I hope you all had a great Mother’s Day 🙂 Ours was perfect. We started off the day making some “real deal” chocolate chip waffles with bacon, and ended with seeing our grandparents, picking up my sister from dance rehearsal, and scarfing down some amazing grilled shrimp that I was too hungry to consider taking a picture of.
One day or one weekend to celebrate moms is absolutely not enough, because they are the reason all of our lives are possible. On top of that, they do so much thankless work. Thank them for everything you can think of, because there is always more that goes on behind the scenes.
That being said, we ought to just be able to give moms a rest day, but I know mine always ends up working, even on Mother’s Day. Laundry is still running, and Mom is still full-throttle getting us ready for the week ahead. She’s superhuman.
However, it is possible to incorporate restfulness into even the busiest of days. Whether it’s a yoga session, enjoying a good meal, watching a little TV, or just going to bed early, rest is important to your mental health. We weren’t created to run 24/7, and many moms (like mine) have figured this out.
You’ve probably heard it before, but if you want to be present for others, you need to take care of you. Why not take initiative and incorporate planned rest into your life? In my experience, if you try to be “on” all the time, you’re going to crash. Give yourself the satisfaction of taking breaks, on your own terms.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, probably because they thought the M’s would be cute. May is actually a really good time to think about it, though, because for many of us the school year is coming to a close. Things get really busy, and then they just drop off. If you’re in the busy phase, it’s a great time to consider how you can improve your performance by keeping your mental health strong. If you’ve made it through, congratulations! Allow yourself to relax, and definitely consider de-stressors that you can incorporate into your life when it winds back up again. If life is calm for you, considering your mental health can boost your happiness, help you to care more for others, and just overall make you whole and healthy.
Many say that mental health is just as important as physical health – and I agree. You might work your tail off for a performance, or to look good for an event… but when you get there, can you enjoy it? In our everyday quest to keep our bodies healthy, if we stress ourselves out, we will not succeed. We might make the grade, reach our body goals, or lower our cholesterol, but we are not fully healthy or successful if we are not mentally healthy. Mental health will determine the overall quality of your life. Everything you experience is processed in your brain… the way you interpret life is ultimately what matters.
It’s not just a concept – physical proof of the negative effects of poorly managed stress on the body includes elevated cortisol – a stress hormone that is naturally elevated when we stress the body. Cortisol isn’t all bad – levels go up when we work out hard. It’s essential for performance, but if elevated all day long, it can negatively influence fat storage (more around the middle), among other negative effects. A workout only temporarily spikes cortisol, but not getting enough sleep or being under constant stress can result in chronically high cortisol levels. Additionally, stress itself has been linked to an increase in heart disease! You can do all the healthy things, but if you don’t live life with moderation and allow yourself rest, you could seriously impact your physical health.
Exercise, though it temporarily stresses the body, is good for your mental health because it releases other “feel-good” hormones, like serotonin. Encouraging, not forcing, the body to move will give us the best results. I don’t mean stop if running or lifting is hard- challenge yourself, but don’t work beyond sense. Don’t push exercise to the max if you are feeling drained. Work with your body, not against it.
Being mindful with exercise ties right in with one of my favorite things in the world – mindful eating. Learning to listen to my body’s true needs when it comes to food has been one of the best changes I could ever have made in my life. God gave us hunger and fullness cues, and emotions, for a reason- and it’s our job to listen and nourish ourselves well.
A healthy and varied diet full of good fats, lean protein, whole grains, and colorful fruits and veggies can really make you feel and look your best. And the body is happy. However, food was also meant for celebration! Though I do feel rejuvenated after eating most days, there’s something fulfilling about enjoying a special meal with family. Though my healthiest breakfasts might contain more antioxidants than chocolate chip waffles, those waffles we had yesterday had their own sort of benefit. Happiness, letting go, not caring that they’re full fat and full sugar. Letting yourself enjoy a total splurge is good for the mental state.
The thing is, we don’t have to deserve good food. We don’t deserve anything in life. It’s all a gift. Our bodies are a gift, too.
I have also found that good old fashioned dessert loses its luster if you start feeling “entitled” to it. What’s there to celebrate is you eat this way every day? I say, enjoy healthy food most of the time, and fearlessly indulge when your body needs it. You don’t have to have cake on every occasion, but you should certainly have cake in your life. Or ice cream. Or whatever you love. Structure and groundedness in your diet are good. Making treats healthier is good. But chocolate chip waffle mix from William’s Sonoma is good, too.
And don’t call it a cheat meal. Call it living your life.
To close, here are some of my favorite ways to keep my mind healthy and happy –
- Going to bed early
- Taking walks
- Drinking hot tea ☕️
- Watching the sun rise
- Reading my bible
- Relaxing with friends/ family
- Bubble baths 🛀🏼
These are just examples, and I encourage you to find your own ways to incorporate rest and healthy movement into your lives on a daily basis. Your mind, body, and family will all thank you!