I am a huge advocate for doing anything you can to create stability and positivity around your mental health. I believe that your mental health is the most important part of your wellness routine, even above nutrition and exercise. Everything we do begins in the mind. What we think shapes our emotions, and our emotions shape our actions.
Think about it: when your thoughts are on the happier side, you’re more likely to do things that continue those happy thoughts and feelings. Similarly, when you’re feeling sad, angry, or depressed, you may do things that give you comfort in those negative feelings. Your mental health is crucial to the outlook you have on your life and your potential. So in my opinion, it’s in your best interest to put your mental health before everything else.
At least, that’s what I’ve found to be true. For the last year, I have been navigating through postpartum depression and anxiety. And my thoughts and feelings have been more negative than I’ve ever experienced before. While I am in therapy and getting help to feel better and manage my emotions, there is one thing that has really helped me feel better about myself and my life overall: putting time for myself into my schedule each week.
There is one thing that has really helped me feel better about myself and my life overall: putting time for myself into my schedule each week.
We’re moms and that means our lives are likely busy and chaotic. And our families need a lot of our attention and energy. For months, that responsibility weighed heavily on my shoulders. And I didn’t know how I was going to carry everyone through each day. On top of working a full-time job and freelancing on the side, how was I going to get dinner on the table, play with my son, make time for my marriage, and still have any energy left for myself?
This was a million-dollar question, but I was determined to find out the answer.
I’ve read that happiness in the home starts with the mother. That can be a lot of pressure. Feeling like the mom should always be happy and joyous for others. But I decided to flip that thought on its head and choose to believe that I deserve to be happy. Not for others, but for myself.
One of the things that would make me feel depressed or anxious was feeling like I had no time to myself to do the things I wanted to do or enjoyed doing. Whether these tasks were for fun or were items that needed to be checked off my to-do list, they kept getting pushed back down the priority list. I realized that no one was going to create the time for me to get things done or to treat myself to a glass of wine and a few episodes of Netflix. If I wanted these things to happen, I needed to advocate for myself and carve out the time in my schedule. Here’s how I did it.
1. I talked to my husband about my needs and wants
As much as I like to think he can, my husband can’t read my mind. I can glare at him from across the kitchen all I want as I clang each and every bowl that I unload from the dishwasher, and he will just think I’m being a little extra noisy and think nothing else of it. He’s never denied me anything I’ve truly wanted. But I do have to outwardly ask for it because he won’t just guess it out of thin air.
Yes, this sometimes annoys me. And I do fantasize about him bringing me a chilled glass of wine, grabbing our son. And him saying “Don’t worry about a thing, I’ve got this babe!” But in reality, if I want it, most times I need to ask for it.
One evening, I told him how the lack of time to myself was making me feel. And how I’d really like to carve out more time for myself each week. He, too, expressed similar feelings. And we agreed that we’d figure out a schedule that worked best for everyone to make this happen.
2. I chose the days and stuck to them (mostly)
It wasn’t enough for me to just have the conversation and hope that moving forward we’d find one or two days each week where I could step away from my motherly duties and get some downtime. So, I took a look at our family calendar and my work calendar to figure out which days would likely work the best for our family.
I decided on Thursdays and Sundays. For some odd reason, Thursdays have always been my favorite day of the week. And then Sundays have always been so rushed for me. And I wanted to put some effort into making it an enjoyable day again. So, most weeks when Thursday and Sunday roll around, I take 2-3 uninterrupted hours to myself to do whatever I like. If these days need to shift due to an overlapping appointment, we’re flexible enough to be OK with that. But most days we know what to expect when our “me time” days roll around.
3. We set some ground rules around our ‘me days’
As nice as it would be, we knew that we couldn’t check out the entire day twice a week. Our son is 15 months. And while he is so much fun, he also has so much energy that he can tire you out really quickly. If this was a once-in-a-while situation I’d feel differently. But leaving all of the parenting duties to one parent for a full day twice a week just didn’t seem fair.
So, each week we’d check-in and figure out how the person wanted to lay out their me time on their allotted day. This is important because this Thursday, I may want to hand over the morning routine so I can take a yoga class, sleep in, or go for a walk. While on a different Thursday, I may want to use my evenings. Establishing this ahead of time allows you to avoid blindsiding the other person. And keeps the day organized for anything else that might need to happen.
4. After the ‘me time’ is done, don’t piss on the present
I read this in a book I highly recommend all moms read called How To Not Hate Your Husband After Kids. In the book, the couple sees a cut-throat marriage counselor who said if you agree that your spouse can go somewhere or do something, when they come home, don’t make them feel bad about taking that time away. You agreed to it, now don’t piss on the present. This has stuck with me since I’ve read that book. I love that analogy so much.
After I’m done with my time, I don’t want to feel bad that I just took a few hours to myself. No matter how challenging taking care of our son may have been for my spouse during that time. If anything was truly wrong, I’d, of course, jump in. And help out how I can. But for the most part, as Marie Forleo says, everything is figureoutable. The same goes for my husband. When he comes back from watching a soccer game, riding his bike, or taking a nap, there may be spaghetti noodles on the wall. Paw Patrol on repeat, or crayons strewn about. But we made it. And I won’t make him hear about the challenges to make him feel bad.
There are many different ways we can tend to our mental health. And improve the way we think and feel about our life. Taking time away to rejuvenate and not have to be in charge of anyone else but myself for a few hours feels relaxing for me.
One last thing: while regular alone time can be great for all of us, I do want to mention that if you are struggling with negative and depressive feelings, please reach out for help. You don’t have to suffer all by yourself and there is help available. So take that step if it’s necessary and feels right for you and what you’re feeling.