We all know the importance of looking after our mental and physical wellbeing, even more so when you become a mum, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. In this digital age, there are so many distractions. We wake up, check our phone, turn on the TV or radio, check our phone again, probably before we’ve brushed our teeth. We depend so much on technology that it’s impossible to think of a time when we didn’t. Many of us live our lives through a lens, taking incessant pictures and videos, recording life rather than living it. I say this because I’m guilty of it. I love social media and enjoy the buzz of sharing pictures and getting ‘likes’. If that makes me shallow, so be it, at least I’m honest. That said, I will never be defined by how many followers or likes I get in cyberland.
I’m a first-time mum, blogger and writer. I recently took a short break from Facebook and Instagram - both platforms I use daily as a blogger and writer for networking and inspiration. I began blogging when my son Sonny was about two months old. I’ve always wanted to blog but never felt I had enough interesting content to post regularly and I worried about starting it and not keeping it up. Luckily, being a new mum provides plenty of content. I’ve been blogging at least once a week, as well as posting regularly on Instagram. I’ve no idea how but I was fitting my online life around being a new mother turning 40. I’m a creative person, and it’s important for me to have an outlet. If I don’t, I feel listless and unfulfilled. I had other mums in my circle wonder how I was managing to spend so much time online whilst juggling nappies and bottles. Goodness, I thought sitting down with my laptop in the evening with a glass of wine was ‘me time’. If I’m being honest, I probably put too much pressure on myself. But, I don’t have any regrets about starting a blog and sharing my experience of motherhood, nor have I any quibbles about sharing pictures of my beautiful and gregarious little boy who will soon celebrate his first birthday. Still, about a month ago, I felt the urgent need to go offline. I posted on my Instagram before going cold turkey, ‘Self-care is how you take your power back’. I was feeling depleted, tired, anxious, not myself. Sonny’s constant crying pierced my frazzled brain like a pneumatic drill. My poor little man was teething and picking up every infection going at nursery. I was also catching a cold after cold. My immune system was whacked. I’d lived on fumes for the first six months, drank too much coffee, hardly any water. I felt miserable (and a little sorry for myself). My career ground to a halt too. I was made redundant, I felt like a failure - even though that is far from the case. The industry I’ve chosen is not forgiving, there is rife competition for desirable jobs. I’ve been made redundant three times in my career - not because of a lack of talent or passion on my part. I’m still an optimist though, or maybe an idealist is a more accurate term. I do wear rose-tinted glasses a lot of the time. I’ve been told I’m a romantic. I take that as a compliment. On the other side of taking a break, albeit a short one, I feel a lot better. Social media can be detrimental to your mental health if you allow yourself to be consumed by it.
Channel 5 recently ran a report on the impact of social media on new mums and the statistics were rather alarming. Some mums featured said they judged themselves on how other mums looked post-baby. Not surprisingly, career and household upkeep were also sources of stress with lots of mums appearing to have it together. Of the mums surveyed, 74% admitted to spending too much time online with 39% saying it affected their mood. One mother even said that social media made her feel like she wasn’t a good mother. Young mum Emma Cottam said she believed that social media was a contributor to her suffering from postnatal depression. She now filters what she sees and advises other mums to do the same. Jessica Williams, the woman behind the brilliantly titled The Hot Cross Mum said she started scrolling through her social media while on night feeds and admitted to it having a detrimental effect on her mental health. Jessica doesn’t wear makeup on her Instagram page and tries to be “as real as I can be”. However, TV psychologist Honey Langcaster-James said that social media has a positive side too. “It can be a vital lifeline but it’s important to check in with yourself too.” She also said it is important to meet mums in real life.
I interviewed Aisling Cowan, Mindcoach and Nutrition Counsellor in Belfast for an article I wrote about so-called ‘Digital Dementia’. The points she made are particularly poignant: “You may feel that checking your phone is a rest or break but your brain does not agree. The kind of novelty created by social media creates a dopamine feedback loop, effectively rewarding our brain for losing focus and keeping it constantly searching for external stimulation.”
She also says that multitasking is a powerful illusion. “It has also been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking.”
As a new mum, or mum to a newborn, you are sleep-deprived and on high alert. Scrolling through your phone at 3 am is just going to add to your anxiety.
Louis Theroux’s excellent documentary ‘Mothers On The Edge’ highlighted the pressures new mums face. Catherine, who spent time in a mother and baby unit after her son Jake was born, said that that “no one can prepare you” for motherhood. Her phone in her hands, she said that you “have to portray a certain image on Instagram” but “at home, it’s a different story”. “It’s supposed to be a really happy time so you put on all sorts of masks to hide what’s going on.”
Theroux concluded that news mums suffer from “the weight of expectation of motherhood”. No doubt, compounded by compulsive scrolling.
As well as a break off social media, my family took a city break to Padua and took day trips to Verona, Venice and Lido. It was Sonny’s first foreign holiday (which I have blogged about on mumofsonny.blog) and it was amazing. Aside from the gorgeous sunshine, it is healthy to break routine and immerse yourself in the culture of another country. It’s a break from reality and we all need that from time to time.
I am also doing my best to make healthier food choices, have a green juice first thing and drink more water. From time to time I do guided meditations, but I would like to incorporate it into my daily routine. I also plan to start yoga as I carry most of my tension in my neck and shoulders.
Other simple things you can do are meeting friends or going out for a short walk. It can be tempting to stay indoors, sometimes for days at a time, but it is important to get outside, for vitamin D and for fresh air which will do wonders for your mood. It may sound twee, but gratitude for the blue sky, green grass, and sounds of the birds gives you a natural ‘high’ and sense of wellbeing.
Self-care is a much bandied about term but, as writer Diana Spalding commented in an article on Motherly, “we should stop telling mums that a simple act of self-care will undo all the years of culture-induced overwhelm that is causing us all to burn out.”
That sentence really struck a chord with me. Self-care should not a ‘one-off’ thing we do when we’re feeling crap. Rather, self-care should become part of our daily routine, whether that is five minutes meditation in the morning, a bubble bath, painting your nails, a walk with your best friend - or a break of social media. As Candi Staton put it, “Self-preservation is what’s really going on today”. Right now, mama, do something that makes you feel good. Do it right now.
Davina xTagged with: Davina Gordon, Mum of Sonny, Self Care, taking time out, What is Self Care, what self care means to me
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