Alexandra Heminsley is a journalist, broadcaster and ghostwriter. She is the author of the bestselling memoir Running Like a Girl, which has now been published in thirteen countries, and the recently published, Leap In: A Woman, Some Waves and the Will to Swim (out now, Windmill £8.99) @hemmo @hemmograms

Alexandra Heminsley By Dean Belcher

Alexandra Heminsley By Dean Belcher

  1. Get outside - night and day cease to have meaning in those first few weeks, but it can feel doubly destabilising to reach night-time without feeling as if you’ve had any proper day. Seeing the sunlight and stretching your legs is essential to feeling anchored as time seems at its most slippery
  2. Redefine what you think exercise is - in those early days exercise is not about weight loss or toning up. It’s a simple matter of reminding yourself that you live in your body, and it is still yours! A walk around the block, a handful of squats in the living room, a first attempt at pelvic floor exercises: these still all count, and are all worth doing for your mental health, even if you don’t break any records.
  3. Eat properly. It is so easy to surf from midnight toast to muffins brought by a kindly neighbour without actually giving yourself the nutrients to keep yourself as emotionally stable as possible without riding a wave of sugar-crashes. Protein and veg are essential, even if it’s a lasagne from Cook with salad eaten straight from the bag!
  4. Hydrate. Particularly if you’re breast feeding, it’s easy to think that that relentless headache casting everything in dull grey is now your life. Often, it is just dehydration making tiredness feel terminal. Buy a decent steel water battle that you can carry around the house with you so that even if you end up falling asleep as you passed the bedroom you still have water to hand.
  5. Make priorities. No matter what your goals were, it simply isn’t possible to get everything done with a new baby in the house. So don’t feel bad about prioritising the things you need. Whether it is asking for help so you can exercise or beginning sleep training sooner than you’d planned so you can hit an even keel, know your priorities.
  6. Accept help. No point having priorities if you can’t get them done, so don’t be shy if people do offer to help. Those who don’t want to help will steer well clear, believe me.
  7. Remember that everything is a phase. No matter how dark or desperate things feel today, know that babies grow at an alarming rate, and simply move onto the next phase. Similarly, a mood can shift with a few hours sleep, a walk in the sunshine or a good chat with a friend. None of the hard times are forever.
  8. Talk. None of the people around us are mind readers, and sometimes the cutest baby is the most demanding when no one else is around. So remember to tell people how you’re feeling, and know that no emotion, no matter how it feels, is shameful.
  9. Respect yourself. The most helpful thing anyone said to me in the first 6 months of my baby’s life was my GP’s advice (when I turned up with Shingles and a 4 month old) that the single most important factor in my child’s health was my own well being. It had simply never occurred to me, and changed my outlook on a lot, from exercise to sleep. “You deserve it” is not a trite instagram staying: you actually do deserve that respect.
  10. Ignore advice. Seriously! You can read as many blogs, books and kindly texts as you want, but ultimately you will do what feels right for you, and that will be the right thing.