Today I’m giving you two tricks to add to your mental health first-aid kit. They’re about gratitude. I can’t stop laughing out loud even writing that. How many times have we been told to be grateful because…. they grow up so fast, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, everything has a purpose, some people don’t have limbs.
Sure, I believe all that stuff. But it does not help me RIGHT NOW. So I’m like, “Eff that, God. I will reflect on the strength I am gaining LATER. Your condescending mantras are not helping me RIGHT NOW.”
Also, our culture berates our parenting all over the place with words like “screen time,” “attachment parenting,” and “collaborative problem solving.” And don’t get me started on Facebook where all the children are fierce and indomitable and all the hearts of all the parents are breaking open with so much love. Sure, sure.
It’s an Instagram-filtered world out there designed to tear down your mental health.
Never fear! Here are the two tools that will help you build yourself back up. Think of it as my 1990s after-school special on self-esteem. Remember those?
1. Whenever something mildly terrible is happening, finesse it into something special by using the same positive parenting language normally used to make you feel less than perfect.
Transform “I’m screaming at the kids to stop fighting in the car so I can finish sorting out where the &*^% my GPS is taking me,” into….
“I’m showing the kids that all people have limits, and it’s important to be mindful of other human being’s emotional cues.”
Transfrom “All I asked was for K-Pants to go outside for 15 minutes and he’s freaking out, having to be picked up and removed, and is now watching TV with his blankie,” into….
“We already had outside time walking home today; plus he’s used up all his emotional bandwidth at school and has nothing left. That makes sense! BONUS: He knows his limits and has his special lovie to self-soothe.”
Transform “The kids have watched 5 hours of TV today,” into….
“I’m so grateful that PBS Kids has taught my kids phonics, problem-solving, and scientific inquiry over the past eight years!” Or just, “It’s not 10 hours of violent TV!”
2. Lavish praise upon your past self
This comes straight from my friend Marisa. The same Sunset Magazine–defiling Marisa we hung out with over the holidays. Here’s what to do: Whenever you come upon something small or large that you like and can attribute to something you did in the past, compliment yourself out loud.
Scenario: You have no idea what to eat for lunch but find some Indian food from a week ago stashed in a produce drawer in the fridge.
Compliment: “Way to go, Last Week Evelyn, for hiding this little snack away for a time you knew I would need it!”
Scenario: Your internal battery is at 5% and the kids are coming home soon, but you find some dark chocolate in a random canvas bag on the back of a chair. (Rebecca, I’m looking at you.)
Compliment: “THANK YOU, December Evelyn, for forgetting about this non-kid-candy in just the place I would need it.”
Scenario: You find $10 shoved in the pocket of a zip-up vest.
Compliment: Thank you, 2017 Evelyn, for never washing this vest! Let’s put this money in our secret escape fund.”
You may seem disorganized to some, but you know that you’re just saving time and money on expensive in-patient psychiatric care. Go forth!