Jul 12, 2017

A Mental Health Check Up - Some July Goals

I went back to my counselor/therapist/psych/whatever you call it a couple weeks ago.  On my birthday actually, which I joked was a little present to myself.

I hadn't been since before the baby was born and I think we're pretty much through the rough patch of, "Holy shit, delivery and a new baby and breast feeding issues - I need help!"  Life is starting to settle back into a smoother pattern.  So I don't think I NEED therapy.  With a couple exceptions I've rarely gone because I NEED therapy.

But I do think it's beneficial to talk to someone about what's going on in your life, get an outside perspective, and most importantly, remember to check in on your mental health once in a while.

That last one is what I've been missing since Orion was born.  Even now that he frequently sleeps through the night, and I can put him in his bouncy chair for 15 minutes to wash dishes or take a shower or whatever.  I have small snippets of time I could use for myself.  To read, to do yoga, meditate, workout, relax, whatever.

But I don't.

When there is a spare scrap of time, I'm working on client projects.  I've spent so many days bouncing between entertaining the baby and trying to get "just one more" thing done and it's both exhausting and a constant source of stress.  Stress because I feel like I get so little done and stress because I feel guilty for not giving my baby my undivided attention.  And the nights!

I get a full night of sleep maybe once or twice a week.  If Orion cooperates on the day I happen to choose sleep over work.  But most nights have me up working until at least midnight, and often until 2 or 3.

I'm pushing myself to the very edge of burnout and while I'm trying to be proactive about solutions (childcare, contracting work out, etc) it's slow to set up and in the meantime I'm just a mess.  I can't count the number of times I've cried about being sleep deprived and knowing another long night was coming.

Apparently my own misery isn't enough to prompt me to change, because I only started pushing client projects back after I felt that it was literally unsafe for me to be behind the wheel one day.  You can't drive around with a baby in the car wondering if you're going to nod off and crash.

And I think that's the crux of the problem - I don't do things for myself.  I do them for other people, whether that's my child, my clients, my husband, or the dogs (we have a flexible definition of people in this house).  I'm probably the epitome obliger, and sometimes it almost feels like a game - how long can I deprive myself before I crack?

In a way, talking to a therapist almost feels like an obliger strategy, because if I know I have to report back in to her in a month, I'm more likely to follow up with the "homework" she gives me.  Between her advice and the pediatrician's reminder, "You can't be a good parent if you're exhausted" I've got a plethora of reasons to take care of me that aren't necessarily about me.

Anyway, now that you're sick of me whining about how hard life is, let's get to the actionable part!  As you may have guessed, my previous set of health goals is so far left behind I had to visit the blog post to see what I was even trying to do.

I need a new strategy obviously and I think the focus needs to be more on root problems rather than just suddenly adopting healthy mannerisms.  I'm not following through with healthy living because I'm exhausted and my willpower is at a minimum because I expend it all day, and most of the night, on working and serving others.  I don't leave any for myself.

My therapist and I talked about this and while she didn't specifically suggest I blather on my blog about it, I am going to use her suggestions as the basis for my new goals and report in monthly to give myself reminders.  Like a mental AND physical health checkup.

July Health Goals

1. Walk Once a Day

This one shouldn't have been hard because prior to baby I'd been used to walking the dogs at least once a day BUT after chatting with the therapist I realized a couple of things were interfering: 1) My distaste for the stroller and 2) My guilt at going for walks without the dogs.  I like body slings but Orion's not terribly secure so it's not actually hands free and they make picking up dog poop very difficult.

I've been trying out a few of the suggestions my therapist made and am already finding solutions I like but I'll wait until a full month has gone by before I report in.

2. Go to Sleep When the Baby Does and Work in the Morning Before He Wakes Up

We talked about how I would be a lark if I wasn't always sleep deprived and how, on the rare occasion when I do go to bed and get up early to work I seem to get it done much faster.  The problems I run into with this are: 1) It's about damn near impossible to get up early when I'm so frigging exhausted and 2) I like the safety buffer of having a full night before a deadline.  It's a reassurance that even if something goes wrong, I have hours to fix it.

So far I've done this just once and it was nice.  But it took 3 days of going to sleep at 9pm before I could manage to get up at 5am.  I feel like I've dug myself into too large of a hole so this isn't as straightforward as it sounds.

Supporting Subgoals

  • Delegate, delegate, delegate!  I went through the process of screening 4 potential graphic design helpers and I have 2 that I like but I still hesitate to send them stuff.  I keep thinking, "I could do it faster" or "It will only take a minute."  So quit the bullshit and just send it to someone.
  • Longer Leadtimes.  I've gotten better about giving myself more time for the first couple project steps but then when people request changes, I forget and say, "Oh, sure, I'll have that to you in 2 days!"  2 days is not enough time to delegate and will inevitably have to be completed at some point late that night or the next.

3. Get Into a Routine

As per usual, this sounds awesome but I have no clue how to follow through with it.  The funny thing is I've managed to build some routines for the baby - he gets a bath at 8pm, has a bottle and then goes to bed around 9pm.  In the mornings he's usually up around 8am (sometimes he's up a lot at night and sometimes he sleeps all the way through but the start and end times are pretty regular), and then we get dressed and go have breakfast around 9am.  He's even starting to fall into a nap routine with naps roughly around 11am and 3pm.

So the question I need to answer to tackle this one is, "How did I enforce these routines for the baby and how can I apply that strategy towards myself?"

And that's it for now.  This has been a long, rambly post, but the end game is more sleep and better self care.  We'll see how it goes!

How do you enforce self care?  Do you do mental health check ins?

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually


  1. Sleep is such a big one for me. I'm the angriest person if I don't get my 8 hours so it just has to be my priority. Routines is the only way it works, I have to follow my system. I hope you find one that works for you too.

  2. Absolutely fantastic goals I think. I need to sleep and eat well in order to have balance. This Ive learned. Im also like you and need to delegate more. There are interns in my office that knock on my door and I keep thinking 'I can do this faster ' sigh. I think learning to relinquish just a bit of control will do me well.

  3. I feel the walk-without-the-dogs guilt, too...
    And I get what you mean when you talk about the 'game of deprivation.' So often I think to myself 'If I can just get to Wed./Fri./Sun. with this schedule or lack of sleep or behavior then I'm in the clear and I can relax. But living life as a countdown isn't healthy or sustainable... I'm glad you've got an outside ear to help advise you along!

  4. Before I got to the point where you mention this I was thinking of asking whether you could have someone set these expectations you need FOR you so you could be accountable to them. Is there a way to get Ryan involved? Sisters maybe? Get them to understand what it is you're trying to do and conduct check-ins that you'll feel obliged to meet?

    I think whenever you're drowning, whatever you're drowning from, there's this feeling of "I just need to make it to XYZ, and then it'll be better." But it never is because the things you're trying to "get through" don't really ever stop coming. Client projects, the human need to sleep/eat/exercise, parenthood. There has to, as you've said, be a fundamental change to the root causes.

    When it comes to deadlines, do you set them or do your clients request them? This to me seems like the best place to start. I totally get wanting to say yes, it'll be done on or before the day you asked—I've done it and hated myself for it too many times. Can you give yourself another day or week? There's always the benefit of under-promising and over-delivering that does wonders for you in the client's eyes. I get how it's difficult to change the expectation you've set for yourself, but as you did with raising your rates, I think you'll see that you're still competitive and even better as far as output is concerned, and hey, it might even boost your street cred a bit?

  5. I totally get how hard it is to get into a routine, especially with having a baby and having your own business. I have a hard time doing this and I don't have those 2 solid things in my life yet. (Also I am totally not meaning to refer to Orion and your business as things). It is so tough when we get into patterns and we just want to get things done. We want to do a good job, and things just don't go as planned. I understand why it could be easier to be on a routine and keeping things organized, but life happens.

    I think you are doing a fantastic job! Kudos for going back to speak with your therapist. I am always a fan of this. I believe they can be very insightful.

    Keep doing you, and I'm sure eventually you will find that happy medium.


Talk to me! I'm friendly. I won't bite.

P.S. If you use Blogger and you want to get email replies to your comments, use your blogger profile instead of Google+ and make sure the box is checked next to "show my email address."