By Kirstie Vesseur

How To Be Stronger Mamas in Tougher Times


Motherhood is no joke, yes there are great joys and it’s such a privilege but the realities of the challenges that come with this can be big.  So how can we be strong mamas during these tougher times?  

I’ve got hope for you! We’ll get into the thick of it first but by the end of this blog you’ll have some very tangible and valuable techniques which you’ll be able to use no matter how tall your babies get.

What does it mean to be strong when you’ve got a newborn? The dictionary has two terms for it:

  1. Having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks.
  2. Able to withstand force, pressure, or wear.

I like to think of it as the latter. Having a newborn can be very tough IF wee bubs is not sleeping, has colic and just the general demands of the schedule. That put together with sleep deprivation, breastfeeding (if you are on that journey) and the adjustment phase of welcoming this new family member into your life and trying to look after yourself somewhere in the mix can certainly feel like pressure can it not!?

So my blog today is going to focus on redefining the idea of Strong.

In this season while you are getting stronger and settling into this beautiful new season of your life.

Of course, it's going to be great to work on your physical strength and Naomi has been guiding you through that process. 

However what I’m talking about is an internal strength that comes from a few key areas and tactics you can implement to support you when the tougher times come (like at 3 am breastfeeding and bubs is just not settling, you're exhausted for example). So what can we do when and if these times come?

Here’s my 5 top strategies for Being Mama strong during the tougher times, how can you hold space for your little one and not get wiped in the process?


Nervous System Regulation


Let me introduce you to a potential new concept for some of you, REGULATION so what's that then?

We all have a Central nervous system (CNS), this system is the primary mechanism in control of the fight-or-flight response and the main information highway of your body.  

In those times when the baby is kicking off we can find our CNS turns on HIGH ALERT, the fight or flight response has been activated and our body thinks there is an imminent threat to our lives like a tiger chasing us and we are going to die! In these moments the pressure can build to a point where you can SNAP! Yell and scream or cry - your poor CNS is just so overwhelmed it can no longer handle the ‘threat’.

So what can we do when we find ourselves in those moments of high stress, fear and overwhelm?

Sidenote: Having big emotions is beautifully healthy and normal. It's all just about how you move through these emotions so they don’t get ‘Stuck’ in your body and end up exploding out of you at random times, so let's discuss healthy ways that you can honour your feelings at the time.  

Think of your emotions like a computer, constantly asking you…Do you want to save this or let it go?... ideally we are regularly moving through and letting go of our big emotions in these ways: 

  • Breath - The Deep belly breathing is an ever-present tool you can access. Just by closing your eyes, and taking some big deep belly breaths. In for 4. out for 4 haaaaaaaaaaaa
This immediately reactivates the PNS (parasympathetic nervous system/rest and digest) and makes it easier to cope.


  • Move -Rocking your baby gently and yourself, as a result, is a calming therapeutic way to bring you back into the PNS and will calm down bubs in the process 
  • Go Outside - If it's daytime then a wonderful thing to do for both you and bubs is to go outside… you can put your feet on the ground and practice the 2 previous steps… this change in environment can make all the difference
  • Water - Lastly and if steps 1-3 haven't worked then, ‘get them in water’ a bath, a shower, Research has shown that being near, in, on or under water can provide a long list of benefits for our mind and body, including lowering stress and anxiety, increasing our overall sense of well-being and happiness, a lower heart and breathing rate.


The aim of all these steps is to help you get back into regulation.

Once you're regulated, you can hold space for your baby to regulate (coregulation) Everything stems from regulation. These steps can be applied to any and every situation in life where you find yourself unregulated.
Breath

I’ve mentioned breathing before. Here I want to lean into science a bit more Diaphragmatic breathing has a ton of benefits It’s at the centre of the practice of meditation
Benefits
  • Lowers stress hormone cortisol 
  • Lowers heart rate.
  • Lowers blood pressure.
  • Improves core muscle stability.
  • Lowers your chances of injuring or wearing out your muscles.
  • One of the biggest benefits of diaphragmatic breathing is reducing stress.
Over time, long-term or chronic stress — can limit our ability to cope with even the smallest tasks and can lead to anxiety or depression. Some deep breathing exercises can help you reduce the effects of stress.


Sleep  - Sleeping is one of the most healing things we can possibly do for our bodies, and getting 7-9 hours of it a night is ideal. As discussed above your central nervous system is the main information highway of your body. Sleep is necessary to keep it functioning properly, but chronic sleep deprivation can disrupt how your body usually sends and processes information.

During sleep, pathways form between nerve cells (neurons) in your brain that help you remember new information you’ve learned. Sleep deprivation leaves your brain exhausted, so it can’t perform its duties as well.

You may also find it more difficult to concentrate or learn new things. The signals your body sends may also be delayed, decreasing your coordination and increasing your risk for accidents. (hello clumsy mummy syndrome!)

Sleep deprivation also negatively affects your mental abilities and emotional state. You may feel more impatient or prone to mood swings. It can also compromise decision-making processes and creativity.
If sleep deprivation continues long enough, you could start having hallucinations — seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there. A lack of sleep can also trigger mania in people who have a bipolar mood disorder. Other psychological risks include:
  • impulsive behaviour
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • paranoia
  • suicidal thoughts
OMGosh GASP! ‘As a new mum, I hardly sleep!’ Yes, I get it! I’ve been there!


Take Action


So what can we do about this!
  1. Sleep when your baby sleeps! - I know you’ve heard it already, and well done some of you are heeding advice, others of you need a wee reminder that the above is a very real consequence of not getting enough sleep. So during this season of your life, please take your hero’s cape off and go for shut-eye over chores,
  2. Just say NO. (to extra responsibilities) - Now is not the time to be a camp leader at your eldest’s school camp, or signing up to organise a friend's baby shower or meal train. Committing to such things right now is too much when you are in this vulnerable state, caring entirely for your new ‘small’ and you also have your own rest and recovery post-surgery to manage. Those responsibilities will always be there and FYI it doesn’t mean ANYTHING about who you are as a person to say no, and reaffirm your boundaries. If anything, this is what STRENGTH is truly about. Honouring the season you’re in and protecting your boundaries.
  3. Say YES to extra help and outsourcing tasks - With our hero’s cape off we are more accepting of people's help, remember people LUUUVVVV to help and feel needed, so you're ACTUALLY doing them a favour lol


Healthy Boundaries


Speaking of boundaries, it's a timely reminder as a new mum to reaffirm these in this new season as you will, (and probably did throughout your whole pregnancy) get unsolicited advice, belly rubs and when babe comes earthside people taking bubs on a pass the parcel impromptu game, as well as well-meaning mamas including your own mum, telling you, ‘that's not the way I did it’ or other unkind or unhelpful advice. 

That's cool, don’t let it get to you mama,-water off a duck back, remember your breathing and other regulation techniques and kindly respond with one of these helpful responses or make up your own 🙂

Stress
Lastly but certainly not least STRESS is a huge one for all of us with everything that's going on in the world. 
So as well as the tips mentioned above other ways you can manage your stress are:


This together with your healthy diet, radical acceptance of the beautiful, wonderful women and mama you are, some ‘you time’ during the week and some mentally strong techniques added in for good measure. 

This is your recipe for that Mama Strong life which will give you lifelong skills to not only guide and honour your beautiful body but allow you to teach your children how to regulate their own emotions, breathe in times of stress, sleep well and create healthy boundaries in the future and manage stress with ease.




Tags

c-section recovery, Nutrition Hacks, strong


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