Category: Mom

Depression: 4 Ways to Boost Your Physical Health

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**As always, these ideas are merely suggestions and if you feel you might have depression, talk to your doctor. I am not qualified to diagnose or treat any kind of mental or physical illness. 

Don’t you hate it when you go to the doctor, for anything really, and the answer they give you is: diet and exercise? I swear every single doctor I saw during my “dark days” told me to exercise and eat right. I would stare at them blankly like, “What? You want me to workout and meal plan when I can’t even muster the strength to get out of bed to go to work or school?”

I wish I could tell you that I found a way to get myself to exercise and eat right when I was deeply depressed but I can’t. Even though I knew, intuitively, that those things would make me feel better I literally felt incapable of making myself do it. However, hindsight is 20/20 and now that I’m out of the “black hole” I can see some options and ideas that I didn’t try. I have used these ideas to prevent me from getting depressed.

It took the right medication to pull me out of that dark place in order for me to feel capable of making changes to my diet and movement. But if you find yourself starting to slip into that dark place, these few ideas might be your first line of defense. Don’t ever forget how very connected your mind and body are. Taking care of your body will in turn, help take care of your mind.

1. Exercise

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I have had to consciously work on my attitude toward exercise. For a long time I didn’t count it as exercise unless it was a long run or an exhausting trip to the gym.

My new definition is “moving with motivation.” This means, hoofing it up and down my stairs to do my laundry totally counts. I love to take walks even though I didn’t use to consider it exercise. I don’t necessarily sweat that much and it doesn’t usually make me sore afterwards but it absolutely gives life to my body. Being out in the sunshine and fresh air is a definite plus. 

If you can find a buddy to just walk with you, it will give you even more reason to get out. Just be careful you don’t ask someone who is going to make you feel worse than you already do. Instead, think about someone you know who could be compassionate and if you try to bail on a walk, that will be helpful and encouraging instead of critical and judgmental. 

2. Healthy Eating

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Eating healthy is extremely difficult for someone who feels depressed because again, if you can’t hardly get out of bed how are you going to prepare a meal? The pressure to take care of our families can bring with it an added layer of failure that we feel when instead of cooking healthy meals at home, we resort to McDonalds or pizza just about every night of the week.

Instead of spending that money on take out or expensive pre-made meals at the store that are mostly junk, what if you just hired someone for a little while to cook for you and your family until you’re able to feel a little better? I doubt it would cost as much as you think it would. I’m positive it will cost less than eating out every night.

You could put up a quick ad on Facebook, KSL, craigslist, etc. Or, if that seems like too much work, ask a friend or family member if you could hire them to cook twice the amount they would for dinner to help you care for your family while you’re going through this tough time.

Chances are, they’ll want to do it out of the kindness of their hearts but if there is any way for you to afford it, I would suggest you insist on paying them. Paying them will get you around that feeling of being a burden and help you offer work to someone who could benefit from the extra money. As a bonus, hopefully the healthier food will help you work your way out of a slump. 

3. Sufficient Sleep

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Everybody responds to depression differently. Some don’t get enough sleep while others oversleep. The trick is getting sufficient sleep, not too little and not too much.

I was an over-sleeper. I could sometimes sleep for 14-16 hours a day. That’s equivalent to the amount of time we should be awake in a day! The result was constantly feeling groggy and wanting to escape my life by going back to sleep. Now that I have kids, that would never be an option. Although I have at times, gone through the day half asleep and hardly moved from the couch. 

Just like any other habit, creating a routine and sticking to it is key. Explain to your family how important it is for you to get to bed at a certain time and enlist the help of everybody to make it happen. Follow good sleep habits to ensure you get to bed and have the best chance of falling asleep on time. Then create a morning routine and give yourself an appealing reason to get up on time.

My new favorite alarm is an app called Kiwake and it literally makes it impossible for you to miss it, skip it, snooze it, or otherwise ignore it. It makes sure you’re totally awake and annoys you to the point that you have to be. Works for me!

If you can get out of bed before anyone else, try doing something you love during that alone time. Savor it to take care of you emotionally. Whether this is when you take your walk, read, write, paint, or dance around the kitchen, it doesn’t matter. Just pick something that excites you and makes getting out of bed easier.

4. Light Therapy

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Sometimes all we need to feel a little better is to head outside and let the sun’s rays boost our mood. For me, nothing brightens my day more than just being outside for a little while. It is proven that sunlight boosts our serotonin levels which helps lift our mood.

For some of us, the struggle with depression worsens during the winter months when the days are shorter and the amount of sunlight in a day drops significantly. Especially in a place like Utah where the sub-freezing temperatures keep us from heading outside most days. I know for me, cold temperatures exacerbate my anxiety which can lead me to hunker down indoors during the winter as much as possible. This doesn’t do much for my mood though and has a tendency to lead to depression.

When I returned to Utah after living in Texas for a couple of years, it was a huge climate change. I came home and went straight to the coldest place in Utah to go to school, probably a 70 degree drop in temperature from the sunny Texas weather. Clearly I didn’t think about this ahead of time.

I noticed myself slowly slipping back into the attitude of wanting to stay in bed instead of walk the five blocks to school in the snow and ice. One day after grocery shopping I saw an advertisement for a tanning salon and it occurred to me that all I wanted in the world in that moment was to be warm and to feel the sun on my skin. Against my better judgement I signed up for a punch card.

Let me be clear that I do not advocate tanning beds, we all know they can ruin our skin and give us cancer. But let me tell you, those tanning bed sessions that winter were like a healing salve to my anxious-ridden soul. It was a combination of the warmth and the light that saved me.

Since then, I have done some research and found a much healthier option. I had heard of light therapy for people with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) but didn’t realize you can buy these light boxes and have one in your home. Basically, it is a small-ish box that you can place on a table and sit in front of it for 30 minutes while it fills your eyes with light. You aren’t supposed to actually look into it but rather do something else while sitting there such as get ready, read, write, crochet, whatever. 

They don’t emit the harmful UV rays but have been proven to lift people’s mood, especially during the darker months. I haven’t tried one yet but I told my husband this is a must have for next winter. 

When our bodies are taken care of it is much easier for the mind to think rationally and to pull ourselves out of a slump. Sometimes we need medication or other therapy to get us to that point. If we consciously take care of ourselves by moving regularly, eating healthy, getting sufficient sleep, and getting outside (or at least in front of a light) we can strengthen our mind/body connection and hopefully avoid some of those traps that lead us down the rabbit hole of depression. 

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Have you seen a difference in your mood when you take care of your body in these 4 ways? Which one affects you the most and how do you make it a priority even when you don’t feel like it?

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Depression: My Story

Depression My Story

There are some demons we fight that never leave bruises, cuts, broken bones, or other physical signs of struggle. These are sometimes the most difficult to overcome. They usually leave us feeling alone, inside our own minds, with nothing and no one to comfort us.

As a young child, I witnessed some things that I pray my children never have to see. Some of those images cannot be erased from my memory. I still have nightmares about them. I still find myself having to catch my breath when I see or hear something that reminds me of those experiences. I cannot write about this without getting emotional because it is something that has so deeply affected my mind and heart.

I have decided to share these experiences not to scare people, convince them to feel sorry for me, or make them feel uncomfortable around me. I share them with the hope of raising awareness about the reality of mental illness and hopefully offer some comfort to those currently in the trenches, fighting to get help.

In a strange way I am almost grateful for my experiences. I have learned some important skills that have turned out to be very useful. Because of that, I have a better understanding of how to teach my children those skills without them having to experience what I did. I also hope that I can be some kind of resource or encouragement for people going through similar struggles. This was a big part of the reason I wanted to start this blog.

I have seen many therapists and been on many different medications throughout my life. Just last year I was working with a therapist who diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One of the many symptoms of this much larger problem is anxiety and depression.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) shows the results of a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the year 2014. It shows that 15.7 million U.S. adults suffered at least one major depressive episode in the previous year. That is 6.7% of all U.S. adults. When you consider how devastating and even dangerous this disorder can be, that is a huge number of people. 

Looking even deeper, the NIMH states that women are more likely to suffer from depression than men, including an estimated 10-15 percent of women who, after giving birth, experience postpartum depression. This is a serious problem and deserves our attention in order to bring more awareness, understanding, and better treatment for those who suffer from it.

My depression and anxiety started as a young girl with odd, obsessive and compulsive behavior. In my unpredictable and turbulent world I was fighting for some control. As a result, I developed some tendencies that I still struggle with today including compulsive overeating and binge eating, obsessive thoughts and behaviors, a disproportionate desire to please other people, and severe anxiety in situations where I do not feel safe or in control.

I also experienced physical symptoms that were aggravated by anxiety. These included bedwetting, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which brought with it a whole slew of digestive problems including extremely painful colon spasms.

I used to think about how much I wished my symptoms showed up as bruises and broken bones because at least people would be aware of my struggle and maybe they would be more understanding and I wouldn’t feel so alone in my own head.

After escaping the dangerous environment of my early childhood, I went through the rest of my young life, being embarrassed about my past and my “issues” but managed to cope enough to get by and live a fairly normal life. I would occasionally go through downtimes and see a therapist for a while, even try different medications but nothing ever seemed to help and most medications caused side effects I couldn’t deal with.

After decent success in high school in my many endeavors I received an excellent scholarship to the college of my choice. I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to attend the university I had dreamed of but knew I could never afford. I set out on my own, with total confidence and thinking I had control over my mind and my life. Little did I know, I was on a straight path to total breakdown.

After some unfortunate and traumatic experiences that brought me back to feeling like a scared child again, hiding in my closet, I barely survived my first year of school. It was suddenly brought to my attention that maybe I had made a bad decision. I was completely and totally overwhelmed and my anxiety was on full force. As a result, the deep depression I fell into was an act in the story of my life I hardly even remember. Most days, I didn’t so much as get out of bed.

My roommates would try to encourage me in different ways. Sometimes they would do it lovingly, other times more direct and offensively. One roommate in particular felt it necessary to add insult to injury when she nonchalantly commented one day while we were all in the kitchen, “I can’t stand people who waste their scholarships. I have to pay my own way through school and so I work hard to get good grades. Yet there are people who have scholarships where someone else is paying for it and they don’t even go to class.”

Of course what she said was true. But that didn’t help motivate me. In fact, it made me feel even more guilty and more worthless and…more tired. So I went back to bed.

I would sometimes wake up hysterical and crying and want to punch myself to wake me up out of this fog I was in. It was incredibly debilitating and frustrating. Some days I lost the will to live but was too exhausted to do anything about it.

As a result of all of this, I lost my scholarship, my acceptance at the school, my job, and my entire identity. I slowly sunk into what felt like a never-ending hole that I would never be able to get out of. I can see, while many people absolutely cannot, how there are people in this world who feel like taking their life is the only way out.

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It is difficult for many to understand why we depressed people just can’t see the brighter side of things. When you’re in the hole of depression, everything looks black. You don’t see the entrance nor do you see the exit. Your biggest fear is that you are stuck in that black hole, with only your own terrifying thoughts, forever. You begin to feel that everyone in your life would be better off if you just weren’t here. They could move on and stop depending on you and being disappointed when you don’t get out of bed and show up. They could stop worrying about how to help you.

Luckily, I have an amazing mother who finally got to the bottom of my aloofness and realized I was in a very dark place. She suggested I move home in order to try to get back on my feet.

Moving home saved my life. I was once again in my “safety zone” and my anxiety was turned down tremendously. I had to start over essentially. I started over at a different, much smaller school, with good friends from my childhood who buoyed me up and helped me climb out of that black hole.

Turning my focus back to my faith in God was vital in my transformation. Although I had never lost it completely, I relearned how the atonement of Jesus Christ can help us overcome absolutely anything, including climbing out of the black hole of depression.

Through therapy with the right therapist and finally a medication that actually helped, I was able to rebuild my life. Soon after, I graduated with my associate’s degree and decided to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

My mission was truly the highlight of my life up to that point. I was extremely apprehensive about my ability to stick it out the entire 18 months because I knew it was another drastic change, taking me out of my “safety zone”. Fortunately, and much to my surprise, I was able to manage my anxiety and depression by continuing with my medication and learning to rely on my Savior. I made many new friends and learned more about my relationship with my Savior and myself than I ever could have otherwise. It was life-changing and prepared me more for the rest of my life than any other experience.

It is also because of my mission that I was able to meet my husband.

Dating had never been a big thing for me. I never really had a steady boyfriend and frankly, trusting men was never something I felt like I could do. I felt incredibly anxious around them and an unhealthy obligation to please them. I enjoyed having guy friends but could never allow them the privilege of holding my heart because I knew how fragile it was, especially in the hands of a man.

Somehow my husband convinced me otherwise. I fell in love with him as a person before I ever fell in love with him as an eternal mate. I respected him in a way I had never respected any other man. All that he had been through made me admire his strength and I felt safe in his presence. He became my new “safety zone.”

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Since marrying my husband I was able to successfully wean myself off my medication. I am not convinced that I will never need it again but I am committed to going without it as long as I possibly can. I have learned new and more effective coping skills to deal with my anxiety and am more aware of that downward spiral that quickly leads to the black hole of depression. With my excellent support system that includes my husband, my kids, and my close-knit family, I have been mostly successful without depending on medication.

This month I would like to create a series about depression and hopefully offer some help to both the victims of depression and the loved ones of those victims. Depression is kind of a general symptom of many mental illnesses. It is different for everybody and there are all different kinds, causes, and levels of severity.

Please note that I am not qualified, nor would I ever claim to be, to offer advice or treatment for people suffering from mental illness. I only offer my story, strategies that have worked for me, and the always undercurrent counsel to seek professional help. Therapy and medication were what essentially saved me when I was in the depths of depression and I would always encourage anybody I know in similar situations to seek counsel from a doctor or therapist.

The topics I intend to cover this month are warning signs of depression, strategies to keep you from going down that rabbit hole, advice for loved ones trying to help, and hopefully some strategies that might help people who suffer from anxiety that tends to lead to depression. Again, professional therapy and medication are often necessary and very helpful and I am not against them in any way. If you or a loved one is suffering from severe anxiety or depression, please talk to your doctor.

I hope you will join me in the fight against mental illness by being more open in our communication about it. It is scary to talk about our thoughts and what we feel when we are in the depths of these things but it is the most secure way to climb out of it as well. I hope what I share this month will either help encourage you personally or that you will share it with someone you believe might be encouraged by it.

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Do you or someone you know suffer from depression and/or anxiety? What has been your experience and what has helped you?

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10 Ideas to Stop Drifting and Be Intentional with your Time

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It is depressing to know that I have spent so much of my life just floating along, with no real direction or purpose. Even as a mother, I hardly remember the first year of Liliana’s life. I think between postpartum depression and severe sleep deprivation, it has become nothing but a foggy dream.

My brother has a little wooden block in his room that reads, “Every day matters.” I remember reading it a while back and for some reason it was kind of a revelation for me. I was living each day as if I were just waiting for the next. It went something like this: Monday, “Why didn’t I get to bed earlier last night? I am so exhausted! I need my sleep so I’ll just sleep in…tonight I’ll go to bed earlier and then I’ll be able to get up earlier tomorrow.” Later that day as I’m mindlessly scrolling through channels on the TV, “I really am so tired, I’ll do something productive tomorrow.” Then Tuesday, “I don’t feel like doing anything today, in fact, I might be sick. I’ll relax today and tomorrow the kids and I will go to the park.” Then Wednesday, “I forgot that today we have a dentist appointment so I’ll relax until then and we’ll go to the park tomorrow.” And so it went, all week long.

Every Day Matters

I had a lot of goals and things I wanted to accomplish but I was living each day doing the bare minimum. Part of that is the season of life I was in, I suppose. Newborns have a tendency of throwing us into survival mode. It was so refreshing to have this revelation that “Every Day Matters” and that I don’t want to “wait until tomorrow” to do something meaningful.

So I am working on living with more intentionality. And since “time” really is the only universally equal gift that we share, it’s important to make it count.

Here are 10 ideas to help you get your life back by being intentional with your time:

1. Track

Just like when you need to know what your mindless eating situation looks like you are told to track it and write it down, so it is with the mindless way we spend our time. Laura Vanderkam has a great document to help you get started. Just print it out and use it for 2 weeks. Write down what you’re doing every 30 minutes or so. It can seem annoying but it will make you mindful of how you’re spending your time. Which is the first step to change.

2. Be mindful

We can’t change something we aren’t aware of. If you can’t figure out why you’re getting to bed so late every night and then you realize (probably through tracking your time), that you’re spending an extra hour on your phone at night watching YouTube videos, you can easily work on changing it now that it’s come to your attention. True story.

3. Budget

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Just like we budget our money, we can budget our time. You can use the same document you used to track but use it to plan out your day ahead of time. You see that, it’s being intentional about our time. It’s acting instead of reacting. It’s being proactive, which is the first habit of highly successful people.

4. Have a bigger “Why”

I had the great fortune of attending the Build Your Blog Conference last year in Salt Lake where we got to listen to Jason Meade talk about “Your Why.” Wow. Can I just say it was an absolute revelation inside of me. We got free access to Simon Sinek’s Why Discovery Course and I was on that like a fat kid on cake. I was devouring the course before I even got home from the conference!

The point of this course and the book for that matter, is to help people figure out what their mission is in life. Of course, I have my own beliefs about what God wants me to do but this helped me to really narrow it down and put my finger on why certain things are so important to me and how I can make a difference in the world with my one passion in life. You can read the book and purchase the course if you want. I totally think it’s worth it. Even if you don’t though, make it a goal to figure out what your one thing is in this life. It will give you a greater purpose and make you a much better person in every role you are struggling to fulfill.

5. Set goals

After figuring out your “Why” you can easily set goals to help you accomplish what it is that will be most fulfilling to you in your life. There’s a 30 day video course you can get for free from Chalene Johnson that teaches you how to set a “Push Goal.” It’s a fascinating topic that will have you setting one 90-Day goal that will work as a domino effect and making all of your other goals much easier to accomplish.

6. The Focusing Question

What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” This is a slightly different take on Chalene Johnson’s “Push Goal” and comes from the book The One Thing by Gary Keller. Either way, it’s a critical question to make sure you’re asking yourself on the daily in order to be intentional about your time.

7. Eat that frog

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Once you figure out what the ONE thing you need to do is, do it first. Brian Tracy’s book “Eat That Frog!” is based on a quote by Mark Twain that goes something like this,

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

Most often the frogs we need to eat in the morning are the ones we constantly avoid. They are the biggest dominoes and are what will move the needle the most, yet we resist doing them. Figure out what that is for you, and do it first thing. You will not only feel accomplished, you will actually be accomplishing your most important goals.

8. Time Thieves

We all have them. Mine is my phone. Maybe yours is the TV. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Find them on your tracking document and work on minimizing them or eliminating them altogether. Make sure you spend that recovered time working on your most important goals.

9. Be flexible

Just as with anything in life, be sure to have an open mind and be flexible. If your time budget doesn’t go as planned, just pick up where you left off and ask the focusing question again, “What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” Or in other words, “What is the most important thing I can be doing right now, in this moment.”

10. Routines and Systems

Eventually, you will develop your own routines and systems. The more mundane tasks you can put on autopilot the more energy and time you will have to spend on the most important things in your life. A morning and evening routine are essential to starting and ending your day right. Anything you can automate or systematize will save you brain power and allow you to focus on what you’ve been avoiding for so long.

Don’t allow yourself to float through life with no direction. What do you want to think of yourself and your life when you’re old? What do you want people to say at your funeral? Commit yourself to act, not to be acted upon. Make a difference.

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Do you use your time intentionally? What are some of the things you do to accomplish your goals? Do you find it difficult to work on your goals? Do you feel like you’re living without a real purpose? What are you going to do differently now?

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3 Tips to Help You Be Emotionally Available to Your Kids

Emotionally Available Square2After I had my first child, I thought I had motherhood figured out. In the scope of my life, I had never been happier. I was savoring every moment I had with my little boy. I was finishing my degree and doing my student teaching. I had lost a significant amount of weight and felt really good about myself and my health, for the first time in a long time. I was hired to coach the high school drill team I was once a part of and everything seemed to be going my way.

Then I got pregnant.

Let me explain that pregnancy is not easy on me. I am NOT one of those cute little pregnant ladies that goes to her spinning class, cooks three meals a day, and cleans her house from top to bottom, all while wearing 6 inch heels. I’m more like Wendy from What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Have you seen that movie? Well, this scene might make you pee your pants and yes, this was me.

The point is, pregnancy does not look good on me. My whole world changed. I was struggling to keep up with even just the most mundane tasks like switching the laundry from the washer to the dryer and cooking breakfast for my 2-year-old son. Instead, I was making trip after trip to the bathroom to throw up whatever ounce of bile that was left in my stomach. Soon, I just started carrying around a bowl because it took too much effort to run to the bathroom every time. 

I would sometimes sit on the bathroom floor, with the door closed, and cry. Wondering how on earth moms do this! Last time I was pregnant, I was just as miserable physically but the advantage was that I had the freedom to lie in bed and sleep. I didn’t have a little toddler needing me every second. I didn’t have many outside responsibilities and I certainly didn’t have so. much. laundry. 

I tried to hold it together as much as I could and although some of the nausea passed, I was still on an emotional rollercoaster most of the time. Even the silliest things set me off and had me completely overwhelmed. 

After I finally had our sweet baby girl, I thought it was going to be butterflies and rainbows. I had survived pregnancy, now it was time to just savor this precious little newborn baby. Again, I was in for a rude awakening. 

One of my friends told me while I was pregnant that having two kids wasn’t all that different than having one. This gave me hope. Hope that was smashed like a fly on the windshield of my car.

I remember coming home and repeatedly locking myself in the bathroom with a screaming baby in her carseat and a tantrum throwing toddler banging on the door. I cried and cried and cried. Then I would pull myself together, stand up, reach for the door, and cry again. It was an exhausting and dark time. 

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Luckily for me, pregnancy and postpartum depression didn’t last forever. However, being emotionally available to my children is still hard sometimes. Whether we’re going through a tough time or we just consider this particular season of child raising in general a tough time, giving our best selves to our kids is hard. There is a lot on our plates and minds and sometimes turning our undivided attention over to a toddler, or a moody teenager, is the last thing we feel like doing.

Our kids need more than just a hot meal and a warm bath at night. They need us. They need to know we care and that we like to spend time with them. It’s so easy to get to that everyday overwhelm stage and forget how sensitive their little hearts are. We have to make ourselves available, not just physically but emotionally too. 

Here are 3 things that might help you get to that place.

Just Say “No”

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This means “say no” to just about everything you possibly can. In the midst of my emotional rollercoaster of pregnancy, I had to quit my coaching job. It was not an easy decision and I let down a lot of people in the community. However, I felt I had to do what was most important for my emotional health and my family. 

After I had my daughter I got a night job cleaning offices. It was great to have the extra income but it quickly became too much again. I stuck it out for almost two years and I was finally able to quit last month. What a relief! Just the feeling of having my evenings back has boosted my spirits 150%. I don’t have to spend all weekend trying to get caught up on my life.

When we have young kids, it’s totally ok to say “no” to just about any other responsibilities. I take my main job and my church callings seriously but I don’t feel responsible to take on much more than that outside of my own family and home. This includes extra jobs. I have decided it is far more worth it to live a little more frugally than to work a second job.

On top of that though, there are always opportunities to be involved in the community or with friends. If I sign my son up for soccer and you ask me to coach, it’s gonna be a polite, but firm, “no.” If you want me to volunteer on a weekly basis to help out the library, as much of a book lover as I am, I’m gonna have to say, “no.” I wish I could help everybody but I just can’t at this stage in my life. And you know what, it’s ok. And it’s ok for you to say “no” too.

Take Care of Yourself

 

 

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I am what some people might call an outgoing introvert (which sometimes surprises people). This means I love people and I like to be around them, but in small doses. Alone time is suuuuuper important to me. I like to think and being around people too much seriously drains my energy. 

Since getting married and having kids, my alone time has almost disappeared altogether. I sometimes find myself lingering at the store on the rare occasion I’m by myself. I get up at 5am most days, just to get some alone time before everyone else gets up. I still use the “lock myself in the bathroom” tactic when I just can’t take it anymore.

Last year I was deposed for a lawsuit and the lawyer’s office invited me to come up the night before and stay in a hotel. As ridiculous as it sounds, I was beyond thrilled! I knew I would miss my kids but I was looking forward to having some alone time. I went to dinner by myself, went shopping by myself, and then sat in my hotel room and read a book by myself. It was rejuvenating! 

What I’m getting at is that we all need to take care of ourselves. It’s true that if we don’t take care of our own emotional reserve, we’ll never be emotionally available to anyone else, including our children. If you’re more of an extrovert and need to be around people, time with friends should be at the top of your list. Maybe you really like to feel pampered and a monthly pedicure is vital to your emotional sanity. Whatever it is, do it. Do it not only for yourself but for your husband and your kids. 

If you read this post, you’ll also know I’m going to tell you to do something to move you toward your dreams. Whatever they are. You will feel more alive and more like yourself if you’re doing something that excites you, beyond the scope of raising little munchkins. It’s empowering not only for you, but for your kids as well.

Be Present

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Now that you’ve created enough margin in your schedule by saying “No” to less important things, and you’re taking care of yourself regularly, it’s time to focus on being present with your kids. 

My son is a serious talker. His mind never stops and his mommy is his sounding board. There have been times when he was trying to tell me something and he’s had to repeat himself several times because my mind was on other things (or my eyes were on my phone) and I couldn’t get the right response out.

“Mommy, I have a really good question. How do they get the penguins to the zoo? They live in antarctica and I don’t know how they get them to here.” 

“Uh huh honey…” 

“No, mom–I’m asking you a question!”

“Oh, what’s the matter sweetheart?”

“How do they get the penguins to the zoo?”

“What?”

“The penguins at the zoo? How do they get them there?”

“I don’t know baby.”

“Mom! Are you even listening?”

It’s the sad reality sometimes. But some of the best conversations we’ve had were when I put down my phone, turned my thoughts off, and actively listened. He’s told me some surprising things, things that had I not been listening, I would have missed. He’s opened up to me about uncomfortable but important topics and I’ve had the opportunity to use those as teachable moments. 

I don’t want my kids to be afraid to talk to me, or feel like talking to me is useless because I’m not really listening, even if it appears that I am. I don’t want to miss these precious years because I’m always “somewhere else” rather than in the moment. 

Being emotionally available to our children is one of the most important things we can give them. 

It starts with how we schedule our time and how we take care of ourselves. Then it is our choice to be present in the moment. These simple habits will allow us to put forth our best selves and be the best mother we can be.

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Can you relate? What do you do to take care of yourself? How do you make sure you are emotionally available to your children?

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Can Moms Have Dreams?

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Do you remember when you were just graduating high school and part of you was so excited to be on your own while the other part was terrified about what you were going to do with your life?

I remember being so torn about what I wanted to study in college. I wanted to study everything! I wanted to be everything! I had so many dreams and goals and plans. Then life happened. It happened in its own way which was nothing like what I had on paper.

Part of my life is exactly what I wanted: a loving husband, sweet and adorable children, and a cozy home. However, as difficult as it is to say out loud, part of my life plan was left out.

For a while I was totally fine with that. I was busy learning to be a mom and adjusting to this season of my life. I gave up all my hobbies and all my friendships because I felt like I didn’t have time for those things. My husband and my kids were my friends and that was all I needed (or could even handle to be perfectly honest).

Then something happened. I started feeling kind of depressed and a little resentful. Be prepared, the not-so-perfect mom and wife part of me is about to be uncovered.

I went through a short period where I would daydream about what it would be like to be just me again. Not mom-me or wife-me, just me. Single, free-me. The me that only had to worry about, me. I would daydream about going back to college and enjoying all the things I felt like I missed out on. I would daydream about traveling to Europe, skydiving in New Zealand, and doing humanitarian work in South America. I dreamed about writing a book, like I’ve wanted to do since kindergarten. I dreamed about having the financial freedom to enjoy life a little more. I even dreamed about renting a hotel room and having a spa day, all by myself.

I think part of this came from turning 30. Man, remember when 30 was old? There’s this scene from the movie, The Switch. Jason Bateman is explaining to this little boy why adults don’t like people to know when it’s their birthday. When the little boy asks why he says, “Because getting old sucks. Most people don’t accomplish what they’d hoped to and they realize that they are most likely not going to. They end up living these quiet lives of denial, and uh… brushing birthdays under the rug just becomes a big part of that.”

I suddenly realized that I was 1/3 of the way through my life and I had failed to accomplish so much. Being a mom is wonderful, but being me is important too isn’t it?

I had to come to grips with the fact that it wasn’t my husband’s or my kids’ fault. It was my own. I squandered my single years. I accomplished a few things but mostly I just got myself into mounds of student loan debt and took too long to graduate from college. Then there was this attitude I was dealing with now. As if my life was basically over. I’m turning 30 and already thinking about life as if I’m 90.

It occurred to me that I still have 2/3 of my life to be more intentional about accomplishing my goals. I can be a mom and still be me, I just have to make it intentional and quit floating through my life as if I have no control over it.

I realize that being a mother is the noblest of callings. It requires tremendous sacrifice and hard work. But does it really mean we can’t do anything else?

I attended a conference a little over a year ago and one of my favorite bloggers spoke. Cara brook from maskcara.com explained how she had to decide whether or not she was going to go forward with her business even though she was a single mom at the time. What she said struck a chord with me and it was the permission I needed to make some changes in my life. She said, “I realized that if I want to encourage my son to dream and to work toward accomplishing his goals, I have to show him that by example. I can’t give up on my dreams or I will be giving him permission to do the same.”

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That was when I got serious about blogging. It seemed an ideal outlet for me and a way to work on my writing. I know I have a book in me someday and I felt like this was a great starting point. It’s something I can do on my own time, in my own way.

It’s been a process of trial and error to balance blogging and motherhood but I feel like I might be getting the hang of it. It’s refreshing to be doing something that makes me feel more like me and being able to connect with other women and old friends through this kind of a platform. Of course, I’m still in the infancy stage but I have big plans and I’m excited about what the future holds.

Writing has made me even more aware of the priceless blessings I have. It’s fun to write about things I’m learning and sharing that with other women. I have been lucky to have so many people who support me and uplift me with their sincere encouragement. Long story short, I’m a much happier mom now.

So can moms have dreams? I say absolutely YES. In fact, I think it should be required for motherhood. I don’t think it’s healthy for us or our kids to be so consumed with their needs and wants that we lose our own identity. I think it’s powerful for a child to grow up with a mom who works toward her own dreams and inspires him to do the same. 

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What is your secret dream? What are you going to do to work toward it? Do you think it’s selfish to think this way?

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