It has taken me a while to understand just how important mental health is. I was born in the 80s, and mental health was still not talked about as much as it is now. It was not widely accepted, and there were a lot of stigmas attached to it. While many of these challenges still exist, it is easy to see how the world has changed, and how far it has come.
Looking back now, I can see (as well as my mother) that I always suffered from a bit of anxiety. It didn’t get officially diagnosed until I was old, and out on my own. I had a panic attack when the fire alarm in my building went off, and I was terrified. This was when I discovered that I had mental health struggles, and it continued with me until now. When I was first diagnosed, I was nowhere close to being a mother, but that was years ago.
Now, I am married, and a mother of three children. After I had my first, I was given another mental health diagnosis, and that was postpartum anxiety. I didn’t even know that was a thing at the time, thinking postpartum depression was the only mental health struggle that a new mom could face. Now, my children are much older, and I have had to learn to prioritize my mental health, for my children, and for me.
Having three children is not easy, and there are days when I want to pull out my hair. I have a 6-year-old daughter, a 4-year-old son, and another son who is almost 3. I had my second and third very close together, and that added another challenge. Time became very limited. It seemed like there was no time to put myself and my mental health first, but due to the previous diagnosis, I knew I had to.
Even if I didn’t have an official diagnosis, I believe it is important that every mom prioritizes their mental health. Some may call me “selfish,” or say that my children should come first, but I would like to remind them of some popular sayings. I cannot pour from an empty cup is one that pops to mind immediately. I will have nothing to give my children if I do not make sure that I have what I need. This means that I have to find ways to make sure my mental health is taken care of, and there are a few ways that I do that.
- I clean when they are awake. This one may seem silly, but it really does help. If I have any chores that need to be taken care of, I do it when my children are awake. I either get them to help, or I put on a movie for them to watch, and I clean the house or get the laundry done. I do this because then when they are napping, or down for the night, I have that time for myself. I have an hour, or more, where I can do things that I want to do. This could be a bath, reading, or just binge-watching TV with my own snacks.
- I spend money. Now this one may not be fiscally responsible, but as long as you are on a budget, and stay within it, I encourage everyone to spend some money on themselves. Moms are so used to buying things for their children, and the rest of the family, but they can often forget to spoil themselves. I give myself permission to spend money on myself, and this could be dinner, Starbucks, or a new book.
- I ask for help. This one is the hardest one to do, but it is a must. I had to learn that it was OK to ask for help. It was OK to tell my husband that he needed to step in and that I needed a break. That I had to do something to unwind, and this could either be for a couple of hours, or just a quick walk around the block to cool off. Moms can be scared to ask for help because they don’t want to be seen as someone who “can’t handle it,” but asking for help is the best way to put yourself first.