Motivation Monday: Getting Started

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Birmingham & Fazeley Canal – Newhall Street: Photo by Elliot Brown / CC BY 2.0

Especially at the beginning of a week, a to-do list can be long and overwhelming. Sometimes overwhelming can lead to paralyzing. Have you ever looked at your long list and decided to take a nap instead?

I encourage you today to just “get started”. No need to complete your whole list. Simply begin. For example, say you are planning to go for a walk, then do the dishes and finally run some errands. Take your first task: Go for a walk. Just begin by getting dressed and putting on your shoes. Even if you feel like taking the nap instead or don’t feeling like taking the walk. The act of beginning can set you in motion. Maybe you will feel closer to stepping outside.

If you are at work and you have countless tasks ahead of you for the week, use the same principle. Take one thing at a time instead of looking at the whole list. Finishing that very first item on the list can set you in motion for the day. Before you know it, the end of the day is near and you accomplished multiple tasks.

I find that taking things one task at a time can cause the cycle of “doing” to start. Your energy actually builds as you finish items on your list.

Put your shoes on mama!

Finally, remember if you do not finish everything on your to-do list, that’s ok. There is always tomorrow…

Take the First Step

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Managing Stress Effectively

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Frustrated: Photo by Ashlee Martin / CC BY 2.0

Stress is a part of life, especially for mothers. It is important to effectively manage stress so it does not become too overwhelming to properly function. The following is a simple way to manage stressful situations.

Three step process for managing stress:

Step 1: Awareness. As discussed in other posts, the first step to managing any problem is becoming aware there is a problem in the first place. Admit to yourself “I am stressed”.

Identify your personal symptoms of stress. Stress can show as physical, emotional and mental symptoms. Physical symptoms include headaches, stomach aches, sweating, trembling, racing heart, and muscle tension. Emotional symptoms can include crying, irritability, quick anger, worry and sadness. Mental symptoms include difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts and sleeping struggles. Stress looks different for everyone and it is important to be able to recognize signs for you.

Step 2: Ask yourself what CAN I control in a stressful situation and what do I NOT have control over.

Example: You feel overwhelmed because you have some visitors coming into town and the house is mess, you have errands to run and the kids’ needs to tend to.

What can you control in this situation? You can control what you prioritize. Possibly the kid’s needs first, errand second, and cleaning 3rd if there is time.

What can you not control in this situation? You cannot control what your visitors are going to “think” of your house not being tidy. You cannot control if they are going to judge you for it.

Many times we dwell on situations, such as what others are going to think of us, when it is beyond our control. It can take valuable time and energy worrying about what is beyond control. Instead if we focus our energy on what is within our control, stress can be managed more effectively.

Step 3: Do a wellness check. Are there any of the dimensions of wellness (physical, emotional, spiritual, occupational, social, and intellectual) that are severely out of balance? If so, tend to that dimension.

Example: You have been eating and sleeping well (physical dimension) but have not had much physical activity in the last 2 weeks. Taking a walk may help relieve stress in this case. Another example may be you have not had many social interactions this month. You could reach out to a friend for a chat in this situation.

Check out this article for more tips on stress management.

Relationships after Baby

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Family: Photo by Kat Grigg/ CC BY 2.0

Relationships with partners change after baby arrives. According to John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman (2008), 67% of couples report a decrease in satisfaction after baby comes home. Finding balance in the relationship is difficult. Parents are exhausted and stretched thin trying to balance the needs of the new life with busy schedules. Exhaustion combined with the great new responsibility can cause turmoil between partners.

There are ways for a mother to care for herself within the relationship during this difficult time.

The classic, cliché response is communication, but it is so important. You are a team, in this together. It is easy to become reactive and attack each other when in the trenches with words like “You aren’t helping enough.” If you are feeling this way, use an “I” message to express your feelings. “I” messages are when you begin your statement with “I” instead of something like “you”. It may also help to be specific with your requests.

Instead of “you aren’t helping enough”, try “I am feeling overwhelmed and would appreciate some help with the baby’s bath tonight”.

Another way to enhance communication is to ask your partner about how he is feeling. Empathize with each other’s struggles to balance all the new roles. After a true, empathic, back and forth conversation, you may feel your bond with your partner enhanced. Even though you have different roles within the relationship, you may be surprised at some similarities in the way you both are feeling.

Be aware in this new territory that disagreements are going to happen. Be kind and gentle to each other during disagreements at this time and remember you are on the same team. Even when it does not feel like it.

Check out Getting Parents on the Same Page for some helpful tips regarding caring for relationships during this time in life.

If you are interested in this topic, check out the book And Baby Makes Three. I highly recommend this book for all new parents.

 

The Haze

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Kveldstaka: Photo by tmorkemo / CC BY 2.0

This one is for the mamas who are currently in the postpartum haze. You are in those weeks or months after baby first comes and you are so tired. You would give anything for sleep. Fitting a shower in is difficult. The days feel long, yet weeks blend together. It feels like it will never end.

It does. Some of the lucky moms emerge quickly, and for others, the haze drags on and on, maybe past the year mark.

Care for mother (you) is important in this phase. You are caring for a tiny human who needs you around the clock. Your health and needs are important to be able to fulfill those of your baby.

To mothers in the haze:

  • Remember to eat. Keep easy access snacks around such as nuts or granola bars near where you are with your baby.
  • Stay hydrated. Have water near your feeding spot and drink water each time baby is nursing or bottle feeding.
  • Try to fit a shower in each day. Do this when your baby is sleeping or a loved one is around to help.
  • Remember this phase is temporary. Sometimes things will go smoothly and other times will be hard.
  • Reach out to other mamas. It is easy to become isolated when caring for the needs of your baby. Reach out by a call, text or use social media. We are here!
  • Try breathing techniques to calm your racing mind when you are trying to sleep. Try exercises 2 or 3 on this link to help.
  • Ask for help. Many people are willing to help, but may not how, or what you need.
  • Watch out for signs of postpartum depression, anxiety or ocd. Click here to read more about the signs.

If a family member or friend just had a baby, check out the “rules” for visiting a new mom. I found it interesting, and it would have been a helpful guide for my pre-mama self.

Behind the Smile

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Kristina: Photo by Mislav Marohnic / CC BY 2.0

Social media is valuable for many reasons. It can help people stay in touch, it helps promote businesses and more.

However, an important piece to remember scrolling through a feed is this: social media is a filtered world. This is helpful to remember as a mother. Often mothers may question, “am I doing this right?”/ “why does it seem easier for her?”/ “insert your common concern here”.

When you feel the trigger of your insecurity as you are scrolling through your feed, remind yourself:

Behind the perfect family photos are challenges, struggles, and fights.  The mama, who is showcasing strengths that are your weaknesses, has her set of flaws. The announcement of a new job, that sounds amazing, may come after heartache and serious financial struggle.

The purpose of this reminder is not to be negative. It is to remind every mother she is not alone with struggles, and nobody is as perfect as they seem on social media.

 

I came across a blog recently that addressed this topic in an amusing way.

 

Personally, I love seeing my friends post pictures of major milestones, weddings, babies, vacations and more. It often makes me smile. Just be aware of anxiety that can come along with comparing your whole world to this filtered world.

Vacation!

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In our society, busy-ness often seems like a competition. Unused vacations days are worn as a badge of honor. Exhaustion is a status symbol. I am here to encourage you to exit this race.

My family just returned from vacation and my spirit is renewed. I spent quality time with my husband and son.

Taking breaks and vacation actually increase productivity. Read more about it here. This article is focused on the workplace outside the home, but this goes for stay-at-home mamas too. People need time away from the everyday routine to refresh and rejuvenate. There is something to be said about simply being “away” from the area that you live in.

The tips for making the most of your breaks and vacation:

  • If you have them, take ALL of your vacation days.
  • Vacation does not have to be to an exotic location. Explore somewhere a couple hours away that you have always wanted to.
  • If your budget is slim, take a long weekend somewhere nearby.
  • If your budget does not allow any travel, do a “staycation”. Use your time to visit local beaches or do hikes you have never done before. Act like a “tourist” in your town.
  • May time in your life for play. Play with your kids at the park, the beach or even at home.

For new mamas who feel like vacation is the furthest thing from your mind, no worries. You will get to a place again where you can enjoy it again.

What is your best vacation tip for families?

 

Movement for Motherhood

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Push Ups 2: Photo by Parker Knight / CC BY 2.0

Motherhood brings on multiple imbalances in the body. Pregnancy physically changes the body. After the baby arrives, repetitive actions such as breastfeeding, carrying baby, hauling heavy bags and car seats all affect muscles and posture.

The following are two workouts specifically designed to correct some of the imbalances that come along with motherhood. Each workout contains a warm-up, workout and cool down. Click on the corresponding tabs to see each one.

 

Total Body Conditioning Workout for Parents

This workout can be done with mostly bodyweight to begin with, and then add weights after. The seated cable row and seated chest press can be done at home with an exercise band if you do not have access to machines.

 

Postural Workout for Parents

This workout is great because it uses all bodyweight exercises. It can be done anywhere, anytime.

 

When adding fitness back into your busy routine, fit it in where you can. If you have 5 minutes, complete a couple of the moves. You can come back to it when you have another 5 minutes, you can add some more.

Remember, ALWAYS check with your doctor or a fitness professional when beginning any type of exercise program.

Three Little Words.

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Holding Hands: Photo by Waithamai / CC BY 2.0

No matter where a mother is in her journey: Just beginning or experienced many times over, she will, at times, feel challenged or overwhelmed. Many mothers try to hold it together and push through obstacles. However, the truth is, it is ok to say the three little words.

I need help.

To the new mama who is suffering with postpartum depression in silence…

Call your doctor and say: I need help.

To the seasoned mama who is feeling overwhelmed with handling the needs of many different children…

Call your mama or a mom friend and say: I need help.

To the working mama who is trying to balance all her responsibilities at home and work, while still being effective…

Tell your partner or family member: I need help.

To the stay at home mama who loves her children with all she has, but needs a moment…

Tell your partner or someone you love: I need help.

To the mama who is feeling isolated or helpless…

Look to a higher power or pray: I need help

Asking for help is not weak, it is strong. We all need a helping hand at some point or another. Saying the three little words feels vulnerable, but can help you and your child through the hardest of times.

If you are not sure how or what to say, check out these tips for asking for help.

Mama, we are all in this together.

 

 

What do you love? Indulge (a little)

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Coffee: Photo by Cheryl Foong / CC BY 2.0

I love coffee. I am not a morning person, so my morning cup of coffee is a saving grace. It only takes 1 cup and I am a new person.

Often it is simple pleasures that can make a big difference in your day. I enjoyed this article about Three Ways to Enjoy your Life More.

It starts off with a quote from John C. Maxwell: “Enjoyment is an incredible energizer to the human spirit”. In other words, if you take the time to do small things that you enjoy, you will be rewarded with an energy boost. The article outlines ways to enjoy your life as it is now, instead of always wishing for something in the future.

Busy mams can use all the energy boosts we can possibly get. If all it takes a cup of coffee/ a piece of chocolate/ curling up with a book for a couple minutes/ enjoying the sunset/ hot showers/ a quick nap/ fresh air at lunch time/ (your favorite thing here) enjoyed for a couple minutes, mindfully, to boost the spirit: by all means, indulge a little!

Friday Gratitude

Gratitude

Gratitude: Photo by Sheila Craan / CC BY 2.0

It is Friday and I am thankful. After a long week of juggling, I have the weekend to look forward to with my son, husband and dog.

On this Friday I ask you: Mama, what are you thankful for? Counting blessings is a great mood elevator. If gratitude is used on a regular basis, your brain can be trained to begin to scan for positive in your daily life instead of negative.

Gratitude challenge

Step 1:

If you are looking for a way to keep your mood elevated, challenge yourself to a gratitude list.

What are the BIG things you are thankful for?

This could include family, faith, relationships, health and passion.

What are some basic things you are thankful for?

This could include having enough food, a home to live in and a job to work at.

What are some little things you are thankful for?

This could include indulgences like coffee or chocolate, alone time, or leisure time.

Step 2:

After writing down your personal list, record how you are feeling mood wise.

Step 3:

Repeat as necessary throughout the week to increase benefits.

 

To read more about the science between mood and gratitude, check out these articles:

Gratitude Adjustment

The Science behind Gratitude