Perspective is always easier when you aren’t stuck in the mud. I vividly remember the early days with an infant in tow thinking, “will I ever get my groove back?” The physical and emotional overload of sleepless nights, newborn care and lugging around 9 months of weight gain leave many of us wondering if life will ever be the same again.
I am here to tell you that it won’t. It will never be the same again. There is no going back to the you that once was, there is only going forward to what can be. How cool is that? If you are stuck in a rut, be patient. There is a time for everything and your time to heal yourself is coming!
I wrote the following piece for Sassy Mama a few years ago and, crazily enough, my own “mama self-care tips” below are so relevant to anyone, postpartum or not.
Let go of expectations
Do you tend to put pressure on yourself to achieve something and then become disappointed when you don’t? Do you have an image of your perfect body in your mind? What if you could give yourself a break and completely let go of expectations? Instead, focus on the blessings you have as a mom. Daily blessings are probably right before your eyes if you keep them wide open. In Dennis Prager’s book, Happiness is a Serious Problem, he writes that one of the causes of unhappiness is the pressure we put on ourselves to achieve an idealized image of our life. I love this quote from the book:
Because gratitude is the key to happiness, anything that undermines gratitude must undermine happiness. And nothing undermines gratitude as much as expectations. There is an inverse relationship between expectations and gratitude: The more expectations you have, the less gratitude you will have.
Getting enough rest isn’t just important throughout the early postpartum days, but on an ongoing basis. Some women survive on a postpartum adrenaline rush for about 3-4 months and then, one day they crash. I’ve crashed before and almost every woman I know has too. If naps are possible, take them. If not, try to get to sleep early and start your night’s sleep close to when you put your baby down. A great refresher during the day, if you only have ten minutes, is to lie on a yoga mat or blanket with your legs up against the wall. Check out how to get into this position here. Meanwhile, if your sleep is compromised for good reason, just try and survive the fatigue and know, that like all things in life, this too shall pass.
If you are breastfeeding, your baby gets all that they need, often leaving you depleted! Supplements can often help, and I recommend taking Vitamin D, Probiotics, Omega 3’s and a Prenatal Multi Vitamin. Remember that you should always speak to your doctor for their suggestions before taking any new supplements. My favorite site for supplements is iHerb. Shipping to Hong Kong is reasonable and they carry a good selection at great prices.
Best perk of breastfeeding? The food you can eat! Now is not the time to limit calories. Eat and drink until you are satisfied. Even if you are not breastfeeding, you still need fuel for taking care of your baby so keep eating a mindful, balanced diet. I know that paleo diets and low carb eating is in-vogue right now. Paleo diets have tremendous benefit, which we can elaborate on in another post. But let me tell you, when I was breastfeeding and exercising at the same time I needed carbohydrates to just survive, seriously. Listen to what your body needs to eat. Try and avoid sugar and processed non-foods. Start your day with a hearty breakfast! Try these blueberry muffins for a fuel-me-up treat.
Getting your heart pumping and sweating to some of your favorite tunes is one of the best ways to clear your mind and shed some pounds. Find an activity that you love and commit to exercising everyday. A few words of postnatal caution: always start slow, and build intensity gradually. Avoid high impact training like running until you’ve gained mastery of your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles.
Mind the gap: All about your abs
If you think of how far out your belly stretched for nine months, it’s really no wonder that it takes a while for your midsection to flatten again. A common postpartum condition is Diastasis Recti, where your rectus abdominis (your ab muscles) separate. An abdominal program that focuses on toning your pelvic floor and transverse is key to an effective recovery. Read here for my flatten-your-abs tips.
Stretch it out
Tight, tired and weak muscles anyone? Yoga, unlike other forms of exercise, helps strengthen and lengthen your muscles simultaneously. It’s the best way I know to work out kinks in my neck or a stiff lower back and is the most versatile workout out there. Sneak in a few downward dogs while your baby naps; a little goes a long way. Want some mobile inspiration? Yogaglo has something for everyone!