Perinatal Psychology & Setting Yourself Up for Success Postpartum

WRITTEN BY: Mothers Mylk Clinic Registered Psychologist, Jaclyn Potts


Jaclyn speaks about all things motherhood from setting yourself up for success postpartum, managing your own expectations of yourself as a Muma, self-soothing and the ever-evolving identities as a mum. Check out our Instagram live here!

Can you make plans when pregnant to help manage postpartum anxiety and how can a psychologist help prepare you for postpartum?

Yes, and a Psych can be super helpful in supporting you to prepare for postpartum! Learning strategies prior to bub’s arrival could really set you up for success. Some strategies include self-soothing, validation and coping ahead.

Here are some strategies I support Mama’s or Mama’s-to-be with in our sessions:


When experiencing a situation of emotional distress it is very helpful to try to relax by engaging in an activity that includes one of the five senses.

Below you will see some information about how you can engage your five different senses. Go through each of them and think about which ones of them you would find beneficial and enjoyable. The goal of these activities is to reach a state of relaxation, where you would be able to think and behave more effectively. Being calm and relaxed is also important because it affects our physical health in a very positive way.

Self soothing activity - Choose 2-3 ideas from each group and explore whether they work for you. (Soon you will find your regular ‘go-to’s’ work super efficiently for you!)

Sense of Sight:

  • Go to nature (it can be a park nearby) and look at the beautiful way how the sky, the trees, the grass, the benches and the people make a collage of colors and life.
  • Find pictures on the Interne of places that you find soothing to look at. It can be different cities, nature, or artistic images and pictures.
  • Go to a museum or a gallery and enjoy the visual art presented there.
  • Watch a movie that is famous for its beautiful cinematography (like "2001 Space Odyssey"). Make sure that its story won't be something that will be difficult for you to watch.
  • Start a collection of pictures that you find pleasurable and soothing to look at, and look at them when needed.

Sense of Hearing:

  • Talk to a person that you like and whose voice makes you happy or you enjoy hearing.
  • Listen to your favorite music that usually makes you more relaxed.
  • Listen to soothing jazz, or instrumental live radio on YouTube. You might also enjoy classical music, opera or new age music (like the music of Enya).
  • Go to a park nearby and enjoy the liveliness of sounds around you (birds, wind, people chattering).
  • If you play a musical instrument or sing in your free time, you can try to do that. Listen to an audio book, a podcast or a TV show that you enjoy and see if it makes you feel more relaxed.

Sense of Smell:

  • Wear a perfume or cologne whose smell you enjoy.
  • Light up a scented candle in your room.
  • Cook a meal that smells delicious to you.
  • Buy some flowers or indoor plants that you would enjoy smelling. Hug a person you love whose smell makes you feel calm.
  • Go someplace where you enjoy the scent (flower shop, perfume shop, restaurant, bakery)

Sense of Taste:

  • Wear a perfume or cologne whose smell you enjoy.
  • Light up a scented candle in your room.
  • Cook a meal that smells delicious to you.
  • Buy some flowers or indoor plants that you would enjoy smelling. Hug a person you love whose smell makes you feel calm.
  • Go someplace where you enjoy the scent (flower shop, perfume shop, restaurant, bakery)
  • Cook your favorite meal, eat it slowly and savor its taste.
    Go to your favorite place to eat and buy your favorite meal.
  • Get some snacks or comfort food (chocolate, ice cream, potato chips) and enjoy it (but don't overdo it).
  • Make yourself a cup of coffee, tea, cocoa or anything else that you enjoy drinking (avoid alcohol).
  • Eat a fresh piece of fruit and enjoy its taste. Chew gum or eat some sweets.

Sense of Touch:

  • Take your favorite, soft blanket and wrap yourself or simply enjoy how it feels on your skin.
  • Pet your animal and hold it in your lap.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and enjoy how it feels on your skin.
  • Take a shower or a bubble bath and enjoy the warm and soothing water. You can also take a cold shower if you find that more suitable.
  • Get a massage or if you don't have the time, you can massage yourself. Touch something smooth, velvety or fluffy. (I especially like lambs wool!)

(Ref: Self Soothing: DBT -


Self-validation focuses on accepting the emotions you are experiencing. If you have trouble regulating your emotions, then you probably have a hard time accepting them in the first place as well. You feel sad, or angry about something that happened around you, and you immediately tell yourself "I shouldn't feel like this, I should know better". So, on top of your primary emotions, you build other negative secondary emotions as a response. This can be a very exhausting and uncomfortable process. Learning to self-validate your emotions will help you cope with the overwhelming emotional process.

First, try to observe how you feel right now. Observe how your body feels and try to notice what emotion is prevalent right now. It doesn't have to be very intense. Although you will eventually apply this skill in the situations where you feel overwhelming emotions, first you can get familiar with these steps when you feel relatively okay.

(Ref: Self Validation: DBT (


Self validation steps -

Step One: Acknowledging

The first step is to simply acknowledge the emotion that you are experiencing right now, without judging it. Just put a name on whatever you are feeling right now. If you feel sad, then just repeat that sentence to yourself without getting lost in the self-deprecating train of thought.

Instead of saying to yourself "I am always feeling sad, I am so weak and unworthy of anything because I can never pick myself up", simply acknowledge the fact that the emotion is there: "I am feeling sad."

Step Two: Allowing

This step focuses on reminding yourself that it is okay to experience any emotion. You are allowed to feel whatever you feel right now or in an overwhelming situation that makes you feel intense emotions.

Below are some statements that you can use to get in the headspace of allowing yourself to let the emotion be:

“It is okay to feel the way I do right now”
“I am allowed to experience this emotion”
“Allowing myself to feel this way doesn't mean that I am behaving accordingly” “This will pass, but for now this emotion is here”
“This emotion is uncomfortable, but it won't hurt me”

Choose three of these statements (the ones that you like the best), and write them down. Next time you notice that you are judging your emotions, read these sentences out loud to remind yourself that you are allowing this process to happen.

Step Three: Understanding

The last step is meant to help you create a context for the emotion you are feeling. Many of us don't always stop to try and understand why we feel the way we feel. In this step, take your time to think about the past events that have led you to experience this particular emotion. Don't


judge yourself, just think about the objective facts that formed the context you are in right now. If you say to yourself that "I was being stupid, and that created my feeling of anger" - those are not the facts, but you judging yourself. Instead, you could say "It is no surprise that I felt so angry, since I always think that people will abandon me if they don't return my call".

For example:

Step one: acknowledging - Right now I feel frustrated with myself.
Step two: allowing - This feels uncomfortable, but right now it is what it is.

Step three: understanding - I am frustrated with myself because I haven't cleaned my apartment in two weeks. I am not going to judge myself for this, because I've been feeling very lonely and mildly depressed. That's enough negative feelings, I don't need to make it harder on myself. For starters, today I will do the laundry.

For people who have trouble regulating their emotions, self-judgment and not accepting what they feel is very common. This is precisely why this skill is so important. At the beginning it will be difficult to get used to thinking about your emotions in this new way, but just try to be persistent and patient with yourself. With time it will become easier for you to navigate your emotional processes using this skill.

(Ref: Self Validation: DBT (


Coping ahead is all about making a plan for ourselves for dealing with a stressful situation we will encounter in the future. We prepare for the stress situation (internal or external), by thinking about how to apply the skills we learned (perhaps through navigating previously stressful and challenging experiences or the skills we learn from our Psychologist) and rehearse using them in our head. This will help you apply the skills that you have already learned when you need them.

Step One: Imagine & describe a situation

Consider an event that often happens and causes you to feel overwhelming emotions. It can be anything happening from the outside world to an internal event (emotion, thought) that you have and that triggers overwhelming emotions. Write down how this situation usually goes, and describe it sufficiently.

Step Two: What skill do you want to apply?

Now, consider the skills we have just gone through self validation or self soothing or one you have picked up from your own experiences. Then think about which one of the strategies and techniques is the most suitable solution for you for the problematic situation.

Step Three: Rehearse it in your head

Now, try to imagine how you would apply the skill you picked in the situation. What exactly would you do? How does this fit into the problematic situation?

Work on this step until you feel like you are prepared to apply this skill. And don't worry, this is still work in progress and it is okay if the strategy is not fully effective or effective right away.

(Ref: Coping Ahead : DBT (


Most importantly, remember the self-soothing and self-validation skills you have just learnt. Every single Mama feels this way upon the birth of her child, grant yourself kindness and grace during this time.

Our brains actually change when we have a baby and so does the way we see the world. How we experience our emotions changes and our ability to read the emotions of others improves. Our values and priorities change with a family to care for. Things that once seemed so important now seem trivial and new topics draw us in. Even our bodies and our appearance change, with some mothers saying they don’t recognise themselves in the mirror anymore.

Many mothers miss their “old self”. It is completely ok to be grieving parts of your pre-motherhood life and self. But consider that perhaps they aren’t completely lost. Perhaps the parts that are still important to you are waiting for their rebirth too. They are waiting for you to find a new way for them to be part of your life. Even better, there are new parts of you that are waiting to be discovered.

You are evolving. Becoming more. And while this may sometimes feel incredibly hard and uncomfortable, you are on your way to a wiser, deeper, more grounded and whole version of you.


“It’s ok to not know who you are right now. Give yourself permission, compassion and time to figure it out. And then expect to keep figuring it out because we are always evolving (and know that life doesn’t have to be on hold while you do so.”

It’s ok to not know who you are right now. Identity is not static. We are always evolving. There may come a time when you feel like you do know who you are, and then with the addition of a new baby, or entering a new stage of motherhood, you feel lost all over again. This is all ok.

Give yourself permission, compassion and time (or perhaps self-validation or soothing) to figure out your identity in motherhood. Expect to keep figuring it out and know that life doesn’t have to be on hold while you do so.

This is your time to learn to listen to your inner knowing or intuition. To uncouple yourself from the expectations of others, the “shoulds” and who others think you are.

(Ref: When you feel like you've lost your identity in motherhood - More to Mum)


For bookings with Psychologist Jaclyn head to the Mothers Mylk Clinic website here


Join a Mothers Mylk Membership with the code GLOW15 and receive discounted practitioner consults and more!


Back to blog