Last week, we talked about the importance of taking care of yourself when it comes to looking after your loved ones. One thing I didn’t touch on last week that I want to explore today is the importance of prioritizing not only your physical health, but your mental health as well. Thankfully we live in a time where talking about mental health no longer conjures up images of straightjackets and stark hospitals. These days, it’s more about finding some zen. At least, that’s what I tell myself!
Seriously though, let me ask you a question: Have you ever found yourself spending time with other people, whether your family or friends, but your mind is somewhere else altogether? Maybe you’re mentally running back over a meeting at work you wish you’d handled differently, or worrying about an ongoing issue with one of your kids at school. When was the last time you drove home from work without remembering the drive? Right? Scary isn’t it?
It’s so easy in today’s go-go-go world to be scattered mentally. It’s important to keep yourself physically healthy enough to be able to spend quality time with your family, but if you’re not there and fully invested in that time mentally, well, you’re still missing out. And so are they.
Stress is a killer. We’ve all heard that, right? And I know you parents out there will agree with me when I say that, no matter how much we love our kiddos, they are stressful! Trying to raise another person into a functioning and well adjusted adult is a big responsibility, and we owe it to them to be there mentally, not just in body. Let me share a few tips that have worked for me as I’ve learned to navigate the particularly stressful periods of life.
First, take advantage of that tiny computer you’re most likely carrying around in your pocket or handbag. We call them phones, but these powerful little tools are so much more than that. Apps like Headspace and Calm are lifesavers when I need a quick retreat for myself. I was skeptical of how much an app could really do when I first started using them, but trust me. A little bit of mental self-care goes a long way, and these apps are popular for a reason.
Second, make time in the mornings. Before my boys get out of bed is one of my favorite times of day to make some me time. Whether it’s a heavy-lifting gym day or just a few minutes with a daily mantra or devotional, that early morning calm allows me to unload some stress and better handle everything else that day throws at me – and to be more present in my interactions with others. My gym time is also where my physical and mental health overlap. If you’re a regular exerciser you know what I mean. Sweating out stress is a real thing folks. There are even apps that remind you to stand up every so often (because sitting is the new smoking, right?), and help you track your workouts.
Third, if you’re going through some especially tough stuff and need outside help, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for it. I’ve learned and grown so much from finding a good therapist who understood me (God help him!) and pushed me to be a better version of myself. If this makes you picture an uncomfortable couch and Sigmund Freud, or going under hypnosis, don’t worry. It’s more like a deep conversation in a cozy living room that’s all about you. It can be tough, yes, but it’s so, so worth it.
In the next couple of weeks, I challenge you to find a few ways to create mental health breaks during your day. Whether that’s an app, a quick walk at lunch or simply waking up 10 minutes early to read, you’ll start feeling yourself becoming more present and engaged with those you love.
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