Five Ways to Maintain Your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Quarantine

In times of uncertainty, it’s easy for anxiety levels to rise. I know I’ve felt it – the worry of walking past a stranger on a necessary grocery store trip and wondering if they could have the virus. The obsessive use of hand sanitizer after I touch anything. Walking the other direction at the park after seeing someone cough without covering their mouth. The realization of just how often I touch my face. The tension and boredom of being stuck at home with no place to go.

I’m fortunate that I can perform my job remotely, but not everyone has that luxury. I know people who are filing for unemployment because they don’t have a job to go to. I wonder how many people find themselves in this situation? And for those who must go out and work – such as my mother, who is a nurse – there is the question of how safe they actually are while they are doing their job.

During this time, it’s crucial to stay in good spirits and have a positive attitude to maintain good mental health. It’s altogether too easy to allow worry, fear, or depression to rise up and take over during such a time as this – but you don’t have to allow these things to rule you.

Here are five simple ways to stay positive during this time when our world is shaking.

1. Stay connected with friends and family.

Facetime, Skype, or reach out via text message or over social media. Stay in touch with the people you care about so that you don’t start to feel isolated during this time of social distancing.

2. Take the time to encourage someone else.

Encouragement is important, especially for those who are stuck working, out of work, or postponing a major life event (such as a wedding) because of the virus.

Check in with your friends to see how they are doing, or write them a kind message on social media. A little bit of encouragement goes a long way, and when you support other people, it will help you feel better, too.

3. Exercise your creativity.

I’ve been working on some creative craft projects as a means of staying occupied (I will be sharing one of them on this blog soon!). Creativity has always been a coping mechanism for me during mental health struggles, and it’s something that will help stimulate you during a time when you aren’t able to be social or go out anywhere. Take inventory of your art supplies, and search Pinterest for creative crafts that you can do with them. If you don’t have any supplies, perhaps you could plan to make your next grocery run at Target or Walmart so that you can pick up a few crafty items while you’re already out.

4. Remain productive, even if you’re not working.

It’s important to stay occupied and productive, which for me means doing more with my spare time than just watching TV. Go out for a walk, journal about how you’re feeling, cook a meal, bake, or turn on some YouTube exercise videos and follow along. Bring out you board games or play solitaire with actual cards rather than on the computer.

5. Draw closer to the Lord.

Remind yourself that we have a loving God who will never leave you nor forsake you – and he is especially present with you during this time of uncertainty. If you are feeling anxious, search for some encouraging verses and write them down – you could even bust out some canvases and paint or markers to turn these verses into your craft project. Intentionally surround yourself with reminders that God is good, that he is a protector, and that he works all things together for good.

Things I Didn’t Know About Motherhood

Motherhood is an experience that is both challenging and rewarding. Despite having many friends who became mothers before me, and despite listening to them tell me about their experiences, there was absolutely nothing that could have prepared me for the reality of motherhood. There were parts that were way more difficult than I anticipated, but there are also parts that are so much better than I could ever have imagined.

I’ve only been a mother to baby Alexa for just under two short months, but in this brief time period I’ve experienced so many highs and lows. Here are some of the challenges I’ve encountered in this journey so far!

Postpartum recovery can be lengthy and difficult.

I knew going into my pregnancy that there would be a recovery process after giving birth, but I didn’t realize how challenging that would be. After giving birth, the bleeding can last for several weeks, and everything hurts down there. It’s difficult to move around. Specifically, if I was seated and holding the baby, I had to ask someone to take her so that I could stand up. I couldn’t stand up and hold the baby at the same time.

Trying to keep up with things while I was recovering was incredibly difficult and overwhelming. The first night I came home from the hospital I started crying hysterically. I was sore, exhausted from the lack of sleep in the hospital, and I felt like my husband, Juan, was doing a much better job than I was of taking care of the baby. Fortunately, I had some great friends and family members that came over during this time to help clean, bring food, and hold the baby. I have no idea how I would have gotten through this without Juan’s paternity leave – and I have a newfound admiration for single mothers, because this was challenging, even with all the help.

Once I had fully recovered, taking care of things got a lot easier and I began to find my groove. Parenting still has its difficult moments, but it’s much easier now that my body has healed.

Taking care of a baby is incredible, but it can also be isolating.

During my maternity leave, I got to experience what it would be like to be a stay-at-home mother. Juan’s paternity leave was shorter than my leave, so I had about three weeks of taking care of Alexa on my own during the day. I had some absolutely incredible moments, but I can definitely see that taking care of a baby is isolating. It’s easy to get sucked into the baby vortex and fail to spend time with family and friends. It’s easy to get stuck in the house all day, as taking the baby with you can turn even a simple outing into an event.

I definitely recommend scheduling visits with friends and family and taking your baby out of the house, even if it’s challenging. Being able to spend time with others and go places is an important part of self-care. Don’t neglect your self-care just because of the baby. And make sure that you take some time away from your child to do some of the things you used to do for yourself. For me, that means leaving Alexa with my husband on Saturday for a few hours so I can go thrifting and grocery shopping on my own. It also looks like taking the time to write and journal in the morning before she has woken up for the day.

Breastfeeding can be incredibly hard.

In the hospital, I had a difficult time getting Alexa to latch. The nurses had me waking her up for feedings, and she was so tired that she had no interest in eating. She latched exactly two times, and both of those were times when the lactation consulting helped her do it. I wasn’t able to get her to latch myself, which led me to decide that I wanted to pump and feed her through a bottle.

I was advised to pump every three hours around the clock. This alone proved to be a difficult struggle – who wants to sit there with a breast pump all day, especially when no milk is coming out yet?

At the pediatrician’s office, I started crying when he asked me how I planned to feed her. We talked and it became clear that I didn’t really want to give up breastfeeding just yet. Since Alexa was over 9 pounds, he told me to take her home and for the next two days offer her nothing but breastmilk, even if she cried and refused to eat. We would check in two days later to see how she did.

Fast forward to later that night – Alexa is crying uncontrollably and refusing to breastfeed. I’m falling apart because I feel guilty letting her starve. Juan wanted to cave in and give her formula. Finally, my mom came over to help and with the aid of a nipple shield, we finally got her to latch.

Once she latched, there were still many challenges. The first challenge is cluster feeding. She tends to sleep pretty well at night, but that means that during the day she is making up for it with extra feedings. She can feed for 45 minutes and then half an hour later she’ll be ready to feed again. Making this even more challenging is her love of using me as her pacifier – she loves to comfort feed, and she could do this for hours on end. All of this leaves me feeling like a human milk machine.

Since I’m planning to go back to work, I had to figure out how to pump as well. To make pumping less of a hassle, I invested in a hands-free portable pump, which was a game changer. I hated pumping, but with this pump I am able to get some chores done at the same time. The only challenge is that I’m supposed to pump after each feed, but Alexa is often awake and requiring attention. The one thing I can’t do while pumping is hold my baby, so right now my pumping is a bit sporadic. When I return to work and she is in daycare, I’ll be able to adhere to a consistent pumping schedule.

I’ve grown to love breastfeeding her – especially since I learned to how to feed her while lying down in bed. I often will lie down in bed the afternoon with a tv show on and allow her to comfort feed a bit, which helps her fall asleep for a late afternoon nap. This has become one of my favorite parts of the day.

Leaving your child at daycare is super emotional

As of this writing, I have one week of maternity leave left. I am dreading having to drop off baby Alexa at daycare next week. We really love the daycare we selected, but I still feel the dread. I’m going to miss the long hours spent with her during the day, and I don’t want to pass her off to someone else who will get to enjoy her while I’m at work all day. Before giving birth, I didn’t think this was going to be difficult for me to do — I thought I might enjoy the break. But now that I’ve met my child, I have no idea how I’m going to be able to be apart from her during the week. Since I work from home, my plan is to prepare dinner during my lunch break so that I have the entire evening to savor my time with her.

Your Motherhood Journey

What are some of the challenges you have faced in your journey with motherhood? Do you identify with any of the ones I shared? Let me know in the comments!

On Weight Gain and Body Acceptance

Over the past few years, I’ve put on a lot of weight. It actually started with a medication that I had to take for bipolar disorder. One of the side effects was that I put on a few pounds. But it wasn’t until recently, when I got pregnant with my first child, that the weight really started to pile on. During my pregnancy, I was a bit overwhelmed at the rate at which I was gaining weight, and it was hard to prevent it from happening. I was constantly hungry, and as my pregnancy progressed, I replaced going to the gym with more leisurely walks because I was constantly winded and tired from my workouts.