For me, life changed a lot in the past few years. I went from being a carefree 20 something-year-old to struggling with years of infertility, then three months of watching our son in the NICU, and now adjusting to my new role as a mom. My hormones have been messed up from IVF and pregnancy/breastfeeding. I never sleep enough because new parents never do but I also work nights. And somewhere along the way, I stopped prioritizing myself and my wellbeing. And although I haven’t suffered from any severe form of post-partum depression, I have definitely lacked motivation and neglected selfcare.
I guess as a new mom this is common, right? We created this tiny human being that now relies on us for everything and, no matter what, he will always come first. But, I’ve noticed that when I do make the time to take care of myself, I have more to give him. I am happier, more patient and energized, more engaging. And he needs me to be mentally okay. He needs to see that I’m prioritizing my health so that he learns to do the same one day. He needs me to teach him methods for coping and dealing with challenging times. Kids see past our masks and copy what they are exposed to, therefore, I want to be the best version of myself.
Babies aside, I think as a society we often neglect our mental health. We plaster smiles across our faces and post filtered photos to Instagram so the world can see how “happy” we are. We are constantly busy and can never seem to find the time to delve deeper into ourselves. And so, because we never actually address or realize there is an issue, we never deal with it.
I knew I needed to make some changes in my life because I wasn’t my happy self anymore. I was constantly stressed and worrying and anxious. I wasn’t sleeping good. I wasn’t eating good. I was always getting in my own head. And when beautiful spring days arrived and I hardly found energy or motivation to get outside, I knew something needed to change. How was I possibly going to be able to continuing giving my son my best when I wasn’t there to start? He needed my mind to get into a better place. My husband needed this. I needed this.
Change can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t need to wake up one day and decide you’re going to flip your whole life upside-down. Change can come in the form of overcoming small bumps rather than climbing mountains. And little by little, small changes in my life are starting to add up to a big difference.
We all process stress and deal with challenging times uniquely. Something that works for me, may not necessarily work for you. But my hope is that sharing my experiences may spark something in you, may encourage you to re-evaluate your mental health, may motivate you to make some changes for the better in your own life. Here are some methods that have been working for me.
I always prioritized exercise prior to having a baby but have found it so challenging postpartum to find/make the time. At first I set big, unrealistic goals and kept letting myself down because I wasn’t achieving them. I plan to write a whole blog post about this but, in short, I have learned that any movement is better than nothing for my mind and my body. Lately, I’m taking advantage of the warmer weather to take my son on long walks in the morning followed by some stretching while he plays beside me. The fresh air clears my mind and has been the perfect start to our days. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t need to be doing CrossFit five times a week to feel good anymore. And one day, I may get back there but, for now, I’m grateful for the chance to just move daily.
I’ve written in a journal on and off my whole life. I noticed that I would always revert back to journaling during difficult times as a way to get things off my chest but then, during easier times, I would stop. These days, I’m trying to journal more often, regardless of good or bad days. I write things that bother me but also about beautiful days and experiences, memories with my son and husband that I want to be able to look back on, things I’m grateful for or excited about. Journaling can be such a great outlet. For me, it’s like talking to a best friend.
I needed to make some changes to my diet. I was eating far too many empty carbs and sweets and not nearly enough protein or nutrient rich foods. Just like with exercise, I needed something realistic and sustainable, unlike fad diets or trends, so my husband and I both decided to calculate and track our macros. Macro counting is so informative because you get to see just how healthy or unhealthy certain foods are (and you will likely be very surprised). But I also love it because I don’t need to deprive myself of anything. If I want to eat chocolate, it’s okay. If I know I’m going to have a lot of carbs and fat for dinner (pizza, for example), I just adjust my carb and fat intake earlier in the day. It’s working great for me and I feel so much better since starting.
The Calm app is something I use daily and for so many different things… music, soundscapes for relaxation, sleep stories, and most recently, meditation. My mind is always going a hundred miles a minute and meditation is teaching me how to clear my thoughts. To let everything go for a few minutes and just be. Of course you can meditate without an app but I find it helps me focus and brings me back when my mind wanders. YouTube has many free guided meditations also!
Social media can be so toxic. There have been numerous occasions I catch myself scrolling mindlessly while my son sits right in front of me! It’s just the worst habit ever! Social media can be good for certain things, but overall it’s such a waste of time and I’m trying SO hard to be better about limiting it. I’m also trying to fill my time with more productive activities like reading, writing/blogging or listening to podcasts rather than watching television or social media-ing. It’s amazing how much more time I have in the day when I don’t waste it on Facebook or Instagram!
I love coffee. I love the ritual of a warm mug in the morning. I love the taste. I love the pick-me-up feeling it gives me. Recently, in my constant sleep deprived state, I started drinking a second, sometimes third cup in the afternoons. And so, in addition to my lack of sleep, often poor quality of sleep when I do get it, and overall worrying too much since being a new mom, this was a bad combination. I still drink my morning coffee but have been trying to avoid a second cup later in the day. If I’m craving a warm drink I’ll usually make a tea. Lately I’ve been loving chai tea lattes, matcha lattes, a Vital Protein collagen hot chocolate or just plain old tea!
See below for links to some of the products I’ve been using!
*This post contains some affiliate links and I may be compensated but all opinions are my own!