Becoming a parent can bring excitement and joy, but also unexpected challenges and a lot of stress.
Above all, we want to protect our babies.
When the world is experiencing pandemics, natural disasters and global unrest, it can be hard work looking after your own mental health and wellbeing.
If you’re also expecting a baby or caring for a newborn, suddenly you're doing double duty trying to manage everything - the pressure can feel intense.
Using a combination of different coping skills can help you to manage stress and uncertainty in any situation.
Read on to learn more about:
- Solution-focused coping
- Emotion-focused coping
- The 5 senses exercise
Solution-focused coping works well when you can affect future outcomes. Your own wellbeing is a great example - there are simple, everyday actions you can take to look after yourself. We've got some ideas to get you started below:
Issue: Feeling tired and drained, exhausted just thinking about the day or night ahead.
Solution: Do your best to get some rest, and try to eat regular snacks and meals to increase your energy levels.
Issue: Feeling stressed or lonely?
Solution: Try talking to someone. You could chat to your partner, family and friends, a healthcare provider or PANDA counsellor.
Letting other people know how you're coping isn't just solution-focused coping. Reaching out for help is also an emotion-focused coping skill - seeking connection with others by sharing your thoughts and feelings.
Allowing others to support you, instead of trying to manage everything by yourself, may help to reduce feelings of distress, isolation, and uncertainty.
Emotion-focused coping: The 5 Senses exercise
If you don't have someone to talk to right now, you could try another emotion-focused coping skill called 'grounding'.
It may feel at bit strange or awkward at first, but this simple exercise called the 5 Senses can help you to get settled within yourself, and in your surrounds.
You’ll learn how to safely sail through any storm of thoughts and feelings by dropping an anchor back into your body, your environment, and the present moment.
All it takes is 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
- First, take a few deep, slow breaths.
- Now, name 5 things you can see around you. Try to describe them to yourself in detail.
- Next, name 4 things you can touch, and feel. Maybe your belly, your baby’s face, a soft rug, or cool glass.
- Now, name 3 things you can hear. It might be sounds outside, your children, your own breath.
- Next, name 2 things you can smell. If nothing comes up, name two aromas you like. Can you recall the scents?
- Finally, name one thing you can taste. Is it the last thing you ate or drank? If it’s been a little while, you might like to eat a snack soon.
- Finish this exercise by taking a few more deep, slow breaths.
You can use the 5 Senses exercise as often as you like. it may even be helpful to repeat the exercise a few times throughout the day if you're feeling stressed, or you'd like to set up a simple daily wellbeing routine for yourself.
You can also teach the 5 Senses exercise to your older children, to help them manage big feelings and get grounded in their bodies.
There’s no right or wrong way
Lots of people say they’re ‘not good’ at relaxation exercises like grounding or meditation. Some people feel they don’t know how to go about it, or ‘don’t like it’ when they’ve tried it.
Every day on the Helpline, we speak to people who tell us they’ve had a hard time with meditation or relaxation strategies. We often hear concerns like “I tried to meditate but I couldn’t switch my mind off at all. It didn’t feel relaxing, it just stressed me out more. I felt worse because I couldn’t do it right.”
There’s no right or wrong way to use coping skills like meditation or grounding. Being present to whatever is happening also means paying attention to feelings of awkwardness, discomfort or stress – this is the definition of being present (even if it feels strange, if you're noticing what's happening then you’re doing it right).
It’s important to be kind to yourself if big emotions come up when you’re trying to manage feelings of stress or uncertainty with different coping strategies. Treat yourself with compassion, like you would a friend who’s trying something new and finding it hard.
Practice, patience, paying attention to whatever comes up, and being gentle with yourself – it’s difficult to do these things at times, but the rewards when you figure out which coping strategies work best for you are huge.
Take time each day to calm and sooth yourself
No matter what’s happening in your world, it’s important to take time each day to calm and sooth yourself – because looking after yourself is also being the best parent that you can be.
Try to build a community of support around you too. We all cope best when we feel less isolated, and connected to people who care about us.
Learning new coping skills takes practice, but you and your baby are worth the effort. You deserve to feel calm, safe and supported no matter where life takes you.
Mental health checklist
How are you going?
Everyone’s experience of pregnancy, birth and parenting is unique and brings different rewards and challenges. Our mental health checklist can help you to see if what you’re experiencing or observing in a loved one could be reason to seek help.