Every morning, I wake to a little hand smacking me in the face, or pulling on my hair. My eyes open and I see that little face looking up at me as if she’s thinking, “finally you’re awake”. If I’m lucky, we’ve slept in until 7:30 in the morning. I often wake up filled with love and joy, although exhausted. I look at that face and the tiredness just doesn’t matter. But some days I wake up and I feel like I can’t do it today. I don’t have the energy. I just can’t handle chasing this little person around while she seemingly tries desperately to hurt herself. I can’t handle another meal time, with food thrown all over, only to clean her up entirely and do it all over again 2 hours later (especially when 2 hours feels like 30 minutes). I don’t have the energy to rock this big baby to sleep who is still not magically falling asleep on her own like I presume she should be at 10 months old. Now I’m questioning my parenting choices, and I’ve fallen into a cycle of anxious, negative thoughts.
I’m still laying there in bed, running these scenarios through my head, while my daughter looks at me, pinching me, pulling strands of hair, climbing on me, and giggling about it all, when I think, “not today”. I’m not going to let myself fall into this cycle today. I’m not going to go straight for sitting on the couch and staring at my phone. And I’m definitely not going to fall into that negative thought pattern. Today, I’m breaking the cycle.
So, I grab my daughter, change her diaper and change her out of her pajamas. I make my coffee and pour it into a to go cup and I strap her into the stroller. First thing this morning, we’re going for a walk to the beach, because we’re starting this day out strong and we’re breaking the cycle.
I recently noticed that when I step outside of my day-to-day routines, it has a really positive effect on my mental health. I find this interesting because often so much emphasis is placed on forming healthy habits, which are important but its also important to remain aware of how you’re spending your free time, and how your habits and routines effect you.
For me, stepping out of my day-to-day looks like getting up off the couch, looking at my phone less, and just getting out of the house. Sometimes as a mom, this just means going for a drive or a walk with my daughter. Even these simple small steps can have an impact. Before I was a mom, I would spend a lot of time alone in my apartment, studying (I was in nursing school at the time). Packing up my things and going to the library or a cafe instead was how I would break my cycle back then.
It’s kind of like getting stuck in your own bubble. Sometimes, if we’re doing the same thing all the time we forget about the world outside of our little bubble. There are extreme examples of this, where a person is just simply so hung up on their own problems that they’ve become oblivious to anything else. Then there are circumstances like my own, which simply involves hiding out inside for too long, feeling a bit isolated, and leading to anxious feelings. This concept will obviously look different, when applied to different people and their circumstances.
Back to that morning I described at the beginning, I felt stressed the moment I woke up because I could feel how exhausted I was and I knew that I didn’t have a day of rest awaiting me. When I got out of the house and went for a walk, I really started to appreciate my life. I took a step back and realized that my life is really great. I’m not exactly sure why this happens, but I’ve noticed a pattern when I do these types of things. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m getting out of my comfort zone and doing something new and exciting. Or maybe it’s because getting out of the house reminds me that I may have my own issues and things but there is a whole world functioning outside of my home. There are billions of people, with their own lives happening outside of my little bubble. These types of thoughts remind me of how beautiful life is, how small I am on this giant planet, how my current problems/issues/stressors/whatever they are, they’re just a drop in the bucket. My little baby waking me up is the sweetest thing, although I’m exhausted and just want to sleep in. But one day she’ll be a teenager or even an adult and I will miss those little hands yanking my hair so much. So, I’m going to try to laugh more, be present, and embrace these moments for what they are, all the while being patient with myself because we all have bad days and that’s okay too.
What does breaking the cycle look like for you? Whatever it may be, I encourage you to give it a try. Let me know in the comments how breaking your cycle has helped you!