The emotional health checklist for busy mums
Strong emotional health is the bedrock of our wellbeing. Here are five ways to ensure yours is in great shape.
BY KELLY RENNIE
Being a mum is a complicated business. Not only do we have the lives of our children to look after, but we also have to keep growing ourselves!
During the busy, daily grind, this can seem impossible, but it’s important to keep things in perspective. Despite the roadblocks and time constraints that seem to restrict us, it is crucial we still find time to look after our physical and emotional wellbeing.
Staying fit mentally and physically is part of our duty and will pay off in the long run. It’s not all about counting calories or beating ourselves up in the gym, either. ‘Fitness’ can take many forms, as we will see.
Below are the mental tips and tricks that will keep you happy and productive in everything that you do. And as you get happier and feel better about yourself, everything else in your life will fall into its correct place.
1 Say goodbye to negative feelings
Why do we hold on to negative feelings for so long? Believe it or not, it’s because we think we are getting something beneficial from them! Whether it is protection or focus, negative feelings deceive us into thinking they are necessary for us to function effectively in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Negative feelings such as guilt and fear are just emotions that arise when we fail to face something in our lives. Maybe you want to spend some time alone but can’t bring yourself to tell your partner. Maybe you want to go back to work, but don’t want the backlash that will come from making the announcement.
Whatever it is, negative feelings do absolutely nothing to help us. Learn how to process them constructively — through practices such as meditation and emotional releasing — and keep focused on the things that you want. You will be thankful that you did.
2 Learn how to rest completely
In our ‘go go go’ culture it can seem counterintuitive to take some time out for yourself. There is always something else you can be doing, which can make rest and relaxation a difficult habit to cultivate. In many places, sitting around and ‘doing nothing’ is considered the height of laziness, which just shows how ignorant we are to how the brain and body work.
The truth is that taking some time out to relax is an absolute necessity for a healthy and fulfilling life. It allows us to recharge our batteries, indulge in something we find enjoyable, and come out the other side feeling better than before. It doesn’t matter what we do — whether we go out for a coffee in the sun or sit inside and watch the rain. If it calms us down and adds to our sense of wellbeing, we should do it as often as possible!
Now, I know what you are saying. But what about the children? It’s true that babysitters are expensive. If that is the case for you right now, enlist the help of your family. Ask your partner to take the children out for an hour so you can recharge. If your partner is at work, ask your parents or even a neighbour if you are on good terms with them. Your future well-being depends on it.
3 Go easy on yourself
Going hand in hand with rest and relaxation is learning how to go easy on yourself. As the cornerstone of our family, it can be easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you are not doing enough. In fact, many busy mums set unrealistic goals and end up beating themselves up when they don’t hit them (believe me, I know). Not only does this do nothing for your own self-esteem, but it also lowers the positive energy and vitality that you can share with your family.
Instead of being hard on yourself, learn how to be friends with the voice inside your head. Accept who you are, what you like, and what you are capable of. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push yourself — far from it — but make your aspirations realistic and relative to where you are now. You will be surprised how quickly you can build momentum when you hit small goals. Before long, you are living the life you always dreamt of.
4 Realise that not all of life is a competition
Many of us are entrenched in the habit of competing and comparing. We feel good when we perceive we are better than or ‘getting one over’ those around us and feel terrible when we seem to be falling behind. This fear of missing out and keeping up with the neighbours is nothing new, but it is only now we are starting to realise how harmful it can be to our emotional and mental health.
You might think mums are immune to this competing mindset. Think again! On the contrary, when we have children we have one more thing to compete about. Think about all those parents who put their children into pageant shows and push them into acting or sports lessons. These aren’t acts devised for the welfare of the child. They are acts solely based on the competing and comparing instincts of the parent.
Realising that not all of life has to be a competition can be extremely liberating. It can soften your approach to others and make you more caring and, above all, a calmer and more centred human being.
5 Get a grip on your diet
Physical and emotional health are not two distinct entities. They are, in fact, intimately linked and at a certain level dependent upon each other. We all know that we should be cutting sugar-rich and processed foods out of our diets, but how many of us do it? In the rush of daily life, it can be much easier to reach for a biscuit or energy drink, rather than stop and think about what we are doing.
Maybe it will help to know that replacing junk foods with natural, nutrient-dense substitutes will give us a whole new lease on life. We will suddenly find ourselves in possession of great natural energy, balanced hormones (and moods!), better sleep, and a leaner body. We will also have better skin and enjoy a more confident outlook on life, no longer commanded by our old junk food addictions.
Work at eliminating one piece of junk food at a time and replace it with something healthy that you know you will enjoy. Keep going and build momentum. You will see some happy changes in your life before you know it.