Hey mumma, firstly, you're doing great. It's really normal to feel overwhelmed or overthink things if you are expecting or have just given birth. You have an ever growing to-do list, random snippets of (often unsolicited) advice coming from everywhere, hormonal changes, learning to understand your body and your baby's new rhythm and cycles, plus trying to function in 'normal life' by working or socialising or remembering to feed the dog or walk the cat.. wait, what?
This is why they call it 'baby brain'. Baby brain refers to memory problems, poor concentration and absent-mindedness reported by many women during pregnancy and early motherhood. Although research hasn't conclusively found direct physiological links as to why it occurs, the sheer abundance of new information and worries and changes would make anyone feel absent-minded! Becoming a mother involves a huge emotional and physical transition and it's important to help balance these changes with moments of mindfulness, to support you and your baby's wellbeing.
Here are some simple mindfulness tools you can use anytime, anywhere to help calm your nervous system and give your mind a little break.
This can be as simple as pausing to take a few deep breaths when you feel overwhelmed or you can focus on following the breath, closing your eyes and following the length of every inhale, and every exhale. Allowing your mind to use the breath as an anchor can help to reduce tension and increase cognition.
If you feel stressed then extending your exhale is a useful technique to help switch your body from the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight mode) into the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and restore mode). Inhale for a count of four, and exhale for a count of six and repeat five to ten cycles. This will tell your body that it's not in danger, that you can relax and feel more calm.
Cup of Calming Tea
It sounds so simple, but the act of mindfully sipping a warm drink can help to refocus you into the present moment. Instead of gulping down your beverage in between errands or while at the computer, can you slow down and cradle the cup in your hands? Notice the warmth of the cup, the aroma, the sensation as you sip. Feel yourself soften as you enjoy the experience, notice how you feel. If thoughts arise simply observe them and allow them to float by without judgement or criticism or adding them to your to-do list. Give yourself permission to have this moment of quiet and stillness.
If you are choosing herbal tea while pregnant, it's important to check which ones are considered safe during pregnancy. Some nourishing varietys that are generally considered to be safe when consumed in small quantities during pregnancy are:
Peppermint tea: Peppermint is one of the most commonly used herbal medicines in pregnancy. Studies have shown it doesn’t harm the mother or baby, although you should avoid very large amounts and avoid in the first trimester because it can promote menstruation.
Red raspberry leaf tea: Some women drink raspberry tea during the last trimester to help them prepare for the birth. It should be safe in pregnancy, but some studies have shown it can stimulate contractions so it’s a good idea to be cautious during the first trimester
Ginger tea: Ginger can help relieve nausea. It should be safe in moderation while you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
You might like to put on a guided meditation or a birth hypnotherapy recording to help you feel supported and relaxed. Hypnobirthing, is a technique that uses the power of suggestion for expecting mums to alleviate fear and make pregnancy and labor less stressful. This technique is said to tap into a part of the brain that helps you cope with fear and anxiety.
If you don't have access to a meditation app or guided visualisation you can just gently close your eyes and follow your breathing, taking time to be still for a few moments. When thoughts arise (and they will), simply acknowledge them and let them pass, without following the 'story' in your mind of that thought. If you notice your thoughts have wandered off, then gently guide yourself back to the breath, without judgement or frustration.
Slow movement or mindful walking
Some mums like to take pre or post natal yoga classes as a way to de-stress. You can try our BodyICE Woman Yoga for Mummas below or find a studio near you that offers in person prenatal or mums and bubs classes.
If Yoga isn't your thing then mindful walking is a great way to move and to connect back to your centre. Moving slowly, with each step notice the feeling of your feet on the Earth, notice the temperature of the air on your skin, the sounds around you. Mindful walking can help to bring in gratitude for the environment around you, whether that is out in nature or if you are simple padding softly around your home and are grateful for the roof over your head. You can do this pushing the pram as well, use walking as an opportunity to be present, to take in everything around you. You might be surprised by what you notice!
There are so many thoughts, decisions, ideas, worries and plans running around our mind in every given moment and if you find that you are often in the state of 'baby brain' where you are losing focus then perhaps it would help to begin to write everything down. Once or twice a day, get your rambling thoughts, ideas, plans, EVERYTHING down onto paper (or in the notes section of your phone) so that you can stop thinking about it. Think of it as an energetic clearing of your mind - it doesn't have to be legible or make sense to anyone (even you!) but it will help make some more room for other, everyday tasks and thoughts, such as where you let your shoes or if it's the dog or the cat that needs a walk!
You might find it helps you sleep at night or it feels energising to write in the mornings, or even helps pass time while you are breastfeeding. There are no rules, just let it flow!
If you need some extra zen time, try this pre and post natal flow from BodyICE Woman.
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