Are you wondering how to improve mental health in a chaotic time?
If you are a mom who is really, really having a hard time right now, this post is for you. You’re in an unprecedented maelstrom of political tension, cultural divide, and worries about our health. Your stress levels are staggering, and you’re on the brink of a breakdown.
I really get it, honestly. My posts are geared toward people looking to change their mindset and find health and happiness, but that doesn’t mean I never struggle myself. I’ve been through unimaginable things this year on a personal level, and I sometimes find myself wondering: When is all this going to end?
So that all being said, you should never ever be ashamed if you hit a point of desperation. Moms especially are bearing the brunt of stress in the family, with no sign of it improving any time soon.
In this post, I’m going to talk about 7 habits to improve mental health for all the weary moms out there, and how you can create the perfect Mom’s Day off– something we all need from time to time! Keep reading to find out my favorite self care tips that I use in my own life that have really helped me.
This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you click a link and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. See my Privacy and Affiliate Disclaimer pages for more info.
Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with depression and anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.
Why self care for moms is so important
I want to talk about what is happening to moms all around the world. Paint a picture of the struggle that millions of moms are facing. Give this a read, and let me know if this sounds like you:
It’s 5:30 in the morning. Your alarm isn’t set to go off until 6, but you can hear screeching coming from an adjoining room. The kids are jumping on their beds. With a sigh, you trudge to the bathroom and brush your teeth. (Water only, because you’re too tired to remember toothpaste.) Then, you head over to check on them.
There is not enough caffeine in the world to get you through the rest of your day. You’re working from home while your little ones are doing virtual schooling. Sounds way better in theory than it actually is, because you have to stop what you’re doing every 5 minutes for one of the following:
- Troubleshoot a tech issue
- The teacher wants to tell the parents something
- Your kid wants something to drink
- Your kid wants to show you something they did
- It’s an activity they need help with, so you need to step in and homeschool for a while
It’s impossible to be productive, so you resign yourself to spending 10% of your day actually working, and 90% of it yawning.
Does that sound like you?
Real talk, it’s definitely me these days. So, if you’re cringing and thinking, “Oh my God, that is me,” it’s really okay. You are far from alone. In my own possibly biased perspective as a mom of 2.5 small kids, mothers have it especially hard right now. As if you didn’t already have enough on your plate, play dates are being cancelled and school is a pile of hot garbage.
Now, more than ever, it’s important for us moms to focus on habits to improve our mental health. It would be so easy to just shrug and say, “Well, I guess I’ll get some self care next year.” But do you know what that leads to?
Three more months of you being burned out and hating life just a little bit. (Or a lot.)
Maybe your mental health can survive that, but it is possible that you are on the brink of crisis. What moms need right now are some habits to improve mental health that will actually help.
What does chronic stress lead to?
If you let things go for too long, it can have really negative impacts on your health. And not just your mental health. Your physical health, too!
Mayo Clinic describes the stress process the following way:
- Sensing a “threat” makes your mind’s alarm bell ding (your hypothalamus)
- This tells your adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and cortisol
- Adrenaline affects your heart rate and blood pressure, and cortisol does a whole mess of crap you don’t want.
Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes.Chronic stress puts your health at risk
Stress doesn’t just make you moody. It really wrecks a lot of your body’s systems if you don’t do anything about it. That’s why it’s so important for you to attack it head on, rather than just say, “Meh, that’s gonna be my New Year’s Resolution.”
If it’s not your daily resolution, things can become a disaster pretty quickly.
7 habits to improve mental health ASAP
In this section, I wanted to share 7 habits to improve mental health that have really helped me in a very trying season of motherhood. They’re simple and effective, and can be tailored to any situation.
I say simple, so I want to make a quick distinction between simple and easy in case that’s necessary. I am going to present 7 simple concepts that can really help you, but that doesn’t mean they will feel easy.
And that’s okay. As JFK so eloquently said about the proposed voyage to the moon:
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
That speech has inspired millions for almost 60 years. My own parents were just small children at the time, but I can hear him say it in his thick Massachusetts accent thank to school. It’s inspired me throughout the years, since learning about him in history class, because his message is a universal one:
Sometimes the most worthwhile things feel a little hard, but they are still worth doing.
Check out these 7 habits to improve mental health and pick one to start with today!
Habit #1: Just ask for help already
Yeah, yeah. Asking for help is hard. But if there is one thing we can learn from the 35th US President, it’s that it’s important to do things that are hahd sometimes, am I right?
Recently, I’ve been struggling with my kids morning and night time routine. For some reason, my kids (5 years old and 3.5 year old) completely abhor listening to me lately. I say something out loud- in English, since that’s our family’s primary language- and it’s like nothing registers.
So, I finally got up the mental energy to create a chart outlining which parent is responsible for what day, rather than just wing it inconsistently. It’s been really helpful, and my husband has totally stepped up to the plate.
Try to speak up about what you need and at least get that conversation started.
Habit #2: Write in a journal
This is one of the habits to improve mental health that takes the least amount of time. Do you have 5 minutes a day after the kids go to bed? Can you put “Cold Case Files” on pause for a quick sec? I definitely recommend writing in a journal for anyone feeling overwhelmed and overburdened.
If you don’t know where to start, here are some free prompts you can download to get you started.
Really, you can use any notebook or stack of paper you have lying around, but if a proper “journal” will help you get into the right mindset, Amazon has a lot of great options for that!
Habit #3: Learn to say “NO”
As moms, we’re conditioned to think we not only CAN do it all, but we SHOULD do it all. That is part of the problem! There is no universe in which we can do all of the things on our massive to do lists on a given day without feeling stressed.
I’ve begun to accept that this is a season of life where the house just may not be as clean as I want it. And that’s okay. I’m not gonna be featured in a Parade of Homes any time soon anyway. If you have 20 minutes during the day where the kids are playing nice, absolutely, do some dishes or laundry if it fills your soul.
But if what’s calling to your soul is that murder mystery sitting by your bedside, the dishes will still be there when you’re done!
Habit #4: Treat yourself a bit
This is one of my favorite habits to improve mental health. I’m not saying spend money you don’t have, but the occasional small treat can really boost your spirits.
Every so often, if I’ve been really down, I’ll order a $15 box of bath bombs, or a new-to-me Ann Rule book. It’s not much financially, and it makes you feel special when life is dragging you down.
There are a lot of ways moms can treat themselves to a bit of self care without breaking the bank. Here are some of my favorites:
- Get a new book
- Take a long hot bath or shower in peace and quiet
- Take a 15 minute walk by yourself
- Listen to a podcast episode
- Do some quick Sudoko or another brain puzzle to get your mind working
- Eat one of your favorite desserts
- Sleep in an extra 15 minutes
Habit #5: Find a support system online
Another one of my tried and true habits to improve mental health is reaching out to people that are in a similar situation. My mom friends online have been invaluable to me in a stressful time. There are tons of Facebook groups available based on your location, job, interests, etc.
You can be a loyal lurker, and read about people’s advice- or you can jump in and participate! I’ve made some lifelong friends by going outside of my comfort zone and introducing myself in a mom’s group.
This is especially helpful in today’s world where meeting up to hang out in person has fallen by the wayside. Meaningful social interaction is a big part of our mental health, so it’s great that you can find that online without being exposed to gross germs.
Habit #6: Get a better night’s sleep
This one can also be a bit tricky as a mom, but it is very, very important. Not getting adequate sleep not only makes stress worse, but comes with problems of its own.
Healthline says that regular bad sleep can lead to:
- Memory issues
- Trouble concentrating
- Mood changes
- Worsened immune system
- High blood pressure
- Low sex drive
- Heart disease
- Poor balance
So, whatever you need to do. Listen to relaxing music to help you turn your mind off… pop a Unisom… give up your evening coffee after work… DO IT. It is so much better for you in the long run.
If you have a baby or young child that is needy at night, I understand, because I’ve been there. This is another time when Habit #1 comes in- asking for help. If you have a partner, ask them to alternate nights with you. If you are a single mom, see if you can get a sitter or ask Grandma to come over once a week for a break. It can make all the difference!
Habit #7: Find the joy in the little things
I struggled with this for a long time. When we’re having a hard time, it’s can be difficult to imagine that we’re allowed to exist in two separate worlds.
There’s the world where we are a frazzled mom. We’re grumpy, drink caffeine by the gallon, and need a break.
Then, there’s that other world. The one where your 3 year old says something so over the top that you feel inclined to laugh.
Go ahead and laugh! You are allowed to be Stressed Out Mom™ and still crack a smile when your kids are being funny. Try to give yourself that small amount of joy even if it’s for a couple minutes, then you feel frazzled again.
Create the perfect Mom’s Day Off
Sometimes 15-20 minutes a day of self care doesn’t cut it. Maybe you’ve gone so long without prioritizing self care that you need a massive intervention.
No shame there. As I said, we are sometimes conditioned to Do It All™ and that “all” does not include taking care of ourselves.
But as I’ve written about above, it is very very important to get in that time for yourself. If you find that you need way more than a short time at the end of the day, add a monthly Mom’s Day Off to your schedule!
Yes, this does involve asking for help again. But I have been doing this the past few months and it has been so amazing for my mental health.
The great part is, it’s completely customizable. Just complete the following steps:
- Pick a day and time frame. For me, I pick one Saturday or Sunday a month, since my husband doesn’t work weekends. He takes the kids from like 7:30 AM until about 4 PM.
- Find someone to watch the kids.
- Decide what will relax you the most. I love lying in bed and relaxing with a good show, and getting a hot bath in there.
- Remember: Your day off from the kids is not about cleaning, or catching up on work. It is about relaxing and filling your soul.
It really is very simple. But it takes some amount of introspection. Take a bit of time to really think about this: What is it that you need that you are not getting in your day to day life?
What if you can’t find time?
This is the issue a lot of people bring up. They “just don’t have time for self care.”
Listen. Unless your work schedule is Sunday-Saturday 12:00 AM until 11:59 PM, you have time. “Just don’t have time” is actually mom speak for “I haven’t figured out how to create the time yet.”
It can be tricky, but every single person reading this has at least 20 minutes a few times a week. There’s nap time, there’s your lunch break, there’s after the kids go to bed… You 100% can make the time. And it is one of the greatest gifts you could ever give yourself.
Need some extra help?
If you are a mom who lives with anxiety as a result of their burnout, check out my e-book about anxiety. It’s 90+ pages of useful wisdom, including 10 printable self care worksheets.
If you want to see more info about that, click the image below!
Find your own habits to improve mental health that work for you!
It can take a bit of trial and error to figure out what is most restorative for you, but it is worth the effort. Ultimately, you are not just a mom. You are a whole unique, complex person, and you deserve to feel well. Even when life gets weird like it has recently for so many people.
Are you a mom? How have you been doing with the recent state of things? Let me know all about your current self care routine in the comments!