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How #SanityWalks Help Me Parent Without Losing My Mind

I took this during a #sanitywalk last fall.

Most days, I go for a walk. I live near a small lake, and the loop around it is about two miles long. I listen to audiobooks or podcasts, and I usually stop somewhere along the route and take a picture or two. My favorite images end up on my Instagram account with the hashtag #SanityWalk.

These walks help me stay sane.

Before I became a mother, I was an organized, type-A, get-things-done kind of person. I got into a good college, graduated in four years, got a job, went to grad school, and got married. I thought I could handle anything.

And then I had kids.

Almost overnight, everything changed. Needless to say, I was no longer on top of my game all the time. Most of the time I wasn’t even sure what game I was playing, what the rules were, or how I could possibly win.

I developed what I now know was postpartum anxiety, although I didn’t realize it at the time. The combination of a racing brain, a newborn, and a toddler made sleep nearly impossible. My constant exhaustion made the anxiety worse, and it wasn’t long before I felt overwhelmed most of the time. I cried frequently, and as my babies grew into toddlers, I started snapping and yelling at them.

I felt guilty for losing my temper, embarrassed by my behavior, and ashamed that I wasn’t a better mother.

At some point – and I honestly couldn’t tell you what that point was; those years went by in a fog – I decided to dig myself out of the hole I was in. I learned about and started practicing mindfulness. I went back into therapy, and began taking a low dose of an anti-anxiety medication. I met with a sleep specialist, and started treatment for sleep apnea.

And I started walking. The regular movement, fresh air, and time away from my email, to-do list, and to be honest, other people (including my kids), helped clear my mind and calm my emotions.

It wasn’t long before the anxious thoughts became less frequent, and I felt less reactive and overwhelmed. I was more patient with my kids, and I was yelling at them less often. (Don’t get me wrong; I still lose it with the girls from time to time, but it’s happening less frequently than it used to, and I rarely get sidelined by guilt and shame anymore.)

After less than a year, I was able to stop taking the meds. I’m not in therapy right now, but I will go back if the need arises. I’m sleeping well most of the time, and I still walk as often as possible. 

(I am aware that I just wrapped up almost a year of big changes, hard work, and a lot of ups and downs into three sentences. It wasn’t nearly that easy, and I don’t want you to think it should be that easy for you. But it is do-able, especially if you have support in the process, and it’s well worth the effort.)

Before I became a mother, I could pretty much handle whatever life tossed my way. I was like a car that could go miles and miles with very little maintenance. Now, well, I’m a different person (or car, or whatever). I still run well, but I’m being driven a lot more frequently than I ever was before, and I’m carrying two little passengers with me wherever I go.

The bottom line is that I need a lot more regular maintenance than I used to. For me, that’s mindfulness, sleep, and #sanitywalks. They don’t cost me any money, and the extra time spent walking, sleeping, and breathing helps me be more effective and empathic with my daughters. As long as I stick to my maintenance plan (which I think of as my #sanitypractices), I can deal with life and parenting without falling apart the way I used to.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing more about #SanityPractices for parents. We’ll look at easy, do-able, and powerful ways to take care of yourself so you can take care of your children without losing your mind.

If you think you might suffering from a postpartum depression or anxiety, check out the resources at PostPartum Support International.

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How #SanityWalks Help Me Parent Without Losing My Mind

Carla Naumburg

Carla Naumburg, PhD, is writer, speaker, and clinical social worker. She is currently working on her third book, How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t at Your Kids (Workman, forthcoming). You can read more about her work at www.carlanaumburg.com.


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APA Reference
Naumburg, C. (2017). How #SanityWalks Help Me Parent Without Losing My Mind. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindful-parenting/2017/03/966/

 

Last updated: 6 Mar 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Mar 2017
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.