Practicing self-care when you have a newborn can feel impossible. The below tips might help.
Tell the truth. About how hard it is. About how in love you are. About how overwhelmed and under-qualified you feel. About how your brain is working at half capacity, and all you want to eat are sweets.
Similarly, feel the roller coaster and range of feelings: Feel the sadness, ecstatic joy, confusion, nervousness, anger. Don’t dismiss these feelings, or assume you’re bad because you aren’t enveloped in a state of bliss every second. Feel whatever arises without judging yourself for having certain emotions.
Breathe. Deep breaths are nourishing. Taking deep breaths helps to relax our bodies. And thankfully, your breath is always available to you, which means that nourishment and calm are, too. You’ll forget this no doubt. If it helps, post reminders in different places (and add some quotes, too).
Lower your standards. Chop your to-do list in half, and then in half again. Every day is a new adventure. Some days you’ll get a lot done. This is a bonus. It is not a must or should or a prerequisite for being lovable or for being a good person. Be patient with yourself. Having a baby is a huge transition, which includes lots of mini changes: from your body to your routine. Again, extend yourself a big dose of patience and kindness along the way.
Don’t compare yourself to other moms and marvel at how much they’re doing—and bash yourself for how much you’re not. Try to stop telling yourself you’re a complete and utter failure and that you’re doing it all wrong. (It also can help to switch “I am an utter failure” to “I feel like an utter failure.” Our feelings are not factual statements about who and how we are.) We don’t know what people really experience inside their hearts and homes. And even if there are moms who are doing it all and making it look easy, oh well. Everyone is different. Each of us has certain strengths and weaknesses. You are doing the best you can. You are doing the best you can. (You also might want to post these words.)
Savor the moments, even the hard ones, because there is beauty and miracle there, too.
Similarly, find bits of wonder, and let your senses do their job. Actually taste the food you’re eating, even one bite. Take a whiff of the perfume you’re putting on, which helps you feel luxurious. Breathe in your body wash (when you finally do get to shower). Smell your baby’s skin, and really feel their small wondrous bodies in your arms.
Redefine exercise. Your activities, energy and endurance probably won’t look at all like they did before you welcomed your baby into the world. You might need to create a new definition of exercise. Today, exercise might look like short walks, one-minute stretching sessions and 5-minute dance breaks with baby in your arms. Do whatever feels good to you. Whatever is enjoyable and healing and fun.
Nap in the middle of the day, even though you feel guilty (so guilty!), even though the laundry needs to be folded and the dishes are piled high in the sink (so high you’re pretty sure one might bite the dust), and you need to sweep, and put another load in, and organize your office, and organize that other thing. Sleep. You need it. Really need it. And it’s OK.
Please remember that self-care isn’t another thing to put on your (already heavy) plate. Self-care isn’t another chore. It isn’t a specific activity. It isn’t another thing to feel guilty about because, well, you aren’t doing it. Self-care is listening to ourselves. It is responding to our needs. Whatever they look like. Right now.
And, again, you are doing the best you can. You are doing the best you can.