This is a guest post by Katherine Stone. She created and writes Postpartum Progress. Katherine is also BlogHer.com’s ongoing guest contributor for the topic of PPD. She was the winner of the 2010 Bloganthropy Award, as well as a Fit Pregnancy magazine 2010 Best of the Web Award. Follow her on Twitter at @postpartumprogr.
5 minutes. I hardly ever have five free minutes. I get up at 7, get my kids dressed and fed, and we’re out the door by 7:30. Back home by 8:30 and immediately to work answering emails, writing posts for my blog Postpartum Progress, advocating for women with postpartum depression nonstop. The alarm on my phone goes off at 3pm, telling me to stop what I’m doing and go pick my kids up from school.
During the 6 hours or so that I’m working, I don’t even think I take a total of five minutes for myself. After that comes the afternoon and evening routine. The authors of the book Life Will Never Be The Same: The Real Mom’s Postpartum Survival Guide, Diane Sanford and Ann Dunnewold, have recently conducted what they call the 21-day Self Care Challenge, aimed at getting mothers to commit to spending small amounts of time each day to take care of their needs . I asked them to share three of their quickest, easiest and best actions moms can take for their emotional health. Here is what they said:
1. Be Still and Breathe
Close your eyes and tune into your breathing. Take three to five minutes—set the timer on your phone or watch the second hand on a clock. Breathe in to the count of 5, holding for a couple seconds and then breathe out to the count of 5. Feel your abdomen rise and fall. Follow the breath, in your nose, down through your lungs and abdomen, out again. If a thought strays in, let it go. Focus your attention on your heart beating steadily, helping your breath spread calm and warmth through your body. Repeat 2-3 times today. Practice this mantra: “I always have my breath to de-stress.”
2. Take Credit for What you DID do
If you are like most women, you have an endless “to do” list—and probably tally what is left undone each day. Tonight before you lie down make a “Did Do” list. Maybe you finished a project. Maybe you got all three kids fed, clothed and shuttled to their appropriate venues with minutes to spare. Answered 50% of your emails? Changed six diapers? Count the invisible acts as well. Remember, small things count equally—if not more! Give yourself credit for the grocery clerk you managed to make smile, the boo-boos you kissed away and hugs you hugged. Practice this mantra: “I DID many things today that do count.”
3. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is the emotion of thankfulness and joy when we are given a gift. Everyone from the Dalai Lama to Oprah recommends that we count our daily blessings as a way to enrich our lives. Research has shown that keeping a gratitude journal improves mood, and in the long run, buffers against illness. Before you crawl into bed today, you only need a pen and scrap of paper. What are you thankful for? Health, sleep, a hug, a smile, a roof over your head, the sunshine. Write it down. Breathe it in. Let it guide you to sweet dreams. Practice this mantra: “My life has gifts galore to savor.”
My Favorite Gratitude Exercise
As I lay in bed I do what I call the “gratitude alphabet”. I think of each letter of the alphabet and a person, thing or experience that starts with that letter for which I am grateful. I usually never get past N before I fall asleep.
I’m not going to lie and say that I’m going to commit lots of time to caring for myself. Some moms are great at that. They do yoga, they meditate, get a massage, make time with friends, go for daily walks, whatever. I’m not. I’ve got a lot going on and I just don’t have the time to accomplish everything I’d like. Perhaps today, though, you and I can start with baby steps. Just 5 minutes.