I am a Christian, wife, mother, physician, daughter, sister, friend. I’m sure in your daily life you wear many hats, but moms wear the most. There is that constant sense of being pulled in multiple directions at once, and never attending to any one person the way we want to, and usually neglecting ourselves in the process. I know I feel like that. In my practice, I frequently use with parents the example of having to put your own oxygen mask on before your child’s otherwise you both could die. Of course daily life is a bit more nuanced than this, and it often seems that the needs of others supersede my own. For example, before I had kids, despite having a busy career and a husband, I would go to the gym daily. Please don’t ask me the last time I went to the gym. My recent success is walking for a minimum of 15 minutes when the weather allows. However, I’ve done my best to make sure my kids get physical activity, and talk to my patients about it as well.
Despite the fact that I fall short in certain areas of self care, I know that one of the reasons I am able to manage (although there are many times I feel I am not managing at all), is that my life is grounded in my faith in God, and all of those things that pull at me, are not actually pulling me apart, as it often feels, but pulling me back to God. Our family’s week starts with Sunday mass, and ends on Saturday evening with family prayer. What happens in between is often a blur of trips to school, work, theater, piano lessons, and sports, but each week begins and ends as a family praising God.
I know, some of you don’t believe in God, or in organized religion, but I bet a number of you relate to feeling frazzled more often than you’d like. When I talk about spirituality with patients, it can take many forms, although I’m the first to admit that my experience as a Catholic colors how I approach spirituality. And really think this is an important area to develop, if you don’t currently have a spiritual life.
So, what can you do if my family’s habits don’t work for you (or even if they do). Here are some ideas:
- Have a set routine or ritual at the start and ending of the week.
- If you are a believer in God, pray at a minimum in the morning and night, this will help give you steadier footing when life gets out of control, as it often does.
- If you are not a believe in God, spend a few minutes at the beginning and the end of day in quiet meditation. We are completely bombarded with noise all day long; give your brain a quiet break.
- Breathe. Okay, I know your breathing, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to read this, but seriously, mindful breathing is one of my favorite techniques for slowing down the fight or flight response, and you can even do it when around other people. One technique I’ve found particularly helpful is to use the heart rate option on my watch, slow down my breathing, and watch my heart rate decrease.
- Reframe. Remember learning in school that always and never statements are rarely true. So, if like me, your brain is plagued by thoughts that you are a bad mother, reframe: there are times that I don’t live up to the expectations that I have for myself as a mother, but I succeed when I…and give yourself of specific examples of success. Something as simple as everyone is clothed and fed is a success.
- Remember that multitasking is a myth. We really can only focus on one thing at a time, so rather than trying to do multiple things at once and setting yourself up for failure, break what you need to do down to individual talks, and put all your focus on one task at a time.
- Develop a heart of gratitude and service. Take some time at the end of the day to review your day, with particular attention to things that you are grateful for, and use these to make a plan to give to others.