[Note: I’m writing this from the perspective as a mother and an athlete, I feel the “mom guilt” creep in periodically, as I strive to balance training and motherhood. This short letter can be to any mother who experiences “mom guilt” and or who needs to make sure that they’re taking enough care of themselves. I hope that you find comfort and empowerment in this letter if you feel alone and have difficulty choosing self-care, I know it is not always easy. Being a mom isn’t always easy, but it is wonderful.]
We all experience “mom guilt” and sometimes it occurs when it’s time to go out and run, but just because you go out on a run, doesn’t mean that you stop being a mom. You’re a mom taking care of yourself, enjoy your run. Enjoy everything you do without feeling guilty. Give yourself grace, leave guilt at the door, and acknowledge all of the good things that you do as a mother.
Self-care is crucial as a mom, it makes us better moms when we return from our activities because running and exercise greatly boosts our wellness, both physical and mental. We typically return to our “mini me’s” with more patience, a clearer mind, reduced negativity, better managed anxiety and depression, regulated emotions, boosted happiness, increased self-esteem… The bottom line, a lot of good comes from running and exercise, so take advantage of it.
If you struggle taking care of yourself
You deserve to take care of yourself, even if you have poking negative thoughts and beliefs saying that you don’t. Sometimes, we get caught in a cycle of negative thinking, and when this repeats itself over and over, it reinforces itself. Reinforcements create beliefs. Identify the negative and faulty thoughts and beliefs. Remember, thoughts are thoughts, not facts. Next, change your narrative and self-talk, rewriting your beliefs about yourself. Highlight your strengths, growing confidence and self-esteem. What do you do well? Keep up with managing negative thoughts and beliefs to foster change. You’ve got this!
From your child’s persepective
Your child sees you as a role model and notices that you’re taking care of yourself. Role modeling this teaches them the importance of self-care, as well as goal setting and chasing dreams. They look up to you. I doubt that our children negatively think of us the same ways that we think of ourselves. Our children love us and rely on us to take care of ourselves, so that we can take care of them.
Get after it!
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People are under an increased amount of stress due to the ongoing pandemic, which has no concrete ending. People who don’t have a mental illness disorder, such as anxiety, are also experiencing mental health vulnerabilities during this time. They report having issues like difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering things, sleep disturbance, and decreased mood.
4 “M”s in mental health
Mindfulness is living in the present moment in a non-judgmental way, and practicing it fosters awareness. People who have completed a mindful activity say that they feel more calm and peaceful afterwards. Download and use mindfulness apps on your phone, follow along on a YouTube video, and try a variety of other mindful activities like the three below. Building mindfulness takes practice because it is a skill.
Mastery is about engaging your mind and doing what you’re good at. Ways of engaging can be tasks as simple as cooking and cleaning. Other ways of engaging your mind include creative writing and expressing yourself through art or music. Mastery can be thought of as a form of distraction. Lastly, it can be thinking about what we have already overcome in life.
Physical movement, such as walking, weightlifting, running, hiking, yoga, writing, painting, playing an instrument, and dancing are all ways to keep moving forward. Movement helps our minds de-stress and feel better. Another benefit is that mood is boosted.
Stay connected to people. If you can’t meet in-person, then stay in-touch through video chatting, social media, phone calls, and sending letters in the mail. Another idea of staying connected is by having a digital picture frame and sharing the “add photos” link with your extended family. Then, extended family members can upload pictures to your frame. This is a good way to see what they (and their pets) have been up to.
These four tips take 10-15 minutes per day and everyone can apply them.
We should be taking advantage of mental wellness strategies like these daily to build up resiliency and improve overall wellbeing. Everyone should have mental health preparedness for situations like the pandemic. People need a list of resources and coping strategies. People should also re-engage with their mental health treatment professional or seek out one if counseling is new to them. Needing support from a professional does not mean that you are weak.
To help resolve any unfinished business that you have with another person, write a letter. This may be written to a person who has hurt or wronged you, and who is no longer a part of your life. DO NOT ACTUALLY SEND THEM (or anyone) THIS LETTER, this letter is for YOU. Keep it confidential.
I STRONGLY suggest doing this activity with a professional counselor and talking through the situation with them. They can support you.
Writing this letter will help you to:
Reflect and process
Think more slowly
Maybe to forgive the wrong-doer
Forgive yourself, if you need to
Put your thoughts and emotions to paper
Release pent up thoughts and strong emotions, like pain, sadness, and anger
Find some peace, healing and resolution
Empowerment and improve self-esteem
Increase self-care and self-love
There are no set rules for writing this letter. You may find it difficult to start this process, just dive right in. The letter can be edited and re-organized to how you would like. Start with the wrong-doer’s name, like you are writing a letter. If you’re unsure of how long your letter should be, try aiming to write one to three pages just to get an idea. Once you have that, you will better know if the letter should be any longer. The letter is to benefit you and to help resolve any unfinished business, the length of the letter doesn’t matter quite as much. End the letter with your name.
Important things to think about including:
Things that you want the wrong-doer to know.
Anything that you want to say to them.
Talk about what they did to you.
Talk about how you feel.
Talk about your reaction to what they did.
Talk about the impact that it has had on yourself. What areas of your life have been impacted? How has it been changed?
Write about what you wish went differently.
Write about how you wish things ended with that person.
Is there anything that you could have done differently?
Allow yourself to be open to writing anything that comes up.
This is a challenging exercise, so take a break if you need to, re-visit it. *Self-care is very important through this process.* Work on acknowledging your thoughts and emotions, know that they are natural and occur for a reason, but let them roll away (not sticking in your mind) as you write. Utilize coping strategies to reduce intense stress, anxiety, emotions, etc. Try to make sure that you’re in a good “mental space,” not overly anxious or panic when you write this. It is helpful to be able to think clearly and be focused. After you finish writing this letter, read it out loud to yourself. Reading it to yourself might be emotional because your brain will be processing the information slightly differently, hearing your own voice read what you wrote is powerful. Read it to a counselor, they will listen and be able to guide you. If you think that it would be beneficial reading it a second or third time, then do so. Notice if your thoughts and emotions changed the next time through. Lastly, when you are ready, you completed the letter and read it out loud, destroy the letter for resolution (and confidentiality). There is symbolism in destroying the letter. It isn’t returning. Allow yourself to be healed and empowered. Love yourself. Notice how you feel while destroying the letter and afterwards. Do you feel physically lighter, like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders? Do you feel empowered? Did you sigh in relief or smile?
Once again, please talk with someone if you need to, don’t hesitate to reach out. It is rewarding to speak with someone, brain imaging research shows that talk therapy (psychotherapy) can be impactful right away.
When you feel stressed or anxious, have you been mindful of your breathing? Notice if you’re holding your breath, taking shallow breaths, or breathing too quickly.
Take control of your breathing by trying a short breathing exercise:
Lay, sit, or stand comfortably, with good posture to allow yourself to breathe easily.
If you’re laying or sitting, maybe you want to close your eyes to increase focus.
You may place your hands gently on your stomach to physically feel it move in and out as you breathe.
Take note of physical sensations and then focus on your breathe.
If you find yourself becoming distracted by anything, acknowledge the distraction (distractions occur naturally and are reminders to return to what we were working on), allow it to roll through your awareness, and then simply return your attention to your breathing.
Breathe in for 3 seconds: 1-2-3
Breathe out for 3 seconds: 1-2-3
Repeat 3 times
Notice any differences in how you physically or mentally feel.
Calmly return your focus to the environment around you.
You may want to play around with the time spent in the exercise, do what works for you.
*Tip for severe anxiety and panic: if you find yourself holding your breath for longer than the brief pause during this exercise, skip the pause all together and just focus on steady in-and-out breathes.*
These 12 tips are specific to living through a pandemic (COVID-19) where there are multiple tragic events and crisis occurring at once on a worldwide scale.
A brief overview of the destruction that COVID-19 has caused
• People are ill and dying from a virus.
• People are socially isolated from family and friends.
• People are restricted in where they can go and what they can do.
• People have lost jobs and are financially unstable.
– Connected to all of this is the person’s identity because people identify themselves through going out and participating.
• Political issues, finger pointing and name calling are a big part of this pandemic.
• People wear face masks to reduce spread of the virus, but the mask also hides smiles.
• Anxiety, depression and suicide is on the rise.
• People are silently hurting.
The benefits of these tips are (but not limited to)
• Increased happiness
• Connection to others
• Raising awareness
• Fostering positivity
• Finding value and meaning in life
• Learning coping strategies
• Finding help
Keep in mind that this article isn’t telling you to ignore, dismiss, or minimize what’s going on around us. It is important to sit with the difficult emotions and thoughts, to process, and personally grow from what’s occurring in our lives. We can’t run, there needs to be a resolution to do something about it, but there needs to be a balance and healthy approach.
Let’s cover the tips on getting through
1) Limit your time on social media and watching the news. Be informed and have proper understanding about what’s going on around the world, but don’t allow the information to overwhelm and carry you away. The information on social media and the news shouldn’t occupy a good portion of your day.
2) Mute or unfollow people on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram if they are posting unhelpful information on the pandemic or are posting frequently on the pandemic. Always check the resource of what they post to make sure it is true and accurate. There is a lot of information being shared that is inaccurate or highly one-sided. Be your own researcher, fact-checker, and it is beneficial to try to see from both sides of an issue. Widening perspective allows us to have a more open mind and gives us a little more breathing room.
3) Use social media and technology to your advantage. Since we have to limit being around others or can’t be around people at all, use social media to connect and to lift up others. Post something kind or funny. Post a beautiful picture. Have an engaging conversation, but leave out the pandemic and political issues surrounding it. You can lift someone’s spirit and your own!
We use video platforms on almost a daily basis now, continue to use it to connect. Talk to a good friend who you haven’t seen in a while. Use video platforms to check-in with a person’s mental health, you don’t know who is suffering in silence.
Are you feeling unsure about how to check-in? This link will lead you to check-in questions:
Do you have a favorite hobby or interest? Join and follow social media groups and pages to motivate and fuel your interests.
4) Virtual tours, adventures and visits. If you are looking for something new and interesting to do without leaving your house, take a virtual trip to a National Park, zoo, museum, etc. Think of somewhere that you’ve never been and would like to go. Read about it, look at pictures, watch videos, and take a virtual tour. This is fun activity to do with kids and it’s educational.
If you’re religious or spiritual, consider attending a virtual service or practice.
5) Teach someone about your hobby or trade. Write, blog, create social media content, and make a video to do so. Engage with people, answer their questions, and provide them with credible resources so they can learn more.
5) Increase your self-care. Do more of what you enjoy and try new things, even if you don’t feel like it. Take care of your body and mind. Try to keep to a normal schedule, this includes proper exercise, diet, and staying hydrated. If you’re overwhelmed with work, schedule in self-care. Slow down, read a book, take a bath, watch a movie, call someone you care about.
6) Make a vision board to stay focused on your long-term goals. Read how here:
8) Practice mindfulness, breathing and or meditation. Find someone who provides these services online if you need help getting started. Create a YouTube playlist of relaxing music and sounds that you can practice to. Don’t give up if these exercises don’t immediately benefit you in an impactful way, it takes time to learn them. It’s a process.
9) Use online presence to raise awareness or funds for a cause that you’re passionate about. Help people learn more, support people who need it the most, connect to others who care about the same thing as you. Feel good!
11) Have a safety plan and an emergency plan. For the safety plan:
• Write down what triggers maladaptive behaviors.
• Write coping strategies for each trigger that you can participate in right away.
• Write down three positive affirmations or favorite quotes.
• List three people whom you can trust to call and talk to and receive support from (Do ahead of time: make sure that they know they are on your safety plan list and tell them how they can best support you if you contact them.) (Ideas on how they can help: this can range from a phone call to recall favorite memories or to meet up for coffee.).
• If your situation turns into an emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or your local mental health crisis lifeline. Add these emergency phone numbers to your safety plan.
12) Speak with a professional counselor. They can teach you several coping strategies and powerful tools like cognitive reframing. They are someone who will be present with you, be non-judgmental, listen, and provide feedback. They will support you and give you space for you to process your strongest emotions and thoughts.
Check out these other benefits to seeing a counselor:
The ACCEPTS acronym has skills that helps keep you busy and distracted when you would typically be preoccupied by a crisis. It is easy to dwell on what is going wrong, by focusing on the ACCEPTS behaviors, you can get yourself through hard times.
Activities keep you busy and your mind off of problems and behaviors. The behaviors that you are focused on are healthy and helpful.
To start practicing this skill, write a list of activities you enjoy when life feels better. If you’re unsure or need ideas, go online and search for activity lists.
Add the pleasant activities into your schedule and mindfully do them.
Choose an activity and enjoy it now!
Contribute to others. It is a way to take your mind off of your own problems, to feel connected and useful, and to create positive feelings.
Do a favor; acts of kindness; write a thank you note; bake brownies to share; volunteer locally.
Create a list of ways to contribute to others and begin right away.
Afterwards, journal about the experience, reflecting on your thoughts and feelings.
Draw healthy comparisons between yourself and others. There are people living without necessities, who have gone through tragedies, or who have tremendous obstacles to overcome. Remembering that other people are also suffering, often in worse ways, allows for you to gain perspective of what you’re going through. This perspective also increases your feelings of gratefulness.
Emotions arise from the things we do. You can change your emotion by changing your behavior.
When you’re depressed, do behaviors that lift your spirits. When you’re anxious, do ones that are relaxing. When angry, do ones that are calming.
Check-in with your emotions in the moment, and if you find that you want change, then choose to participate in a healthy behavior to change your emotion.
Pushing away means that you decide to revisit the problem at another time. Imagine putting the problem in a box, locking the box, and placing it on a shelf for later.
You cannot think about two things at once, so choose to direct your attention to the most helpful thought.
Some ideas to try, crossword puzzles, read an interesting book, have an intriguing conversation, watch an action movie.
Do something to occupy your thoughts away from depressive thoughts, worries, and problems.
Practice in the moment.
Direct yourself with healthy sensations.
Things to try, dance to loud music, eat a sour lemon slice, take a hot or cold bath, smell a strong scent, like peppermint.
These things wake up your senses in an invigorating way. Notice any changes in your experience.
Another idea, create a sensations toolkit, using your favorite ways to wake up your sensations. Use your tools.
Mindfulness and walking are highly beneficial to your mental health, especially when you do them routinely. Try combining them! Go on a walk. You can walk inside (yes, it still works) or outside, done alone, while walking the dog, or with another person. – just don’t have a conversation with the other person while doing this activity because it takes away the point. No headphones with music or audiobooks. Engage your mindfulness skills and enjoy!
A little about mindfulness
To put mindfulness into action
BE AWARE of what is going on around you physically. Increase your awareness of experience.
PAY ATTENTION by watching, listening and considering the environment. This is what is naturally occurring.
What you see, hear, smell; feeling the ground with your feet as you walk; noticing your breathing; listening to your dog pant; noticing the shadows on the ground; watching the clouds slowly reshape; noticing the texture of the floor; noticing shades of lighting; smell of a candle; ticking of a clock.
REMAIN IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. If you become distracted by thoughts or emotions, accept that you have them, don’t use judgment, and then release them to return to the present moment. You may try to visualize releasing thoughts and emotions. – like the wind blowing them away.
CONSIDER AND BE CURIOUS about the moment and environment in a non-judgmental manner.