Dear Idealist: Life Can Be Messy and Good At The Same Time

To the idealist mother | Every idealist has a mental picture of what life is supposed to look like. Learn how to balance your hopes and real life without burn out or frustration. Click the picture for more.


Dear Idealist,

You see the world as a beautiful would-be, a dream to be fulfilled, an expectation to be lived up to. Sometimes, that's really great. You're a dreamer, a planner, a visionary, someone who hopes for the best and always pushes to achieve it. Without you, our world would quickly become stagnant, lost in the cares of today, or else drowned in negativity. We need you to keep asking what would happen if.

But...

Sometimes reality doesn't live up to the sight you beheld through your rose-colored glasses. Sometimes life turns unexpectedly in another direction. Sometimes the actual dream is too far out of reach, or even *gasp* not meant to be. What then? How do you keep up your idealistic optimism when you can't reach the goal? It's hard to be satisfied when the dream is unfinished.
I know. Because I'm also an idealist.
My idealism is a big part of why I deal with depression. I have this picture in my head of what life or marriage or motherhood is supposed to look like. I work and strive to make that picture a reality, but it rarely ends up looking just the way I wanted it to. Or it looks just like the picture for 4.7 seconds until the baby needs a nap and dinner needs cooking again even though I haven't done the dishes from last night yet. From one idealist to another, I have three things to say.


1. Life is a film, not a photo.
The problem with focusing on that picture in your head is that life never stands still like that. Just like a real, actual photoshoot, you might come away with a couple of perfect shots, but they don't capture the chaos that is smiling like a scary clown for an hour while waiting for the three kids to all look at the camera at the same exact moment, while your ragged photographer waves a diaper over her head to catch the babies attention because it's literally the only thing you had in the diaper bag. Like that photo session, life includes some really great moments, but it's 99% messy and loud and unpredictable.

Enjoy those perfect moments when they happen. But don't sit around waiting for them. Enjoy the craziness in between; the cheerios on the floor, husband and wife moments interrupted by a small cry from the next room, the bathroom sink that needs plunging because the kids tried to clean up the rice sensory bin on their own. Those are the real-life moments. No one strives to live up to these images because they're not exactly pretty. But that's life. Messy, inglorious, and beautiful.
2. There is no rewind on the film of life.
You don't get a second chance at this moment right now. There is no redo. This moment will be a memory before you know it. What kind of memory will you make it? I spent the first four years of motherhood in desperation; lonely, depressed, upset, and too-often frustrated. I wasted a lot of time, and a lot of it was stolen from me. Yet, despite all the hard times, I have some real gem-like memories from that season. I am who I am today because of that portion of the movie.

You won't get it right every time. You probably won't get it right most of the time. But you'll hit the goal sometimes. And in life, sometimes is pretty darn often. Enjoy it. You can't control everything, but you might miss it if you keep trying.
3. Know where you got the picture.
Who handed you the photo you've been trying to live up to? That's a difficult question to answer, but it's an incredibly important one. Even though life is a film, it is okay to have a standard you wish to achieve. Just make sure it's a standard you understand and truly value. If the images of perfect motherhood portrayed on social media are outlining your perfect image, toss it out the window on your way to Crazytown! You don't need that kind of unreachable pressure on your shoulders!

Know your 'why.' Why is it important to you that your family eats dinner at the table every night or that your kids get straight A's or that you stay-at-home or that you work full-time? Why does it matter that you head up the PTA or lead a bible study or bake the brownies for next week's sale from scratch with organic flour? I'm not saying any of those things are or are not worthwhile. It doesn't matter what the picture is. What matters is why it matters to you. Is it truly valuable to your family? Will this make you or your spouse or your children happier, better people? If the answer is yes, keep aiming for it. If it's not, well... toss it where you toss those dirty diapers.
Loosen up the reigns, just a bit.
Motherhood, marriage, and life, in general, are difficult enough pursuits apart from the added pressure of idealism. If you want to be content and enjoy the life you have right now, loosen up your expectations. That doesn't mean you have to let them go. Just let them become more flexible so you can enjoy all the awesome stuff before and after the perfect shot.

Sincerely,

Another Idealistic Mom

What did you think? Does this line up with your experience as an idealist and as a mom? What would you add for other idealists? Let us know in the comments.

 
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Is It More Than The Baby Blues?

The baby blues are an expected dip in hormone levels responsible for tears, loneliness, and a general blah feeling after the birth of your new baby. But what if those feelings persist weeks and months longer? How do you know whether it's just baby blues or if you might be dealing with postpartum depression? Find out more now. Don't survive in silence any longer.


Every pregnant woman is told to expect the 'baby blues', the hormonal crash that can last the first 6-8 weeks of your brand new baby's life. The baby blues are like PMS on overdrive, waves of inexplicable weeping, soul-sucking loneliness, and irrational fear. But what happens when those first 8 weeks pass and you're still feeling all that yuck? How can you tell when it's more than just 'baby blues?' How do you know when, or if, it's time to ask for help?
Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?
After the birth of my second baby (16 months after my first), I found myself in that exact place. I had enough good moments to feel like life was okay... or at least like I wasn't sinking quite yet. I rode big curling swells of laughter and moments of bliss and then crashed to the bottom of heart aching emptiness and unending pointless tears. I almost never had an answer to my husband's question of "What's wrong?" And I couldn't really talk about it with my mom or my friends because I didn't know what to say. I didn't feel depressed. I just felt yucky.

The longer it went on, the more I told myself to snap out of it, to enjoy what I had, to not let these precious baby days pass me by. I got dressed in the morning and pasted a smile on my face, believing if I could just pretend it long enough, it would feel real. But the days turned into months and the months into years and I still felt an aching emptiness where fulfillment and joy should have been. I spent 3 years slogging through that wasteland. I was even a doula, specially trained to recognize postpartum depression (or PPD) in new moms. But I couldn't see it in myself.


When It's Time To Get Help
I wish I'd said something sooner. I wish someone had said something to me sooner. I wish I hadn't wasted all that time. I wish... I can't go back and change my story. And now, on this side of my journey, I wouldn't want to. My journey has given me the voice to share and help other moms like me, moms like you. The answer to the question at the start of this post, "how do you know if you need help?", is this: If you're wondering if you need help, you probably need help.

There's too much going on during those early months of motherhood (whether it's your first time or your fifth). If you feel at all 'off', ask for help. There is no harm in talking to a counselor or therapist. You might be fine. Your therapist will tell you if that's the case. But you might not be fine, through no fault of your own, and a therapist can help you become fine again so you really can enjoy motherhood.

"If you're wondering if you need help, you probably need help."

Need More Direction?
Sometimes you need more than feelings. Especially if your feelings are super confused or if you've shut them down in order to deal with less. In that case, this questionnaire is an incredible objective tool for assessing your mental health. Answer these questions honestly and take it with you to your OB or Midwife at your next appointment. I guarantee they've got some awesome resources for you. Know why? Because 1 in 5 women deals with PPD. You are not alone. And you have nothing to fear by asking for help.

Believe me, there is more to fear in living with PPD than in getting the help to fight it. You're worth it, Mama. Your baby is worth it. Reach out today.
Think Your Wife/Friend/Daughter Might Have PPD?
First things first, ask her how you can help. Or better yet, just show up and do what needs doing. Bring her a meal. Wash, fold, and put away her laundry. Do her dishes. She might ask you to hold the baby while she sleeps, but what she won't ask you is to do the dirty jobs she believes are her responsibility. Take that on for her and then offer her this post or the questionnaire. Let her know you love her first. And stay by her side, even if she snaps at you or pushes you away. She really needs you right now. She just doesn't know how to say so.
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On Boredom and Depression

Boredom can aggravate your depression symptoms. It sure does mine. And it's been one of those weeks, can you relate?

Summer Boredom Is Getting To Me
School's out, so I'm not running around getting lists checked off and projects completed. I'm stuck at home with my daughters who are incredible and amazing and I love them dearly, but they just want to read the same book twelve times and then play with playdoh literally all afternoon. I'm chauffering them to swim lessons, then to the park, then the library, trying to keep our days full and exciting to make up for the sudden lack in my own life.

But...
Can I Be Really Honest?
I'm so bored. I'm not the kind of person who does well with free time because I tend to look at my to-do list and my open calendar and just push things off into one of the many blank squares. But I'm also the kind of person who needs to be working on something meaningful in order to keep on top of my mental health. The last three weeks have seen a significant and marked decrease in my mental health state. Writing, my number one self-care outlet, doesn't even have the same drive it usually does. I have a half dozen partially written posts for this blog in my line up that just aren't hitting the mark.

So I'm offering this.

This post, more of a rant really, a way to vent to you, Mama, because you've been around BohemiMama long enough to know I'm gonna be real with you and I'm gonna talk about the things us depressed, exhausted Moms need to talk about.


So, Summer Break...
Here's the deal: Summer break is long and hot and empty. Summer break is usually a time of entertaining our kids and sitting by a pool somewhere. If that's not your thing, then summer can be hard. I'm looking forward to a new year with new students and new lesson plans and all I want is to be in my classroom arranging labs for the coming school year. So summer feels like a chore. I can almost see all you working moms rolling your eyes at me right now. I know... And I'm sorry.


But Mental Illness Isn't Logical or Considerate
Mental illness makes us discontent with the lives we have. Mental illness makes us feel the weight of guilt as though it's been doubled or tripled. Mental illness makes us lose interest in the things we once loved. My mental illness leaves me feeling apathetic and lonely even in the best of company. I have a page in my bullet journal filled with ideas for when I'm in a blue place. It's full of projects because that's what makes me feel accomplished and fulfilled. So I'm painting my house right now, the entire interior. It's been nice to slap fresh new paint on the walls and watch the transformation, but it hasn't helped ease my writer's block. I'm open to suggestions and I see my therapist later this week, but until then...

Stay strong, talk it out, do something you love. That's all I can say today, Mama. This journey to mental health isn't smooth and it isn't really a destination you finally arrive at one day. So keep fighting and find the help you need to push through blue days or weeks like these.

Blessings,
Jessi
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The Depressed Mom’s Guide to Disappointment

Disappointments happen. How you handle them can make or break your day, even your week. Learn how to work through feelings of frustration, sadness, and fear in the midst of motherly depression, exhaustion, and loneliness so that you can weather life's inevitable storms with strength and courage. Click the photo to learn more.


Disappointment happens. Sometimes it's a small thing, like forgetting about and missing a coffee date with a friend. Other times, it's much bigger, like unexpectedly finding out you're pregnant again. Big or small, those disappointments can feel all the worse, even overwhelming, when you're already in an emotionally depleted state. Exhausted, lonely, depressed Mamas have the hardest time with disappointment because we're already functioning on less emotional energy. It doesn't take nearly as much to drain us completely.
Emotional Energy: How Disappointment Affects It
Imagine that you wake up each morning with one glass full of emotional energy. As the day goes by, you pour some out for your kids, some for your husband, some on work or other commitments; neighbors, friends, housework, bills, meal planning, etc. And some of that energy is poured into hopes, plans, or goals for future things, like those coffee dates or the things you might do once your youngest is in school full time. Fear, frustration, and sadness from a disappointing event can rob the remainder of your day's energy. But it can also rob you of the energy you've poured out and stored in those future plans and expectations.

Take that same glass of emotional energy, but now it's only half-full. That's what your emotional 'tank' often looks like when you're wiped out, dealing with depression, trudging through the loneliness of motherhood, or battling anxiety. That half-full glass is much closer to running dry, so when disappointments happen, one big slosh drains everything you've got. In my experience, that's been the hardest part about my depression. One little thing can steal the rest of my carefully budgeted energy and leave me wanting nothing more than to go to bed and start the day over... by 9 am! But fear not, Mama! There is a solution!!
How To Retain Your Energy After A Disappointment
Step 1: Give Yourself Five Minutes To Feel It
It's okay to need to vent some frustration or cry a few tears. Don't try to bottle up those emotions! Let 'em out! I give myself five minutes if I really can't hold it together. Alone in my room or the car, I'll let everything bubble up and over and cry as hard as I need to for five minutes. Then I can dry my face and move forward rationally. Sometimes you just have to let yourself really feel it. By acknowledging your feelings, you're allowing yourself to move on. (Makes me think of Sadness in Inside Out... Anyone else?)
Step 2: Salvage Your Energy By Channeling It Into Something Else
The energy you've stored in future plans and dreams is like a storehouse for your lowest days, the silver lining or the bright spot to look forward to when you're really in the trenches. When those plans change or get messed up by something outside of your control, your 'rainy day' fund of emotional energy can slip away and be gone forever. We can't have that! Being able to channel all that stored energy into something else you can honestly get excited about will salvage some, if not most, of your energy.

This is something my therapist pointed out to me and it has really, really improved my ability to cope with disappointments. I have a page in my bullet journal where I record things I would like to do or get done. These are things that make me happy and fulfilled and which give me purpose. I'm a doer, so my list is 90% projects. Your list might include crafts with your kids or manicures or cleaning tasks or reading or vacation planning or... Fill in the blank for you. When a disappointment occurs, say you miss a date with a friend, you can look at your list and pick something else to channel your expectant energy into.
Step 3: Recognize The Root of Your Disappointment
Later, after you've had time to cope and reflect on the thing that caused your disappointment, take some time to dig into why. Why did missing that appointment affect you the way it did? What is it that scares or worries you about being pregnant again? I'm not great at recognizing my own triggers, which is why I love my therapist. She has a way of asking questions that lead me right to the answer. A good friend or family member who knows you really well can accomplish the same thing sometimes. Once you know what triggered your disappointment, you can work through those emotions and prepare for the next time something might hit you similarly.


Prepare For the Future
Mom life never really goes the way you plan it to go. It might be a spilled cup or a lost shoe right before you walk out the door, or issues in your marriage or with your job. But we're Moms. No one is as good as we are at anticipating worst case scenarios. It's time we start anticipating the worst case self-care scenarios. Little annoyances can quickly become major day changers when you're running on empty. Big things, like relationships and careers, can suffer a ton if you've got nothing left to invest in them after all your other mom duties. Self-care isn't just a bubble bath here and a manicure there. Self-care is a lifestyle that enables you to be the best mom you can be because your emotional tank is full and ready for anything. By taking care of your needs before they become NEEDS, you allow room for life to happen and for you to keep your stuff together on the rough patches.

Blessings,
Jessi

 
For more self-care ideas, click here.
For ideas on resetting with a weekend away, click here.
To find a therapist in your area, click here.
If you think life is just too much and you're considering suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255
 

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Why I See a Therapist (And You Should Too)

Therapy quite literally saved my life, but it's not a popular topic of conversation. I'm here to tell you I see a therapist every month. I pay cash to talk to her and I believe you, Tired Mama, should too. Here's why.
Why I See A Therapist
Once a month, I drive 30-minutes each way to meet with a trained professional who lets me talk for an hour and occasionally gives me advice or explains why I may be feeling the way I'm feeling. She hands me tissues when I cry. She listens as I pour my heart out, complain, and even brag occasionally. My insurance doesn't cover it. I pay cash to talk to someone. And it's worth every cent. By most standards, I might not even need therapy anymore, but I have no plans of ending our regular meetings in the near, or distant, future.

Let me back up a year or so. Before I started seeing my therapist, I was in a really, really dark place. And I mean dark. I would often stand in the shower crying because I just knew my husband and daughters would be better off with someone else as their mother. I felt as inadequate as it is possible to feel. Hopeless, misunderstood, spiteful, and irrationally angry were a few of the dominant emotions from that time period. I hated myself. But I didn't understand why.
At First, I Was Too Afraid To Admit That I Needed Therapy
I tried calling a helpline to find a therapist. He started to make me an appointment with some counselor in my area, but I got really freaked out and hung up. I don't hang up on people, but I did that day. I hung up and I cried.

Why did I cry? Because I was so worried about what people would think. I couldn't swallow the idea that someone would know that I had to see a therapist. The label, Mental Illness, terrified me. I was sure that I would show up and sit on some dingy chaise with a condescending, pen-in-hand psychologist who would give me a load of drugs to make me numb.
So What Changed?
One day last August, I lost my $#!&. I don't mean that in the cutesy way that moms Instagram say it. I mean, I totally lost it. Basically, what happened (and this is pretty embarrassing to even talk about) was I wanted, no, needed to get out of the house but felt like we were broke. We weren't. I asked my hubby if we could go to Costco. Long (and irrational) story short, the conversation devolved until I screamed at one of my kids and stomped up the stairs like a fourteen-year-old girl, huffing and puffing worse than the big, bad wolf. As soon as I closed the door behind me, my violent anger turned to wracking sobs and I hit the floor of my closet on my knees. That's where my husband found me. It was the first time I realized how much my emotions controlled me.


Therapy Wasn't What I Expected It To Be
The very next day, I called the therapist my best friend sees. Six days after that I found myself on a comfortable couch in a relaxed, even cozy, room in a historic building a few towns over. She didn't write a single thing the whole time I was there. She smiled, she listened, she assured me that I didn't have to continue to see her if I didn't feel like we clicked. She sent me in for blood work to see if there might be something chemical going on. (I secretly hoped there was because that meant the solution was a pill a day and I would be 'fixed'.) She asked me questions when I ran out of things to say or didn't know how else to continue. And she never once made me feel like my problems were smaller than they appeared to me. She also never diagnosed me. My blood work came back normal, but she didn't make me feel like it was all in my head (like I told myself upon getting my results). In short, she was nothing at all like what I expected. And I couldn't have been more happy to be mistaken.
Therapy Isn't Just For 'Crazy' People
In my darkest days, when I wanted to wander out in a blizzard and never come back, I told myself I was just tired, that life was too busy, and I just needed a small break. I was lonely, I felt like I didn't fit in my body anymore, like the life I'd built around me was somehow too narrow and too roomy at the same time. So, on this side of my healing journey, I'm here to tell you that therapists and counselors are NOT only for crazy people. They are not only for those who have a diagnosable mental illness. A therapist may not be for everyone, but I am convinced that a therapist can help EVERY mom. I mean it. We are a lonely, exhausted bunch. Parenting advice is slung in our faces at every single turn and mom guilt served up each time we open our eyes. We give our entire beings to the tiny humans we co-created and then sacrifice our time, energy, attention, emotions, and mental space to the care and development of these little people.
Therapy Is For Every Mom
Add to that the fact that our children are nearly incapable of self-regulation and we are, essentially, training them to not need us anymore, and you have a recipe for burn out. So how do we combat all that wear and tear? We need to deal with it.

The way you deal with your burnout and the way I deal with mine are going to be completely different, even if they look the same from the outside. We might both need 'alone time' but how you spend your time and what helps you cope in the midst of anxiety or depression is going to be unique to you, to your personality, to your history. I can't blog about how to help you help yourself. I'm not a trained professional. I'm just a mom who's spent the last year healing with the help of a trained professional.
Therapy Is The Most Undervalued Tool In The Self-Care Arsenal
My journey has shown me that therapy is an incredibly undervalued tool in the self-care aresenal. I don't shy away from telling people I see a therapist because a year ago, it's what I needed to hear. I needed to know that therapy didn't make me a bad mom, that talking about my feelings wouldn't risk losing my kids to the state, that having a mental illness didn't mean I was broken. My depression and anxiety are just as much a part of my journey as my poor eyesight or my weak hip. I don't feel ashamed to see a chiropractor every month, so why should I feel ashamed of seeing my therapist? She helps equip me to fight the battle going on in my mind. She handpicks the most applicable weapon for the job and teaches me how to use it properly so that when those blue days overcome me, I can keep swimming, I can keep fighting, I can keep living.

Blessings,
Jessi
For help finding a therapist in your area, click here.
For help choosing a therapist to work with, click here.
For the national suicide prevention hotline, dial 1-800-273-8255
 

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11 Strategies To Be A More High Functioning Mama with Mental Illness

Mental Illness doesn't have to disable you from enjoying every moment of your mom life. Learn how to gain control over your mental health and be the best mom you can be.


It’s been a bad day. You’re feeling overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, maybe even panicked. You just want to cry, hide, and disappear. Some days, you feel like you just want to die. In a crowded room, you feel alone. You feel indescribable fear. A word, a song, a look, a person…it’s enough to send you into a panic or a blind rage. You feel like no one there really knows you.

The truth is, they don’t because you don’t let them see the real you. You don’t let them see how broken you feel. You don’t tell them what’s really going on because you fear the stigma and judgment it brings. You don’t want them to think you’re crazy.
Sound Familiar?
I feel you! I have suffered from depression, anxiety, and PTSD almost my entire life. Sure, some days are better than others, but it never goes away. You’re not alone. You’re not broken. You can be a high functioning mama with mental illness. How do I know? I am one. But I didn’t get that way in a day.

You don’t have to let depression, anxiety, and PTSD rule your life. It’s hard. I’m not going to lie. I fight it daily. Some days it wins, and I don’t get out of bed or get dressed or go anywhere. Most days, I won’t let it. I can’t let it. I have 7 children and a husband who need me, and I do all I can to not let them down.
How To Be High Functioning:
1. Don’t be so hard on yourself
It’s alright to be self-critical to a point, but when it reaches the point of self-deprecation, it’s gone too far. Constantly berating yourself for falling short of the impossible expectations you place on yourself is a no-no. Set reasonable goals. Expecting too much of yourself, or being an overachiever while in the depths of your illness, will set you up for failure. Accept this as a natural outcome and remind yourself to KISS - Keep It Simple Silly!
2. Find satisfaction in your work
That overachieving you do? It can lead to added stress and frustrations as you take on more than you can ideally handle. By trying to perfect every single task, you will succeed in not only not reaching your goals, but also falling short on promised quality and quantity.Give yourself a break and consider the time you need to mentally and physically recuperate between tasks. Those of us coping with mental illness require a little more time to recharge our batteries than those who are “normal.” Don’t overburden yourself and cause burnout.

Give yourself a break and consider the time you need to mentally and physically recuperate between tasks. Those of us coping with mental illness require a little more time to recharge our batteries than those who are “normal.” Don’t overburden yourself and cause burnout.3. Find your happy place
3. Find your happy place
Do you switch between new things, seeking the happiness you believe it will bring? A new job, a new hobby, new location? Do you feel like you’re wasting time because they aren’t bringing the happiness you expected? It can leave you feeling hopeless and even suicidal. The key is to understand that none of these superficial changes can bring you the happiness you seek while in a depressive mindset. This is known as anhedonia or the loss of interest in things you previously enjoyed. For those of us with mental illness, our brain signals are unable to continually hold onto the feelings of pleasure for long.

It’s not YOU, sweetheart. It’s the chemical levels in your brain, which you have no control over. When someone says, “It’s all in your head,” implying you are imagining it, you can reply it IS in your head. In your brain functions, to be exact. It’s what makes us different. It’s what makes us special. Understanding this can help you realize that you actually DO get pleasure from it, you just don’t register it like everyone else.
4. Stop striving for perfection
You may be called a perfectionist, anal retentive, or a type A personality. It’s ok to strive for perfection to a point. When it starts tearing you apart mentally, emotionally, and even physically, it’s gone too far. You have to stop yourself. You have to remind yourself that no one is perfect.

Understanding when things reach the level of “good enough” will help decrease the stress associated with it, and keep you from feeling like a failure. Put it in terms of what you would expect from someone else doing it, not yourself. Would someone else take all the extra steps you would in a task? If it’s causing you too much stress and anxiety, only do what you would expect of others.
5. Learn to say NO
If you find yourself working through one of life’s curveballs, don’t take on more than you can handle. I know you want to say no, but you’re afraid of hurting other’s feelings. You’re afraid of appearing selfish because you already have too much on your plate with your personal issues. Be selfish! Only take on what you are sure you can handle for others.

I, myself, have a horrible time with this. Even on my lowest days, I can’t seem to say no to others. I have finally reached a point where I have to step back, evaluate the reality of my situation, and decide if I have the ability to handle that amount of stress, time, and focus. If I don’t, I say no. With those close to me, I explain I have too much going on to be able to give their problem enough time and attention. I know I will fail, so I let them know. If they get angry, then they have no regard for MY feelings and my well-being. Most people will be understanding if they know why you aren’t able to help. If you are struggling, just say no!


6. Get enough sleep
One of the hardest things to live with is lack of sleep. You’re exhausted. You have insomnia. You’re up all night with your mind racing, and the thoughts won’t shut off. One day, you crash, and you sleep like you haven’t slept in a long time. Then, it starts again. It weighs on you physically, mentally, and emotionally.I’ve been able to get more sleep with a few simple changes. Medication only works for so long, then your body gets used to it and needs more and more.

I’ve been able to get more sleep with a few simple changes. Medication only works for so long, then your body gets used to it and needs more and more.

Braindumps are helpful for some. A braindump is when you grab a paper and a pen, then sit down and write out every thought that is running through your head. That way, it’s out, on paper, and can be processed easier by working through one at a time. Sometimes it just helps to get it out so your mind can stop spinning and you can fall asleep easier.

Meditation is a way to relax your mind. It takes work at first, but over time, your mind slips into the meditative state, and you will feel more calm and relaxed, ready to sleep. Music is one method my daughter and I use. She sleeps with ear buds in. By focusing on her favorite music, she relaxes and ignores the other thoughts. This is a form of meditation because you focus more on the music, bringing yourself down to a more relaxed level. Leaving it on helps keep your mind from focusing on an unpleasant thought, causing nightmares and added anxiety.
7. Be Kind to Strangers
I force myself to smile at strangers. I spent years afraid to even look at someone, much less smile at them. I’ve realized that even just a simple kind smile from a stranger can make a difference in someone’s day, and I try to be that stranger. If a smile from me changes the way someone else who is suffering feels about themselves, I will do it. Maybe they will realize they aren’t worthless or invisible.
8. Write Self-Affirmations
I write self-affirmations each day and repeat them in the mirror. It feels silly sometimes, especially when I first started. It’s a way of affirming self-worth. Simple affirmations I use are:
I am a beautiful person.
I am enough.
I am special.
I am loved.
I am intelligent.
I am caring.
I am kind.
I am a good mother.
I am a good wife.
I am a good friend.
I am a hard worker.
9. Pick Up Old Hobbies You Once Loved
I force myself to do those things I once enjoyed. I write blog posts. I write the occasional story for my children, and a few poems here and there. I crochet, sew, and paint. I’ve learned crochet actually calms me down when I’m stressed out or experiencing a large PTSD trigger. Focusing on the stitches, and having to count each and every one keeps my mind too busy to feel the anxiety raging inside, calming me.
10. Start a Journal
Journaling is an amazing way I have found to clear my mind. I do my braindumps in a journal and am beginning to like bullet journals. I have an entire Pinterest board devoted to learning how to use a bullet journal (aka BuJo). The layouts are fun and amazing! It takes a normal task, like planning out appointments, and makes it more fun. I’ve even turned my oldest daughter onto it. She’s artistic, so her BuJo is much prettier than mine. You can use them for anything from a regular planner, meal planner, budget sheet, activity tracker, thought organizer, and so much more! I’ve made sure to use it for a brain dump each and every night. It’s how I get my list of things to do the next day, and beyond, as I prioritize the thoughts.
11. Cook, And Eat, Well
I cook out my frustrations. I make elaborate dinners (which are budget friendly), I bake bread and cookies, and I make candy. I don’t eat much of it, but the act of cooking, in itself, helps me cope. It also ensures my family eats and has snacks. Need some ideas? I’m sure I’ve got a Pinterest board for you! You can check it out here.
How about you?
Do you have any ways you push yourself to be a high functioning mama? There are mamas who could learn from you and your thoughts or actions. Tell us about it in a comment, or email Jessi or I. We would love to hear from you!


About The Author
Michelle is a wife and mother of 7. She's a PTSD, anxiety, depression, and domestic violence survivor who helps families of all sizes cope with mental illness, budgets, meal planning, DIY, and having fun. She's often found on the porch, drinking a cold Diet Pepsi, while scrolling through Pinterest. Connect with her on Twitter.

 
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20 20-Minute Self-Care Ideas for Chronic and/or Mental Illness

20 20-Minute Self-Care Ideas for Chronic and/or Mental Illness | Busy moms, especially those with chronic physical or mental illnesses, NEED self-care. But how do you find the time? It doesn't have to be hard, click here for 20 quick and awesome ideas!


 

Hello, everyone! If you’re new to the blog and joining because of the 30 Days to a Healthier Mom Life Series, welcome! And Jessi, thank you for having me.
About My Self-Care Journey
My name is Kat, and I am a 25-year-old wife and a mama to a 3-year-old little girl. In my day to day life, I wear a lot of hats. I am in charge of a daily (M-F) before and after school program. My job can be stressful, but I genuinely love it. I love working with kids. I am also starting another part time job. In addition, I write and am working on publishing a novel: hoping to either find an agent or become self-published by the end of 2017.

On top of all that, I take care of myself which is, honestly, often a full-time job in itself. You see, I have chronic mental and physical illnesses. Just finding answers in getting them diagnosed has taken nearly my whole life, and I’m sure more diagnoses are to come (I’m already to the second hand’s worth of fingers in counting them!)
Why We Need Self-Care
Parenting is a hard gig. Parenting with a chronic illness, like fibromyalgia (I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome), or a mental illness, like anxiety or depression (I have anxiety and Bipolar II), can seem almost impossible some days. Some things that make it easier for me are small acts of Self-Care.

Self-Care is a big, important buzzword going around, as it should be because taking care of one’s self is so important. But for us Mamas, it can be daunting. Another thing to do!? We already do 385882+ things, how will we have time to take care of ourselves on top of all that? And when it comes to self-care, for us chronically ill Mamas, we often can only manage the basics; our medications, our doctor's appointments.
Self-Care Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
But self-care doesn’t have to be grueling or time-consuming. It doesn’t have to be another commitment and doesn’t need time blocked off of your already overflowing family schedule unless it’s the only way you can do it. Below are 20 easy ways to take care of yourself that can be done in 20 minutes or less. In combination, done in bits and pieces around a busy schedule in a very full life, I cannot overstate what a HUGE difference they have made for me. How I care for others depends on me first taking care of myself. My self-care makes me a better educator, wife, and mother.

Set a timer so you don’t spend the whole time watching the clock (a total calm-killer) and enjoy. And remember, we are all different, and those of us who are affected by chronic and/or mental illness are all affected in different ways. So some of these tips might work great for these, and others won’t be your style. That’s OK! Take what works, and let the rest go.


20 20-Minute Self-Care Ideas
1. Spend some introspective time, whether it’s in your journal or your mind
Think about who you are, how far you’ve come, and where you want to go. I’m a details person who often gets bogged down by them, so it really helps for me to step back and take some time to see the big picture. I’ll take 20 minutes to just write down everything that happened in the last month. Maybe on a day that I need some particular encouragement, I’ll write down every good thing that happened in the last month. Or every challenge from the past year that I have now overcome. Mountains look like molehills when you step back!
2. Spend time in the Word
I never thought I’d be the person who read the Bible on her phone. I had nothing against others doing it, but I loved the feel of a heavy paper Bible in my hands too much. I love turning the delicate, thin pages; love the smell; love writing in it and highlighting it; love the ribbon bookmark. I love feeling fully immersed in the tangibleness of God’s eternal word through the written Word.

But I also am not a purse person. I am barely even a wallet person. I’m trying to be better at this (see #5), but for now, I barely carry anything around, other than my phone and keys. So I found the YouVersion Bible app…And to say it has been a life changer for me would be an understatement. It has made reading the Bible such an easy, instinctual process. Now, whenever I feel an EDS pain flare or panic attack coming on, getting comfort from scripture is as simple as reaching for my phone. It has become second nature to me, and I am reading the Bible so much more now. And I can do it in such short, easy chunks! I definitely recommend it.
3. Watch 20 Minutes Of Low-Commitment TV
This is going to sound bizarre, but I am terrible at watching TV. Terrible! I’ll get hooked on a TV show, but then have no time to watch, so I’ll stop watching altogether. So for self-care, I’ll watch something I feel OK with only watching for 20 minutes at a time. I’ve been watching Top Chef All Stars for this purpose.
4. Put a little color on something
Minus the pressure to be perfect. “Adult coloring” is really in right now, and for those who it helps…Great! But for me, it was always more anxiety-provoking than it was stress-relieving. I had a Star Wars coloring pillow that I hadn’t colored a single part of since December because I just couldn’t find the time or motivation. It seemed like another chore, not relaxing.

So instead of those fancy markers, I bought a Crayola art kit that was on clearance, and finally brought that pillow into work and colored it with my school kids. It was done in less than an hour. Is it perfect? Of course not! Is it the colors I chose? Nope! But the coloring still relieved stress and, now that it doesn’t have the perfectionism attached, it’s more fun for me to do at home, too.
5. Put together a self-care bag
Like I said above, I’m terrible at carrying a bag, but I’m putting one together to have self-care on the go. It has a paper copy of the Bible, my art kit, teabags, a pen, a picture a student colored me, and lavender lotion, so far.
6. Immerse yourself in a child’s world
A lot of times, we are with our or other, if you work with children like I do, children, but we aren’t really intentional about the time we spend with them. When I want to forget about my anxiety or pain, one of the best ways for me to do that is to get on a child’s level and spend 20 minutes really engaging with them, playing with them, just being silly and being a kid.
7. DIY aromatherapy
I really like lavender and smelling it really calms me down. So I’ll put on some lavender lotion or light a lavender candle and breathe deeply.
8. Drink some tea or coffee
Make it the only thing you’re doing. I find it almost glamorous to have time where all I’m doing, all I need to do, all I expect myself to do, is drink a piping hot beverage and really enjoy it, really taste it, without fear of it getting cold or any other obligations.
9. Take a bath
Epsom salts, especially lavender, really help with my chronic pain in a bath. Even 20-minute baths do wonders for me.


10. Go for a walk
Getting some fresh air and vitamin D can do wonders to change my perspective. I try not to push myself on distance or speed. If I can only go slow and lean on a tree, then go slow and lean on another tree, there is no shame in that.
11. Swim
For me, swimming is something my body really likes that I need to be intentional about doing more. I feel so much more natural and free in water than on land. Even five minutes a week in a pool honestly makes a big difference for me.
12. Stretch
Doing ankle stretches, arm stretches, leg stretches, any sort of stretch break always reminds me how much that stretch break was needed! I try to take as many stretch breaks as possible.
13. Do a breathing/meditation exercise
My husband taught me a great exercise years ago when we were just dating. Close your eyes and imagine compressing all your anxiety into a little ball in your chest and work on pushing that ball out of you. It works really well and I always feel more peaceful when I actually take the time to do it.
14. Read a chapter of a book
There are so many books I want to read, but reading them all seems so overwhelming. A chapter at a time is totally doable! Choose books with short, easy to read chapters, and remember little pieces add up to big progress!
15. Write something creative
I love working on writing my novel and escaping into my creative world for 20 minutes. Write a short story, a poem, part of a chapter of a novel, a play…Anything that helps you escape the hard reality of chronic physical and mental illness for a bit!
16. Read an interesting article you have saved
If you’re like me, you have a bunch of articles bookmarked or saved that you haven’t actually gotten back to. Intentionally crack one open.
17. Find your next book to read
I hate the feeling when you want to read something but just finished a book and have nothing to read. Spend some time reading book reviews and find your next page-turner!
18. Take a power nap
Don’t scoff! 20 minutes can actually be a restful nap, especially if you can fall asleep right away.
19. Rest
If you can’t nap, act like you are. Lay your head on the pillow and pull the blankets over your head for 20 minutes. Sometimes for me, it’s even more relaxing, because I’m actually awake to enjoy it!
20. Intentionally do nothing at all
You’re not napping. You’re just being. Sometimes, this is my favorite thing to do of all…Time to sit on the couch, quiet my thoughts, and just exist. Take a moment to breathe, calm down, and remember that, in the scheme of things, today is just one day, and whatever I’m facing today is likely small.


Which of These Can You Do Today?
I hope you found some ways to spend your next 20 minutes making an investment in your own wellness. It can be a small-but-mighty help to your overall well-being as a mom and an overall person. Sending love to all of you, and thank you for reading!

 



About The Author
Kat is a 25-year-old Midwestern mama who performs a daily balancing act. She has a career she loves; a charming, precocious three-year-old daughter; and is married to her college sweetheart, who still makes her laugh so hard she squirts juice out her nose. Kat is a writer and on top of working on publishing her first novel she blogs about living with chronic and mental illness as a frequent contributor on The Mighty. She also writes on her own blog, Writer Kat, and you can follow her blog Facebook page here.

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How To Deal With Blue Days: Not If, But When They Happen

How To Deal With Blue Days | Sad, blue days will happen in motherhood. How you deal with them is up to you. Here, we share our most basic and applicable advice for shrinking that day down and still living your life.

Today was a blue day. Yesterday was a blue day also.
Even though I see a therapist every month and I make time for self-care every day, these blue days still sneak up on me occasionally. Yesterday was even worse than a blue day, it was a numb day. You know the kind. You don't feel sad or weepy, but you don't feel happy or excited or anything else. You just want the day to end so you don't have to NOT feel anymore.
How To Deal With Blue Days
The first thing you HAVE to do is give yourself grace. Don't heap mom guilt on top of that already towering pile of yuck. Let yourself lay in bed if you can. Allow your kids to watch a movie. Let yourself cry. Usually, my numb days are made worse when I try to fight them or keep myself from going blue. But sometimes going blue can actually help me get out of the funk and back into the right mindset.

If you've seen Disney Pixar's Inside Out, you know what I mean. When Joy steps aside and lets Sadness control things, Riley is able to get those feelings out in the open and let them go to some degree. My husband came in today to find me with half-dried tear stains on my cheeks. He asked if I needed a hug and I did. And you know what? It didn't make the sadness go away immediately, but it did enable me to get out of bed, go downstairs, and eat dinner with my kids.


Prepare For The Days Before They Happen
My therapist gave me this excellent advice: Prepare ahead of time for the return of your sad days. Depression isn't something you deal with once and then never again. Like clouds across a sunny sky, it will come back. Hopefully not as intense, but it's good to be prepared just in case.

The ways you prepare for a blue day are dependent on you and what makes you most energized, fulfilled, or relaxed. Prepare a playlist on Youtube or Spotify with music that makes you feel like dancing. Have essential oils on hand which you can diffuse to improve your mood or energy levels. Talk to your spouse about what helps you so that he can partner with you. I can't tell you how many blue days have been shortened by my husband recognizing them and sending me out for some self-care. You know the things that make you feel better. Make a list and keep it handy, because it's not a matter of if you'll need it but when.
Choose One Go-To Thing
Hands down the most difficult part of a blue or numb day is to peel yourself off the couch or out from under the covers and do that first thing. Once you're up and moving, it's often a lot easier to drum up the motivation to do another thing on the list. So find one thing that's easy to do that will help you start. Maybe it's the music playlist, and you can pull it up on your phone and feel the good energy flowing through you. Whatever one thing you can do, do it and move on from there.


It's All About The Baby Steps
Your mental health is a delicate balancing act. Start small. Take one tiny step. Then another. Then another. You can do it! Even though you will fall back again sometimes, it's okay. If you have to take that very first baby step over and over again, it's okay. I've been there. I am there. You are not alone.

None of this advice will help if you haven't managed your mental health. If you have more blue days than not, please reach out to a doctor for recommendations on a good therapist in your area. Therapists are not for crazy people! They are for hurting, exhausted, lonely moms who need someone to talk to. Don't allow anything to keep you from getting the time and help you need.

If you find yourself thinking suicidal thoughts or wondering if your family would be better off without you, please ignore this whole list and call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. 

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How I Use a Bullet Journal to Track My Mental Health and Self-Care

How I Use My Bullet Journal to Track My Mental Health and Self-Care | A Bullet Journal can be an efficient method for keeping track of every aspect of your life, but did you know you can track your mental health also? Using my BuJo for mental health and self-care helps me recognize when I'm healthy and when I need to ask for help. Learn how to set up your own spreads here.

Using a Bullet Journal to Track My Mental Health
I have always been prone to bouts of anxiety and depression so, after a difficult pregnancy, I knew I was going to be a prime target for those pesky postpartum blues that could potentially turn into something more serious. Knowing this about myself ahead of time, however, gave me time to figure out exactly how I was going to keep track of my moods so that I would recognize when it was time to seek help.

My bullet journal has been my go-to for pretty much everything: grocery lists, daily/monthly/yearly calendars, reading lists, and meal and weight tracking. So, of course, my journal would be the perfect place to start tracking my mental health as well. I always have it with me so I can easily make note of my mood anytime.


What Is Bullet Journaling?
If you have never heard of Bullet Journaling before, I encourage you to look into the original system and to browse Pinterest for inspiration. It's a wonderful way to keep different parts of your life organized, especially if you are a fan of pen and paper lists and calendars but haven't found that one date book that really works for you.
Creating a System That Works For Me
The most important thing for me to start tracking was my mood, but I was also interested in how it was being affected by my workouts and sleep, or lack thereof. I liked the 'year in pixels' idea so I adapted it for my needs by adding a few extra grids to help track exercise and sleep. Having everything on one spread makes it much easier to look for patterns and correlations between the emotional and the physical aspects of my health.


Adapting As I Learn
After getting started with the sleep tracking, I realized that I needed one more metric. I had all these pretty high numbers, sometimes 8 or more hours, but I was still feeling so sleep deprived. I couldn't figure it out. After taking a closer look at my sleep tracker (which is actually my baby's sleep tracker), I realized that I felt a thousand times better on the days when I got a continuous block of sleep that lasted for 4-5 hours rather than 2 or fewer hour chunks. As you can tell from my tracker, and the lack of green spaces in my sleep chart, I don't get as many of those as I would like.


Don't Make It Too Complicated
Originally with my mood tracker, I would use two colors if I felt multiple moods during the day, but I found that this wasn't that helpful and only made it harder to read. Now, I simply choose one emotion that made the most impact to my day and stick with my gut. I also found it incredibly useful to see, after the month is over, how many days were 'good' and how many were 'bad'. I can make sure that my orange, green, and pink days outnumber all the red, yellow, and blue days. If the bad ever outnumber the good, I know that it is definitely time to ask for help.


Using a Bullet Journal to Track My Self-Care
As a breastfeeding mama, it is very important for me to track things like water intake, vitamins, and medications, as well as make sure I'm eating enough to support not only my own body but my daughters as well. I track my self-care in the form of taking a shower and brushing my teeth which, as a busy first-time mom, I find myself forgetting constantly. With the amount of sleep that I get in solid blocks, caffeine is crucial for my early morning functioning, so I also make sure I drink one cup of coffee (or sometimes sub out for a coke). If I have a headache one day I can usually look back and realize I didn't have coffee the day before. I used to track what I was eating for my meals, but these days that takes too much time so, instead, I just check off which meals I've eaten to make sure I don't miss any.


Preparing For The Blue Days I Know Will Come
Whenever I'm feeling particularly stressed or depressed, I have trouble picking something to do that will calm me down. So I drew up some quick sketches of things I can use to re-center myself, like meditation or taking a bath. Now, if I'm feeling burnt out, I can just flip to this spread in my journal and pick something. I've also left space to add more as I discover new things that help me relax.


Can A Bullet Journal Improve Your Mental Health?
A bullet journal can be used in so many ways, and I've found it to be an amazing tool for tracking mental health and self-care. Busy moms often neglect themselves until it becomes a bigger problem then it could have been. It's far too easy to neglect your own mental health and self-care, but with a system like this, you too can make sure you're taking the best care of yourself.

 



About The Author
Kalen is a new mom and work-from-home artist and blogger at Nerdy Wife, Nerdy Life.  Her blog has a variety of subjects ranging from motherhood and bullet journaling to board games and art.  Kalen loves the freedom of working from home while still being able to take care of her daughter. Follow her adventures on Instagram @nerdywifenerdylife.


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Weekend Getaway: Why You Need One ASAP and How to Make It Happen


A weekend getaway can be a great way to reset
I've been in a pretty good mental space over the last couple of months but when the opportunity to go on a weekend getaway with my mom came up, I jumped at it.

We flew to Arizona to help my grandma celebrate her 75th birthday. It was really great to spend the weekend with them, but I had to leave my kids and husband behind. Three days without my kids. Three days of contact only through a pixelated screen. Seriously, thank goodness for technology! I was delightfully surprised to find that I didn't miss my kids nearly as much as I expected to.


The mom life is hard work
Taking care of your children, while fulfilling and important, is really hard work! You're on call around the clock and your needs usually fall somewhere behind everyone else's. Self-doubt, mom guilt, loneliness, and depression are just a few of the things you may begin to feel when you aren't making time for you.
Taking time off can sometimes be harder than not
I often take time away from the house for writing or meeting up with a friend, but when I first started doing that, it wasn't easy. I would spend hours debating whether I should call a friend or spend the time alone, whether I should go sit at a coffee shop or go for a walk or try to get a pedicure. I'd build up so many expectations that I would often return from my alone time feeling like I had wasted it or, else, find myself wandering around the grocery store rationalizing it as me-time.

When you give yourself a whole weekend away, you can get over those tendencies to use your alone time on errands without kids (lame!) and start using that time to rejuvenate your spirit, remember what you love to do, and do it!


How To Plan The Perfect Weekend Getaway:
Step 1: Stop planning for it to be perfect
Let it be what it is. Keep your expectations low, but plan to have a good time. Give yourself the freedom to nap (I almost always crash when I have a couple hours of downtime) or to eat what you want when you want or to do nothing at all. Leaving margin in your travel plans allows you to relax and go with the flow, which is exactly what you need, Mama!
Step 2: Be true to where you're at
If you can't spend a ton of money on a big getaway, find a way to do it on the cheap so you don't waste time feeling guilty about it (or worse, pay for it plus interest afterwards!) If you need time away from people, plan a solo or partner trip with someone who fills you up, like your spouse or best friend. There are times to plan around other people and there are times you may need to be totally selfish in order to really relax. Learn to distinguish between the two and be okay with putting yourself first for once.
Step 3: Put the to-do list away!
Plan and prepare for your trip and then put that expectation-inducing-list away for good. Let the weekend roll by. Let yourself relax, agenda-less, for at least a whole day. This time is about decompressing, letting go of responsibilities, and taking care of you and only you, Mama. Just chill.

[caption id="attachment_312" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Don't mind the blurriness #selfiefail[/caption]
Take care of you
Wherever you end up going and whatever you end up doing, make sure it's something that makes you happy and fulfilled and doesn't cause you a ton of stress. Some stress is normal when you're traveling, but don't let yourself get caught up in the little things. Only you know what makes you most relaxed so, while I can share some ideas, only you can decide what's best for you.


What's your ideal getaway weekend?
Need Rest?
Try relaxing at the beach, soaking in the sun. Head to a snowy mountain cabin with a book and lots of firewood. Drive into the city and spend the whole day chilling in a coffee shop or browsing a museum.
Need Purpose?
Join a short-term missions group; see another place and give a little of yourself. Volunteer at an event or ministry where you feel needed and valuable. Visit an elderly family member and spend the weekend doing what they do.
Need A Change of Scenery?
Go camping or hiking. Visit a state or national park (and take loads of pictures to share!). Visit a nature preserve.
Need People?
Visit family far away. Head into a big city, like LA, New York, or Vegas, and get lost in the hustle and bustle of humanity. Take along your best friends and/or your spouse.
Self-care is others-care in disguise
Whatever you do, do it knowing that a little break will make you a better mom. A happy mom can give so much more of herself to her kids and hubby because she has so much more of herself available. Your self-care is directly linked to your ability to care for others, so don't neglect you, Mama!

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