Having a child in the NICU is a stressful situation. Here are some ways you can cope with this stress.
Take care of yourself: You can’t take care of someone else if you don’t care for yourself first.
Build a support system: It may be difficult to feel connected to family and friends if they have never had a baby in the NICU. It is important for you to find people who can relate to you and this unique experience that you are going through. Check with your hospital to see if they have a NICU support group for parents. If a support group is not offered at the hospital try to find an online support group so you have people to talk to who understand what you are going through.
Get Sleep: This seems pretty basic, but sometimes it is hard to do when you are worried about your child. Make sure to try and get 6-8 hours of sleep per night because sleep is important to help your body and mid recharge.
Exercise: Exercise is a wonderful stress relief and is super important to your overall health. Make sure you ask your doctor what types of exercise you can do if you have just had your child because there may be some restrictions.
Eat Healthy Foods: When you are traveling back and forth to the NICU it may seem hard to eat healthy, but eating healthy will make you feel better. Pack healthy snacks (like fruit, granola bars, and packets of oatmeal) that you can eat easily while at the hospital.
Accept help: If people offer you help, take them up on the offer. Websites like mealtrain.com and lotsahelpinghands.com can be great at keeping all the people who want to provide you help organized. Ask people to do laundry, take you to the hospital, make meals, or even care for older siblings while you focus on caring for yourself and your new child.
Journal: Being able to expressing your feelings on paper can help you cope with them. The journal can also help remind you of what your baby has accomplished and how far they have come since being born.
Relax: Spend time away from the NICU doing things that you enjoy, such as taking a walk, going out for dinner, reading a book, meditating etc. You may feel bad if you don’t spend every moment with your child, but they are being well cared for at the hospital. It is important that you take time for yourself to try to relax.
Therapy: If you are feeling overwhelmed you may want to seek professional help. A therapist can help you understand everything that you are going through and help you to understand your feelings. A huge benefit therapy is that its effects are long-lasting. It allows you to work through problems and develop the tools you need to help you deal with issues in the future.