(Rest)ore for the new parent
Today let’s talk about rest. Rest is one of the areas of occupations that rehab therapists address. But what is rest really? What is support for new parents?
According to the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework2, Rest is described as “engaging in quiet and effortless actions that interrupt physical and mental activity, resulting in a relaxed state.” I would go even a bit further in thinking that rest is part of restoring oneself in order to return with motivation and renewed energy to daily physical, mental and social activities.
Now rest does not equal sleeping, even when that may be what we feel like we “should” be doing. The advice of “sleep when the baby sleeps” can be hard to follow when we don’t feel tired or we are running a long list of to do’s or what if’s through our head. But we need to make sure we are taking care of ourselves along with our family.
Many people today spend “rest time” like this:
or like this:
But is a screen very restorative? We have been given loads of scientific evidence that staring at screens is not restorative and can be addicting. But how do we pull ourselves out of this habit of escaping to the screen world when we are coping with a new baby and have limited brain cells to think of new restorative things to do?
We need to know we need a rest and then create time and space to rest. This requires mindfulness into the moment and checking in with yourself.
I like this well mom checklist that all parents need, even when the kids get older:
THE WELL MOM CHECKLIST
Have I eaten enough nutritious food today?
Have I slept at least 5 hours, or taken a nap?
Have I bathed or showered today?
Have I exercised at least 10 minutes today?
Have I had at least 10 minutes of quiet time for reflection and renewal today?
Have I let myself laugh today?
Have I let others help me today?
Have I kissed my baby and told him/her “I love you” today?
Have I talked to at least one adult today about how I‘m doing today (not just about the baby)
Have I forgiven myself for mistakes today?
Maybe the baby is quietly watching the fan spin or has finally closed eyes for a minute, or someone has offered to watch the child for an hour. Now you may need to put your phone across the room or shut the door to the messy kitchen. Set a timer if you want to make time for other tasks during this break time.
If you are still waiting for a baby, set yourself up ahead of time by creating a “rest basket.” If baby is here, ask friend or family to bring you a few things or write down some of your rest activities. Put things in there that you can grab when you find a moment where you can rest.
Word searches, Sudoku, dot to dot or coloring are great paper and pencil activities with quick reward with little effort
Other crafts can be rewarding as well though I would not necessarily plan on starting a new hobby.
Audiobooks or paper books give you an escape into another world.
Favorite or uplifting playlists.
Things to explore with your senses such as a stress ball, playdoh, sweet or sour candies, weighted pillow or blanket
Include others in your rest plan!
Rest does not have to be only sitting and it doesn’t have to be done alone as long as you don’t consider it taxing. You could play a game with a friend or significant other. Maybe a walk is a rest for you. Or playing an instrument. Or writing cards and letters to friends and family. Or cooking a simple dish.
The possibilities are endless for planning rest time into your day. As your postpartum OT, I can help you to create a plan as part of our treatment. If you were having a hard time thinking about what you wanted to do or how you were going to fit it in we would explore your interests and abilities as well as analyze your time to find the best time to easily add a few minutes of restoration into the crazy, busy day of a new parent that can sometimes feel very chaotic. A little rest can really go a long way in helping you get through the early days of parenthood.
Well, I hope that gives you something to think about. Friends of new parents, maybe some ideas for gifts to bring when they come for a visit? Thank you for reading and I look forward to working with you!