Happy Mother’s Day to all of you wonderful mothers! I have a special place in my heart for counseling women, which means a lot of the people I counsel are mothers. As a woman, and as a mother I know both the indescribable joys of motherhood as well as some of the struggles that can be involved. Today’s post is just for you moms! As I have mentioned in the last several posts, May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the theme for 2014 is “Mind Your Mental Health”. Did you know that mental health and emotional stresses can negatively impact your ability to care for your children?
Moms are always telling and teaching their children to “mind your manners”, but my question for you today is “Are you minding your mental health?” If you are, great! If not, here are some steps you can take to take care of yourself, so that you can be the BEST mom possible. I encourage you to start today.
1. Don’t Overdo It
“We need to make sure that we never get too busy with life that we don’t have time to live.” ― Daniel Willey
This is one of the most important habits that can be incorporated, and moms are notorious for being busy. We have so many responsibilities and it is easy to become so busy that we are not enjoying life. Everything does not have to get done right now, and you cannot do it all or be involved in everything. Make a habit of having a daily to do list and prioritize it so that you get the most important things done first. Choose the activities that you participate in wisely. Since you cannot be involved in everything, make sure that what you are involved in is rewarding.
2. Don’t Procrastinate
“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” ―William James
Procrastination can be seen as the opposite end of busyness, it can also be viewed as inaction. Whether it is folding that load of laundry, scheduling your annual physical, or seeking help for emotional difficulties, it is better to do it now. You will feel so much better, and have more time for the fun stuff. The to do list we discussed above in number one is important here too.
3. Make Time For “Me” Time
Self care is something that moms often feel we don’t have time for, we are often busy being mom, wife, friend, sister, teacher, worker…the list goes on and on. If we do not “make time for me time” we are not going to be at our best emotionally. Self care is one of the ways that we can fill our emotional health tank. It is better and easier for us to deal with our many responsibilities if we are operating from a full emotional tank. Sometimes this takes some creativity in order to work out the details. Also remember that self care varies depending on your interest. Taking time to journal, exercising, reading a book, having a cup of coffee, a solo trip to your favorite store, taking a fun class at your local community college; all of these can be self care methods.
4. Spend Time With Your Children Doing Fun Things
No matter the age of your child(ren), they will only be that age for a while. Don’t let this season pass by without playing, talking with and spending time with them. Both you and your children need that quality time and the memories that are created in doing the fun stuff! Whether it is rocking your infant, planting a garden with your toddler, reading with your kindergartner, playing a board game with your adolescent, or planning a wedding with your adult child make time for fun times, and cherish them.
5. Don’t Isolate
I run across many moms of infants and young children that struggle with this one. If you talk to anyone who has attended my classes I would be surprised if they did not tell you something about relationships. Male or female, young or old, we were created for and need relationships. When we have young children we also have shoes to put on little feet, potty breaks, diaper bags, sippy cups, accidents, car seats, diapers & wipes, pacifiers, books, and snacks. Did I forget anything? Although it may take a bit more effort to get out the door, and take a little(or a lot) longer, we have to get out of that door. There are many opportunities for socialization, including mothers groups, playdates, mommy and me classes, church groups such as MOPS and bible studies and many more. There are also things like book clubs, dinner clubs, recreational sports groups that you can participate in. This leads me to having a support system and not doing it alone. Not isolating allows you to find a friend and be a friend.
6. Ask For Help/Support
Being a super mom doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Enlist and accept the help of family and friends when possible. Use an age appropriate chore chart for household duties so all members of the household can contribute. Over the last couple of years I can remember, a sweet friend who dusted my house when I had a newborn, a helpful family member(and lots of members of my church family) that provided me meals at various times when I was sick or had a newborn, a friend that helped organize the kids room, an older friend that offered wise advice, a friend that sat with me at the hospital when I had a sick little one, and a friend that took my child to get pictures taken when I made a “scheduling whoops” and was supposed to be in two places at once. Our pride can sometimes make it difficult to accept help, much less ask for help. Don’t let pride, or embarrassment get in your way of getting the help and/or support you need from family, friends, your spouse or significant other community organizations or a licensed mental health professional.
7. Get Proper Rest
This is last on the list but is definitely not last in order of importance. We cannot function at our best as moms if we are exhausted. Lack of sleep impacts us negatively in many ways including cognitively(we don’t think at our best), physically(we don’t feel our best), and emotionally(we are cranky). Lack of sleep can worsen any existing mental health concerns as well as contribute to the symptoms of depression. Depending on the age of your child(ren) and your schedule, it may be necessary to take naps or adjust your routine to ensure you are able to get adequate sleep.
Remember, this list is not all inclusive but it is a great place to start. I encourage you to take action today, incorporate one or more of the above steps. Feel free to share in the comments your best “mommy moment” or additional tips that have been helpful to you. I’d love to hear from you!