Being a mom isn’t all sunshine and daffodils – it’s a really tough job a lot of the time. Clinical psychologist and play therapist Jo-Marie Bothma has some advice for moms on how to keep their own mental health intact.
Motherhood is a choice we make every single day. It can sometimes start even before you are fully awake with two little cold feet that want to join you in your bed. It continues through the packing of lunchboxes with your hair tied into a messy bun.
Choices happen when you grab the first pair of comfortable shoes out of your closet before you rush off to school.The choice of doing the right thing even lingers with us at the supermarket when all we want to do is grab a TV lunch, but instead we walk off with vegetables and fruit for the health shake the next day.
Motherhood is constantly choosing to put someone else’s happiness, needs and well-being ahead of your own. There will be so many times you might feel you have failed, but in the eyes of your child, you will remain their whole world. That makes it even more important to look after yourself. For when your world rests on a shaky mental foundation, so will your child’s.
Pandemic life and mental health
During the pandemic we are all facing additional stressors and disappointments. It is not only okay to struggle, but it is also completely normal. However, when you start to rely on unhealthy habits to get you through the tough times or when you start experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety – it could turn into a problem.
Mental health affects the way we think, feel and act. Taking care of our mental health is just as important as having a healthy body, and all of this eventually spills over into sustaining our child’s mental health.
Nurturing care of your mind and body
An ideal early-morning ritual
Keep track of your mental wellbeing by checking your own stress levels each morning. Rate yourself on a scale of one to five on how relaxed you are feeling. Keep an eye out for sudden changes in your rating and aim to think about ways to bring it into balance during the day. It could be as simple as getting into bed earlier for a couple of days. Or it could be as complex as talking to your partner about enrolling for a degree.
A healthy mid-morning activity
Aim to connect with someone you value before lunchtime each day. Significant people who are consistently present in our lives play a crucial role in helping us to maintain balance and put life into perspective. It also offers the opportunity to be of assistance to someone else in need. Random acts of kindness to others can offer us an internal sense of wellbeing.
A quick check-in over lunch
It is not always possible for the whole family to see each other during lunch, but if so – make the best of those few minutes and look each other in the eye to enjoy a quick check-in on how everyone is doing. If it is entirely impossible to eat together, phone or text your partner or children while you are enjoying your lunch break. And yes, you should have a lunch break! Taking care of your nutritional needs is another vital area of a healthy mental state.
A late afternoon lift-me-up
A quick exercise routine of under 20 minutes can effectively release several good-feel hormones throughout your body. Explore a few online exercise programmes and find one that suits your needs. First prize would be to include Mother Nature into your exercise routine. The rush of the day can feel miles away when the cool autumn air is in your hair.
Stimulating your senses in the evening
Aim to be as mindful as possible during the end of the day. You can do this by putting your phone aside, smelling the spices while preparing dinner, taking in all the giggles of children in your home and rubbing bodies (yours and your children’s) with body butter after a warm bath.
When life becomes too much
Be aware of the relationship between responsibility and stress, and aim to make changes that reduce the pressure. Build in a definite rest time each week where you can do nothing. It is time to ask for help if you find that feelings of depression and anxiety are interfering with your ability to be present and loving towards your loved ones.
Here are some resources:
- South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG): 0800 4567 789 or for a suicidal emergency: 0800 567 567
- Destiny Helpline for Youth & Students: 0800 41 42 43
- ADHD Helpline: 0800 55 44 33
- Department of Social Development Substance Abuse Line 24hr helpline: 0800 12 13 14 or SMS 32312
- TherapyRoute: a mental health service directory and resource that helps people find nearby mental health services, e.g., psychologists, social workers, community clinics, NGOs, and psychiatric hospitals throughout South Africa (and beyond). https://www.therapyroute.com/