Updated: Jul 20, 2020
I am so honored to be able to include a 3 part series by Nadene Hawker of The Lost Trimester (for now, find her at @the_lost_trimester on Instagram, with her website to be launched soon!) on maintaining wellbeing while in isolation. Because let’s be honest, we could probably all use a little help right about now, am I right?!
I came across Nadene when I went down a rabbit hole on Instagram. I was looking for mamas who just got it. Mamas who were like me, who experience anxiety, who were interested in mindfulness and who could inspire me. I found Nadene through friends of friends of friends, and it turns out she is married to one of my elementary school friends.
Nadene is an incredible advocate for new mamas experiencing postnatal anxiety, and she has been extraordinary brave in sharing her own journey with postnatal depersonalization, without fear of judgement.
Look out for Nadene’s blog posts over the next week or so, right here on Louise Simply Fit.
For highly sensitive people a significant life change altering the safety-net of daily routine can be the perfect recipe for symptoms of anxiety to develop. When a sensitive mind is left alone with only its own narrative on reply, thoughts can begin to race, predicting the future and churning up the past.
In September 2018 as a first-time mummy moving to a new house two months postnatal, this is what happened to me. I desperately searched the internet for the miracle cure or definitive affirmation to take away the mental pain of postnatal anxiety, but there wasn’t one. It turns out that calming a sensitive mind takes time and persistence. There is no magical pill, just making many small changes over time to experience the world through a different lens.
It seems strange likening my experience of postnatal anxiety to what’s currently going on in the world, but in very different ways both reminded me just how fragile and uncertain our lives are. And sadly, without the right support and copying strategies in place, postnatal anxiety for me also led to my own fear-led isolation.
19 months later I feel stronger every day. Of course there are days that I have blips, and I am learning to accept these as an inevitable part of my journey, and not as a sign that I’m spiraling out of control. Perspective. Acceptance. Confidence.
I have learned so much over the past couple of years, and feel compelled to share my anxiety fighting tips with mummies who themselves are struggling. With mummies who might not have a support system, or even know that what they’re feeling is normal. I started my Instagram account, and then my website to help mummies just like me. Although one size never fits all, I now hope one or some of these techniques may help anyone struggling with anxiety whilst in isolation.
The importance of daily routine
Open the blinds, make the bed, breathe deeply, give gratitude for the day, pour your favourite cup of tea and set the tone for the day.
Morning hygiene is also key in retaining a healthy mind and strong sense of identity - showering, body brushing and brushing your teeth, are all things that help define a new day.
These all seem like small things, but as humans we thrive on personal customs and habits. Routine gives us security, peace of mind and it reduces the amount of decisions that have to be made. Small wins, however trivial, activate endorphins tricking our brains into feeling positive.
Try setting yourself weekly or daily tasks. Nothing too big that it feels overwhelming, and is juts another thing to fail at. Just small tasks or goals that you have to work a little to achieve, and make you feel really accomplished when you DO achieve them!
It takes a village
Find your tribe. If you don’t have a tribe, reach out to me (Nadene) or Louise, and we will be there for you. Every mummy needs a person who gets her.
Talk to people you love and trust, to release all the all those feel-good hormones. Even in the darkest times, talking to someone you love about how you feel increases your sense of belonging and purpose, boosts your happiness, reduces stress levels, and improves your self-confidence and self-worth.
In the first few months of motherhood, I missed adult interaction and conversation so much. I found listening to Podcasts with like-minded wellbeing experts really helped to fill that void. Some of my favourites are Happy Place, Fearne Cotton, How to Fail, Elizabeth Day and Anxiety Slayer - all available on Apple Podcasts.
Music, literature, writing, art, colouring books for grown-ups, knitting, crochet, weaving, ceramics, needlework, woodwork, baking - the list of creative activities you can try at home is endless. According to the famous psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi creativity allows us to enter a ‘flow’ state - a perfect immersive state of balance between skill and challenge.
Learning a new skill or researching something that interests you can help improve and maintain well-being, boost self-confidence and self-esteem and help to build a sense of purpose, and connection with others.
In addition to lowering levels of anxiety and depression, regular exposure to nature has also been linked to increased impulse control and enhanced cognitive functioning. And it just feels so good to be outside, breathing in fresh air, hearing the sound of waves, walking in the forest, being close to water. Just remember to follow all of your country’s social distancing rules!
What To Get Rid Of
Limiting or cutting out caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and refined sugar completely has an instant calming effect on the nervous system. And as impossible as it may seem to a new mummy (or any mummy really!) to cut out caffeine, sometimes it is a need.
Understand and take care of your nervous system
The nervous system is one of the most complex and important parts of our body. It is responsible for controlling almost all our vital functions including the fight or flight response - that moment where our brain thinks we’re under attack and we either fight, run away or freeze. I’m sure you know that feeling just as much as I do!
Here are just some of the ways in which you can take care of your nervous system, and help it cope in times of stress:
Discover the ancient healing science of Ayurveda, one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful mind-body health systems. From nutrition, personal energies and oil massage, to oral hygiene and yoga, it provides multiple methods through which you can regain health and restore balance to your life.
Get abundant restful sleep. If you think you’re getting enough sleep, get more. New mummies - I know you probably hate me right now! But take all the help that is offered to you - someone offers to take the baby? Go sleep. Partner comes home from work and gives you a break? Go sleep. Sleep is vital in maintaining good mind and body health.
Yoga & Meditation
Yoga and meditation for me have been the slowest burners and the biggest game changers. For anxiety sufferers I can’t recommended these enough. Yoga and meditation have been scientifically proven to reprogram our brain’s neural pathways, literally changing our brain, therefore improving our ability to regulate emotions. They have also been proven to lower stress, improve your mood, focus the mind and improve relationships. There are many types you can explore, and both are gentle enough for anyone to try. If you need guidance, reach out to either me (Nadene) or Louise, and we would be happy to guide you, to find out which path works for you.
Eating a balanced nutritious diet is one of the most important parts of human wellbeing - we are what we eat! Sadly, with the soil we grow crops in and the plastic we wrap produce in, food isn’t as nutritious as it used to be, so topping up with a good quality supplements is vital (if you are interested in trying out a 1 stop shop superfood shake, message Louise for advice, and a free sample of Shakeology). There are lots of wellbeing clinics, mail order tests and holistic therapists to help you find out what is best for you.
Ladies - I highly recommended Dr Brighten’s website for hormone balancing expertise - she is the guru of all things hormonal nutrition and supplement advice from puberty to menopause. I would also recommend looking up Dr Kathy Yeo for clinical nutrition, holistic health
and sustainable lifestyle.
Just as I couldn’t have predicted postnatal anxiety, no one could have predicted the magnitude of such a devastating pandemic. But now months into my diagnosis and weeks into a national lockdown we can begin to see just how just how well humans adapt to change and pull together to shine light on darker times.
I used to fight anxiety and ask ‘why me?’, now I show it thanks…
“Thank you anxiety for making me slow down, reviewing my priorities and self-worth, I am a better person because you showed up to help guide me”
Sometimes that’s a tall ask on tough days so give yourself space, time and kindness and the universe will shine its light again.
* DISCLAIMER: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition.