We’ve all heard the hype and read the posts urging moms to practice healthy self-care habits. This is a very good thing to practice, by the way, but what the heck is “emotional” self-care?
Emotional self-care is simply the practice of acknowledging, validating, and caring for our emotional wellbeing. Just in the same way you might take long walks to stay in good physical health, there are daily habits we can all do to stay in good emotional health.
And as we’ve made it through the craziness of 2020, it’s become more and more clear that our mental health is just as, if not even more important, than our physical health.
That’s because our minds and emotions are often in the driver’s seat of determining our choices. For example, when it’s cold outside and you just want to stay curled up in bed instead of getting up and working out, it’s your mind that usually determines whether you do…or not.
It’s also our mindset that tells us we’re a terrible mother when we mess up or conversely reminds us that we’re not obligated to engage in contentious debates with strangers on the internet and it’s fine to just remove yourself from the situation. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.
When our emotions are healthy, they help us make better choices which ultimately leads to us having better physical health overall.
Why Moms Often Neglect Emotional Self Care
Moms are busy and juggling so much even with support right in the home. Maybe you’ve experienced your toddler banging on your bathroom door while you were stealing a few precious moments of quiet in the shower to ask for a drink.
While in reality, he walked right past his daddy or older sibling who happened to be standing in the kitchen the entire time! Ugh.
Moms live in a special kind of busy…one that’s hard for anyone who isn’t a mother to understand. That’s because “mom busy” not only comprises all the physical demands of doing all the things, we carry the invisible emotional load of motherhood too.
Below is a post I shared on Instagram that details many of the emotional loads we carry everyday as moms.
View this post on Instagram
????♀️We all know the physical load of motherhood… Packing lunches, chauffering kids EVERYWHERE, doing laundry before kids can do it for themselves, playing at the park, cooking dinner, giving baths and reading stories at bedtime, checking homework, comforting sick kids, and on and on. And while these things require us to be fully “on” 24/7 without any days off it’s really the “invisible” emotional load of motherhood that’s especially challenging. Why? Because it’s not as talked about as the physical “seen” load of motherhood. It’s also because these issues tap directly into our vulnerabilities and insecurities as moms. And seriously, who the heck likes being vulnerable? ???? But it’s time we start getting real with ourselves and put it all out there! Too many moms are struggling in silence. Feeling like they’re the only ones who doubt their abilities as moms. They feel like they’re the only ones who’s kids watch too much TV, play too many video games, don’t eat enough veggies, or don’t listen until they totally blow their top. If you feel like you’re not doing this mom thing right…you are NOT alone. Every mom on the planet has felt this way in every season of motherhood with every child they’ve raised. ???? Can I tell you something? You are not expected to have all the answers or to show up and do it all right every single time. So many of our emotional struggles as mothers stem from the idea that we “should” know how to do this. But where does this come from? Well, social media and all it’s carefully curated perfection doesn’t help. But it mostly rests on a lack of understanding that we weren’t created to raise our families on our own. We have a Savior that promises to give us the wisdom, strength and much-needed grace we need to be the best mom we can be. His grace is sufficient. When we partner with Christ, we are then made strong in our weaknesses. That’s not a cliche but a biblical Truth. You are already more than enough! Let me know in the comments which struggle hits the hardest for you. ????????
So when we take into account everything that mama’s deal with in a day, it’s easy to see why we neglect doing the things we should to help us be at our best. But it’s also the same reason why we should!
So how can moms care for themselves emotionally without taking up all their precious and limited time? The answer is by having an simple emotional self care strategy that you can implement every day that easily fits into your everyday MomLife.
Get Your Emotions Out of Your Mind
Far too often we struggle with our emotions and the reactions to those emotions because we keep them trapped inside and only let them out when they explode. Am I right?
We just keep pushing through each day and every moment while thoughts and feelings get to roam free in our minds. And I don’t know about you, but our thoughts don’t always behave themselves. Like when you leave toddlers to play unsupervised with stuff like glue and paint. Do not ever do that!
There needs to be a space in our day where we can productively let those thoughts and emotions out of our mind so we can deal with them in a safe and healthy way.
This practice should ideally be done daily but honestly, it doesn’t have to take long at all. You may already be doing this if you keep a journal.
Which brings me to the method of actually implementing this step. All this requires is you having a space in your day (quiet is best) where you think about how you were feeling that day.
You can keep a daily journal where you write out your thoughts and feelings that you experienced. This journal can be a physical journal on paper or simply keeping an electronic file on your computer. I’ve done both and both are effective. You can also speak into a voice file that you keep on your phone.
Keeping a record of your emotions is not nearly as important as you seeing and/or hearing them. Getting them out of you is a profound exercise of self-awareness that is key in building strong coping skills.
A also cannot emphasis enough how seeing a licensed therapist can help lead you in this process.
Know and Name Your Emotions
This leads me to the next step which is to know and name your emotions. Once you get them out of you, it makes them easier to process and understand.
You’ll start to see patterns and learn what triggers certain emotions – both the ones we want and the ones we don’t. As you notice those triggers happening again and again you can start to do things over time to prevent them.
It’s also important to note that naming your emotions is helpful. For example, anxiety is often a catch-all emotion for many similar, yet distinctly different, feelings like worry, fear, stage-fright, or nervousness.
Instead of saying, “I’m feeling anxious”, drilling down deeper and saying, “I’m nervous about the result’s of my son’s blood-test,” or “I’m worried about what will happen now that my husband’s work hours have been cut” help to make sense of the anxiety.
When we give one general label to so many unique feelings, we cheat ourselves of the opportunity of getting to the root of our anxiety. This also goes for depression, anger, etc.
Go deeper than these bigger names and challenge yourself to get specific.
If you’re struggling with overwhelm, irritability and yelling that you don’t know how to control, you don’t want to miss my FREE Calm Mom Blueprint guide! Click here to download your copy to start your journey to calmer days.
Practice and Protect Your Emotions
By now I’m sure you’ve realized that we’re not merely walking through an emotional self-care checklist but that we’re really creating habits that will last a lifetime. Ones that require us to continue with in the same way that we continue working out well beyond reaching our health goals.
Here are several things you can do to practice healthy emotions and create the necessary boundaries to protect them:
- Submit negative and condemning thoughts to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. This scripture proves that every thought we think isn’t necessarily our thought. Every un-godly, self-critical, shaming, and insecure thought we allow to float around in our mind is there to get us to believe it and own it. But we must learn to get good at handing that thought over to our Savior who will gladly send it packing.
- Practice focusing on what is good. So I’m not saying just think happy thoughts and everything will be better. I am saying that whatever you’re facing there is likely something good, positive, or just somewhere in there. We oftentimes need a magnifying glass to find it…but it’s there. Looking for the good or the growth that is happening in us is necessary to help us clear out the negative cloud that tries so hard to fill our lives and obstruct the view of the good that is happening. (Phil 4:7)
- Be intentional about avoiding our triggers. If you noticed throughout this process that you have repetitive triggers, see if there’s a clear way to remove that trigger. Many times we don’t even realize how our own habits or routines can add stress to our lives. Move things around and see if that helps. For example, practice getting ready earlier if arriving places late causes you stress or giving your children attention before you sit down to complete work so they aren’t constantly seeking it from you while you’re working.
- Practice gratitude. When we practice a habit of gratitude in our lives this doesn’t mean we need to just be quiet and be grateful we’re not in someone else’s worse off shoes. It does mean that we actively look for things in our life that we’re grateful for. Here’s a super long scientific study on the positive power of practicing gratitude. Simply taking moments to think, talk about, and write down the relationships, moments, and miracles that we experience is proven to boost your mood and overall emotional wellbeing.
Treat Yourself Like a Friend
The final thing I want to leave you with is practicing the habit of being kind to yourself. Do you ever pay close attention to the words that you speak over yourself? Are you hyper-critical and talk down to yourself with every choice you make?
Now let me ask you this – would you say those same things to a close friend? I’m guessing the answer is no. The truth is we tend to be kinder to others than we are to ourselves. And that’s got to stop, my friend!
The next time you notice your critical self-talk creeping in, decide to talk to yourself like you’re talking to a close friend. What would you say? What encouragement would you give? What helpful insight would you offer? You deserve to be treated well and please don’t ever forget that.