Being a parent is an exhausting business and it is easy to find that you have no time or energy to cook or eat properly. Try to make eating well a priority; it will make you feel better and neednt take lots of time. Try to follow the guidelines given about eating a healthy diet. If you are breastfeeding make sure you eat and drink plenty and dont go on a diet.
If youre not breastfeeding and feel you need to lose weight, talk to your doctor about it first. Cut down on fat and sugar and dont go on a crash diet. Small regular meals will keep up your energy levels without adding to your weight.
Many people smoke because they believe that smoking calms their nerves, but it doesnt. It just calms the craving for nicotine that cigarettes create. So here are some useful steps to stop smoking.
Know why you want to stop. It is handy to keep a checklist of your reasons to stop smoking.
Change your habits. Smoking is strongly linked to some situations the first cigarette of the day, the cigarette with tea or coffee, when the phone rings. Try to break the link by changing your habits. For example drink orange juice instead of coffee for a while.
Be ready to stop. Choose a day and stop completely on that day. The day before get rid of cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters.
Get support. Tell family and friends you have decided to stop and ask them for their support. For example, ask them not to offer you a cigarette.
Anticipate problems. Which situations will be difficult? Dont just wait for them to happen. Plan how to deal with them.
Take one day at a time. At the beginning of each day, congratulate yourself on having made it so far, but make your goal to get through today without smoking. Never mind tomorrow.
If you need to put something in your mouth, try sugar-free chewing gum or something healthy and non-fattening. If you need to do something with your hands, find something to fiddle with a pencil, coin anything but a cigarette.
Good reasons to stop smoking
Your childrens health will improve.
Your health will improve.
Youll have money to spend on other things.
Most of the time parents just live with tiredness. But when the tiredness begins to make you feel low, bad-tempered, unable to cope and certainly unable to enjoy things, youve got to find ways of getting more sleep or at least more rest. Just one day, one night, one week, could help.
Get to bed early, really early, say for a week. If you cant sleep when you get to bed, do something relaxing for half an hour beforehand, whether its exercise, or soaking in a bath, or watching television.
Deep relaxation can refresh you after only five or ten minutes. So its worth learning a relaxation technique. You may find books, tapes or videos about this at your library.
Sleep when your baby sleeps. Rest when (if) your child has a daytime rest, or when he or she is at the nursery. Arrange for a relative or friend to take your child for a while, not so that you can get the jobs done, but so you can sleep. Take turns with other parents to give yourself time to rest. Set an alarm if youre worried about sleeping too long.
If you can, share getting up in the night with your partner. Take alternate nights or weeks. If youre on your own, a friend or relative may be prepared to have your children overnight occasionally.
Do something about any stress. Tiredness often comes from stress. If you can do something about the stress, you may be able to cope better, even without more sleep.
Coping with stress
Small children ask a lot of you, and theres a limit to what you can ask of them. But perhaps the greatest stress comes from coping with the rest of life at the same time as coping with a baby or small child. You can spend a whole day trying to get one job done, but never managing to fit it in. Just as you start on it, your baby wakes up, or a nappy needs changing, or your child wants attention. Sometimes you can feel as though life is completely out of control. And if youre not the sort of person who can take things as they come and not mind about what is or isnt done, you can get to feel very tense and frustrated.
Stress also comes from worry and unhappiness: maybe to do with the place you live, money, relationships or just a lot of small, but important things. You may not be able to change the way your children are or the life you lead. But you may be able to do something about the stress. Its a matter of finding solutions that are right for you.
You may find that you can relax just by doing something that you enjoy for half an hour in the evening when you can put other things out of your mind for a while. A bath, maybe, or time to look at a magazine or the television. Do whatever will wind you down. Borrow a book or tape from the library about relaxation. Make yourself do it.
See other people it does take the pressure off. Try a mother and baby or parent and toddler group. Ask your health visitor or other parents about local groups. Or, if youre not keen on organised groups, get together with people you meet at the clinic, playgroup or nursery school.
Relationships can go wrong when youre tense and tired and never seem to see each other, so make time to be with your partner, even if only to fall asleep together in front of the television.
Talking about the stress youre feeling can help to get rid of it, at least for a while. If you and your partner can understand how each other is feeling, then take time to talk about how best to support each other. Sometimes its better to talk with people outside the family.
Make the very most of all the help you can find. And give up a bit. You cant do everything. Try to believe it really doesnt matter.
There are no prizes for being a supermum or superdad. Compromise if youre a perfectionist.
Most of us feel low occasionally and lack of sleep, stress, and maybe the strain of balancing paid work and parenting, and money problems, all contribute to making the early stages of parenthood a difficult, as well as a rewarding, time. Sometimes feeling low takes over completely and becomes depression.
Depression is more than feeling unhappy. Its feeling hopeless about yourself and all thats happening to you. The hopelessness can make you angry. But often you feel too tired even for anger. It can seem as though theres no answer and no end to the way youre feeling. You may feel all, or some, of these things:
tired, but cant sleep;
no appetite or are overeating;
no interest in yourself;
no interest in your baby;
the smallest chores are almost impossible to manage;
you never stop crying.
This kind of depression is like an illness. Nothing seems worth doing, so doing anything as demanding as caring for a baby or child becomes a real struggle. Both for yourself and for the family, its important to get help.
See your GP or health visitor, or both. Take someone with you if this would help. Make it clear that youre not talking about just feeling low but something more worrying than that.
You may find that youre too low even to make the first step. If this is the case its important to talk to someone your partner, a friend or your mother, and ask them to talk to your GP or health visitor on your behalf and arrange an appointment for you.
Alcohol may appear to help you relax and unwind. In fact its a depressant, affecting moods, judgement, self-control, and co-ordination. If youre tired and run down, it affects these even more. So watch how much and when you drink. Never mix alcohol with anti-depressants or tranquillisers.
Talking it through
It does help to talk, but it may be very hard to do so.
You may want to say things that youre afraid of admitting to the people you love.
You may feel guilty about your feelings.
You may believe that youll be judged as a bad mother for admitting to your feelings.
For all these reasons its often best to talk to someone who isnt close to you, someone with whom you can be honest without being afraid of shocking them.
You may find that its enough to talk to your GP or health visitor, or they may be able to refer you to someone else. If you can talk about how you feel youll almost certainly find that the things you fear are not as bad as you thought they were.
If youre feeling totally lost in depression, your doctor may prescribe anti-depressant drugs. They may be enough to give you the lift you need to start coping again, and then to find a way out of your depression, though they can take time to work. Anti-depressants are not habit-forming. You should not be concerned about them if they are prescribed for you by your GP. Tranquillisers may also be offered. They are different. They dont help depression and can be habit-forming, so theyre best avoided.