Since it’s December, we thought that it would be a good time to talk about one of the most relevant issues for our mothers: mental health. The New Year is just around the corner, and if you want to have a better year than 2020 was, a great place to start is thinking about how you will maintain your mental health in 2021.
Unfortunately, mental health is one of those things we don’t talk about because we are afraid others will view us as weak, or that they will fail to understand our feelings. Women are also programmed to put their needs last and place the needs of others first. Mothers also experience the “mom-guilt phenomenon,” which is where she feels guilty for spending money or time on herself when she could “use that money/time for the kids.” Women are notorious for forgetting to carve out time for themselves and they assume that a glass of wine or a shopping spree is enough to compensate--but it never is.
Thankfully, in the last few years, mental health has received more and more recognition from the media, doctors, and even places of work. More studies come out every year on the importance of taking care of yourself emotionally. But we as a society have a long way when it comes to normalizing seeking mental health help.
If you are a mom, you probably feel your fair share of stress and frustration--but have you stopped to check if it’s manageable stress or if it’s starting to inhibit your lifestyle? Everyone handles stress and chaos differently, and the common warning signs and symptoms usually develop the same in most patients. If you or a loved one are experiencing these, it might be time to take a step back and seek assistance.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, the warning signs to look for are:
Excessive worrying or fear
Feeling excessively sad or low
Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
Avoiding friends and social activities
Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
Changes in sex drive
Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don't exist in objective reality)
Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)
Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
Thinking about suicide
Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
Intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance
Obviously, these are the signs of someone who has developed a full-on mental health crisis, but if you take the time to be in tune with your body and mind you can prevent a crisis by practicing regular maintenance. Here are 5 ways to maintain your mental health in 2021.
Practice Loving Yourself
This might seem obvious, but if we constantly tell ourselves that others are more important than us, eventually we will become too sick to care for the ones we love the most. The first step to maintaining a balanced state of mental health is to remember that you are important too. If you need to spend money on yourself or take time to have a bubble bath or a girl’s night out, this makes you a good mom, not a selfish one. Making space for yourself might feel weird and uncomfortable at first, but remind yourself you are doing it because you care about the ones around you.
Talk About Your Feelings
Choosing to be vulnerable and real with someone can be hard. After all, these are your feelings that live in your heart, and the listener has the ability to make you feel better or worse. But keeping things locked up inside your heart is one of the worst things you could do for yourself, according to many doctors. If you don’t have a trusted friend or partner to share things with, ask your primary care physician about a referral to a mental health provider. You can also take up journaling, as well, or try talking out loud to yourself. Whatever method is most comfortable for you, it’s important not to let feelings build up inside you. Sometimes just getting "them out there" or writing them down is all we need to feel instant relief.
Take A Break
We all get caught up in our to-do lists and work schedules, but taking a break is just as essential as a parent-teacher conference, your work meeting, the grocery list, and the laundry. Talk to your partner about your need for more rest and ask for help if you are having trouble finding the time to schedule “me time.” In 2021 make resting your new habit!
Emotions, hormones, brain, and mental well being are directly affected by the food we eat. People report that when they switched their diets to include less processed meals and more veggies, grains, fruit, and whole foods they noticed a significant difference in their mood and brain function. Eating well does not mean you have to change your lifestyle overnight, but it does mean making little changes in your life. Eating an apple every day, cutting out sodas, and setting a timer to drink water are all great things you can do to fule your mental wellness.
Science has shown us that getting active releases endorphins (the happy hormones.) Exercise is one of the most effective ways to combat depression, anxiety, and stress. If you hate workouts, get creative with it: do a dance party, walk in your favorite park, speed clean your house, or take up a sport. When your body works hard it alleviates the tension between your shoulders and helps you feel a sense of release.
If you are struggling and nothing seems to work, reach out to your doctor! There is never any shame or blame for someone who is brave enough to come forward and admit they need a helping hand. This 2021, make it your goal to take better care of yourself because you are special, you are loved, and you have so many amazing things yet to experience!