Wednesday, January 31, 2018

My best piece of self-care advice

I've got some words to say about self-care. And quite possibly my number one tip when it comes to self-care. The number one, easiest, most impactful piece of advice! My life changing piece of advice. Because I think we tend to talk about "self-care" as some vague term that means only big things and not simple daily practices that better our mental health. I want to stick to the simple and practical. But first, walk with me back in time. (insert wavy lines across the screen now)

I had 5 kids in less than six years. I had a brief couple months in between all five where I wasn't pregnant and/or nursing. There were constant diapers, bottles, naps, diapers, messes, and diapers. It was a constant barrage of needs to be met and lots of crying from kids and myself. Those days are really blurry and as difficult as they were, I really learnt a heck of a lot about myself and my husband in those difficult times. I had patches of postpartum depression and anxiety, and at times felt positively drowning and that my life would only and forever be overwhelming. It's not a great mental space. But this is what happens when human beings are in stressful situations, and raising five mini-humans is a stressful situation.

Because our life felt like it was hurtling along at 100 mph with babies coming every year my husband and I talked about our mental health often, if only to check in to make sure our heads were above water. But we learned very quickly that neither of us could handle the stress by ourselves, without talking it through with each other, and asking for support from each other. A couple of kids in when I felt like all I did was change diapers, feed, and soothe babies my husband realized that for the sake of my sanity we had to plan time for me to get out of the house. He realized the need and firmly told me that was what was happening even when I made excuse after excuse about babies needing me and being exhausted. So I would leave the house every week if I could for an afternoon, and sometimes every two weeks, but it was a standing thing that had to happen. Because it happened and I made it through a stressful, and very demanding time without completely losing my mind or myself.

It wasn't every day, it was every so often, sometimes for longer, sometimes for shorter. But I'm telling you, getting time for yourself is the biggest and best thing you can do for your mental health. Right now. Today. No matter what season you're in.

We've all been in times of survival mode where self care can't happen for whatever reason, but the first step to getting out of survival mode is to carve time for yourself to be alone. You can't get a mental break when someone is asking for something every five minutes. You don't recharge your own batteries by hiding in the bathroom while the kids watch Paw Patrol. You can't realize what would truly be live giving self-care if you don't even have time to realize what you personally need because you're always on baby duty.

Sometimes you don't know how much you need time alone if you've gone too long without it. 

If you're feeling at lose ends, like you don't know how to fix issues with your marriage or family or how to reignite the passions you had prior to having kids, it may be because you never have time alone to even fully ruminate on these very important things. Having that time for yourself creates space where you can begin to figure these things out. It allows you to listen to what your own needs might be, how to best meet them, what areas of your life need work and addressing, and maybe more opportunities to look at your life a bit more objectively rather than in the emotional throes of witching hour when the whole world feels like it's falling down around you.

I know some moms feel that in order to be a "super mom" or even a "good mom" that that means being available to their children all. the. time. But would we ask any other person of any other profession or vocation to never have time alone? Would we ask our parish priest to not even take an hour out of his daily schedule for himself? Do we think that people who work full time should come home from dinner and immediately get back to work with only intermittent breaks for sleep during the night? Then why as moms who are truly working 24/7, being completely emotionally and physically available to their babies and children think that they don't need time alone? We need to recognize that that mindset is deeply unhealthy and detrimental not only to our own mental health, but to our children, to our marriage, to the way we live our lives.

I want this advice to be simple. Find alone time for yourself. It may be before the kids wake up if you have an extremely active lifestyle or are blessed to be a morning person. It may be when kids nap simultaneously. It may be after your husband gets home from work before the kids go to bed. It may be after the kids go to bed. Find what time best works for you and your family. If your husband really and truly can't give you half an hour to an hour kid free because he's superman or some equivalent, don't feel guilty about asking for some babysitting time from family and friends, or just a regular ol' paid one, and spending that time not on errands and grocery shopping, but yourself. (Unless grocery shopping is deeply restoring for you, in which case you're probably a hero who doesn't need any of my advice!)

Also, this time you spend alone has to be spent doing what you want. Not what you need to do, not what you "should" do. Spend it blissfully bingeing The Crown. Spend it with a book. Spend it running or taking a gym class. Spend it alone at a coffee shop with tea, or strolling the aisles of Target. Don't forget to give yourself the gift of going out for lunch by yourself - that can change your damn life!

It can be out of the home or can be in your home. Just make it uninterrupted time, alone. It doesn't have to happen every day, but it does have to happen consistently and as often as possible. I think the most important step in trying to make big life changes like crawling out of survival mode begins with committing to small changes in our routine. Especially as moms, I think one of the biggest aspects of our lives for better or worse is our routines and how we utilize them. We aren't out of control of our lives just because we have small kids, we're still in control but change comes in little steps.

Just humour me if you don't think this one step will change your life. Commit to it for a week or two and see if you notice changes in how you feel, in how you think, in how happy you are. Let me be your life coach!

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Living off the grid - time wise

I've been thinking lately how my daily routine as an at home mom has changed over the years. And it has changed a lot over the years but at the same time it hasn't. I sometimes have deep questioning thoughts if I'm a truly boring person who abhors change, or if I'm using routine because that's life with a bunch of kids.

I think I question because, frankly, I live really oddly. Living in a rural area and homeschooling means I don't actually even see a town some days. I don't have to get kids to school, I don't have to pick them up. I don't run errands, I don't hop in the car to grab coffee or see people. Which I'm sure makes me seem like a complete anti-social hermit. I get out of my house by walking down the road every day I don't go to town/the city to see my parents.

My schedule isn't made by anything outside of my own home and mostly, me. I'm the boss of me! I decide when I get up, when my kids get up, when school and sit down work gets done, what activities we go to and when, and usually when choosing these things they fit into my general routine. As in we focus on school most every morning barring a weird doctors appointment, make most activities fit into afternoons, and if not we have the flexibility to work other things around to make the things that don't fit perfectly work. I choose how to spend my time after I've dealt with school and kids. I decide when to cook and eat dinner. There are short periods of time where things get disrupted for one thing or another and I can feel the difference and stress it creates. I feel maxed out and rushed, but at the same time very unproductive.

Obviously I'm only speaking for me and my own weird existence, but whether it's from living this way for so long or not, I feel like I would really not enjoy living according to outside schedules. I mean, I would have to adapt, and I know I could do it, but I really don't want to! And I mean this in a very general way, because we all have appointments, and Mass, and activities, and meetings and lots of things that we have to show up for at certain times, but not having the daily rhythm of my day determined by outside factors is pretty swell.

But that's so odd! I'm so weird! It's so distinctly un-modern and uncommon. As a society we're so used to being told what to do, where to go, and when to be there. Which happens for very important reasons, but have we thought about the overreach of them all in our lives that much? Do we ever question "school" and work and the myriad of things we think we have to do? We really do have control over our own time.

I think I partly took to routine and making sure I'm making choices of how and when I fit all the things of life into my day because I had a bunch of babies in a short amount of time! Babies and their routines make you figure out that there should be a routine to your day, that you function better if you sleep, eat, and play on a regular schedule. As an adult this is still true. And as the adult of a bunch of babies, your way of survival is to get all babies on the same routine as to not lose your mind completely. As the fiftieth caveat of this short post; of course my babies weren't perfectly scheduled every day of their life, but the general rhythm of routine in our days was something that over time I learned really helped everyone including myself. Knowing that most days I'd have nap times to get a little time for myself was hugely relieving. Knowing that when babies woke up, I would nurse, then they would play put in perspective that their needs needed to be met before mine. And the list goes on and on.

I would never tell anyone to live as weirdly as I do. But I do think that intentionally looking at how we spend our time and how to use it valuably for ourselves; what we want to spend our time on, instead of the other way around and being forced to live in the leftovers of time the outside world dictates, can change our perspectives on how we're living our lives.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Hello 2018

Photo by Sam Beasley on Unsplash

I'm alive, but Blogger doesn't know it and asked me for my password. Which felt so uncomfortable. Like seeing an old high school acquaintance in a crowded bar, you should know them and they should know you, but you both don't really want to dredge up ancient history.

Thankfully, Google, unlike deadbeat high school friends, remembers your password, or at least resends it to you when you forget.

I feel like I forget how to blog to be quite honest. Which also feels kinda crumby because I think I used to be good at it. I definitely have always enjoyed it. And somehow in all the busy-ness I've let this drop which was not intentional. I am definitely a creature of habit so once I was out of the habit of blogging it seemed so impossible to pick up again. I've never had a sole purpose to the blog other than it for me to be an outlet to post whatever I want, whenever I want. I'm not a good documenter of everything my family does, and I hope my children's memories suffice. In these post-blog days we're not really defined by "niche" or "audience" or "sponsorships" much. Which is all alright for me, because I really just enjoy the practice of writing, the exchange of thoughts and lives of other women online. You're all a treasure for reading!

I've been busy elsewhere doing fun, creative "work" that really brings me life that I'm so grateful for. I love podcasting. I love writing and contributing to Blessed is She. They've both been richly rewarding for the amount of time I put in, which at times is definitely not as much as I wish I could put it.

But 2018, I'm going to blog. It might not be often, or earth-shattering, or well-curated, but dang it, it's going to be published. And if that's not a rousing endorsement to follow the heck out of this space, then you're a far more discerning reader than I!

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