Motherhood is like a marathon.
If you’ve ever ran an actual marathon or even just a short race, you know that physical strength and endurance is only half the battle. It takes a great amount of mental muscle, determination, perseverance, and willpower to finish a race. Being a mom not only requires all of the above, but also a total shift and transformation of her entire identity, and she will need all of the mental strength she can gather in order to wherewithal the changes and blossom through the motherhood journey.
Living in the Western World, our culture, talks a lot about mothers and their postpartum bodies.
You read about “How to Get Your Body Back” and “How to Love Those Tiger Stripes.” You see Celebrities flaunting their bikinis just weeks after birth, and you keep reminding yourself about the airbrushing. You hear about your mommy friend’s new meal plan and workout program. The messages are everywhere we turn. Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with promoting physical health and strength to mothers, but I think we can agree that there is certainly a lack of balance when it comes to promoting wholeness.
There’s no shortage of information and resources available to mothers who want to improve their physical health and physique, but what about maternal mental health? I’m not just talking about awareness related to perinatal mood disorders, like postpartum depression and anxiety, etc. I’m also talking about the mental fortitude and strength that it takes to have a healthy, happy, and sound mind while mothering. Even mothers who do not struggle with any form of mental illness lack necessary skills for being mindful.
The reality is that we need more resources- and more talk- about mental wellness.
So, in an effort to build up the mothering mind, I’m going to share 3 helpful tips that all mothers can apply to their daily lives that will improve their mental health. (Keep in mind that there are many more than just these 3, but 3 are a good starting place.)
1. Check Your Thoughts.
There’s nothing more frustrating for a mother than when she is playing with her children, enjoying her time with them, and suddenly be interrupted by a negative thought that affects her mood and state of mind. You don’t want to waste energy on thoughts that are counterproductive to what you are doing or wanting to accomplish. Most people believe every thought that they ever have is true, but this is simply not the case. If you can pause and quickly evaluate your thoughts more often, especially the ones that bring up strong emotions, you can begin to weed out the ones that are simply not true and move on.
Here’s the deal, we are our own worst critics, and we can easily ruminate or mull over negative thoughts concerning ourselves, which can then lead us to think critically of others including our spouses, our children, and our friends, which will only drain mental strength and tear down our closest relationships. For those thoughts, the ones tied to strong emotions and that do ring true, give yourself permission to stop thinking about it in the present. Decide on a more appropriate time when you can spend more mental energy figuring it out. Thinking about your thoughts,may sound odd. But building an awareness of how you think will help you change your unproductive or unhelpful thought patterns, which will lead to changes in how you feel and behave.
2. Practice Gratitude.
At times, we as mothers can get caught up in comparing ourselves to other mothers. Have you ever heard of ‘mommy wars’? Well, the real battle is within ourselves. We might look around and feel like we don’t measure up to certain standards. Thoughts and feelings such as jealousy, or frustration, or inferiority can surface and drain our mental energies. Such toxic emotions can also ruin relationships and isolate us. So, in order to help keep your thoughts in check, replace negative and untrue thoughts with grateful ones. In this way, you will help build up resiliency.
An attitude and mindset fixed on gratitude is a great way to keep your life in perspective.
Many people feel surprised by how much better they feel when they spend more time thinking about the things they are thankful for, instead of focusing on what they do not have. In fact, there are many benefits outside of psychological ones that are worth practicing gratitude for. It doesn’t take too much effort to come up with at least one thankful thought, once you get the ball rolling. Before long, you will discover that you have filled your heart with appreciation and your mind filled with happier thoughts. The tune you carry within will be felt by your children. Naturally, they are acutely attuned to your attitude. Just remember, happy song, happy mom.
3. Be Compassionate Toward Yourself.
Do you ever feel like you just keep missing the mark? Maybe your expectations of what motherhood should be are constantly being shot down? As mentioned earlier, we can be our own worst enemy. And if we are hard on ourselves,then we are likely to treat our family and friends in a similar way.
A mother’s standard is usually set pretty high. And though there is nothing wrong with this, an expectation that is unrealistic can cause frustration and some mental fog. Mom might feel like she has to do everything herself and she may have a difficult time asking for help. The secret? Self-Compassion! Set realistic goals, and love who you are by being gracious and kind to yourself. Accept the fact that motherhood is messy and beautiful. Forgive yourself for your mistakes. Remind yourself that you are doing your very best, and that is all you need. Loving yourself will help keep you mentally strong for whatever trials come your way.
So, as you can see, the work that we do with our minds is similar to how we train our physical bodies. It takes time, consistency, and work to build those mental muscles. We must be intentional about rewiring our thought processes; they don’t just happen on their own. Though it may not be easy, the evidence give us hope and encouragement to change our old way of thinking for something new and refreshing. Being a mentally strong mom simply allows us to enjoy our motherhood journeys more. You are worth it.
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