So far, I’ve given ideas for how to take care of your mental health with Prayer Breathing, keeping a Gratitude Journal, taking Time Outs Alone and spending Time In Together and Talking it Out. Today’s Way to Deal with Anxiety in Motherhood is to:
Take Care of Your Body
Anxiety may feel like only a “mental” condition but the health of our physical body plays a critical role in our mental health. Our brains require sufficient sleep and proper nutrition to function properly and our bodies also crave stimulation.
Engaging in some sort of physically challenging activity has amazing power over anxiety. When you feel like running away, go run! Or walk or dance – whatever it is, move your body!
I recently re-joined the Y and it has been a huge help in getting me out of my own “fog”. All the endorphins help balance out those stress hormones and clean out all the toxic anxious thoughts that tend to clog up in my brain. Plus, it makes me feel like I’m doing something positive for my health instead of just wallowing at home in self-pity eating my anxiety up in pounds.
- Find friends to work-out with or to at least check in on you to keep you accountable – it’s harder to stay home when you know someone is waiting for you.
- Participate in group exercise – it’s more challenging and motivating when you’re working out with others. The instructors are great at motivating and guiding you to push just a little harder to get the most of your work-out.
If you can’t join a gym, there are many other ways to stay active.
- Set an alarm in the morning and go out for a walk before everyone else wakes up. I’ve taken walks in the middle of the day or even after the kids are in bed just to clear my head.
- Use a work-out video. I really like Leslie Sanson’s Walk Away the Pounds videos and I’ve also found good ones on YouTube which I add to my Exercises for Mom Playlist. I think the Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred programs and the BeFit videos are an excellent way to strengthen the muscles and get the heart rate up without spending too much time or having to leave your house. (Level 3 isn’t on YouTube but it was only a couple bucks from Amazon Instant Video.)
- If you follow me on my Facebook page, you’ll also know that I’ve even been so desperate as to run laps around the rooms in our basement before a kind friend gave us a treadmill. People probably thought I was insane. Which wasn’t too far off but that’s why I was doing it, to stay just under that insanity line.
I’m not going to go too deep with the nutrition thing because honestly, trying too hard to eat “healthy” can become a source of anxiety of its own. Instead of focusing on what not to eat, I’ve just been trying to focus more on adding more of the good and then I’m not as hungry for the bad. If you follow me on Instagram, you know I like to share my salad ideas that are really simple.
People probably think it’s weird (or annoying) that I always share food pictures but it motivates me to #eatmoresalad by sharing and hopefully helps encourage others to do the same. Keep it simple, keep it healthy, don’t overthink it.
Aside from staying active and eating healthier, I really can’t talk about taking care of your body to deal with anxiety without mentioning how immensely essential SLEEP is.
I remember reading once that the number one cause of post-partum depression leading to psychosis is sleep deprivation. Of course, this makes total sense – when I don’t get enough sleep I tend to act like a maniacal crazy lady instead of a loving and caring mother. Getting enough sleep is probably one of if it not THE most important thing you can do as a mother for yourself and your family. Yet, it’s also the hardest, especially when you have little ones who don’t seem to care how much sleep you get or don’t get.
None of our babies slept though the night – unless you count sleeping for 2 -3 hours at a time (or less) “sleeping through the night”. I’m pretty sure I spent the first three years after each child walking around like a zombie. No wonder I felt depressed and anxious all the time! And then, as if I wasn’t tired enough, I’d say “yes” to doing too many things for other people and didn’t have enough energy to say “yes” to my own family.
Why do we do this to ourselves? I wish I could offer a magical solution to the sleep problem but I know that sometimes it’s virtually impossible to get enough good sleep depending on your “season” of motherhood. But there are a few things you can try.
Go to bed earlier
I tend to want to stay up and have “me” time or time to catch up with my husband after a long day. It is good to have that time to catch-up but it’ll be better for your relationship if you make sure you get adequate sleep. My husband and I are night owls so I have to ask him to make me go to bed by 11 at the latest! This is probably still too late, I should aim for 10 and then maybe I’ll actually fall asleep by 11. 😉
Get up earlier
What? Isn’t that supposed to say later? Well, yes and no. Here’s what I’ve discovered. If I sleep in too long, I’m actually crankier because I end up having to rush around to get myself ready and everyone else up and out the door on time on school days. I crave time alone in the mornings so if I get up earlier I have time to get myself ready, maybe even catch up reading or prayer, before everyone else wakes up. So even though I may not have slept as long in hours, I feel like I saved a ton of energy by giving myself time to fully wake up before plunging into the noise and chaos of the morning rush.
I love naps!
When my babies napped, I napped. Not! I usually used that time to do laundry or fiddle around on the computer or do anything I couldn’t do while they were awake demanding things from me or getting into stuff. But, when I did make time for a little nap – even if it was only 20 minutes – it made a world of a difference! My youngest doesn’t nap anymore but I do. I’ll let him have some “show time” with a video while I watch the back of my eyelids on the couch with him. Sounds lazy but it helps recharge my energy supply up so I can continue giving of myself to the kids, especially when they come home from school.
If you feel like you’re doing all these things – exercising, eating right, sleeping well and enough – but you’re still feeling bogged down and listless, it might be a good idea to talk with your doctor about it. Ask them to check your hormone and blood levels as there could be deficiencies that your body needs for energy. I’m not a medical expert at all but I have done enough reading and talked to enough women to know that sometimes a little hormone or vitamin/mineral supplementation can really help replenish those energy reserves and, in turn, give your body what it needs to combat anxiety and depression. It’s worth looking into.
I could go into a tangent on how important it is to take care of your body by building up a body self-esteem and positive body image for yourself but that’s a whole ‘nother post of its own and this one’s already too long as it is. Suffice it to say – take care of your body and your body will take care of you.
Next, I’ll end with how Helping Others and Asking for Help is a Way to Deal with Anxiety in Motherhood.