I’ve been asked by the very lovely @psychologymum as part of her #keeptheconversationgoing and #howcanihelp campaign in partnership with the equally fab @mumologist to think about mental health and what, under the four majn themes, #ustime, #useyourbody #useyourmind, , #metime means to me in terms of keeping an even keel mentally. This did indeed take some pondering, and here are my conclusions….
I like to think I’m quite a social person. I have good rapport with my team at work, try to keep up with busy friends as best I can and regularly laugh with family. I’m also a terrible chatterbox so inviting an external opinion regarding an internal problem has never really been an issue. Talking really can lighten the load. As the saying goes “a problem shared is a problem halved”. I find simply by addressing a hurdle out loud to someone, anyone, hell, even the Tesco delivery driver (he’s heard it all before), said obstacle will not seem so daunting.
If you can have a semi-hysterical cackle over it, preferably with wheezing, then you are onto a winner.
To me, “us time” doesn’t always have to involve deep soul-searching discussion. Choosing to do a quiet activity with hubby or the children helps. Be it baking or painting nails with my daughter, playing marbles or reading with my son, having a G&T while looking at the view with Hubster. I try to enjoy the positive things that are happening in that very ordinary moment. In another minute or two, it will have gone forever. I often promise myself, and hubby, to try harder not to try to capture and tame this rare fleeting achievement of nirvana by taking a photo, nearly always prompting the end of the precious time jewel, and instead be happy with a memory, though this is easier said than done.
Nothing beats face-to-face contact and this is what fuels my fire. But maybe as a result of being rural, before I’d discovered my own wee country parent community (which is fab), especially in those early newborn days, I could have ended up very lonely indeed without the Mobile Facebook connection. I’ve always just enjoyed a good vent on social media, increased immeasurably since the arrival of my beloved life bombs. Maybe it is due to fear of a festering fume turning metastatic. Now with the kids coming closer to internet awareness age, I choose to bother & burden the masses semi-anonymously rather than announce catastrophes on my personal accounts. Instastories are an amazingly quick way to get a simple vex off your chest! Job done, move on.
Similarly, I try not to bottle things up in the marriage department. Sulking is just too much effort! Hubby and I bicker constantly. But then it’s done and dusted and we can draw a line under it. We’ll bicker about the same thing tomorrow but least we can go to bed as friends tonight.
Use Your Body
For me, conventional exercise is a chore that I endure with a face like a smacked arse to periodically prove a point to myself over my swinging status of fitness. Although the act of going to the gym produces no mythical endorphins for me, I must admit to gaining a smug pleasure after, having silenced my inner critic by getting off the sofa doing it. However, if I’m truly honest…occasionally, when I’ve been strict enough to get into a routine I do, begrudgingly, despite myself, end up feeling mentally better for it. In my experience, forcing an exercises routine works best, if in a mad moment of, probably drunken, enthusiasm, I sign up to a mini challenge such as a 10k. Then pride, if nothing else, will get me on that treadmill. Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve done this, having been completely floored by the local 10k last year, but maybe it is time to brave one again.
However, having a good sweaty dance and eyes closed singalong are my express route to joy. I wish there were more exercise classes that just involved a cheesy disco in a darkened room with swirly rainbow lights. Open more clubs during the day, I say! You’d have hoards of neon legging-ed post school runners queuing round the corner to get in. They would even clean up after themselves!
Use your brain
I can find it hard to switch off the background noise, so despite best efforts I’ve concluded meditation ain’t really for me. I just end up getting cross that I am wasting time when there were other seemingly more important practical jobs to be done. Instead I try to unwind my brain, by doing a craft of some sort in front of the TV. I’ve come to realise I’m now incapable of single tasking whilst watching TV, so I knit, sew or cross stitch to stop me phone browsing and keep my Moments App in the amber zone rather than the angry red one. Through crafting, I get real satisfaction from completing a project; be it a gift for someone special, something for our home or another hideous hat for an unsuspecting family victim.
Walking the dogs is probably the closes thing I get to meditation, even if I could throttle them half the time. I am guilty of overthinking and a dog walk does seem to calm the waves. I make myself look around and enjoy the Aberdeenshire countryside. When it’s just me and the dogs, I get a chance to think, undistracted, about simple uncomplicated things, like what I’m going to cook for dinner, how I’m going to achieve the kids’ desired costume requests for Halloween, or a poem about the Primary School Mafia.
This is probably the one I struggle with the most to get right- as the name suggests, glamour & pampering are not really part of my day-to-day. Don’t get me wrong, I like just as much as the next mummy to get my frock on and paint a pout for a rare opportunity of letting my hair out of the otherwise permanent mummy ponytail, and I flatter myself that I scrub up nae bad when I put the effort in. But I can also find this process of peacocking a very stressful affair depending on how overdue the hairdresser appointment is, how many bags are under the eyes and if I’ve got any tights without ladders in them. Adding to the fact getting all dolled up with weans wrapped round your ankles is far from relaxing or uplifting. The military preparation that goes into organizing a casual “night out” involves babysitters, shopping, sewing seeds of mummy going out just enough to not be considered breaking news by suspicious kids but not enough detail to have a week long interrogation over the matter. Trying to even coordinate a hairdresser appointment before a much anticipated friend’s wedding, is often so difficult that I normally end up ignoring the roots, praying for a catwalk greasy hair look on pinterest and inwardly grumble at my husband for convincing me to go blonde yet again.
A luxurious soak is nae for me either, I get too hot bothered by a bath and all the faff of prepping the perfect bathing environment. By the time I’ve got the magazine, candles, bathcap, towel pillow, ice cold glass of water, hand towel for drying hands to be able to read magazine…. I’m sorta over it! If you ever hear of me having a bath, it means I’m probably not well as this is the only time I’ll suffer one.
I enjoy my “coffee and instagrammin'” me-time while running the kiddos bath. Though I’m thinking of switching to my beverage of choice to tea… (see other blog 😉 ). It’s the modern equivalent of a comforting cuppa and a magazine. Only there is no last page to this magazine, which can be a time zapping danger. Cue Angry Red Moments App Warning.
I do like, for want of a less hippy phrase, re-connecting “me” by slinging on an age inappropriate slogan tee. I’m much more comfortable about giving a “V” to the world of classic and tasteful dressing by donning a confidence boosting, comfortable, cotton, thought for the day. Then I feel like “me” rather than a prat trying to fit the unrealistic and non existent mould of “ the perfect mother”. In my romantic musings I guess I see myself as a bit of a rebel, when in reality I am definitely a path follower. But never the less, I like to flirt with the non-conforming edge of the fashion path.
I’m also finding I’m enjoying this writing malarkey. It may just be another generic mummy blog, but there is something soothing about putting my thoughts on paper, editing and choosing the perfect word to describe my thoughts whilst letting go of some vitriol.
Must be my punk roots. And with my roots, I can defo pull off punk mamma!
Finally, I always have a morning shower and brush my teeth. The world is a tricksy challenging place and feeling grimey only makes matters worse. Sometimes the only thing that has gone well of a school/working morning might be that I’m clean. And that’s ok, ‘cos at least I can be reassured I don’t smell.
If you’ve made it this far in my self-indulgent rambles, I wish to say now that I do not think I have all the answers. Oh No, No, NO! Sometimes I can get so very stressed I feel I almost struggle to get a full breath in, like deep water is surrounding me and I can barely keep my head above it. Thankfully this is not very often and passes almost as quickly as it descends. I don’t know if this would be termed a mental health issue or simply how everyone feels from time to time when ploughing through life. Maybe I should check myself, stop being a moaning Minnie, count my many blessings and fricken well get on with it. Probably.
But these are the things I try to do to keep my chin up and then coping with life is generally a bit easier and jollier. It doesn’t always happen and, as I’m sure is common for many folk, dark hiccup days can occur. But when they do, I try to latch onto one of the above perk-me-ups and then thankfully the rest soon follow in line like a big mental health zipper.
Alas, apologies to @thepsychologymum for the long winded answer. The instagram post will be considerably shorter!
Need to get me a magic hat like Mr Chatterbox!