“Without space there can be no magic” ~Susan Piver.
Shilpa, a new mom loved the dive into motherhood she had taken. Her baby was three months old now. She gladly did everything for her. She nursed her, gave her a bath, sat up at nights when her baby was up, and played with her during the day. She had help around the house but since she always cooked at home, that was something she continued to do after she came back from her maternal home. Her days and nights were all about her baby. It was enjoyable. However, after a busy day she would sometime really look forward to her husband’s return home at 5pm. She would use this time to take a quick shower, do some laundry and make dinner.
Shraddha was a second time mother, her just-born infant would cry a lot at nights. She and her family would try everything to soothe him but to no avail. After a few hours of crying every night he would fall asleep along with the rest of the family who had already gone to bed before him. Shraddha would lie in bed for a few minutes before her first born would wake, crying from pain in her legs, part of her growth spurts. She would stay up massaging her first born’s legs, and come time to sleep , her son would be ready to nurse again. Sharaddha began to dread night times especially because she hated having to wake others up and at the same time had such a tough time getting through the night by herself.
Kavitha was a mother of a one year old baby boy and marketing manager at an MNC. She had gone back to work when her son was a 9 months old. Her in-laws took care of her son while she was away at work. After a busy day at work she would come back home geared up to play with her little one, feed him and play some more while she cooked dinner and did the laundry. She has a busy life-at home and at work and she sometimes felt it was wearing her down, but come morning, she was back to the grind.
Let’s look at how taking a break can help them. It is a fact that each new mother and every family goes through a lot of changes as a part of welcoming a baby. Many of us have to deal with very difficult transitions too like letting go of our careers, facing death of a loved one, financial crisis, marital conflicts, difficult pregnancies and childbirth, having a difficult baby or worse yet tending to babies with neonatal complications and more, as we also become new mothers. We may also deal with unpredictable hormonal swings and some of us have to witness the effect of a clinical history of mental illness like depression or anxiety. These issues are potential risk factors for post partum depression, a topic that needs to be dealt with in another article all by itself.
However, women like Shilpa, Shraddha and Kavitha share pieces of our lives. They love their children, they want to be there for them, and try their best. They are also in many ways tired, exhausted and wearing down quickly. As mothers we often find ourselves so willing to give and be there for everyone. Except for ourselves.
Like Shilpa we might think that since we are at home all day, we need to be able to take care of our babies as well as do everything around the house. And when we get tired and exhausted, we give into guilt and ask ourselves, how difficult can staying at home be. Or like Shraddha, we get into this loop of taking care of our little ones and cannot think of anything but being in this routine, because, well, they need us. Or maybe like Kavitha we might think that since we are not at home the whole day we must really spend the time we are back from work with our children and doing things around the house and when we can’t we become upset and blame ourselves. Of course we want to be there for our children and family and one of the most important things that can help us do all of this better is, to take a break.
It may seem counterintuitive, taking time for yourself means being away from your responsibilities, however because breaks, even small one’s energize and put our thoughts back in check, we can come back to be there for our families and work more fully. Studies suggest that self-care (involving, taking a break to do what you love or to nourish yourself) helps with improving mood and better cope with daily life stressors.
Moreover, breaks don’t have to be something that uproots us from our current lives. The very things that are around us can help give us those moments of pause and refresh. Below are a list of things you can consider in taking simple breaks:
- Get on your favourite networking site, be it Facebook, twitter or google +. This is a great way to “get away” (even if for a few moments only) while staying at home.
- Get a yoga teacher to come home to teach you some post partum yoga. Or choose to go to a group class or practice on your own.
- If you feel overwhelmed, lock yourself in a room and just cry. Crying can be purging when you remember that emotions are just a part of you and that they don’t have to control you.
- If you find that a bit of time during your day has opened up, let the dishes and laundry be, order take out, and get some sleep amidst the chaos.
- Invite friends over or go out with them even if for just an hour.
- Using your five senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch often allows your heart to beat more slowly and your blood pressure to reduce so that your body no longer feels like it’s in a state of constant run. Think of how you can engage your senses in a way that helps you take a break. Below are a few suggestions:
- Burn scented candles or incense in your room or house. Find a scent that’s pleasing to you
- Buy fresh-cut flowers or seek out flowers in your neighbourhood
- Go through magazines and books to cut out pictures that you like. Make a collage of them to hang up on your wall to remind you to relax and enjoy the sights of things you cut out.
- Go to the bookstore and find a collection of photographs or paintings that you find relaxing such as the nature photographs of Ansel Adams.
- Listen to soothing music.
- Listen to books on tape or compact discs.
- Turn on the television and just listen. Find a show that’s boring or sedate, not something that’s just going to get you angry. Make sure you turn the volume down to a level that’s not too loud and just watch it.
- Enjoy your favorite meal, whatever it is. Eat it slowly so you can enjoy the way it tastes.
- Suck on an ice cube or an ice pop, especially if you’re feeling warm and enjoy the taste as it melts in your mouth
- Get a massage. If you are uncomfortable with touch you could get a traditional Japanese shiatsu massage or a thai massage that simply require you to wear loose fitting clothes. A shoulder massage can be done without removing your clothes or massage yourself
When you take a break it will become easier for your brain to think of healthier ways to cope with your current life situation. These activities are meant to bring a small amount of pause (and peace) in your life so if they don’t help or makes things worse, don’t do it. Try something else.
What are some easy and fun ways that you can think of taking a break?
Matthew Mc Kay, Jeffery C. Wood and Jeffrey Brantley: The DBT Skills Workbook