Prioritizing and Protecting Your Mental Health in 2020

It’s never been more important to protect and prioritize your mental health as it is right now. It’s also never been easier to put on the back burner. We’ve got some really great reasons to put ourselves last these days, mamas, but for the sake of my own mental health, I’m not going to elaborate on the weight of mothering in 2020. I know you already get it. Instead, I’m here to offer you some space to breathe and a few helpful tools for staying emotionally well. 

PROTECT YOURSELF

Make yourself an island if you need to.

Unfriend your racist uncle, block the homophobic friend from high school, unfollow the Karens…  If what they’re bringing to the table tastes like poison to you, don’t just not drink it; stop letting them sit at your table. (Because you can’t make them stop being racist, homophobic, or abusive and something’s gotta give, right?)

In fact, take this time to go ahead and get up from ALL of the tables where love isn’t being served; even if that table is filled with family. Your boundaries are medicine. Maybe bitter, but medicine nonetheless. 

It’s also not about creating an echo chamber or a perfectly curated circle of only people who agree with you. It’s about protecting yourself from the trauma, stress and/or anxiety that come with most of these interactions. 

There is a line. It’s different for all of us, but find yours and enforce it. If your inner people-pleaser doesn’t feel like she’s allowed to do that, consider this your official permission slip. In fact, that takes me to my next tip.

Get real about the consequences of your people-pleasing.

If trying to make everyone else happy or comfortable is leaving you stressed out, depleted, and emotionally overwhelmed, it’s time to face the reality of your people-pleasing head-on. Get honest and look at how your chronic stress ripples out into every part of your life and even out into your family dynamics. Are you really making people happy? Or are you killing yourself with stress trying to please the unpleasable? It comes back to finding your line…

For me, it’s meant telling people, “Look. I’m sorry, I just can’t talk about Coronavirus right now. It’s a real rabbit hole of stress and confusion for me, so I am keeping it out of my bubble for a while and managing small doses of it as I feel ready & available.” It’s also meant temporarily drawing a line in the sand between myself and my mother as I process childhood trauma. 

My inner people-pleaser (who’s fueled by fear and conditioning) tells me that both of these boundaries make me a bad or unworthy person in some way, but…

Here’s the deal

At some point, we have to decide: is this other person’s comfort worth me not being able to function later today because of the anxiety, trauma, or fear that’s being stirred up? Is it worth me being distracted or on edge at bedtime with the kids because I’m lost in that rabbit hole? Is it worth me not getting enough sleep tonight and starting the whole cycle over when I wake up tired and stressed in the morning? Or have I found my line? Am I willing to say the uncomfortable things… and protect myself?

Another thing to consider… stop and ask yourself, “Do I really think I know what’s best for this person? Do I truly know for a fact that me making them sad, mad, or uncomfortable will be a bad thing for them? Or is it possible that it’s the exact medicine they need to heal, too?” Not all medicine is sweet, babe. And it’s not your job to manage (fix? help?) anyone’s experience, emotions, or process but your own. Stay in your own lane or brace yourself for more and more head-on collisions with other people’s stuff. 

NOURISH YOURSELF

Become Your Own Safe Space

Seriously, I want you to become your own fairy freaking godmother right now. At least until life stabilizes, I want you to wake up every damn day and say “Hey, mama. I love you. I’m here for you. What are you feeling? What’s happening on your insides? What do you need?” Then, I want you to get yourself what you need. No giving in to the “but, this…” or the “well, we can’t…” No. You need your own no-BS mama bear self right now. 

“Okay, girl. You need childcare? I don’t know how we’re going to make that work without family around to help and less money coming in and all this uncertainty, but okay. I’m here. Let’s figure this out. I’m willing to get creative.” Brainstorm for a bit then hand it over to the Universe/God/Spirit/synchronicity (whatever your word is for the Big Helper) and stay open to the possibility of a solution. 

“You want a massage? Alright. Can I put some music on for you while I rub your feet?” 

“You want ice in your water? Really? We usually drink it room-temp, but okay… I’m here for it. Let’s do it.” 

“You want to have what conversation with who?? Oh no no no. We can’t. That’s too… *cutting off the inner critic and switching gears* phew… Okay. I’m listening. Man, that’s going to be really hard. I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it right, but okay… I’m willing to try if that’s what you really need.” 

Can you see how life would be different if this is how you talked to that scared little voice inside of you (aka your anxiety and depression) instead of trying to shush her, shame her or whip her into shape? How can you be in that kind of company and not feel safer, calmer, more peaceful? 

A BIT OF HOPE

I think one of the hidden gifts in all of this mess is that we have this opportunity to learn how to become our own safe spaces. And when we get familiar with the experience of non-judgmental love and unconditional support within ourselves, we start to recognize and prioritize the people, places and situations outside of us that match that vibe. And gradually, all of life starts to feel a little bit better… a little bit less chaotic… a little bit more like home. And I’m definitely here for that! 

Keep safe, mamas. You’re not alone in any of this, and your mental health matters more than ever right now. Don’t you dare feel ashamed of taking excellent care of it! 

Lauren Venable is a single mama and somatic meditation teacher living in Lafayette. You’ll hear her joke often, “Thank God I meditate for a living!” as she juggles her 2 elderly yet somehow still wild Boston Terriers, navigates the endless chatter and relentless curiosity of her Kindergartener, and brings her own meandering mind back to the task at hand (instead of the butterfly that just passed.) She’s a sucker for spontaneous adventures and is rocking a solid 70% success rate with her house plants. Her struggles with divorce, postpartum depression/anxiety, and the general overwhelm of motherhood have cracked her wide open and offered such rich soil for personal growth that she now helps other moms manage the motherload, too. You can find out more at www.balancedrootsreiki.com or follow her podcast, Homeward Bound: Meditations for Motherhood.

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