done
Anything that we achieve can give us a sense of satisfaction, especially when it is something we have worked towards. So completing a task, whether it’s a craft project you started months ago or a work related task you’ve been putting off, will definitely boost your mood.
There are lots of things that we are not able to control in life but when it comes to being happy there is in fact a lot we can do to help ourselves and boost our happy hormones.
As the exam season is fast approaching once again here are a few tips for parents who are faced with supporting their teens to revise for exams I published this first on hubpages and you can read the whole article by following this link
Try To Remember
It is easy when faced with difficult behaviour to let it become a battle. As the adult we imply intent which simply may not be there – the child probably isn’t behaving that way just to make our lives difficult.
One of the ways to prevent a battle mentality is to approach with curiosty and ask yourself some questions. I’ve put a few below but I’m sure you ‘ll be able ot think of many more.
Did the child know what they were supposed to do?
Its easy to issue lots of instructions, and sometimes use language that isn’t especially clear or accessible. What does being ‘good’ mean? Being quiet may mean something very different at home from at school or even in one lesson as opposed to another. It is estimated that a number of children have undiagnosed speech language and communictaion needs which may include problems with short term memory
Do they have the skills and emotional capacity to comply?
Children vary in development and some children may lack particular skills, for example social and emotional skills that their chronological peers have mastered. This is especially true for children who have experienced attachment or trauma issues, adverse childhood experiences, or toxic stress. Put simply their brains maynot have developed in the same way and until healing takes place they may not br able to regulate their emotions. The good news is that healing is possible but does need to happen in the right order – you can learn more in this video.
What could have caused their Stress?
Think for a moment about how you respond if you feel stressed. I expect there have been times when you have responded to situations with an outof character angry response because youare feeling stressed or worried about something else. That’s you the adult! If children feel stressed or afraid they may behave in ways that are challenging. Imagine if you werevery afriad of spiders and someone placed one on you. You may well behave in a way that was outof character, even as a rationals emotiaonally well functioning adult. Children may feel anxiety about all sorts of things, and chldren who are vulnerable or who have had adverse childhood experiences may have their ‘stress’ response turned on fairly constantly. So this is a useful question to ask.
What else could be happening in their life?
Not all children come to school having all of their needs met – families are under a lot of pressure and even children who may not be described as vulnerable can have times when they experience difficulties at home, which may cause them to feel anxious. For vulnerable children this anxiety can be a constant state. But it is always worth asking what might be happening to cause particualr behaviours.
Have they behaved like this before?
Working with children many professionals know the situations that particular children find difficult. Yet sometimes, almost without realising it we keep putting childreninto difficult situations repeatedly. The child who also has problems on the playground for example. If that is the case then as adults we need to change the situation for the child or support them to gain the skills they need to cope in such situations.
What might have motivated their behaviour?
As adults we can sometimes attach i ntent to childrens behaviour that simply isn’t there. They may have times when they test boundaries, as all children do but often they behaviour is driven by more complex emotional ‘drivers’, like anxiety, stress, fear of failure or humiliation to mention just a few. Effectively children may not be choosing to behave they are responding to emotions they can’t handle. Additionally some children will be in a state of constant high alert and may not be able to ‘manage’ or regulate their emotions.
Do they feel safe in the environment and is their a person they can trust?
We all need to feel safe that is one reason why unfamiliar enviroments may cause stress. Children with attachment issues or who have experienced trauma need to have a place witihin the environment where they feel safe and a person they feel safe with- remember these children will have had experiences where they have not felt safe and they may not have been able to trust the adults caring for them. You can read a bit about it here
It is good practice to plan in advance and create a safe space for children and allow time for them to develop relationships with adults who can helpthem feel safe.
What can adults do to help restore calm?
When children are feeling overwhelmed they need adults to be calm and to have a plan. Their greatest need is to feel safe. So its helpful to allow space and time to allow them to calm, with a calm adult they trust. Establishing a range of strategies to use can help so can gradually supporting them to understand what happens when they feel these various emotions BUT the most important feature is developing meaningful relationships with adults they can trust. That is what will ultimately help them to self regulate as the brain essentially heals and they are able to develop the necessary brain ‘pathways’.
Many adults who return to study after a break or perhaps enrol on a course for the first time since they left school, find adjusting to study a difficult transition. That is not surprising but there are some simple steps you can take manage some of the trickier aspects of that transition so it doesnt have a negative impact on both studies and other commitments.
As the word implies transition is a change and it can take time to adjust to a change, the following suggestions will help you to make that change as easily and simply as possible giving you the best possible chance for success in your studies.
Identify Time for Study
Whatever course or programme you are studying it nearly always means some study outside of official ‘class’ times. So right from the start identify some times when you can do this. It is very easy to think that you will somehow fit it in but unless you make time to do it and plan some study sessions it is not likely to happen. So, as soon as you start your course, take a look at your diary and pencil some times that will become study times, the amount of time you allocate may need to be adjusted but at least you will have some slots pencilled in.
Find a place for Study
It is amazing how within weeks, even if you are studying an online course you will find you accumulate things, books, papers, pens, and files for example and often that is only the start. Having a place to keep them is vital and it will certainly make it easier to use your study slots effectively if you don’t have to race around your house, flat or room finding all your essential items.
Be Clear About Your Priorities
Each one of us identifies the things that are most important to us in our lives and usually we make it a priority to fit those in. If you are now embarking on a period of study then these may need to be adjusted slightly. Of course it is important to make time for the things and people that are important to you but presumably study has now been added to that list of important things so it might be time to re-visit those priorities.
Manage people’s expectations
The simple fact is that some of the time you will now be using for study, unless you are studying full time, will be time when you used to do other things and some of those other things may need to disappear for a while or be somehow rescheduled to allow you time to study. It’s often best to tell people about your study plans and what that might mean, perhaps not able to stay at work as late, be in the sport club, or as involved in charity work or whatever it happens to be for you in your own circumstances. Managing the expectations of others can mean you don’t need to explain all the time why you can’t always do all the things you did before.
Ask for help when you need it
Whether it is with your academic work or with your other responsibilities it is important to ask for help when you need it. Not doing so almost always leads to problems getting worse and small problems getting bigger and causing you worry and stress. But many people find it hard to ask for help because they somehow think that is a weakness. It is simple, we are all human if you are starting something new then there are bound to be times when you need help. So talk to your tutor if you need help with your studies or to your partner, family, or flatmates if the help you need is domestic and if it is work then talk to you manager or colleagues.
Identify your support network
Quite apart from, and often in addition to, practical help we all need emotional support. Somewhere we can have a grumble, share our success or generally let off a bit of steam with people we know and trust. So having a support network is vital, this may change over time if you are meeting a lot of new people but make sure you never find yourself without a solid support network.
Be prepared to learn about yourself
We all have ideas about how we approach tasks, the way we learn perhaps even the things we find easy and the things we find a struggle. But many people who return to study discover that they may have changed since they last studied, or they do change while they are studying. In many ways that is one of the points of education. So be prepared to have old ideas and attitudes challenged and to learn new things about yourself.
Get the right mind-set
Some people leave study or decide not to continue because they think it is something they can’t do well or because of particular circumstances at the time. But others may not study because they have an idea that they can’t do it or that they will find it tough. I have even heard students say that they don’t think they are the’ academic’ type. Be clear from the outset that if you have been accepted onto the course you are likely tobe able to be successful, It doesn’t mean you won’t need help at times or that you won’t need to develop some new skills but have confidence in your ability to learn, change and develop.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
New experiences are learning curves and it’s not too surprising that some aspects will be a challenge. Don’t waste time, effort or emotional energy beating yourself up because you make a few mistakes along the way or take a bit longer to get used to the demands of study than you thought you would.
Like many others I returned to study as an adult to complete a degree, part of the way through my studies I had my first child and I had a job I loved as well. But I completed my degree, had a lovely bouncing baby and kept working. It might seem daunting at times but it is possible and you will reap the rewards. Making a few adjustments at the beginning can certainly help you, not just settle into a life that involves study, but enjoy it as well.
As parents we want our children to grow up to be healthy and resilient, both physically and emotionally. Teaching your kids these habits will help them to do exactly that but like anything else they need to be taught about them and see you as the adult modelling them. We often put a lot of effort into teaching our kids physical skills, like riding a bike, throwing and catching a ball or skipping but it’s easy to overlook these emotional habits that will help them to be resilient and handle some of the tough times they may need to face.
It’s a choice we all face daily, we can choose to concentrate on what we have or on what we lack. It might seem tough some days but developing a habit of gratitude helps us to focus on the positive which can make us happier and more optimistic. This short video called The Gratitude Jar is worth a watch and although it focuses on a classroom setting but it can easily be recreated at home – either in a jar or on a board.
Many adults still struggle to manage emotions so it can never be too early to start teaching children about emotions. Emotions and feelings happen in response to a stimulus of some sort which may be come from the environment, fear caused by an animal that we think is a threat for example, so the emotions involve a mental state and a physiological one.
The first step is to develop a shared language so you can talk to your children about their emotions and feelings. Identifying feelings or emotional states such as anger, happiness, excitement, or anxiety, and of course there are many more is a good place to start. Then you can talk about the experience of that feeling and how you can manage it. For example if you feel angry then explaining why or telling someone might help, but so might do something active. The aim is to help children to have a growing understanding of how they can regulate themselves, seeking support when they need to, so they are not overwhelmed by the feelings.
Looking after Themselves
So as children are growing it is important that they develop the right habits of self-care. Eating a healthy diet, and taking part in regular exercise can help keep our bodies healthy but learning skills to manage stress, anxiety or other emotions is also a way we can take care of ourselves. Simple things learning to recognise the signs of being tired or that something is worrying us and knowing what to do are skills that will be helpful throughout life.
One of the great things about being kind is that no only does it help the person on the receiving end but it is good for the person being kind too. Evidence shows that helping other is good for our own health and wellbeing. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/doing-good-does-you-good Teaching children that it is good to be considerate and help others and helping them build these habits of kindness will stand them in good stead for their own future and if we all do it we can really contribute something good to the world.
It’s ok to Make Mistakes
Whether it’s a physical or cognitive skill we learn best when we ate stretched and have to move outside of our comfort zone. One of the risks is that we make a mistake, or fail. But that is an important part of learning so help children see that as an opportunity. The important thing is how we respond so encourage children to keep trying even if something is hard and help them build the belief that they can achieve what they set their minds to and not give up as soon as things get difficult. The habit is not in making the mistake or failing in some way but in responding positively to the opportunity that brings for further learning and growth.
Take time when children are small to gradually teach then these habits and the value of them to help build their resilience.