Your mental health involves more than you may think. For example, it encompasses the way you feel about yourself and others, as well as how you handle difficult life situations.
Some days it may be hard to feel motivated or even happy. As cited by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 35.6% of American adults reported a “poor mental health status” in 2017.
If you’re a parent, you may face even more challenges on a day-to-day basis, and some days may be more difficult than others. During those challenging times, here are six simple steps you can take to maintain your mental health.
1. Focus on what you can control
You can’t control what happens to you. Cars will break down and children will sometimes get sick. But you can control your state of mind when things like this happen.
It’s natural to react when things don’t go your way, of course. But it’s important to be aware of where your thoughts are taking you when these things happen. You can control your reaction under most circumstances. According to the Harvard Health Blog, “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power, they can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.”
If you can recognize thoughts that are unproductive and anxiety-inducing, try your best to know that these are thoughts and not who you are as a person.
2. Lean into your support system
You are not alone. If you are feeling anxious or depressed, your mind will want to isolate you, so it will likely write a narrative for you in which you are alone. Don’t listen to this narrative! Whether it is a friend, a fellow mom, a partner, or even an acquaintance, find someone that will hear you out. Sometimes pain feels so much bigger when we are holding it deep inside.
We also know that it can be difficult to confide in people who are close to you when you are struggling. If this is the case, you can also reach out to a therapist or an anonymous hotline with trained professionals.
Suicide hotline: (800) 273-8255
Non-emergency hotline: (877) 910-9276
4. Prioritize yourself
According to the Pew Research Center, 53% of mothers (working or not) in America feel that they don’t have enough time for friends or hobbies. Can you identify with this? When was the first time you enjoyed something solely for yourself?
Doing something for you can mean going for brunch with friends, working out, or maybe even joining a book club! Having time for yourself should be a priority. It is not selfish to put yourself first! It’s equally, if not more important than your to-do lists. How can you accomplish all that you need to if you are not taking care of yourself? You cannot pour from an empty cup, you need to fill it first.
To be your best self, make sure you prioritize self-care.
5. You don’t have to be okay every day
You are a busy woman. You’re a mother, maybe a yogi, maybe a yoga teacher, maybe a partner, a friend - the list goes on! If you expect yourself to be 100% in all of these roles all of the time, know that it is literally impossible.
You deserve to have fair expectations of yourself. A huge part of being healthy is being able to acknowledge when you’re unwell. It’s okay to not be okay! Sometimes emotions come and go in slow-motion relative to how quickly our lives move and change. When you feel sad, angry, or whatever else, approach your feelings with curiosity instead of judgment. Allow yourself to feel. Let go of the pressure to be perfectly happy all of the time. Allow yourself to be human!
6. Practice yoga
The Harvard Health Journal says that “mental and physical health are not just closely allied, but are essentially equivalent.”
Exercise is a critical aspect of mental health. It’s easy to feel too tired to exercise, or to think you don’t have enough time. But the reality is: The right kind of exercise for you should make you feel energized or relaxed. Even taking out one hour in your day (that’s a little over the amount of time it takes to watch a television show episode) to engage in physical activity will make a positive impact on your mental health. Yoga, in particular, is a form of exercise that encourages breathing and control of your thoughts - both effective methods for coping with anxiety or sadness.
Take care of YOU
Whether you practice yoga, meditate or take walks in the woods, it’s crucial that you take care of yourself. To do this effectively, focus on the things that you can control so that you don’t stress about the things that you can’t. If you’re not feeling your best, that’s ok! You don’t have to be ok all of the time.
Remember: You can reach out to a friend, a partner, or a fellow yoga mom. Your mental health will thank you!
Ocean Noah is a content writer at Pretzel Kids