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If you’re feeling low then we’ve put together some top tips to cope at Christmas time.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or so we’re told.

There’s so much pressure at Christmas time for us all to be merry and bright – and an unspoken stigma towards anyone who might not feel so jovial.

But we all know that life doesn’t always work out as we think it should. If you’re suffering from depression or struggling mentally that doesn’t just go away as we hang up the tinsel. The pressure to have a happy Christmas can actually worsen symptoms,

But how do you get through the festive period if you’re feeling low?

Look after yourself

Nail the basics. Make sure you get enough sleep and rest. Eat well, drink enough water and get all the breaks you can.

It can be harder to eat well and sleep well when you’re struggling. But the more you can, the better you’ll fare.

It can help to ask your partner or a family member or friend to keep an eye out and help you nail the basics too. Whether that means cooking for you, looking after the kids so you can rest or helping with nursery/school runs so you have less on your plate.

If someone offers to help – let them. If nobody does – ask!

Even during the festivities make sure you carve out some time to breathe. If you need a walk alone or a nap then take it. If you need to put on a Christmas movie so the kids will zone out and you can snooze – do it!

And don’t feel guilty. Self-care is never selfish. When you know you’re already struggling it’s vital.

Use the FLAME way to build self-care into your days as Christmas approaches

How to cope at Christmas – Talk to someone

This one goes for whenever you feel down but is more important at this time of year. The task of planning for, shopping for and getting ready for Christmas can feel overwhelming at the best of times. And almost impossible if you’re struggling.

Talk about how you are feeling. Don’t bottle it up. Talk to your partner, your family, your friends. Opening up about how you are struggling is hard but it always helps. Talking will ease the pressure and help you gather support to help you cope throughout the busy Christmas period.

You might feel that you need to talk to a counsellor or a mental health professional to make sure you have the support you need.

Seeking help is not a weakness. It’s a brave and important step.

If you are feeling so low on energy that you can’t even begin to find out how you can get help then ask a family member or friend to help you find places to contact. We have some great charities and organisations that can help on our PND pages.

How to cope at Christmas if you're feeling low - talk to someone

Cut back on presents

We all know that there’s often too much spending and too many gifts at Christmas. And thinking of what to buy and shopping for them adds to the pressure. Make a list. Make it twice (scrapping all the extras) and make Christmas shopping easier.

If you can’t face the shops, buy online. Support local online shops if you can.

And – if your Christmas list is as long as your arm and it stresses you out – maybe now is the time to scale back on who you buy for. Maybe do a Secret Santa for adults in the family so you all but one gift instead of one for each other?

Scale it all back on the food will help with coping at Christmas

The lead up to the big day is such a hectic time. There’s just so much to plan and do and – especially if you’re feeling low – it can feel overwhelming.

One of the things you can do is to scale it back. You don’t have to go overboard and drive yourself to exhaustion prepping for the best Christmas ever. It won’t do you any favours and it won’t help your family either.

If you’re cooking – remember that essentially Christmas dinner is just a posh roast. And nobody will care if you cut corners. By all means – if you’ve got the time and the energy – make your own cranberry sauce and roast potatoes. But – if you’re feeling frazzled cut ALL the corners. Buy pre-made sauces and trimmings. Go all out and buy easy bung-in-the-oven shortcuts. Delegate and ask guests to bring a dish each so that there’s less pressure on you.

how to cope at Christmas

One of the best ways to cope at Christmas – Be brave enough to say ‘No’

Decide how you can cope at Christmas this year and say ‘No’ to anything you know will push you too much.

If you can’t face lots of social occasions – then don’t go.

If you’d rather have a quiet family Christmas at home then make it happen.

Last year – with the Covid restrictions – taught us all a lot about how Christmas doesn’t have to be a huge event.

And how there are ways to connect without even leaving your house. If you want to forgo a big family get together and travelling then suggest you all meet on Zoom instead for a family quiz.

It’s hard to say ‘No’ but – if you’re struggling – it can be the best thing for you. AND your family.

How to cope at Christmas: Limit your social media intake

Your Instagram feed will be chock full of images of families enjoying the ‘perfect’ Christmas. We all know that they’re just snapshots. And that they don’t always tell the full story. but being bombarded by images of the perfect family Christmas when you’re feeling low can make you feel even more miserable.

They say comparison is the thief of joy. But, if you scroll through social media, it’s hard not to compare. And to come away feeling worse than you did before you checked your feed.

If you’re struggling try and limit your social media intake. If you’re really brave – delete it altogether – at least during the Christmas period.

When there’s an empty place at the Christmas table

One of the reasons you might be struggling this Christmas is because you’ve lost a loved one. At this time of year, it can feel harder than ever.

Give yourself permission to grieve. It can be really really hard. But it’s not something that you should conceal and keep to yourself.

Cruse advises finding a way to remember your loved one and says:

“This can be as simple as ‘speaking’ to the person, silently or out loud, visiting their grave, or a place that was special to them. These things can be done alone or with friends or family. You may have photos or memories which you can share to bring you together.”

Marie Curie suggests finding ways to pay tribute in your day:

“Take the chance to talk about your loved one. You could light a candle by a photograph or release a balloon in memory.”

Pure and simply: you should listen to your own gut about how you would like to process the loss. Whether you would prefer going to your local church and being with a community as you hang an ornament with your loved ones name on it, or if you would prefer to quietly grieve in familiar territory like your own home -it’s up to you. Do what feels right in your heart.

And when you need to process it, try not to hold back the tears and keep a brave face for your family, as they can be a big source of comfort at this time. We need to remind ourselves that It’s okay to be facing a difficult time in your life and to feel sad about it. Even if it happens during the festive period.

Remember: It’s okay to be sad at Christmas

If you’re feeling low – for whatever reason – Christmas can be a hard time. The pressure, the enforced jollity and the overwhelm of all you have to do to get ready for the big day can be immense.

Talk to family and friends. Or perhaps a counsellor or medical professional.

And remember – it’s one day. Just one day.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. You’ll get through it.

Reach out. Take care. Be kind to yourself.

And – let others look after you too.


Check out more from the Happity blog:

Simple ways to ignite your spirit and improve your mood

Is there too much pressure to be the perfect parent?

Manage your anxiety- 5 top tips to help you in the moment

Growing a baby means that your body changes pretty dramatically. You can end up with a mum tum (or baby pouch) that won’t go away no matter how much you try. Or boobs that have changed in shape and size. Or wobbly bits that you never had before.

You spend nine months learning to embrace maternity clothes. Whether they flatter or hide your bump.

After birth – you face a whole new challenge in what to wear.

You could be clinging onto maternity clothes that are 2 sizes too big for your body. Or maybe throwing on outfits that you don’t particularly love but also aren’t taking too much thought away from your day.

But, at the same time, it’s surprising how much of an influence your clothes have on things like confidence and self-love.

So how do we try and move past the panic in the morning and allow ourselves to feel more body positive? How do we feel good wearing the clothes we’re wearing?

Leanne from Team Happity recently discussed this on a Happity lunchtime live. Read on to find out what she had to say on the matter!


It’s tricky to feel body positive in the “no thoughts” outfit…

When time is precious, and we’re against the clock, experiencing body positivity is pretty much an afterthought (or never-thought!). But sadly, when we also do have time, most of us aren’t focusing on clothes. I think that we all have that same comfort outfit actually. The stretchy bottoms (probably maternity pants), t-shirt with a hole in it or a very visible stain on the front, and hair put up in a messy top-knot/pineapple bun.

There’s nothing wrong with having a “No thoughts” outfit. It’s easy to throw on, and is suitable for the routine gymnastics that the day will throw at us, as well of those few moments of calm where we can grab a cup of coffee and put our feet up. But, the unfortunate side to this outfit, as practical as it could be, is that it doesn’t do tons for our confidence.

We don’t feel our most fabulous in an old t-shirt and jogging bottoms. But after having that as your outfit, every day, for a significant period of time, it can actually be quite daunting to wear something else. Wearing a skirt in public feels like too big of a jump outside of the norm.

A woman stares at a mountain of clothes not knowing where to begin.

We can feel strangely afraid of clothes. It’s too much additional pressure and stress added to the day to be worth the hassle.

One of the reasons we may be afraid of certain pieces of clothing is the fear of exposing part of ourselves that we wanted to keep buried under the fabric. That the idea of being more “visible” or feeling more exposed was a really daunting concept (and still is!).

Confront your inner doubt and let your body positivity come out!

When I was in the process of losing weight a little while ago I hadn’t bought any new clothes that were adjusting to my new body size. I was weirdly okay with oversized bras but was desperately adding belts and stitches to old trousers to try and stop them from falling down. So, it seemed about time to go and buy some new clothes.

That was the first time in my life where I bought a crop top. A crop top is the opposite of what I would normally wear, and I felt like I didn’t have a good enough body for it. “No, only a certain looking body can wear that,” warned my inner doubts.

Yet, some part of me really wanted to just try it.

The top was exposing my belly, a part of my body that I had been trying so hard to cover up in the past, and was so so worried about being judged about it. I was shaking from the nerves, genuinely trembling and sweating, and this was just while I was alone in my room. But, I also just loved how I looked with it and how I felt wearing it. It made me feel cute.

The first time I wore it out in public was terrifying. I was holding my hands in front of my stomach or using a jacket to try and cover up the exposed skin. But the more I wore it out and about, I relaxed. And the more I relaxed, the more I realised that actually, no one was staring.

I was especially loving my new outfit during the sweaty summer weather. For 2021 the thought process was “suns out, tums out!” a phrase that I never in my wildest dreams have been saying in the past

Body positivity takes a conscious effort!

I suppose like most things that are looking after ourselves or making a change: practice makes perfect. Body positivity takes practice. The more small changes we make and give things an extra little thought, the more it begins to feel natural to us.

It’s just fabrics and zips and buttons! We shouldn’t feel afraid to wear clothes that may be a little more dressy than usual if they manage to boost our confidence and our moods. Trust me, if you like what you are wearing, your confidence will truly bloom!

So, with that all being said, I just wanted to give a few tips and some advice that I’ve either learnt, tried or heard from others. Because it can be a mental adjustment that takes practice. These aren’t anything too massive, but they might be a good place to start.


1. If you go into a clothes shop, challenge yourself to try on one “daring” piece of clothing that’s outside of your comfort zone

This is a fun thing to try out just to test your toes in the water of new clothing. In the fast-paced moving world of fashion and viral trends, there is always new clothing concepts that feel like they’ve come from a different reality. I never pretend to understand it, but it can be fun to explore. One time, my friend had convinced me to wear a pair of glossy leopard print “pleather” trousers, and a raincoat material snotty green t-shirt. I thought it would be an ache on the eyes, but the noise that I was making walking around in it was somehow worse. I sounded like a rubber duck in a Tesco carrier bag.

two women trying on clothes that may be slightly out of their comfort zone.

But you know what, trying on the most outlandish thing I can find in the shop for a laugh actually has taken away that little fear of trying on clothes that are outside of my comfort zone. I do feel like I’m far less afraid to try on clothes that are a little more colourful or show another side of me.

2. Try and have one outfit every week that you’ve planned beforehand & thought about it before wearing it

Time isn’t always a friend for us, and choosing an outfit if you have a touch of clothing anxiety can really take a lot of time and mental strain.

If you have a free moment, why not take a glance through your wardrobe and pick out an outfit that you like. Whether that’s a nice top or an unusual dress. And then, tell yourself you’re going to wear it on a specific day. You have it planned, decided, and then you still just need to throw it on the morning of that day. Less of a panic that morning, and no time wasted in the haste of that morning rush.

3. Being frugal can add to your body positivity!

One of the main reasons that a lot of us will be put off from going to go and buy new clothes probably comes down to the price tag. New clothes require disposable income that, most of us, otherwise don’t have.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. As long as you’re willing to try out using second-hand clothes.

Maybe try visiting charity shops for your new outfits. Following the lockdowns, a lot of people were having sort outs of their wardrobe out of sheer boredom. This means that the charity shops are overrun with new clothes. And they’re nice clothes too. The last time I went to a charity shop, the changing room was shut. But, when you buy any clothes, you have two weeks to return them. So you can try things on at home and bring them back if you really don’t like them.

That, and you would be surprised at how excited little ones can get at visiting charity shops. It’s like a hidden trove of random pre-loved belongings, and they’ll be fascinated by the aged books or fossils like “CD’s” and “VHS tapes” 😉 . It makes for a fun activity to take your kids to too!

4. Donate or bin some of those old comfort clothes to feel more body positive

For me, one of the hardest issues I was coming across was actually wearing the new clothes I was buying. I dropped down three sizes, loaded my wardrobe up with cheap, cheerful and cute clothes that I could wear. And then proceeded to continue wearing my “holy hoodie”. As in, the hoodie that no longer had a pocket, just a flap and one big hole.

It made me feel a little too panicked to actually just wear some new clothes. I was worried about judgement constantly. And I realised that the only way I was going to actually start wearing my new clothes would be if I got rid of my old ones.

There’s a few things out there you can do with maternity clothes if they’re still in pretty good nick. If you want to make a bit of money off of them but if you don’t want to put too much energy into the selling of the clothes, then using the Facebook marketplace or join some buy and sell Facebook groups that are for specifically maternity clothes or baby/toddler products are a good way to go. For example, a popular group is Maternity clothes buy/sell UK (if you want to check them out!). Or try selling on apps like Vinted or Depop.

Woman donating old clothes to charity and encouraging body positivity

However, if you’d like to simply get rid of them, donating them is probably the best way to go! You have quite a few options for this. You could donate them to charity shops. Or, some local churches collect maternity clothes and baby supplies to directly provide for those in the community who may not be able to afford them. There’s also a lot of brands now have started doing “Recycling schemes” that often cover postage and donate to charities.

Have a look around, and see what has the most appeal to you.

5. You are not supposed to fit clothes. Clothes are supposed to fit you.

As much as we can advise people to wear clothes that are away from the realm of a “comfort hoodie”, we should also advise the opposite. In order to experience more body positivity, It’s important that you don’t try and squeeze into something that’s too tight. Especially if it’s just because it says it’s your usual clothing size.

You’ll spend the whole time you’re wearing it fidgeting and messing around with it, trying to make it sit right on your body. But, of course, this isn’t exactly going to make you feel confident while you’re wearing it, as you’ll constantly be thinking about it.

It may make you feel bad sometimes if what is your usual clothing size, for whatever reason, doesn’t fit you. But clothing sizes are finicky! What one brand measures as a size M, another brand measures it as an XL.

At the end of the day, you are not supposed to fit clothes. Clothes are supposed to fit you. The only person who will be looking at the size tag is you, so don’t be afraid to go the next size up if it will make you feel comfortable while you are wearing it.

6. Don’t be afraid of your stretch marks -A lot of us have them!

I would actually go as far as to say that a lot of us should show a little bit of love to our stretch marks. We like to call them Tiger Stripes instead of stretch marks! As they are badges that show the warriors we are as mums.

You truly shouldn’t feel ashamed about stretch marks. Your body adapted to growing a baby. And it’s pretty miraculous that it was capable of doing as much. Stretch marks are perfectly natural, and believe me when I say that others won’t be judging you for having them. You may get a couple of questions from younger family members, but at the end of the day if you’re encouraging them to embrace any marks or scars on your body and not hide them away, then it’s a great message to be demonstrating.

7. Encourage body positivity for your sake and your kids

A lot of adults do tend to talk about all the flaws they see when they see themselves in photos or when they look in the mirror they tend to think the worst. We vocalise this, and we actually audibly say “Ew” or “no” or “Oh God”. But we never fight to say to ourselves what it is that we like about the way we look. Photos or otherwise!

When we have others in our company who are strongly influenced by what we say and do, we are actually demonstrating how we view ourselves and influencing them to do the same. To look at images of themselves and then focus on what it is they don’t like, instead of what it is they like. And, when that happens, it’s very easy to actually stop noticing what it is we like about our appearance altogether.

Mother and child smiling in the mirror and demonstrating body positivity

Instead of tearing ourselves down (and influencing others to do the same), we should actually try to demonstrate more strength by looking at photographs and saying things like “I love the way my hair looks in this one” or “My eyes look great in this”. It may feel strange to do this at first, but it will truly show courage and make a big change to how you start to look at pictures of yourself. You yourself are making a conscious effort to look at photographs and find something good. And in time, it will take less and less effort to spot what you like.


Practice body positivity, loving yourself, and enjoy wearing clothes!

That’s all the tips Leanne has! Thanks for reading, and hopefully there’s something you could take away from it.

At the end of the day, we’re all still trying to teach ourselves to be more body positive. It’s a long-winded uphill struggle! A lot of us are self-conscious about our bodies. But, it makes sense in that case for us to need a conscious effort to deal with it.

If you have body positivity tips, then please go and leave them in the comments of Leanne’s Instagram live: she has said that she’ll be keeping an eye out for them and taking them onboard herself.

If you enjoyed reading this blog post, you might also like:

Simple ways to improve your mood and ignite your spirit

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Be more toddler! How it could make us happier

It feels incredibly daunting to figure out how to improve your mood when you are stuck in a rut. Life is chaotic as a parent, and finding time to think about how to improve an unhappy mindset is more complicated than it sounds. Is there an easy way to approach our mental health?

Lisa Thompson, Happity’s Customer Support Manager and mum to a feisty three-year-old boy, recently did a Happity Lunchtime Live. She gave some fabulous tips on how to bring a bit more warmth into our lives and improve our mood following the guidance of a simple acronym.

Read on to find out more!


Using F.L.A.M.E to add warmth into your day!

As may have been the case with many of you reading this, my son’s birth did not go to plan and in the months after he came along. I had anxiety, PTSD and was physically poorly as well.

I decided to make little changes every day to get back to good. So that I could be the best mum that I can be.

So I have thought about the things that work best for me and wanted to share them with you today. I have even put together a little acronym.

This is what works for me, it may or may not work for you. Some of it you may have heard before but hopefully, there will be some new things for you to try.

As a mum, most of my examples will be about being a mum but these tips are for everyone! So if you are a dad, grandparent, carer or anyone really, then please do listen and join in too!

The acronym I use is this:

F.L.A.M.E

It’s a bit cheesy but I have chosen FLAME as this is about igniting your spirit and gaining more energy.

And don’t worry, the E is not for exercise! The last thing you need if you have been up all night with a teething baby is for me to tell you to go for a walk!

F: Thoughtful food to improve your mood

Now, rather predictably the F does stand for Food, but most importantly for fruit & veg! This is not about weight loss, this is about giving your body what it needs to thrive.

It’s recommended that we have between 7 and 10 80g servings. However many of us don’t get anywhere near that. It can be too much to try and get there all at once.

So, think about where you are at the moment; if it is only one a day, then that is your baseline.

Try and build up slowly to five servings a day, starting with fruit which in my opinion is a lot more fun than veg!

To get started pick your favourite fruit and then have that as a snack once a day. Or have it with your breakfast. Then when that habit has stuck, build in another fruit. Once you have built in the fruit, then you can start to build in the veg. Add cucumber or tomatoes to sandwiches, have good quality soups and try to have one serving of veg with your dinner. You’ll be at your 5 a day in no time and will probably be feeling awesome!

Introducing fruit and vegetables into your diet can really help to improve your mood

One thing I noticed I was doing was giving my son lots of fruit but never eating it myself! So now when I give it to him, I have some myself too!

I go along to the shops with my son and we pick a new fruit or vegetable together and take it home and eat it. It’s a great way to eat more fruit and veg and it is an activity for you to do together as well!

Check out this article the NHS has made, “8 tips for healthy eating“.

L: Laughter & fun!

Whether you are in the first 12 weeks or 12 years of parenthood, there are days that can just feel like a slog. You just have to get through them. However, my tip to improve your mood is to make time for fun every day and seek out opportunities for laughter.

Laughter helps to reduce your heart rate, lowers levels of stress hormones in your body and also connects us.

Take time each day to seek out something fun. Read a funny book, listen to shows on the radio which make you laugh, at the end of the day watch a comedy, rather than a gloomy drama. Contact someone who always makes you laugh.

These little moments in the day pierce the bubble of that feeling of slog.

Two friends together laughing over coffee

Another great way that still helps improve my mood is going to classes! Taking my son along to a music class, singing songs, shaking instruments, trying and failing to keep up with the signing of songs all made me feel great. My son loved them, and It also really improved my mood when the other parents were having a giggle as well.

So if you have not booked a class yet, I would really recommend going along to one and of course, there are lots of amazing providers on Happity! Check them out here!

A: Ask for help to improve your mood

Being a parent does not come with a manual and a lot of what happens is completely unexpected but many parents don’t ask for help for fear of judgement.

I really struggled with breastfeeding for about 8-weeks. And, as a lot of us do, I kept it in and I didn’t tell anybody. I kept it in, and I kept it in, and I kept it in. And as repressed feelings often do, it all came bursting out of me.

I was in a bit of a state. But I started to talk about it. I asked for help, I started to share my experience, I expressed my feelings, and it was almost like a cloud lifted.

Nobody judged me. Nobody called me a terrible mother as I had feared. Everyone was so kind and so helpful, and I managed to sort myself out. Eventually, I moved on.

Maybe that’s an extreme example, but it still applies to general problems that play on your mind. If you’re tired, or overwhelmed, or are not sure what you are doing then reach out to a person you trust. Whether that’s your partner, your GP, a friend -I promise you, it will help.

Seeking out help from a friend or professional can really help to improve your mood

Again, go along to classes, speak to the other parents and you will see that we are all in this together and not alone. But, if you are really struggling to cope, contact your GP. Or take a look at our PND support page to find out more information about who could help if you are unsure.

M: Moment of calm

I don’t about you but my mornings start in a really hectic way. Sometimes by a three-year-old shouting cock-a-doodle-doo at the top of his voice.

Then it’s breakfast, getting dressed, teeth cleaning, getting out of the house and getting him to the nursery or to my Mum’s. Then once he’s there my mind turns to what I have to do that day and starts whirring at the speed of light.

This is a pretty stressful way to start the day. So once my son is safe where he needs to be, I take a few minutes just to calm it down before plunging into the next part of my day.

Writing in a journal can really help to improve your mood!

It could be breathing exercises for a few minutes, meditation, journaling. Or maybe having a mindful walk on the way home from nursery. Whatever it is, it provides a pause and a moment of rest before you get going again. Sometimes it is just a case of having a cup of tea in the garden to improve your mood.

It might seem counterproductive when you have so much to do. But just taking a few minutes to rebalance will leave you more focused, calm and less stressed.

E: Enjoy improving your mood!

There are two parts to this one.

The first one is to do something that you enjoy every day or at least every week. If this sounds unrealistic for you, then just start small with five minutes or small acts. The key here is to do something that is just for you and is not part of being a parent so that you can start to feel like yourself again! 

  • Read a book that you have wanted to start for ages.
  • Listen to your favourite songs
  • Restart a long-forgotten hobby/start a new one.
  • Have a bath
  • Put on your favourite perfume/cologne
  • Craft
  • Go to the gym

If it’s available to you, then ask your partner or a trusted person to look after your little one(s) regularly.

Another good way to build this in is to practice ‘bundling’. Which is where you pair an everyday task with something fun. If I’m tidying up all the toys at the end of the day then I will listen to my favourite songs or podcast. It really helps to make it more enjoyable.

These little interventions can turn a bad day into a good one in an instant and start to make each day better.

Young woman painting in her art studio to improve her mood

The second half is to enjoy the small things! When we are deep in the busyness of every day, it is hard to remember to enjoy what’s happening.

A friend of mine starts every meeting that she runs with everyone thinking about what their ‘best thing today’ was. This is something that my husband and I do every night before we go to bed. It can be something really small. But taking time to think about what it might be that changes your mindset and you start to actively notice the good in every day.


So that’s all of Lisa’s tips on how to improve your mood!

Thank you so much Lisa for some absolutely brilliant advice!

Hopefully, we’ll be seeing Lisa at a Happity lunchtime live again in the future!

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9 Approachable ways to Deal With Post Lockdown Anxiety

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15 Unexpected Facts You May Learn as a New Dad

From nappies to changing mats, breast pumps to baby burps, there’s a lot to get to grips with as a new dad. There are so many books, online articles and antenatal classes that will help you prepare before you bring your new baby home.

However, no matter how much information you gather beforehand, there are a lot of things that might take you by surprise once your new baby arrives. But, don’t fret! You’re not alone in the way you’re feeling.

Here are some thoughts, feelings and facts we found that dads may experience when they first become parents.

1. The world suddenly seems fraught with danger!

From being concerned about whether your newborn will start choking on a toy, to panicking when your little one has their first hiccups: it’s easy to feel overly worried about the safety and wellbeing of your baby! But, it’s okay. That’s very common for a lot of new parents.

Remember: don’t ever feel silly for being worried about your baby’s safety. Newborns seem so tiny and vulnerable.

The key is to follow your gut. If something really doesn’t feel right, contact your health visitor, midwife or GP to check. Or, if you’re not 100% sure whether it’s cause for concern, contact 111 (the non-emergency NHS number that will help give you information when needed).

2. Fun fact: as a new dad, you forget what sleep is

This might be a typical trope that you see in every TV show and every film, but it doesn’t make it any less true! In the early days of parenthood, it’s very likely that you catch a lot less of your Z’s at night.

Grab any rest you can and know that it DOES get easier (honest!)

3. It isn’t just your partner who is up late feeding the baby

It’s a turn-based system for a lot of folks. If your partner is breastfeeding then perhaps you can help by changing your baby’s nappy after a feed and settling them back to sleep. If you’re bottle-feeding it’s easier to take turns and divvy up the night shift.

Sharing the responsibility can help the feeling of being a unit with your partner while also helping to experience that quality bonding time with your baby.

4. New dads, New friends

There’s a lot of talk about the importance of mum friends and how great they can be in the duration of early parenthood.

However, there’s a certain group that are just as important: dad friends!

Finding your tribe is just as important for dads as it is for mums. Shout out to the dads who make us laugh when everything feels like it’s on fire, or who don’t judge us when we are truly struggling. You guys are the best!

Two dad friends laughing together

(Read our blog on why mum (and dad) friends are so brilliant!)

5. Expect the unexpected

Despite any preparations you make in advance; no matter how many stories you hear from other dads, the unexpected will likely happen!

This will be new and unfamiliar territory, so don’t panic if something occurs that wasn’t in the books!

Just take a deep breath, relax, and follow your gut.

6. Your home will be invaded by the baby-pocalypse!

Before you had a baby, you probably didn’t realise that diaper decor was a thing, did you?

Well with the new abundance of toys scattered across the floor, baby gates in every doorway, and a spattering of new stains and smells around the house, you’re bound to know exactly what it is now!

The arrival of a baby truly does change the dynamic of a home as much as it does a family. But, if that thought worries you, don’t worry! The home you loved and decorated before is still there. It’s just a little bit buried at the moment. If you feel like you and your partner need an escape from the baby-pocalypse, perhaps it would be good to keep a room in your house that is baby-free.

Get out your “No baby toys or nappies allowed past this point!” sign and nail it firmly to the door. You and your partner need your own space. Don’t be afraid to keep hold of it.

7. If you are a new dad, you can experience PND

A lot of people may think that PND is something that can primarily affect women following the birth of their babies. However, it’s definitely something that can affect men too!

According to PANDA’s, 1 in 20 men experience depression during their partner’s pregnancy, and up to 1 in 10 men struggle with PND following the birth of their baby. That figure is a shocking one, that possibly a lot of men don’t know about. So remember, try to take care of yourself. If you notice that you are feeling uncharacteristically low or irritable, perhaps it’s time to reach out for help?

If you feel that you yourself may be struggling or dealing with PND, reach out to your local GP or contact charities like PANDAS. (Find out more at our support page here)

A new dad kissing their newborn baby

8. You will start thinking about your own mortality more and more

Up until this point, we all feel like we’re pretty invincible. You don’t often think about the dangerous side of your actions or the potential risks that may occur. But now that you have a tiny human in your care, it’s very likely that you’ll start to consider these things more and more.

It’s a good thing to consider the activities in your life that do cause risk to your being. However, it should be said that you should avoid giving up any hobbies that make you the person you are. You have a baby in your care, and they will shape the person you are a lot more. But don’t throw away all the other things you love.

9. New dad: it’s okay to feel blue sometimes – even if you don’t know why

When your partner has a lot on her plate, or the people around you seem chaotically stressed out, you sometimes push your own feelings down and put them as a “low priority”. You will continue to take on more responsibilities and might pretend that everything is fine.

But, everyone feels a little blue sometimes. Including you! You may not even truly understand why it is you feel blue or run-down. But if at all possible, you should try and be open about the way you’re feeling with others. Maybe talking about it out loud will help you identify the problem?

10. It’s okay to accept help from others

It can be difficult to accept help sometimes. We all want to feel like we can do it ourselves. But, when it comes to having a new baby in the house, there’s just so much that needs to be done!

If someone offers to watch the baby for a day while you do some self-maintenance, or perhaps sends you a meal they’ve prepared or other supplies – take it! People are more than happy to help, and it will possibly feel refreshing to have an extra pair of hands nearby.

11. Regardless of how stressful and tired you both may be, you and your partner still support and care for one another

Who was it that said having a baby is like chucking a grenade into a marriage? The beginning period of parenthood can be a busy and tiring time. Both you and your partner may be stressed beyond any limit that you thought either of you could reach before.

However, despite any standoffish or stressful situations that the two of you may encounter, you both are in this together! You are a team, and remember that you both still love and care for one another. The two of you just produced a tiny little human together! You’re both miracle workers, and should reassure each other of that if and when you can.

A new dad and new mum embracing their newborn baby

12. New Dad: you need a support system too

A lot of women are told to keep a support system in place during parenthood. This might be a friendship group, or a “tribe” that they have met at baby or toddler group.

However, you need that too! Perhaps it’s time that you go out and try to find your tribe! Why not take your little one to a baby class? Don’t worry, regardless of how they may market towards women, they are all more than welcoming towards dads too!

Find a baby group to join today!

13. Finances could be on your mind a lot more now

This one is probably one you started to realise during the pregnancy period, but babies are expensive! Suddenly you’re picking up the cheaper brand in the supermarket, and deciding whether or not to cancel that Netflix subscription.

Whilst it’s a very good idea to try and find some new money-saving hacks, you definitely shouldn’t stop putting money into things that make you happy or help you relax.

There’s a lot of good places you can find money-saving advice, watching programmes by financial journalists like Martin Lewis, or even booking an appointment with a financial consultant if you really need it. There are answers and advice out there – try not to let it occupy your mind too much!

14. Don’t feel bad for needing time away from your baby as a new dad

It’s only human to need some space every once in a while. With the arrival of a new baby, it sometimes might simultaneously feel like you’re never alone but also, surprisingly, isolated. We need other adults in our life.

Don’t feel bad though. It’s incredibly likely that your partner feels the same way themselves! Maybe try deciding a few times and days where you can take it in turns to look after your baby while the other goes to see some other adults. It’s easy to feel guilty, but sometimes we need some time away from our little ones to be the best parents we can be.

15. You didn’t realise how much you could love another human until you had a baby

During the prenatal period, it’s very easy to get swept up in the rush and the frantic chaos of pregnancy. You have got used to “The Bump”. And, perhaps, you haven’t yet been able to fully recognise “The Bump” as another human yet.

But, there’s a special moment that a lot of parents experience once the baby has arrived. You see their face, their very little body that you feel like you have to be extra careful approaching. You hold your hand out towards them, and then their tiny little hand takes hold of what seems like a titanic finger in comparison. Their hand grips onto it so tightly that it catches your breath.

It’s in that moment that you realise that in front of you is possibly the most perfect little human that you’ve ever seen. And you never want them to let go.

A baby's hand is gripping hold of a new dad's forefinger.

Well, these are the new dad facts, thoughts and feelings that we found out about! Did you relate to any of them?

What have we missed in our list? What unexpected thoughts and feelings did you go through when you first became a new dad?

If you liked this post, you might also like:

Mum friends (And 6 reasons why they’re so brilliant!)

Be More Toddler! How it could make us happier

9 Brilliant Benefits of Baby and Toddler Classes

We are all breathing that gentle sigh of relief when we see the daily coronavirus figures decline. The starting glimpses of returning to some form of normality is a HUGE reassurance. But, for a lot of us, even though “freedom day” has come and gone, we’re still feeling on-edge. A lot of us are struggling with post-lockdown anxiety, and are struggling to relax or believe that it is truly safe to go anywhere.

Things are uncertain. However, closing off from the outside world isn’t the answer. It will actually make you more anxious if you keep yourself in a lockdown.

But, if you’re looking for a few ways to start dealing with your post-lockdown anxiety, where do you begin?

Here are some approachable ways that might start to ease your post-lockdown anxiety. Hope they help!

1. Start introducing a regular daily routine (that includes leaving the house)

It was a very different lifestyle for us when the UK was living in lockdown. Yet, as much as there was fear about the figures we were hearing daily on the news, we also had a small sense of security that we could keep it out as long as we remained indoors.

With restrictions lifting, and more people going outside again, that sense of security is slipping away. So, really, it makes sense as to why we would feel frightened of the change. However, a good way of trying to ease that post-lockdown anxiety includes adding routine to our day and trying to leave the house at least once a day. Even if you leave the house, take your little one for a walk around the block, and then go home again. You’ll feel better for the fresh air, and you will give yourself a gradual reassurance that letting the outside world into your home is not necessarily a bad thing.

2. Mindfulness/meditation/breathing exercises

When we’re feeling tense and anxious, it can be quite difficult to come down from that heightened emotion. We can sometimes find ourselves in a downwards spiral if we continue to dwell in our thoughts. However, a good method of climbing back out again is by practicing mindfulness, meditation and/or breathing exercises.

The NHS have a page on mindfulness, and stated the following about how mindfulness can help our mental wellbeing:

Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better.
When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience afresh things that we have been taking for granted.

It’s a great idea to start taking conscious efforts to practice any of the three above ideas. Even if you aren’t feeling particularly anxious! It may not fully work straight away, but with practice, you will really feel the benefits of taking 5 or 10 minutes out of your day to focus on your mental health.

Meditation with a mother and daughter  sitting on a sofa.

If you’re interested in more ways to explore mindfulness, check out our previous blog “mindfulness for mums“.

3. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling post-lockdown anxiety

It’s very easy to feel ashamed or embarrassed for feeling anxious post-lockdown, especially if you are seeing and hearing about other people going out and “getting back to normal” again. However, the downfall for most of us when it comes to how we feel about ourselves is the way we compare ourselves with others. It’s very easy to see that others are coping just fine and to be angry or upset with ourselves for not being the same.

But, the more you beat yourself, the more upset and anxious you are going to feel. And then, you will find yourself caught in an endless loop. So, here’s the reminder you need to read (and try to say out loud to yourself) when you feel upset with yourself for feeling anxious:

You are your own person. You have your own feelings, your own thoughts and your own worries. What others can cope with right now may not be the same as what you can cope with. But there are many things that you are able to cope with, and you should hold your chin high for that. Be proud of being honest, considerate, and wonderful you.

4. Remind yourself, and establish, the areas in your life where you have control

There has been a lot of negative changes following the coronavirus outbreak. Major life-affecting changes that haven’t fully left us. It constantly feels like another lockdown is looming around the corner. The world hasn’t gone back to “normal” yet, and it’s possible that we will never return to the way things were!

…Those thoughts have probably crossed your mind a few times by now, haven’t they? The problem with these worrisome thoughts is that they are issues that are out of our control. It’s sort of similar to when parents may feel anxiety while their children are growing up and start behaving unpredictably/making their own decisions. When there are areas in our life that are out of our control, things can feel terrifying!

Feeling a lack of control can make us feel quite helpless. So one of the ways we can try to ease this element of anxiety is to remind ourselves of all the aspects in our lives we do have control over. Write down the elements in your life that you are in charge of. Make a note and think of the things that can change and improve because of your actions. This could include: physical health, your routine, designated playtime with your children, time with your partner, “me” time, who you associate with, learning/improving a new skill, the way you eat, the way you sleep or, plain and simply, the way you appreciate others and the way you think about yourself.

Remind yourself that these things are down to you! And then consciously make an effort to establish them in your life again. You are still in control of these things in your life, and try not to forget them.

5. Limit (and monitor) the amount of news and social media posts you read

We all remember that moment when we were all sat at home with our families. Hearing the PM instruct us that we must remain indoors… It was a crazy and confusing time (it still is!). And, as a result of that, we were all glued to our TV’s and our phones, waiting with bated breath to find out the next update.

We all clocked in more screen time, obsessed with finding out daily figures and hearing any fresh news on the subject. But despite the fact that we aren’t in lockdown, that problem hasn’t gone away. A lot of us still monitor our local figures on a near day-to-day basis. But, doing so is just making us more frightened anytime today’s figures are a few higher than yesterday.

So perhaps it is time for us to consciously limit the amount of this sort of media we are consuming. By limiting the amount that we are reading about this matter, the less that the pandemic may be on our minds. You do not need to block out the information completely, but reducing the amount you are consuming will do wonders!

A faceless figure holds a cup of coffee as she reads the news by social media, something that doing too much of can lead to post-lockdown anxiety

6. Set boundaries, but don’t avoid the world!

No one knows your comfort zones better than you do. It’s easy enough to stick inside them, but if “staying in your comfort zone” means never walking out of your front door, then you may have a problem!

We’re not advising that you dive head-first into a football-stadium-sized crowd, maskless and sharing drinks with friendly, but loudly howling, strangers. Keep your boundaries! If it makes you feel more comfortable, continue to stay away from crowded locations and request eating in outdoor seating areas. Wear your facemask and sanitise your hands after walking out of every shop you’ve been in.

Do what makes you feel protected- but don’t shut the world out.

7. Tell class providers about your post-lockdown anxiety

With the lift of the mandatory mask-wearing rule, a lot of people have put off attending events or going to public places. It may have put you off attending a baby or toddler class that you regularly go to. However, this is something that can probably be approached by simply reaching out and talking to your class provider.

Ask questions such as “how do you run your risk assessments” or “what are you doing to stay covid-safe”. Tell them that you feel a little bit anxious. They will be able to discuss with you what precautions you can both put in place to make you feel as comfortable as they can. Perhaps request to sit near a window or bring in your own mat to sit on.

Reach out to your favourite class providers on Happity, and see what they will do to help you with this!

8. Small, slow and steady changes

No one said that everything has to change all at once! Yes, that did happen way back when we were first being shut into our houses. But that doesn’t mean that you have to change back just as quickly.

You need to follow your own pace. If something feels like too fast of a change for you, then that’s okay! Move to the beat of your own drum. And if the rhythm you play is a little bit slower than others, don’t fret about it. Make the right changes as slow or as fast as you want.

You just need to listen to your instincts and approach new situations when you are ready for them.

9. Seek support for post-lockdown anxiety

If you are looking for more tips on how you can start to deal with your post-lockdown anxiety, then the NHS have provided their own list of tips. There’s some great advice on there that you should check out!

However, if you are finding yourself particularly struggling, then we strongly recommend reaching out to your GP or contacting a charity to talk to someone. Find more information here.

Remember, we’re still in uncertain times, and you are valid for feeling wary and anxious. Take things at your own pace, but try not to block out everything and everyone. Look after yourselves!

What does a mum with PND look like? It might not be the one you expect. She might be the mum you meet at a toddler group who looked like she’s got it all together. Or the mum you passed on the street who smiled and looked so happy.

The truth is you might never know how another mum is REALLY feeling. So be kind! Always.

1. The mother with the biggest smile in the room

When you think of someone who has depression you expect them to look sad or down. But a mum with PND might have the brightest smile in the room. Why? Because she might be putting on a mask. And making a really big effort to hide her true feelings.

2. The one who looks like they’ve got it all together

A mum with PND might look like someone who has got the hang of this parenting gig and appears to do it with ease. She might post photos to social media where she and her baby look so happy and content. You might even see those pics and feel a little envious of how easily she seems to have slotted into her new role as a mama.

Remember that social media never tells the whole story. The mum you think is bossing it might really be struggling behind closed doors. She might also be doing both!

busting the myths of postnatal depression

3. The one who is chatty and engaged when you meet them

You might expect a mum with PND is withdrawn and disengaged. But she might be friendly and chatty when you meet her. The truth is it might have taken a lot of strength and energy for her to get out and be with others. And she might be putting in her all to chat and engage to find support but to also hide her PND – especially with those she’s just met.

4. The one who looks amazing

You met a mum who looked amazing. Dressed immaculately, her smile enhanced by a slick of lippy. Hair looking fab. You cannot always tell who has depression by her outward appearance. She might have put her best look on to raise her confidence before leaving the house.

6. The mum who is surrounded by family and friends

You might know or meet a mum who has family nearby who are super supportive and who has loads of amazing friends. And think that they must be so happy and well.

It can certainly help, but even being surrounded by an army of caring people that love you is sometimes no shield for PND.

Those suffering might be surrounded by a load of people who care but still feel isolated and alone.

7. The mother you LEAST expect to have PND

The truth is that you might not know who is struggling with their mental health. Unless they tell you.

Sometimes those suffering choose not to tell many people about their struggles.

PND – behind the mask

There is still too much stigma and too many myths surrounding PND. Many mums might feel a misplaced feeling of shame or a fear of judgement if they admit they are suffering.

They might feel alone and lonely.

They might not know how to ask for help. Or just not have the energy to reach out.

Support for PND

Sometimes the hardest and bravest step when you have PND is asking for help. When you take that step you are one step closer to recovery. And PND is 100% recoverable.

Find out where to get help and support

We always recommend Pandas as a wonderful place to get support. And APNI.

We also have some amazing classes listed on Happity that support mums with PND. Head to Happity to find classes near you.

Did you know that six weeks into motherhood, new mums should receive a mental health check? At the end of your six-week perinatal visit, your midwife should check on you as well as the baby. Well, there’s a high chance that you are a young mother who was hastily questioned in a fluster towards the end of a visitation or simply not asked at all.

But after announcements and effort put in by the government about paying more attention to this issue why is it still not working? If you are a new mum struggling emotionally and/or mentally how can you seek out the help that you need?

The announcement of mental health checks for new mums

According to NHS UK, 1 in 10 mums suffers from PND. This figure is likely higher following the pandemic too, but this issue was being addressed in the past.

In 2018, the NHS introduced a brilliantly progressive introduction to mental health checks for new mums. The idea being that 6-weeks after you have had your baby, your midwife should take time to check on your mental and emotional well-being.

This is a super important step forward in trying to tackle PND. The sooner that PND is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated! If someone can pick up on signs of PND at 6 weeks, then support and help can be put in place quickly.

Support for partners too?

Man sitting on sofa looking low and suffering from their mental health

In December of 2018. NHS England announced that new and expectant fathers would also be offered medical health checks. Yup. Dads suffering from PND, you were noticed too!

With growing figures of 1 in 10 new or expectant dads to be having symptoms of anxiety and depression, this was yet another issue that needed addressing. And, with this, they were offering treatments such as peer support, behavioural couples therapy sessions and other family interventions.

2018 marked a period where mental health in new parents was being addressed. It appeared that the issue was being taken seriously, and with an aim to reduce the figures, things were looking a little brighter for those suffering with PND.

What’s happened to the mental health checks for new mums?

Unfortunately, mental health checks have taken a dip from how highly they were prioritised on the agenda. Warning: here comes the numbers bit!

A high percentage of new mothers (85% according to an NCT survey released April of 2021) say the focus on appointments has been mostly on their babies. (That’s up 45% from 2019!). 60% said their check has been rushed at the end of their visit. And, 25% of parents from this 2021 figure said that they were not being asked about their mental health at all. This lead to a lot of young parents feeling rejected, ignored, and placed on a back-burner, where they are potentially left!

We asked mums in our community about their experiences with the 6-week mental health check-in’s. Here are a few things they said:

‘My doctor refused to do any 6-wk check for me or my baby… I had to make appointments and ‘fight’ to be seen.’

‘Mine was cancelled at 8 weeks. They have said it will be 10 weeks.’

‘They didn’t care at all about me considering I had a difficult labour and were in hospital for a week.’

‘My little one is 1 on Sunday and I have no check up and have never seen or heard (from them)…’

‘I asked for one and was refused.’

These responses, heart-breaking they may be, are not difficult to get your head around following the pandemic. And, as a quick reminder, we cannot shift blame to our midwives right now. Over 2020 and 2021, all NHS staff has seen a colossal amount of strain and is doing their best. We have to keep that in mind when looking at this drastic incline. But, still, we can’t ignore the fact that there are mothers who have truly suffered during the pandemic.

What’s the response?

The issue has clearly become an intimidatingly big issue through the duration of Coronavirus. But, thankfully, it has not gone under the radar of the government and the NHS.

Following these results, the NHS responded by saying they would start opening “Mental health hubs” for new, expectant and bereaved mothers.

This is a long term plan, stating ‘ten sites will be up and running within months’ and ‘every area will have one by April 2024’. As well as offering ‘psychological therapies’ these hubs will provide appropriate training for maternity staff and midwives. This, in time, means parents going through a tough time will receive the mental health support they need.

So, that means we have good news in the long run! NHS has got a long term plan in place for trying to resolve this problem (We are being heard, thank you NHS!). But what about those currently suffering? We have a 3-year waiting period between here and 2024. New mums will still be suffering from their mental health. So, what should they do?

How do I ensure I get a mental health check as a new mum?

Two hands: one offering a little heart (a little bit of love) to the other.

If you are in a strong enough mindset, then it would seem that the answer is to just push. These checks are important and if you think you have it in you to fight for it, then armour up and hit the battle stations! Either contact your GP or tell your midwife that you need it to be made more of a priority. And if it doesn’t happen immediately, keep pushing! Want to take it further? Maybe it’s a good time to start a petition to get the issue raised in parliament.

But, not everyone always feels capable or able to push when in that grey-cloud headspace.

We can offer a few tips on how to manage anxiety in the moment if you are severely suffering. These are a good short-term relief if you feel at the end of your tether.

If you feel like you might know someone who understands what you’re going through, it’s a good idea to reach out to them! Whether they’re parents themselves or you know they potentially suffer from their mental health. It’s very likely they will make for a good shoulder to lean on.

However, if what you’re feeling is quite severe, we have some more information on support for PND here. There are some brilliant charities that you can call (PANDAS and MumsAid just to list a couple). They specialise in specifically helping parents suffering mentally. If you feel that you might be in danger, your best option will be to call 999 or call the Samaritans.

Regardless of how it may feel at times, there are people out there willing to listen. There are people who know how to help. Please, reach out to someone, because it can get better.

Stay safe.

…and why we need to stop pretending it is!

Self care for mums is NOT going to the shops alone, it’s NOT having a shower without the kids being an audience, it’s NOT cleaning the house without the kids around. All these things are NOT self care and we all need to stop pretending they are.

The viral meme that made mums stop in their tracks

Recently we posted this infographic on our social media, which had a huge response:

self care for mums

It really hit a nerve. And had hundreds of likes and shares. Some of the responses from mums included:

‘Agreed although going to the loo without an audience does feel like a luxury sometimes!!’

‘I’m so guilty of most of these being my time to me’

‘I even said to my husband the other day when I got back from a rather unpleasant dentist appt that it was a bit like going for a spa day as I got to lie down and someone touched my face’

Self care – pre-kids

Before you had a baby if your friend asked you what you’d done to take a little bit of time out for you to recharge your batteries there’s NO chance you’d have said: ‘I went to Tescos last night. It was really relaxing and really energised me’. So why do we feel like any mundane everyday task we get to do without our kids is self care?

What IS self care?

self care for mums

Put simply, self care is choosing and making the time to do little things for you that recharge your batteries and re-energise you. It’s finding the time to do things that make you happy; things that boost your physical and mental well being; taking time to do things that make you feel good. 

Doing the weekly food shop or cleaning the kitchen when your kids are not around do not fit into this description of self care. It might be easier to do these kinds of errands or chores without a child hanging off your ankle but they don’t make you feel like you’ve taken a little time for you.

You wouldn’t let your phone battery run low

Once we become mums we put so much (all?) of our energy into looking after our child and keeping the household running and our own needs can all too easily be put to the back of the queue. Life’s busy. There’s always something that demands your attention and your time. And you can feel guilty for making time for something that seems a bit self indulgent – such as reading a book, going for a walk or carving out time to paint or craft. 

But if you always put your needs last and neglect making time for self care then you can become frazzled and worn out and low on batteries. And that’s not good for you OR your children. It’s an overused phrase but a happy mum – happy baby is so very true.

The more you take time for self care the better you’ll feel and the better mum you’ll be.

Mamas, make that time for you!

Drop the mum guilt and make time for self care. Each day and each week. There are lots of small ways you can build it into your busy life. It’s just about making it a priority.

Watch our video all about self care

Recently we had a brilliant Facebook Live Happity Expert Talk all about self care and why it is so important for mums. With Kim Golson from @mylifeafterbirth. You can still watch it back in our Facebook group for mums. Not a member? We’d love you to join.

If you have a clingy baby or toddler it can feel harder still to make time for self care. Here are some top tips to help.

Parenting in the pandemic has had a huge impact on thousands of new parents. Feelings of isolation and loneliness have been heightened. And, for many it has a negative impact on their mental health. Dr Kerri Walster, from Gentle Journeys, wanted to share some current themes amongst parents embarking on motherhood and suggest some ways of overcoming challenges.

A ‘double-lockdown’ for new mothers

Becoming a parent under the most optimal conditions can raise feelings of loneliness, identity loss, and uncertainty about how to care for this little life in front of you.

Embarking on maternity leave, with friends perhaps in different life stages, we can naturally become more isolated. A walk in the park or a trip to the shops may be a weekly highlight. You may breathe a sigh of relief when your partner returns home in the evening to assist with bath time.

Here we are faced with parenting in a pandemic. We are being told to ‘stay at home’, bombarded with news headlines on the dangers of contracting Coronavirus, and perhaps it all feels a bit overwhelming and stressful.

The common feelings women experience when having a baby are inevitably intensified in the current context. One way to think about this is it has been a ‘double lockdown’ for new mothers – with the confinement that pregnancy may include, alongside the national rules and restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus.

This increases the number of parents struggling with mental health difficulties and loneliness.

The impact of Covid-19 on new parents

The Children’s Commissioner (2020) released a paper citing approximately 1,688 babies are born in the UK each day. Over one hundred thousand babies have been born during lockdown and many parents are adjusting to the psychological, emotional and physical challenges.

A decrease in support

Services that were once available to support women are being facilitated online, paused or reduced. Typically one in five mothers and one in ten fathers can experience perinatal mental health difficulties (Bauer, et al., 2016).

Redeployed midwives, online health visiting appointments and closed children’s centres have restricted typical discussions and opportunities for reassurance.

According to a new UK study of six hundred women with babies up to twelve weeks old, forty three per cent met criteria for clinical depression and sixty one per cent for anxiety (Fallon & Harrold, 2021). This is in comparison to twenty per cent of women meeting criteria for anxiety and depression in typical circumstances.

An increase in loneliness

Figures from a study in lockdown found parental loneliness was more common in deprived locations, with 13% feeling lonely often or always, nearly three times more than the 5% indicated in the least deprived areas (Guardian, 2020).

Hospitals adapting to keep wards safe has meant many partners have not been allowed to be present until the end of the labour and the first few hours of the baby’s life.

As such, women have been left to labour without their birthing partner for many hours, making childbirth a very different experience to the one they had hoped for. Parents giving birth have reflected on reduced or overwhelmed staff, unconsidered birth plans, delays to discharge, and less support post birth such as with breast feeding.

Working clinically as a psychologist, it is notable that there has been an increase in post-traumatic stress relating to birth experiences. Researchers have previously described the negative impact traumatic births can have on the mother-infant relationship, including feelings of rejection from the mother towards her baby increasing over time (Ayers et al., 2006; Kendall-Tackett and Barnes, 2014).

From Alloparenting to Alone Parenting in the pandemic

parenting in the pandemic

There is a term, ‘alloparenting’, which captures how as humans we have evolved to raise children in groups, such as with immediate or extended family, friends, and local communities. ‘Allo’ has greek roots in meaning ‘other’.

In the study of Hadza, a hunter gatherer group in Tanzania, in times of food shortages children were likely to survive when they had grandmothers on hand, as mothers could leave their infants to forage for food and return to breast feed (Hawkes and Coxworth, 2013).

It takes a village to raise a child

Societies vary in the amount of alloparenting used, but in some form it appears to be universal. In Efe society, babies are said to be transferred between eight people in an average hour (Tronick et al., 1987). Studies have identified that for first-time mothers, social support has a significant impact, particularly for those affected by low parental self-efficacy (Shorey et al., 2013).

Self efficacy is of huge significance as it is the belief or confidence in one’s own capacity to carry out behaviours or perform as required. Peer support groups, or problem solving with family members, help to boost confidence and normalise experiences. Here, comments like “my baby only sleeps three hours at night too” can be natural remedies for over coming low moments in parenting.

The pandemic has heightened our instinct to protect our babies

The presence of Covid-19 jars with the maternal instinct to protect. Seeing people with masks and adhering to social distancing triggers an adrenaline response, eliciting fight, flight and freeze reactions.

Many women may have struggled to leave the house. We know that when a mother holds, feeds, or has skin to skin contact with their baby, oxytocin is released; this is partly how parents love and bond with their babies. This is reciprocal, leading to mutual feelings in the baby (Music, 2017). The capacity to bond with a baby is increased when mothers feel emotionally safe and cared for, reducing the chance of postnatal depression (Sockol et al., 2013). It is worth noting that bonding is not a linear process – it is a gradual, circular process, helped by supportive others.

When partners return to work, it is typically overwhelming and daunting, but this is now coupled with limitations on other support systems. Spending a lot of time at home and enhanced emotions may have triggered relationship tension.

Mums have been feeling guilty

Guilty feelings about your baby’s first few months of life not being as they should may also be commonplace. For those women coming to the end of their maternity leave, there may be grievances about the lost time, outings and family contact. Because of this context, it might be harder to connect with resentment and frustration that can come up in relation to parenting. For instance, breast feeding can be idealised as a time of closeness and intimacy, but it can also be a sacrificing and relentless process that women do have to do alone.

Positives about parenting in the pandemic

Some women have reported positives relating to the pandemic. For instance, partners working from home are able to spend more time with the baby, and relatives not working can help in significant moments. The new formats of online classes may have allowed women to attend a postnatal yoga class whilst their baby sleeps. Although online baby classes may have limitations, such as reduced opportunities for socialising with someone other than a baby, some have enjoyed the convenience of not having to travel to join baby massage and sensory time. Some have appreciated the slower pace of life during the pandemic. It could feel a little too early to think of the light at the end of the tunnel, however, vaccination programmes, and talk of reduced lockdown measures glimmers a sense of hopefulness.

6 top tips to support mums in a pandemic

1. Keep in mind there is no such thing as perfect parenting

You are learning as you go. Try not to compare yourself to friends or others, who may have had a very different set of circumstances and a baby with a different temperament to yours. Aim to be a good enough parent in those early few months. Being a parent is a huge learning curve particularly in a pandemic with reduced support. Feelings of loneliness and uncertainty are bound to come up

2. Trust your instincts

if you notice a problem, try not to put off seeing the doctor, phoning the midwife, or going to the hospital. Your needs, and your baby’s, are important and you may need to advocate for these. Sore nipples or breasts, or reductions in your baby’s weight are important to check out. You are never wasting professionals time, they are there to help.

3. Look after yourself in order to look after your baby

Eating and drinking plenty, taking a moment of self care when your baby sleeps to have a cup of tea or a bath are ways of replenishing. This is so you have that needed strength to tend to your baby. Try and be open with friends, family and partner about how you feel. Sharing can help even if the context around you has not shifted remarkably. If you had a difficult birth experience, like many women in the pandemic, it helps to process this through talking about it, reflecting on your feelings and what the significant moments were for you. If this still feels challenging after talking, do seek some professional advice

4. Make the most of outdoor walks and online activities

It is helpful for both to go out for a walk to break up the day. You can say hello to other parents or smile – this may invite socially distanced chatter or feeling shared parenthood in passing. Delaying going out may invite a cycle of avoidance where it becomes even harder to go out in the longterm. Online classes can add variation and a structure to the day until those valued in-person classes resume. Make use of your social bubble with friends/relatives and if they come over, don’t feel you have to look after them, allow them to look after you.

5. Limit your time scrolling social media

Try not to spend too much time on social media or googling headlines. Anxiety can have a rippling effect and excessive internet scrolling can enhance rather than alleviate feelings.

6. Practice positive affirmations

Develop some positive statements to tell yourself which can help you in new parenthood e.g. “I am doing everything I can to nurture, care for and look after my baby”. “I am strong, calm and confident”. Even if you do not feel this way at the time, these statements shape the stories we hold about ourselves and can reframe how we feel.

Where to turn for help

If you would like more support with how you are feeling, or in processing your birth or early motherhood experiences, please get in touch with Gentle Journeys. We offer support with parental mental health and well being and have specialist training in this area. You can follow Gentle Journeys on Instagram.

References

Ayers, S., Eagle, A., & Waring, H. (2006). The effects of childbirth-related post-traumatic stress disorder on women and their relationships: a qualitative study. Psychology, health & medicine11(4), 389-398.

Bauer, A., Knapp, M., & Parsonage, M. (2016). Lifetime costs of perinatal anxiety and depression. Journal of affective disorders192, 83-90.

Fallon, V., Davies, S. M., Silverio, S. A., Jackson, L., De Pascalis, L., & Harrold, J. A. (2021). Psychosocial experiences of postnatal women during the COVID-19 pandemic. A UK-wide study of prevalence rates and risk factors for clinically relevant depression and anxiety. Journal of psychiatric research.

Guardian, Hill, A. (2020, November 27). Kate warns of impact on children of parents’ lockdown loneliness.

Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/nov/27/kate-warn-impact-children-parents-lockdown-loneliness-duchess-cambridge

Hawkes, K., & Coxworth, J. E. (2013). Grandmothers and the evolution of human longevity: a review of findings and future directions. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews22(6), 294-302.

Kendall-Tackett, K. (2014). Birth trauma: the causes and consequences of childbirth-related trauma and PTSD. In Women’s Reproductive Mental Health Across the Lifespan (pp. 177-191). Springer, Cham.

Music, G. (2017) Nurturing natures: Attachment and children’s emotional, sociocultural and brain development. Psychology Press.

Shorey, S., Chan, S. W. C., Chong, Y. S., & He, H. G. (2015). A randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of a postnatal psychoeducation programme on self‐efficacy, social support and postnatal depression among primiparas. Journal of advanced nursing71(6), 1260-1273.

Sockol, L. E., Epperson, C. N., & Barber, J. P. (2013). Preventing postpartum depression: a meta-analytic review. Clinical psychology review33(8), 1205-1217.

The Children’s Commissioner (2020, May). Lockdown babies: Children born during the coronavirus crisis.

Retrieved from https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/report/lockdown-babies/

Tronick, E. Z., Morelli, G. A., & Winn, S. (1987). Multiple caretaking of Efe (Pygmy) infants. American Anthropologist89(1), 96-106.

As soon as we become parents we can be vulnerable and feel our anxiety rising. As wonderful as it is to give birth and bring a new baby into the world, it can be scary too. And it can feel overwhelming at times. Here are some practical ways you can manage your anxiety when it hits you. Simple and actionable ways you can feel calmer and more in control.

Parents are feeling anxiety three times more since we experienced the first lockdown and the start of the pandemic a year ago. But anxiety has been felt by parents since the dawn of time and we are no strangers to it. However, if it increases, it can present mental and physical health problems, which is an additional threat to our children too. So finding ways to manage anxiety has never been more important for us and also our families.

So what is anxiety and how can we manage it?

Believe it or not, anxiety is a normal part of us.  It’s there to keep us safe when we think or experience something is going to happen.  I like to think of my anxiety like an inner lioness. A fierce protector that is getting me into high alert should I need to defend myself or my children.  However, she is hyper vigilant and often appears when I don’t actually need her. So those thoughts that tell me there is danger (or has been), may not be so realistic. But my lioness doesn’t differentiate between fact and imagination, and by realising that, we are able to take the first steps to tame her.

In essence, if we can welcome anxiety and see it for what it is, it often lessens as soon as we do so. By recognising anxiety for what it is, we in effect, take back a smidgen of control and can process in a more healthy way.  Once we see anxiety for what it is; our inner protector, we can take steps to become more rational-minded and calm again. 

So what does anxiety feel like?

Often anxiety feels like a racing heart, a tight chest, sweaty palms, dry mouth and a feeling of wanting to run, hide or an inability to think clearly.  It is triggered by a thought, or by an experience. Once we notice it, we can take steps to master it, although at first, we may have an inner experience that would have us believe it’s the other way around (it is master of us!).

As with everything in life, if we practice it enough, it becomes habit.  So here are my top tips to practice when you are feeling fine as well as when you start to notice anxiety standing guard and creeping into your thoughts and feelings.

5 steps to manage your anxiety

  1. Notice the thought/anxiety – Say to yourself “I notice that I am having the thought that…. or “I notice I am feeling…”.
  2. Name it  – This is anxiety/anger/frustration/fear, etc.
  3. Ground yourself with a hand on heart anchor – Cross your arms around your chest – really allow yourself to feel held. Say to yourself “I am held, I am safe” . Take as long as you need until you feel your calm mode kicking in.  Visualise being held and safe too.
  4. Breathe – Take 5 deep breaths in through your nose and out of your mouth – with a longer exhale.  Think about the oxygen coming in, and the stress going out…
  5. Affirm – Say to yourself: “These are just thoughts and I know my reality is…. It will be okay/ I know I can do this / I am safe”

If you can, get used to this when you are feeling normal, so that you can be conditioned to spring from anxious to calm when you really need to.  But also, practice befriending your inner protector, as you never know when you really will need it and it’s there to guard you and keep you safe.

If you would like to know more about my work as The Mamma Coach and how I can support you 1:1 or with Beyond Birth: A Mindful Guide to Early Parenting and the groups and Mental Wellbeing Practitioner Training, then please see the website www.themammacoach.com or get in touch with me here [email protected]

We have more information and support if you are suffering with PND or anxiety here.

And, if you are worrying about how your baby or child is coping in the pandemic we have some top tips from a clinical psychologist.