Category Archives: Psychology

What You Must Do For Yourself

Imagine something with me: You have two children, babies really, who are two years and 5 months old. All last week they were sick, and therefore clingy, and whiny, and they didn’t go to school so you didn’t have a break. And they were waking up in the middle of the night, which means you weren’t feeling particularly rested. But today they’re not sick it’s just the usual yelling of  “Mom!” approximately every two minutes, or irrational crying, all in between nursing, and preparing lunch, and cleaning messes. But really it’s the constant hum of the wining in the background that starts to undo you a little. And it’s been a few years that you find yourself getting burned out rather easily. Of course, it is such a sweet life and you love your little beans; you have so much to be grateful for. A thought slips in, wishing you could get out for just a second, or have a quiet moment to focus on something that ignites your souls, but since you can’t, you occasionally let yourself indulge in a little self-pity.

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On Wednesday I was mentally and physically worn down and feeling a little burned out.  I was standing over there in the living room where I can catch myself in the mirror and I was starting to get really irritated with my two year old. I was mad at her for whining, and keeping me in, and just being two. And that’s right where I heard “GO TO THE GYM”.

“I can’t go to the gym,” I told myself.

“Yes, you can.”

“But the kids don’t like it.”

“They will be okay for thirty minutes. They are safe, and the childcare is age appropriate and your discomfort with their initial discomfort is not a good enough excuse not to take care of yourself.”

“It’s so much work just to get them in the car.”

“GO TO THE GYM.”

The rationalizations for my helplessness were no longer valid. I was getting mad at the two year old for being two and making excuses for not taking care of myself. And it really wasn’t fair to her, or anyone else in my family, for me to not provide what only I can do for myself. I am the only one who can supply the self-care that I need, so I have to stop waiting around for someone else to take care of me.

012So I went to the gym, and I took my time – giving myself a whole 45 minutes. The two year old actually had fun coloring and the baby slept. It finally made sense that whatever it is I’m waiting around for isn’t going to happen on its own. It’s not only important that I take care of myself, it’s actually unfair to my kids and husband to be in denial about the resentment I’m holding towards them for something that’s not even their responsibility. IT IS NOT FAIR TO THE PEOPLE I LOVE NOT TO TAKE CARE OF MYSELF. There is a cutural narrative that moms who stay home with their children often feel frazzled and don’t have any time for themselves, but are of course grateful for the opportunity to be at home. When did I start letting some thoughtless construct of motherhood become an excuse for not living with the joy intended for me?

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So you know what I did on Thursday? I got a manicure and allowed myself some time to write. And I let myself off the hook on making a perfect dinner. Magically, the two year old seems happier. I think she senses that she’s no longer carrying the weight I was inadvertently putting on her. My happiness is no longer her burden nor my husbands or anyone else’s.

5 Ways to Get Out of Your Funk

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I was in a funk for a long time. Probably 10 years. Some people would call that more than a funk – it probably was. Either way, here are some things I’ve learned about helping myself dig out. As always, don’t ever hesitate to ask for professional help if you feel you cannot get out on your own.  Something to keep in mind as you read is that the list is not chronological – each step is just as important as the others and there is no right place to start. Begin wherever it feels easiest, and then let momentum carry you forward.

Eat.      In a way, I hate that food has to be part of this equation. Food is one area where I find that not over thinking is better for me. So I want to especially emphasize to do what works for you. The two tasks that I needed to face were balancing my blood sugar and finding a way to eat that honors my health – mental and physical. Intuitive eating was my way out of the craziness of disordered eating (i.e. not an eating disorder, per say, just not viewing food and my body in healthy ways). If you’ve never heard of this and struggle with obsessively thinking about weight, food, and body issues it’s a good bet for you. For others it’s simpler – just using a no nonsense approach like counting calories or adopting a nutrition philosophy can work. Maybe you need structure so it means going paleo, or maybe it’s simply getting off the diet train. Here’s the point: eat in a way that makes you feel good, really good and alive. Find whatever that is for you right now.

Move!      Just move. That’s it. Move in a way that is fun for you and move consistently. If you start feeling really good, move a little more. See where it takes you. Find a routine that works and that makes you feel good and that you don’t dread. Move fast, move slow, just move a little (or a lot) every day. Be open to moving in new ways! Dance, walk, skip, spin, I don’t care – just move. Exercise is just as effective as an anti-depressant.

Cognition.     Start paying attention to your thoughts and beliefs. A really helpful way to start is to study the list of cognitive distortions as defined in cognitive-behavioral therapy and start paying attention to where these show up for you. See if you can start shifting these, even a little. Mind reading is a common pitfall for me, and it causes me so much pain and anxiety! I assume I know what other people are thinking (bad things about me, obviously) and then I let that torture me. If I set up a boundary there – I do not allow myself to go there – then my peace remains undisturbed. What others think of me is none of my business anyways, right?  Here’s a great resource for evaluating and confronting our own distorted patterns of thinking.

Be Still.     A mindfulness practice (prayer, meditation, contemplation) is another proven way to improve your mood. I try to sit in prayerful stillness twenty minutes a day. It is SO good for your brain. Mindfulness based practices are a hotbed of research right now and show promising results. Perhaps it’s the antidote to our hyper-efficient culture. But more importantly, it may usher you to places of being properly haunted, or more grateful, or seeing things in new ways, or just feeling a little less frazzled. If you have no idea where to start, this is a great book or find an app for guided meditation (e.g. Headspace).

Forgive.    This can be tough, I know. Who do you need to forgive? Who can you let go? Where is there bitterness for someone not loving you the way you needed to be loved? This is incredibly personal, but I’m pretty sure most of us have someone we need to set free. I know it feels unfair, but as Martin Luther King, Jr.said, “Hate is too great a burden to bear.” I love this book on forgiveness. I also love this book on getting over the hump on your way to better mental and emotional health.

It’s important to change where we have control. There will always be areas of our lives that we have no control over, but these are habits we can always choose for ourselves.