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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Motherhood Comes With Plenty of Worries
Motherhood can be daunting. But I also believe it depends on our perception, how we perceive our life to be after motherhood. When I look back on the early days of my own motherhood journey, I feel I could have done things differently. I was very paranoid after I gave birth to my daughter. Often, I would run back to the room after getting a drink of water, even if she was sleeping. I was unable to leave her alone for a second and was always worried about her well being.
Big Life Changes Lead Me To Step Out More
When my daughter was 4-years-old, we moved to a new city. It was a big change for us as a family. My daughter began attending preschool. I am a shy person initially so it was very difficult for me to strike up a conversation with other moms at her school. I had to step out of my comfort zone in order to kindle relationships and find support from other moms. While attending functions at the school, I found like-minded moms, and then we had so much to discuss that it became easy to adjust to a new city.
So today, I want to help other moms do the same. I will share a few tips on how to keep your social life active long after the baby comes.
Strong Friendships Ease the Transition Into Motherhood
The best way to enjoy motherhood and the change is to have an active social life. Friends enrich our lives and provide a listening ear, a helping hand at every stage. So, why not after motherhood? It is the time when you need your friends the most as motherhood is the most unique change in our lives. Strong friendships can provide us a life jacket when we are drowning in the responsibilities that being a new mom brings.
There seems to be is a stigma surrounding parenthood that says your life changes and you can’t enjoy friendships the way you did before. It means there is no socializing, no night life. I bought into that stigma and suffered. In the initial months, I didn’t interact a lot with my friends until one day, I decided I needed to get back to my old life. It wasn’t that easy, but I had wonderful friends around who made it possible.
Now, most of my friends were parents also, so they understood my situation. However, many of you may have single friends or friends without kids. It may take more effort to connect with those friends.
New Friendships Make Parenthood Even Better
It is not easy to find like-minded moms and become friends. This often requires patience and acceptance of the fact that you could be rejected. For a shy person like me, making new friends requires effort and usually doesn’t happen on its own. It might be uncomfortable sometimes but it is absolutely necessary that we shun all our inhibitions while looking for people with whom to share our parenting stories and enjoy being with. You might not necessarily click with every mother you meet but you need to keep putting yourself out there.
When we moved to the new city, I started going out for playdates with the moms I met and their kids, so my daughter also made new friends and adjusted to the new surroundings. I also signed up for Yoga classes, and I made amazing friends there too. Yoga helped me have a healthy body and mind. More than that, it gave me a chance to interact with so many people.
It’s Not Selfish To Make Time For Your Friendships
Many moms feel it’s selfish to choose to have leisure and fun time away from the kids. In the initial months, I too struggled to keep that guilt away. But, with time, I realized that I was a better mom after spending some fun time with my friends. Also, by fostering friendships, we are teaching our children to value personal relationships and develop social skills.
If you are a working mom, it becomes even more difficult to find that leisure time. You may feel bugged with the guilt of leaving your child and going to work. It is certainly not easy to make time for friends with the competing demands of a job, home and kids. But it is worth it to take some time off for yourself and indulge in some late nights out with friends on a weekend at least once a month. You might also build friendships with other moms from your workplace.
How To Make Time For Friendships With Your Kids In Tow
As my new mom friends and I got to know each other, we arranged meetings for nights out at each ther’s homes so the kids could sleep even if it got late. We tried not to always speak about our children when we met, consciously making an effort to talk about other things we cared for as well. It helped us relax a lot; taking our minds off parenting and getting back to our old lives, the women we were before we became mothers. And, since I had moved to a new city and all these were new friends, we had so much to find out about each other.
Find Your Mom Tribe
The most surprising change that motherhood brought for me was when I started blogging. I started writing on various parenting platforms and made so many virtual friends. I had interesting conversations with my virtual friends and met a few mothers personally later on. That inspired me to start my own blog and here I am, sitting in India, writing for a US based website. Here we are, 8 mommy bloggers who are part of this amazing Healthier Mom Life Series. What else can I say? It’s just a happy feeling to interact with so many parents from around the world.
The only thing I have left to say to all the new moms out there is this: don’t feel guilty to have a leisure time. The laundry can wait too. Build new friendships and rekindle the old ones. Have fun.
About The Author
Aesha Shah is a blogger by passion and a teacher by qualification. She’s an avid reader whose passions are writing and traveling. She is a mother to an 8-year-old daughter and her world revolves around her family.She started to blog on various parenting platforms to share her experiences as a mother and gain some from other parents and later went to set up her blog on parenting, www.aboutparentandkid.com, this year. Follow her on Facebook.
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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