Friday, February 15, 2013

Rest for mom?

I'm about a year behind on reading my magazines, but yesterday I ready "Rest for the Weary" in my Parents magazine, it's from March 2012.

The article gave some good suggestions on getting some quiet breaks during the day. The breaks they suggest are about doing nothing, or just about nothing, and I think that's one thing I don't often think about doing.

The first suggestion was what caught my attention. The article indicated that "people who close their eyes for eight minutes and let their minds wander show measurable brain activity in the area where long-term memories are formed." The plan is once your baby is down for a nap, don't rush to check Facebook or to change the laundry, take 10 minutes and relax on the couch, but be sure to close your eyes while you do it. The point isn't getting a quick nap, even though it might happen, it's to take a few minutes and have some quiet time. I definitely haven't thought about doing this. My thought has always been if I don't have time for a full fledged nap while my daughter is napping, then I better do something productive with my time, or semi-productive and catch up on my computer things, or do the dishes/laundry/clean, etc. But I have started trying to at least lay down on the couch for part of her nap and I have definitely felt better after; rather than if I ran around trying to get everything done.

Scheduling time to unplug was the next suggestion. They used the example of busy professionals, but said that if they can unplug, so can moms. The key was to actually schedule unplug time, and by unplug time they are indicating taking a break from the 24/7 routine or mentality or taking care of everything. I'm definitely terrible at this. I have a constant urge to be present with my daughter. We don't leave her with a babysitter (and by babysitter I mean a family member) very often, and when we do it's been a struggle for me not to feel guilty about it. I even have a hard time letting go when my husband says he would be happy to be with our daughter for a few hours if I wanted to get some things done. This is something I need to work on. I need to realize that a little time to myself isn't selfish. It will actually improve my relationship with my husband and daughter. I need time to relax and recharge.

Doing something restful with your break is a great way to recharge. The suggestion is that it doesn't mean watching TV. Although we think we are relaxing when we catch up on our favorite shows, we are actually stimulating our brain. Even feeling bored is exhausting for your brain. To actually feel rested it is best to focus on doing restful things, they suggest envisioning ocean waves, allowing your thoughts to wander. Another suggestion is to take a quiet walk through nature, if possible. They found that those walking through an urban setting were not as relaxed as those walking along a trail; perhaps the need to pay attention to traffic and cross walks kept the brain on high alert. If you live in a quiet neighborhood, that could also provide you with a good place to walk. Not to mention just getting outside for a few minutes a day is helpful. I was getting out for walks with my daughter during the summer and fall, but now that we are stuck in winter I am too often cooped up in our house.

Finding a balance between what actually needs to be done and those things that can wait. I am terrible at this. Moms sometimes do need to lower the bar and expect less of themselves. If taking care of your baby is all you can accomplish one day, then way to go! You were successful. The article suggests making a "must do" list and a "would like to do" list. The must do items would be buying diapers, or feeding baby. A would like to do item could be cleaning. They do suggest if having a clean house is necessary for you, then delegate some tasks to your spouse (which I am also terrible at). Here is their other suggestion for your must do list:
"What should be on the must list? Aim for one "you" task for each sizable "everybody-else" errand. Things that sustain you personally are vital to your health and well-being, Dr. Domar says. So you may start with "Schedule dentist appointments for kids," but the next item should say "Call a friend." And don't forget exercise: One study at Duke University Medical Center showed that moderate aerobic exercise could be as effective as the antidepressant Zoloft."
The suggestion about exercise is great. I'm still working on fitting that into my life, but I know that it is necessary. I'm working on finding some sort of schedule or routine to my days. I did great in the office when I had a career. I would get into work, I'd go through my tasks for the day, order things out, and get things done. Since becoming a stay at home mom I haven't yet found a way to order my day, because with a baby the day is unpredictable. I think what I should try doing is to set a routine, and allow things to get pushed aside when the baby has other needs. I have read that children actually thrive with routines and schedules, so why am I so hesitant to start one?

The last thing they suggest to help get rest is actually getting enough sleep at night. This is huge for me. I have thoroughly enjoyed my full nights sleep since my daughter has started sleeping through the night. I know it has helped me immensely. But I also know that I'm not always taking advantage of this development. I have a tendency to stay up too late some nights, and that ruins me if she decides to wake up early or even for a midnight snack. I do have a hard time going back to sleep if she cries out in the night, even if I don't need to get her. The article suggests turning your alarm clock away from you so you don't focus on how the time has passed and you haven't been sleeping. They also suggest focusing on your breathing to help you relax and clear your mind (use your hypnobirthing relaxation training!). Actually planning to get in bed at a bedtime is a great idea. My husband and I often spend too much time watching TV at night, and end staying up too late. The better option would be to set a limit, and then take time to get ready for bed, by reading books, or chatting. That way we wouldn't be so stressed to get to bed right away because we've already stayed up too late.

Life isn't going to be as it was before children for a long time. I think as a mom we have a hard time accepting that. Even though I would never trade having my daughter to go back to my career and "other life," there definitely are times that I get discouraged and see that I need more rest or me time. I need to remember that although my daughter is everything to me, I can't forget about myself. I am better able to care for her when I am rested and relaxed. Me time isn't selfish. It is now just a matter of doing it!

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