Let’s be honest – the pressures of being a wife and mom can sometimes be tough to handle. OK, maybe not sometimes – ALL the time! You’re responsible for so much. Cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, managing schedules, taking care of your sick kids (and husband!). You make sure everyone has what they need every single day. You’re the glue that holds your family together. But, what happens when that glue just isn’t sticking as well as it used to? When you have our own issues or illnesses to deal with? What if mommy’s not OK?
I’ve had my share of personal struggles, while still having to be “mom”. One of the toughest times was probably in my first marriage. I was in the midst of medical school, busy and stressed out. I was so focused on surviving studying and exams, that I didn’t know anything about the lies, deceit, and secrets I eventually uncovered. Then came the drama of divorce, a new relationship, criticisms surrounding my new pregnancy, and whispers behind my back (even from friends).
But, I also had two young children I had to stay strong for. I had to go about my everyday as if everything was OK, and still put a smile on my face – even if it was just for them. I had to cover up the tears, the pain because they still needed their mommy. Some days I didn’t even want to get out of bed. Didn’t want to go to class. The hurt was more than I could handle by myself at the time. It was a low point for me, but you’d never know it from the outside looking in.
And I know I’m not alone.
One in five women will experience depression at some point in their lives. Depression is more likely for us women with young children. I’ve spoken to so many women who have survived tough relationships, and still had to raise their children through it. Women with major losses in their life. Women who have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc – who still push through and meet the needs of their families. But, sometimes the pressure is too much. Covering up the hurt and just putting a smile on your face is never the best long-term solution. Eventually it can cause you to break down and your family to fall apart.
10 Tips to Help
So, how do you prevent that from happening?
1. Stay in touch with your team
If you have a medical diagnosis (whether mental of physical), it’s so important to stay on top of it. Stick to the plan that’s laid out for you – whether it’s therapy, medications, etc. Don’t be afraid to seek out the help that you need. And don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something. You have to be your own personal advocate.
2. Keep trusted family members and friends close
Many times, your family members will be the first ones to point out that something’s wrong. You may not be able to see it yourself. If the people you trust are telling you that you seem anxious, paranoid, or sad – listen to them. Don’t get stuck in denial. Don’t be ashamed. You’re not alone. Identifying that there is a problem is the first step towards getting the help you need.
3. Don’t be afraid to let go
If you find yourself in a toxic relationship or friendship, don’t hesitate to let it go. If the person is more of a burden than a help to you, let them know that you need your space. It’s hard to get ahead if you have someone who’s constantly adding to your “issues” list.
4. Rely on your village
Too often, I get stuck in the mindset of having to “do it all”. I don’t ask for help with my kids, because I feel like I should be able to do it all myself. Believe me – that never turns out great. It’s amazing how many friends and family members are willing to help with your kids, household tasks, and just about anything you may need. A lot of people don’t want to intrude, but are so willing to help if you just ask. My life is a whole lot easier when I delegate and take a few things off my plate.
5. Make yourself a priority
Your mental and physical health is so important! It’s so easy to get wrapped up in caring for everyone else that You forget to care for yourself. But, the reality is that we, as women, are no good to anyone else if we aren’t well ourselves. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup! So stay focused on YOU. Carve out time in your day to do something you enjoy. Even if it’s just quiet time for 15 minutes. It’s amazing what a difference that time makes.
Of course exercise has a ton of physical benefits. But it can also do wonders for your mental health. Just going for a quick walk or run can be a huge stress-reliever.
7. Stay grounded spiritually
It can be tough to focus on spirituality when you’re going through a rough time. But, that’s the time when it’s most important! No matter your spiritual beliefs, prayer or meditation can bring a sense of peace that you can’t really find anywhere else. As a Christian, I’m a firm believer that God doesn’t give us more than He thinks we can handle. So, if you have the issue – you’re strong enough to crush it!
8. Practice gratitude on a regular basis
Remember you have so much to be grateful for. Even in times of loss, there’s so much more around us that we can focus on and appreciate. Try your best to focus on the good in your life to bring a smile to your face. Even if things look bad right now, sit back and think about all the positive memories you’ve had. Don’t get stuck worrying about or focusing on the bad that’s in your face right now.
9. Use your kids as motivation
I’ve had to do this at so many stages of my life. Deep down, you want to be a good example for your kids. You want to create a positive, happy home. But, this is so hard when you’ve got your own inner struggles going on. In a lot of homes, us moms tend to set the tone. I’ve realized that when I’m upbeat and playful, I’m able to pull that out of my kids – even if they’re having a bad day. When I’m grouchy, stressed, and irritated, I can see the same in my kids.
Moms with untreated mental illnesses can end up doing so much harm to their kids – Actually traumatizing them and leaving emotional scars without even knowing it. Then the cycle just continues. So, stay strong for your kids. Raise them into awesome adults. Use them as your motivation to keep pushing through and smiling everyday. If you have no other motivation to get up everyday – look at your kids!
10. Look at the bright side
No matter what you’re going through, remember that you’re coming out of all of this stronger, smarter, and with more will-power than you had when you went in. Every experience is for a reason. There’s a lesson in everything. You just have to figure out the purpose of your trials, learn from them, and keep moving.
Believe me, I get it. None of this is easy. When you’re pulled in so many different directions and relied on by so many different people, it can be EXTREMELY overwhelming. Especially when you have a personal crisis on top of your everyday responsibilities. It’s so easy to neglect yourself until you get to your breaking point and it’s too late. So, please don’t let that happen! Reach out and get the help you need. Try your best to stay positive. You can do this!
Petra K. McEwan, MD is a practicing Pediatrician in South Florida. Besides taking care of her hubby and 5 kids, she’s enjoys dancing, going to the beach, and taking long naps. Her website is http://www.wifeymommydoc.com and she can be followed on Instagram @wifeymommydoc