Whether in doctoring or parenting, we all need to take good care of ourselves in order to have the capacity to show up to our own lives. That might mean trying to find time to sleep and exercise with a new baby in the house, or finding time to eat when you are on a 30 hour shift at the hospital as an intern. In stressful times, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by life.
When the back of my neck starts to hurt, and my heart rate picks up, I think back to the last time I slept for more than 6 hours, or went for a run. At 40 years old, I have learned to think a bit before I put my hand in the candy jar, and instead of getting a cup of coffee, I occasionally try to walk outside for a few minutes instead. Don’t worry, I hit up the candy jar and coffee pot on a regular basis too, but I’m trying to pay attention to what helps me feel better for an hour or a day, not what distracts me from reality for a few seconds.
So…tips for new parents (and all of us)
-Ask your friends for help. Especially with a newborn, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and alone with a new soul needing you, your boob, and your attention. So call in your friends and family to come over and do your laundry, vacuum your house, take you on a walk, or hold your baby while you take a shower.
-Make a short list of things that calm you and bring you joy. For me, it is five minutes sitting in the sun, a 20 minute yoga practice, and sleep. Find a way to do those things. It will often require asking for help.
-Wash your hands. All of the time. It will keep you and your baby healthy which will allow much more time for all of the above. As a doctor, I wash my hands religiously at work. I don’t get sick from working in clinic, but bring a toddler to my house and I will be sniffling in a few days. All those loves and slobbery toys get me sick every time. I can’t say it enough. Handwashing!
-Feel the love. Make a list of the people you can count on. Family, friends, husband, colleagues. Bring those people to mind when you feel overwhelmed. Call them.
-Read about post partum depression. Having a baby is hard on both parents. And the horomone roller coaster as your body recovers from birth can be a wild ride. Your pediatrician and obstetrician will have the information about local resources and support groups. Postpartum International at http://www.postpartum.net is also a good place to find support.