Sometimes there is so much positive talk around motherhood that nobody addresses the challenges. Although children are a blessing, motherhood can take a toll on a woman’s mental health. There’s no manual explaining how moms can manage their mental health. Nothing’s handed out at the hospital explaining how to find a healthy balance between meeting their own needs and their children’s. When you throw a career, school, or marriage in the mix, it can feel as though you’re drowning some days.
How moms can manage their mental health
One in nine moms suffers from postpartum depression, which are feelings of sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness. It is classified as postpartum depression when these symptoms occur for more than two weeks after having a baby. Stressful situations like having children are also said to make women more likely to experience depression. When it comes to mental health, moms are also more vulnerable as women are 60% more likely than men to suffer from an anxiety disorder.
Thankfully, to reduce the likelihood of your mental health taking a nosedive, there are a number of things you can add to your everyday routine. Here is how you can manage your mental health as a mom.
Engage in Self-Care
When it comes to mental health, self-care can be one of the best antidotes. After all, looking after yourself and paying more attention to your thoughts, feelings, and body can have positive effects on your general wellbeing.
A few methods of self-care include:
It’s been proven meditation has positive impacts on your mental health. It helps you relax so your body can let go of mental stress. In addition, the American Heart Association produced a literature review and scientific statement that suggests evidence supports transcendental meditation lowering blood pressure. It can also be used to improve anxiety, depression, and insomnia if those are conditions you struggle with.
If you’re new to meditation, start by finding a comfortable and quiet spot you can relax in. Take this step seriously, as setting aside a time and space is key for consistency. The good thing is that it’s something that only requires a few minutes, so you can do it while the kids are taking a nap or when they’ve gone to bed for the night. Once you find a cozy spot, sitting or lying down, take deep breaths and focus your attention on your breathing. Know that it’s inevitable for your mind to wander — but when it does, pull your attention back to your breathing. If you decide to do mindfulness meditation, the goal should be to focus on your present thoughts, emotions, and feelings.
Engage in a Hobby
Once you become a mom, it can seem as though your thoughts only consist of diapers, mommy musings, and all things “baby.” However, this can lead to you feeling out of touch with yourself and like you’re losing your self-identity. Engage in activities you loved and participated in before becoming a mother. This is a form of self-care, as you’re paying more attention to your personal needs.
For instance, if you used to go for morning walks, see if some days you can get someone to watch your kids while you do so. Another mom-friendly hobby you could engage in is arts and crafts, getting your hands dirty and being creative with your kids. You might also try gardening while the kids play outside, as it’s also a good way to relieve stress. In fact, a Dutch study found that after asking two groups of people to complete a stressful task, 30 minutes of gardening resulted in reduced levels of cortisol.
Learn to Say No
Moms tend to overburden themselves with multiple tasks and commitments which can sometimes lead to burnout. Rethink your commitments and make sure you’re only taking on what you can handle. Learning to say ‘no’ is a good form of self-care, so it’s something you should become accustomed to. Be honest about what you cannot do, whether it be attending a function or going on a playdate, and set boundaries.
Look for Ways to Improve Income
Kids are expensive and come with ongoing costs. It’s overwhelming. To minimize the strain it has on your mental health, try and be more organized when it comes to money.
This could mean becoming frugal and cutting back on unnecessary expenses, especially if you aren’t working. Poverty in the United States is becoming increasingly more prevalent. To avoid this happening, try and get a hold of your finances and come up with a plan.
See if you’re entitled to childcare or job training, as a single mother. You may be eligible for Head Start to help prepare kids for school and provide them with dental, medical, and nutritional services. For infants and toddlers under three as well as pregnant women there is Early Head Start which provides child development and family support services. Other available options are emergency financial assistance programs like TANF if you’re can’t provide for your family’s basic needs or housing assistance through Section 8 vouchers.
Avoid Career Pressure
If you’re a relatively new mom, the thought of going back to work can cause a great deal of stress. Some places of employment don’t offer maternity leave either, which could mean you have to go back sooner than anticipated.
To avoid looming career pressure, explore methods of making money at home so you can generate income and spend more time with your little ones. It could mean opening up an Etsy store and selling creative handmade products. Another alternative would be to join a remote work job site like The Penny Hoarder, ZipRecruiter, or We Work Remotely. You can find a range of jobs you could do across different industries whether it be customer service, being a virtual assistant, or freelance writing. Seeing as it’s hard to predict the job market, it is also a way to create financial stability, diversify your income, and create multiple streams.
Another alternative is to see if you can negotiate a work from home schedule with your boss so you can spend more time with your kids. Evaluate the demands of your position first and foremost so you’re sure working from home is a viable option. You can then draft a proposal and present your idea to your boss.
Ask For Help
Moms often feel as though they can do it all but forget they’re human at the end of the day. Learn to ask for help when you need a break or time to recharge. It’s a good idea to talk to a therapist, as ‘I’m fine’ could land you in the hospital, so be honest about when you aren’t okay. This doesn’t make you a bad mother or any less of a woman. Admitting you need help is you acknowledging your humanity and ensuring you get the support you need to be the best mom you possibly can.
About the Writer: Brooke Faulkner is a writer and mom in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can check out more of her writing on twitter, @faulknercreek