Health

How to Keep Your Mama-Self Healthy (And How to NOT Obsess About Weight)

how to keep your mama self healthy

 

There are a lot of voices out there that tell women that they can – and should – always be trying to lose weight. “Forget focusing on how healthy you feel- it’s all about the way you look and the clothes you can fit into”, they tell us.

As if being a woman in an image-obsessed world isn’t hard enough, we are expected to maintain “perfect” bodies after becoming mothers. “I can’t wait to get back to my pre -pregnancy weight! When will this belly pooch go away?!” Isn’t it ironic that our very human existence depends upon women and our desire to have babies, yet our society degrades women’s bodies and tells us that we’re “too fat”. (We don’t have to be told this in explicit words: we learn this from years and years of unrealistic images and videos being shoved in our faces, making us think that the way we look is undesirable.)

Sorry for the rant, I just had a kind of epiphany for myself yesterday that’s making me ponder how I think about myself. I was looking up some information about BMI with my husband, and I ended up reading the website’s information and advice about my weight and height. I was told something I have never been told before (or maybe I just haven’t truly listened until now): “Losing weight will not benefit your health.” Wait, what? I don’t need to keep losing weight? Isn’t it always better to be thinner?” I started to say some things out loud to myself and to my husband which sounded totally irrational and totally sad.

I’m admitting to myself that there are some attitudes about body, self-image, beauty, etc. that I need to reevaluate. And I’m already starting to feel more freedom. These recent realizations got me thinking about how women, including moms, tend to be very critical and harsh to themselves.  It’s so important for us moms to take care of ourselves, including our bodies. Where is the balance between prioritizing our health/wellness and becoming obsessed with weight and appearance? In my opinion, here are some ways we can focus on our health- our actual health- rather than just our appearances:

 

  • Decide on an exercise regimen that you enjoy and which fits your lifestyle.

You don’t have to be a marathoner to be a healthy person! Any exercise that gets your heart pumping and your muscles moving is good for your whole body and will help you stay strong and healthy.

 

  • Discover your “why” and make it a mantra

Why do you choose to be healthy? Do you want to live as long as possible? Do you want to be an energetic parent? Do you want to wear your clothes with confidence? I think most of us probably have several “whys” that go into our decision to live a healthy life, but having a mantra for yourself can help you remember why you do what you do. As moms, it can be tempting to forget about ourselves since we have so many things to do and people to take care of! But taking care of your body is worth the effort.

 

  • Don’t starve yourself

Nutrition experts tell us to NOT DIET! I know this has given some people the results they want, but I know for myself that consistent exercise and moderate, healthy eating is what feels the best. The thing about diets is that they can help you lose weight- but is the weight loss then sustainable? A few years ago I went on a “no sugar” diet, and it didn’t really even do anything positive for me. I was stressed (because of the worry that I would “give in” to the “evil sugar”), I was obsessive about it, and it flat-out just wasn’t sustainable or realistic. I’m sorry, I am not about to give up sugar for the rest of my life! So I try to take a more balanced approach with food and let myself enjoy variety. I’m a believer in listening to our bodies to tell us what they need. Guess what? Cookies aren’t evil, so go have one! 😁 Of course, it’s important to practice moderation; too much of one thing can make anyone feel gross.

 

  • Don’t rely on the scale

I know of people who have totally ditched the scale because they get too fixated on their weight number. I finally realized recently that me being 7 pounds lighter than I was 2 years ago is hardly something to stress about! I feel great, I love how my clothes fit, I work out hard, and I feel like I have a much healthier relationship with food than I used to.

 

  • Try new things

Experimenting with different foods and recipes as well as different physical activities can be fun ways for you to prioritize your health. These things also set a good example to your kids, showing that trying new things is fun!

 

  • Remember that your body is AMAZING!

Think about it: You have given your child or children the best of yourself- your body, your life! Give yourself a break and remember that your body does wonderful things.

 

  • Remember that your children will learn how to think of themselves from YOU.

We don’t realize how much kids really do pick up on and understand. If we aren’t kind to ourselves, they won’t learn how to be kind to themselves. To your child, you are the most beautiful and perfect woman on the planet. Don’t crush their image of you by letting society dictate how you feel about your body. Love yourself.

 

We live in a messed up world that yells at us that we are never good enough. Well, you ARE good enough! Beyond good enough! You are special and beautiful and you don’t need to look a certain way. You have so much more to offer your family and the world than small thighs or a flat tummy. As moms, taking care of our health is not only important for our own lives, but also for the well-being of our families.

 

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Health

How to Reduce Stress With Mindfulness

how to reduce stress with mindfulness

I know this post is a little bit different than what we normally write about: it isn’t directly related to parenting. But, since we’ve been talking a lot lately about improving on and focusing on our own health and well-being as mothers, I thought having a conversation about mindfulness would be beneficial. 🙂

Stress

STRESS. It’s inevitable. Some of us handle it better than others, though. Like me for example: Coping with stress in healthy ways is something I have to consistently work on, because I tend to obsess over little things… Why can’t everything just be perfect? Is that too much to ask?! 😉 (If anything has helped me realize that I’m NOT in control of everything, it’s parenthood. This is a good thing. It’s good for me to accept that things can be imperfect and happy at the same time.)

Stress is a normal part of life, and a small dose of it can be healthy, as it may help motivate us and help us achieve our goals. However, too much stress, on-going stress, or chronic stress can be detrimental. Stress triggers the human fight-or-flight response; it causes our blood pressure to rise, our adrenaline to accelerate, among other physiological responses. These responses can be helpful, say if you’re… you know, in danger. The fight-or-flight response is a survival instinct! The adrenaline rush can even be exciting, like right before you’re about to give a performance in front of a crowd of people (Psychology Today).
https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/stress

But then there’s the kind of stress that doesn’t go away- the harmful kind. Chronic stress can really take a toll on a body. With stress, the key is to bring our bodies back down to its equilibrium. We can achieve this in lots of different ways; mindfulness is one of the techniques.

Mindfulness

I first learned the term “mindfulness” in a class called Family Stress and Coping. The principle of mindfulness has a lot of value. Here are two definitions of “MINDFULNESS”:

“the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.”

“a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

(Google definitions)

The concept of being focused on the “present moment” fascinates me. Why is it beneficial to focus, to hone in on our current thoughts and feelings?

Because it helps us relax. It can help us achieve a sense of equilibrium. Stress, and anxiety, can warp our perception on reality. Being aware of our present state of being can help us understand the differences between what is real and what is not.

Basics of Mindfulness

In the practice of mindfulness, you focus your mind on what it is that you’re doing. You pay attention to your body, what you’re feeling, your immediate surroundings. It doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting about everything else; it encourages you to be in tune with your present state of being.

There are many ways to practice mindfulness, including meditation. But there are also ways to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life, while going about your day.

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is the mindfulness technique we practiced in my Family Stress and Coping class. It’s actually quite simple, and it’s a good introduction to the principle of mindfulness. Here’s what you do:

-The next time you eat, examine your food for a few moments before eating it. Take in the color and the smell. Think about what it might taste like.

-With each bite you take, try to really enjoy the food. Think about what it tastes like, what it feels like in your mouth. Try to chew slowly. Again, try to enjoy the experience!

 

Mindful eating is one example of how you can use the concept of mindfulness in everyday life. You could also try mindful communication (actively focusing more on what others say in your conversations with them) or mindful exercising. Or, you can set aside time in your day to truly meditate (set aside all distractions, use calming music, relax your body, and strive to think about nothing).

Stress Reduction with Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a great way to reduce stress because it helps calm the mind and the body. For example, when I find myself feeling overly stressed or anxious, taking a few deep breaths immediately helps calm my body down. Actively trying to calm down one’s body and focusing in on the here and now can do wonders for one’s health. Practicing the art of mindfulness immediately in or after obviously stressful situations, as well during times of regular day-to-day stress can help a person become skilled at keeping stress at a minimum. Over time, a person who is able to keep their overall stress at bay and is skilled at reaching equilibrium can enjoy a more peaceful and content state of being.

 

Here are some other articles about mindfulness, if you want to learn about it further:

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition

http://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/

 

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Baby, Health

The Moment I Realized I Have Postpartum Anxiety

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Photo from Pixabay.com

Postpartum depression and anxiety. This is a heavy topic, and so many people are afraid to talk about it or acknowledge it. Thankfully, there is so much more awareness of these conditions out there than ever before. I think it’s safe to say that every one of us knows someone who has dealt with postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety in some way. I am thankful that several of my family members and friends who have dealt with these have been open with me about their experiences- it is because of their sharing their hearts with me that I was able to realize that I myself was suffering with postpartum depression/anxiety.

 

Differences Between PPD and Regular Depression

Postpartum depression has many similarities to regular depression, but one very obvious difference is that PPD is related to childbirth. “PPD is usually diagnosed within a year after giving birth but can extend beyond that” (Baby Center). Here are other common characteristics specific to postpartum depression:

  • sleep-deprivation
  • transitioning to motherhood and dealing with the psychological adjustment
  • hormonal unsteadiness
  • experiencing worrisome thoughts about the baby or about one’s ability to be a good mother
  • consumed with guilt and disappointment about what’s supposed to be the “best time of (your) life.”

(Baby Center)

Breastfeeding can also affect PPD. I have several friends who have told me that their depressive symptoms start to ease up immediately after weaning their baby.

When I Realized I Had Postpartum Depression or Anxiety

After I had my oldest son, I experienced elation (for the most part)! I loved everything about that little guy and I loved being a new mom. It helped that my oldest son was an “easy” baby: he slept well, he wasn’t fussy, he had a happy temperament, and he was independent (so I could leave him on the floor to play while I got things done). Even during a more stressful time, while we were figuring out my son’s eating (he didn’t have a good latch with breastfeeding, which eventually led to us needing to supplement with formula), I didn’t feel overwhelmed. Sure, I felt tired and frustrated at times, but my joy and excitement about everything always overshadowed any feelings of stress. This was a really happy time for me!

I totally expected my second time around to be exactly like my first! But it wasn’t. I STILL feel guilty as I write this, because I wish so badly that I could have experienced the same elation after my second son’s birth. But from the very beginning-from the time I got pregnant with my second- I felt anxious. Looking back, it really is strange. It’s like something about this son and his biology affected my biology in a completely unexpected way and caused my hormones to go all wacko! I remember having these worried thoughts that I wasn’t really pregnant, that the pregnancy tests were wrong…. That something bad would happen to the baby while I was pregnant…. And then, I discovered that being pregnant while taking care of a toddler was HARD! I was tired, and often cranky. The situation was exacerbated by these factors: my family moved states while I was pregnant; I was finishing college during this pregnancy (and had some of my hardest classes); and my husband started graduate school in the middle of this pregnancy. Oh, and it was hard on my psyche that I thought my second baby was a girl…. I was so confused when we found out we would be having a second boy! (Again, I’m feeling guilty for even writing these things, because I should have just been happy about having a healthy baby! The gender didn’t matter. But this factor was just another one of those weird things about my second pregnancy that made me feel like something was out of sorts inside me.)

Once my baby was born, I experienced the same elation and excitement as I experienced with my first-born! My second son’s birth was a wonderful experience for me. The delivery and recovery were much easier than the first time around, and for that I am grateful! My baby boy was amazing and so beautiful! I felt great for the first couple of months. And then, I started to feel those feelings I felt while I was pregnant. I started to have horrible, scary thoughts that made me think and feel that something was going to happen to my baby. I felt constantly worried about him. I had to check on him a bazillion times while he was sleeping. I had a hard time relaxing, because I thought there were always more things to do to help ensure my baby’s safety. My second baby was not super easy. He wasn’t colicky, but he did fight sleep a lot, and was hard to sleep train. He has a different temperament than his older brother, which means my husband and I already raise each boys a little bit differently. My second was and is a happy baby overall, but he is more sensitive, more clingy, and fussier. (We eventually figured out that he’s lactose intolerant, so cow’s milk was causing him tummy pain!) Anyway, I know that each baby is supposed to be different, but for some reason I started to feel overwhelmed.

This went on for several months, with bouts of ease followed by bouts of anxiety again. I honestly did not even put it together that I was not acting or thinking or feeling normally. That is, until my baby was about 10 months old. When I realized that I was not enjoying my baby as much as I could because I was too worried about him, the light finally clicked on inside of me. I talked to my husband about my realization, and I made an appointment with my midwife. It wasn’t after much discussion with me in person that she came to the conclusion that I indeed was struggling with postpartum depression. She decided that it was more postpartum anxiety, so this is what I call my diagnosis. 🙂

Healing

My process is an ongoing one, but I’m happy to say that I feel SO much better now! I was prescribed medication, and it has helped my symptoms tremendously. I am still learning techniques on how to deal with my anxiety, because I hope to not be on medication forever. I feel more confident at banishing irrational thoughts and inviting rational, peaceful, grateful thoughts into my mind. I’m working on dealing with the guilt I still feel for struggling to enjoy my baby in the first place. Mommy guilt is so real, and can be so strong. But I am letting myself remember (and I hope this sinks in) that I am trying my best to be the best mom I can be for my children. I love them with all my heart, and I want them to always know that. I am grateful for my weaknesses and struggles, because they help me learn humility, and they help me grow. I love talking with others about my experiences because talking and sharing helps me feel validated. And I don’t want to feel alone; so many people have helped me know that I am not alone, and I want to show this to others as well.
I am a religious person, so I often turn to scriptures, prayer, and words from church leaders when I need guidance. I just read this quote from an apostle (Elder Richard G. Scott), and it’s one of my new favorites: “(Jesus Christ) loves you. He gave His life that you may be free of needless burdens. He will help you do it. I know that He has the power to heal you.” This quote can be used in many situations, but for me it helps me remember that I don’t have to feel needless anxiety. This is a scripture that has brought me a lot of peace: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:17).

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Health, Printables

Your Self-Esteem Becomes Your Child’s Self-Esteem

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Think about it: our children learn how to think about themselves from us. We help them form their view of the world, through our actions and words. Sometimes, we forget that it isn’t just what we say to our children that matters: what we say to and about ourselves matters a great deal as well.

I came across this eye-opening article about a woman who had a wake-up call about her self-esteem: Do Stay-At-Home Moms Have Low Self-Esteem? (It’s a quick read. 🙂 ) This article is getting me thinking about a lot of different things. Mainly, I’m asking myself: What am I doing or NOT doing to maintain and enhance my own self-esteem?

Being a mom is HARD. It’s the most important work but also the least recognized, in my opinion. Personally, I choose to stay at home with my children because I love it- I honestly enjoy the life of a SAHM. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t have days where I feel like locking myself in a closet by myself with all the chocolate in the house and ignoring my children… 😉 But seriously, sometimes I feel really brain dead. I haven’t been a mom for very long, but I’m already learning that for my own sanity and well-being, I need to do things for myself that remind me I’m not JUST a mom. First and foremost, I am ME.

Studies show that mothers who have low self-esteem put their children at risk of having low self-esteem as well. This makes sense, because if a child consistently, year after year, witnesses his or her mom putting herself down, obsessing about her weight, rejecting compliments, etc., the child will naturally accept these behaviors and attitudes as normal. This article explains how important it is for a mother to be aware of how she treats herself, to protect her daughter from low self-esteem. This advice can also be applied to mothers and sons.

I have an idea. Maybe some of you already do something like this… I think moms (or really, just any person) should give themselves self-esteem checkups. It can be a way for us to see how we’re doing and help us get to where we want to be. To help you in your healthy self-esteem journey, I made a printable self-esteem checkup worksheet! You can download it here:

Being a mom requires more than just taking care of our kids. We are raising the next generation! We are raising precious souls who crave love and validation from us. One of the greatest and most enduring gifts we can give our children is the gift of a mother who loves and accepts herself.

I also designed a printable quote for you to put on your wall or mirror, to remind you of why self-love is so important- not only for your own well-being, but also for your child’s! You can get the quote here. 🙂

Self love quote

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