To say 2020 tested everyone's mental health would be an understatement. Yet and still, I am proud of how I managed to overcome all of the challenges that came my way, by the grace of God. One of the major ways I protected my mental health was by creating stronger boundaries in my interpersonal relationships, and being far more selective about what I consumed.
Before having my son, I made myself available to everyone. I was almost too accessible. As the bible says, "the man of many companions, quickly comes to ruin." I attribute a great deal of my going into premature labor to giving too much of myself to everyone and not enough to myself.
Today, as a working mom and business owner, I am careful about what I give my energy to and when. Getting off-balance in any arena of my life can be detrimental to all areas. This being said, I don't subscribe to the notion that "balance" is juggling all balls in the air at all times. On the contrary, in the past year, balance for me has meant making tough decisions about precisely which balls I would drop, when, and why.
I've earned the distinct privilege of being called "selfish", "stuck up" and even "prideful" by some folks I used to hang out with and I am super duper excited about it. Why? Do you ask? Well, for a recovering captain-save-a h*e who made everyone's problem THEIR problem, deciding to focus on my life, goals, family, and dreams has done me well. I made tough choices about where I would draw the line with work, church, friends, extended family, and in exchange, I recentered myself and rediscovered my true calling. I regret nothing. Making tough choices not only helped me achieve my goals, but they also helped me protect my sanity, especially as a mother with a child who has complex needs.
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Here are five ways I protected my mental health in 2020 as a special needs mom:
1. I stopped giving my time to friends who added more drama than joy to my life
I come from a family of eight that is never lacking in fun, excitement, and drama. We all have big personalities. To preserve my mental health, I have to be quite selective about when I engage my mom, siblings, father, and just about everyone related to me. Being emotionally and mentally available for my son can be VERY taxing. It is a lot of work. By the time I am done engaging my son and the complexities of his life and caretakers, I only have room for edifying relationships. Once it becomes too exhausting, I have to bow out so the rest of my life doesn't suffer.
2. I didn't watch horror flicks
Honestly, I've had enough real-life trauma between my childhood and adult life that I can straight skip Law and Disorder SUV (or whatever it's called). I only watch films that spark joy and feed the good feelings in my life at this point. Give me more predictable hallmark specials, Mr. Macaroni, and Nigerian movies, please.
3. I didn't watch the news.
It's all bad. All the time. I read my news instead of watching endless arguments and speculation on news channels that promote anxiety by giving us the worst possible scenario in twenty different ways. I'm not fond of the way news is sensationalized in the U.S., and I don't need it. Just the facts, please.
4. I took lots of baths with soothing music
I wish I did a better job of taking care of myself, ya'll. I've decided 2021 is my year of self-care. The pains, body aches, and PTSD triggered insomnia have to go. So does this extra weight I've put on stress eating. In the meanwhile. I am religious about my Epsom salt baths ( and vitamins AND green pressed juices). It has been fantastic.
5. I stayed away from spaces and people who like strife.
At this point, I have made a clean sweep of my life, phone lists, friends-lists, email lists, and just about every "list" I could get my hands on. If I sense a bad vibe, I trust my intuition and remove myself. All in all, I like my life drama free when I can help it. I also resign to stepping away from unnecessarily stressful interactions for roles that don't pay me. I'm not about to have high blood pressure in the name of any position, better yet, a volunteer one.
When you see me loving, living, and healing in these streets, know that I made some tough choices to prune my life of anything that no longer served me. It makes life awkward some days when you have the occasional FOMO, but the exchange for peace of mind and a quiet life is well worth it.
How do you plan to protect your mental health in 2021? Let us know in the comments below.