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:
‘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?
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.
We’re delighted that Emily from Happity is nominated for the Petition Campaign of the Year Award!
She is nominated along with James and Jessie Zammit-Garcia and Bethany Power. All four are nominated for their campaigns supporting parents in the pandemic.
Happity’s petition campaign in the pandemic
We began our campaign in May 2020. Shortly after we went into lockdown. Emily was keen to share her own experience of PND, as well as her concerns for new families during Covid – including why parent and child classes are so vital for parental mental health.
More than 70,000 people have since had their say on this issue. As a result the Committee published report was published in July 2020.
The result of this petition is that important clarifications are now added to the Covid guidance for baby and toddler groups. Finally parent and child groups have been added to the guidelines!
The response to our petition campaign
Catherine McKinnell, Chair of the Petitions Committee says:
“Because of these petitioners’ drive for change, many who otherwise might not have had the support they need will be able to access these groups. During what has been, and continues to be, an extremely challenging time for new parents.
These campaigns are a testament to the power of petitions to raise awareness of issues that might otherwise struggle to be heard in Parliament.
The nominees have each shown how to organise a successful campaign. Building on their petitions by gathering support from the wider public, charities and others who share their concerns.
I have been so impressed by our nominees’ passion, determination, and ideas. For how to tackle the problems they’ve set their minds to, and congratulate them on their achievements.”
Happity in the media
Emily spoke on BBC Radio about the award, which you can listen to here (go to 1hr 6mins).
We want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who supported our mission to get clear guidance for baby & toddler classes. You can do a little happy dance every time you see “parent and child classes” in the Covid Roadmap. And can say “I did that!”
We know how tricky it is to come up with social media posts, so we thought we would share some of our most loved parenting memes here so that you can use them too!
Because we are all about parent and child classes some of the memes focus on this topic. But we also focus on mental health and the reasons why we think baby classes are so vital.
And – of course – we’ve included some of our funniest and most engaging parenting memes too.
We’ve split them in to sections so whether you are looking for Mental Health posts, Parenting post or Covid posts to share we’ve got you covered!
If you tag us when you post them we will as ever share to our stories 🙂
One of our key values as a company is to focus on mental wellbeing – for parents as well as for our children. If this is something you feel is important too these parenting memes might be just what you’re looking for. All had high engagement and visibility when we posted on our social media channels.
How often have you grabbed the chance to go to the supermarket without the kids just to get some ‘me-time’? We know any time to yourself is a ‘break’ once you’re a parent but it’s NOT self-care! Nobody comes back from doing the weekly food shop feeling refreshed and recharged! This was one of our most successful parenting memes – and it’s not hard to see why!
Anxiety is something many parents suffer. Both during pregnancy and after birth. Here is a parenting meme giving parents small things they can do when they feel anxious to calm themselves in the moment.
When we are pregnant we (naturally) focus a lot on pregnancy, labour and birth. We read all the books and parenting forums about what to expect when we’re expecting and what labour and the journey after birth and postpartum will be like. But, often, what comes next is a bit of a shock. It’s as if we didn’t turn the page to read on to discover what to expect postpartum . What it will really be like in those first few hours, days, weeks and months after birth?
Postpartum and what happens after birth can come as a shock for so many mums. We asked mums in our Facebook group about what was most unexpected about their experience postpartum. These are the key points they raised:
The pain of stitches down below
If you have an episiotomy during labour the pain of the wound and the stitches might come as a bit of a shock. Obviously it’s a very sensitive area and even going for a wee can sting. Nicola from Team Happity says:
“I winced every time I sat down postpartum. My midwife gave me a surgical glove and suggested I fill it with water, freeze it and sit on it to ease the pain. Her tip was a lifesaver in the early days after birth. Even if it did feel a bit odd She also told me to rinse with a warm jug of water after a wee instead of wiping. And that really helped”
Nobody ever warns you about after pains – do they? We focus on what contractions might feel like and how we can get through them but after-pains are something that is not talked about enough. After pains (when your womb contracts) can be really sore. It feels like very intense cramps. It’s just your uterus contracting to shrink to its original size. But if you didn’t expect it – it can feel alarming
One mum said:
“The pain! I couldn’t stand up without pain for more than a few minutes of time. The cramps were insane. I took painkillers and it got better after a couple of weeks. But nobody had told me it would be so sore after birth”
Styling out a HUGE maternal nappy!
The discharge after birth is a bit of a shock!. Who knew we would have to rock HUGE postpartum nappies or ginormous sanitary towels in those days and weeks after birth? Often quite how much postpartum bleeding occurs and for how long can be something we didn’t quite expect.
Sore and cracked nipples
We might expect breastfeeding to be natural and plain sailing. But nobody tells us about the sore and cracked nipples that we might experience along the way. Every new mum is on a learning curve when it comes to breastfeeding. If your baby doesn’t latch on correctly your nipples can soon become super sore and even cracked. With support new mums can be guided to make sure their baby is latching on correctly and find ways to soothe any pain. But it seems that there’s still not enough support available when new mums need it most.
The intensity of your emotions
Of course having a baby is life changing but the intensity of emotions that hit you can be a bit of a shock!. You can find yourself overcome by emotions – both happy and sad. And the wave of strong emotions you feel can hit you like a rock. One mum spoke about this swing of raw emotions:
“I was so emotional after labour. I kept looking at my newborn and crying. I felt such a wave of love. And it was intense. I was suddenly in charge of this tiny human and the responsibility made me panic”
Being able to function on so little sleep
Before birth the world and his wife advise you to get as much sleep as you can because you’ll lose out on so much sleep once your little bundle arrives. You smile and nod but you don’t quite get it until you give birth and experience sleep deprivation like never before!
You might be surprised by how you can function in the early days and weeks on so little sleep (new mums are protected by hormones which help them feel like supermums!). You feel like you are buzzing and invincible. But after a few weeks the exhaustion kicks in – big style!
The shock of the new
Becoming a new parent is a new experience and something we can never fully prepare ourselves for – no matter how many books we read. We focus so much on the labour and birth that what happens next can feel like a bit of shock. It’s normal and natural. Be reassured that you will learn as you go. Every hour and day you spend with your baby you will learn. And, when you have questions or are unsure – ask! Ask your mum, your friends, in parenting forums or in our Facebook Group. And trust your instincts.
Join our Facebook group to connect with other mums
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Stay connected. We have a lovely and supportive Facebook group for mums, where you can share your parenting stories and get help and advice from other mums. Join our group today.
There will be times when your baby or toddler is clingy and demands your attention a lot. It can be tough as a parent to have a clingy toddler. It can be tiring and wearing – we’re all human after all!. Dr Zara Rahemtulla, a clinical psychologist from Gentle Journeys shares her top tips on why little ones can be clingy and how best to deal with it.
What is clinginess?
If you’ve got a clingy toddler, you’re not alone! Clinginess is extremely common and is a behaviour that all children display at some point during their development.
Examples of clinginess are: when a child cries and shouts because they have to separate from their parent (e.g. to go to nursery, or parent goes out to run errands, etc.), they want their parent’s attention more than usual, they are constantly seeking physical contact with their parent (e.g. more hugs or physical touch), they want to be in the same room as their parent all the time and/or they act younger than their age at times.
Clinginess vs Separation Anxiety Disorder
Clinginess is different from separation anxiety disorder, which is a significant fear or anxiety of strangers and the child cries inconsolably and shows extreme distress in these situations. (NICE, 2020). Mild forms of separation anxiety can occur in children and is usually something that naturally passes, however if this is prolonged and is getting in the way of your baby/child having new experiences then it is important to check this out with a health professional.
Clingy toddlers: It is developmentally normal for a child to go through?
Sometimes it can feel like there is no obvious reason for clinginess, and other times there can be clear reasons for the change in your child’s behaviour. Levels of clinginess can also be related to your child’s developmental stage; for example, children can become more clingy around 8-10 months, 2 years and 3 years old.
This is often due to them making big developmental leaps and becoming more independent in various ways. For example, around 8-10 months babies may be crawling or walking, at 2 or 3 years children often become toilet trained and around 2-3 years children may start to separate from their parents, attending nursery or pre-school. All of these events can feel exciting to a toddler, but also overwhelming and strange at the same time, which can trigger increased clinginess to their caregiver.
Another important reason why your child might become more upset when you have to leave their side is when there are significant changes to their routine or daily life. For example, the arrival of a new sibling can be a particularly big upheaval for the first born as they now have to wait longer for their parents’ attention, there is less focus on them and their needs and they have to share their parent’s love. This is a life event that takes some time to adjust to, and it is very common for toddlers to become more clingy, tearful or angry at this point.
The impact of Covid-19 and clinginess in toddlers and children
Of course the single, biggest change to our lives has been that of Covid-19. We have all had to stay at home and stop socialising. What we knew as our familiar, daily routines have been completely turned upside down. We have been at home for a year, and the idea of going out and socialising again can be both exciting and scary at the same time – for both adults and toddlers alike.
As we gradually come out of lockdown, it is normal and expected for babies and toddlers to show more clingy behaviours and become more upset or distressed when their parent(s) tries to separate from them. For those babies whom have spent over a year in the care of only their parents or a few close adults, going to a baby group, nursery or a social gathering may feel a little daunting and it will take time for them to integrate these situations into their ‘new normal’ and feel at ease within them.
Ways to support your toddler through clinginess
1. Start by leaving them with someone familiar
If you know you will be separating from your toddler soon, build up to this and start by leaving them with someone who is familiar to them. Start by leaving them for a few hours, then gradually longer, for an afternoon and then the whole day. Similarly, when at home, try popping out of the room for a very small amount of time and coming back, whilst at the same time saying “mummy is just going into the kitchen and then I will be back”. Talk to your child whilst in the kitchen so they know you are still there.
2. Talk to your child beforehand
No matter what age they are, always try and talk to your child about what will happen, before you are due to leave them. This gives them time to process what will be happening and ask questions or get reassurance from you before they separate from you. Bringing up the topic a week in advance and then mentioning what will happen in the few days running up to the event will help children prepare.
For example, “tomorrow mummy is going to be out for the day and grandma will be looking after you. She is going to play with you lots while mummy goes out. Then I will come back and make your dinner and put you to bed”. Giving children a reference point to when you will be back is really important. If they know that you will be back at dinner time, they will hold this in their mind.
3. Do not sneak out on your child
It can be tempting to sneak out and avoid saying goodbye to your little one when you leave. Letting them know you are going and will be coming back is so important to them so they can hold this in their mind while you are away. If they don’t get to say goodbye to you they will be wondering where you are, why you left and if you are coming back, which can distress them even further.
4. Don’t dismiss or ignore their clinginess
Dismissing or ignoring your child’s plea for you will actually just make their clinginess worse. This is because clinginess is triggered when a child is feeling more vulnerable or less confident, therefore they need the extra support and acknowledgement from their caregivers at this time. Giving them those extra cuddles, instead of pushing them away, will actually reassure them and give them more confidence in the long run, leading them to be less clingy!
5. Use a transitional object
A transitional object is an object that your child can have in replace of you while you are gone. It is often an object that smells of you, so your child can be comforted and reminded of you if they miss you. A scarf, t-shirt or another item that has your scent is useful here.
6. Use games and play
Play is such an important tool for children. They will often ‘play out’ their difficulties or worries and this can be really cathartic for them. For example, it might be peek-a-boo for your 10 month old helps them establish when mummy/daddy disappears she/he comes back, or your toddler pretending to be a baby helps them come to terms with jealous feelings about a new sister or brother arriving and sharing their parent(s).
7. Listen and acknowledge their feelings
Your child may tell you with their cries or words that they don’t want to leave you. One of the most helpful things you can do to help a clingy toddler is genuinely listen to your child as they express themselves to you, and acknowledge their experience. Their feelings are so big for them in these moments, but research has shown that when a child’s feelings can be heard and empathised with by their caregiver, feelings of distress do decrease. If you can get down on your child’s level, touch them in a gentle way and say, “you really don’t want mummy to go. I understand darling. It is hard to leave mummy/daddy sometimes”, “you’re feeling so sad that mummy has to go out. You will miss me. It’s normal to feel like this.”
8. Being aware and managing your own response
Try to make saying goodbye to your child a positive experience, however worried or sad you might be feeling about your child’s tears. By giving your child a positive experience of a goodbye and reunion they will remember this and feel more confident during the next separation. Perhaps separations are tricky for you as a parent in some way and this might be important to reflect on, so you can be aware when these feelings arise for you.
If you feel like you would like more support with understanding your child’s clinginess, or you have worries about separating from your child, please get in touch with us at Gentle Journeys, www.gentlejourneys.org. Instagram Gentle_Journeys or Facebook GentleJourneys
Baby and toddler classes are great for little ones, for so many reasons. They help with early learning and development : teaching your baby valuable skills – from movement to language and so much more. If you’ve taken your baby to a class you know how much they enjoy it and are excited by being around so many new people and exposed to new experiences.
But baby and toddler classes are important for mums too. Perhaps even more so!
Classes are important for kids but even more important for mums
Having a baby is a life changing experience. No matter how prepared you think you are and how many baby books you read, when your baby arrives your whole world is changed forever. Suddenly you are in charge of a tiny human who relies on you to meet their every need – no matter how little sleep you’ve had or how hard you’re finding it.
It can be harder than you imagined and lonelier than you thought. Almost overnight you switch from being a busy working woman to being at home looking after a small baby who needs your attention day and night. Chuck in a serious dose of sleep deprivation and it’s no surprise that many new mums can begin to feel isolated and alone like never before.
Why baby and toddler classes are so important.
1) They give you a reason to get out of the house
After you’ve got past the first few weeks in your baby bubble with your partner at home your days and weeks can feel empty: governed by feeding schedules and baby nap times. With broken sleep and being woken at dawn – days can yawn ahead of you. And feel like they last forever. If you have a baby class to go to it gives you a reason to get out of the house – to head into the big wide world and give your day a purpose.
2) They give structure to your week
Every day can feel the same when you’re a new mum at home looking after a tiny baby. Baby classes are something to put in your calendar to give structure and purpose to your week. They give you something to look forward to: a reason to get dressed and up and out of the house. They can be something fun to look forward to in an otherwise empty week.
Being at home with a new baby IS lonely. Paradoxically you’re never alone but you sometimes have never felt so lonely. Baby classes are a vital way of combating this. They give new mums a place to meet other parents, to feel like part of a group. When you go to a group you’re part of a team – a room full of other parents who have been through and are going through what you have. It’s a game changer!
4) They provide an opportunity to form friendships and find your tribe
It can take a while but being together with other new mums at baby classes is a great way to find new friends and find your tribe. The experience of going through birth and embarking on the journey of new parenthood is very uniting. You may be in a room with several other new mums and feel shy but you all have something in common and conversation can flow naturally. Before long you can find new friends that make motherhood easier.
5) They make you feel more confident about your parenting skills
Let’s admit it – when it comes to motherhood – we’re all finding our way and learning on the job. Basically – we’re winging it. Which can feel scary at times. Baby classes can help you build up some valuable skills, which make you feel more confident as a parent.
6) They give you a chance to spend focused time with your child
At home there’s a lot to distract you from spending focused and quality time with your baby. The doorbell might ring, the phone might go, there are chores to do. When you go to a baby class you have a length of time to really focus on being with your child and connecting with them. Whether it’s through massage, singing, signing or sensory play. It can be a cherished and focused bonding time together that is hard to carve out at home.
7) They provide a safe space to discuss your birth story and your experience of early parenting
Once we become mothers we have stories we want to tell. And other new mums are the perfect audience. They listen when we tell our birth stories – and are just as keen to share theirs too. They are as fascinated as you about the colour of your babies’ poo (in a way your best friend without a baby will never get!). Baby groups provide the perfect platform for mum chat and as it unfolds – for friendships to be formed.
8) They take the pressure off having to entertain your baby 24/7
Being at home with your baby 24/7 has its own pressures. `You feel like you have to provide them with chat, stimulation and learning activities to boost their early learning. But you soon run out of ideas and energy. Which is why baby classes are a godsend. They give you songs to sing, baby signs to practice, movements to make and stories to tell.
9) You can drink a cuppa and have a biscuit in peace!
The very best baby classes are the ones where you get a chance after the session to have a cuppa and maybe a biscuit too and can chat to the other mums in the class (Covid guidelines permitting!) Every new mum knows how hard it is to drink a hot cuppa in peace. So often we end up bunging our morning cuppa in the microwave to heat it up – and then the moment we take a sip our baby cries again. At a baby class there’s always another parent (or the class leader) on hand to make sure you get your much needed time to enjoy a hot drink and an energy boosting biscuit to make your day. And the best thing is – you get to chat to other mums while you enjoy your restorative cup of tea! It’s a win-win.
And if you’re a class provider and are not listed on Happity yet – sign up now! Here’s how you can add your baby & toddler classes for FREE – or choose to upgrade so we can manage your bookings and make running your classes hassle free:
If you’ve got a baby or toddler with eczema – have you ever thought about what toys are best for them? It might not have crossed your mind. But some toys are better for babies with eczema than others.
What is eczema?
Eczema is a dry itchy skin condition which occurs in about 20% of babies and young children. It has been shown to run in families. So your baby is more likely to have eczema if you or your partner have had it.
Eczema usually appears before your baby turns 1 years old. Half of sufferers develop it before they are even 6 months old. Luckily most children grow out of eczema by the time they are 5 years old
Eczema can be triggered by many things including soaps and soap powder, clothes made from man-made fabrics, food allergies and environmental allergens such as pets or household dust.
What toys are the best to give to your child with eczema?
Toys can be both a help and a hindrance in children with eczema. Some toys can contain irritants in the paint or the chemicals used in their manufacture. Zinc is a particular irritant which can occur in paint or metal coating.
Soft toys are a particular problem for eczema sufferers. Many soft toys are made from man-made fibre which can be scratchy and could make your child hot and itchy if cuddled at night.
For children with eczema its best to look for soft toys made from organic cotton or bamboo. It’s best to avoid ones with rough seams or long threads. It’s best to choose an organic cotton baby comforter as they are softer and very easy to wash.
If you buy a couple then you can alternate them to ensure that your baby always has a clean one available. Before giving the new one to your baby wear it next to your skin for a couple of hours so that it smells of you rather than soap powder.
How you can make cuddly toys safer for babies with eczema
Soft toys can also harbour dust mites which are a known trigger for eczema. You can avoid this by having a weekly or monthly cleaning routine. It’s a good idea to run a hoover over soft toys on a regular basis but good soft toys can be machine washed. Just put them in the washing machine at a low temperature. We also recommend that you put them in a pillow case first. To ensure the toys are kept clean you can alternate washing them with putting them in a bag in the freezer for 24 hours. This will ensure the dust mites are kept at bay.
On the other hand toys can be a great distraction for babies and kids with eczema. It’s very difficult to stop a child scratching, and saying “Don’t scratch”. Usually just draws attention to the itch, but unfortunately it means that itching can become an ingrained habit.
Distraction has been shown to be a valuable resource in stopping the scratching.
For babies, special toys such as baby comforters, can be used during nappy changes to help keep little hands busy while you are cleaning and changing them.
What about bath toys?
For toddlers, bath toys can keep hands busy when they are distracted or watching tv. If you keep a bucket of natural rubber toys and other sensory based toys near to them while they watch tv or listen to a story at bedtime then it lessens the chance that they will scratch their skin.
Natural rubber toys are particularly good for this as they can go in to mouths with no problem and they can be squeezed and thumped with no damage to child or toy.
Best Toys for eczema sufferers
Best Years Ltd are a small, ethical toy company with a special interest in organic, fair trade and sensory toys. All our soft toys and organic baby comforters are suitable from birth and machine washable making them perfect for eczema sufferers.
We know teething can be a stressful period for your little one and yourself. However, don’t worry, you are not alone! Many parents are going through the same struggles you are. Matchstick Monkey is here to help with some useful teething tips to make this time easier for both parents and toddlers.
To briefly let you know a bit about Matchstick Monkey: We are a UK teething brand founded by mum Katie about 5 years ago, after she couldn’t find anything to help her first daughter Minnie while teething. She designed the innovative Original Teething Toy, our hero product, to reach and massage the back molars without getting bitten. Since then we have expanded into a range of different teethers, fabrics, toys and our brand new natural & organic babycare range.
How do I know my baby is teething?
Though the timing widely varies, babies often start teething around 6 months of age.
Typical signs and symptoms of teething include:
Sore or tender gums
Chewing on objects, hands or anything else they can get hold of!
Top teething tips
To help with those sore gums, we have compiled a list of our top teething tips for you:
Your baby will know best where it hurts, so being able to self sooth by chewing safely on a teether will help ease their discomfort and distract from the pain. Place the teether in the fridge for added pain relief!
Teething gels to reduce pain are not for everyone but if you decide to go down the route, make sure you use one specifically designed for young children. Remember teething gels contain a mild local anesthetic, so please do speak to a pharmacist for further advice.
Rubbing the Gums
This technique of light massage is a common method used by a lot of parents. Simply use a clean finger or wet gauze to rub your baby’s gums for one to two minutes – you could even try small circular movements too. The pressure can ease your baby’s discomfort.
Giving your little one chilled food from the fridge can ease inflamed gums. Be it solid or mashed up, it is perfect to sooth painful gums. Just make sure to avoid acidic fruit, such as oranges, as they can fuel inflammation! Please note that the NHS does not advise using frozen products.
Yes, this is definitely a thing. Other than being the nicest name ever for a treatment, it’s definitely a great way to help relieve the pain. When they’re in distress or feeling discomfort, just be there for them and distract them. Playing, singing and reading are good exercises that will help take their mind away from the pain they are experiencing.
Different strokes for different folks
It is important to note that different methods and remedies will work for different babies so give them a try and see what works for your little one. Remember, regular childhood dental care helps set the stage for a lifetime of health teeth and gums. It is advised to book your toddler’s first dental appointment as soon as their first tooth appears!
If you are not sure what else to do, you might consider giving your baby painkilling medicine. Please do consult your GP or pharmacist for further advice.
We have written a couple of blog posts about teething so please feel free to check them out on our website!
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
Notice the thought/anxiety – Say to yourself “I notice that I am having the thought that…. or “I notice I am feeling…”.
Name it – This is anxiety/anger/frustration/fear, etc.
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.
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…
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]
Are you worried about how lockdown is affecting your baby or toddler’s mental health? If so, you’re not alone.
Recently there was a viral video of a little girl walking along the street, stopping every few steps to ‘clean her hands’. It had the caption: ‘When your first year of life is 2020 was all about HAND SANITIZING’.
She’s adorable, as toddlers are when they copy what they see Mummy or Daddy do in their play. The video taps into one of the biggest things parents worry about right now, which is how growing up in a pandemic will affect our babies and toddlers.
Growing up in this ‘new normal’
The world our babies and toddlers are growing up in one where adults wear masks and keep their distance. It’s a world based within their own homes, where they only have their parents for company: a world where they only see Grandma and Grandad on Zoom or through a window.
In many ways it is one of the invisible costs of the pandemic. Will growing up in this strange new ‘normal’ have a lasting effect on our baby or toddler’s development and mental health?
Mums and dads are feeling the stress too
Living through a pandemic has taken its toll on us all. Some days feel OK but others feel rubbish.
Parental guilt is not a new thing. Right now we are feeling it in spades, worrying about whether our children will pick up on our anxiety and if it will it damage them?
We always urge mums and dads to banish any guilt they feel. Right now – that’s even more important.
One of the best things we can do to help our children is to take care of ourselves and make sure we are OK. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed at times. So when you do, take time to escape in whatever way you can. That might be taking a few deep breaths. Or it might be carving out time in your day to unwind in whatever way you can.
Emily Tredget, from Team Happity says:
It is important to remember that in keeping our babies healthy and well, we need to first remember to keep ourselves healthy and well. Often we forget about ourselves, but like on an airplane, we need to put our oxygen mask on first.
Your baby and toddler’s mental health
Little ones don’t have the vocabulary or the emotional maturity to explain their feelings. Often they show you their feelings through their behaviour.
You are enough!
One of the most important things to remember is that you are the centre of your baby or child’s world. Your love, time and attention is what they need. And it’s what will make them thrive.
Lockdown days have a peculiar sense of time. Spending it together can benefit your child.
You are enough. None of us expected to be parenting in a pandemic and we have to be kind to ourselves.
Top tips to help support your baby & toddler with their mental health:
When you pass people in the street on your daily walk say ‘Hello’, smile and wave. Chances are they’ll greet you back. Even though we’re all keeping a distance you will be teaching your child to welcome the people they meet in their day to day lives and showing them how friendly they are.
Welcome everyone who knocks on your door with a big smile and tell your child who they are and why they are at your door – whether it’s the postman delivering letters or the delivery man dropping off food. Even in a mask and at a safe distance they will more than likely enjoy getting such a warm welcome and chat to your little one.
Your baby or toddler often shows their feelings in their play. Watch what they do and join in. For example, if your toddler pretends a toy cat or dog is sad and needs care, get down and play along with them – talking about how the toy is feeling and how you both can help them feel better.
Verbalise their feelings. If your child is sad or withdrawn put their feelings into words. This shows that you understand and care. For example you might say: ‘I can see you feel cross right now because we can’t go out and play. Why don’t we choose a jigsaw or toy to play with together?’
Talk about the people you see in books and on TV. Focusing on how friendly they are and talking about all the kind people we meet, who help us.
Show your child photos of their extended family. Babies and toddlers are drawn to faces and can recognise them if you show them often. Say the names of your family as you point to the photos. Your baby and child might not get much out of a Zoom call or Facetime with Gran and Grandad but it’s another way of showing them the faces that will be an important part of their lives.
Join in online baby & toddler classes. We KNOW they’re not the same as face to face classes but they are the next best thing in lockdown. And your baby or toddler will be super engaged and love them. They also break up the long and lonely lockdown days for you too. Find loads to choose from and book them on Happity.