This post is not intended to diagnose or treat depression or any other mental or emotional health conditions. I simply wish to share my experience with life-changing strategies I first learned through counseling.
“You guys better clean up before I lose it!”
It’s hard to be around our kids all the time. Their needs and messes and noise are constantly weighing on us. It can be easy to lose ourselves to the demands of motherhood. To let stress take over. To be the yelling, tantruming mom we swore we’d never be.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to constantly live on the verge of losing it. It takes dedication, but we can take back our sanity!
In my very first session of therapy for depression, my counselor introduced two important tools. Strategies to help me monitor and control my stress and moods: the Healthy Mind Platter and the emotional thermometer.
I started using these tools right away. In fact, they took over my life for a few weeks. They were the most important things on my to-do list every day.
As my emotional and mental health stabilized, I found myself settling into a comfortable pattern. I realized that caring for my mental health isn’t only important in emergency situations – it’s important all the time! Even when I’m healthy, I can use the mind platter and emotional thermometer to maintain my wellness.
Now they’re part of my everyday life. Let me tell you what they’re all about.
Healthy Mind Platter
The Healthy Mind Platter is an array of 7 daily activities that help promote mental health. They work together to promote balance and emotional wellness.
When my counselor first listed all seven duties, I nearly panicked. “You want me to do ALL of these?! Every day?!” Ideally, yes, was his answer. I had no idea how I was going to manage so many extra tasks. I could barely keep myself and my kids dressed and fed.
But I started small. My goal was 5 minutes of each task every day. And as the weeks went by, I leaned on my Healthy Mind Platter more and more. It made a huge difference in my daily life.
Let’s start with the tough one: sleep. We need a minimum of 7 hours. I thrive on more like 9 or 10. But what mom gets that much sleep?
The important thing is to do our best and stick to a routine. Make sure to do something relaxing before bedtime. Read a book. Pray a Rosary. And stay away from screens.
If you’re a nighttime panicker, adopt a breathing routine. And above all, don’t give up. Get in bed when you plan to and stay there until morning.
If your sleep is interrupted by babies and worries and leg cramps, try to be accepting. Becoming upset will only make it harder to get the rest your body needs.
Next on the menu: time to focus and get things done. Make a checklist and accomplish a task or two.
Focus time is goal-oriented. We’re working towards getting something done. We’re concentrating on the task at hand. We’re being productive.
For me, focus time often includes things like:
- cooking dinner
- working on my blog
- paying bills
- scheduling appointments.
Your goals and focus tasks may be different from mine. Take a minute to brainstorm what productivity looks like in your life.
Believe me, I know how hard it is for a mom to get time to exercise. But it’s vital to our health – both physical and mental, to make sure we squeak it in somewhere.
And then there’s the killer decision: do I sacrifice a little sleep to get up and exercise before the kids are awake? Or do I try to do it with them hanging off my legs?
I don’t have the magic answer. Sometimes I choose one, sometimes the other. But either way, the sacrifice is worth the extra strength and endorphins.
Here are some mom exercise ideas:
- cardio or aerobic routines in the living room
- pilates videos
- turn on some music and dance
- take the kids for a walk
- carry the baby up and down the stairs.
Start with just 5 or 10 minutes a day, and increase it as you’re able. It would be ideal to work your way up to 20 or 30 minutes every day.
Make sure you have some down time so your brain doesn’t overload. It can be tempting to go, go, GO and never stop until we pass out long after everyone else is asleep at the end of the day.
But our brains need a rest too. And we need to start making it a priority so we can conquer that overwhelmed feeling.
So, every day, find some time to let your mind wander. Relax!
- watch a show
- read a book
- take a walk
- soak in the tub
- scroll Facebook
- power nap
- sip a hot tea
- read a magazine
- stare into space.
This is the most important one for me. I can’t live in a child’s world 100% of the time. I need adult interaction.
God made us to need each other. He made us to be social creatures. We need to connect. To know that someone else “gets us.”
Pride tells me I can do this on my own. Humility lets me accept the fact that I need help from others. Reaching out is a good thing!
Make sure you connect with the people you love:
- text a friend
- call your mom
- plan a playdate
- ask for help or advice
- tell a joke, laugh together
- cry on a friend’s shoulder
- email your husband at work
- join a moms’ group on Facebook.
Have some fun! You remember those hobbies form high school and college, before your schedule was taken over by playdates and school activities and sports? It’s time to bring them back.
God gave you unique gifts and talents and you don’t have to put them on the back burner. Those talents are part of who God made you to be. They’ll help you find a renewed sense of who you are.
Cultivate your talents. Take up an old hobby or start a new one. Do something fun, just for you. To celebrate who you are and who God made you to be.
Some of my faves:
- create: draw, paint, or craft
- express: write, sing, or dance
- play with your kids
- tell jokes
- play a board game
- develop skill in your favorite hobby (or start a new one)
Take some time to turn your brain inwards. Allow yourself to reflect on your life, your family. On who you are and what you’re going through. Think about what God’s asking from you, who He’s calling you to be, and how much He loves you.
Pay attention to the physical world around you: what you see, hear and feel. Get in touch with your inner self: what you think and feel, how you react to the joys, sorrows, and stresses of life. And keep in contact with the spiritual: with Jesus, the saints, and your guardian angel.
Journal if it helps. Or just “ponder these things in your heart:”
- the Rosary or Chaplet of Divine Mercy
- Catholic mindfulness exercises
- watch your emotional temperature
Alongside my daily Healthy Mind Platter, I use the emotional thermometer to monitor and regulate my emotions. The two work hand in hand.
If I notice my emotions getting out of control, I turn to something from my platter to help bring back the balance. Do I need to call a friend? Pause and reflect? Did I get enough sleep and exercise? Maybe it’s time for a power nap or a quick workout.
The emotional thermometer is a simple guide, and it’s good to check in three or four times a day.
On the thermometer, 5 is neutral. 4 and 3 are happy and interactive. And if you get down to a 2 or a 1, you’re completely calm. The goal is to keep our emotional temperature in these lower numbers. As you engage the negative emotions, you go higher on the scale. At a 6 or 7 you start to get moody and irritable. By 8 or 9 you’re stomping around the house. You feel overwhelmed and may begin shouting. Finally, at a 10, you lose total control.
By monitoring your emotional temperature, you can intervene before you lose it. You have tools and activities in the Healthy Mind Platter to help you regain control. With practice, you can catch yourself hitting a 6 or 7 and know what to do to restore balance.
For me, connection is my go-to. A quick phone call to my husband or friend helps me calm down. It makes me feel loved and understood, and restores my peace.
You’ll soon discover which items on the Healthy Mind Platter have the most influence in regulating your emotions, too.
Restore Your Peace
You’re sick of losing it, and I’m right there with you. You want to shout less and be a more peaceful presence in your home.
We can do it!
We can care for our emotional and mental health. We can find balance and stability.
I made a chart that hangs in a page protector on my fridge. I use a dry-erase marker to keep track of my emotional temperature, and how many of my Healthy Mind Platter activities I’ve done each day.
I want you to have it too, so you can regain the peace you want. So you don’t have to live on the brink of losing control. I hope it helps you as much as it helps me every day!
Note: This article is not intended to counsel or treat depression, anxiety, or other mood or mental health conditions. If you struggle with persistent emotional difficulties, please seek professional help from Pastoral Solutions or another trusted counselor.
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