A beach

You Can’t Spell Mental Health Without “Me”

My dresser says a lot about my self-care routine, but not in the way you might assume. The wrinkle creams and products promising to soothe and rejuvenate me are all there, but they’re not alone. While the rest of the house is (mostly) squared away, the top of my dresser is a clean-freak’s nightmare. At any given time you’ll find makeup scattered about, retail tags that have been ripped from new clothes and tossed on the pile, messy stacks of my kids’ art work waiting to be forgotten by the artist so I can throw it away, batteries, Band-Aids, hair ties, receipts, toys, medicine, laundry that needs to be put away, clothes that need mending, dust bunnies, forgotten cups of coffee, and — well, you get it — it’s a neglected mess.

Moms and military spouses are two populations notorious for putting themselves last. And if my dresser is any indication, my needs are rarely at the top of my own agenda. The reasons I use to justify why one of the only spots in the house that is just mine is a wreck are:

  1. I’m too exhausted from cleaning up after three other people to care about the cleanliness of my own space.
  2. The occasions that actually require me to “get ready” are almost always rushed and repeatedly interrupted by my kids’ requests for Band-Aids, new batteries, and my full attention to their freshly drawn crayon stick figures.

No one plans to neglect their own needs, in fact, we live in a world that recognizes it’s happening and turns it into a meme, a hashtag, or a t-shirt slogan. We cheer each other with our microwaved cups of coffee, but commiserating isn’t really doing anything for the bags under my eyes; I don’t know about y’all. So, because it’s Mental Health Awareness Month and we can’t spell “mental health” without “me,” it’s time to pause and focus on ourselves for a minute.

What Does “Me” Time Even Look Like?

Me time is whatever you want it to be — whatever recharges your batteries, refills your cup, or straps your own oxygen mask on before helping others. (The world has all kinds of analogies for taking care of yourself before others.)

What it looks like ­— I’m an introvert. I love my friends and family, but nothing recharges me faster than being alone. Just me and a book, just me and a TV binge, just me and a quiet walk on the beach, or — honestly — just me and a project ­— without interruption. If it’s interrupted, it’s void. Maybe your me time is more social or active, and that’s OK! You do it your way.

What it sounds like — It’s easier for me to tell you what I absolutely don’t want to hear. I don’t want to hear my kids asking me for anything. I don’t want to hear the motion-activated light in the upstairs hallway click on every five minutes after they’ve already “gone to bed.” And, I certainly don’t want to hear any of the TV shows my kids watch over…and over…and over. I’m cool with some silence, some music from one of my playlists. Heck, I’ll even take the hum of the C-130s over on the flight line that I can hear from my front porch.

What it tastes like ­— I’m not saying me time must involve food, but I am saying I’m a fan of food, so you can interpret that however you want. It’s rare for busy moms (especially with young kids) to eat a hot meal. By the time everyone else is taken care of, our plates are room temp. Maybe you spoil yourself with your favorite comfort food. Or, one night a week, fix the kids dinner early and enjoy a favorite meal solo or with your spouse. No shame in that game.

What it smells like — Boy moms, where y’all at? Let’s talk about the bathroom. If that isn’t olfactory punishment, I don’t know what is. So, picture that smell (for anyone who isn’t a boy mom, just picture the equally punishing PT laundry), and then let’s assume we want the exact opposite smell. It may seem weird, but my absolute favorite smell is mopped floor plus scented candles. It just smells clean — it’s a room demanding nothing from me. A close second would be the smell of freshly baked bread, but we’ve already covered that I love food.

What it feels like — It should feel like a break. Whether it feels like exercise or a bubble bath, you should bounce back from it feeling more like the superwoman you are and less like you “just can’t” and you need to “namaste in bed.”

I’ll leave you with one last disclaimer. No one — repeat, no one — is going to try to lure you into your me time. Even your best gal pal tossing out daydreams of spa vacations knows as well as you do, it’s not happening. Though our hearts melt over those sweet hand-drawn coupons for hugs from our kids (I have a stack on my dresser somewhere if anyone needs one), sometimes we just really need some time to not be mom for five minutes. And, bless his heart, after more than 12 years of marriage, every time I announce to my husband that I’m going to the grocery store, he still always replies with, “Have fun!” Spoken like someone who rarely has to grocery shop. That isn’t my idea of fun, and it certainly isn’t my idea of “me time.”

The point is, we know what we need to feel our best. We must carve the time out for ourselves — put it on the to-do list to make sure it happens. Ignore that guilt that creeps in when we try to take five for our own well-being. It’s important. We’re important. And we deserve our own attention just as much as anyone or anything else.

Kristi Stolzenberg
Written By Kristi Stolzenberg
Marine Spouse

Kristi started writing for Blog Brigade as a new Milspouse in 2008, and all of a sudden, she’s a seasoned (but not overly salty) Marine spouse.

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