See this and more inside the March/April issue of Military Spouse Magazine!
By Patience Riley
What is today’s date? Is life ever going to return to normal? When is this going to end?
If you have found yourself sitting with your head in your hands and your mind consumed with a whirlwind of thoughts like these, you are not alone. In March 2020, we entered a global pandemic, and it has been kicking our butts ever since. From the anxiety surrounding COVID-19, working from home, the political climate, virtual school, racial injustices, holidays, and families who had to undergo a PCS during this time, it is no surprise stress levels are at an all-time high.
Despite the resiliency of military families, one group that has been highly impacted by the complex stressors of 2020 is mothers. As the primary caretaker, full-time worker (domestic or business), keeper of the household, and in-home teacher, mothers are working around the clock with little breaks from their various roles and responsibilities.
During times of immense stress, the state of your mental health is threatened. So how can busy moms stop the cycle of over-functioning and get off the path leading them to burnout?
In a similar way an X-ray scans your bones and internal organs for fractures or breaks, I would encourage you to engage in an activity called a Life Scan. A Life Scan is where you take inventory of your stress responses, aka warning signs, by taking note of how you are feeling physically, mentally, behaviorally, and relationally.
Setting aside 10-15 minutes a week to review these four areas of your life for any ruptures or breaks can improve your mental state immensely as it showcases which areas need your immediate attention.
Grab a pen and paper and let’s get started.
Some of the pain and discomfort manifested in our bodies is a warning that our stress levels are high. So, if your jaw, shoulders, stomach, or legs could talk what would they say? Are you experiencing any aches, pains, tingling, numbness, turning in your stomach, breakouts, or headaches? Start at your feet and work your way up to your calves, knees, abdomen, chest, shoulders, neck, and head. Write down all the areas in your body where you are feeling discomfort.
Mental & Emotional
How is your self-talk? What thoughts, phrases, or statements have you said to yourself in the past 48 hours. Negative self-talk can cause us to experience feelings of loneliness, irritability, sadness, or worry opposed to positive self-talk which can promote feelings of grace, patience, courage, happiness, and peace. So, are your thoughts helpful or harmful? Circle all the helpful thoughts and draw a line through the harmful thoughts. When a harmful thought creeps in, replace it with a helpful thought instead.
Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all intertwined, therefore, a change in our actions is a prime indicator that our stress levels are high. These behaviors can range from an increase in appetite, avoiding loved ones, feeling unmotivated, jittery, or having trouble sleeping.
The final area in our Life Scan is our relationships. Pick one or two people in your life and write a few words describing your feelings, conversations, and reactions toward them over the past week. This can be your significant other, child, co-worker, or friend. Have you been distant, codependent, impatient, clingy, less affectionate, or combative? Oftentimes, on the path to burnout there are noticeable changes in how we interact with others. So what do your relationships say about your current stress level?
Whether it is a scalp massage, uninterrupted time to journal, eating more nutritious meals, having a virtual game night with girlfriends, reinforcing boundaries, extending grace, or limiting your time on social media, now that your Life Scan is complete, you are one step closer to knowing which activities to engage in to improve your physical, mental, behavioral, and relational needs. As moms, it is easy to put the needs of others before your own, but I would encourage you to prioritize this simple activity. Ten to 15 minutes a week can be the difference between whether you remain on the path to burnout or change your route to one of mental wellness.
Patience Riley is a Licensed Mental Health Therapist, Speaker, Freelance writer, and Air Force Spouse. Through her platform WHOA MAMA she works with expectant and current mothers so they cannot only survive but thrive in motherhood without compromising their mental health. In addition to working with clients, Patience offers workshops to community organizations, universities, and writes on mental wellness topics on her blog and other entities.
If you would like to connect with Patience further please visit her at: