The Importance Of A Healthy Mind On Maternity Leave

Monday 10th October 2016

Today is World Mental Health Day.

 

Missuswolf World Mental Health Day

Mental Health On Maternity Leave

I write this post as I’ve managed to escape for a bit.

I’ve retreated to my office at home. I have my earphones rammed in; partly as I find listening to music stimulates my creative side. Partly to drown out my hubby and daughter from the other room.

I mean this in the nicest possible way.

You see, this is an example of escapism – a bit of head space.

Which we all need. To recharge, rethink and as in my case at this time of my life, keep my sanity before I well and truly go insane.

I find it easier to write what I’m thinking and feeling rather than to say it aloud. This may get misconstrued in social situations in that I’m ignorant or not paying attention. Not true. I listen to everything, absorb it. It may take me longer to formulate a reply or what does come out may not make sense. As much as it does in my head, sometimes the words don’t come out right.

Being on maternity leave has really brought mental health to the forefront of my mind.

I’ve learnt just how important it is to look after your mental health.

I worked in a very demanding job right up to literally the last minute. I had Ella on my last day at work (not in work though!)

So I’ve been thrown in at the deep end, no time to think, worry or panic – just hit the ground running. Like I seem to do with most aspects of my life. Yet I cope better this way. Or so I think.

If I keep my mind occupied I don’t have time to worry about it as I’m too busy doing it. If that makes any sense at all.

I do often wonder how this drastic change in my life could have impacted on my mental health.

I’m logical and practical. People who know me may laugh at this as I often come across as having no common sense.

But I put things in perspective.

It’s not like I didn’t know I was going to have a baby – I had nine months to psych myself up to that.

I knew I was going to have a section (baba was breech and in no way turning) – which took me a couple of weeks to get my head around.

Sure, I had a date planned in for the section – the following Friday a week after I finished work. Obviously babies have minds of their owns and mine started as she meant to go on – headstrong and determined.

She came when she wanted. She wasn’t going to turn for no-one and she wasn’t going to wait for when was ready.

I had what was classed as an emergency section. Although the whole process was quite calm.

Looking back, this actually was the best way for me to have a baby. No time to worry, panic or run (I’m joking. I was too fat to run).

I love my birth story.

But for some people that’s not the case. I was very lucky and I’m extremely grateful for this. I know people who have suffered traumatic births and have suffered with Postnatal Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Postpartum Psychosis.

Missuswolf Mental Health Awareness Week poster

And that’s why I want to help raise awareness.

This year’s Mental Health theme is psychological first aid and the support people can provide to those in distress.

One of the areas

I want to focus on in particular is

Mental Health First Aid, Trauma and the

Perinatal Period

Sally Hogg is the Strategic Lead of the Mums and Babies in Mind project

There are two aspects to psychological first aid during the perinatal period  (which we define as pregnancy and the year after birth). One element of first aid is to provide a woman who experiences traumatic events with warm help and support to promote and protect her emotional well being. The second is to respond quickly when a woman experiences a mental health crisis to ensure that she gets the care she needs. 

Read more about the awareness and the work ongoing to try to reduce the impact of trauma for new mums on the Mental Health website.

Missuswolf World Mental Health Day poster

Do Something You Love

I went from working full time on a high-profile project to being at home all the time. I could see how easily it would be for me to slip into depression (read more about this in my post on Postnatal Depression Awareness Week).

I finished work in March 2016 and I’ll return properly in January 2017. Nearly ten months off work and ‘out of the game’.

That’s a long time for me.

I’ve worked full time since I was sixteen. I’m not going to lie – I was frightened that I would go insane being at home with a baby all day. And although I’m lucky to be able to have this amount of time off work (I have fellow friends in America who have experienced the shockingly awful mat leave system there) it is still a long time mentally.

So I look after my mental health by writing.

I love writing.

This blog is my form of mental health. It keeps me focused. I work on it daily; writing content, researching, taking photos, editing photos and general housekeeping of web links and old content. I’ve joined supportive networks and I’m learning new things every day.

On maternity leave, I’ve done a diploma in social media and digital marketing. I’m now signed up for one in photography. I take and edit photo’s during the day, jot ideas down for content and do snippets of research. By night I write – I bring that research and those photo’s alive and make them into blog content.

Some people will think I’m mad and that I should be enjoying my time off with my baby.

I am enjoying my time off with my baby.

I take her to playgroups during the day (see Tots and Tums post – funded by Blyth Star Enterprises).

But it’s not a Mon-Fri 9-5 job that I can switch off from. There’s weekends too. And although I’m lucky that I have my OH to do bedtime and help at weekends, it’s still constant.

This way I’m doing something that I love.

And it’s not selfish. It’s important as part of our mental well being. Yeah I’m a mother – but I’m still a person. And I want to go back to work mentally prepared and stronger than ever, not weaker.

But that’s just me as a person.

However, the purpose of this is to motivate people, particularly new mother’s, into being aware and looking after their mental health.

You are still a person.

You are important.

There’s a great app out at the moment and it’s free. It’s called Headspace: Guided Meditation and Mindfulness. You can begin by taking ten minutes out each day. You listen to guided meditation to help improve your mindful awareness and relieve anxiety.

I started it a couple of days ago and it really does work. After taking ten minutes out to listen to the meditation, I instantly feel at ease, calm and motivated. It brings everything into focus and calms my chaotic mind.

Missuswolf World Mental Health Day

So dance around the kitchen like a dick (one of my faves and Ella loves it), listen to Headspace, do yoga, take a walk (or run!), read a book – heck even write one.

And remember; a healthy and happy mama equals a healthy and happy baba.

Love Missuswolf xxx

Text THRIVE to 70030 to give £3

Images from Unsplash and the The Mental Health Foundation website

Research from the The Mental Health Foundation website

I listened to Acoustic Cafe while writing this post – we listened to this in Pregnancy Yoga. It was going to be my music to listen to while in labour. But it didn’t work out that way. Life never does.

4 comments

  1. Sharon | Northern Niche says:

    Really enjoyed your post, Gemma. I’ve had a tough time helping someone very close to me battle with depression, anxiety and low self esteem.Not half as tough as them going through it though. It’s not nice to watch someone you love so dearly fighting every single day. I’m a big advocate of taliking and writing. Thanks for the deets about the app — off to have a look.

    • Gemma Wilford says:

      Thank you Sharon. It is awful to see people you care about suffer and sometimes you feel helpless. But just by being there, you are helping them. Like you say, having someone to talk to is important. Writing is a great offloading tool too. The app is great and gives you ten minutes to take time out, reflect and clear your mind. Thanks for commenting and have a lovely week 🙂

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