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.
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.