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Turn a Bad Day Around


Not feeling like Mary Poppins today? Whether you work or stay at home, you're bound to have days alone with your baby that start off bad and quickly get worse. When it happens, first remind yourself that you can't do it all perfectly and won't always be in a good mood, says psychologist Patricia Farrell, Ph.D., author of How to Be Your Own Therapist. "Life isn't a straight highway  -- your baby needs to learn this, too." Then try a few of the following solutions to U-turn a day that's headed south.

When you're exhausted...

If you were up all hours with a crying baby, stop burning the candle at both ends and take it easy today.

Fake some floor time Do as many activities as you can while lying down next to your baby as she plays, suggests Paige Babcock, a mom of two in New Milford, Connecticut. Your baby will enjoy having you nearby as she plays with a toy or rattle, and you'll sneak in some rest.

Meter your java dose "Having more or less than your usual amount of coffee can lead to irritability and extreme fatigue," says Cynthia Sass, R.D., national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and coauthor of Your Diet Is Driving Me Crazy.

Enforce naptime for everyone Sure, you're supposed to sleep when the baby sleeps, but giving up your only time to check e-mail can be a tough sacrifice. Just for today, try to take a nap  -- you'll probably surprise yourself by dozing off.

Stop skipping meals Even the simplest of lunches  -- a peanut butter and jelly sandwich  -- can be an afternoon mood-booster. Made with whole-grain bread using fruit spread, it supplies complex carbohydrates that boost brain serotonin levels and help you feel happier and more focused, according to Andrew Packard, M.D., author of The Packard Weight Health Plan.

Slash the to-do list Instead of feeling badly that you're too tired to get anything done, give yourself an extension on everything that doesn't need to be done immediately.

Have a pajama day Hanging out in your jammies isn't just comfortable, it's a great opportunity to connect with your inner child, says Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., an L.A.-based psychologist.

Increase your water intake Dehydration can cause headache and exhaustion, leaving you feeling even more tired than you already are. Aim to drink about eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.

Sleep tweak Move everyone's bedtime earlier tonight. "Your baby will likely sleep until the same time tomorrow, and you'll all feel refreshed," says sleep expert Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia and the author of Sleeping Through the Night.

Save sweets for last There's nothing wrong with having a treat, but eating sugary foods (like soda, brownies, candy, or even a large glass of juice) on an empty stomach can cause a huge energy crash, says Sass.

Colleen Moriarty is the author of Shortcuts to Sexy Abs: 337 Ways to Trim, Tone, Camouflage and Beautify and a mother of two.

When you're blue...

Who doesn't feel down now and again? Bring instant peace and calm with these blues busters. Of course, if you feel disinterested in your baby or in your normal activities, be sure to talk to your doctor, since these can be signs of postpartum depression.

Don't be a martyr Ranking your needs (eating, taking bathroom breaks, reading a magazine) after everyone else's wears on your nerves. "It's hard to take care of others if you're not taking care of yourself," says Cheri Huber, author of Time-Out for Parents: A Compassionate Approach to Parenting.

Be flexible "Rigidity will get you nowhere but frustrated," Farrell says. Schedules help provide structure to your day, but if you really need a break, don't let a routine stand in the way of just sitting outside on a lawn chair and watching the clouds go by.

Count your blessings Ten fingers and ten little piggies  -- you have a lot to be thankful for. "Research has shown that counting blessings is an effective coping strategy for both new mothers and new fathers," says Robert Emmons, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis. "In parents of two- to three-month-old infants, being thankful was related to less stress and greater perceived spousal support," he says. Try to make it a ritual that you do every day while brushing your teeth or taking your vitamin  -- get used to feeling grateful on a regular basis.

Plan a naptime escape "If (please, God) your colicky or cranky baby naps, don't fold laundry or change the diaper pail," says Jen Singer, author of 14 Hours 'Til Bedtime. "Put your feet up on the couch and watch Oprah or read a book that has no pictures in it," she says. Doing something not baby-related will help you feel recharged when naptime is over and the crankiness (yours and the baby's) resumes.

Spritz some happiness Studies show the scent of baby powder induces happiness, says Dr. Hirsch. Try powder-scented bath products, moisturizers, deodorant, or drier sheets  -- one whiff can help lift your mood.

Zap bad body-image feelings Stop knocking your reflection and get moving. Exercise, with your doctor's okay  -- whether it's a walk with your baby or an exercise video in the living room-is a great outlet for anxiety and will teach your child that taking care of yourself is essential.

Indulge your vanity A study by Pantene found that 88 percent of women feel good about themselves when their hair looks the way they want. So don't feel guilty taking time to blow-dry your hair or getting a sitter so you can squeeze in a haircut. If your hair is falling out due to estrogen changes postpartum (very common and completely normal), continuing to take your prenatal vitamin (something doctors often recommend anyway) can help, explains Ariel Ostad, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City.

When you're stressed...

Anger and frustration can contaminate your whole day if you don't press the escape key. When tension mounts, try one of these time-out tips.

Get over spouse spats "Remember, it's not 'your baby' but 'our baby,' and as much as you wanted this bundle of joy, there are some trying times in the best marriages after baby is born," says Farrell. Both of you need to admit when you're tired, need a break, or are feeling like parenthood isn't what you expected, she says, instead of directing those negative feelings toward each other. Got any funny DVDs in the house? Laughter is proven to evaporate stress, so pop one in after your baby goes to bed.

Pet the pet Remember the cat? She's good for something other than shredding your furniture. Studies show pet ownership lowers your blood pressure response to mental stress. Spend some time with your dog or kitty to tame tension.

Share bad-mama moments "Being able to talk about your not-so-stellar moments as a mom will help you realize you're not alone, you're not the worst mother in the world, and your child is not the most incorrigible," says Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., a Los Angeles-based psychologist. Venting to a supportive friend or online chat buddies will help you remember there are no perfect parents or babies. And someone will always have a worse screwup story than yours.

Stop feeling guilty Okay, you raised your voice, burst into tears, said something you regret. "What you do after the outburst is most important," says Thomas. "Hug and kiss your baby and go back to being the comforting, safe parent you are." Talk your way through what happened, telling your child, "Mama was mad, but it's okay now."

Remember to laugh When your baby dumps the bowl of sweet potatoes over her head (or yours), use humor to remember what's most important: the image of your daughter all covered in orange goo. "We often make ideals  -- like clean clothes  -- more important than people," says Huber. "Remind yourself that someday this child won't even be home for dinner  -- she'll want to eat over at her friend's house." Enjoy these moments  -- they go by in a blur.