Mothering Is My Mindfulness

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It was something I hadn’t planned but immediately realized the need for: Meditation and Mindfulness during Pregnancy. Somehow I knew that it would benefit not only me and my family but also this little human I had decided to grow. So I set up my area in my bedroom, woke up 5 minutes early, and meditated every day of my pregnancy.

What I didn’t realize, is that it was also what would pull me out of Postpartum Anxiety. We go to the doctor’s office and fill out questionnaire after questionnaire to check on our potential for Postpartum Depression, but we’re never asked about our anxiety.

See, anxiety is a healthy, normal thing. Right now in our culture, we are constantly trying to rid ourselves and others of anxiety. Imagine for a moment, though, life without anxiety. Sure, we’d be peaceful. Yeah, we might stress less. But what about those life or harm threatening moments that anxiety saves us from? What about the places anxiety helps us perform better? … Like in mothering?

That’s right. Anxiety helps you be a better mother. Anxiety encourages you to check on your baby, want them near, listen intently to their stories and cries, keep a watchful eye over their playing to keep them safe and to worry over how they’re developing, feeling, and thinking. Anxiety is useful.

Think of anxiety as a person in your car. They’re keeping an extra eye out, helping you navigate and stay safe in treacherous situations. They serve a purpose, so long as you keep them as a passenger and don’t hand over the wheel. Mindfulness can help make that easier.

Meditation and mindfulness is not just for single 20-somethings out on a personal quest. Nor is it just for monks, nuns, or people without kids who have time for that sort of thing. Mindfulness and meditation is for everyone, including moms. Heck, especially moms.

You can read more about mindfulness here.

Meditation is the formal practice of sitting down and becoming fully present. Mindfulness is the awareness you bring to your daily life between formal meditations. You know those moments when you feel a little (or a lot) overwhelmed by the changes, expectations, and daily life workload and your kiddo won’t stop eating the dog food? Yeah. Mindfulness is for those moments so that you can pause making lunches, packing diaper bags, and worrying over being late and kneel down. It allows you the space to check in on what’s really important in those tough moments so you can respond in a way that encourages cooperation and relationship. It keeps us from scolding toddlers who are being toddlers, pleading with babies to just be okay for a minute in their lounger, or power struggling with our school kiddos about whether they should wear jackets.

When you get overwhelmed, pause. Take in a deep breath, breathe it out slower than you took it in. Ask yourself a couple of things:

  1. What is the most important thing? (hint: it’s almost always your relationship with your kiddo)
  2. What do you and/or they need right now? (go realistic- a deep breath? a hug? a 30-second dance/wiggle party?)
  3. What are your options? And which is the most skillful one? (you always have options: you can scream at them, ignore them, power struggle, melt into a puddle of tears, or come to their level, acknowledge their experience, set limits around misbehavior, and steer them in another direction)

I’ve saved the best part for last.

Here’s my favorite part about mindfulness and mothering: it allows me to enjoy it. Not survive it, not simply get through the day. Mindfulness is what makes me love being a mom. It makes me one of those delusionally happy moms we don’t really believe mean it when they say that it’s the best part of each day.

If I’m caught up in thoughts about my house, work, or relationship issues and I have my daughter nearby, I can close my eyes, kiss the top of her head, and breathe in the oatmeal/calendula scent of her conditioner. Suddenly, whatever was happening before that moment is gone. At that moment, I’m home. If I’m worried about her at night, I can sneak into her room, sit by her bed, and listen to her quiet snoring. If I’ve been stressed and disconnected all day, I can use the warmth of the bathwater and the sound of her laughter to melt away stress. I can use snuggle up in the chair story-time to re-connect.

Mothering is my mindfulness.

Could it be yours?

 

Did you know I run The Mom Circle, now at The Family Village? Check out the info on my Services page.

Take care out there,

D

Unlocking Your Heart

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You’ve made it! It’s our final week in our moving through depression series. So far we’ve discussed the importance of:

This last week is an important one. Perhaps one of the most debilitating parts of depression is the incessant “why?”

What’s the point? is one of the most painful questions we can ask ourselves, primarily because it insinuates that there isn’t one. What comes next is what I call the darkness. This is where suicidal thoughts run rampant and we tuck further and further into our despair. Don’t forget, there is help.

First, let’s talk about how to find your passion. It doesn’t have to be a hard process. In fact, it should be a fun, heart opening, exciting process. What is passion? Passion is defined as a “strong and barely controllable emotion.” Whoo. Yes. Passion is like fire, it ignites and takes over your senses. When you find passion you can lose your sense of time, entering into a flow state. Flow is that experience where your mind becomes hyper focused (especially on your senses), time disappears, and you feel an immense sense of calm and happiness.

Talk about a depression fighter!

Here are some ideas for finding your passion:

  • What is something that excites you? (duh – but a good place to start!)
  • What do you spend your time researching and reading about (books, magazines, online, social media, hashtags you follow, etc)? See any themes?
  • What do you find yourself inexplicably and repeatedly drawn to? Art? Music? Dance? Helping others? Outdoors? Competition? Animals? Parenting? Event Planning? Travel? Crafts? DIY?
  • Look at your local library or in your neighborhood for opportunities to take classes, join clubs, or meet up with others to try new activities (and maybe see if one of them sparks!).

There are a lot of people out there who will tell you how to cognitively find your passion by thinking through the steps and blah blah blah. I’m not one of those people.

Passion is not of the mind, but of the heart. There is little your mind can do in this process, and most often it actually stands in the way. “Yeah, I like ______, but there’s no way I could/have time/resources/money to do it.” Mind = not helpful. My hope is you go around, heart open, and see what breathes fresh air into it. Then, do more of that.

If you’re deep in the thick of it, you might have to do things you cognitively know you like, without the deep sense of peace and happiness. For most clients, I’ve seen this last anywhere from 2-8 months. Keep in mind, you have to keep doing these things (and all the steps of moving through depression). Over the course of those months, you’ll slowly begin to pull out of the mud (it isn’t that at six months you wake up and suddenly enjoy everything!).

Once you know your passion, you have to value it. Simply knowing your passion without valuing it is like walking up to the right door and not having the key to unlock it. We value our passions by carving out time for them, nurturing them, and enjoying them without judgement of how often or how well we do them. We engage in our passions for the simple pleasure of doing them, knowing that they are as important as any chore or job that is to be done.

Often in passion we end up finding purpose. Our purpose is in broader terms than our passion. Our purpose may be to bring the world beauty, joy, knowledge, or to reduce suffering. Purpose, like passion, is not something you can find by thinking about it. It can be felt in times when you’re quiet inside, sometimes because the world outside you is quiet, others because it is chaos. If you glimpse your passion or purpose for even a second, appreciate that. Try not to let yourself get frustrated it was only a moment. It’s a moment more than you had, and the more you work to open up to yourself and your heart, the more those moments will come. And the longer they’ll last.

 

The path through depression is a difficult one. It is one that takes time, repetition, and perseverance. I typically tell people to anticipate two years before they’re able to make a new behavior feel natural (that’s about how long it takes to prune one behavior pathway and build a new, solid one in your brain). If you’ve only been struggling with depression a few weeks or months, it most likely won’t take that long. But if you’ve been in the darkness for longer than you can clearly remember, it might. It’s normal, difficult, and absolutely possible.

I believe in you.

And if you need a little help, reach out.

Until next time,

D

 

Show Up Wholeheartedly

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We’re in the homestretch! Only three more weeks of hard work before… well.. before you continue with all the great work you’ve been putting in. 🙂

This week we’re going to talk about participating.

What does that mean? In our work of taking better care of ourselves, we’ve looked at taking care of our body, emotions, mind, and now… our social self.

Research has shown over and over that social interaction not only helps us be happier, it also has a connection to longevity. Put another way, we live longer, better lives when it includes others.

I talk more about why Women Need a Village in another blog post, so feel free to check that out!

Desire for connection is in the survivalist part of our brain, along with our breath, heartbeat, and sleep. It’s no wonder things like rejection, social isolation, and loneliness are so dangerous for our spirit, then. There’s a reason that Romeo wishes for death over banishment. Banishment is the ultimate punishment because it means a slow, lonely death thinking of all that one has lost.

Humans are social creatures. As individualized as we are in the US, we sometimes lose sight of this. We mistakenly believe we can survive, even thrive, in solitude. We rely on one another in ways beyond what we see each day. If you’re uncertain, just think of what it takes for you to get an apple from the grocery store. Think of all the people that it took to stock those shelves, get the apple to that store, pick, grow, and plant the apple. Think of who invented, built, and maintains the machinery, vehicles, and buildings used to transport that apple. Think of who raised all those people, taught them, fed them, and clothed them. In a strange way, it takes nearly everyone in the world just for you to buy an apple from the store.

I often hear people say they’re simply introverts, and thus don’t like people. I get it, except that isn’t how introverts work. Being an introvert myself, we can appreciate times of solitude to recharge, but ultimately we’re still human and need connection. And in fact, it’s been shown introverts do well in one-on-one or small group (less than 4 people) situations.

I also hear how difficult it can be to make friends these days, with how intent we are on socializing instead through social media. Let’s remember from our unplugged conversation, your brain does not recognize online relationships as social interaction. It needs another warm body in the room to interact with!

Ultimately, what I am asking is for you to participate in your relationships, even when it’s tough. And let’s be honest, depression is tough. Even when all you want is to retreat into the dark softness underneath your covers, even when it feels like nobody cares and that you don’t matter, I’m asking you to reach out. You’re not the only one who struggles, and connection is healing beyond belief. Here are a few ways you can participate in the relationships in your life:

  • Call someone. Maybe you find yourself wondering who you would call, frustrated that you’re always the one that has to reach out, or unsure of what to say. Call someone anyway. If only to ask how they are, what’s going on in their life, and to really care and listen to them.
  • Volunteer with or for others. For instance, make friends with someone in need at a retirement community. Work at a food bank and help families get the supplies they need to stay afloat. Come check in next week when we talk more about volunteering!
  • Say yes more often. When you’re down and sleep is all you can think of, it can be all too easy to come up with reasons for not doing things when you’re invited. The more you say no, the less people ask. So, start saying yes. If you’ve already no’d yourself into a no-ask situation, reach back out and ask when the next lunch date is with your coworkers or peers.
  • Get a pet. Specifically one that is soft and cuddly that you feel able to care for. Tell them about your day. They require you be responsible to them, and it can gently encourage you to get up and get out there.
  • You need a village. You need people outside of you, your parents, your partner, and your dog. You need friends. You don’t have to see them everyday, but you do need to care, reach out to them, and keep them in your thoughts.
    • Not sure where to find your village? Use your internets. The following websites can help: Meetup, Nextdoor, Peanut (for moms), Nearify, We3, and Meet My Dog. Of course, always use your best discretion when using online tools for meeting others.
    • Reach out to the people around you. Go to coffee shops and don’t sit on an electronic device. Join a class, book club, or workout group. Check out events in your area where you might find like-minded people. Step out of your comfort zone and be okay with whether or not your attempts are successful. If you’ve attempted, you’ll be successfully taking care of yourself.
  • In the relationships you’re already in, check in with them. Ask them how the relationship is going, how they’re doing, and invite them for a regular meetup. Show up, wholeheartedly, and others are more likely to show up for you.

It’s time to get out there. If you see someone at a party or get together who’s struggling to chat, go invite them into conversation. You can be friendly to anyone, and the more you reach out the more likely you are to find those special people who can be friends for the long haul.

You can do this, but you don’t have to do it alone.

See you next week!