Maternal Mental Health During Lockdown Part 1 of 3

No doubt when we waved 2019 off with a Gone With The Wind drama level of ‘see you never’; none of us thought we’d be sitting in our respective abodes reminiscing about the good old days when we could gather by the dozen at the beach, or the joy of nonchalantly tossing a 12 pack of our favourite 2ply into our shopping cart from a gloriously fully stocked supermarket isle of white. But here we are! And here we will be for a while…

In recent weeks, there have been dramatic and fast changes in the way we live our lives, as we all react to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Naturally big changes, as well as a constant stream of information on sickness and death, can cause some big, sad, feelings- whether they feel prominent and personal or not. Over our next three blog instalments I will be sharing suggestions from our friend, Counsellor Diane Jackson, a QLD based Mother and Grandmother, on how we can support our own, and our family’s mental health during this time. Diane specialises in holistic counselling, with a particular focus on female mental health and wellbeing.

Amongst the Niki’s team of late, as within business teams around the world- there have been endless conversations about change, about the impact of that change and how we will manage it. Being a team of parents, there are also a lot of conversations about home life at present! For women and stay at home or work from home Mum’s in particular, like myself, it’s oddly jarring having everyone suddenly there, ALL- THE- TIME! There’s the increased pressure of having school kids home and the responsibility for their education, there’s the strain of the total reset of the daily routine and the doubling of mess that the added hours and bodies at home entails… But how exactly should we feel? What is a normal emotional benchmark in this highly unusual situation?

Diane put it a way that I thought just nailed the elephant in the room when she said “We’re all going through a mourning process”. “While nothing has been taken from us forever, and life continues- many of the liberties we not only enjoyed, but formed our identity around – social activities, the gym, mothers groups, education, even just trips to the park and supermarket, are gone- and we don’t know when they are coming back.” “As with many of the great shifts in life, we often don’t realise how much something means, until it’s gone, and it is natural that we will all to some extent go through a readjustment period, and some will find that easier than others”.

This, as I said, is the elephant in the room- but the tricky thing is we don’t get to just deal with the elephant- we have to deal with it while our kids trash the room around it, our boss sends the 30th text since 8am and the hubby calls for a between zoom meetings coffee from the front room. That’s a lot, for anyone. And that’s quite aside from the never-ending sense of doom as the global pandemic news rolls on.

“There will be definite frustrations as we work through the emotional load of it all.” Continued Diane. “Being overwhelmed from the constant demands of a household confined, the added needs of your partner, the sense of separation or isolation- the thought of having to do it indefinitely, without reprieve!” are some of the normal feelings she says that we should be conscious of. She also identified the need to be mindful of the situation’s ability to affect our sense of self-worth “Our inability to control what is going on and how long it will go for- and in turn it’s impact on our family, can lead to anxiety and maybe even a mild depression for some. It is really important that we are conscious of these thoughts and feelings, that we recognise them and then that we work to move forward from them.”

One of the most important things in identifying these feelings, as hard as it is, is finding a way to move through and past them. That can be the most difficult thing- particularly with a limited tool kit in the face of social distancing. So, how do we ditch the elephant? There’s a famous Navy Seal quote my hubby loves “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”.

With that in mind, the next logical question is what are some tools that we can use within the current home situation and taking into account the added pressures on our time and increased family needs, to survive and maybe even thrive during this difficult time?

If it’s all getting too much “If possible, step outside or have a space that is purely for you; to stop, breath and surrender. Distract from the intensity of the feeling and move forwards from it by asking the question ‘What do I need to support myself at this point in time’ ” says Diane. “There are many ‘distraction’ tools we can use in the home ourselves. You can phone a friend, you can try actively smiling at yourself and the situation; journaling and writing down your feelings as they arise or at the end of the day can really help separate the emotions, what you feel, from yourself so they don’t start to define how or who you perceive you are”.

So there are some easy things we can do immediately and independently within our homes, to help move ourselves through the emotions in life right now and help manage our own mental health. The other important thing to remember at this time is that making a moment for yourself to check your ‘mental health barometer’ and to act on it with self-care and appropriate mental activities is just as important as making sure the kids have had breakfast, that they’re on top of their schoolwork- or that you clean your bomb site of a post craft activity kitchen table. Most importantly, don’t feel guilty about taking that moment- because making sure that you are ok, is the best way to make sure that your family are ok.

But how do we identify whether bursting into tears over your entire drawer of pantyhose being tied together to make a monster trap, or going nuclear level crazy over an entire bottle of bubbles being dumped into a ducted aircon vent is normal/healthy- or if we might need a little extra/professional support?

Again Diane’s advice is practical and easy to discern “It’s a really interesting question, and obviously will vary from individual to individual, but as a general guide- if you feel in your mind that your thoughts are genuinely self-destructive, self-loathing, resentful towards particular family members, if you are feeling rage, anger, despair or anxiety that you are unable to control- these are your warning points to seek professional assistance. Simply speaking- if the feeling is preventing you from functioning in your day to day life, or if your fear you may pose a risk to yourself or others, please do seek help immediately.” “At the lower end of the scale, even if your feelings are mild, if you cannot manage them independently, if you don’t feel that you are progressing past the feeling- it’s equally important to seek help- as over the long term, these more ‘simple’ feelings, can compound and grow”.

It’s important to remember that despite the fact that we are for the most part currently homebound, that we are not alone- and that mental health services are still easily accessible from home. It’s a huge part of why we launched our #HOMEOK campaign, to normalise the added strains we are all feeling and help direct people to resources if they need them. You can find these contacts at the end of this article, and via our Instagram @nikisnaturalwipes.

As a final thought- what about those of us who have existing mental health issues, or who may have experienced mental health episodes in the past that might be re-triggered by the current pressures the Covid-19 Pandemic measures are placing on our home lives?

Again Diane encourages personal awareness and daily self-monitoring, or at least frequently to check on our personal emotional barometer and make sure we are aware of where we are at mentally and if that is changing, or impacting our ability to function. “If you have an existing care plan, no doubt your practitioner or support person will have made virtual tools and contact available to you- it’s important that you keep these appointments as you would any face to face ones”. “It’s also really important not to try to be strong all the time and if you are actually feeling vulnerable, acknowledge this and reach out earlier, not later”.

So that’s a very simple, practical rundown of the what and why of mental health at this time, and ways we can respond to it depending on our individual needs. Our second instalment with Diane next week will take that a step further into practicing selfcare and recognising its importance in helping to preserve maternal mental health during times of increased stress and emotional strain.

In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment below on your own experience as a Mum during this time! Again if you feel you need professional support at any point confidential services are readily available- you can find contact information below, and via our Instagram @nikisnaturalwipes.

Stay Healthy!

Love,

Kat & The Niki’s Team

This week’s Niki’s blog was contributed by Katya Zahn. Kat is our ANZ Managing Director for Niki’s Natural Wipes and a Mum of two boys aged 1 & 4.

She has a background in Marketing, Events and Operations Management. She also specialises in removing electric toy trains from tangled hair, and mediating complex sibling negotiations over a toy no one liked until one child happened to pick it up to get to something else and suddenly fell inexplicably in love with it- automatically making it the holy grail of both their young lives and worth fighting to the death over. Her favourite past time is spending hours cooking heavily researched healthy dinners for the sheer purpose of having her children refuse them and cry like she’s just told them Christmas is cancelled, forever.

If you need emotional or mental health support, you can access immediate and confidential support via the following resources:

General Emotional Support:

Lifeline Australia PH: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue PH: 1300 224 636

Online Mental Health Tools

Black Dog Institute via www.mycompass.org.au

Support For The Kids

Kids Helpline PH: 1800 551 800

Support For The Hubby

Mensline Australia PH: 1300 789 978

If You Are At Risk, Or Feel At Risk For Domestic Violence

IF YOU OR YOUR CHILDREN ARE IN IMMEDIATE DANGER CALL 000

If you need counselling and practical support call

1800RESPECT PH: 1800 737 732

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