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.
8 Ways To Celebrate Without Sugar
Visit A Landmark
A river, lake, or mountain would be a great place to visit and spend an afternoon. And it's free which makes it twice as awesome! The world is incredible and while you might like to visit somewhere different, there are people out there who want nothing more than to visit the place where you live. So be a tourist for an afternoon and explore your city or county. Visit a local county or state park. Hike, swim, take pictures and enjoy the time together as a family. I guarantee your kids will love this even more than a trip to the ice cream shop. And they'll remember it infinitely longer.
Visit An Attraction
Maybe you live near a theme park, zoo, or another touristy place. In my hometown, we have a small railroad company that puts on themed 1- or 2-hour excursions. My daughters love getting on the train and, even though we don't even travel five miles from home, that ride becomes the highlight of the whole month.
Purchase A Lasting 'Treat'
Take a trip together to a shop you don't usually visit and purchase a new piece of clothing, shoes, a book, or a new toy. It doesn't have to be big or cost more than a few dollars. My kids love to visit a bookstore where my oldest will usually choose a new reader and my youngest will choose a new stuffed animal. (You know the ones, those new beanie baby animals with giant glittery eyes... Yeah, we have a small army of them.) My daughters also love to pick out their shoes or clothes so when they need new ones, we make it into a big thing. They get a 'special treat' and I get to spend only money I needed to spend anyway!
Take Advantage of Free-For-Kids Activites
Especially during the summer months! Our bowling alley offers free daily bowling for kids under 18, the movie theaters have weekly free matinees, and many restaurants offer free-for-kids days or evenings each week. These can be excellent ways to get out and have fun with your kiddos while also saving money, which I'm all about, you guys! The cost of an outing doesn't affect it's specialness one bit!
Make Something At Home
Make your own popsicles by filling molds with this smoothie recipe. Use bananas instead of honey and you've got a 5-minute sugar-free treat that your kids will definitely love! One ingredient sugar-free ice cream? Done. How about some fresh berries with lightly sweetened whipped cream? See the common thread here? Fruit! Let them enjoy the bounties of summer straight from the bush/tree/vine. I can almost hear you saying, "but Jessi, fruit has sugar too!" I know, I know. But it also has fiber and micronutrients that your kids' bodies need. Maybe they shouldn't eat only fruit, but 2 servings of fruit, especially when secretly mixed with spinach, is definitely good for them.
Let Them Organize A Party
I don't know about your kids, but mine love to be in charge! The idea of planning their own tea party or backyard pool party and inviting all their friends or cousins over would be the coolest thing since learning to butter their own toast! Let them do the invitations, the decorations, and the activity planning. And if you're a 'planning' mom, do your best not to take over ;) If they want to hang the Frozen decorations from 2 years ago with the Spiderman table cloth they found in the closet, let them! It's their party and half the fun is in making it happen.
Get A Little Messy
Water balloon fight anyone? How about these totally washable chalk bombs? (Honestly, I hate these things, but my kids... my kids LOVE them...) You can paint a window with shaving cream paint and spray it all off when you're done. There's something magical about kids and messes. And when you, the stop-that-I-don't-want-to-clean-it-up-again Mama join in on the fun, I guarantee they won't forget it easily.
The Next Time You Need A Reward or Treat
This list includes things you probably won't do every day, but that's okay! You wouldn't go out for ice cream every day (I hope!) But the next time you need a treat or a special reward or *ahem* a bribe, remember these ideas. You'll have one very happy kiddo on your hands and you'll still get them to bed on time without the sugar-high plummet tantrum. --You're welcome--
What would you add to this list? I'd love to add a few new ideas to my sugar-free arsenal! Let me know in the comments.
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.
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
Hello, my name is Jessi and I am a dreamer.
Raise your hand if that's you too. I knew it, I knew I wasn't the only one! I bet you've felt just like I have at some point (maybe even every day), that you're meant for more. I love my kids and I love being a stay-at-home mom, or rather I should say I love the idea of being a stay-at-home mom. I really do love being with my kids, but so many times I find myself bored or grumpy because I feel like I'm never going to achieve my dreams in the midst of the never-ending laundry, dishes, and diapers.
Maybe it's just me, but the first time I watched Moana I cried like a baby. I'm talking streams of tears down my cheeks sobbing. I felt so... so... understood. Now, I know the Disney giants want us to feel just like that (and let's just take a second to appreciate the power of their storytelling abilities... remarkable) but this movie struck something in the core of my being that nothing else ever has. So let's take a look at those moments today, shall we?
***Spoilers Ahead!!! If you haven't seen Moana yet, stop right now and watch it! I'll even give you the link to it: Watch Moana here. Ready now? You may proceed!***
6 Times Moana Said (or Sang) Exactly What I Feel
1. I'll be satisfied if I play along / But the voice inside sings a different song / What is wrong with me?
How many times have you heard the phrase 'fake it til you make it'? I don't know when I heard it first, but in the early days after both my babies, it was like a chant; Fake it, you'll make it. The idea behind it is that acting happy about your circumstances will eventually result in true happiness. I definitely think there is some truth to that, however, other times you just gotta move on, try something else, or ask for help.
When Moana stands on the top of the mountain and cries out to the wind, "What is wrong with me?" it was like my heart rose with her. Thankfully, the truth, and the point of the movie, is that nothing is wrong with me. Just like nothing is wrong with you. We don't all fit one mold or one lifestyle and that's more than okay, that's good. Embrace who you are and dance to the music inside.
2. Every turn I take / Every trail I track / Is a choice I make / Now I can't turn back / From the great unknown / Where I go alone / Where I long to be
Moana sings this haunting line as she sets sail from her home all on her own (and with her mother's blessing -- I love that!!!) She's setting out to finally answer this call she's felt for her whole life, despite her father's disapproval. Now, I'm all about respecting my parents and I was decently good at it growing up and still today. However, her father's rules were based on fear, not on Moana's best interest (see #6).
This line resonates with me so much because I didn't go to college right after high school like literally everyone expected of me. Instead, I joined Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and moved to England on my own. I remember talking to God about it and I knew He meant me to stand alone, that this was a journey that only I could take and only I was meant to take. Some things in life are like that. We don't get to go into holding the hand of someone else because if we did we'd miss out on some incredible personal development. So if you prefer to wear your baby in a sling 24/7 and so-and-so is telling you not to, do it! You do you, Mama!
3. They have stolen the heart from inside you / But this does not define you / This is not who you are / You know who you are
No one else can define who you are. That is up to you and you alone, Mama. Whether we're talking parenting, career, life, or anything else, you know who you are. I spent a lot of my life struggling to know who I was meant to be. And the incredible thing I'm coming to realize now, in year 30, is that I already am who I'm meant to be. I just keep trying to force myself to fit in a mold that someone else sets for me. You know who you are.
4. And the call isn't out there at all / It's inside me / It's like the tide, always falling and rising
This one... Gosh. Just thinking about this line again makes my heart kind of twist inside my chest. Like I said in the last one, this year I've finally started to settle into my identity and let myself be who I've always been. For so long, I thought my soul would rest if I could just land on that 'thing' I was meant to be doing. But, like Moana, I have learned that it's not something out there. It's my heart, right here, telling me to be me. If that's you too, Mama, let it go (not to mix movie references here...) and be who you are.
5. All the time wondering where I need to be / Is behind me / I'm on my own / To worlds unknown
I don't know what the future holds. I thought next year would be spent traveling the U.S. with my kids and hubby in an RV, but it's looking now like I might be teaching middle school science instead. (I'll let you know when I know for sure!) And I've found that like is like that more often than not. We make our plans and hold to these arbitrary expectations and then life happens, opportunities open up, things shift and we're suddenly heading in another direction. Rather than get side-tracked and constantly question whether I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, I've learned to embrace the change. I know who I am, what I do is just that: what I do. My activities don't define who I am any more than what I had for lunch does.
6. Mind what he says but remember / You may hear a voice inside / And if the voice starts to whisper / To follow the farthest star / Moana, that voice inside is / Who you are
Okay, this one wasn't Moana at all, but Gramma Tala. First, can I be real? I want to be just like Gramma Tala when I grow up. For real. That woman is the real hero of Moana. She is fearlessly true to herself. She loves her family deeply and isn't afraid to stand up for what she believes to be right. On top of all that, she sees Moana for who she is, not for who she thinks Moana should be, and Gramma Tala gives Moana the tools she needs to be true to herself without labeling her according to what she sees in Moana. There is a balance in seeing a strength in someone and forcing them into a box according to that perceived strength.
What Would You Add?
Were there other moments from Moana which really resonated with you? I'd love to hear them in the comments!
Your children learn from watching you as their example. If you live healthy they will learn from you how to live healthy. However, you're not the only person in the world. They will learn from the whole family, from kids at school, teachers, other parents, etc. Each encounter is an opportunity to teach them about their bodies, their health, and their ability to choose things which will enable them to grow stronger each day.
What To Do About Unhealthy Snacks
They may notice that their friend's snacks taste sweeter than their own. This can be a teachable moment. For example, they ask you to buy them some candy. Instead of just saying no, you might ask them WHY they want it. If their answer is, "I don't want to be the exception in my class,” then you can help them boost their self-esteem and confidence by, for example, telling them stories of creative people who were considered "weird" in the beginning then ended up being praised.
If your children say they don't like the taste of the healthy snacks you give them, ask them what they want instead and offer them healthy alternatives. Make some new healthy cakes or cookies. The Internet is full of recipes for this. Try to include them in the process of making snacks and enjoy that time in the kitchen together. Remind them too WHY you chose the healthy lifestyle in the beginning. Depending on their ages, you can show them documentaries and videos of how these unhealthy snacks are made.
How To Steer Your Kids Toward Healthier Choices
I know it can be overwhelming and tempting to give up on healthy choices when our kids insist on having some of the wide range of unhealthy foods out there. So give yourself permission to buy them the occasional treat. However, remind them about the reasons you choose to eat healthier foods; together, pay attention and notice every little change in their teeth, skin irritation, energy level, or any other noticeable differences.
This can give them the experience they need in order to recognize how much of the tasty looking food is unhealthy. They may just need to experience the contrast between the two for themselves.
Open a dialogue with them to let them express how they felt during this little experience. This
can give you many hints about what they like and don’t like, enabling you to make healthy food that satisfies their taste buds at the same time, especially if they're picky. Don't criticize their opinion. Let them know you understand them and give credit to their preferences.
Include Them In Other Healthy Choices
Because your children are learning from you how to make healthy choices, give them the REASONS why you chose this product over that one, why you chose to walk and not drive, or why this grocery shop is better than that one. When you engage with them like adults, they feel more responsibility and UNDERSTAND why this a choice you want to stick to. Then they have the choice to agree with you or search for more information. Either way, they're growing and expanding their consciousness and knowledge in a natural way.
Try to include them in different choices in other areas as well. You'll be amazed by their intuitive answers and ideas. They may help you stay accountable when you’re tempted to give up on your healthy lifestyle or indulge in something you shouldn’t! Include your kids in a family workout or gardening or another activity that's healthy and joyful. This gives your kids the experience of an enjoyable healthy lifestyle.
Do Your Best And They Will Too
Lastly, I know how it can be emotionally stressful to keep centered and objective with kids who just want to explore EVERYTHING. Just try your best and forgive yourself each night before bed for any mistakes you made during the day. No one is perfect, including you.
Are you a mom trying to live healthily or want to be healthy? How do you handle your kids’ questions? Share your story with us in a comment below.
About The Author
Fatima is a healthy living coach and blogger and a mom of two boys. Find her on www.wellnessofeve.com or Facebook.
How To Start Exercising Again After Baby
Being a new mum is both exciting and exhausting. Recovering from pregnancy and birth takes time. And with the physical and emotional demands of being a new mama, I’m sure you’re very aware that you’re quite often running on empty.
How do you realistically cope with fatigue and the demands of babies and children so you can get active, fit, and healthy again? Taking the first steps back into structured exercise can be daunting.
This post contains affiliate links.
Exercise Where You Can, When You Can
Remove the barrier of having to meet structured exercise guidelines to get results. Don’t even try to pick up where you left off. Now is the time to embrace a much more flexible approach that can fit into your day-to-day schedule around multiple demands.
Don’t underestimate the little things. We have so many opportunities each day to increase movement. A bit of activity on its’ own may not feel like much but a mere 20-minute walk after lunch each day can burn an additional 700 calories per week.
Set Smaller, Achievable Goals
A 20-minute walk is achievable, right? I started with walking around my neighbourhood with a colicky, premmie baby screaming at the top of his lungs. I had one wheel of the pram on the footpath and the other on the grass either side of my path. The gentle jostling helped soothe my baby to sleep, and the walk got me out of the house so I could clear my head. Trust me; you don't want to be indoors with a screaming baby for hours on end.
Before you get going, remember that making a choice to do something for yourself, like a bit of exercise or activity, is great for your mental health as well as your physical health. Having a small break helps you cope better and feel more positive. Let’s face it – we love our babies, but every one of us can benefit from a break from the same thing all day, every day.
How To Get Started And Keep Going
Plan activities you love: Start by planning your day. Choose activities you love doing. Don’t try to run, for example, if you hate running. It won’t work.
Have a backup plan: For the nights you don’t get any sleep or baby is sick, try a shorter walk instead of a 20-minute yoga session.
Change your mindset about exercise! Remember, activity is cumulative – so 3 x 10 minutes bouts of something equal 30 minutes of exercise per day. Every movement you perform COUNTS towards your daily total.
Mix it up: Plan activities you can do on your own, like a swim at the local pool, and some you can do with your baby, like a walk in the park.
Go slowly and build your confidence: Note how many steps you take when you start exercising. Then use this as a base to incrementally increase the steps taken or the distance walked each week.
There are many ways to get active by tweaking what you’re already doing. I recommend tracking your progress with an app on your phone or an activity tracker – both are a great way to see how much you’re doing! My Fitness Pal helps you track your activity and food to create a caloric deficit. And even if you don’t have a Fitbit, you can purchase the app (for Google or Apple) that will count your steps and track workouts and meals via your phone.
Easy Activities To Get You Started:
Dancing for five minutes with baby burns 29 calories.
Half an hour of Gardening can burn around 200 calories.
20-minute Lunchtime walks with a loaded pram burn an additional 700 calories per week.
Standing instead of sitting when you’re on the phone burns 50 calories an hour.
5 minutes of Pilates burns 25 calories
Wall squat for 2 minutes as you clean your teeth burns 10 calories
Bench push ups for a minute as you wait for the kettle to boil burns 8 calories.
As you go along, you’ll find more ways to move than you thought possible - especially if you enjoy it. And it's too cute when you find your babies and toddlers joining in too. It makes every little bit of effort worthwhile.
You don't need to work harder, you need to work smarter!
About The Author
Justine Guest is the Founder of an online fitness site at SMART Body Project and has been a passionate coach for over 15 years. She’s also a Star Wars obsessive, cephalopod lover and paronomasia collector (not necessarily in that order). Find her on Facebook or at www.smartbodyproject.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
Kids and Media
We all know it's better to talk to our kids than to plunk them down in front of a television. We all know that reading aloud to our kids is better than having a read aloud book or robot voiced ebook read to them. But when we're tired and lonely or battling depression or anxiety, it's really hard to fight the urge to occupy them.
I'll be honest about my battle here: At our worst, my toddlers spent as many as 7 hours a day in front of a screen, be it television or interactive media in the form of a tablet or phone. While trudging along through two infants, 16 months apart, and battling postpartum depression, the sanity provided by the iPad probably saved my life. It certainly helped me get by. But it also left me feeling guilty... Really guilty. It took me three years to figure out how to battle my depression successfully. That was three years of tablet babysitters. Three years worth of interactive media from which to break free.
When I finally got treatment and found myself in a healthy place, my husband and I decided to purchase the Amazon Kindle for our kids because it has a built-in timer and excellent parental controls. Rather than sending my girls upstairs with their tablets and calling them down at some arbitrary time hours later, I could set a 2-hour daily timer so that they, and I, wouldn't lose track of time. It helped me stay accountable. And it worked for the season I needed it to work.
Then my oldest daughter started having nightmares. I did everything I could think of to help her with her nightmares, but nothing seemed to work. Shows as educational and innocuous as Octonauts were giving her wake-up-screaming nightmares every single night. My husband and I were desperate for change.
The answer we landed on made me more nervous than I thought it would.
We decided to take away their tablets.
Just for one week. One week of screen-free play time. One week to purge their little brains of the media they had been consuming constantly since they could barely even talk. It was a one-week hail mary to clear my little girl's brain of all her scary thoughts.
And you know what? It totally worked!
By the very next night, my little gal slept through the night without a single scary dream. And the next night, and the next, and the one after that. But it didn't stop there. We saw even more benefits in the form of their behavior and sociability and creativity. And it wasn't nearly as life-changing for me as I expected it to be.
The Benefits of Screen-Free Kids
They became more socially adept:
They play together better. There is way less fighting and way more cooperative play. My girls are close enough in age that they've always played together pretty nicely, so I was honestly surprised to find that, in the absence of screens, they formed an even closer bond.
Longer attention spans:
Together or separate, they play with one toy longer, stick to one story line longer, and rarely ask me for a new thing to do. They're more independent and it actually worked out that I'm able to get more housework and more writing done while they play on their own.
This may actually just be due to the developmental stage they're at, but they make up and act out new (non-movie) story lines every day. Artwork and writing have become primary activities which they can happily spend hours doing. Rather than tracing a letter on a screen, they are writing words with actual paper and pencil.
It has been a month since we've ditched the tablets and my eldest has only experienced one night with a scary dream. Compared to the 2-3 nightly wake-ups before, this has been amazing!
Decrease in the "Gimmies":
They don't see any commercials or mainstream cartoons, so they don't even know about the latest and greatest, let alone ask for them. When we walk past a store's toy section, they like to look and admire the pretty dolls and animals, but they don't have the influence of the media telling them they need all those new things. It's pretty darn fantastic.
Decrease in Mom Guilt:
I used to spend hours agonizing over the feeling that I was failing my kids. Or else, I'd feel so guilty I would have to force myself to stop feeling in order to cope. I totally understand the whispers of depression that say you don't have a choice, you can't survive without it, or even that it's better than what you, Mama, can offer. But it's not true! You can do this and you can survive the transition!
For more help, get in touch with a therapist or call a helpline 1-800-273-TALK.
Decrease in built-in "Me Time":
Without those two hours of silence, I've had to get more creative with my days. When I need time to myself now, I ask my husband to take care of bedtime so I can meet a friend for coffee or do one of these self-care activities. I also set out special activities for times when I need to get work done. Quiet time boxes can be super helpful for little ones, as well as monthly craft boxes like Koala Crate.
My kids are living and playing more, which means they leave more of a mess in their wake. For me, it's a small price to pay for all those benefits and I remind myself of that every time I trip over a toy. And if the mess becomes a deal breaker, you can institute a toy storage system like we did to help control the chaos.
We won't go back
Sometimes things as simple as arranging a quiet time box for the afternoons can be enough to shift your whole perspective. I know I always feel ten times better waking up to a clean kitchen than a dirty one. It's the same with screen free kids. When I see them playing together or building a fort with every pillow and blanket in the whole house, there's this deep-seated mom happiness that shines through all the other gunk I might be feeling.
And, because there's always someone, let me say: I'm not at all what you'd call tech-phobic. I'm a blogger married to a web developer, after all. Our livelihood depends on the internet and constant connection with the world. Because of that, I understand that my kids will need to know how to use things like tablets and computers. I have no intention of keeping them away forever but, for now, I'm happy to limit screen usage to the occasional car trip or family movie night. I have awesome kids and giving them the gift of a screen free childhood is worth the extra effort required on my part.
Blessing upon blessing,
Other parents on the subject of Screen-Free Kids:
"This was the wildest thing: They played together so much better...It seemed like they were more friendly, more sociable with each other. It's not a scientific study, but they came alive, if you will, for those months."
"And their approach to relaxation was so different from mine. When we finished exams, I would plunk down in front of the TV and just zone out—whereas they would make art, read, go for a run, call friends…. it just didn’t occur to them to relax in front of the television."
How much do you depend on tablets or television? Would you ever consider a screen free week with your kids? Let us know in the comments.