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2020 has shown lots of us that good mental health needs to be a necessity in life. Though mental health issues have long been prevalent in America, the Covid pandemic has only made this big problem even bigger. Mothers have especially been shown to be hugely impacted over just the last couple of years. With Covid, school closures, healthcare issues, childcare issues, and making many sacrifices when it comes to jobs and finances, lots of women around the world have been the ones to shoulder the stress. Because of that, there has been a stark increase in reported mental health issues in mothers. According to a publication by the Journal For Women’s Mental Health, rates of anxiety and depression have doubled since the inception of the pandemic. Though mental health for moms has long been an issue, the pandemic and other issues since 2020 have shown us that it’s an issue we as a society can no longer ignore.
Moms often get left out of the conversation of mental health. There could be a ton of reasons, systemic issues, time, money, or a prevailing belief that you don’t deserve to take care of yourself. Regardless of the why, we need solutions we can do now.
To put it simply, you deserve to take care of yourself.
Because in a society that tends to put mothers at the bottom of the totem pole, you deserve to take your needs seriously.
So how can we improve our mental health in ways that are accessible to the average small-human slinging mother?
Seek accessible professional help
I would be remiss if I didn’t begin with one of the best things anyone can do for their mental health, which is seeking professional help. You don’t just have to have a mental illness to seek professional help. Many people under various circumstances seek the help of doctors, therapists, social workers, and psychologists for improving mental health. For moms, it can be challenging to find professional mental health services that are also accommodating to the constraints motherhood can have on us. For some moms, the idea of hauling their littles off with them to a therapy session in a drab building not made for kids is way more stressful than its worth.
Thankfully, over the last few years, the rise of tele-health has made mental health services way more accessible for the average person in need of more flexibility. Here’s a couple examples of reputable tele-health therapy programs you can use:
- BetterHelp is an excellent service that offers the world’s largest network of licensed, accredited, and experienced therapists who can help you with a range of issues. They offer simple scheduling, and flexible ways to have therapy sessions such as text messaging, video chats, phone calls, and online instant messaging. They also have therapists who are available to answer your questions and concerns in real time over text message as well.
- If you’re looking for a faith-based counseling service, Faithful Counseling is very similar to BetterHelp, but it offers licensed Christian counselors.
- Since the Covid pandemic, many therapists have started offering virtual services. This can be a great option if you’re looking to use insurance, or have a specific provider in mind.
Personally, I saw the greatest improvement in my mental health when I started seeking professional help.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good hobby
I hear mothers every day talk about how they lack time for themselves, and often get lost in the duties of motherhood. Though I understand that being a mom is an all encompassing task, there is still a you underneath the duties of motherhood. Reconnecting with that you under your mothering duties may be as simple as taking up a hobby.
Take some time and reconnect with activities you can do that spark some joy in your life. Make a list of hobbies you have had in the past, or ones you’re interested in trying, and just give them a shot! Even if it’s something you’ve never done before, don’t be worried about being good or not. Everyone sucks at something the first time they try it. Plus, there’s no rule that you have to be good at your hobby. The point of a hobby is to give your brain a healthy outlet to do something simply for fun!
Often some hobbies can be done with your kids. For example, if doing arts and crafts is something you enjoy, set up an art station for your little ones while you work on your projects. Even a hobby as simple as a walk outside is something your kids can have a part in as well. There are times when we simply can’t get time to practice a hobby alone, but it doesn’t mean it has to sit on the back burner.
Practice self care, but don’t overthink it
This one seems like a “duh,” statement, but there’s so much more to it than what social media makes it seem. Self care doesn’t have to be elaborate, and it doesn’t have to be time consuming. In fact, the best kind of self care we can have is the kind that is simple and consistent.
Think of one thing that feels restorative to you. Maybe it’s drinking a cup of coffee in the peace and quiet, or taking a quick walk. Sure, mani-pedi’s and shopping trips are pretty great, but that can get expensive and hard to make consistent. Just find one or two things that are simple and make you feel more energized or relax, and make a priority to do those things once a week or more.
I have many blog posts specifically about self care that can help you find that ace-in-the-hole self care activity for you:
- 10 Ways You Can Prioritize Self Care As A Busy Mom
- 5 Minute Self Care For The Christian Woman
- Dear Christians, There’s No Shame In Self Care
Instill a culture of valuing alone time in your family
This can absolutely be easier said than done in some family situations. For example, single moms can have a harder time finding alone time, or sometimes working mothers who have little time alone. So this may take some creativity with your time.
If you’re home with non-napping kiddos, start practicing family “quiet time.” Find a time that works the best for your family when everyone has a quiet activity they can do in their own space. If you have napping kids with you, doing quiet time during a nap can be a perfect time! Here’s an excellent blog post by Busy Toddler on how to start practicing quiet time in your home.
Keep a gratitude journal
There is a plethora of research that shows the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal. I have an entire post about the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal right here.
If you need a simple gratitude journal that requires little to no brain power to keep, I got just the one for you (yes, it’s the one I made.) The 365 Days of Gratitude journal was made to be the simplest way to make time for gratitude every day of the year with curated prompts for every day, customized for you! Click here to find out more.
Lean on your village, and if you don’t have one, make one.
We all know that “it takes a village to raise a child,” but if we’re going to be real here, sometimes that village feels like a myth. In this digital age, finding like minded people to lean on and confide in is way more difficult than it used to be. In fact, the rate of motherhood loneliness has been skyrocketing over the last few years. Now more than ever, moms need a village.
Thankfully there’s ways to find that village for yourself if you don’t already have friends or family nearby. Here’s some suggestions.
- Look for a nearby MOMS or MOPS club in your area. If one doesn’t exist, don’t be afraid to start one.
- Look at what programs your local library can offer. Of course most libraries have kids programs, but there’s also wonderful programs for adults you can get involved in as well.
- Look for play groups or other groups on Meetup.
- Peanut is a wonderful app that links you up with other moms in your area.Search out the things that are filling you up, and do less of what drains you
It can surprise us when we intentionally take an inventory of what actually benefits us in life. For example, is spending hours scrolling on social media actually benefiting your mental health? Is binging the latest show actually benefiting your mental health? Or is it simply numbing your mind and keeping you from digging deep in your soul to find what it is you really need out of your life.
Don’t get me wrong, I binge the latest shows and brainlessly scroll Instagram just like everyone else. But I’ve found when I do those things in excess, it’s more of an evasive tool than a restorative tool. In fact, giving myself breaks from those things from time to time has helped me tremendously with my mental health.
Sometimes the slowest, simplest things are more beneficial for us, such as reading a book, or listening to a podcast, sitting outside, sitting in silence, etc. Take time alone and really think about what actually makes you feel refreshed and do more of those things.
Take care of your senses
Sensory overload happens to us way more commonly than we give it credit for. Think about it, our society inundated us with sensory stimulation all day long! Screens, sounds, new unnatural textures, fast food we rush through eating, our senses have no time to actually sense!
It’s like when your school-aged kids come home from school and immediately throw tantrums, or bounce off the walls, or say things and behave in strange ways they don’t usually do. All of the stimulation of the school day builds up over the day, when they finally reach the end, it’s an explosion of sensory overload. We as adults also experience that, especially when we’re also dealing with kids, who seem to find ways to assault our senses throughout the day.
Here’s some quick tips for taking care of your senses:
- Give yourself regular silent time (even just a couple minutes is better than nothing). If you have toddlers who get great enjoyment out of busting your eardrums (like mine), noise cancelling ear plugs are a great option.
- Giving yourself time to actually taste your food. Eat slower and savor it. Give your taste buds time to actually admire the hard work you put in to feed yourself and family (or you awesome pizza-ordering skills, or awesome someone else’s cooking skills, no judgement here!)
- Be careful of the amount of screen time you’re having. Blue light can be hard on your eyes, therefore giving you headaches. Giving your eyes a break can help you feel better over time.
Mind your screen time
Often we find screen time to be our self care. Trust me, I love a cathartic binge of “The Office,” too! But think about how excessive screen time actually makes you feel. Do you feel more energized when staring at a screen, or do you feel more drained?
Research shows that screen time actually drains us more than helps. It negatively affects sleep, our mood, and it can send us straight into a comparison trap.
If anything, limiting our screen time can improve our mental health. A good mindless scroll isn’t a bad thing, but hours and hours can hurt more than help.
Mental Health Improvement Is A Long Game That Is 100% Worth Every Second
Taking care of your mental health is definitely a long game. There’s no such thing as a “get rich quick” scheme when it comes to improving your mental health. When it comes to making things better for your mental health, it may take some trial and error. But when we make our mental health a priority, it makes all aspects of your life easier and better.
As mothers, not only does our family deserve a mom who prioritizes her mental health, you deserve it.