How This Dietitian (And First-Time Mama) Makes Time For Mental Wellness Every Day
I’ve always believed that health is about more than just eating well and exercising. It’s a combination of body, mind, and spirit that requires balance. For me, making mental health a priority helps me to focus more when I’m at work and be a better wife and mom when I’m with my family.
My own mental health has seen ups and downs for the majority of my life. As an adolescent, I struggled with anxiety and depression, which I gained control of with the right balance of medication and lifestyle practices as a young adult.
Once I had my daughter, I knew to be looking for symptoms of postpartum depression since it’s more common among women who have already experienced a mood disorder. I wasn’t even aware that postpartum anxiety was a thing, and that it’s actually just as common as postpartum depression. Right around four months postpartum, I was hit with both anxiety and depression in a whole new way, forcing me to make mental health even more of a priority so I could be present for my family.
Here are a few ways that I make time for mental wellness every day:
1. I nourish my body regularly.
I’m a registered dietitian; you had to know that food would be on the list. Starting with breakfast first thing in the morning, I stay fueled and hydrated with nutrient-rich foods that make my body feel good. Eating regularly (especially high-quality carbs) helps keep my blood sugar stable, and in turn it keeps my mood stable. Blood sugar spikes and dips cause irritability and moodiness, so keeping my blood sugar steady with enough food is key.
Even for dietitians, it’s hard to get optimum levels of all the required nutrients every single day. A daily multivitamin is a nice “insurance policy” to make sure you’re getting key nutrients where there might be some gaps.
I currently take New Chapter Perfect Postnatal™ multivitamin to support my needs in this stage of life, but for women who aren’t quite in the baby-making years, New Chapter Every Woman™’s One Daily is perfect. New Chapter’s multivitamins are made with whole food and herbs instead of just synthetic forms of vitamins and minerals, and their fermentation process ensures that the nutrients are active and readily available for your body to absorb and digest, even on an empty stomach.
2. I also honor my cravings.
Just because I prioritize mostly minimally processed, nutrient-dense foods doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy those not-so-nutritious foods when I want them.
Honoring my body’s cravings keeps me from obsessing over food and feeling anxious over foods that at one time I might have labeled “off limits.” When you know that you can have any food at any time, it makes it easier to listen to what your body actually needs in the moment, whether that’s a cookie or a salad, taking all the feelings of guilt and anxiety out of the equation. That leaves much more space in your mind for other, more important things.
“I went to bed extra early to make sure I got enough rest, even if that meant I was letting the laundry pile up.”
3. I get enough sleep.
This one is much easier said than done with a baby in the house, but I always try to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. When my daughter was waking up 2 to 3 times a night, I went to bed extra early to make sure I got enough rest, even if that meant I was letting the laundry pile up. Now that she’s sleeping all night, it’s easier to recharge with a good night’s sleep and feel mentally clear during the day.
4. I make time for myself.
When you have a tiny human depending on you for everything, you tend to forget about your own needs. But it’s also exhausting, both mentally and physically, giving 100% of yourself every day and not taking time to recharge.
I try to take at least an hour for myself every day, whether it’s yoga, a spin class, reading a book, or taking a bath. It’s hard to carve that time out sometimes, but I’m a better mom and wife when I also take care of my own needs.
5. I go to the doctor.
When I first started to experience postpartum anxiety, it was difficult and frustrating trying to get the right treatment, but dealing with it myself was not working, and it was even more stressful having unanswered questions. (Also, internet searches of your symptoms make you even more anxious—I don’t recommend it.)
I knew if I wanted to feel like myself again, I was going to need help from a doctor. And when my first doctor didn’t take my symptoms seriously, I went to a different one who listened to me carefully and worked with me to get me back to normal.
My new doctor recommended that I take the methylated, or active, form of folate in my postnatal vitamin, which is why I turned to New Chapter’s Perfect Postnatal. It was one of the few brands of pre- and postnatal vitamins with methylfolate that I could find, and I love that it is made with whole food ingredients.
No matter what the condition is, sitting around questioning your symptoms and the best treatment option is just going to make you more stressed and anxious. Just go to the doctor.
6. I get outside.
There’s something about nature that’s just so soothing. Seeing the sun and breathing fresh air always lifts my mood instantly. I try to get outside every day that the weather allows, whether it’s taking the baby on a walk or going out to the backyard to play with our dogs.
7. I recognize that medication and therapy are part of my mental health routine.
Just like everything else on the list. Not everyone is going to need medication to resolve their mental health woes, but after managing my depression and anxiety for over 10 years, I’ve learned that for me, medication and regular visits to my therapist are just as important as eating well and moving my body to stay healthy. When I’m feeling good mentally, I am able to care for my family better and enjoy motherhood more fully.