Wednesday, May 22, 2019

7 Ways I Practice Self Care as a (Busy) Stay at Home Mom



There seems to be a misconception that stay at home moms spend the day leisurely, without worry, and with all the free time in the world. The truth is I have less time to myself than I ever had before. When I was working and child free I had an entire morning routine of sipping on my coffee, reading devotionals, and catching up with my coworkers before I settled into my work. At night I would go for a walk, meditate, and cook healthy meals. I was on top of my self care and when I faltered I was easily able to get back on track spiritually, mentally, and physically. Since becoming a stay at home mom I wake up to my job (taking care of my child's physical and emotional needs) after minimal sleep, spend all day and evening caring for someone other than myself, and then crawling into bed only to start over again the next day. You see when my child goes to bed, I get to take care of household duties I couldn't when she was awake, and it's nice to be there for your spouse too. It is easy then for me to go weeks without making time for myself, and when I do, it feels strange being on my own and not having anyone depend on me.

Since I worked as a therapist before taking time to stay at home, I know how important self care is. I've even written about it on this blog before. When I practice self care I am more patient, kind, and productive. However knowing and doing are completely different things. I have gotten caught up in the cycle of "I should schedule time for myself" or "I'd like to, tomorrow". Except tomorrow turns into the next day, or next week, or next month. Unfortunately, this leads to burn out and next thing you know, you haven't washed your hair in days and you're finding yourself having to take more and more deep breaths to keep from being snippy when asked a question.

So what's a mom to do? Micro self care. Think small, real small. I too roll my eyes when someone tells me to practice self care by getting a massage or a manicure. You don't have to schedule an hour for self care every day, you can implement a few minutes scattered throughout when you do find yourself with some down time. Here are some ways I like to do so.

1. Sleep. This is the self care I feel the most guilty about, but being in my third trimester has really forced me to slow down and take power naps more often. Your body needs to recharge, and chances are you are not getting enough. Take a 20 minute nap during your toddler's nap, and when you are done try to get some chores accomplished before they wake up. Have your partner (or support person) take the baby and feed them breakfast while you sleep in for 30 more minutes on the weekend. My husband does this for me often on Saturdays, and it has been a miracle for our marriage. Sometimes even being able to wake up, stretch, and browse on my phone for a few minutes before starting my day is a nice reprieve. Start with sleep.

2. Say no. It is easy to find yourself volunteering for things because technically, your schedule is more flexible than those who work office jobs. You know it "would be good" to get out and see that friend of yours. That doesn't mean you should. If you find yourself overwhelmed and irritable, say no. I know how difficult it can be to say no because of a fear of what others may think of you - what if they think I am rude? - but people say no all the time! There is nothing wrong with saying no and prioritizing yourself. Practice in the mirror if you need to, and avoid the temptation to make up excuses to justify your no.

3. Ask your partner for time alone. When my husband gets home or when our daughter goes to bed I ask for 15 minutes to myself to do whatever I want. Not all the time, but often. Believe it or not, he enjoys that time to himself as well! I close my eyes, watch TV, read a book, or write during that time and he does whatever he likes as well. When that time is up we regroup and I feel refreshed enough to ask him about his day.

4. Take advantage of the morning before your child wakes up. On mornings I get up, get ready, and get my day started before my daughter wakes I feel much more accomplished and happy. I am not the best at doing so, but it truly makes a difference when I do.

5. Multitask self care with child care. My daughter loves going to the park and being outdoors during the summer, and so do I. At least two to three times a week I take her for walks to get fresh air for us both, and to get some exercise in. I take her to things we will both enjoy, such as the zoo, museums, or the library. We attend an interactive class at the library once a week, and during that time I see other mom friends and catch up. I even sometimes get a book for myself. Time can be spent enriching your child and enriching yourself.

6. Say yes. Just as it is important to say no, I have also found it incredibly important to say yes to help when it is offered to me. I don't live near family, and so I don't have that kind of support available that many mothers have. I've had friends organically offer to watch my daughter for doctor appointments, occasional date nights, or even for me to run an errand. I used to feel embarrassed or like I was taking advantage of their kindness, but the truth is: I would do the same for them. We are all struggling, and we all need time to ourselves and with our spouses. If your friend, neighbor, or teammate are trustworthy adults who you know well then try to say yes more often.

7. Do not abandon your hygiene/beauty/skin routine, simplify it. One of my favorite parts of the day is my skin care routine, as simple as it is. I love having those 15 minutes of quiet and taking care of my body. I have altered my hair, skin and makeup routines to be much more simple and I feel more put together when I stick to them. Besides, you can still wear a face mask while folding laundry or doing dishes!

There are so many ways as mothers we can make time for ourselves, and they will look different for everyone. We all have different needs and interests. How do you practice self care as a busy mom?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

2nd Trimester Recap: Symptoms, Cravings + Anatomy Scan



Hello 27 weeks! By the time you read this, I will be entering the third trimester. How is that even possible?! This pregnancy feels as if it is going so quickly, probably because I have been kept so busy these past few months. There is a reason everyone calls the second trimester the "honeymoon" phase of pregnancy...it is the BEST. Overall I have felt pretty great this pregnancy and things have been much easier on my body than the first pregnancy with my daughter. I did experience some symptoms worth sharing, though, in case you are experiencing the same or wondering if your symptoms are "normal".


SYMPTOMS

Sleep - I have always been a side sleeper, but often found myself wanting to sleep on my back due to hip pain. You can't comfortably do that with a baby growing in you, so I finally invested in a pregnancy pillow to make my sleep more comfortable. I went my entire first pregnancy without a great pillow and now that I have one, I don't know how I survived! It provides support so you can stay aligned, and that has helped me manage physical pain. I am having some difficulty relaxing at night due to baby being active at that time, so I have moved my night routine up a few hours.

Pain - I have minor scoliosis where my spine twists in two locations. It is not as major as many people deal with, but does cause alignment and structural issues. As a result I do get back pain with the added weight that comes with pregnancy. I also tend to get pelvic pain and so I have been seeing a physical therapist that specializes in the pelvic floor. Seeing a professional has been wonderful, and I cannot recommend it enough. If you are postpartum and experiencing a weak pelvic floor (aka peeing when you sneeze), know that can be addressed and contact your doctor for a referral!

Weight gain - I don't weigh myself very often because I am a big proponent of gentle nutrition and intuitive eating. I eat when I am hungry, stop when I am not, and try to make healthy choices along the way. So far I am right on track. It can be difficult not comparing yourself to other women, but know that everyone carries babies differently. We are all built differently! The number of children you have had also affects how you grow throughout pregnancy. Love the bump you have.

Movement - I started having quickening this trimester, which always feels like butterfly wings against my belly. I love this phase because it lets me know baby is growing and moving around. Over this trimester they have become stronger and more frequent. You can now even see movement by watching closely! It appears that our baby is as strong as their sister, who was super active in the womb and never stopped moving when she was born. I am going to have my hands full.

Queasy or sick? Only when I have gone too long without snacking on some protein. Otherwise I left any nausea in the first trimester. If only I could shake off the fatigue!

Braxton Hicks contractions - have officially started as of 27 weeks, especially when I am very active. If you find yourself experiencing them rest and stay hydrated! I have been viewing them as practice for the real thing and tend to rest, break out my pregnancy meditations, and do deep breathing. I personally find them uncomfortable, but not painful per say.

Cravings - As I mentioned in my 1st trimester recap I don't experience cravings like many women do during pregnancy. Rather, certain things taste better to me than usual and others taste worse. I still enjoy fruit the most and find myself wanting avocado toast with a fried egg on top for lunch more often than not. I wouldn't say that I need those items immediately like it is depicted in the media. I have been continuing to eat a lot of protein and as much produce as possible. Overall I am finding I am more active and eating much better this pregnancy, probably because I am chasing after and feeding a toddler. It takes too much energy to make unhealthy meals for myself and healthy ones for her!


ANATOMY SCAN

We personally choose to forgo any genetic testing due to being low risk, and the potential for false negatives/positives. (That is a very important decision you need to make for you and your family, so do what is right for you! My doctors have never been concerned when I decline.) Therefore, the anatomy scan is a Big Deal for us. It is when we get to see the baby, check on their development, and find out more about them. I am happy to report that our baby is completely healthy with no abnormalities, thank God! I am always so in awe at the ultrasound being able to see their limbs, movements, and organs. It makes me truly amazed at what my body can do and how incredible modern day technology is. With all that being said, we did find out gender and we are having a BOY!  I've had so many people inquire if I am excited to have a boy, so...

Cheesy story time: when my husband and I were dating and would discuss children, I would always dream of a little girl. I could see her, but no other children, and she always looked the same. However the day after I gave birth to my daughter I dreamed of a little boy playing with her. As a result I always tell people my children chose me a long time ago, but my husband likes to smile and roll his eyes at me. I was a blubbery, happy, tearful mess at the ultrasound when I found out I was going to be meeting him soon!


LOOKING FORWARD TO 3RD TRIMESTER

This may shock a lot of people, but I am looking forward to labor! I have been doing a lot of preparation mentally and physically, and I am so positive and excited about it. That is probably why I have been nesting so much lately, because I know my son will be here soon and I want to have everything in place when he does make an appearance.

If you are also pregnant at this time, I hope everything is going smoothly for you and will continue to pray for you and your growing families. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

How to Practice Catholic Mindfulness




Something that I have struggled with for many years is feeling “too busy” to work on my spiritual growth. I have difficulty managing my time and focusing my energy on prayer and reflection rather than my to do list. As a child my family encouraged educational achievements, for me to set goals and to work hard towards accomplishing them. I soon began to attach my worth to that busyness, and therefore I did not perceive stillness or rest as virtues. Rather, I associated them with being lazy.  You can imagine what my prayer life looked like. I entered it with a set agenda, I was concise, and I didn’t take time to rest or listen to what God may have to say to me. It wasn’t until I began to study and teach mindfulness as a mental health therapist that I had a shift in my mindset.

Simply put, mindfulness is focusing your attention completely on the present moment. Doing so will put you in a relaxed muscle body. It is intentionally letting go of the past and not worrying about the future for a short period of time. Mindfulness allows you to calm an anxious mind, to rest, and to enjoy what is occurring in the present moment. It is associated with meditation, but it can be a state of mind in every day tasks as well. It can be you taking the time to notice the breeze playing with your hair, listening to and enjoying the birds chirping, or breathing in the smell of your shampoo during your shower. I instructed clients to become an observer to thoughts, or allow them to float through their mind like a cloud rather than attaching to them. When trying to relax and be in the present moment, if they found themselves distracted I would tell them to turn their attention back to what they were currently doing: deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or even prayer. If you suffer from any sort of stress - and let’s face it we all do - then mindfulness is a great practice to implement.

I was confused then when I met people who claimed you could not practice mindfulness and Catholicism at the same time. Isn’t that what meditative prayer is? Mindfulness allows you to calm your mind enough to appreciate and see what God is putting before you in any present moment. Being in a state of rest allows you to rest in Him and more importantly, listen to what God may be trying to tell you. When one comes with their own thoughts or list of requests, they aren't taking time to listen to God or to simply spend time with Him. I know that in my own life I tend to become hyper-focused on small details, on past hurts, or worries about the future. It is difficult to step back and be present, to appreciate the blessings God has given me. I am only able to do that when focusing on the present. 

Ways you can implement Catholic mindfulness include:

Making the everyday tasks of your job your vocation. Being intentional about listening to others you may encounter, the task in front of you, and the little moments of beauty found there transforms what may seem mundane into an offering to God. He has given you talents, he has put you in a position at this very moment to use them. Rather than thinking about your to do list or what you want for lunch, focus on the current task with all of your mind. In times you may feel overwhelmed call on the Holy Spirit to still your heart and mind. How else can the Spirit speak through you? He will always provide you the words needed at that time.

 Lectio divina is a great time to be present with the word! Again, focus on what is right in front of you - the words of God -  instead of what was happening before you began or will come after. This will deepen your prayer. In times when you feel your mind wandering, turn your attention back to the word. 

Praying the rosary. Listen to the words you are praying, feel the beads under your fingers, smell the incense if you are in church. I find when I am mindful during the rosary, I am able to be more intentional and focused on what I am saying.

Resting during Eucharistic adoration. Eucharistic adoration at its core is spending time with God. Just as you would appreciate someone being fully present to you, God calls us to be fully present with Him. While many go to adoration with specific tasks, I like to take that time to simply rest with Him. 

As an LISW, I have seen mindfulness change the lives of many. While there are some roots of meditation in Eastern spirituality, the overall concept can be adapted and applied to our own Catholic practices. Take the time to be present with God today.