(Please note, I am not a doctor, and if you’re feeling symptoms of anxiety or depression, it’s always recommended that you speak to your doctor right away!)
Let me start by saying that I love my children. I mean, I really really love them with every bone in my body. BUT. (well, you knew that was coming….) I hate to admit it aloud, but despite this love, I’m not always happy being a mom. A friend recently said to me, “children are great joy but no fun.” Wow. That sums it up perfectly in 7 simple words. Only my children can light up my world in that intangible and inexpressible way. BUT. (You knew there was a ‘but’ coming.) I don’t always find fulfillment in motherhood, and I don’t always enjoy this job of molding caring and productive members of society (and yes, I know it’s the most important job a person can have, and I know I’m fortunate and blessed that I can stay home with my kids. I know, I know, I know.) I just can’t help it -- I find reading the same book 20 times in a day repetitive (and don’t get me started on the plotline holes you could drive a truck through!), refereeing a screaming toddler fights exhausting and wiping snot, tears and butts extremely tedious. Somedays, I want to talk to adults, walk out of the house without a 30-minute production and fight over why my 3-year-old has to wear shoes. I look around my house, at the sippy cups and scattered toys, the laundry pile (which unfortunately isn’t washing itself) and the beige sofa that was once was white, and I feel down.
These days have happened to me more than once, and one of the things that bothers me most, is I realize on these days I am not the patient and loving mother that I strive to be. I am short tempered and irritable. I am not the mother my children deserve.
Here is a simple list of 5 things I have discovered can really help to improve your mood naturally.
1. Get out, get moving, get busy. When monotony gets you down, consider a few downward dogs, go outside, to the park, to the mall, the museum or the library. Exercise, fresh air, distraction and a change of scenery can do wonders for your mood. If you can put the kids in a jogging stroller and catch some miles, even better – according to researchers, dopamine is released in the brain in as little as 20 minutes of exercise – nature’s own anti-depressant!
2. Call a friend. Play dates are awesome because they benefit the kids AND you! Kids get to play and work on their social skills and moms get to talk (at least a bit) and tag-team the duties (think: a pee break without kids at your feet!) In fact, Forbes.com reported on a 20-year study of over 4,700 people which indicated that a person who interacted with happy people (both friends & strangers) were more likely be happy themselves.
3. Be productive. Sometimes it’s the little things – a clutter-free closet, fresh sheets on all the beds, and a laundry room devoid of dirty clothes – that will make you feel better about your day. Include your kids; sure it might take a little bit longer, but you’re instilling life skills and showing them that housework requires everyone to pitch in. More often than not, they’ll tire of the task before long and will take to playing nearby while you can check things off your “to-do” list. It’s been well-documented that happy people are more productive, and it stands to reason that it flows both ways – a productive person is a happier person – after all, a busy and productive mind has less time for negative thoughts – and what a nice feeling it is to get sh*# done.
4. Color with your kids. Adult coloring books have been all the rage for several years now, and there’s good reason for it. Have you tried it? I laughed at the concept until I saw one on sale for a $1 and thought, “why not?” While my boys were coloring Paw Patrol pictures, I completed a small section of waves and circles and geometric shapes – and it felt fantastic! I would never have thought this could boost my mood, but it did!! And, as a bonus, my boys loved that Mommy was actually sitting down coloring with them for so long!
5. Improve your diet and/or explore vitamins and supplements. Like my mom always said, “you are what you eat!” And if you’re diet consists of table scraps and lattes (no judgement, I get it), it’s unlikely that you’re getting enough of important mood boosters like omega-3 fatty acids, GABA and B-vitamins. However, when it comes to vitamins & supplements, make sure to do a bit of due-diligence. Vitamins are (generally) natural and have significantly fewer side effects compared to prescription drugs; however, vitamins aren’t tightly regulated, so it’s difficult to know what you’re really getting – if it’s in an effective/absorbable form, or if you’re simply flushing money down the toilet. (Vitamins also are not covered by medical insurance and some can be quite expensive!) Research has linked the following supplements to improved mood: Fish Oil, 5-HTP, GABA, B-Vitamins, SAMe and Vitamin D.
It’s so easy to neglect ourselves – to think of self-care as a luxury, not a need – so remind yourself often, as you go about this journey of Motherhood – that these simple activities not only help you, they help your entire family. (And don’t forget to also remind yourself that the good stuff will outweigh the struggles, you will sleep again (one day) and one day you’re gonna miss (most of) it