Eight Things I’m Doing For My Winter Mental Health

It’s winter which is my least favourite season. I’ve mentioned in previous posts here and here that I often suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder in the form of Winter Blues. Nothing drops my mood faster than grey dreary days and the cold. And I’m not the only one.

I used to let winter bring me down to the point of depression and then spend most of spring and summer crawling my way back up. But as I’ve grown up I’ve realised it doesn’t have to be this way. Combatting Winter Blues before they turn into depression is pretty simple and only takes a little bit of effort each day.

1. Get out of bed.

This is something that I find really hard to do and before I had kids I would happily spend my days that I wasn’t working in bed the whole day, thinking it made me happy but actually heading in a downward spiral. Nowadays I have to get up for my kids and I usually wait for them to wake me, but I have noticed that despite the fact I hate getting up early, I’m generally calmer and happier than days I get up before them.

2. Get outside. 

I’m a bit of a homebody and enjoy being inside, especially on cold and dreary days, but it’s not good for me or any of us for that matter. Getting some fresh air into my lungs and on my skin for a few minutes a couple of times each day gives me a pick me up and a little energy boost.  Being that it’s only for a few minutes at a time I don’t even have to wait for the sun to come out although it’s better if it’s stopped raining. The toddler and I enjoy playing in the fallen leaves as a fun outdoor activity.

3. Get moving.

Our bodies thrive on movement but winter is a time where I tend to get stagnant. The longer I sit, the lazier I get. Having three young children does get me off the couch several hundred times a day, but I try and go for a walk every day that I can to blow out the cobwebs. If it’s cold, I can just layer up. Bonus is it gets me some fresh air and keeps the toddler from. 

4. Eat something green.

We all know that eating well is good for us and it definitely helps to lift my mood. It’s so easy in winter to binge eat junk because it’s easier and comforting but for me and many others it might bring happiness at the time but generally our overall wellbeing will suffer for it. Plus eating well helps deal with winter ills! I’ve been getting extra fruits and veggies into both me and the toddler by having smoothies for breakfast.

5. Keep in touch with friends.

This is something I’m not so good at. I’m a bit of a hermit and of course winter just makes me want to hibernate. But getting out, calling or even having a conversation over messenger with a mate can do a world of good. I go to a mums group most Tuesdays and also try and contact my friends regularly. Or at least respond to their messages. Work in progress.

6. Take a break.

No matter how busy we are, it’s important to do nothing for a few minutes everyday. I find this really hard in todays world, especially when I can barely watch TV without playing on my phone anymore, but the more I give myself ‘time out’ and a chance to be mindful of what I’m doing, the better I feel.

7. Count blessings.

Sure it’s cold outside, but I have a nice warm blanket keeping me snug. When it’s gloomy outside it’s so easy to focus on the negative, so I try to take a few minutes each day to remind myself just how lucky I really am. 

8. Do a yoga.

I used to do yoga every day and I loved it. I was less anxious, slept better and my entire body felt better. Sometimes even just a good stretch is enough to make me feel refreshed. I don’t have a lot of time for doing things by myself, but I intend to start doing a little yoga every day, even just ten minutes each morning. There are thousands of yoga classes on YouTube, I really have no excuse.

This winter I have been the most mentally well that I can remember. I still have my down days and times where I don’t think I can continue, but I owe it to my boys to be as well as I possibly can, so that’s why I try to do as many things from this list as I can fit into each day.

Smiles and Sunshine,

Katie

Advertisements

My Day At Home With Three Under Two

It’s 3am and one of the twins has started crying. I get up, offer him his pacifier and get up to make him a bottle. I decide to go to the bathroom first and when I come back he’s gone back to sleep. I stay awake for a while in case he wakes up again then go back to sleep about 4.

5.30am and he woke up again, so this time I make two bottles and feed the boys one at a time. Zombie gets up for work and at 7 once the boys are settled again I decide to get back into bed.

The toddler wakes at 9am. He’s sick so sleeping late which is nice. I make him a bottle, jump through the shower and get dressed. The bath gets run, a load of washing thrown into the machine and the toddler gets out of bed and into the bath. I get the first twin into the bath and washed and then the toddler decides he’s had enough and throws a huge tantrum while I wash his hair and body. 

Out of the bath he gets and both twins start crying to be fed. I dry and dress the upset toddler and put Thomas on the TV for him. I get the bottles prepared and put the jug on to heat them up before quickly putting the second twin through the bath.

Toddler decides he wants a smoothie having declined multiple food choices up until this point. I make smoothies for him and I, stopping to give the twins pacifiers when they cry. He sits at the table to drink his smoothie. Bottles get heated and one twin gets fed while the toddler drinks half my smoothie and refuses his. The other twin has fallen asleep. I tell the toddler we’re going to hang the washing out, feed the other twin then go for a walk. 

Dinosaur smoothie means he’ll eat spinach.

It’s 11, the time I wanted to leave for our walk. The toddler gumboot and jackets up and comes outside to hang the washing out with me but decides to rake the leaves instead. The rake gets stuck so I stop to help him often. I go in to check the twins who are both asleep now. I head back outside but the toddler has decided he needs his ‘car-ses’ so we go inside to find his sunglasses. Back outside and I have to play with stones with him for a few minutes. 

I get the rest of the washing hung out while the toddler has a tantrum then we go back inside to feed another twin. I tell the toddler to put his gumboots and hat on which was a mistake because now he’s ready to go and crying because I’m changing babies nappies.

I get the pram out of the car and load up the twins. The toddler grabs his bike and we head outside. I put his helmet on and he informs me he’s done poos. I take his helmet off and we head back inside to change his bum. He doesn’t want it changed so he wriggles and fights making it take three times as long. The twins start crying halfway through but I have to leave them while I’m toddler deep in poo.

I leave the toddler to put his gumboots back on and close the windows because I forgot to earlier. Toddlers helmet goes back on and we’re finally off at 12.30. The twins fall asleep right as we start moving. The toddler bikes ahead of me, stopping every few meters to point out cars, trucks, houses and stones. He sees a truck from my work, points at it and says ‘Mum’. I have a proud moment at his recognition skills.

Knew I’d end up pushing everyone

About a third of the way he decides he wants to walk so I chuck his bike on the pram and let him lead the way. We get about four houses before he decides he wants to be pushed in the pram. After another four houses he jumps off and runs in the other direction. I chase after him and explain that’s not the way home and thankfully he gets back on the pram and we go home.

The twins are still asleep so I get them out of the pram in their cacoons and onto our bed without waking them just as I hear a crash in the kitchen. The toddlers pulling dishes off the bench. I sort that out, make him a bottle, change him and put him to bed.

It’s 2pm and the twins could wake at any moment so I quickly throw some eggs in the microwave, make toast and run the steriliser. I’ve gotten halfway through my lunch before I hear crying. I wolf the rest down and get bottles ready. I feed the crying twin, burp him and enjoy a cuddle for a few minutes before I hear crying again. I repeat the process, change bums and Zombie arrives home and gets the washing in. The toddler wakes so I take him with me to the supermarket. 

Got them inside still asleep!

We get home and I do the dishes from last night while the toddler cries at my feet. He’s not usually this fragile but he’s sick. Dinner gets made with interuptions to help Zombie feed twins. I set the toddler up with dinner at about 6.40 then Zombie and I eat, stopping regularly to settle the twins who just want to be held. 

The toddler doesn’t eat much but gets up and down from the table regularly to cry. We get him ready for bed then tend to the twins who are still just wanting to be held but fussy even then. About 9.30 we decide it’s bedtime so we feed the boys, change them and put them to bed. I run the steriliser and clean the kitchen a little while Zombie goes to bed. I sit up in bed awake for a while because it’s the only alone time of the day then drift off to sleep half an hour before the twins start stirring. They won’t wake up and don’t need anything but I stay awake for a while in case they do wake.

Smiles and Sunshine

Katie

Nice Day For A Walk

My mood and mental health is often quite low in the winter and when there’s three weeks of gloomy rainy weather in a row and the only time I set foot out the door is to run from the house to the car it can be very hard to feel happy all the time.

It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder and it’s pretty common. Winter Blues and Summertime Sadness. I find the constant grey, being stuck inside and not being able to move around much just brings me down and these last few weeks have been no exception. 

I thought he might like to play in the leaves but he preferred to help with the taking.

This June my hometown has had some of the least sunshine hours on record. On the 18th we’d had just 13 hours and 48 minutes. That’s less than an hour of sunshine a day. It’s been cold, rainy and miserable. Most days it feels like it’s never gotten fully light, sometime we’ve even been putting our headlights on at 3 in the afternoon!

It’s fun to throw leaves at Nana

Thankfully, this past weekend has been quite sunny. Still cold, but dry and bright enough to play outside. I needed to get some air and vitamin D and Raiden has been itching to get outside for some time now, so we took full advantage, playing in the fallen leaves yesterday and going for a big family walk today. 

Love holding hands and going for a walk with this guy.

Raiden got to ride his bike, crunch leaves as he walked and jump in little puddles. I got to stretch my legs and the twins and Zombie got some much needed fresh air.

I feel better already. Less foggy and anxious, more optimistic and light. I definitely wasn’t on a downward spiral into a deep depression, but I’m hoping it’s not another three weeks before we get to play outside again.

Smiles and Sunshine

Katie

It’s Time To Give Up Breastfeeding

When I had my first son, I was determined to breastfeed exclusively. And I did… For the first three months. I decided before he was born that breastfeeding would be easy. And it was.

Until it wasn’t.

He latched right away and fed well from day one. I had no pain, no cracked nipples, no mastitis, everything was great. I pumped after each feed and tried to build up a supply for when I went back to work.

I didn’t have enough though. Raiden was a big baby with a big appetite and after three months it became apparent that I couldn’t keep up, but I didn’t want to admit it. I wasn’t against mix feeding, it just wasn’t for me. Breastfeeding was easy and I just needed to try harder. I didn’t want to fail.

Wasn’t long before he preferred the bottle

Luckily for me Zombie was in a much better head space and gently reminded me that introducing formula did not make me a failure. Raiden had had three months of exclusive breastfeeding and was thriving, but it was taking it’s toll on me. Mentally and physically.

The night we bought formula was a strange one. I cried a lot and both Zombie and I felt extreme confusion regarding which formula to buy and how much to give him. 

There is so much education and support (and pressure) around for breastfeeding yet virtually nothing for formula and mix feeding. We’d spent three months training the wee man to take a bottle (he much preferred the breast and some days at the start of his life it could take over an hour to get 10mls into him) due to him needing to when I went back to work, but we hadn’t gotten a lot of help with that either.

When they both need feeding at once

Once I started mix feeding I felt like a huge weight had been lifted.  I mix fed for a further four months before giving up breastfeeding and pumping completely and Raiden became formula fed from then on. My supply had dropped drastically after going to work and he had decided he preferred bottles after a while anyway.  It was still a tough decision, I tried hard to increase my supply but one day I realised that it was a battle I wasn’t going to win. My only regret is I never got a photo of me breastfeeding him.

Beore the twins were born I decided that this time round I wasn’t going to put so much pressure on myself and they have been mix fed from the start.  Initially they just had one bottle of formula a day but once I was out of hospital and Zombie back,at work and it was up to me to handle the majority of the feeds it was easier to pump and bottle feed. 

Due to not breastfeeding as often and relying soley on the pump, it wasn’t long before my supply started dropping and the formula started increasing. I’ve held on for a while but I’ve decided that they’ve had a good start with the breast milk and without having to pump every three hours or so I’ll have more time to focus on the boys. They are thirteen weeks old now and starting to interact with us. It’s an exciting time.

Made sure I got my photo this time

I have mixed feeling about giving up. I’m not having any more children so this will be the last time. I haven’t pumped for two days now though and emotionally am feeling calmer. I think for my mental healths sake alone it’s a good time to stop.

Smiles and Sunshine

Katie

I’m Not A Super Mum

It’s a phrase that got thrown around a lot in the late nineties by women’s magazines to describe celebrity mothers who still worked. 

Super Mum.

I always thought this was a bit off, these women could afford all the help in the world and yet were praised for doing a job most mothers did alone or with just their significant other. Not to say these celebrities had it easy, they’re human and have difficulties just like the rest of us, I just felt it was praise that could be spent elsewhere. 

I realise now that I was wrong.

It’s a phrase I didn’t hear for over a decade, but I’ve been hearing a lot lately and this time people are directing it at me. I have three sons under the age of two, two of them newborns and I guess it’s a pretty daunting lifestyle. 

I tend to get it the most when people see me dealing with all three of them at once. It’s definitely hard work, relentless at times, but the reality is, I’m just dealing with what life has thrown at me. And I’m not alone. I have Zombie who shares the parenting with me when he’s not at work, even giving me nights off and time to nap plus family and friends who help where they can.

I’m just a Mum.

My mother, landed with four children under eight overnight, the youngest under two when her husband died, who carried on raising them while grieving for her loss as well as losing her own mother the year before, she’s a Super Mum. 

My friend who’s first baby had a horror birth that left her baby unable to feed, spending months with specialists trying to make feeding time easier for both of them and who’s second baby has such severe reflux that at eighteen months old has developed an eating disorder, but has taken it all in her stride, she’s a Super Mum.

The mothers of children with ADHD or autism, sensory disorders or learning disabilities, who love their children all the same and go out of their way to support them as much as possible, they are Super Mums. 

The women who’s children have cancer or other horrifying illnesses, who keep it together looking after their child and their healthy siblings at home, putting on a brave face every single day, they are Super Mums.

The mums who have to work to help support their family, even though they would rather be at home with their kids. The mums who choose to work to help support their family and face the judgement of society. They are Super Mums.

The single mums, the mums of difficult teenagers, the mums who have lost children or miscarried and yet still go on, they are Super Mums. 

The pregnant women who force themselves out of bed each morning despite being more tired than ever before, eat a healthy diet despite craving nothing but junk and smile through the constant nausea, they are all Super Mums.

The first time mum, still sore from the labour or surgery with tender breasts, silently crying while her baby nurses, her nipples so sore that each suckle feels like they are being ripped off, or the mother who gives her baby formula for her own personal reasons while society and her inner anxiety berates her for it, they are Super Mums.

The mothers with Post Partum Depression and Anxiety who go on when every fibre of their being tells them to give it all up, they are Super Mums.

Even the mums with the ‘easy’ babies are Super Mums. All three of my boys are often described as dream babies or easy and let me tell you it’s still bloody hard work.

I guess what I’m trying to say is any mother who gives a damn about their kids and deals with whatever life throws at them no matter how taxing is a Super Mum. I don’t deserve the praise any more or less than the next Mum. We all do what we have to do to get through each day, doing the best we can for our children, putting ourselves last at times. That’s my definition of a Super Mum.

Smiles and Sunshine

Katie

I Want To Write A Post

I want to write a post but I don’t know what to write about. My life has become very repetitive. I have to get up each day, feed babies, change babies, hold babies for a couple of hours because they get lonely even though they have each other for company, find time to use the breast pump and then repeat. A shower gets squeezed in at some point and sometimes I even get to eat!

I watch a lot of Netflix. Gilmore Girls mostly, but I’ve only managed to get to the start of the second season so far because I keep falling asleep when I’ve got my two little heaters snuggled up to me. It’s nice because I don’t get a lot of sleep at night. For a while there I was lucky to get two hours in a row. The boys have started sleeping through the night now, so I get about five hours in a row now which is nice, but I’m still shattered. I don’t know if it will last, but it is following the same pattern their brother did and he only stopped sleeping through for a few weeks after they were born. 

Taking turns being asleep

The twins are eleven weeks old now and doing well. Thriving. They’re bottomless pits most days which is tiring but actually a good thing. They smile more each day and are starting to get curious about their surroundings. I think the sleeping longer at night means they have more energy for discovery during the day. They’ve grown so much too, exceeding Raidens birth weight by about 8ish weeks. 

Raiden is still doing amazingly well. We had a few issues with bedtime for a while, I’m guessing it was a fomo thing but he’s come right now. He still adores his baby brothers and helping us look after them. He has recently started looking after his teddies the same way we look after the twins. Giving them bottles, getting us to swaddle them, putting then down for naps… It’s very cute.

Puppy and Jack take turns to have a bottle

Being a mother to a newborn or newborns in my case can be incredibly isolating but I’m feeling a lot less isolated than when I was on maternity leave with Raiden. With him I didn’t get out much, didn’t really have many visitors (sometimes none for weeks) and was obsessed with cleaning the house which of course I had no time for which stressed me out. It was no wonder I got depressed letting myself get into such a strung out lonely state.

With the twins I’ve been getting out more because we still have to entertain Raiden. I still don’t really have visitors but I have a friend who comes to clean the house twice a week so I talk her ear off when she’s here plus I do get a few people who pop round semi regularly which is always nice for the adult conversation. Plus I’ve had two Saturday nights off thanks to Zombie where I’ve gotten to go out and catch up with friends.

First time I straightened my hair in over two years

Life’s actually pretty good right now. I’m tired and have a short temper at times due to this, but I’m happy. Everything is ticking along quite nicely and I’m feeling pretty positive as a result.

Smiles and Sunshine

Katie

I Cry A Lot, But I’m Not Depressed

The boys are four weeks old now. Feeding constantly, especially overnight. Gaining weight steadily. And being ridiculously cute at all moments. It’s a hard life being a baby!

Myself personally, I am coping a lot better this time round. When Raiden was four weeks old I’d already been diagnosed with post partum depression and while I did a good job of looking after him I felt like a failure and struggled to bond with him. 

This time round I’m calmer about the whole situation. I’m getting a lot less sleep, but I’ve bonded with both boys and I have a better understanding of how babies are. I’m so much busier this time, but I’m still managing to get things done like the washing and dishes which I didn’t even attempt last time. It helps that we have home help so the house isn’t an absolute bomb site, plus I’ve had so many lovely people drop off food and meals so that we can eat with minimal effort. I’m feeling good about things.

That’s not to say I don’t have rough moments. I often cry at 4am when I’ve only had three or four sleeps of half an hour each because the boys wake every two hours hungry and Raiden who usually sleeps through has decided he wants up and attention too. When all three are crying and needing attention in the wee small hours but there’s only two parents it can feel a little overwhelming. 

Parenting is easier when 60% of your family is asleep

When it gets to 2pm and all I’ve had time to do is snack or pick at food between the boys feeds and not eat a decent meal I get frustrated and hangry. When I finally get one boy settled and in bed and the other wakes up I sometimes cry, mourning for just five minutes to myself because it seems that’s a lot to ask for. 

And after Zombie leaves for work and I’m trying to get Raiden fed, dressed, his lunch ready and him entertained before he gets picked up for daycare whilst simultaneously feeding both twins or trying to settle them and use the breast pump when all I want is a shower and just half an hour more sleep I often swear a lot in my head and under my breath when the boys are out of earshot just to keep my sanity.

​​And sometimes I’m just so tired that I fall asleep on the couch during feeds and wake up disorientated and feeling worse than before I slept because it was such a short and light nap. Plus I get lonely being stuck on the couch all day with two tiny humans attached to me. 

And of course until recently I was very pregnant and still have a lot of extra hormones running through my body so the smallest things make me cry. Like an ad on TV of a puppy who can’t find his ball.

But it’s all worth it. 

Brotherly love, Raiden and Miles

My boys are thriving and all three of them fill my heart with happiness every single day. Raiden is such a doting big brother, helping to give the twins bottles, giving them cuddles and worrying about them when they cry. And I have help, like I mentioned above plus visitors a couple of times a week which means I don’t go completely crazy.

Both asleep at once!

Parenting is hard and I know a lot of mothers cry or swear or feel helpless on the daily as well, no matter how well they are coping. I’m just happy that I’m not suffering from depression (touch wood it stays away) like last time and that I’m for the most part feeling on top of things, in between my mini freak outs. 

Raiden at a few weeks old, I love this photo

I’m not ashamed to say that in Raidens first few months of life I didn’t particularly enjoy being a mother. I thought he was wonderful, amazing and the cutest thing I had ever seen, but I was depressed and struggling. I was lonely and didn’t ask for help when I needed it. I felt like a failure the whole time until he was a couple of months old, started settling down and him and I found our rhythm together. This time I’m not dealing with any of that guilt and just enjoying each day as it comes, no matter how hard some of the moments are.

Smiles and Sunshine

Katie