Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 – Be Kind To Yourself
Never has Mental Health Awareness Week been more applicable to the general population than right now. It’s been a challenging time for everyone, unable to see their friends and family, having their routines disrupted and the general uncertainty surrounding the lockdown – times are tough. Things may feel especially tough as a new parent, and you should know that that’s ok.
We know that stress and joy come hand in hand when welcoming a newborn into your home, but during a pandemic it can feel unsettling. If you are feeling overwhelmed or unhappy as a new parent, you are not alone. Research conducted by leading mental health charities has found that:
- More than 1 in 10 women will develop a mental illness in pregnancy or within the first year after their baby is born
- Mental health related suicide is the leading cause of maternal death in pregnancy or up to a year following birth
- Around 7 in 10 women will hide or downplay the severity of their mental ill-health
- 1 in 10 fathers experience perinatal mental illness, and up to half will experience anxiety or depression when the mother has a perinatal mental health disorder.
As a mother and baby charity, we want to take this opportunity to share with you some tips to help you manage.
Maintain your mental health
Be kind to yourself – Try to relax, rest, and sleep as much as you can. New babies are challenging for anyone – try to recognise that and not take on too much. Kindness is the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
Make lists – You can make lists of the things you have to do, and avoid trying to do everything at once. Remember, very few things are actually as urgent as you think.
Cut out alcohol – Alcohol is a depressant and alters the delicate balance of chemicals in your brain. Drinking regularly and/or heavily interferes with these chemicals which are vital for good mental health. While you may gain the feeling of being relaxed after a drink, the reality is that alcohol can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, and make stress harder to deal with.
Quit smoking – If you were a smoker before your pregnancy and quit throughout, don’t assume that going back to it will help you to cope. Smoking actually increases anxiety and tension rather than relaxes you.
If you need any help with stopping drinking or smoking, your health visitor, midwife or GP can help you.
Eat well – Eating a well-balanced diet is not only important for our physical health, but also emotional well being. NHS Choices has put some recipes together, and also information about what healthy eating looks like.
Be more active – Being physically active means sitting down less and moving our bodies more. This doesn’t need to mean marathon running or training every day – the NHS has set out what a healthy amount of exercise is.
Try to remember not be too hard on yourself; if you’re not feeling well enough physically or mentally to exercise, but if you can then it may help you feel better.
Talk to someone
Talk about your worries with your partner, close family and friends. Contact local support groups or national helplines for advice and support:
- NHS Choices – Advice about mental health in pregnancy and afterwards: https://bit.ly/3aWfi1e
- The Institute of Health Visiting – Parent Tips
The NHS has listed some approved helplines, which you can access here.
Most importantly of all, do not be afraid to ask for help.