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To the mama battling depression: It’s okay to not be okay

Dear sweet mama who is battling the beast of depression,

I know guilt lies heavy on your heart. You feel bad for feeling sad, or for not feeling much of anything. You look at the sweet little faces of your children and know you should feel more joy, but joy doesn't come.

I know you love them so, so much, mama. I know you think you should be able to brush it off, cheer up, feel happier, but it isn't that easy.

So, the guilt weighs on you because you want them to have a happy mom.

Speaking of guilt, you wish you had the energy to play. You wish you felt like going out to the park, to the museum, or even just to the backyard to run through the sprinkler with your kids, but you are so tired. Fatigue is your constant companion. So, you stay inside your home, but then you feel guilty that you're not doing more. You want to have fun with your kids, and yet you really just want to lie in bed.

Your kids ask, "What's wrong, mama?" or "Why are you sad, mommy?" and you smile and say, "Nothing, sweetie. Mommy's fine." It breaks your heart. You know they see your pain and you can't hide it, but you try your best to. You try so hard to protect them. You blame yourself for their worry, and you hate the way your depression is affecting them.

You've tried so many things to get better. Journaling, meditation, exercise, diet…the list goes on. You really have tried. The dark thoughts keep creeping in. The self-loathing, the self-blame, and the shame—they hold you down like a big bully you can't escape. I know you desperately want to escape.

You used to wake up with excitement. You were on top of things, tackling your to-do list and really productive. You used to enjoy certain things that made you feel lively and filled with joy, but those things don't matter much anymore.

You wake up each day plagued with a heavy feeling. It's so hard to get up and do the mundane chores of motherhood, but you make yourself do it anyway. At least, sometimes you do. Other times you stay in bed because getting up is too difficult that day, but there's no rest there. Guilt is cozied up beside you. Shame whispers in your ear. "Not good enough," it says. "Worthless," it taunts.

Don't listen to it, mama. Don't entertain the voices of shame and guilt. You aren't worthless. You aren't a failure. You aren't a bad mom. You are hurting, and you need help.

Maybe you feel like sadness is your new normal. You deserve so much more. You deserve to feel joy and excitement and peace. You are worthy of happiness, love, and all things good. Don't give up, mama! I've been where you are, and even though you might not be able to see the light right now, it's there. Keep going.

Here are some ideas that may help you fight this beast.

1. Call your doctor today.

Maybe you've already spoken to your doctor about your depression. Perhaps you've even tried medication before and it didn't work out. Try again. Keep trying until you find something that works for you because, mama, you are worth the effort. Ask to be tested for deficiencies. Look into supplements like B vitamins, magnesium, D3, and zinc. A simple vitamin could make a world of difference.

2. Find support.

Mama, you can't keep yourself isolated. You can't keep trying to go it alone. Let others help you. Grab their hands and allow them to pull you out. Consider individual or group therapy. Join a gym or yoga class even if it's the last thing you want to do. Go out with a friend. Change up your routine and get around supportive people.

3. Add mood-boosting foods to your diet.

Some foods are serotonin enhancers, like eggs, fish oil with Omega-3 fatty acids, flax seeds, and coconut oil. Find a few ways to incorporate those into your meals each day.

4. Trade in your coffee for green tea.

You'll still get caffeine but with L-theanine added so you don't experience that crash afterward. Plus, green tea is loaded with antioxidants and has lots of other great health benefits.

5. Get out in nature.

Just taking a walk outside has been shown to improve mood. Spend some time offline, away from screens, away from the buzzes and dings of modern life, and play amongst the trees. Hike to the top of a hill. Skip rocks across a lake. Roll up your pants and walk in the creek. Take your kids, because nature is so good for them, too!

While vitamins, nutrition, and nature shouldn't replace the treatment your doctor prescribes for major depression, used in conjunction with therapy and medication, they can work together to help you feel a little more like yourself.

When battling something as big as mental illness, you sometimes have to pull out all the punches. Don't wait another day, mama. Take a step forward today to becoming a happier, healthier you.

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Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

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Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

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Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

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