If we were to poll all you new moms out there, the vast majority of you would say that sleep deprivation is one of the hardest parts about becoming a mother. It’s probably tied for first place with the challenge of having a new postpartum body. Not only is getting exercise difficult because your body hurts and feels not-like-your-own, but you’re now coasting on fumes because your new little bundle of joy is a night owl. Not to mention, time to yourself and self-care has gone extinct (Side note #1: raise your hand if you’ve been to the grocery store without your kid(s) and felt like you were on a vacation). Lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and lack of self-care are especially a burden when you have to return to work when your baby is still so young (Side note #2: can we can a petition going to get moms more maternity leave up in here!??! Oh, and more leave without taking a career hit would be nice.). We all know that sleep, rest, and self-care are vital for pain reduction and overall health and wellness. The hard part is, how are you ever going to regain your footing if a full 8 hour sleep won’t happen again for another 18 years?
Well, let’s take a minute and re-frame how we view rest. Rest doesn’t have to mean taking a 2 hour long nap or getting more than 8 hours of sleep every night. Those are certainly examples of getting rest and can be luxurious and delightful. But, back to reality for you postpartum moms… Rest can come in many forms. And these forms can still be immune-boosting and pain-fighting. Here are a few examples:
- Guard your energy. Watch for all of those energy leaks during day: screens, scrolling, judgement, and FOMO. The gang’s all there! If you don’t have spare energy to give, don’t let your energy leak through mindless activities and endless judgments.
- Restorative/yin yoga & gentle stretching. Don’t expect 90 minutes worth. Even 10 minutes can go a long way.
- Arts/crafts for all of you Etsy lovers.
- Creative writing/journaling. A few sentences at a time? Maybe 10 minutes worth?
- Laughter. Cue up Netflix? Call a girlfriend?
- Reading for pleasure. Perhaps 1-2 pages is all you get before your eyelids get heavy.
- Take a walk around the neighborhood. Stop and smell the roses.
Back to the idea of sleep. While you can’t control your nocturnal child’s sleep/wake cycle, you can attempt to control your own sleep hygiene if it means facilitating rest and preparing your body to come off of the day’s high.
- Turn off screens (ie, no blue light) beyond 8pm if you can help it. You won’t miss anything on your Facebook/IG feeds. *note-this is a universal challenge!*
- Warm shower (even if a couple minutes is all you get).
- Cool, dark bedroom. Use dimmer lights and/or lower lit lamps.
- Aromatherapy – lavender is known for its relaxation properties
- Nighttime teas – chamomile is a popular choice
- Take the kids outside and play during the day. Daylight exposure for >30 minutes per day (without sunglasses amazingly enough) helps facilitate hormonal shifts that support sleep later on.
- 10pm-2am. This time period at night is typically when human growth hormone (a repair + rebuild hormone) is at its peak. If you can at all try to get 4 hours somewhere, 10pm-2am is a good option.
Does it feel difficult for you to relax, rest, and simply play during or after a busy day of child rearing, cleaning, cooking, working, etc? At the end of the day, you’re either so exhausted you can’t wind down or you’re so wired that you can’t shut your brain off. What are some ways that you can gift yourself small moments of rest and repair daily? With no achievement. No finish line. Just pure joy and play. Pleasure and play are not optional. Not even for a busy mom. Your brain and body will thank you!
We joke about you running an errand by yourself and calling it a vacation, but really, that can be considered rest. Give yourself credit for that. If all you get one day is a trip to the bank or the grocery store sans little one(s) in tow, allowing you to be with your thoughts or the radio, then you go girl. Just make sure that on your way home you stop for a coconut milk latte with blonde espresso just to make your outing a little sweeter (winning….!).