A day to yourself, spent doing whatever you damn well please, is good for the heart, the soul and the brain.
Why do I have to be beaten over the head with that very simple concept over and over and over again? It’s not that I don’t know the importance of self-care, because I do. Hell, I tell other people about it all the time! But, like everyone else, I can’t always see clearly when it comes to my own situation.
So, let me say it once again. Actually, let me yell it at myself in all caps: SELF-CARE IS NOT ONLY IMPORTANT—IT IS ESSENTIAL TO A MOM’S MENTAL WELL-BEING AND OVERALL SUCCESS.
So, here I am again. How did I get here? Well, two weeks ago, my brain stopped working.
This was inconvenient, to say the least. I had finally released my book, 107 Things I Wish I Had Known with My First Baby: Essential Tips for the First 3 Months (yay!), and I had an awful lot to do.
But it’s not a big surprise why it happened. My beautiful pup, Lily, died, and I was mourning her loss as well as trying to help my kids make sense of it. My 5-year-old took it a lot worse than I had expected, which made things harder.
Even when I wasn’t in a fog anymore, I just couldn’t seem to string words together in any sort of a coherent way, so I typed and I erased, and I typed and erased some more. Then, suddenly, it was Friday, and I had to make a decision: Would I join my friends the next day to go outlet-shopping? It had been in the books forever, but I was so behind, and I didn’t think I could spare the time. And then I thought: What the hell. My brain isn’t working anyway, so I might as well go! My car was in the shop, so I got a ridiculously cheap Groupon deal for the bus, and away I went.
Not only was seeing my girls wonderful—it always is—but the bus trip was wonderful, too! Seriously, it made my brain start working again. (I’m really glad that I had the foresight to bring my computer with me.)
It wasn’t that I had to get away from my children. I wasn’t feeling that at all, actually, though of course I’ve been there plenty of times. No, this time, I needed to get away from me. The me who was sad. The me who was stressed. The me who was afraid to put herself out there to market a book. The me who just wanted to crawl under the covers for an entire weekend and not deal with anything.
Once I got on that bus and had a solid hour of quiet time away from everything else—or as quiet and away from everything else as you can be on a bus with a few dozen complete strangers—I was able to brush away the mental cobwebs and think again.
And once I actually saw my friends, things got even better. I felt lighter, and the healing process was able to truly start.
Forget poopy diapers, spit-up and sleep issues. The part of motherhood that really gets to me is that inescapable, suffocating feeling that there’s just so much to do all the time. I often feel like I’m trying to perform triage on some aspect of my life, and what gets pushed to the side in the process? Me. Always me.
That has to stop. I am in no way my best self when I can barely breathe or think. And I’d really love to not hit rock bottom every time I come to that realization.
And much like I realized when I finally got a decent amount of sleep a few weeks ago, I was a much better parent afterward. I got home around 8 that night, and everyone was so happy: I was happy to be home and feeling like myself again, the kids were happy to see me, and my husband was happy about all of those things and that the kids hadn’t destroyed the house while I was gone. We all stayed up later than normal, talking and laughing and enjoying one another. I mean, just look at these happy faces!
So, now that I’ve had my epiphany yet again, am I cured from this mom malady?
I doubt it.
But the next time I can’t focus for an extended period of time or I feel like I’m drowning, I’m going to take these 7 steps…
- Stop, take a hard look at what’s going on and acknowledge that there’s a problem.
- Ask for help. I will definitely ask my husband, but I’ll also do my best to swallow my pride and ask my family and friends. They love me, and they want to help. (Perspective check: I would absolutely want to help them if the roles were reversed.)
- Take a much-needed break to recharge. Escape—er, calmly exit the house to do this.
- Try to just be and see if that jumpstarts my brain.
- If not, take out a piece of paper and a pen (old-school!) and make a plan. If my brain can’t be trusted to find its way back to productivity on its own, I will draw it a very explicit map.
- Do those things.
- Get back to reality—and be better, happier and more whole.
It seems so simple when you write it down, and it is! I hope that you’ll try this the next time you’re feeling the same way.
Running ourselves into the ground because we can’t see a way out isn’t the answer. Instead, we need to be rational, recognize what our bodies and our brains are trying to tell us, and engage in regular self-care. If we don’t, there’s no way that we can be our best selves for our families and for ourselves.
A final thought if you’re ever feeling particularly stuck about how to get back on the right track: Friends, shopping, tater tots, wine and a change of scenery always help. Always.
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