By all accounts, I’m doing things ‘right.’
I eat right, I exercise regularly, I make time for my loved ones, I go to counseling regularly, and I even have hobbies I enjoy… Yet, I came home from a new book club group today and cried. Not just any old cry either — I completely fell apart. We’re talking ugly sobbing, and the tears just kept flowing. I cried into my husband’s shoulder, I cried at my steering wheel, and I cried before opening my laptop to write this.
No, I’m not pregnant…
I am just absolutely riddled with anxiety and have reached the breaking point.
As the holidays quickly approach, my shoulders are at my ears a little more each day. As if my anxious energy isn’t enough, the spinning and spiraling of those around me are all too pervasive. Stores are busier, traffic is crowded, and the number of holiday-related demands rivals my three-year old’s bedtime requests.
I’ve needed a self-care day for weeks, but because I didn’t want to cancel things like trick-or-treating or family pictures for our Christmas card, I’ve had to make-do. (Story of our lives, right mamas?) It has been like pulling teeth to get me anywhere that required me to be social, and once I got there, it physically drained me to do so.
I thought, “If only I had more time by myself.”
So that is exactly what I did. I locked my bedroom door, grabbed the hidden bag of Christmas tree Reece’s from the fridge, and spent my evening on an elephant reserve in Africa with Rob Lowe. (Weighted blanket in tow, of course.)
…and nothing changed.
WHAT THE HECK?! This was my last resort, or so I thought. I was expecting to walk out of that room refreshed and renewed, ready to take on the rest of my week with a jolly smile. So why did I still feel the need to retreat to solitude?
Then it hit me — I had forgotten my basics.
My basics are my safety net of calm. The things that have proven time and time again to pull me out of the dark. The things that instantly bring me a sense of peace.
Here’s the kicker, they are all extremely simple:
- Taking my medication – This is a BIG one. No amount of “positive thinking” is going to change the chemicals in my brain. No, if I can’t pull myself out of the darkness, then I need to rely on the things that do. Was I disappointed I couldn’t handle this without help? A little. But no more disappointed than I was at the overwhelmed mom that unjustly yelled at her children earlier that day. If I’m going to be disappointed with either one, I choose the option that gives my kids the better, more rational parent.
- Knitting – I discovered the benefits of knitting long before I had children. I had a fast-paced job and coming down after work was constantly a struggle. Also, my ADHD gives me a lot of nervous energy. A LOT. This kind of issue can only be solved by tasks that require some physical effort with very little mental effort. (Essentially, mindless busywork) Knitting is fantastic for that, and adult coloring books come in a close second.
- Being Open and Vulnerable – It feels good to share your struggles. Maybe not at first, but just saying words out loud in a safe space can be so freeing. That book club I cried about? I had only just met some of those women, but it was a safe space. Admitting my struggles and fears while having them validated and not criticized, made the world of difference.
- Sunlight & Deep Breaths – The winter blues are an issue for me every year. The sun goes down quickly, bringing with it house morale. Luckily, someone incredible invented artificial sunlamps. I crank that baby up to 10 as often as I remember. Mix that with some fresh air in your lungs, and you’re in business. There’s no better way to ground yourself than with a deep inhale through your nostrils and a long, audible exhale out of your mouth. Seriously, try it now and see how you feel.
- Journaling – It can be scary to admit our struggles, even if it is to those we love the most. For those instances, I turn to my journal. I don’t have prompts or even a topic in mind, I just let the pen flow. What has been bothering me lately, surface level and beyond? Have there been areas I feel more guilty about than others? Does anything specific come to mind when I think about certain issues? More often than not, my subconscious writes what my brain can’t process on its own.
- Canceling Plans – How many times have you heard the phrase, “you can’t pour from an empty cup?” It is because you can’t. I am the QUEEN of canceling plans. If I feel like something is going to take more of a mental toll than what I have available, I don’t do it. Plain and simple. At least, that’s the case when I’m in the right mindset. As I preach to my Baby Boot Camp members, your mental health comes first. ALWAYS.
It’s easy to disregard the basic solutions in times of distress, but getting back to the basics is how we approach most other situations in our lives.
It’s been less than 8 hours since my soul shower brought me back to my basics, and while I’m not 100% back, the light is a lot brighter than when I woke up this morning.
What are your basics? If you don’t know, I recommend doing some self-exploring. Make a list and have them handy for when you’re in a pinch. Think of it as your calming corner. After all, winter is coming…