The Depressed Mom’s Guide to Disappointment

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


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

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

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


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

Blessings,
Jessi

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

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Why I See a Therapist (And You Should Too)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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How To Include Your Kids In Your Healthy Lifestyle

Making healthy choices is hard enough as it is without having to also fight the battle at home. Learn how to train your kids to understand and even appreciate your healthy choices. Learn more here.


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

 
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30 Days to a Healthier Mom Life Series


 
 It's Time to Take Care of Yourself
What you do is important, draining work, Mama, so you've got to make sure to take extra special care of yourself. You're the only one who will! Join us as we journey through emotional, physical, and mental health this April. We've got 8 awesome Mom Bloggers from around the world and the web to give you easy to implement, FREE ideas and tips to speed you on your way. We know firsthand how difficult mom life can be and we'll be here every step of the way with you.  




SELF-CARE
You work hard, day in and day out. Without you, your family would fall into chaos. (Don't believe us, try leaving for a weekend and see how they do!)
To be at the top of your motherhood game, you've got to make time for yourself. It doesn't have to be huge, but your self-care should be a top priority.
We'll show you how to make it easier.


SOCIAL LIFE
Mom life doesn't have to be so lonely!
We can almost hear you scoffing at us. Trust me, we totally get it. The mere idea of packing all your kids up for a playdate is enough to land you on the couch for the rest of the afternoon. We've been there. Just yesterday!
But your relationships are important! Learn how to prioritize time with people who fill you up.


FITNESS
We're not talking about dropping pant sizes. We're talking about being healthy.
What your put into your body and how you use it are major factors in your mental and emotional wellbeing. That's why it's so important to make healthy choices. But we know it's hard. Especially when you've got tiny little people at your feet begging for something all the time.
We believe in you, Mama. You can do this!




















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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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The Surprising Effects of Screen-Free Kids on Mommy’s Mental Health

The Surprising Effects of Screen-Free Kids on Mommy's Mental Health | Learn how taking away their tablets and shows helped me be a happier, more fulfilled 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.


Setting Boundaries
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 storyline 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.

Increased creativity:
This may actually just be due to the developmental stage they're at, but they make up and act out new (non-movie) storylines 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.



Nightmares banished:
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. 

The Costs:


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.

Messier House:
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,

Jessi


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.
 
Out of ideas? Wondering how to start? Try a makers subscription box like those offered by Kiwi Co for ready-to-go, hands-on, kid-approved activities every month! Use the link below (affiliate) for half off your first box!
$10 off your first-month subscription



 
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How to Diffuse Essential Oils: The Newbie’s Guide

Learn how to diffuse essential oils and protect your family from the trending virus, block allergens, or increase your focus and joy.

Diffusing Essential Oils Is Super Easy
Have you heard great things about essential oils but no one's taught you how to use them? Confused by all the information or jargon? Perfect! This post is just for you! Learning how to diffuse essential oils is the first step into natural health care for your family. And it's easy peasy!

We're still in the throes of cold and flu season and, maybe it's just us here in the pacific northwest, it always seems like the changing of the seasons brings more viruses around then the coldest days of winter. As spring takes its sweet time springing, I'm relying heavily on my oils to keep my family healthy.


How to Diffuse Essential Oils
I get asked all the time how to use essential oils. I know it can be overwhelming, but it's really not. It can be quite simple. There are three options for using oils: inhalation or breathing them in, topical application meaning rubbing them on your skin, and internal consumption meaning you eat/drink them. The easiest, and safest, method is inhalation.

While you can always just twist open your favorite oil and give it a sniff, using a diffuser can spread the benefits of that oil over your whole family, classroom, office, etc. Diffusing is easy peasy, but make sure you have permission from those who will be sharing the air with you. We've got some relatives who are allergic to cloves, so I always make sure I'm not diffusing an oil containing cloves when they come over.
I've rounded up my favorite ways to spread the love with those beneficial oils.


 
5 Ways to Diffuse Essential Oils
 
1) Traditional Diffuser
A small, semi-portable electric diffuser is my go to. It acts as a diffuser, humidifier, and optional night light. I have two of these which I fill up anytime I hear the least bit of a sniffle. One lives in my daughters' room and the other travels around the rest of the house as needed. With a 150 ml capacity and 4+ hour run time with auto shut-off, this diffuser works great for a bedroom or living area up to 250 square feet.

How to use it: Add cold water to fill line, plus 4-6 drops of oils or oil blends, replace lid and turn on. When diffusing in a child's room, place diffuser out of reach and make sure directional spray doesn't mist over the top of your sleeping baby.

More options:



(left to right) Slightly Cheaper, Prettier, Larger Capacity, Made from Bamboo, Travel/Car Version
2) Mini Diffuser
These little guys pack a big punch. With versions you plug into an outlet and those you can plug into your car's cigarette lighter, you can take your oils with you wherever you go. Some of these little units do not have auto shut-off settings, so do be careful not to run them overnight or you risk overheating.

How to use it: Add a few drops of oil or oil blend to the filter (or the water reservoir in select models), plug in and position in the upright position. Add more oil as scent dissipates. Unplug when not in use.



 
3) Aromatherapy Necklace
This is my second favorite way to diffuse. Not only are these necklaces beautiful, they can wrap you up in an oil safety bubble. I never go to a substitute job without fighting five on my necklace diffuser.

How to use it: Place 1-2 drops of oil or an oil blend on the felt or pumice insert, close up the necklace and enjoy your good health.


4) Wax Burner
If you have one of those scentsy style flame-free candle warmers, you can repurpose it into an oil diffuser. There is some debate about the efficacy of this method, as heating oils can reduce their potency and, in some cases, change their composition. Therefore, this option, as well as the wall unit option above, is best when the scent is what you want. For battling a cold or flu, allergies, or other medicinal uses, it's best to use a water filled diffuser.

How to use it: Place a tablespoon or two of water or coconut oil in the wax reservoir along with 4-6 drops of oil or an oil blend and turn on. Be careful not to leave it on after the oils/water have dissipated.
5) Sniff from hands
This last method is our go to when we're dealing with congestion, but it's also great when you need a little pick me up. First, make sure the oil or blend you want to use is not hot, meaning it won't cause skin irritation. When in doubt, sniff straight from the bottle (feel free to ask about certain oils in the comments and I can let you know).

How to use it: Place 1-2 drops of oil or an oil blend (safe for topical use) on your hands, rub together, and cup hands around nose. Breathe deeply 3-4 times.


What Oils to Diffuse
The only thing to decide now is what oils you should be diffusing! I'll be adding more posts about our experiences with essential oils and our awesome health victories in the weeks to come but, for now, I'll leave you with some of my quick favorites.
Why I Recommend Eden's Garden Essential Oils
One last note about why I recommend the oils I do: I use Eden's Garden essential oils almost exclusively unless my MIL gifts me some DoTerra goodies. I did a ton of research when I first started using EO's. What I discovered was that there is a whole spectrum of oils, both in cost and in quality. My mission was to find the highest quality oil at the most affordable price, from a company with a wide enough selection to serve my families needs. Everyone seems to have an opinion when it comes to oil brands, so that decision is best left to you and your family.

I chose Eden's Garden because of their dedication to quality, the fact that their oils pass all the same tests as those of the big 2, and for their lower price tag. Same quality oils, way less money invested! And for the record, I don't sell their oils or get a kick back in any way from EG. If you purchase any of the oils or diffusers that I've linked to on Amazon, I receive a small commission from Amazon through their affiliate program which doesn't cost you a dime extra and allows me to keep putting my time and effort into this blog.

Now, on to the oils! These recipes are all for a standard size diffuser, requiring 5-6 drops of oil in total.





Cold And Flu Buster
2 drops Fighting Five
2 drops Oregano
2 drops Tea Tree



Allergy Block
2 drops Lavender
2 drops Peppermint
2 drops Lemon



Congestion Relief
3 drops Fighting Five
3 drops Breathe Easier





Depression Kicker
3 drops Bergamot
2 drops Purify
1 drop Lavender



Pre-Made Blends
6 drops Anxiety Ease
6 drops Energy Boost
6 drops Good Night
6 drops Stay Alert




To save even more money, you can piece together a custom 6, 12, or 32 oil set on their website at edensgarden.com. (For which I receive no kickback, but I want to make sure you, Mama, are getting the best deal possible! I would never recommend something I didn't fully trust myself.)

Let me know what other questions I can answer in the comments and don't forget to subscribe for more helpful posts!

Blessing upon blessing,

Jessi

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