Blog, Maternal Mental Health, Modern Motherhood, Parenting Tips, Postpartum, Pregnancy, Support a Loved One

Self-Care Tips for Moms, by Tessa Ritchie, LPCC

Posted: April 29, 2024 at 9:03 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)


Rediscovering Me: Nurturing Yourself in the Postpartum Journey

Takeaway: After childbirth, it’s common to feel lost amidst the whirlwind of caring for a newborn. In this post you will learn to recognize if you’re still in survival mode, then find tangible ways to prioritize carving out time for yourself. Despite challenges like childcare and guilt, this post will help you take steps to seek support, explore affordable hobbies, and schedule self-care moments to reignite joy. Remember, taking care of yourself isn’t selfish—it’s necessary for your well-being!

Finding oneself after the postpartum journey is, well, another journey. It’s easy to lose oneself in the postpartum period as everything changes overnight: body, mind, habits, stress levels, self-esteem, and mental load.

Due to this shift, the body adjusts by removing things that don’t feel as “important” to survival. One of the first casualties can be “me time” (alternatively described as hobbies, passions, self-care, interests, or spare-time). During the sleep deprived days of early parenthood, maintaining normal activities that bring joy, does not seem useful nor feasible.

As a result, levels of stress, anxiety and depression can increase and leave parents feeling emptier than ever. This is when our practice usually interacts with folx. Parents come into our practice feeling so depleted, that they are unsure about what brings them joy anymore.

During the postpartum period parents often find themselves in “fight or flight” mode, a primal reaction in the brain when it perceives a threat, danger or stress. An alarm sounds in the body to direct resources to ensuring the protection of self and loved ones. It helps one be prepared to either confront the threat (fight) or run from the danger (flight).

Due to the increase in demands from bringing home a new baby and the decrease in resources such as sleep and self-care, the brain interprets these new situations as threatening or stressful. How many new parents leave the hospital thinking, “They’ve made a mistake! We can’t do this on our own. We don’t know what we are doing!”?

Unfortunately, the consolidation of resources to hyper-focus on the baby often results in neglecting other essential needs such as creativity, peace, connection, joy, self-efficacy, productivity, and focus. While minimizing these needs certainly serves a function, over time this creates a gap between one’s current state and one’s desired identity.

When needs are being met, it is easier to be connected to one’s values. This increases parents’ ability to be more present, be less stressed, feel more connected, and show up as a better partner and parent.

Today’s goal: Identify if you are still in “fight or flight” mode or if you are feeling ready for some self-care time.

As parents start to recover from early postpartum days, the flight or fight response starts to subside, allowing space for one’s additional needs.*

*This timeline is different for everyone and folx who continuously find themselves in “fight or flight” mode, weeks or months after the baby is born, should consider an assessment for Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) from a qualified medical or mental health provider. PMADS can impact both the birthing individual and the birthing partner.

If you have been cleared for a PMAD, but are still struggling to get additional needs met, it might be time to identify if something is getting in the way. Here are some common concerns parents report when trying to find space to explore their new identities, common self-care mom quotes from parents we work with who are struggling, and some suggested self-care tips for overwhelmed moms.

1/ childcare
“Who will watch the kids?!”

Suggestion: Make a list of all possible postpartum childcare options you feel comfortable with watching your children. Reach out to identify the time they can contribute, costs of watching them, and availability.

2/ finances
“I can’t afford to get involved with a new hobby!”

Suggestion: Look for low-cost hobbies for new moms, or free activities to try before fully investing in an activity. Use YouTube as a free resource to learn how to do the basics of a new interest.

3/ decision making skills
“I don’t know what I like to do.”

Suggestion: Check out the “float back” technique below to help narrow in on what needs you are missing.

4/ time
“When am I going to fit this in?”

Suggestion: Review your calendar for small chunks of time (start with 15-20 minutes) that you can consistently dedicate to yourself. Schedule self-care time into your calendar like you would any other appointment.

5/ mental blocks
“I feel guilty for leaving my family to do something for myself.”

Suggestion: Try planning an activity with other parents. Seeing other caretakers prioritize themselves can help give you permission to do the same.

6/ perfectionism
“I don’t want to be bad at something new.”

Suggestion: Redefine what it means to be “successful” at discovering yourself. When our goals focus on the journey, not the outcome, you open yourself up to seeing “mistakes” as a necessary part of learning.

7/ mental health
“I feel too depressed/anxious to enjoy myself anymore.”

Suggestion: Know that while this is a common feeling, it is not normal. Help is available. Reach out to your local Postpartum Support International chapter to get connected to a mental health provider today.

These are all legitimate reasons to struggle to prioritize oneself. Some have simple answers, while others feel more complex.

Today’s Goal: A great place to start is to identify which obstacle you struggle the most with and then start to identify any resolutions to your roadblocks. Brain-storm on your own or solicit a support person to help you get creative with solutions!

When meeting with parents, inevitably the conversation about needs comes up. It can look something like this:

Client: I am so overwhelmed with everything. All I do all day is take care of everyone else. I feel depleted, overstimulated, and not like myself anymore. I don’t understand why I am feeling this way. I thought after I started getting better sleep that things would start to feel normal again. I have more time to myself, but I don’t know what to do with it.

Therapist: This is such a common feeling. Let’s talk a little about needs. We have been working on improving the fulfillment of your basic needs such as sleep, eating and drinking water regularly, and showering consistently. You have reported feelings of anxiety and depression have decreased to manageable levels.

Client: Yes, I have improved in all those areas, yet I still feel lost. I still feel like something is missing.

Therapist: While our basic needs being met is essential to functioning, we actually have other needs that are also important to helping us feel fulfilled, energized, and resilient. It seems to me that your higher-order needs are not being met. We need basic needs to survive. We need higher-order needs to thrive.

Client: What other needs could be missing if I am getting my basic needs met?

Therapist: Great question! Some common higher-order needs that parents report missing are:

Connection with others/intimacy

Physical exercise





Being outdoors



Let’s talk about which ones you are missing out on!

Today’s goal: What “higher-level” needs could use some prioritization?

Upon recognizing unmet needs, the aim is to pinpoint specific moments when there was a successful fulfillment of these particular needs. One effective approach for achieving this stems from EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) and is referred to as the “Float Back” technique. Through EMDR, a type of trauma therapy, the “float back” technique offers a systematic approach to exploring and identifying target memories linked to distress. However, in this exercise, the goal is to connect to memories associated with higher needs. For example, if you identify feeling a lack of creativity in your life, we would have you “float back” in your memory to times where you felt your need for creativity was being fulfilled. This could be when you took an art class, when you were leading a creative project at work, or even when you attended a paint night event with some girlfriends.

As you delve into your memories, note your internal responses when picturing activities that fill your needs. Pay attention to any emotions, physical sensations, or thoughts that arise. Connect to other times when you experienced similar feelings. These do not have to be activities that you were previously dedicated to; they could extend to something you attempted once or even an activity you witnessed, sparking curiosity.

As you float back, record any activity that comes to mind. If you are not interested in ones on your list, consider exploring online to identify some activities that might be similar to ones you previously liked.

Today’s goal: Let’s do the float back technique for all the needs you feel are missing!

Start small and build on successes. Developing some self-care time into one’s routine can feel overwhelming. Consider a 15-minute walk around the block as a significant step toward more extensive goals, like exercising for an hour three times a week. Breaking larger goals down into manageable and realistic goals, increases the likelihood of follow-through and can help break the cycle of procrastination.

When I started to explore the idea of reconnecting to myself, I realized I truly missed being creative. Since having my son, I pushed this need aside in order to survive the day-to-day. I journaled about activities I used to enjoy that fulfilled my need for creativity and remembered that I particularly enjoyed a cross-stitch project I had once undertaken. I looked up hobbies similar to cross-stitching and found embroidery. I also had been missing my need of giving back to/connecting with others, so I decided to embroider a swaddle for a friend’s newborn baby.

Instead of getting overwhelmed by this big project, I decided to break my goal down into smaller steps to gain confidence and reduce resistance. I bought a “Learn to Embroider” kit to learn basic stitches I would need for the project. I watched online tutorials to practice these stitches until I felt confident. These smaller steps helped me test the viability of my goal to see if it was even attainable for me or if I even liked it! I started embroidering slowly, ten minutes here or there. Before I knew it, I had gotten the basics down and felt confident to start my project. Just getting started somewhere helped me engage in a positive cycle of confidence and consistency.

Today’s goal: Create some long and short-term goals that match your needs.

Once you have a small list, identify one or two activities that you are willing to try and get out there! Get excited! This is the beginning of focusing on yourself, which has so many benefits. You deserve to thrive in parenthood and this is just one of many ways you can achieve that.

If you want more support around rediscovering yourself during the postpartum phase or are struggling in parenthood, our California-based therapists would love to connect with you.

We are a group of mothers deeply committed to providing mental health support to our clients, assisting them in unlocking their fullest potential. As therapists and moms, we know the postpartum struggle all too well. Our practice is dedicated to supporting moms like you-like us-as you navigate through this season of life.

Working with a postpartum therapist can give you the space you need to make sense of your experience as a new mom. Chances are, you didn’t envision spending your first weeks postpartum this way. Together, we can support you in creating more space for yourself while being present for your family.

While we’re advocates of getting prompt treatment, we welcome you to reach out no matter where you’re at in your postpartum journey. It can be so hard to ask for help, so we’re here to offer compassionate, non-judgmental support.

If it sounds like we might be a good fit for each other, I encourage you to reach out. You can schedule a free consultation with me or one of the amazing postpartum therapists in my practice.