When Stress Calls Your Name: Sanity Tips for Mommas, Part 2
In part 1 of this blog post, I wrote about my struggle a few years ago with insomnia and anxiety, a rough season that showed me my need to create healthy habits in my life, essentially to keep myself from falling to pieces.
And I’ll be honest with you that right now is another rough season in my life, when I’m fighting Lyme and facing health challenges I would not have imagined a year ago. I have a seven-year-old tender-hearted, Minecraft-playing, Bionicle-building, Ninja-weapon-constructing voracious book learner, currently sitting on the couch deep in the Geronimo Stilton series. I have a four-year-old impassioned princess-loving wild child, who I currently hear clattering her Cinderella Duplos around in her bedroom. I have a 1-year-old toilet-opening, cupboard-emptying, stair-climbing, always hungry, rarely quiet explorer, who is napping and that’s the only reason I’m sitting down typing.
Staying sane is definitely a project in my life right now. Last post I talked about having white space on the calendar, learning to manage or eliminate your triggers, and pursuing what feeds your soul.
This time around I want to talk about the habits I’ve built into my daily life routine.
Rest in the evening
A lot of my decision to pursue sanity and wellness as a mom has to do with how I spend my time after my kids go to bed. Insomnia taught me that I can’t flat-out work until bedtime and expect to fall right to sleep. I also can’t sit endlessly surfing Netflix or Facebook because it’s more comfortable than getting up and getting in bed. I need time to unwind, and I need to get to bed on time.
So right now, I try not to work after my kids go to bed. That’s time for me to read or to spend time with my husband. I try to deliberately choose activities that help me unwind. Surfing the Internet or scrolling down my Facebook Newsfeed or answering emails doesn’t count. So I try to plan ahead so that I can shut down my computer when my kids go to bed.
(If this would be an unrealistic goal for you, I would encourage you to at least set a computer shut-down time so you’re not glued to the screen later than you intended.)
It’s also my goal to get eight hours of sleep a night. Of course there are seasons, like with a newborn, when getting a good sleep may be impossible. I’ve done my fair share of middle-of-the-night breastfeeding. I’ve been woken by children screaming and peeing and throwing up. I’ve been woken by apnea monitors alerting me that a vulnerable child in my care may have stopped breathing. So I get it. Everyone has a bad night here and there. And there are whole seasons when it’s all about surviving on the little sleep you do get.
But all in all, on a regular basis, Moms should not be underslept.
Yes, I did just write that. Hear me out. Your children should be sleeping at least eight hours a night, right? So sleep when they sleep! A lot of this is just having the discipline to turn in at the right time, and not stay up late trying to do all . the . things, or stay glued to your computer or television screen because it’s so much more comfortable than getting up and walking to bed.
If your sleep is interrupted, aim for more than eight hours. There was one season in my life when I was pregnant and caring for a premature baby. All the kids fell asleep around 8:30, and I went to bed immediately. I slept from 8:30 to 6:30. That’s ten hours. That affords me two hours of baby care and still a good night’s sleep.
You do not have to be running around exhausted as a general rule. You can make sleep a priority.
Get a good start
This goes hand in hand with getting to bed at a good time—waking up before your kids. I hate starting the day feeling like I’m already behind. My goal is to wake up 90 minutes before my kids do. That gives me 30 minutes to take my medicine and exercise, 30 minutes to shower, 30 minutes to read my Bible. That’s my goal.
Of course it doesn’t always happen; this is real life we’re talking about. Right now I’m probably at a 50% rate of success.
I try to have a two-fold approach: 1) have a good plan, and 2) smile and try to be okay with it when the good plan is turned upside-down. I’m feeling a little conspicuous right now because my husband is going to read this and smile because he knows how often my mornings fall apart, and he also knows how indebted I am to him for his help!
|Don't you love our awkward, post-swimming-lesson selfies?|
Keep quiet hours
Being a mom of little ones can feel like working 12 or 16 hour shifts (maybe more, if you have middle-of-the-night duty), seven days a week. That is exhausting.
One of my survival strategies is to aim for one or two hours of quiet time in the early afternoon. Again, that’s my ideal. There was the season when it seemed like my baby was napping at every time except the early afternoon. These days I often have physical therapist appointments in the early afternoon.
But whenever I can, after lunch means we all get a rest. My youngest naps, and my older two either watch a movie or have quiet play time with audio books (separately, because quiet doesn’t happen together these days).
This is healthy for my children. It’s also what I need to recharge from a crazy morning and be ready to jump into the late afternoon and evening. I’m a huge fan of twenty-minute power naps. Quiet time is also when I make grocery lists, plan the schedule, write blog posts, do teaching work, read books. So I’m not necessarily resting—I get a lot done—but it is quiet, focusing work, and it restores me.
So these are my sanity safeguards, the routines I put in place to help me try to stay emotionally healthy in a demanding season of life. Resting in the evening and getting to bed on time. Waking up in the morning and getting a good start before my kids. Keeping afternoon quiet hours.
And speaking of quiet hours, the ones today are ending and it’s back to the craziness!