It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with depression during difficult periods in the past. My new revelation is that since this past spring, I have been medication-free. It took a few weeks to wean off the prozac, but knowing I can be fine without the drug makes me feel more in control of my body, somehow. For many people, medication can be absolutely necessary and there may be a time when I resume, but for now I am trying other methods to keep the blues away. In order to maintain good mental health, I’ve made a few things in my life a priority. Living in the northern hemisphere, these steps can be hard to maintain once November hits. These seven tricks are paramount to how I fight the winter blues, and I hope they help you as well!
Since September I’ve been on a health kick. For once, I enrolled myself in activities while I did registrations for the kids. It is time for some overdue self-care. And like my dear Grandmother would have said – if I don’t have an hour a few times a week to take care of my body, then my life is out of whack. Balancing yoga, barre and Zumba classes have been a delight instead of a chore, and I have been feeling stronger, more toned, and best of all – more positive. Grandmothers are always right.
What I was eleven years old, I went to the bathroom and discovered that my underwear had blood in it. I called my Mom, who opened the bathroom door, looked at what happened, and then asked, “Did that come from YOU?”
(I’m not sure where else she thought that would come from.)
There’s more to me than being a mom. Or at least, there used to be. I had a kick-ass job in which I got to travel the world and into dangerous countries. I have been to Iraq, Afghanistan, Qatar, Oman, Russia, Colombia, and further afield. I’ve lived long periods of time in France and Germany. I speak French quite well. I know how to shoot guns and how to (basically) survive in the woods. (I wouldn’t really want to test those skills, but I’d like to think if the Zombie Apocalypse ever came upon us, I could kick ass and take names with the best of them.)
But I might have been the only person in my life who cared about those things. My new mom-centric world consisted of helping my son complete his 30 Day FREE Coding Challenge, getting snacks and more snacks for my daughter, teaching my youngest how to swim, separating and referee-ing arguments, monitoring screen time (and did I say getting snacks?) These somewhat mundane tasks, added to housework, meal prep, and so forth, left me with little time for me. For remembering who I was and exploring who I would or could still be.
You know that warm, tingly feeling you get when you’re sitting on the couch watching tv in super soft flannel pjs and you’re just starting to get tired? When you yawn and stretch before padding upstairs in fluffy slippers and you slide into bed and slip immediately into a deep sleep? Well, it’s usually not me feeling those feels. It’s usually someone I’m watching on tv as my sleep deprived brain whispers, “that person is about to have the best sleep of their life.”
But things have changed.
I did not want to get up this morning. My hand shot out from under the sheets to slap my alarm with lightning fast reflexes while the rest of me grumbled and groaned, pleading with the universe for just five more minutes. I wrestled with the snooze button a few more times before I finally dragged myself out of the bed. As soon as my feet hit the floor, my dog hopped up, literally wiggling with joy, and ran to the door; ready to start her day. She ran outside and stood for a moment, breathing in the cool, crisp air. I watched her bounce through the grass, eager to do her business then come back inside. She trotted in and ran right to me, pushing her body into mine so I would scratch her behind her ear–her favourite spot. Putting breakfast into her bowl, she gulped it down, not leaving a single crumb, not worried about calories.
Suddenly I realized–she is happy all the time. She doesn’t mope if she doesn’t get her way, she doesn’t pout or whine. She isn’t constantly looking for more, she is content the way she is. It hit me: maybe dogs also figure out life seven times faster than we do.
It’s true. On the surface, I do look very much like your typical crunchy-granola attachment parent. I breastfeed, make my own baby food, buy organic, wear the babies, redirect rather than punish (or try, at least), and even do a little bed sharing. Letting my baby cry it out would be the last thing a mom like me would do.
You might assume I’d be one of those moms who pops up in your Facebook newsfeed, all sanctimommy in my choice of shares, doling out judgment and unsolicited advice—but you’d be wrong. You won’t find me mom-shaming anywhere. My philosophy is ‘we’re all in this together.’ And try as I might, living with my headstrong 3 ½ year old daughter leads to considerably more yelling and empty threats than I ever thought would be in my mommy wheelhouse.
So you’re thinking about starting a family. And you’re trying to start a family. And trying. And trying. And you’re at the point where, if one more person tells you to “relax” so “it will just happen”, you might lose your S@#* completely.
You’re thinking about seeing a doctor, or you’ve seen one, or three. The idea of IVF has come up. Or maybe it’s come up for your sister, or your best friend. You have questions, but you have no one to ask. You’re scared it won’t work, you can’t afford it, that it’s going ‘too far’. You hate needles. You’ve begun to wonder if there’s a deeper, cosmic reason you can’t have a baby. There are countless reasons why it’s impossible to even try. And then you suddenly start to feel like you’re just done with it all.
How do you react to stressful situations? I will be the first to admit that my anxiety is clearly linked to my inability to effectively manage my emotions during stress. I am famous for catastrophizing and overreacting. Growing up, I was always known as the one who would freak out all the time. Today, I know that I just needed to develop my emotional intelligence. It doesn’t come naturally and it’s something I will continue to work on throughout my life, but if I can give my children these tools much earlier on in life, I hope that they won’t have to freak out as much as I did.
We had a ‘family movie night’ today. It’s really an excuse to eat while watching a film, snuggle together on the sofa and glance at each other over jokes and sad bits. Some of the closest moments I have exchanged with the kids were during these fun nights, and as we flicked through the offerings today – Disney Planes on Netflix was a unanimous YES!!
Planes centres on Dusty the crop duster, who dreams of flying in a race around the world. But in order to qualify, he has to overcome his fear of heights.
We look forward to summer break at our house. It is a time when we cut down on activities and well… just, “be.” It never seems to fail though, a week after school lets out, the kids are complaining about being bored. My co-author and her kids came up with a list of ideas to do at their house. This isn’t a list of intricate crafts, projects or extravagant destinations—it’s a simple list. In fact, it’s a list of things that quite often, I forget are an option.
Checking off a couple of her list items, I realized that it’s easy to do fun things with kids, because all they want is our time. If we are there, present, in the moment and playing with them, they’re happy. So I decided to make a second simple list of some of the greatest things that you might consider doing with your kids this summer.
What is it to be ‘good’? Does it matter why people practice kindness? My grandmother told me to be kind for religious reasons. Some people may want to make up for a misspent past, while others just want others to be happier and make the world a better place than it was yesterday.