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Alice's story: How I practice self-care

"Always fit your own oxygen mask first - I can only bring full compassion and patience to others when I have given them to myself."

Alice and kids

How do you practice self-care to support your emotional wellbeing? How does it help you?

I have a mixed bag of self-care strategies I have been building up since having children, they include using mediation apps, going for walks, blocking out time to go to the hairdresser, zoom chatting with friends, and booking strict alone time into my calendar.

Before I was a parent, I didn’t realise how much I appreciated emotional space. Having that space is a bit like when you’re on an aeroplane and they tell you to always fit your own oxygen mask first - I can only bring full compassion and patience to others when I have given them to myself.

How do you ask for and accept help from family and loved ones? Why is learning to accept help so important?

Accepting help was so hard for me. One year a friend suggested I have a year of saying “yes” when help was offered. It worked well! Being able to tell people it was my "year of saying yes" created a bit of imaginary permission to accept help. I didn’t realise until looking back that accepting help is appropriate and creates connections at a time that can otherwise be isolating. Humans used to work together a lot more to raise children - it’s doesn’t have to take a village but saying yes helps build a village.

“I did meditation or sat by the edge of the beach even in wild weather to feel connected to something bigger.”

What kind of help was the most useful to you?

A clinical psychologist, a cleaner, and someone to watch kids so I could go for a walk in fresh air for 40 minutes were all incredibly helpful!

What are some helpful strategies for identifying and communicating your care and support needs to family and friends?

This is hard! My year of “yes” helped me say yes to offers but asking before someone has offered is next level. It took me a while to even understand what I needed because looking after your self requires a lot less conscious thought and effort before we have children.

Why are friendships, hobbies and interests important?

It’s so hard to maintain your identity outside of work and parenting. Friends are the people that remind you who you are, what you bring to the world, and what you value.

There’s a quote somewhere about friends being the ones who sing your song back to you when you have forgotten the words. If you can find a hobby that releases endorphins, connects you to nature and you can invite friends (like hiking with a baby backpack) that’s my top recommendation!

I have a debilitating health condition that required lots of rehab after pregnancy, so I did meditation or sat by the edge of the beach even in wild weather to feel connected to something bigger.

What are some of the positive impacts of helping others?

Volunteering has been a very meaningful experience for me. I would encourage people of all ages to volunteer. Research indicates that the sense of purpose and connection with others often gained through volunteering are protective factors for mental health.

How can health care providers better support people during the perinatal period?

Health care providers need to make sure parents know their health and wellbeing is just as important as their baby’s.

A lot of the time I felt judged for worrying to much and not worrying enough or doing enough.

Pressure doesn’t make parent-diamonds; it crushes them. If we find ways to support parents to care for themselves and each other they will have so much more to bring to their relationships with their children.

Shaming, blaming and pressuring parents leads to internalised shame, exhaustion, resentment and mistrust of care services. We need to make sure we see babies within the context of a family unit, and prioritise wellbeing for that entire family unit.

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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 a reason to seek help.