Since 1949, the US has recognized May as Mental Health Awareness Month. Did you know that one in five Americans lives with a mental health condition, and one in six youth (ages 6-17) experience a mental health disorder every year? * As it relates to mothers, approximately 1 in 8 experience some form of post-partum depression. **
Fortunately, times are changing, and the topic of mental health is not as taboo as it once was. People today tend to be more comfortable discussing their mental health, which is helping to remove the stigma and open the door for more candid, regular conversations on the topic.
It’s a wonderful thing.
Approaching this from the lens of a mother, our mental health can often take a backseat to the needs of our children, our partners, and the daily pressures this busy season of life brings. I can remember sobbing to our pediatrician at my youngest child’s 4-week visit – he would not stop crying (hello colic), he wouldn’t let anyone else hold him, my toddler was struggling, and I had broken my foot shoveling snow (Minnesota sucks). I was not coping. Our ped looked at me and said, “I’m not worried about your baby. He will grow out of the colic. I am worried about you.” He promptly called my OB who helped me navigate those early days of postpartum depression and get me the help I needed. It was the kindest thing anyone did for me during those days, and I know I’m lucky to have gotten help early and fast.
In honor of taking an intentional pause to reflect on our mental health this May, our team at Orlando Mom Collective got together to answer the question: What does mental health mean to you?
I have struggled with control of my mental health for years. Riddled with anxiety, it is WORK for me to be in a “good mental health” space. I have a strict self-care routine that helps me, and I firmly believe in food as medicine, so I live by an 80/20 rule and try to nourish my body, which has a positive effect on my mental health. I take time for myself daily and I’ve gotten very comfortable talking about this so I can reach out to friends for support. The stigma around mental health is crazy and we need to smash it. Mental Health is TRUE health. We can’t have healthy bodies, families, relationships, or life without focusing on mental health.
My mental health is best when I’ve drank enough water and eaten three balanced meals, moved my body in some way that is enjoyable to me, gotten some sunshine, taken a hot shower, communicated with a friend about non mom-related things and gotten lost in a good book. I find that if I can do all those things in a day, I sleep better, I’m happier and I feel less flustered with whatever shenanigans my girls pull. I’ve also gotten better at speaking up when I need half an hour along to collect myself and get to feeling better.
To me, mental health is just as important as physical health. We prioritize exercise and other things for our physical body, so why wouldn’t we give the same time and attention to our mental well-being? I am happiest and healthiest when I’ve incorporated some physical movement into my day, when I’ve had a productive day at work with my peers, and when I’ve spent quality time with my kids. Like Allison, I’ve gotten better at speaking up when I need a break and I’m working hard to establish boundaries to limit distractions that do not serve the needs of myself or my family.
Mental health as a mom means that I’m in the right headspace to be present for my husband and kids. I prioritize my mental health by working out in any way possible – by myself. When I’m with the kids, I’m with them. I also prioritize mental health by making sure I have my coffee every morning and eating properly throughout the day. I think of two things when thinking about mental health as a mom: 1) The on-flight demonstration of putting on your mask first and then helping someone else with theirs – you can’t help others if you can’t breathe first. 2) James 2:8 – “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.”
Do not be afraid of stigma or what people will think. Carve out time for self-care, and don’t neglect things that are important to you, like that mammogram or parent/teacher conference.
We want to hear from you! What does mental health mean to you as a mother?
*source: Mental Health By the Numbers | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness