In many ways Fall reminds me of being pregnant or having a new baby. Everything is in flux. Outside leaves are changing and falling, the weather is becoming cooler, and nature seems to be preparing for a new season.
âInside, things are changing even more quickly and dramatically when we are pregnant or postpartum: our bodies, our homes, our emotions, our partners and our family life.
In any time of transition, especially as we welcome a new baby into our lives, we can feel incredibly unsettled and overwhelmed. This is normal. In these times it is critical to find ways to be grounded, just like the trees outside whose leaves are being blown in all directions during Fall. We need strong roots and a sense of being supported.
Below are a few suggestions for how to stay grounded during times of change:
*Find some time for yourself. For moms with children, even a brief moment may be hard to find. Still, it is important to try to identify somethingâwhether it be a few minutes in the morning in the bathroom or a break during the evening if you have a partner or friend who can help. Try to avoid turning on your devices for at least 5 minutes so you can have a moment to yourself to sip some tea, flip through a magazine, or just sit quietly and listen your favorite song.
*Nourish your body. Make sure to eat, and try to eat some snacks during the day that will support your health like fresh fruits and vegetables and nuts. If you can, move your body during the day. Take a walk with baby outside, or do some gentle stretches while you are on the floor. Every little thing you do will help your body and mind.
*Take a moment for imagery. Sometimes in the midst of chaos and feeling overwhelmed, we need to quickly get re-centered. The following exercise is simple but the best part is that you can do it while you are holding your baby: Take a second to imagine you are a strong tree with deep roots. Picture how solid you are. You bend with the chaos because you have to adapt, but at the core you remain firm and strong. Come back to this image when you need it!
*Rest when you can, and rest well. This one is always funny to moms, but itâs important. Even though you may not be getting more than 1 hour of rest or sleep at a time, make sure that time is as good as it can be. Try not to get distracted by social media or other responsibilities that can wait. Some moms actually get their âspaceâ readyâthey prepare the pillows and a blanket and turn off their phoneâso that when the moment comes for rest they can dive right in.
*Reach out to others for support. All strong trees (and mamas) need food, water, and care. Others in our life can serve in this role of providing care for us. Sometimes we donât know exactly what we need, but we know we could use some help. If you have a partner, family member or friend who you think can provide support, let them know. Maybe you can just ask for a meal to be cooked, a visit so they can hold the baby, or a phone call to talk.
âIf you are unsure of what you need or prefer to talk to someone who isnât in your immediate circle, consider calling the Postpartum Support International Warmline at: 1-800-944-4773.
Remember, fellow mamas, you are doing a great job and your roots are strong. Take care of yourself and reach out for support when you need it. We are here for you!
This morning during the chaos of pouring cereal and children bickering over a Lego figurine at the breakfast table, I tried to get my husband’s attention. He hadn’t heard the news yet so I knew I couldn’t let him start his day without telling him what had happened. As I whispered into his ear my words came out awkwardly, like a pilot giving instructions without using complete sentences: “mass shooting…over 50 people were killed…outdoor concert…” When he finally grasped what I was saying we looked at each other and no words came out.
The kids continued to get ready for school and I distractedly packed lunches, put away breakfast, and got myself prepared for the day. I remember wondering if I should say something to them? It felt too horrific to talk about just now, but I worried that my oldest might hear from someone else at school. Then what? What kinds of fears might grow inside of her before we had a chance to talk? What misinformation would she get?
I knew it would be too much for my youngest, especially because she had recently started asking big questions. Like what happens when you grow old and whether or not you come back as a baby once you die. Her innocence makes my heart ache and I wasn’t sure she could grasp any of this.
So, I said nothing.
I went through the motions and got them in the car. We listed to KidzBop and I gave them huge hugs as they left the car. As I watched their little bodies walk into school I thought to myself,
This is parenting: trying to protect my children from the real world, while knowing this is the world I have to prepare them to face.
If your children are privileged, like mine, this process of facing reality has been gradual. There was no extreme suffering at a young age for my kids, no witnessing of disasters or violence. No perpetual discrimination, trauma, or major hardship. Even with the expected pains, losses, and health concerns that we’ve endured as a family, I’ve managed to keep hidden from them some of the scariest parts of living.
But I’m aware that just as it’s my responsibility to protect them to some degree, it’s also my responsibility to gradually, inch by inch, lift off the fabric to reveal some of the awful parts of life. To show them that scary things happen, and to hope that they will feel. Feelings like empathy, sadness, shock and anger…and motivation to help others and alleviate pain in the world. And hopefully they will realize the tough lesson that I am still working on—to treasure each day.
I’m not sure what I’ll say to my kids about what happened in our country today. I may just wait to see if they ask questions. If they do, I will probably stifle my tears and fumble around with my words until I say something that sounds reasonable. Something that gives my children peace that they are safe right now, so that they can get to sleep without fear. And then I will give them huge hugs… because that’s all I have for now.
As moms we hold a lot of information in our heads, and sometimes that can be overwhelming. There are thoughts that fly in for a second to remind us to buy plastic forks for school, and then more important thoughts about how our kids and families are doing that linger. And then there are the thoughts that seem to taunt us by drifting in and out of our heads, and escaping us just when we need to remember them!
Sometimes in the middle of the day I find that my mind feels overly busy. I can be doing play-doh with my daughter, which I think would be distracting, but my mind can still be going a million miles an hour. There is a chattering upstairs that is hard to slow down, and I know it’s affecting other parts of my body because I feel myself get physically nervous.
In a perfect world, when this happens I could call up a friend or family member to vent, or I could find my nearest yoga studio. But the truth is, when your mind is running at its highest speed, there isn’t time to find the nearest meditation cushion and take a 10-minute break. We need quick and easy strategies that can start to turn the volume down in our minds.
Here are two strategies that I have found useful for slowing things down in my mind:
Take a 4-7-8 breath. Dr. Andrew Weil recommends this relaxing breath exercise to calm down, and some even suggest it can help for falling asleep. Here are the directions from Dr. Weil’s website:
*Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
*Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
*Hold your breath for a count of seven.
*Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
I like to repeat this entire exercise 3 or 4 times. Even if you can’t do the 8 breaths to exhale (I find this hard), it won’t matter because your mind (and body) will already be calming down since you’ve been focusing on counting.
Sing the words to a song. I discovered this exercise by accident, and it’s a useful one you can do anywhere (except perhaps a meeting). When your mind is becoming overly active, pick a song with words that you know, and sing it out-loud. Try it now, if you feel like it: Pick a song you like (Dancing Queen?). Start singing the words out-loud. When you’re done you’ll notice that you weren’t thinking about anything else except the song.
If you have access to a radio, you can find a song you know and sing along and you get really distracted quickly. If you’re with your kids, try You Are My Sunshine or another classic you can enjoy together :)
What other strategies do you have for slowing down an overly chatty mind?