So many of us mamas struggle with our mental health. May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month so let’s start the conversation (and keep it going all year!). We share maternal mental health resources, personal stories and tips on self-care – because you’re important mama!
The first Wednesday of May (3 May 2023) is World Maternal Mental Health Day. The month of May is dedicated to Maternal Mental Health and shines a spotlight on the struggles that many mothers experience. As many as 1 in 5 new mothers experience some type of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMD). These illnesses frequently go untreated, and can lead to tragic and long-term consequences which is why it is important that we normalise conversations about maternal mental health. Mamas need to know that it’s ok to not be ok (as one of our own writers shared in her story). Perinatal mood disorders and mental health struggles are not indicative of character flaws or weaknesses – they can happen to anyone.
If you aren’t sure if you have a perinatal or postpartum mood disorder, these are some of the symptoms plus helpful resources and support groups, however it’s always best to reach out for help. We also wanted to share personal stories so that if you are struggling, you know that you are not alone. Need some actionable tips that you can start right this second to start feeling better? Scroll on for self-care tips.
– A Letter to Mamas Who Are Struggling: It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
– ‘I’ve lived with anxious thoughts all my life but after I gave birth, my anxiety spiralled.’
– Dear Husband, You Might Not Know This But All Mothers Bear An Invisible Workload
– How Can I Tell if I Have Postpartum Mood Disorder?
– Postpartum Depression Resources for Mamas in Singapore
– Guide to Counselling and Therapy in Singapore
– Are You Feeling Low? Signs of Depression to Watch For
– List of Emergency Numbers & Helplines in Singapore
Self-care tips to help mamas with their mental health
Joyce Charley, Senior Mental Health Counsellor, at Clarity Singapore shares five self-care tips to help mamas with their mental health:
1. Know That Motherhood Isn’t About Being Perfect
Knowing what to expect and managing our expectations of motherhood is critical in order to adopt a more realistic and balanced view of motherhood. Motherhood is not something that happens in an organised manner, as there are many changes that are unexpected, and struggling is a normal experience mothers go through as opposed to striving to do everything right all time. What we call Perfectionism. It is a common obstacle to self-care. Perfectionism may look good on the outside. They look well put together, but inside might be turmoil with the mother suffering silently.
We recognise perfectionism when we catch ourselves saying, “I am not doing enough, I should be doing more, it has to be done this way… my way …. No other way.” All these thoughts should be thrown out of the window. We need to accept that we are imperfect beings and mistakes are just part of being human.
2. Show Self-compassion
Self-compassion is at the heart of self-regulation. It involves being able to notice, tolerate, and understand our own distress and difficulties by treating ourselves with kindness, at the same (me shutting down our inner critics. So, choose to affirm yourself by saying:
I am doing the best I can.
This is going to take a long time, whether I try to speed it up or not. I must take things one at a time.
I cannot expect too much from myself right now.
It’s okay to make mistakes.
There are good days and bad days.
Forgive yourself, as it is a learning journey for both your child and yourself. Ask yourself “What advice would I give to a friend I deeply care about, who may be thinking and feeling this way?” Asking ourselves questions can help draw the compassionate side that we tend to give others.
3. Understand That Self-Care Isn’t Selfish
Giving yourself permission to care for yourself is essential for your own mental and physical health. Mothers often think that setting aside some time for self-care is selfishness. However, self-care is what fuel and energise us, it can self-soothe us and act as a sort of prevention or buffer when it comes to experiencing emotional pain.
Mothers need to actively pursue activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to care. This implies that wellness is not something we leave to chance, but it is proactive – driven by self-responsibility. Even if it’s something as simple as making yourself a nice snack, taking a walk while listening to a podcast, looking at pictures you like, meeting friends or just standing by the window and feeling the sun. Find out what feels good to you and find out what feels like you are showing care and kindness towards yourself. Make time for those things.
4. Gather Your Village
Develop a support system. It is vital that mums get the necessary support from partners, nannies, family members, and other mums to provide practical and emotional support. Don’t be afraid to express what you need from others in order to work things out. These days we can even get support from the online network with other mums. It provides an emotional safety net, through normalising feelings and experiences and learning tips from more experienced mums.
List of support and parenting groups recommended by Sassy Mama:
– Mindful Mums provides psychological and emotional support for women trying to conceive, expecting a child, or adjusting to motherhood.
– Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Group holds social events and is facilitated by breastfeeding counsellors and designed to share information and provide mother-to-mother support.
– New Mothers’ Support Group is an all-volunteer community supporting mothers-to-be, new mothers and mothers new to Singapore with young children (up to age 5). They host regular events, socials, and talks for members.
– Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE): Parents can call AWARE’s helpline (1-800-774-5935; open Monday to Friday from 3pm to 9.30pm) for emotional support and direction to external resources. AWARE can also provide counselling support.
– Stork’s Nest Singapore is a Facebook group for parents that provides a positive and supportive environment for discussions.
5. Seek Professional Help
You may feel you have exhausted your own resources for helping yourself, so knowing when to seek professional help from a therapist or counsellor is also important as symptoms are treatable. Gather knowledge and have some awareness of the signs and symptoms of perinatal mood disorder.
Read More: Where to go for Counselling in Singapore
Clarity Singapore is a charitable organisation that provides resources and support to persons struggling with mental health issues and offers counselling to support women who are experiencing Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders with the goal of empowering them to live fulfilling lives.
If you are reading this and considering harming yourself or your child, put your child in a safe place (or with another caregiver) and immediately call the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) 24-hour hotline (1-800-221-4444)