• Deborah Charles-Nelson

'5 Tips For A Healthy Mindset (Postpartum Edition)'

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

With it being mental health awareness week in the UK, I thought it would be fitting to write a blog post on 'body image' and the mind. This topic is very near and dear to my heart because I really struggled with my body image – especially after Ethan – and being content with myself is still something I work at to this day. I remember feeling as large as a house in the pictures below, and feeling a little worse after giving birth, if I am completely honest. I didn't expect to be back in my pre-pregnancy clothes straight away, but I definitely didn't expect to be as big as I was. I was 5.4" and 212lbs; the biggest I had ever been. I felt uncomfortable in my own body.

I can remember being so unhappy about it that, about 3 months postpartum, I was considering getting weight-loss surgery! I know it sounds impulsive and a little premature, but that was the state of my mind back then. I would look in the mirror and despise the body looking back at me. I hated how my stomach now drooped and how my bottom sagged. I hated how large my breasts had become and the dark stretch marks along my belly and thighs. I just about hated everything, but it wasn't a positive headspace to be in, and I knew that. So I worked on changing my diet and exercising when I could get a chance; mainly when Ethan would sleep, or I'd take him with me for a brisk walk. But I've come to realise that how we view ourselves and our bodies goes much deeper, and the keys to a healthy body image is first having a healthy mindset.

In an earlier post ('Beyond the Baby Blues') I went into detail on my fight with postnatal anxiety and depression, and I explained how I felt along with the difficulties I faced in the first few months of being a new mum. But I must say, I'm one year into motherhood and, honestly, it has got a lot easier. Yes, I still have my days, but it has vastly improved! And it is definitely due to my change in mindset, and just giving it time. It takes time to understand, bond and find a routine with your baby, and I'm learning to be patient and forgiving to myself along the way. The main purpose of this post is to take you through a few life-lessons and tips that have been, and currently are working for me. I also want to encourage any mothers – or anyone battling with low mood, anxiety or a negative body image – that you will see better days.

1. You learn and evolve with every decision or mistake made.

Having a baby is a journey of discovery and teaching. You literally learn something new each day. I found that I was extremely anxious in the first few months postpartum because I was comparing myself to the mums on YouTube or at Ethan's play group, or even close friends. I've learnt now that whilst it's beneficial to take pointers and tips from others your journey, my journey is unique. You will make mistakes along the way but, most importantly, you will learn from them and evolve. The days get better and easier with time.

2. "If it costs you your peace, it's too expensive." A quote that I love and live by. This isn't just specific to motherhood, but rather a tip to keep your mind healthy in general. Something I do now is weigh up whether this project/ task is something to better or challenge myself, or whether it's far too taxing and robbing me of my peace of mind. There is a fine line at times. Really assess it, if your anxiety is going through the roof, it is not worth it.

3. STOP ASSUMING. When it comes to body image, it's important to remember that the majority (if not everyone) is on a journey with how they see themselves; whether it's to lose the baby weight, to shed a couple of pounds for that summer body, or even to gain weight, we are all on this journey. Most of these insecurities stem from the idea that others care about the stretch marks on your tummy or the rolls on your back. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe they don't: perhaps they're focused on overcoming their own hang-ups and insecurities. Focus on your inner beauty, your wit, your ability to make good conversation, your empathy for others; these things are far more impactful and attractive than a 'body image'. Outward beauty fades.

4. Silence Your Inner Critic. This is probably easier said (or written) than done. How we critique ourselves us often based on childhood experiences – both negative and positive – and these experiences can be difficult or sometimes impossible to shake off. Childhood trauma or abuse can also play a part in how we view ourselves. For example I was teased about my weight by school classmates, and even by family. Since then, it has been difficult for me to see myself differently; I still view myself as that chubby, self-conscious little girl. However, I have found that positive daily affirmation and self-development really helps.

[1 Peter 2:9] "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

5. Solitude is sacred. Whilst this may be difficult to achieve when you have a little one crawling around. Some much needed alone time is very much a necessity. Time alone to gather your thoughts, paint your nails or shave your legs can literally make a world of difference to your day. Sometimes you need to be alone to come back better and refreshed. Your family will thank you for it!