Taking Time for You: Ways to Manage Your Mental Health
Guest Post by Allison Stair
The last six months have been - interesting, to say the least. I mean, how were we supposed to expect any of this to happen? This was NOT in my planner.
I know the pandemic and the news has put me in a constant state feeling overwhelmed, burnt out and oddly enough, I feel busier than ever. What happened to all of this “free time” everyone was talking about?
If I have learned anything these last few months, it’s that I need to focus a little more on being present in the moment and making small changes in my routine that benefit my health and put me first for a little.
“Put me first”, I know it sounds crazy but just hear me out.
During quarantine, I’ve definitely felt a little more anxious and stressed than usual. I’ve had to make many changes to my routine along the way to get back in the flow of things and to find my new “normal”. I know that I am not the only one who has felt stressed or anxious, and I’m sure many of you have probably experienced similar feelings.
First, it’s normal to feel uncertain, scared or stressed, we are living through a lot of changes right now! Here’s your daily reminder that it’s okay to not be okay 100% of the time. I know this time can be extra scary and stressful when you have children to raise. There’s not enough time in the day to get the amount of relaxation and comfort you deserve.
When I have the time, I’ve learned a few tricks that help me unwind and be present in the moment. Moms, I know how hard it is to get just a moment to yourself, but most of these tricks you can try with your toddler! If you are looking for a little self-care moment in your day, why not give them a try?
1. Meditation. You might have heard people talking about meditation and its benefits but never really thought about trying it, or maybe you have and just never got around to it. Neither did I - until I finally gave it a go. This is the only trick where you might have to wait until you get a little time away from taking care of everyone.
If you are anything like me, your mind runs a mile a minute, which is especially stressful when you’re supposed to be relaxing and not thinking. This is a common misconception with meditation, your mind is not supposed to be free of thought, instead you are supposed to be the observer of your thoughts and allow them to run free.
Sounds weird, right? I thought so too until I realized that meditation has helped me stop over-analyzing and feeling overwhelmed by every thought and bad thing I hear on the news.
If you don’t have time in the morning or throughout the day because you are busy dealing with the many stresses that come along during the day, I suggest taking anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes before you fall asleep and try meditating. Here are some of my favorite sleep meditations and podcasts:
Sleep Cove. This podcast is probably my favorite. He has a variety of podcast episodes dealing with sleep hypnosis, meditation practices and sleep stories. Each podcast episode helps me relax and fall asleep; there has not been a night during quarantine where I did not listen to at least one of his episodes! His voice is very soothing and he guides you through each meditation, it’s great for beginners.
Calm. This was the first app I downloaded because it was the first thing that popped up on Google. I read the reviews and everyone seemed to love it and so I said why not and gave it a try! They offered a 7-week free trial and I did love what I had access to but at the time didn’t want to buy into yet another subscription. Their premium membership offers hundreds of guided meditations, relaxation music, sleep stories, masterclasses from experts and so much more.
2. Breathing Techniques. If you like our Taking a Break from Busy page on Facebook, you might have seen a link for alternate nostril breathing. For me, focusing on my breathing is the fastest way I am able to physically feel my mind and body become less stressed.
I know what you’re thinking, how am I supposed to keep my child entertained while doing this? Although you might not be able to get your active kiddo to practice actual breathing techniques, you can have them sit next to you and try to make it fun for them. Have them sit next to you and pretend to blow out candles or make it a fun Simon Says game.
If you do finally get your child to take a nap or find a couple of minutes to yourself, I suggest trying actual pranayamas. Two of my favorite techniques are the alternate nostril and the humming bee breath. They can be done virtually anywhere and only take a few minutes!
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)- This technique is exactly what it sounds like- you take time to inhale through one nostril and exhale through the other, alternating with each inhale and exhale. HealthLine has a great article on its benefits and a step by step tutorial for how to practice.
Humming Bee Breath (Bhramari Pranayama)- I’m not going to lie to you, this one is a little odd. To practice this technique, you push on the cartilage between your ears and cheeks while making a humming noise, like a bee, on each exhale. For me, this practice allows me to feel a little more relaxed almost instantly. Art of Living has a walkthrough for humming bee breath and gives a little more information on the practice.
3. Yoga. Another thing you and your kiddos can do together! It is a great way to stay active but also helps to manage aspects of your mental health. If you are new to yoga, there are LOTS of videos on the internet to help you get started and to follow a structured “class”. In our previous blog post, “Making Life Doable On The Inside”, we discussed Cosmic Kid Yoga which offers free videos intended for children if you wanted to take a peek.
Similar to the breathing practices, yoga flows might be hard for your little one to stay focused for and even do some poses- but fear not! I have a few poses that are fun and easy for them to do.
- Tree pose- this pose is meant to be done standing on one foot. If you think they can do it, try to see how long they can balance for, do you think they can beat you? If not, have them stand on two feet and have them reach alllll the way up to the sky (for some reason allllll gets the point across better than all).
- Downward facing dog- another basic yoga pose you both can do. Tell them to give you their best dog impression. Sounds easy enough, but if they can’t seem to stay still, see if they can move from downward dog to upward dog.
- Upward Facing Dog/Cobra- this pose is great for stretching out your back and arms. Similar to downward-facing dog, have them pretend to be either a dog, snake-or any animal of their choice really. Once they lay down, have them look all the way up to the sky. It’s a great stretch for you so take your time here!
- Warrior Pose- who wouldn’t want to feel fierce? Pick your little one’s favorite warrior or superior (big Moana fan myself), and make them feel strong with this pose! Warrior pose is great for stretching out your legs and relieving backaches.
Yoga is one of the best exercises for your body and mind. It can be done almost anywhere: at home, outside, at the park- even at the beach! It’s only a bonus that it’s something you and your children can incorporate into your daily routine.
Taking the time and caring for you should be higher up on your to-do list mama. We are here to help you find ways to make it just a little easier to do just that, even if it is just a reminder. Remember that it is okay to feel all the things you are feeling and you are definitely not alone. If you have any other ideas on how to unwind and relax, let us know- we’d love to hear from you!
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