Inside: How busy moms can manage stress and anxiety so they can take better care of their families.
When I was a child therapist I often told the parents of my clients that they had to take care of themselves before they could take good care of their children. I used the metaphor of the oxygen mask- when you fly on an airplane they tell you during the safety announcement that if you are traveling with small children you should put on your own oxygen mask and then help your children put theirs on.
It’s so hard for parents to remember that they have to take care of themselves and make sure they’re getting enough oxygen- enough food, sleep and love themselves before they can adequately provide these things for their kids.
I struggle with this myself, but one thing that has helped me is to make a list of activities that are instant mood lifters. That way when I do have time to myself I don’t end up wasting it trying to figure out what to do. Or by doing chores around the house instead of taking time to relax.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to relax and take care of myself:
1. Exercise. I love to run and always feel better after I do. Running increases the endorphins that boost seratonin in your brain. Seratonin is known as the “don’t worry be happy” neurotransmitter and sometimes exercise can even be more effective than medication at increasing seratonin levels. If I don’t feel like running, I still put my running shoes on and go for a walk.
2. Write in a journal. Writing can be very therapeutic for me, which is a big part of why I enjoy blogging. When I journal, I try to just write whatever comes to my mind and not to worry about if it even makes sense. My journaling is for me and not for anyone else to read.
3. A few minutes of deep breathing. Our brains need oxygen to function properly and most of us don’t get enough to keep stress at bay by the breath that we take day to day. There are some great relaxation apps out there, but my current favorite is the Breathe app on my Apple Watch. It guides me through a deep breathing exercise for one minute, vibrating when I should exhale. The best part is that my watch reminds me to do the exercise every day so I can’t forget.
4. Yoga. Yoga has numerous health benefits, but the biggest one for me is it’s ability to make me unplug from technology and focus on my breathing. I really enjoy taking a yoga class at my gym that is an hour long as sometimes it takes me a while to clear my head. The instructor has a very soothing voice, and she uses guided meditation along with relaxing music to help you center and ground yourself.
5. Get some vitamin D. Our bodies need vitamin D to produce that happy chemical seratonin that I mentioned above. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder, a mood disorder featuring depressive symptoms that occurs during the dark times of the year where there is little sunshine. We can get vitamin D naturally though sunlight, but for most people that’s not enough. I take vitamin D at least October- March, but recently have been taking it year round.
6. Read a book. There’s nothing like a great book to take you away to another place for a while. I check out books digitally for free from my local library using an app called Libby.
7. Try Aromatherapy. I love to take a warm bath with lavender oil or yummy smelling candles burning. Cedar wood is another essential oil that helps me relax. I put it on my forearms and take some deep breaths until I start to feel calm.
8. Seek professional help. As a former therapist, I am a big proponent of seeking therapy when you need it. Unfortunately there is a stigma surrounding mental health and too many people suffer in silence. A mental health therapist can be a good resource for helping you talk through challenging seasons in your life and for keeping you accountable to make sure you are engaging in self care.
These are some of my top choices to make sure I’m getting enough oxygen, but I’m always working on growing this list. Share your favorite tips for self-care in the comments.