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Many of us are suddenly finding ourselves staying at home with our kids to follow social distancing guidelines. I know you love your children just as I love mine, so this time together really can be viewed as a blessing. Nevertheless, it can also be really hard being with your own children 24/7.
Having a history as a stay-at-home mom of young kids, my golden rule has always been to get out of the house and to socialize. That could be a playdate with a friend, a trip to the zoo, or storytime at the library.
Clearly, we are in different times, and doing those things are not an option right now. So what can we do to protect our emotional well-being and keep ourselves mentally healthy?
How do we keep from going bananas?
Well, I’m right there in the trenches with you. Some days are great and others are a struggle from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed. I have 4 kids at home with me right now. A 4-year-old boy, a tween daughter, and two teenaged boys. And I’m an introvert who needs a fair amount of peace and stillness to thrive. Needless to say, it feels crazy and overwhelming often.
The best days take some real effort, and I know the things that make them work. The things that turn a potentially out-of-control day into one that feels like a success.
So I’ve collected a list of habits that any of us can incorporate into our daily routines. Think of them as acts of self-care, because that’s really what it is. These simple actions made into habits can work wonders for your mental health any time, but particularly during these difficult and stressful times we find ourselves in now.
Take what works for you and your family dynamic, and feel free to leave the rest. But whatever you do, make sure you make yourself a top priority. The well-being of everyone else in your family depends on it!
How To Practice Self-Care When You Stay At Home With The Kids
#1 Keep a Journal
This is one of the easiest ways to keep things in perspective, release pent up frustration, or simply to document your days. Letting your thoughts and emotions pour out onto paper can be incredibly therapeutic. If you are new to journaling, it might seem a little strange at first, but will soon feel more comfortable.
I have a simple blank, lined journal that I write in. You can find many options on Amazon or Target online.
Another great option for journaling is to keep a Gratitude journal. I have this one. A gratitude journal is where you write about things you are grateful for. No complaining or venting in this type of journal!
So, yes, I have both a regular journal and a gratitude journal. I like to keep the gratitude all on it’s own, so that when I go back though it, it’s completely focusing on positive things. But that’s just me.
#2 Nourish your body
Obvious, yes. But still. Your body can’t function properly if it’s dehydrated. So get your 6-8 glasses per day, at minimum.
Consider Herbal Supplements
I recently read the book Moodtopia that I received in the most recent Earthlove subscription box. The author, a master herbalist and homeopath, goes into great depth on how herbs can help support aspects of mental health like mood stability and overall sense of calm.
For about a month now, I’ve been taking several herbs to support my overall mental health, and it has helped noticeably. A few droppers of tincture into a bit of water twice a day and I feel more like myself and less like a stressed-out mom.
Take A Multivitamin
Taking a good multivitamin is also really important. This is especially true right now when shopping for a variety of fresh foods is not as easy as it is normally. Multivitamins will help fill in the gaps of what your diet might be lacking.
Eat A Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is possible, though. It just takes a little more planning and thought. Try and make sure you are getting plenty of fruits and vegetables every day. I’m finding that with infrequent shopping trips, frozen produce is the easiest way to make sure I’m getting enough. When you do buy fresh fruit like apples and oranges, storing it in the refrigerator will help extend its shelf-life.
Exercise is something you can do for yourself that will make a big difference in how you feel. As you know, working out boosts your endorphins which in turn makes you feel good and lifts your mood.
That is reason enough, if you ask me. But besides that, a little bit of exercise each day is an act of self-care. Just taking a bit of time for yourself. And we all deserve that.
Exercising at home can take a lot of different forms. There are a ton of free exercise classes online and fitness apps that you can follow along with. You can also subscribe to various workout programs and do those from home.
But if you don’t want to do something so structured, you can simply jumprope, do some bodyweight exercises (like squats, planks, and leg lifts) or go for a walk or run.
#4 Carve out some alone time
I know this might sound impossible, and believe me, I know how hard it is to get some alone time when you’re home with kids. I personally struggle a lot with this. But it’s really important for your mental health to have even short breaks.
Here are a few ideas.
- Take advantage of naptime, if your kids still nap. Take the time to do something you can’t do while they’re awake. Watch a favorite TV show, do a craft, take a bath…just take the time for you. Chores can wait.
- Talk to your kids if they’re old enough. Tell them that you need some time to yourself and set up a reward and a timer. If they leave you for the set period of time, maybe they get a popsicle or you all play a favorite game together. Of course, make sure they’re within earshot so you can ensure their safety during your break.
- Make a sign for your door, if your kids are tweens and teens. Something like “Mom’s Time: Please don’t disturb unless there’s an emergency.” A lot of times, something concrete like a written sign is more effective with adolescents than verbal instructions/explanations.
- Lean on your partner, if you can. I know we are all in different circumstances. If not a partner, maybe you have a family member or a friend who can relieve you for a short time. Regardless of who it is, try to have someone you can call when things get tedious. Find someone who will stay with your kids for 30 minutes while you take a shower, read a book, or go for a short walk.
#5 Listen to music or podcasts
For the past several weeks, my Airpods have seriously been such a lifesaver. Since I can’t just step away and listen to a podcast or music any time I want with a 4-year-old around, I can just pop my Airpods in while he is playing in the same room as me and multitask while I fold laundry or put dishes away. I like that they are not noise-cancelling so I can still hear if my kids ask me something or need help.
Here are a few ideas of things you might like to listen to.
- Your favorite music
- TED Talks
- Parenting Podcasts (and more parenting podcasts)
- Best Audiobooks in 2020
- Recent recorded church services
#6 Have reading hour
Try setting a certain time of day to be reading hour for everyone. This can include you, or not.
Reading is obviously a great mental escape without having to physically go anywhere, so reading a good book can really do wonders for your mental health.
And if your kids aren’t old enough to read on their own, reading a great book aloud to them can be fun for everyone.
Another option is to take advantage of Amazon’s free kids’ offerings with a 30-day Audible trial and let your children listen to books being read to them.
Having your kids all read quietly for an hour might afford you the time to do something else, uninterrupted, and that is just as important. So set up your reading hour whichever way suits you the best.
#7 Go outside
A change of scenery from the same old 4 walls in your house is another way to nurture your mental health. If weather permits, get outside. Take the kids with you. Depending on the season, you can:
- Start a veggie garden
- Plant some flowers
- Play catch with your child
- Play tag or another outdoor game
- Go for a walk
- Fly a kite
- Explore outside
- Go on an outdoor scavenger hunt
- Simply sit outside and listen. Take in the quiet.
- Read outside
#8 Establish a Daily Schedule
When you’re home constantly, your days aren’t broken up by scheduled events like school pickups and dropoffs, practice schedules, and doctor appointments. This means that if your day is going to have any structure, it needs to come from you.
Child experts agree that structure and consistency are good for kids. In fact, they thrive on structure and consistency. In these times that are stressful and unprecedented, even for us as adults, implementing some structure into every day can help make everyone feel a little more in control. And as a result, it can help the days go by more smoothly.
A simple schedule printed out with loose guidelines for the different times of day will make a big difference. Canva is a good resource for creating your own schedule. Or you can just write it out.
If you have a toddler or preschooler at home, check out how I use a visual schedule for activities for my 4-year-old. You’ll find a free printable of the activity cards I use with him in that post.
#9 Give your kids activities to do
A chore list each morning, if your child is preschool-aged or older, is a great tool to keep kids contributing to the household as well as lightening your load.
You might also give them art projects to do or learning assignments. Crafting is fun for kids of any age. Think of things that do not require your constant participation, like chalk art outside, puzzles, collage-making, or building something out of Legos.
The idea is to keep them busy in a productive way so that they are doing their own thing for periods of time. This way, you can do your own thing, too, and hopefully have a moment to yourself.
#10 Facetime/Zoom/Skype with your family that doesn’t live with you
This is for anyone who might be missing the regular face-to-face interaction with grandparents, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, or kids who are grown and flown.
Video-streamed conversations is going to be the new norm for awhile. Embrace it, help your loved ones get over their fear of technology if needed, and start those video talks. The benefit to everyone involved might be more than you even realize.
#11 Play with your kids
This is at the end of my list for a reason. I really believe that to be at your best as a mom, you’ve got to first take care of yourself emotionally and physically. But, once you’ve managed to get a little time to yourself and recharge, playing with your kids in an intentional way can be super rewarding.
Here are a few ideas.
- color together
- paint together
- play a game
- do yoga
- build a fort
- watch a movie
- read a book aloud
- play a video game
Connecting with your kids can only help with your own feelings of isolation and will absolutely feed your kids’ souls, too.
Stay Strong, Mama.
Staying home with your kiddos is a blessing but it might also be the most mentally challenging thing you ever do. Every mom who has ever been there knows that, so remind yourself that you’re not alone.
What do you find the most challenging thing about staying home with kids? Do you have things that help you keep it together on a daily basis? Leave me a comment below!
If you like the ideas I talked about in this post, here’s a printable checklist you can use as a daily reminder. Once you download it, you can check the boxes right on your phone, so you don’t even have to print it out.