Friday, 23 January 2015

Mommy Mental Health: The Art of Relaxation

New Year's Resolution: Stress Less

Lost in thought the other day, my husband asked me what I was doing. "Processing a bunch of things," was my response. "What else is new," was his reply. He's absolutely right. I am often guilty of over thinking, stressing, pre-planning, and otherwise burdening my mind with a lot - and often. I can't seem to help myself. As if the mental to do lists and scheduling are on auto-pilot, preventing me from truly enjoying even pleasant experiences like movies and social gatherings. If you're like me, you know that it's taxing. It's not a fun thing to worry about bills long before they're due, or think about how much time you will need to spend on laundry when you get home from the grocery store. This is something of a life goal of mine-to stress less-so I've put together a list of some do's and don'ts that I use in my own day.

Don't: Give more of yourself than you have to offer

If you are a helper, teacher, or mother figure by nature, as I believe myself to be, you might feel compelled to pitch in every time something is asked of you, or even when nothing has. I love to watch my husband play hockey, bake for family gatherings, and always manage to have time to tutor a friend or edit a paper. Since being off on maternity leave, I have piled on the baby groups, chores, and other tasks to create a routine for myself. A routine that is sometimes unobtainable due to illness, weather, or any number of normal life setbacks. As I struggle to fit it all in, I read fewer books than I would like, I tend to eat convenience foods to save time (if I remember to eat at all), and I make a lot of similar, minor sacrifices that build up. To appreciate friends and family is super important, and I don't feel as though I'm losing out on anything when I support or share time with them. After the holidays, however, you're probably feeling the same relief of less fixed times and dates in your calendar. Your time is limited, and you have to spend at least some of it on you.

  • Find something fixed that you can call your own, and fit it in. I relish my hot shower, even if I have to wait until 1pm to get it. It's small, it's simple, but it's super important to me. A clean me is a fresh me, ready to take on my day.
  • Know when you're tapped out. Occasionally you won't be able to run the school fundraiser or  shovel your neighbour's driveway before they get home, and that's OK!
  • Take a deep breath, and prioritize. Sometimes that means the school play, sometimes that means a nap, some times that means a freakin' sandwich. Fuel your mind.
Don't: Torture yourself before (or during) bedtime

With my son safely in dreamland and my husband happily sawing logs beside me, I have spent many nights staring at the ceiling and running over and over chores for the morning. I would roll over, tell myself to let it go, then immediately remember a commitment that jeopardized my plan, or an oversight that I hadn't previously considered. Finally, sleepy and drifting off, my baby would immediately wake for a feeding, forcing me to get even less rest (through no fault of his own). A nap is a luxury, not a guarantee. The closer to 8 hours as night you can arrange for yourself, the better. The absolute worst time to be thinking about what didn't get done and how that will impact tomorrow is the very end of your day as you head off to sleep. Rest is precious, and so needed to be fully in control of yourself and ready for the challenges ahead. Sabotaging that is the worst crime to which you can subject yourself.

  • Wind down, don't crash. Have a warm drink, read a book, take bath... just give yourself a head start rather than frantically throwing in a load of whites and catching up on your news feed.
  • Get it out of your head. Period. Listen to some music, write a list, or provide yourself some other distraction, stat. Tell yourself that you cannot accomplish anything right now.
  • Talk it out. If there is a repeat offender in your mind (a hurtful comment, a big expense, any nagging concern), bite the bullet and deal with it. Explaining to your spouse or a caring friend lightens the burden so you can let yourself rest.

Don't: Forget that life is short, and maybe shorter than you know...

I can hardly believe that my son is 9 months into his life and that I will be going back to work soon. It makes me focus that much harder on the play time and the cuddles, rather than the laundry pile and the (now ever present) "floor Cheerios." The days can sometimes feel long, but the months truly fly by and you need to appreciate the journey a little along the way. That doesn't mean you're going to love every second of motherhood. It's hard work. Find me the women who adores poo-spolsions and mid-mall temper tantrums, and I'll show you a liar. Still, there's something amazing about a 3 am cuddle and the sound of your child's steady breathing. Bathtime splash-fests, messy mouthed kisses, and colourful blocks only last so long. No one lays in their deathbed wishing they had spent more time sanitizing their home.

  • Take a deep breath. See the beauty in any situation... or at least the humour! My husband and I love to joke about the stories we'll tell at my son's wedding!
  • Make notes. You might think you'll remember everything about their youth, but memories fade. It doesn't hurt to sit down monthly with a baby book or journal.
  • Pick your battles. Live the chaos knowing that we all do it. We have pajama days. We have sinks full of dishes. We have more rattles than jewelry. We have children.

Maybe Elsa has it right when she sings "Let it go!" There's so much as women, parents, and humans that we hold on to that doesn't serve us. Why ruin your day thinking about other places and times, when you could be appreciating the now? It's easier to say than to implement, I know it, but try. I can see how much happier my baby is when I'm in a good mood, and it's a bit of a wake up call. Your state of mind impacts the people around you. Play a little, laugh a lot, and make today better than yesterday! You'll thank yourself for it!

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