Autism Mom, Self-Care

Supporting Your Mental Health in Hard Seasons of Motherhood

Struggling with mental health and need some words of encouragement?

Hey, sweet friends.

These last few weeks have been hard on me mentally and emotionally. If you’ve been following along on IG stories, my dad was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer a little over two weeks ago, and my youngest is currently under quarantine. All of this while we’re in the midst of prepping our current home as a rental and preparing to close on our new home at the end of this week or next week due to some delays. 

With everything happening quickly, and all at once, it overwhelmed my body and I started feeling sick early last week. I think there’s wisdom in knowing when our body (and mind) needs rest. 

If you’re in a particularly challenging season of motherhood, and things just feel heavy right now, I want to share what’s been working for me to care for my mental health in hopes that it will help make things lighter for you, too:

Lean on your husband.

Marriage is more like 60/40, 90/10, 80/20, and not 50/50.

I think there’s a popular belief that marriage should be 50/50 or everyone bringing their best onto the table (everyone gives their 100%). What I’ve learned from 15 years of marriage is that sometimes it’s 60/40, 90/10, 80/20, because there are seasons where my mental health is suffering or things just feel harder, and I’ve had to lean on my husband more. So, I give maybe 10, 20, 30, and he holds and carries us through that particular season. And there are other seasons where he can only give 10, 20, 30, and I’ve held him and carried us through that season. We’ve both experienced seasons of loss, and I’m eternally grateful to have him on this journey with me.

IF YOU’RE IN A PARTICULARLY CHALLENGING SEASON, HOW CAN YOUR HUSBAND SUPPORT YOU? IF THINGS ARE HEAVIER FOR YOUR PARTNER, HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT HIM?

Tip #2 for supporting your mental health in hard seasons: Ask your family for help (what’s appropriate of course)

Your family is a team, and a team supports each other.

Our family operates as a team, and that means that when one of us is having a hard time— mom included— the rest of us step up to help. Rather that’s helping around the house more, or taking initiative to do schoolwork and getting ready for the school day, everyone helps. My children are older now, so do what’s reasonable for your family and situation. At the onset of the pandemic, my husband was part of the FEMA level 2 crew, which meant that he had to travel and was away from home A LOT. So, I had to step up and so did the kids to do some of the things that we often took for granted with daddy around. Or, if one of the kids gets sick, the rest of the team helps. 

My children are older now, so do what’s reasonable for your family and situation. It’s important to remember to meet your child where they’re at. Everyone starts somewhere, and kids learn how to help and do things as we repeatedly teach, re-teach, and teach them again. And if things are heavy for you right now, this may be a better task for dad to help teach the kids. 

If your kids are younger and unable to help with some of the bigger tasks, what are some smaller tasks that you can hand over to them? Picking up after themselves and learning to put things away is a good place to start. Dragging their laundry to the laundry room, and/or putting their clothes into the washing machine (they don’t have to start it), but at least that’s one less thing that you have to worry about. Asking your husband to help with the laundry. 

Or maybe for this month, have someone come in to do a deep clean, so you can start from a clean slate and it’s easier to maintain. Or maybe you need more of a routine cleaning. Only you know what your family needs, and what would help to lighten your load in busier and challenging seasons of motherhood. 

GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED. HOW CAN YOUR FAMILY SUPPORT YOU IN THIS SEASON? -OR- ARE THERE TASKS YOU CAN DELEGATE TO SOMEONE ELSE… MAYBE A HOUSE CLEANER, PERHAPS? 

Remember. It doesn’t have to be forever, it’s only for right now.

Your family is a team, and a team supports each other.

Tip #3 for supporting your mental health in hard seasons: Give yourself the gift of easy meals

Picking up some simple to pull together ingredients.

Instant pot and Ubereats. I’ve been using my instant pot more, and it’s been amazing. Last week we made pho, and this week we’ll make my MIL’s famous Cambodian-style chicken soup. It’s a cure-all, and soups are comforting. I know instant pots aren’t for everyone, but any meals you can get on the table quickly without much mental energy make a world of a difference when you’re in a hard season.

Even doing uber eats. It’s not forever, and don’t allow yourself to feel guilty for taking the pressure off yourself of cooking meals. Food is a blessing, and sometimes it will come in the form of an instant pot meal or ubereats. It’s only for a season, and it doesn’t make you a bad mom. It makes you a mom who is nourishing herself and her family by providing them a meal no matter how it’s sourced. 

IT MAKES YOU A MOM WHO IS NOURISHING HERSELF AND HER FAMILY BY PROVIDING THEM A MEAL NO MATTER HOW IT’S SOURCED. 

My favorite guilt-free go-to way to minimize dishes (especially since we’re moving this week): go with paper plates and paper cups. 

It’s okay. It doesn’t make you less conscious of the planet. You’re feeding your tiny and not so tiny humans. Fewer plates and cups mean fewer dishes for you to wash.

What are some of your favorite easy dishes or take-out in challenging seasons of motherhood?

Tip #4 for supporting your mental health in hard seasons: Taking time to rest

I’m able to show up as a more present and mindful mother when I can set aside 1502- minutes to rest.

I usually try to set aside at least 15-20 minutes between the time I finish with a task for the day, and the time my kids get home from school. Since Hailey is under quarantine as of this writing, I usually let her have some free time (since she’s currently doing school from home). I usually close my eyes for 15-20 minutes or do a body scan meditation, anything that’s really relaxing & allows me to rest my eyes from working on my laptop.

When I can get at least 15-20 minutes of quiet time before the older kids arrive at home, I’m a much better mom, and able to show up as a more present and mindful mother— versus allowing the stress of the day, situation, circumstances or even workload to carry into how I parent. I’m not perfect by any means, and still grow impatient or snap at my kids, but when I do this ONE thing, it really sets me up for a better afternoon with the kids. 

I’m a much better mom, and able to show up as a more present and mindful mother when I can set aside 15-20 minutes to rest.

What does rest look like for you? Where can you find margin in your schedule to include rest in your daily rhythms?

Tip #5 for supporting your mental health in hard seasons: Letting go of what you can.

Once you allow yourself to let go of what’s been weighing you down, you can finally start making your way onto shore.

Or pushing them back. I know this isn’t always doable in every single situation, because oftentimes, we’re met by other people’s deadlines or if you work outside of the home, there are work deadlines. If this is the case, I highly recommend sharing your struggles with your employer. If you work at home or have more flexibility, give yourself the grace of little things being pushed back for now. Again, it’s not forever.

Let’s imagine that you’re on a lifeboat, and all of your obligations or responsibilities are actual items on your boat. The boat begins to sink under the pressure of the weight of all these things. So, the more things you can unload from your lifeboat, the higher chances you have of keeping your boat afloat. If you’re in a particularly hard season right now, you’re in survival mode. So, remove everything you can, so you can survive.

Once you allow yourself to let go of what’s been weighing you down, you can finally start making your way onto shore.

If you’re going through a particularly challenging season, please know that I’m thinking of you and sending you a big hug from my corner of the internet.

Love,

Michelle 

P.S. If things just simply feel overwhelming for you, and you’re having a bad day, here are three questions you can journal on to help you feel less overwhelmed and anxious. 

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