[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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Limit the time you’re exposed to the situation. Be informed, but limit the amount of news, media, social media, that you take in. For social media, you can choose to follow and unfollow certain accounts and channels. Use social media to build yourself up, promote positivity, and connect with non-toxic people. Social media is a fantastic tool when used this way.
Practice reframing thoughts
Reframe your negative and distorted thoughts. Read about cognitive reframing here. To begin dealing with negative thoughts, we must recognize when we have one. Next, is to identify what triggered the emotion. Our thoughts and emotions are linked. Notice whether you are ignoring, minimizing, or exaggerating the situation. Challenge your thoughts, be curious about them. Keep in mind that thoughts are just thoughts and not fact. The final step is to reframe. Rewrite the thought so that it is no longer negative, personal, permanent, and pervasive. With the practice of reframing our thoughts, over time, positive thinking becomes a biproduct.
Allow yourself to feel peace
Let peace begin with you. What can you do or think that makes you feel peaceful? A few ways to begin feeling peaceful may include, guided meditation, going for a hike or walk, drawing, working on a puzzle, journaling, etc. Allow yourself to feel peace and notice what it feels like.
Limiting exposure to news and social media, reframing thoughts, and finding peace are 3 mindful ways to increase positivity, but there are other paths out there, as well. Participate in 2 to 3 mindful activities for a few weeks or a month to see what you enjoy. Build a mindfulness skillset to use during hard times.
If you would like to work on this with someone, reach out to a professional counselor who can help.
One way to lift your spirits (taken from the book High Hopes by Patrick Lindsay)
“‘Live Now’ Refuse to let time dictate your day. Lose track of it. Immerse yourself in whatever you’re doing. Surrender yourself to the activity. Commit your full attention. Notice the difference.” ~ Patrick Lindsay
“The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude.” ~ Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) (1694-1778)
Years ago, I worked with teens at an inpatient home as a milieu counselor. I did this for two years. We had a big white board and I would pull something appropriate from High Hopes and write it on the board. The teens enjoyed that and would sometimes write it in their journal or decorate around it using dry erase markers.
If you work with teens, I have found that this gentle approach to engaging with teens is easy and can be inspiring. Some days, something I would write seemed to spark people who appeared to be really struggling, as I’d catch them looking at the board and writing in their journal. Occasionally, I observed a boost in positive emotions and peer interactions following.
You don’t have to use this book, there are plenty of good books to pull inspiration from and share with others. I do prefer this method over looking up quotes online. Quotes online seem to repeat themselves and you don’t always know the credibility or who said what. High Hopes is a small book, so it fit in my full bag that I’d take into work.
I hope that this article inspired you.
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As runners, we need to make sure that we’re protecting our body image and promoting body positivity. Acknowledge that all of our bodies are different, setting aside judgments, opinions, and expectations of what our body should look like as runners. Know that all of our bodies are incredible and capable of so much. They can go ultra distances, but on a cellular functional level they are more impressive. Appreciate, love, and respect that.
Self-care is obviously very important. Appropriate recovery and nutrition, among all of the other ways that we support our bodies.
We have to check our negative and distorted thoughts about our bodies. What kind of thoughts are you having about your body? What are you doing with those thoughts? Are you taking care of yourself? Positive affirmations, caring thoughts, embracing ourselves how we are in the moment, and focusing on the resiliency of our bodies are a few ways to go about promoting healthier and more realistic thoughts. Remember, thoughts are just thoughts, what you choose to do with them is what matters! We all experience negative thoughts.
It’s okay to want to improve our bodies and become sharper athletes. Make sure you’re going about it in the right way and not causing harm or injury.
Be present and content with how you are because our bodies do so much for us, they change day-to-day, anyway. Give thanks to your body, even the challenging parts. Forgive yourself for things that you have said or done to your body that you shouldn’t have. A good way to do this is to look at yourself in the mirror and repeat these things, allowing them to settle into your heart. Let yourself heal.
When hurtful words and actions come from other people, we don’t have control over that. We choose to control how we react. Have some sort of comeback or body positive affirmation in your back pocket for when this occurs. Protect yourself, stand up for yourself. A ton of people out there will have something negative to say about your body. It sucks, it shouldn’t happen, but try to not allow it to take a hold of you. You’re better than that and you’re worth it. Plain ignoring the person is fine, but it feels better saying something positive about your body. Better yet, if you say something amazing about the part of your body that they are judging or criticizing. Use your strength and take a stand.
You know what’s best for your body, but if you’re honestly struggling with body image and eating, reach out for support. Strengthen yourself through people who are there to help you. It’s alright to need any level of help with something. You could contact a professional mental health counselor, someone who specializes in body image and eating. Dietitians and nutritionists. A running coach, maybe even one who is certified in nutrition. For a good shot at getting the best support for you, make sure that they are a good fit to work with.
As a running community, let’s continue the conversation, sticking together on issues like this, and lifting each other up. Thank you for reading.
Short talk about self-care, something that seems easy, but it’s actually kind of difficult to do. I feel this topic is covered so much, but yet, we all still struggle with it. I can’t think of a single person, myself included, who could be practicing self-care more frequently or in a way that’s more beneficial.
May is Mental Health Awareness month. What are you doing this month (and everyday because we have mental health everyday) to make sure that we are growing our knowledge and awareness of mental health? How are you supporting yourself? How are you supporting others? Please, share with me down in the comments what you’re doing for mental wellness. [I could use some fresh ideas.]
Mental health professionals cannot end the stigma alone and get everyone the help that they need, we need you to be a part of this mission.
Think of something that you’ve always dreamed of doing. Travel? Opening a business? Contacting someone you haven’t talked to in a long time or ever? Dumping an unhealthy habit that you have been clinging to? It can be anything. It is probably overwhelming to think about and you might be afraid of the process. I’m talking about really stepping outside of your comfort zone and tearing down the protective barriers. Think about how freeing accomplishing that dream could feel… YOU DID IT! Think about all of the possible benefits of that accomplishment, like further opportunities, boost in self-esteem, feelings of gratitude and happiness, and reconnection.
Fear and Anxiety Holds Us Back
Being honest with yourself, what has kept you from doing that? If it is anxiety, you’re not alone. The feelings of fear and anxiety are there to protect us on a primitive level. These emotions help us to survive and make better choices. If we didn’t have these feelings, what would be stopping us from doing something dangerous? These are normal, healthy emotions and we can’t make them go away. We don’t want them to go away.
Our thoughts that hold us back can seem to come out of nowhere at times. Thoughts are naturally occurring and will come and go. Know that thoughts are thoughts and not reality. Just because we think something, doesn’t make it true. Identify the thoughts that hold you back, reframe them to better use, and learn how to better manage your anxiety. Even though we can manage anxiety, we can’t get rid of it, but we can keep it at bay.
What was that dream accomplishment that you thought of earlier? How can you make it work? What small steps can you take to get the ball rolling?
My Real-Life Example
Here is a simple example of a long-term goal of mine and thoughts that I struggle with. This is in regards to participating in the BADWATER 135 ultramarathon (I am a seasoned ultrarunner). This is a goal that has been several years in the making and there are a few more years to come in this journey before I stand at the start line. Many doubts have popped up in my mind over the years. Doubts that I’m not good enough, and doubts that details would never come together to make this dream a reality. Anxiety comes and goes. I experience anxiety over what people might say or think if I ever bring up wanting to run The World’s Toughest Footrace, so I rarely talk about it. Anxiety over becoming injured and never being able to run ever again. These thoughts have been bothersome, coming and going, since I got started. I want this goal bad enough, and I’m going to give my best effort, so the thoughts aren’t going to keep me from doing what I am passionate about.
Reframe Fearful and Anxious Thoughts
The unhelpful thoughts are identified, now let me show you how to reframe this fearful way of thinking. The doubt that “I’m not good enough” can be reframed to, “I am hardworking and have been thoughtfully and skillfully working towards this goal for years. I have grown so much, not just as an athlete, but as a person. I’ve come so far, I’m not going to give up now.” And “things won’t ever come together for me,” to “continue to be patient, every year you are steps closer to this goal, and you are diligent in catching all of the preparation details.” As for the anxiety, “I can’t ever tell anyone without being judged,” to “who cares what people have to say about it, this is something that I love.” For anxiety over injury, “I’m worried that I’m going to get injured in a freak accident on the trail while training,” to “I’m a careful and skilled runner. I rest my body and care for it enough, so that I can do what I do. My running coach is also mindful when it comes to injury prevention.” That is how to reframe, think realistically.
More Anxiety Management
There are multiple ways to manage anxiety. Self-care should be the top priority because it is the base from which we build upon. This includes proper diet, exercise, and sleep. Use the reframing skill from above. Learn Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy coping strategies. Talk with a licensed professional counselor to have support in sorting out the details and find what works for you. Practice yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. Practice these things consistently overtime to create helpful habits. The process isn’t always easy, there are challenging times, stick with it, and give yourself grace. It is a true learning process. I have been using these strategies consistently for years and they work. As you do the strategies, you will find favorites and learn when to use which strategy, as one will be more helpful than another in any given scenario.
When Your Dream Becomes a Reality
When the time comes to tackle that dream, reflect on your journey. How does it feel to be where you are, today? What is the biggest thing that you learned in those smaller steps? How can you apply what you have learned in the future? Continue the helpful habits that you have established or are continuing to work on. Honestly, the work never ends, and having a healthy mind is a ton of work, but we absolutely need to nourish it.
When that dream becomes reality, be connected and in the moment with it. Take it in. What does it feel like physically, emotionally, and spiritually? What is the greatest part of the experience? How proud do you feel? What have you learned? When it’s all over, would you do it again? It is important that we acknowledge the benefits of the hard work and perseverance. There is a mountain of experience to take away from accomplishing a dream.
I hope that you found this article insightful and are perhaps examining anxious thoughts that are keeping you from achieving your dreams. Incorporate the strategies that I have discussed into your day-to-day life and notice the benefits. Keep striving towards accomplishing your dreams, soaking in that journey.
What’s your favorite positive affirmation, right now?
Mine is, “I have everything I need.”
I tend to feel like I need MORE (belongings, money, approval from others, etc.) and it can create anxiety and tension. I don’t actually need any of these things. When I practice living in the moment and tell myself that I have everything that I need RIGHT NOW, HERE in the present, I feel less anxious.