May is known as Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month (MMHA).
Perinatal mental health (PMH) is the emotional and psychological wellbeing of women during pregnancy and the first year after the birth of their baby. There are a range of mental health problems that may affect women during this period, such as depression, anxiety and other mental health problems such as postpartum psychosis. Perinatal mental health problems can have a significant and long-term impact on the woman, the child, and the wider family especially if left untreated. The woman may be supported by specialist teams during pregnancy or after the birth of their baby.
MMHA week occurs on 1st to 7th of May. This event is organised and led by members of the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership UK (PMHP UK), who launched the first-ever UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week nearly a decade ago in 2014.
What is this year’s theme?
The overall theme of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 is ‘Together in a changing world’. Lots of things change when you have a baby. Many changes are positive and enrich your life – feeling happy and content, enjoying the hugs, and daily joys of having your baby. However, there may also be times when you feel exhausted, stressed and out of balance in key areas of your life.
These may include wanting to be positive and in control, but at times it seems the opposite and you can feel overwhelmed, experience low confidence, low mood and/or feeling lonely.
Maybe some of that sounds familiar? If so, look at a typical situation in more detail and see how it can impact on how you feel and what you do.
Here’s an example of our Five Areas Assessment:
Situation: New baby in the family
Thoughts: “I feel exhausted”, “I can’t get to the shops”, “I don’t know how I’m going to manage everything”.
Feelings: Scared, Anxious, Frustrated, Worried.
Physical feelings: Exhausted, Tense, Pain.
Behaviours: Not sleeping enough, taking care of baby and others, putting oneself last, tearful and avoiding others.
The online courses in the Enjoy Series aim to help you to work out what’s going on- why you feel as you do and how to make small changes by using a Five Areas Assessment to see if there is a Vicious Cycle spinning. The vicious cycle worksheet is a way of understanding how the way we think affects how we feel and the worse we feel the less we do and the less we do the worse we feel. The good news is it can also spin the other way and become a virtuous cycle, if you know how. You can learn how to build in time for you to relieve tension, focus on self-healing and, self-care?
You’ll be able to use practical worksheets such as this to help you to understand your thoughts, feelings, how this physically affects your body, and how this all adds up to affect your behaviour.
By using the Five Areas Assessment you can start to notice if there is a vicious cycle spinning and this will help you target those areas that you’d like to change. The Enjoy Your Baby Series resources and book teaches changes you can do to help you feel better.
Have a look at some examples below.
Steps to feeling relaxed:
Learn how to take a break – when you feel stress rising, take a step back, pause, drop your shoulders down (they tend to rise up towards your ears if you get tense) – and breathe normal calm breaths. You can build on this using our free MP3 relaxation downloads as part of the Living Life to the Full course as it only takes 5 -7 mins of tension control that may work for you. Tension control training is a useful form of relaxation and meditation where you focus around your body and breathing, and finally choose to focus your mind on something you find relaxing. Find our full tension control training resources here
Make space for You:
Learn how to plan some time (even when you have a lot to do) to be good to yourself, if you’re feeling happier most likely baby will be too. Choose something that you enjoy, maybe read a chapter of a book or magazine, watch your favourite show. Plan it for a time when your baby is likely to be napping, or at nursery or with a friend or relative. Or get your friends round for a catch up – whatever works as a good starting point for you and your family.
At Living Life to the Full, we suggest using the Plan – Do – Review approach you set yourself some realistic goals; bite-sized changes that use the evidence- based CBT approach. Find the planner and rate your mood smiley face sheet and review sheet here.
Check your plan- is it realistic, something you know you can do, used to do, and enjoyed doing before you had your baby? Are you aiming at just one thing? Make a separate plan for each of the things you want to start doing again. Is your plan slow enough meanwhile moving things in the right direction? To make sure you are aiming at one thing and is it realistic. Is it easy? The easier the steps, the more likely you are to do them.
Making space for positive thoughts:
Learn how to work out what’s going on. When you’re feeling low, the way you think can make you feel worse. You may beat yourself up with self-critical talk. “I’m not good enough” or maybe you think “others think badly of me”. This is what we call unhelpful thoughts because they’re not helpful and can affect what you do in response in ways that make things even worse. Have a look at our Amazing Unhelpful Thought Busting Programme (AUTBP) for a great way to respond when unhelpful thoughts crowd into your mind.
More on the LLTTF Enjoy Series Resources
Having a baby and helping them grow up in the early weeks, months and years can be both a happy time, but also challenging, with issues like the Baby Blues, as well as the stress of having a newborn baby or older toddler to care for. In the Living Life to the Full Series, we have developed 3 courses that help parents to build a secure foundation from the very beginning.
The three courses cover the formative years of a child’s development- helping both the child and parents to enjoy each other. These life skills courses aim to teach how to build relationships and have fun together, coupled with tried and tested strategies based on the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approach.
Enjoy Your Bump (Pregnancy)
Your relationship with your child starts even before they are born. This online self-led course aims to teach how to get prepared emotionally for the birth of your baby, build your own resilience, and improve your mood at times of stress.
Enjoy Your Baby (EYB)
Having a baby can be a joyful but challenging time for new parents. EYB teaches key life skills that can make a difference. Discover why you feel as you do, as well as increase your sense of closeness and fun with your baby.
Enjoy Your Infant
Enjoy your Infant is designed to help parents during the toddler years as their baby starts to assert their own views and independence. This online self-led course aims to help parents learn how to understand their infants (and their own reactions) and respond in ways that help teach your toddler a language for their feelings. These web courses start from the beginning of the parenthood journey to the toddler years. You may be considering doing this course because you want to make changes in your life.
To access our Enjoy Series Courses and online self-directed resources visit here: www.llttf.com/home/enjoy-series/
The Living Life to the Full Team.