Here are some self-care tips that may help support a new parent who is struggling with their mental health to recover.
1. Talk about it
Talking to a close family member or friend as well as a health professional can really help (Easter et al, 2015; Mind, 2017). That’s because sharing your thoughts with someone you trust can make those thoughts feel less powerful.
If sharing your thoughts is difficult, you might find it helpful to write your feelings down before you talk about them together. Also, talk to your GP, who will help put a treatment plan in place that will enable you to get better. Your GP will discuss with you the best support for you – taking into account the severity of your mental health problems.
2. Access therapy
You can access therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) via your GP. If there is a wait for NHS therapy (e.g. CBT), then self-care tips can help in the meantime.
If you want to explore private therapies, it is important that the person offering you care and treatment is appropriately qualified and insured. For help finding a qualified therapist with professional accreditation, you can click to see this information from Mind. It may be helpful to speak to your GP first about the type of private therapy you are considering.
Treatment for any mental health problem should always start with a clear assessment of your mental health to make sure the techniques the therapist would use will be helpful. With any type of therapy, it is important that you feel comfortable and safe with the therapist and with the therapeutic techniques they use. If you're not comfortable for any reason, you should consider moving therapists, which is possible even within the NHS.
3. Find out more about your condition
Various charities offer specific support for people with perinatal mental health issues. You can also see our section about how you might be feeling for more information, it includes articles about perinatal OCD, postnatal depression, postnatal psychosis, having an eating disorder while pregnant, and experiencing anxiety after birth.
4. Build a peer support network
Strengthening the relationships around you may help you feel less lonely and more able to cope. That’s why peer support can be really helpful.
Peer support brings together people who’ve had similar experiences to support each other. Peer support has many benefits, like feeling accepted for who you are, helping you feel less isolated and giving you a safe, non-judgmental space to talk (Mind, 2017).
You might also find online or local support groups helpful.
5. Manage your stress
Your perinatal mental health issue can get worse if you are stressed and anxious (Mind, 2017). So it’s a good idea to make sure you take time out for yourself regularly and keep your stress levels in check. This can be tricky if you have a busy family life so make sure you ask people for help and support if you need it.
For some tips on how to decompress despite being a busy parent, see our article here for some stress-busting tips.
6. Relaxation techniques
Try some relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation. Relaxation can help you look after your wellbeing when you’re feeling stressed, anxious or busy (Mind, 2017).
Mindfulness can help you manage unwanted thoughts and reduce stress and anxiety too (Easter et al, 2015). So signing up to a relaxation or mindfulness class is an option. Making time to take a walk outside in nature could help bring your stress levels down too. These tips from the NHS about mindfulness could also be helpful.
7. Prioritise sleep
It’s time to get those zzzzs in. Sleep can give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences (Mind, 2017). So make sure you try to get to bed at a reasonable time and switch off electronic devices an hour before bed to help promote a restful night’s sleep.
8. Healthy eating
We all know that it’s important to get your five a day but it can be hard to keep it up when you are a busy parent. Think about your diet and make sure you’re getting enough of the good stuff. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels (Mind, 2017).
Exercise can be really helpful for your mental wellbeing (Mind, 2017). You can start small with short walks or gentle exercise like swimming and build it up slowly. Even a short walk can do wonders to help clear your mind after a busy or stressful day.
You might also like to consider a postnatal exercise class, a parent and baby yoga class or a baby massage class where you’ll meet other mums with little ones of a similar age. Or you could try a home exercise workout DVD or YouTube video to get you moving.
10. Find what works for you
Different people experience perinatal mental ill health in different ways. The same goes for treatment.
If something isn’t working for you, then have the confidence to go back and discuss your feelings and treatment options with your GP. Don’t be afraid of sharing how you are really feeling, any intrusive thoughts you may have and if the treatment isn’t right for you. Find what really works for you and you will soon be in recovery.
This page was last reviewed in January 2022.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby: 0300 330 0700.
We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
Experiencing mental health symptoms can be overwhelming but help is available. So speak to a trusted healthcare professional, such as a midwife, health visitor, or GP. If you feel at risk of harming yourself or others then call 999, attend an emergency departmenthealth care setting, or call the Samaritans on 116 123.
Easter A, Howells H, Pawlby S. (2015) Talking therapies for mild perinatal anxiety and depression. NCT Perspective. Available at: https://www.nct.org.uk/sites/default/files/related_documents/PerspectiveSeptember2015_0.pdf [Accessed 26th January 2022]
Mind. (2017) How can I help myself? Available at: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-prob… [Accessed 14th January 2022]