“Sometimes self-care is exercise and eating right. Sometimes it’s spending time with loved ones or taking a nap. And sometimes it’s watching an entire season of TV in one weekend while you lounge around in your pajamas. Whatever soothes your soul.” — Nanea Hoffman
What is Mental Health, Anyway?
We’ve all heard the term mental health, but why should it be on our radar? Mental health is a blanket term—when we think mental health, things like self-care, depression, and anxiety pop into our brains almost instantaneously. This is because the term mental health refers not only to one specific thing but rather to a broad category of things.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects our thinking, feelings, stress response, and day-to-day actions and interactions—this is why (and understandably so) we are constantly being reminded to prioritize our mental health.
Problems with our mental health can materialize as a change in sleeping patterns, withdrawal from people and activities, low energy, mood swings, and the inability to perform routine tasks. Working moms are especially prone to mental health problems, as the constant tug from both work and home can be overwhelming. They are tasked with the impossible every day and instinctively put the needs of others before their own.
We See You and We Hear You, Working Moms
There is more to mental health than self-care alone; however, self-care is a pivotal starting point. Your needs matter and deserve to be acknowledged. Prioritizing your mental health may seem a daunting task at first; however, by incorporating a few simple practices into your day-to-day routine, it can be achievable.
Not only will the prioritization of your needs improve your mental health, but it will become habitual. You will instinctively meet your own needs as well as the needs of your children and the needs of your career. The balance you so desperately seek will come to fruition and the most authentic version of yourself will be revealed.
Simple Practices to Improve Your Mental Health
Meditation has been proven to calm the mind and promote inner peace and balance. It can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression and enhance emotional well-being. Before getting out of bed in the morning, close your eyes and lie flat on your back. Clear your mind—if it helps, conduct a body-scan. This is where you, in a sense, check-in with your body.
Where are you carrying your tension? What thoughts come to your mind upon waking? Begin the body-scan by acknowledging any thoughts you may have and then letting them fade away. Acknowledge and then relax the crown of your head, then your eyebrows. Continue this process until you reach the tips of your toes. Even just five minutes of meditation before getting out of bed will promote clarity and productivity.
Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal
Keep a journal near your bedside. After you have completed your morning meditation, or while drinking your morning cup of coffee or tea, open your journal to a fresh page and jot down one thing you are grateful for. In doing so, you are forcing your brain to focus on the good—on your why. The grass is green where it is watered—water your why.
Make Your Daily Commute Your “Me” Time
Ah, yes, the daily commute. Whether your commute is twenty minutes or two hours, moms who work outside of the home know all too well the negative feelings associated with the drive. This is often a time of running through checklists in your mind, guilt-tripping yourself over not allowing your child to stay up past bedtime to watch another episode of Bubble Guppies, and shaking your head shamefully at careless drivers.
Instead of the checklists and the guilt-trips and the head shakes, declare this time your “me” time. Listen to audiobooks, dive into a new podcast channel, or blast The Rolling Stones—the choice is yours. Keep your focus inward during this time and practice deep breathing. Inhale through your nose for a count of ten and exhale through your nose for a count of ten. You deserve this time.
Moms who work from home need not feel left out—although commuting to work is not a daily chore, commuting to doctor visits, dentist appointments, and the grocery store very much are. Apply this same practice to your daily commute, regardless of the destination.
Say No and Set Boundaries
Boundaries need to be set in order to keep your mental health in order. In setting boundaries at work, it is important to ask yourself: Do I want to do this? Does this take away time that I could be spending with my family? Does this work for me? It is okay to say no.
Setting boundaries at home can be tricky. Start by analyzing what works for your family and for your schedule. Prioritize your feelings, outline a plan, and stick to that plan. Know when to say “no.” Declining an invitation to a birthday party or a play date is perfectly okay if your mental health is in jeopardy.
Establish a Consistent Bedtime Routine
It is easy to fall into the habit of catching up on laundry, doing dishes, and binge-watching Netflix for hours after the kids are asleep. Planning a bedtime routine for our children is one beast, but it is challenging to plan a bedtime routine for ourselves and, moreover, to stick to that bedtime routine. This is another beast entirely.
Establish a bedtime routine that helps you wind down, in whatever way feels right to you. Try to fall asleep around the same time each evening. A routine sleep schedule and adequate sleep will not only increase your energy but will boost your mood.
Even a slight change in mindset and routine will initiate a ripple effect. The shift you make today has the potential to make a profound impact on your mental health forever.
Amelia is part of the content team at The Long Reach and works for various international brands. When Amelia is not researching and writing she loves nothing more than heading out in to the country for some downtime. You can see more of her articles here: ameliaevans.contently.com