I am a huge advocate for doing anything you can to cultivate a stable and positive space for your mental health. I believe that your mental health is foundation of your wellness routine, sometimes even above nutrition and exercise. Everything we do starts with our thoughts–what we believe shapes our emotions, and our emotions shape our actions.
Think about it: when your thoughts are on the more positive side, you’re more likely to do things that continue those happy thoughts and feelings. Working out, going to a cute cafe for lunch, stopping by the farmers market to pick up some flowers, or taking a hike. On the flip side, when you’re feeling sad, angry, or depressed, you may do things that give you comfort in those negative feelings–turning inward, staying in bed, retreating from social activities, and doom scrolling on social media. Your mental health is paramount to the outlook you have on your life how you show up for it.
For the last year, I have been navigating through disordered eating, removing toxic family members from our life, and some mild anxiety about all of the transitions our family is experiencing right now–Callie starting high school, I started a new job, and James is looking towards retirement. And my thoughts and feelings have been more on the negative side than I’m usually accustomed to. While I am still definitely in therapy, reading all the books, listening to all the podcasts and doing all the things to help to feel better and manage my emotions, there is one thing that has really helped me feel better about myself and my life overall: putting time for myself into my schedule each week.
I knew that my life is busy and somewhat chaotic. And my daughter needs a lot of attention and energy because of her disability and all the management of that entails. And at times, I’ve struggled with knowing how I was going to carry everyone through each day. On top of working full time and freelancing on the side, juggling doctors appointments and therapy sessions, how was I going to get dinner on the table, drink my water, work out, connect with my daughter, make time for my marriage, and still have any energy left for myself?
That’s the million dollar question.
I’ve read that happiness in the home starts with the mother. That can be a lot of pressure. Feeling like the mom should always be happy and joyous for others. But I decided to flip that thought on its head and choose to believe that I deserve to be happy. Not for others, but for myself.
One of the things that would make me feel overwhelmed or depressed was feeling like I had absolutely zero time to myself to do the things I wanted to do or enjoyed doing. Whether these tasks were super frivolous for fun or were actual items that needed to be checked off my to-do list, I found them getting pushed back down the priority list. It was the sudden realization–no one was going to create the time for me to get things done or to treat myself to a iced chai latte and a few chapters of Fourth Wing.
If I wanted (and needed) these things to happen, I needed to advocate for myself and carve out the time in my schedule. Here’s how I did it.
1. I talked to my husband about my needs and wants
News flash–As much as I like to think he can, my husband can’t read my mind. I can give him side eyes all day long while I’m unloading the dishwasher or sigh loudly as I’m putting away the laundry but he’s not going to think anything of it. He treats me like a Queen, takes the best care of me, and has always been very thoughtful about carving out alone time for us. But in order for me to carve out alone time for myself, I do have to outwardly ask for it because he won’t just guess it out of thin air.
Yes, this does entail me using my stellar communication skills. And I’d be a liar if I said I don’t daydream about him handing me my purse and saying “Don’t worry about a thing, I’ve scheduled a house cleaning service to come. You go get a manicure, a blowout, and buy that shiny new Prada purse you’ve been eying at Nieman’s.”
But in reality, if I want dedicated alone time, most times I need to ask for it.
We sat down one night and I told him how the lack of time to myself was making me feel. And how I’d really like to carve out more time for myself each week. He expressed similar feelings too. And we agreed that we’d figure out a schedule that worked best for each of us to make this happen.
2. We put them on the calendar and stuck to them (mostly)
It wasn’t enough for me to just have the conversation and hope that moving forward we’d find a couple days a month where I could step away from my mama duties and get some downtime. I had to actively review my work and our family calendars to figure out which days would likely work best for our family.
I was able to pick a few days a week after work to have alone time and then part of the days on Sunday. Sundays are great because by scheduling some downtime at the beginning of the week, I feel so much more relaxed going into Monday. So, most weeks when Sundays roll around, I take 2-3 uninterrupted hours to myself to do whatever I like. If these days need to shift due some event or remodeling project or James getting called into to work, we’re flexible enough to roll with that. But most days we both know what to expect when our “me time” days roll around.
As nice as it would be, we knew that we couldn’t check out for the entire day twice a week. Our lives are chaos. It’s a constant juggling act of after school activities, physical therapy sessions, school drop offs, volunteering, grocery shopping, calling insurance companies and feeding the dog. So we both felt leaving all of the parenting duties to one parent for a full day twice a week just didn’t seem fair.
So, each week we’d check-in and figure out how the person wanted to lay out their me time on their allotted day. We aren’t crazy enough to expect to give each other a minute by minute schedule but we do give each other an idea of what time frame we want to block off and where we will be. Establishing this ahead of time allows you to avoid blindsiding the other person. And we’ve found it keeps the day organized for anything else that might need to happen.
4. After the ‘me time’ is done, don’t poop on the present
We’ve adopted the mentality where if you agree that your spouse can go somewhere or do something, when they come home, don’t make them feel bad about taking that time away. You agreed to it, now don’t poop on the present. I love that analogy so much and for the life of me I can’t remember where I heard it from.
After I’m done with my time, I don’t want to feel bad or guilty that I just took a few hours to myself. No matter how challenging taking care of managing the household might have been for him –everything is pretty figureoutable. My husband can handle everything. I can handle everything. We’ve got this. When he comes back from going to the gym, spending time at the ranch, or taking a nap, there may be a pile of dishes in the sink, Stranger Things on repeat, and dinner not made. But we made it. And I won’t nag him about the challenges to just to make him feel bad.
There are tons of different ways we can tend to our mental health. And I think you have to find the best methods for yourself personally to improve the way you think, feel, and navigate through your life. Taking time away to rejuvenate and not have to be in charge of anyone else but myself for a few hours has truly helped me improve my mental health.
When I take the time away to relax, recharge, and rejuvenate, I’m better able to show up as a mama and wife for my family.