Motherhood has, by far, been the most emotionally taxing experience of my life. In raising these junior humans, I have experienced the full gamut of raw emotions; from the highest elation or overwhelming pride to the deepest sorrow that shook my core and shattered my world. Every moment of every day from the second I found out my child was coming into the world has been consumed with them. I have given up sleep, friendships, freedom, and the hope of my home ever being clean again for them.
It is easy to see why motherhood has left so many of us running on empty and feeling emotionally spent. We have given of ourselves freely to our kids, sacrificing our own needs for the sake of love. It’s a beautiful honor to love our kids so selflessly, but at some point, we also need to remember that our kids are watching us too. Do we want our kids to completely neglect their emotional needs? Do we want them to settle for a life where they constantly feel drained and worn down? If not, we need to be actively modeling habits that create an emotionally healthy life. If you’re like me, you may be so stuck on the rollercoaster of raising teens that you don’t even know where to start to find healthy emotional balance in your life. Here are a few steps to take to begin modeling and achieving a healthier emotional state:
Dare to Set Boundaries
Know the things that drain you, whether it is an overly busy schedule, a toxic relationship, or feeling like you have to say “yes” to every obligatory event you are invited to. Realize that it is okay to set boundaries. You can say no to that volunteer opportunity that hits the same weekend as 98 other activities. It is okay not to answer every call from an excessively needy friend. It is healthy to carve out some time in your week as truly free time with no other mandatory tasks. Setting boundaries is a vital part of finding a healthier emotional state.
Spend time on your passions
I know, I know…. You’re a mom now. Your entire identity has been so consumed in caring for others that you may not even remember what you’re passionate about. Now is the time to rediscover it! What made you smile and filled your heart with peace and happiness? Gardening? Cooking? Writing, jogging, reading, creating, volunteering, whatever it is that fills your soul with fresh excitement for life. Do that. It will take intentionality, often times our schedules are not too accommodating for our own fun, but the payoff will be worth it. When we find time to do the things we love, we give ourselves (and therefore everyone around us) the gift of a refreshed, positive, and satisfied outlook on life.
It sounds cliche, the whole “count your blessings” thing. And there can certainly be times in life when it can feel impossible to find anything worth being grateful about. But there is always something. Perhaps the line at Starbucks was unusually short today, or a stranger complimented your new sweater. Focus on the positive elements of your day instead of becoming obsessed with everything that is going wrong. When your kid takes the trash out by themself or plays a game with their younger sibling without whining, thank them. Profusely. And reflect on just how truly you mean that thank you. When we shift our line of thinking to a more positive and grateful one, we can train our minds to always look for the good first, and that is a huge step in overcoming emotional burnout.
Live Out Kindness
Kindness is one of the most overlooked answers to our emotional health. When we choose to live our life through the lenses of kindness, the world looks like a very different place. Instead of annoying people and ugly circumstances, we see an opportunity to make a difference for the better. Start small; on your next trip out of the house, be intentional about looking for someone to go out of your way to brighten their day. Maybe it is buying the coffee for the young mom behind you at the drive-thru or sending a friendly text to that family member you haven’t spoken to in far too long. Keep being intentional until kindness is simply a way of life.
Human beings are relational creatures (yes, even the introverted ones!) Each of us craves and needs connections with other humans to feel a sense of belonging and fulfillment. Raising teens can be a lonely season; everyone has crazy schedules, everyone is tired, and everyone is dealing with hidden struggles they feel embarrassed or afraid to share with others. Don’t settle for loneliness and feeling disconnected from the rest of the world. Actively look for opportunities to connect with other people and make time in your schedule to get together with others. It doesn’t always have to be a deep heart-to-heart conversation (although those are beautiful and wondrously healing.) It could be as simple as chatting with another customer at the grocery store or greeting a neighbor on a morning walk. However big or small, this connection will improve your mood and fulfill a biological need for other people.
Mothering teens is absolutely exhausting, but you don’t have to stay running on empty. It takes effort and intentionality to discover better emotional health, but doesn’t everything in life worth doing require some effort? You are a happier person and a better mom when you create a little time and space on your schedule to focus on your emotional well-being. You (and your kids!) deserve to live your best life, and that starts with a positive emotional state!