My self-care toolbox

These past few weeks have been, hard. Not as hard as the days when I had postpartum depression, but they were a challenge, which I blogged about here and here. I have been processing the events of those days, admitting I am struggling with parenting, and just slowly getting out of that fog. This week, we have been good, and we have been coping. We have been squeezing in the laughter and letting go of the doubts (as to whether I am doing parenting right). We have danced, and we have delighted in these moments. We have colored and we have cooked.

And all these made me take a step back to process everything and actually define the tools in my self-care toolbox. Practical pointers, a toolbox contains different tools that will help keep your house stable. And so it is with a self-care toolbox – its essence is to keep you together, keep you grounded when everything feels like a whirlwind and ultimately to help focus on the issues at hand. I realized that these tools helped prevent me from  very ‘high highs’ and from ‘soul-crushing, mind-numbing lows’.

  1. Physical tools

Physical tools, just like the name suggests, are tools that involve some physical activity of sorts. In my toolbox, morning runs rank first. There is something about a 5:45am run that does good for my soul, long before the whole world is awake, blaring horns, loud noises and all, there is a tranquillity that envelopes a runner’s mind, and that absolutely helps me put things in perspective.

If, for whatever reason I cannot hack a morning run, evening walks are my next favorite tool. Sometimes, sitting and watching the sun set does morethan make for a scenic view from my balcony. In addition to all these ‘natural’ elements, I also love to journal. Journaling means pouring out all my thoughts on paper, whether they are coherent or not – especially those that are not coherent. It is a wonderful way to decompress and for posterity’s sake, an amazing way to look back.

Read More: This is what Postpartum Depression Feels Like

  1. Relational tools

When the mental fog strikes, one of the things that I have found to be really helpful is getting on phone and sharing with a close friend on the issues at hand and my zigzagged thoughts. Granted, they may not help me in that particular situation, but listening does more than enough to make lighter my soul’s burdens. Sometimes, calls just don’t cut it because it is a tear-fest, and texts become my go-to tool. Other times, when parenting is not at the crux of my struggles, I love to bond with my son, watch his favourite animation movies together, make some art or just sit and listen to his boundless imagination in his stories.

  1. Foodie tools

This is a little tricky to include here, because food can be a destructive coping mechanism (read unhealthy eating habits, adding weight and of course the health conditions that come as a result thereof). But I realized, what works for me in my toolbox is whipping up a meal that will actually take some effort (like that pineapple marinated Teriyaki chicken from Kaluhi’s Kitchen) and  time. There is something about putting ingredients together to make a not-so everyday meal that helps re-channel my thoughts to a better place.

Read More: We are now 5!!

Lately, I have been working on reducing my daily carbohydrate intake, spurred by the realization that I have carbohydrates at just about every meal of the day – think, sandwiches for breakfast, rice for lunch, chapatti for dinner, not forgetting those mandazis at tea time and biscuits bought just before heading home from errands… you get the picture. Then add the fact that these carbs are mostly refined carbs and it is easy to see why there’s need to eat consciously. I am going with oats *milk *cinnamon * peanut butter for a protein fix at breakfast to see how that goes. Thinking I will work through this bit by bit. I have a feeling if I just say no more refined carbs all at once, it will only intensify the mad cravings for the same. Let’s see how this goes.

That’s what is in my self-care toolbox. What’s in yours?


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3 Reasons I was an angry mom

Anger has long been a struggle for me, partly Postpartum Depression, and in part, verbal diarrhea when emotions run high. Recently a text from L (For those who do not know, L is she whose fantastic baby shower we attended last year, and always a reminder of the power of friendships; read it here) came through, and took me down memory lane; To days when emotions and depression were an amalgam that made life a tunnel with elusive light. In her text, she made mention of bonding with J, my son. Hugs, and cuddles, and kisses, and so much warmth.

In retrospect, it was not always like this. J is 4.5 years now, and for the better part of 3 years I was a bitter, angry mom. Anger, for moms with PPD takes such a hold on your life. It feels like a choke-hold position by unimaginable forces. It is intense. It is irrational, and it saps the very joy of motherhood, stripping one right to their most vulnerability, and smirk in the midst of the shell-like condition. Now, I am grateful for having come to this point, a point where I cherish the moments, a point of healing from PPD. Looking back, there were a few reasons why I was an angry mom. Read on.

  1. Expecting too much from my LO given his age.

This was, undoubtedly, one of the biggest reasons why I was always snappy:  expecting perfection great manners from a toddler who barely knew how to talk. My mom reiterated the fact that kids would only behave their age, at least up to a certain point. For instance, at 1 year, having weaned him well, I subconsciously expected him to feed without a mess.

Yet, now I cringe when I think of my expectations. Granted, such expectations are fodder for anger.  My point, do expect your LO to make a mess when it is their first potty training session. Expect them to feed with their legs in the air when you wean them. Expect them to chew on stuff when they start teething. And when they get to 3, expect that silence means mischief, and take it in stride.

Read more: Shouting at my son, and 4 tips that helped me.

  1. Projecting my stress onto him

So, the client rejected his order, or there was an 8-hour blackout when I had an urgent order, or it was simply just one of those difficult days living in the haze of PPD. All these scenarios had a common denominator; in my personal disappointment, J was, sadly, the recipient of my outbursts. It was worse if he was having a cranky day. It meant (usually) 2 crying persons at home.

Having realized this tendency over a period of time, I set out to compartmentalize thoughts especially when having a rough day. Journaling has been of immense help for the simple reason that it helps me sort out my thoughts (ie, is it that I am angry at J for spilling milk accidentally, or am I mentally fatigued from the day’s events?) In line with this, writing a daily gratitude list helps put things in perspective (ie, this may be a heated moment, but I am grateful my son is healthy, going to school, has a supportive family…)

  1. Lack of self-care

Post-PPD, one of the most precious things for me is self-care. Just as the name suggests, this is all about caring for ME. Without this self-care, I feel like I am mechanically getting through my days, burnout and all. When I do not intentionally carve out time for myself (especially because I work from home), I get irritable because I feel like I have depleted my resources and I am running on empty.

Today, I guard my space, indulge in self-care (always baby-free) – whether it is a relaxing pedicure session, catching up on my favorite reads on a warm musty afternoon or simply making my best dishes using choice recipes (on that note, yall head over to Cooking with Jazz for simple delicious meals with a Kenyan touch). More recently, I am aware that my devotions play an integral role in my life. Spending time with God makes me less prone to irrationality, more intentional and overall realizing that in the grand scheme of things, I am steward of my son, not an owner.

Read more: 6 simple ways I bond with my son

These 3 were the major reasons I was an angry mom. I am slowly getting out of that debilitating angst that characterizes PPD, all the while seizing the precious moments before they fade away. Do you relate to any of the 3 reasons? How are you working around it? Let’s chat in the comment box below. I look forward to hearing from you.

PS: I wrote in detail about Scary Anger over at Butterfly mom’s blog, and you can read it here.