Our minds. Such an important part of the bodies that God gave us to care for. Yet far too often, our minds are completely neglected – especially the weary minds of moms.
While I’ve struggled to make good eating choices and failed time and time again at being consistent in exercise, I have consistently tried to choose to keep my mind and spirit healthy. Mental health has become incredibly important to me as I have walked a road beside my husband who has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and now have a son on his way to a possible mental health or behavioral diagnosis as well. I’ve learned so much about the body’s response to stress, and how to help myself deal with it in the process. This year, my focus has been on giving myself physical and mental space, margin, “whitespace.”
Here are some steps that I have taken, and perhaps you can too.
1. Deep breathing.
By far the most simplest way to clear the mind and help the body adjust to stress is to take deep, cleansing breaths. Breathe in for four seconds, hold it for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, wait for four seconds. Repeat. Also, you can look into the app Breathe2Relax for your own virtual breathing coach if this doesn’t come naturally to you.
2. Guided imagery.
An extension of deep breathing, guided imagery or guided relaxation helps to relax your whole body. I was at first hesitant to try this, because I didn’t fully understand the differences between guided imagery and other things I was uncomfortable with (such as hypnosis, transcendental meditation, and trance). But I finally found some apps that simply focus on guiding you to relax your own body, breathe deeply, and think positive affirmations. My favorite apps are a series of relaxation apps by Andrew Johnson. Deep Sleep is by far my favorite and puts me to sleep every time.
3. Professional counseling or therapy.
I’ve never talked to anyone who has regretted getting professional therapy. I have been seeing professional counsellors and social workers since 2009, as we were blessed to get free services through our military installation. Now, we are still eligible for free services through both the VA and Give An Hour (which if you have any current or prior military affiliation, you should definitely take advantage of).
Personal counseling has helped me overcome traumatic events, battle negative thoughts and emotions, sort out my feelings, learn how to communicate in healthier ways, get a break from my circumstances, and have someone to talk to for an hour who will not be burdened by my problems.
If you are feeling at all stressed or overwhelmed or if you have undergone any difficult circumstances in your life, please look into professional counseling.
Great for both the body and the mind, a nap is the perfect reset in a stressful day. I’ll admit – I’m awful about making naps a priority, and my son makes it very difficult to accomplish. But I’ve never taken a nap I regretted.
5. Saying No.
We all need more mental and physical space to take time for self-care. Far too often we are stressed because we are simply trying to do too much or be too much. I’m so guilty of this myself, which is why I chose “whitespace” as my word for this year to focus on. I’ve cut a lot of things out of my schedule and then cut some more. I’ve spent many afternoons on the couch watching TV because that’s what my tired mind and body needed. Give yourself permission to rest and care for yourself by saying no to the things that are keeping you from making that happen.
Remember – your mind is just as important as the rest of your body. Fitness and eating healthy are important, but so is learning to be mentally and emotionally healthy. By taking practical steps toward a fit mind, we can care for whole selves.
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