You’ve no doubt heard of Baby Brain – if not experienced it yourself already. It’s a real thing and is no surprise with the lack of sleep, the distraction, the new priority in your life and what your body is or has just experienced that you’re going to be in a kind of haze. You’re bound to forget a few things, and it’s perfectly natural. During pregnancy, you will deal with enormous physical, mental and emotional changes. Hormonal imbalances following childbirth also lead to abnormal behaviour and even what can feel like dementia in some women.
If you’re uncomfortable in pregnancy or waking with a newborn every hour or two, your sleep cycle is bound to be disturbed. Cortisol which is the hormone that gives you the energy to perform the tasks at hand, also increases, which then raises stress levels. Studies have shown that a negative correlation between high cortisol levels in new mothers and their working memory function⎯meaning higher cortisol and stress levels are associated with lower memory capacity. This is especially so when the cortisol rushes are happening over and over every night for months.
Add this lack of sleep to the hormones whirling around your body and as a new or expectant mum; you are bound to feel completely exhausted. However, very different to dementia aged care, there are some very important things a mother can do for herself in the chaotic first year of her baby’s life to nurture her brain and stimulate her intellect. Not only will you feel less mentally sluggish and forgetful, but she will also feel far more connected to the world outside her little nest and that much less isolated. Here are a few ways to do so, that need little time or money:
Reading is one of the best and most relaxing ways to keep your brain active. Research shows that the more we read, the more our vocabulary, cognitive abilities, and our base of general knowledge increases. If you’re not a big reader, then make the most of what technology has given us and listen to audiobooks. Librivox is a great free public domain of audiobooks and Audible, or your local library’s recorded books section are brilliant sources of material to keep you entertained, educated and feeling normal. No matter what your choice of literature, reading or listening is, it will refresh your mind, plus absorbing and reflecting on new ideas will provide fresh topics of conversation for you to have with other people.
So many new mums get wrapped up in a bubble with themselves and their babies. It’s lovely, but it can mean you’re cut off from the outside world. Do your best to stay connected to the rest of the outside world by reading the news online, listening to it on the radio in the car, or asking your partner or friends to update you on current events. You won’t feel like the world is quite so centered on your nest. Stay informed, and you’ll have input on what people are talking about at your next social gathering.
Learn Something New
Although it may seem very daunting, even impossible at this time, if you can set yourself a goal to learn something new, it is really good for your brain and for your self-confidence too. Languages are a great one you can do in your own time, if you have some knowledge already and just want to brush up on your skills or if you would like to learn a new language altogether then take a look at DuoLingo. It is available online or as an app and uses challenges and a game format to help you learn French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, or Italian. If you are a more hands-on or creative person, then consider taking up a craft like sewing, crocheting, or knitting. There are many free or inexpensive online courses for virtually anything you’re interested in on Udemy and Skillshare. Whether it’s learning how to use a fancy camera or to write calligraphy or to play the guitar, there’ll be something out there that you will enjoy and can work around your new baby.
Hang Out With Adults
One of the best ways to keep your brain engaged is to talk with other adults on a regular basis. Although many people find motherhood a lonely place, it can also be a very very friendly place, full of opportunities to meet other people. Try and schedule evenings with friends, playdates with other mums, and date nights with your partner to avoid going stir-crazy with your non-conversational baby. It’s worth the time and effort to keep yourself mentally alert and to always continue learning. After all, there’s no better gift you can give your child than a mum who nurtures her mind as well as her body.
There is no shame in feeling this way and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do any of the above if you’re just not there yet. It will come with time. Just know that you’re not alone and that there are plenty of mothers out there feeling the way you do and probably wanting someone to talk about it with. Share your experiences with other people, even if it’s just online on forums or visiting relevant blogs. There is plenty of people out there, and also if you don’t want to talk to someone directly, there is plenty of information out there to help you with other ideas, tips and tricks to help with yourself or your newborn.
Don’t forget to lean on people for support, your friends and family are there to help you, they want to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask. Anyone who’s had a baby will know how you’re feeling and be able to help out in some way, so speak up, just ask and you will banish that baby brain!
Cover Image Credit: Pexels