Mental health is just as important as physical health, but something that isn't spoken about as often. In a world full of business meetings, play dates, chores and making sure everyone else is okay, we can forget The Importance Of "Me Time". That can have a huge impact on our mental health.
Before Avery came along (Avery is our 6 month old daughter to anyone new to the blog), I had so much time to myself. Before Dave joined the blog full-time, I was at home alone for most of the day. Although I was working, I was alone and I actually enjoyed my own company.
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Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change my current situation for the world. I love having Dave and Avery around all day, every day. But, anyone that has children knows that the moment that they arrive, you almost lose a part of yourself and you forget what it is like to do anything for yourself.
It has been 6 months since I have had any real "me time", and I haven't really wanted to. I am a first time parent and I have loved being in our new family bubble. Avery is a bit older now and becoming more independent. That means it's time for me to start looking after myself again and having some more me time.
So, when AXA PPP set me a challenge to add some more me time in to my routine, I jumped at the chance. We have been through a challenging few weeks with Avery. She is going through some separation anxiety and she has been on me, or laying next to me for 24 hours a day. Again, I don't want to complain as I know how blessed I am, but not even being able to go to the toilet alone for a couple of weeks really gets to you after a while.
So, I have made it my mission for the past week to have some more me time. As I say, Dave and I both work from home and of course Avery adores her Daddy, so I can make the most of that and let them have Daddy/Daughter time and I can try to relax a bit more. #MeTime is AXA PPP healthcare’s third #TRYit challenge (the first being #CaffeineCurfew, whereby people pledged to go caffeine-free after 2pm for four weeks and the second #Walk30, encouraging people to walk for 30 minutes, five times a week).
#MeTime encourages people to set aside time to practise mindfulness for 4 weeks (even if for 10 minutes), with the aim of helping manage everyday stress, gain a more positive outlook and enjoy the present more. Why is "me time" so important? Research shows that one in four of us will experience some kind of mental health problem in their life. So, we have teamed up with AXA PPP healthcare to help you handle some of those problems. Making an effort to enjoy some extra "Me Time" will help you to be more resilient, which will put you in a much better position to handle life's little challenges.
Here are some of the things, along with practising mindfulness, that I've been doing to enjoy some more me time. Perhaps you can incorporate some of them into your routine, and enjoy more alone time in between the everyday chaos.
I like to think I stayed fairly active whilst I was pregnant and I actually think that charging round a Lake when I was overdue was what put me in to labour! Since baby has arrived however, the workouts have been non existent. Don't get me wrong, lifting a 16lb baby (now, not when born - phew!) up and down and constant games of peek-a-boo can be pretty tiring, but I missed going running or power waking.
I always said that running was my therapy. A time when I could just put my headphones in and run out all the tension and I missed that. Having a year long break from running has set me back to the beginning and running is now power walking, but I love it. Never underestimate the benefits of walking, and it's something that pretty much everyone can do - no equipment needed.
Part of the AXA PPP healthcare challenge was to practise mindfulness, and this can be done whilst out for a walk. Head over to the previous link to learn all about how to walk mindfully. It might seem a little strange at first, but walking a few steps, then stopping to focus and breathe and then walking again and focusing on every movement was really great for me. It helped me to just be in the moment and block out everything else. That was actually really relaxing.
A Relaxing Bath
I was never really a bath person, but during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy I was having a relaxing bath every night. Everything ached! I was stressed due to various potential complications, and it was some nice bonding time for me and bump. Dave would light some candles for me and he even made me relaxing bath playlist (which randomly included a Christmas). It was perfect!
But, having a newborn didn't leave much time for relaxing baths so once Avery arrived they were no longer part of my routine. I have started introducing them again. Even if it is just 15-20 minutes, I can shut the door and block everything out, but still knowing that I am not far away if I am needed. Bliss!
I went from reading university books, to reading business books, to reading labour, baby and parenting books. If you asked me what the last book I read for pleasure was (and actually finished), it was probably Da Vinci Code. Yes, it's been that long.
Sometimes you just want to read something a bit trashy. Something that you don't have to concentrate too hard on or learn anything from. So, once or twice a week, I spend 30 minutes on the sofa whilst Dave takes Avery out for a walk. I read something purely for pleasure whilst enjoying a cup of tea.
Once you have a child, no food is every your own again. Actually, I should be used to that having lived with Dave for 16 years. But even at just 6 months old, Avery's grabby little hands are reaching for my plate. Every meal time is a battle to just get something in my mouth!
The past week I had a breakfast and a lunch by myself, in silence, and it was amazing. No TV, no conversation no one trying to swipe something off my plate. The best part of it was being able to focus on the act of eating and enjoying my food slowly. Not just shovelling it down my throat before it ends up on the floor.
The way that we eat is so important for having a healthy relationship with food, so being able to savour a meal was a bit of a luxury.
Do Something Creative
Cooking and photography is a creative outlet for me, but that is mostly for work so I can't count it as me time really. So, I wanted to have something else that I could focus on. I started knitting about 2 years ago and I have been knitting the same "blanket" ever since. Well, I say "blanket", because I have no idea where I am going with it! If all else fails, it can just be a blanket!
I have picked it up again and each evening in front of the TV I do a little bit. Having a baby can sometimes mean you get to the end of the day and wonder what you have been doing all day. Of course you have been caring for a baby and that does take up the whole day, but there is nothing to actually show for it. Apart from, hopefully, a smiling face. Having something creative to do meant that I had a little something to show for my day. That really helped with my mental health.
I know a lot of people will be reading this and either think they don't have the time, or it is selfish as a parent to take time for yourself. But, it's all about making time (of course, there are exceptions) and knowing that it isn't selfish to look after yourself and your mental health. If you don't look after yourself, how are you going to be healthy enough to look after anyone else?
It doesn't have to be hours every day. Just 5 minutes here or there to take a breather and do something for YOU makes the world of difference.
You can also read some stress relieving tips in our post How To Reduce Stress.
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**This The Importance Of "Me Time" post was commissioned by AXA PPP healthcare. All opinions are my own**