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If this year has taught us anything, it is the importance of mental health and easy self-care. Welcome to 2020, the dumpster fire year. Everything sucks and it’s OK to feel that to your core.
1. Try Meditation
My counselor recently recommended meditation as a way to manage my newfound anxiety. As the mom to a jabber-box 18 month old, I laughed at her suggestion. Who has the time (or peace?!) to sit in silence? I have too much to do, and it’s nearly impossible to turn my brain off, to stop that To Do list.
And that’s the point. Your brain needs a freaking break. There are so many things to worry about, to get done, to plan out. Just take 1 minute to try meditation; work up to 10 or 15 minutes slowly. Meditation can help manage stress and anxiety, ground you, and increase self-awareness. It’s also one of the most accessible, easy self-care options.
I won’t pay for a subscription (hello debt payoff!) but if you’re so inclined, Calm and Headspace are both highly recommended meditation apps. I’ve been enjoying The Mindfulness App, because it has free timed meditations. At this stage of life, I can carve out about 2 minutes of quiet at a time.
2. Talk to Someone
By “someone,” I mean a licensed counselor, therapist, psychologist, whatever. If that’s way too far outside your comfort zone, find a supportive friend or family member. I highly recommend working your way up to professional help. I’ve been seeing the same counselor for over 7 years now. She has helped me through two stressful pregnancies, my daughter’s many diagnoses/hospitalizations/therapies, and the strains on my marriage throughout it all.
To find a counselor or therapist, first consult your insurance plan for a list of in-network providers. If you feel comfortable doing so, ask local friends and family for recommendations. Hopefully, some of those names will overlap. Psychology Today has a handy “Find a Therapist” tool also.
It make take a couple tries to find someone you really click with. Don’t give up! Therapy can improve every relationship in your life, as well as your general outlook and coping abilities.
And if you’re concerned about the time commitment, many professionals are offering telehealth or phone appointments. With any luck, insurance coverage for these appointments will continue after COVID is just a memory.
3. Try Medication
OBVIOUSLY consult your doctor and follow their recommendations… but there is no shame. According to the Harvard Health Blog, 1 in 10 Americans takes an antidepressant. Those figures are from 2005-2008, so I’m about 97% sure the percentage has increased dramatically in 2020.
Remember that the first medication you try may not be the best fit. It’s common to adjust the dosage, schedule, or prescription. Keep trying until you find something that helps you live your best life.
I acknowledge that counseling or medication may not seem like easy self-care. They’re both big steps – financially, time-wise, and mentally – but they can be so beneficial. For me, both have been worth it. Talk to your doctor now.
4. Limit Your Social Media Consumption
I know it can be easy, and tempting, to while away hours on your phone, mindlessly refreshing your Facebook feed or scrolling through Instagram photos… but is it healthy? Honestly, not really. Forbes has a great breakdown of the mental health effects of social media, if you’re interested.
I get the need to not think so much, the overwhelm of the world, the addictive draw. I really do. And that has led me to putting limits on my Facebook consumption (that’s the only social media platform I’m active on personally), for my mental health. It was just too much for me, seeing reports of rising COVID numbers and political divisiveness.
My solution: setting an App Limit for Facebook on my iPhone. I don’t know if Androids have a similar setting, but it has been a game changer. Go to: Settings, Screen Time, App Limits. I allow myself an hour on Facebook each day. Some days I ignore the alert & continue scrolling, but it’s a good reminder that I’ve spent a lot of time on that app. It has definitely made me more mindful of how I spend my downtime. I’d rather interact with my kids than just exist next to them.
Limiting social media is hard mentally, but clicking the button to delete Facebook from your phone is a super easy self-care step.
5. Get Good Sleep
Headspace has a great list of tips for good sleep hygiene. I can’t even pretend to be an expert here, especially since having kids, but I’m working on improving my sleep. One of my main focuses is reducing blue light exposure in the evenings by using blue light blocking glasses and reading in bed on a Kindle Oasis (which has “warmer” light settings) rather than my phone.
Keeping your room cool, avoiding daytime naps, and not eating close to bedtime are relatively easy steps to take. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine, as a parent, is a struggle for me, but it’s something to consider. Good sleep is not necessarily easy self-care, unless you can figure out the source of your problem, but it’s worth trying.
6. Make a Point to Take a Break
After 10 years of marriage & 13 years of togetherness, my husband and I have started to pick out our own gifts. Yes, it takes the excitement out of holidays, but it also ensures we receive something we actually want. I guarantee I would never pick out the correct hunting accessory.
For Mother’s Day this year, the gift I chose was alone time. My husband has an odd schedule, so on his “Saturday,” I checked into a local hotel. Alone. All alone. I didn’t come home until the next morning, after the checkout time. And it was glorious. I was shocked at how much better I felt after 16 hours of quiet lounging, with no responsibilities. Spending $100 on an unnecessary hotel stay may not seem very budget-conscious, but the mental health benefits were worth it.
Go for a walk alone. Call a friend, away from the kids. Binge murder shows and drink wine after bedtime. Whatever it is, do it for yourself. The world won’t stop turning if you don’t do the dishes one night, but your mental health may suffer if you resentfully do the dishes every single night.
Bonus: Easy Self-Care is NOT…
buying groceries alone (or with just one kid)
Those are activities of everyday life, not caring for yourself. An article on Motherly really opened my eyes to the problems moms have with confusing the two.
Life is never going to be easy, so you have to put YOU first. That’s super hard, especially for moms, but so important. Your mental health affects those around you too, even if you think it’s “under control” or “not that bad.”
If you feel like you’re in crisis, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. You’re worth it.