Exercise for your brain. We’ve all heard the speech of how great it is for our health, mostly our physical health. I am a big fan of the physical effects, but I’m even more of a fan of the impact it has on my mental health.
I’m not a scientist nor am I a doctor or even a trainer. According to things I have seen and read exercise helps release endorphins that make us happy and it also raises our serotonin levels. Basically, exercise does a body, and a brain, good. Oxygenating the brain gives it the strength to fight the bad stuff. Like my yoga instructor says…inhale the good s$@% and exhale the bulls#$@.
Exercising is what kept me sane after going off medications for postpartum depression.
After our son, I did more of a HIT style training, and then after our daughter, I found yoga.
I don’t remember what made me want to try yoga because I was always of the mindset that if I didn’t sweat I wasn’t exercising. Then I found a place that did hot yoga. I went once, and I was hooked.
Yoga has become the place I go to for mental peace. I send a message to my husband to let him know I will be in yoga and shut out the world for 60-90 minutes. That is a big part of what makes exercise qualify as self-care for me, not just that it is good for my body but the fact that I found a way to be in that moment with no distractions.
It wasn’t easy for me because I did feel that I would miss something if I didn’t check my phone whenever it vibrated.
The problem was that between reminders and phone calls, I would have half my mind on the exercise and the other half on whatever else was going on outside those gym doors. Probably more on my phone than the workout.
Once I stopped taking my phone into yoga, I noticed how much more I would get from my work out. I could push myself further physically and would leave even more mentally ready to take on the world.
As far as what I do for exercise, I vary it a lot. Sometimes I go to the gym and lift weights, other times pilates or barre, and then there is my yoga. When I can, I even combine two excellent cup filling activities, exercising and spending time with friends. It all depends on how I am feeling, and what my body feels it needs. I have bad knees. I modify everything I need to, and don’t let my ego try to tell me that it makes me weaker than the person next to me.
Don’t worry about what anyone around you does, do what is best for you.
Think of it this way. I have seen bodybuilders and yogis lift the same amount of weight. One lifting that weight with barbells, and the other with their own body weight in a handstand. They are both equally as strong, it’s just a different kind of strength.
We don’t even need a gym. Count steps, take advantage of a sunny day and walk to lunch, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. My grandmother will lunge up the stairs or break out some sun salutations after Thanksgiving dinner because that is when she found the time to get her exercise done.
No matter what I do, I just try and do something. I don’t like to leave my exercise routine for too long, because when I do my brain starts to go back to its gloomy ways.
When I exercise I leave all the negativity behind. When I finish the rest of my day is just brighter. I burn away all the anxiety, irritability, and brain fog along with the calories. Not to mention that feeling of accomplishment adds an awesome confidence boost to my day.
Whatever you decide to do, just commit to doing something, for your physical health and especially for your mental health.
Last week I was chosen to be part of collaboration thought of and organized by With Love From P. I, alongside a group of incredible women, was asked about being a woman and being vulnerable. After writing that post, I was inspired. I decided to expand on that topic for this weeks blog post. Hope you all enjoy. What makes us vulnerable makes us strong; it makes us unique, it makes us beautiful.
I fear the feeling of being vulnerable. I loathe it.
When it comes to my feelings, I have always handled everything on my own and never depended on anybody. Not even those the closest to me. I can deal with it alone for months because I am too embarrassed to share that I am vulnerable.
Whether it was a person who used my vulnerability hurt me (we all have that ex, right?) or a stigma in our society that has made me think that I should keep quiet because it would make me a persona non-grata. I was hurt enough times that I equated vulnerability to weakness.
That stopped though when I realized my vulnerability was part of who I am, and I wasn’t going to let anyone’s opinions make me feel ashamed because of it.
The time I have felt the most vulnerable was when I was battling postpartum depression. The day I finally admitted something was wrong I was in deep. It was the scariest thing to admit to my family, but the most freeing once I did.
After months of therapy, medications, and incredible family support I was finally feeling strong enough to speak up about my PPD more publicly. I started with people who I cared about and knew well, or so I thought.
Most people were kind, sympathetic, and understanding. They listened to my story, some had gone through PPD as well and told me their stories, other who hadn’t were more open to learning more about it.
Then there were others who believed the negative stigma that anyone with PPD was a lousy mother, a broken person, and a monster.
There was no sympathy, just judgment with those people. They didn’t want to know what I felt, and it didn’t interest them to learn more about the subject.
I explained to them that I had felt my emotions were not there, and how at my core I wanted to have that perfect postpartum love and happiness, but I couldn’t get there. How I went through all the motions of being a mom without feeling any of the emotions I so desperately wanted to. I even pulled out the statistics of how many people go through this after they have kids and different facts about maternal mental illness.
I told them everything I went through and how thankful I was to be on the other side.
Instantly their expression changed from happiness and smiles to shock and disgust. Then I got questions, “Why you be sad after having a baby? I was never sad after having my kids, it’s incomprehensible? How could you not love being a mother? How selfish of you, some people can’t have babies, and you are sad?”
Once again I was hurt because I was vulnerable with the wrong people.
Hearing all those things from people I cared about made me want to put my wall back up around that time in my life, and never let it come back out.
Then I thought about it and decided…NOPE NOT TODAY! I realized that the support I got from those who were kind, outweighed the judgment of those who weren’t. Yes I was vulnerable, yes some people weren’t pleasant, but it doesn’t make it a bad thing. I could let them hurt me, or I could take their comments and let them go in through one ear and out the other. I decided the latter.
It had finally hit me that it was ok to be vulnerable and those who judged me for it are people I shouldn’t want to be close to anyway.
I finally learned that I could be vulnerable and be strong.
In life, we can’t control other peoples actions, the only thing we can we can only control is our reactions. Sometimes it’s intentional, and sometimes it’s not. Either way, we can’t keep people from using our vulnerability to hurt us, but we can choose to walk away.
We should be comfortable admitting when we are vulnerable. We are human. The more honest we are with ourselves and those around us, the better off we are in the long run.
I know it’s scary to feel someone might use our vulnerabilities to hurt us, but we shouldn’t keep hiding them because we are scared. They are part of what makes us who we are. There are people out there who will listen, and who won’t judge.
Surround yourself with people who have seen you at your most vulnerable and tell you “it’s ok.” Be with the people who appreciate your strength in being able to open up about it. Focus on the support you get from them to help you get through the encounters with the judgmental people.
Always remember that what makes you vulnerable doesn’t define you, but it is part of what makes you the unique and remarkable person you are!
Admitting we need help doesn’t mean we are weak. It does not make us “less than” to ask for help. Just the opposite, it makes us stronger to admit when we need support. It’s also vital for our mental health!
I don’t know why we feel we need to do everything on our own. We have to prove to someone, or ourselves, that we can handle it all on our own. We think about what asking for help ” looks like'” but we don’t consider how it will make us feel. Spoiler alert you will feel completely burnt out, and that can lead to a scary emotional state. I am not saying it causes depression, but depression does feed on that burnout.
When you burn out as a mom, you burn out bad. It’s bad because it doesn’t just affect you, it will affect your whole family.
Whether you need help with day-to-day things or emotional support, you have to find a way to overcome your pride or whatever it is that is holding you back and ask for help. The same goes for accepting help.
Looking back there have been so many times I know I should have asked for help, and I didn’t. Be it from a therapist or those closest to me, asking for and accepting help has never come easily to me.
The lightbulb finally went off recently. I finally realized asking for help wouldn’t make me weak. When we moved stateside, I thought I could do so much more than I actually could, and that I completely burnt myself out.
Trying to do it all and making sure everyone else was ok kept me so busy I ignored my own delicate emotional state.
It affected how I acted as a mother, as a wife, as a person. I was exhausted which I led to being impatient, angry, and anxious. I was falling back into that dark hole I had avoided because I didn’t have the energy or time to pay attention to myself and where I was going.
I didn’t register what was going on within me because I didn’t have the time. Correction…it wasn’t a priority, so I didn’t make the time. Not making sure my cup was full first was a big mistake.
The same day I learned it was ok to say no was the day I realized it was ok to accept help. When I got sick I had no choice, either I took the help, or my kids weren’t going to go to school because I couldn’t leave my house.
Saying “yes I will accept your help'” the first time was like ripping off a band-aid. It was hard to do, but once you got over the sting, everything was fine. Nobody thought me weak or “less than.”
Since then asking for help when I need it has become easier. I still need reminding that it’s ok, but each time it gets easier to let go.
We moms feel the pressure of being “super moms.” What does that even mean? Think about it. Ask someone else what they think it means. Chances are the answers are different. Ask a person you consider a super mom. I bet she has her, different, idea of a super mom. She probably doesn’t even consider herself a super mom. I bet she has another person she considers a super mom. We don’t feel we do enough. We don’t feel we ARE enough. Why?
Needing help is ok!
Let me put it this way. Ironman has Pepper Potts, the Avengers, and all his fancy gadgets to help him and people don’t think him as a “less than” superhero. He just as awesomely saves the planet every time.
We look over the fence and think, “Other moms can do much more than I can…I should be doing the same.” The thing is we don’t truly know what is going on with anyone else. They might be “doing it all,” but maybe their “all” isn’t the same as ours.
Each of us is different. We all have different limits, and just because your limit might be different from the person next to you doesn’t make it any less valid.
I repeat it’s ok to ask for help. The whole “it takes a village” thing is real! We might need help from family, friends, therapists, and that’s ok. It’s better than ok. It means you are aware and strong enough to know you need support.
We should all be ok with accepting help. Be it something simple like organizing a carpool, or something deeper like asking someone to listen before we break. Our mental state depends on being aware enough to know when we need help.
It doesn’t make you a bad mother, a bad wife, or a person who is “less than” anyone else if you ask for help. We are all supermoms doing the best we can. Like I tell the kids you can’t do more than your best.
We have to learn when to say NO.
Wanting to be there for everyone, for everything, all the time is a wonderful thing… but it will drain you very quickly. I learned that after our move to the US. Then I learned something else…
People who care about you will not love you less if you don’t do exactly what they want.
Those who do are people you shouldn’t let be part of your life anyway. Those people get their ego hurt by you saying no because they can no longer control you.
A few months into our move I felt I should say yes to everything. Well, not everything. I didn’t actually do a lot of things I WANTED to do because I was saying yes to so many things I felt an obligation to say yes to.
I was not only physically drained but more importantly, I was emotionally drained.
By the time I realized it, I was in deep. Stress and anxiety consumed me because I felt I had to pull through or I would disappoint people and if I disappointed them they would reject me. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was going back to the exhausted overwhelmed zombie I was in when I had PPD. It had to stop.
I was spread way too thin.
When I finally realized I was spread too thin it was by force. I got physically sick and couldn’t do anything else for a while even if I actually wanted to.
I made phone calls to cancel things I had committed to doing and what I heard back were voices of concern and well wishes. Even though people were disappointed, they were ok. What they thought of me didn’t change. I said no and they weren’t upset. This was life-changing. That wasn’t always the case though.
I remember one call specifically, it was one of the first calls I got. They said they hoped I felt better and then after I proceeded to explain how I would be cancelling different things I had planned because I couldn’t leave the house. Then this person proceeded to ask me if I could do something for them since I was no longer busy.
My “no” came out from deep within me. It was like my body was just done with it. When I said no there was complete silence on the other end of the line. Shock. They were offended. I felt the shift in their attitude, but they hoped I got well soon and promptly said “see ya”. The end result? It worked out fine. I still see this person and we are fine. Our relationship changed a bit but it is fine. It is where it needs to be.
We think people will be disappointed with us if we don’t do what they want.
That just isn’t true. People who really care about us understand if we can’t.
You can only spread a tablespoon of peanut butter on so many slices of toast before there is nothing left. Each slice you get a thinner layer of peanut butter. Until you don’t get any. Just as with each thing you do, people around you get a thinner and less fulfilling layer of you.
Do things with purpose. Know when you start to feel you are dragging you can say no. You should say no. Saying no when you are depleted is what is best for you and those around you. When you feel you are dragging it means your tank is getting dangerously close to empty.
People who don’t truly care about us might get angry, but really I see that as them doing me a favor. They are showing their true colors so I know where they should be placed in my life.
So even if someone gets offended, the world will not implode. You are not a bad person for making sure you are ok first.
I was flooded with awareness of what I was doing to myself. I made myself physically ill because I was trying to please others, and not of what I wanted or what would please me. Not only was I physically ill, I was emotionally done. Looking outward I realized my poor family, the ones I cared about the most, had to tolerate mood swings and a person that was not wholly me.
Realizing you can say no is incredibly empowering.
After that first time, I said no after such a long time of trying to do everything for everyone else…I took a breath and realized I could breathe deeper. I hadn’t even noticed the tightness in my chest.
When you keep trying to do everything it slowly consumes you. You think “sure I can fit that in…and that…and that.” All of the sudden you are dragging yourself all over trying to be present, but not actually being present because your mind is on the next thing or something you wish you were doing instead. Maybe your mind is wishing you were at home in bed, or hanging out with friends, or on a secluded island where you don’t have to worry about anything except making sure your tan is even as you sip on your strawberry daiquiri.
I am not saying to say no to everything. It’s important to say yes to things, but I also know how important it is to know when to say no.
Sit back and think about the last month. What have you done because someone else asked you? Of those things, think about one thing you could have said no to? What did you NOT do that you wanted to do because you had another commitment? Was your presence at that commitment impactful enough that it was worth missing the things you missed out on?
I am very careful to not spread myself too thin anymore. Whenever I start to feel I am dragging I stop and make sure to take a break. I do things like saving errands that can wait for later (if we don’t have bananas for 2 more days my family will survive). I also look at activities. Can I stay home and rest on a Saturday and let my hubby take the kids whatever activity they have going on? Yes, I can!
Again, when I spread myself too thin I become zombie me, then I become overwhelmed, which then leads to me not wanting to get out of bed. When I keep these things in mind I remember to focus on keeping my days balanced.
You eventually find your balance.
Overcommitment weighs us down and the only person who can fix it is looking at us in the mirror.
I survived Postpartum Depression (PPD).
This week is Maternal Mental Health week. Not many people know this. Why? One big reason is that many people who experience maternal mental illness are too scared to talk about it for fear they will be seen as a bad mother.
My personal battle with maternal mental illness was against postpartum depression. An illness I describe as a slow-moving fog of blackness that sneaks up completely consuming you, and by the time you realize it… it’s already too late.
PPD symptoms can vary from person to person so that’s why noticing you have it is complicated.There is no one size fits all when it comes to PPD.
Having a predisposition for depression I have always tried to be very self-aware. Psychologists have been a part of my life on and off since I was young. Anytime I felt emotionally imbalanced I would go to therapy for a bit, talk about what was going on and quickly get the all clear.
Because of my predisposition, I told my OB/GYN that I feared I might experience PPD. He recommended a psychiatrist and I started my sessions before I even gave birth to our son.
I was “prepared” and PPD still caught me by surprise.
My Psychiatrist told me I was having PPD symptoms, and I still spent months thinking it was baby blues that would be gone soon. I always handled my emotional imbalances without medication, this would be no different. I didn’t need help, or medication, or even therapy at times.
When I gave birth I felt that I had to be this perfect mom and nothing was ever allowed to be wrong with me.
I thought I wasn’t supposed to feel anything except wonderful.
Denial and fear didn’t let me accept what was actually going on. I was thinking I would be considered a bad mother, bad spouse, and weak person if I admitted I had PPD.
My PPD presented itself in the form of extreme sadness followed by emotional numbness with a hefty side dish of OCD and Anxiety.
In the beginning, I cried a lot and I got angry when things didn’t go exactly as I expected. If something came up last minute, it meant canceling everything else I had to do that day. I would make any excuse if it meant staying home in my PJ’s.
Later I would swallow the lump that built up in my throat to avoid crying so I would seem ok. After so long of swallowing my feelings, my emotions just shut off.
Eventually, I was a robot going through all the motions but never truly absorbing any of the moments.
My OCD had me thinking if I didn’t rock my baby exactly 10 times before putting them down or if I didn’t sleep facing the nursery something terrible would happen. Not your “average” terrible, I mean out of the bloodiest horror movie terrible.
Anxiety would keep me up at night checking to make sure the baby was ok, even when I had a 24-hr nurse 6 days a week. The fear that something bad was going to happen wasn’t a first-time mother anxious feeling, it was anxiety that would send me into full-blown, chest constricting, hyperventilating, panic attacks.
How could I be that anxious and be emotionally numb at the same time?
One day day I was in the car with my husband and explaining to him what I was feeling. I said I was feeling like,
“There is a boulder weighing down my emotions…I can’t be as happy or even as sad as I want to be.”
I loved my baby, I just wasn’t able to push that rock off that love to outwardly express it.
That feeling that people looked at me with anger, hatred, disgust, and disappointment makes it so much worse. Like I was a monster.
Even though I had an incredible support group, that was probably almost as afraid as I was, I felt incredibly alone.
I waited. Waited the 8 weeks I was able to breastfeed, waited the 4 months past it possibly baby blues. I waited.
I spent almost 6 months locked away in my brain before I agreed to take medication.
That was whole other scary scenario. I had to take something with side effects that might be worse than the symptoms I was having and had to pray that I wasn’t part of the 2% who feel those extreme side effects.
One thing I cannot emphasize enough is…DO NOT STOP THERAPY WHILE MEDICATED! She helped adjust the medication, work out any problems I had with side effects, and once I was ready we worked together to get me off the medication. DO NOT DO THIS ALONE!
Two weeks after taking the medication I felt a literal weight lift off my shoulders.
The boulder holding down my feelings floated up like a light fluffy cloud on a sunny day. The fogginess around my brain disappeared.
When I was thinking a little clearer I found other things that would be able to support my emotional state once I went off the medication. I got into yoga, started taking vitamin D, and changed my diet among other things.
That was when I realized I had to fill my cup first.
I learned that nourishing myself was vital to my wellbeing, and vital if I wanted to be able to nourish anyone else.
Once I was better and more outspoken about my PPD I had people say things like, “I could NEVER be sad after having a baby,” or “how could you act that way when you have a baby to care for,” or even, “why would you want to feel that way.”
That’s right because I chose to feel that way. When I gave birth a magic birth fairy came to my hospital room and told me, “‘You can feel happy and great or miserable and not yourself,’ and I said ‘ You know what? I am happy enough all the time I will take the miserable thanks.’”
I was feeling better and these people said these awful things looking directly at me with no concern of how incredibly hard it was to go through. It’s hard for anyone to understand that we don’t choose to be sad or anxious.
Nobody wants to feel that way, nobody chooses to feel that way, it is not their fault.
I believe I still deal with the effects of PPD and those medications to this day. Sometimes I find myself sitting at the edge of that black hole dangling my feet and looking at shiny objects at the bottom wondering how far I can scoot down before I am not able to get back out. I know better now though than to go down there if I can help it.
PPD doesn’t define me, but it will forever be a part of me.
I try to fill my cup full whenever, and however, I can. Not just because being happy and confident is awesome, but because I know the alternative is frightening.
I am so thankful to my support system for helping me through that scary time in my life.
I still feel guilty when I think about the quality time I lost with my family because of PPD.
So how do you know what you are going through is PPD? Talk about what you are feeling. Talk to your spouse, to a therapist, your OB/GYN, to a family member, a friend.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE ASHAMED!
It happens to so many of us, and so many of us go off to cry quietly in a dark corner and it can’t get better if we don’t get help.
The faster speak about maternal mental Illness, the more others will know they are not alone, and that it’s ok to say “ I need help!”
The faster the stigma goes, the more these mothers will be able to enjoy motherhood.
Speak up for you, speak up for them!
If you think you or someone you know might be suffering from a Maternal Mental Illness here are a few helpful support links (there are a ton more…even specific ones for your state or country you can search for):
Do you speak up when you don’t like or agree with something? Or maybe you have a different opinion but want to fit in so you stay quiet? Communication is key. How many times have we heard this? The bigger question is how many of us have not been able to actually act on it.
How many of us have stayed quiet when someone says something that makes our blood boil? Or even something that irritates us so much it just replays in our mind for months…years? How many times have you gone over it in your head time and time again and thought, “I should have said…”
I was never the best at speaking up when something upset me. I was more of the “wait until I can’t take anymore and just explode years later” type.
I wouldn’t speak up about things because I didn’t want to upset anyone or hurt their feelings. What if I disappointed them? What if what I said made them love me less? Now I realize I can speak up and as Dr. Seuss says, “…People who matter won’t mind.”
One thing that affects my ability to communicate is my self-confidence.
Low self-confidence and the ability to communicate how I truly feel create this vicious cycle that could lead me to a very scary place emotionally and even affect me physically.
Throughout my life, my self-confidence has gone up and down.
When it’s up I am all about telling people how I feel or letting them know if I don’t like something. When I am lacking that confidence, however, I go the complete other direction. I shut down, I don’t express how I truly feel and any time I hear something I don’t like I swallow it.
As a child I would even complain of stomach aches when I was upset. When I was sad, angry, or frustrated I would get this rock hard feeling in my stomach. Little did I know this was my body trying to communicate with me that I should be speaking up!
To this day I hold back the tears, swallow down the tight feeling in my stomach, and move on…or so I think. It always catches up with me and I either shut down emotionally or I blow up at whoever just happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
I also do this thing where I say, “I am going to keep quiet now because I don’t want to lash out and say things I don’t mean. I want to think before I speak.”
This does work, but I have to actually do it. I don’t. I say I am going to think about it and say something later when I have been able to think calmly.
That later never comes. I let it slide and think, “it’s fine it’s not a big deal. I don’t want to bring it up again.”
All it’s doing though is simmering right below the surface waiting to come out in a way that is completely counterproductive to whatever point I was trying to get across.
I try to practice what I preach to my kids and take deep breaths to calm my body. It works, but only until something triggers a memory whatever it was that caused that reaction in the first place.
Swallowing things you should speak up about is like slowly ingesting poison (dramatic but true).
The more you swallow the worse you start to feel. Slowly but surely it will start to eat away at the positivity inside you and it will fill you with negativity. Eventually, you will probably explode, and that won’t be good for you or anyone around you.
Every time you swallow something negative, your full cup has to spill some positivity out to make space for the negative.
So why do we as adults complicate things so much? I get it we understand that something we say could hurt someone and cause damage to them emotionally. We want to fit in. We don’t want to make waves. It isn’t worth the argument. We come up with a million excuses to stay quiet.
What if there is no argument though? No waves? What if there is a conversation. What if everyone states their position and then moves on together or apart, but moves on with one less thing weighing them down in life?
If you can’t stand up for yourself, nobody else is going to do it for you.
The important part of being heard is to make sure you have discussion, not a battle. You don’t have to offend people or be rude to speak up about something.
Recently, I promised myself I will be speaking up more. I don’t do it 100% of the time yet, but I do it more than I did and it has brought me more confidence to speak up more often.
So if you think you can’t speak up, know you can, now that the vicious cycle can be reversed!
Spring is almost here and for us Floridians that means… it’s pretty much just another day. Spring is great though because people all over the world can start to put away their parkas and dust off their t-shirts and flip-flops.
The sun is back and that means so is the best source of natural vitamin D! The cold gloomy mood we are feeling will soon be kicked to the curb and blown away by the warm breeze of Spring.The sun is an incredible mood lifter. So it’s time to get out and get happy!
Spring means it’s time for some natural vitamin D!
The springtime sunlight not only energizes the earth to bring it back to life, but it energizes us as well. One of the ways the sun energizes us is by bathing us in vitamin D.
Vitamin D is very important for so many things. It helps keep your bones strong and healthy, supports cell growth, and is highly beneficial for the immune system. These things are all amazing, but the benefit that I have found the most interesting is how it helps melt away those winter blues.
When we lived in Colombia it rained a lot. Sunny days were far and few between. So I found myself dragging a lot more living there, than I do now in living in the sunshine state. I am not saying everyone walks around depressed all day if the daily weather is gloomy. What I am saying is those of us who have a tendency to have one toe already dipped in the pool of depression may start to feel the urge to sink in deeper when skies are grey.
Being outside is a great way to fill your cup. Do whatever you can outside and absorb some rays, after applying sunscreen of course.
Do your workout outdoors instead of going to the gym. Take a jog around the neighborhood instead of getting on the treadmill. If it’s close enough, walk to Starbucks instead of taking the car. Sit outside at a restaurant for lunch, or have a picnic in the park with the fam.
You can hike, camp, go to the beach, pretty much anything. I am not a very outdoorsy person in the sense that I fear bugs, frogs, and snakes, but I try to get outside when I can to get some sunshine injected vitamin D.
I sit outside and absorb some rays while I watch the kids play in the yard and after a little while the trees are greener the sky is bluer and the world is an all-around better place. I’m also a huge fan of going for walks around the neighborhood with friends after we drop the kids at school. Good friends and vitamin D is a great 2-for-1 mood lifter!
What about when there is no way to go out and let the sun rays soak in?
As per the recommendation of my doctor I take a vitamin D supplement (it’s like a bottle of sunshine). Mine has k2 in it as well for better absorption (be sure to ask your doctor if that might help you as well). This was given to me after going off my postpartum depression medications.
While testing me for various things, the doctor noticed a vitamin D deficiency. My doctor proceeded to explain that a vitamin D deficiency can be one of the things that affects my mood. I am not saying a vitamin D deficiency causes depression, but it has been shown to be something that can influence your mood.
Before you take any supplements though be sure to ask your doctor.
Eating vitamin D rich foods can help. This food includes as wild-caught fatty fish like tuna, salmon or mackerel, beef or liver, egg yolks, and mushrooms to name a few. There are also dairy products and orange juices fortified with Vitamin D. Cod liver oil is packed with Vitamin D too, if you can stomach it.
As far as how much Vitamin D you need, again the best way to find out is to ask your doctor.
If any of this sounds like something you are going through, you might want to speak with your doctor about getting tested for a vitamin D deficiency. You never know it might be completely ok, but if you are vitamin D deficient fixing it might help put a spring in your step!
When I first learned about mindfulness I was in therapy for postpartum depression.
The effects of my PPD included OCD, anxiety, emotional numbness, among other things. All of these things kept me from truly enjoying anything. It’s like I was far away watching all these things happen to someone else on TV, but not truly feeling or experiencing anything. Learning to live mindfully was going to be what brought me back, even if I didn’t know it then.
When it comes to mindfulness, like pretty much everything else, practice makes perfect. The more you practice mindfulness the easier it will be to get to this mindful state, and the more mindful moments you will have.
I tried a bunch of mindfulness exercises that are all great, but while they might work for other people none of them had worked for me.
Until I learned a simple mindfulness exercise in yoga class.
The exercise is that you focus on what you hear, smell, taste, feel, and see.
Sounds simple right? It is simple…not so easy though.
It’s not easy because to be mindful you really have to focus. That means putting aside all the errands you have to run, the meetings you have later, and the tomatoes you have to get from the store for dinner. I always have my brain full of anything and everything past and future so I usually miss the now. It’s amazing to think that living in the moment is so much work.
So in my yoga class, I made it a goal to get there. I began. I went through my 5 senses and picked one thing to focus on. The smell of the humidity in the air, the sight of how the grain flowed on the wood floor, the sound coming from the teacher’s voice, the vibrations my chest made when we did our “Ohmmmmmmm,” I could even taste the mint from the gum I was chewing earlier. Then I would start from the beginning again with another set of details, and keep going throughout the whole class.
This helped set my mind. After a few minutes of this exercise (max 5 min), I was transported to a different world. A world where there was no past, no future, no outside…just here and now.
After this exercise, the class flowed like it never had before. I started to focus on myself.
I could feel my abs flexing, or my legs shaking, or the sweat drops going down my neck. I could feel how my nerves and muscles carried my limbs where they needed to go for each posture.
I felt how easily I could be sucked back into my “mindless (unmindful)” mentality, and ran from it by focusing on how the outside of my lungs could feel my rib cage with every breath. I would go in and out of mindfulness throughout the whole class, trying to stay as mindful as possible.
The class ended it like I was waking up from anesthesia, my mind was being flooded with all the to-dos for the day. I thought they would flood back so fast they would come out my ears, but as they started to come I was able to organize everything better and consider what I actually had to think about then, what could wait, or what had to be thrown out altogether.
The overwhelming anxiety I got used to feeling wasn’t there and I felt I was breathing deeper than had in a long time.
I was in shock it actually worked. It was amazing. I finally got it and I was hooked!
I started to practice this technique outside of yoga. Anytime I felt myself getting too overwhelmed I just stop, take a breath, and start to check on my senses. Sometimes I create this bubble in my mind and look up to see all my intruding thoughts looking through my bubble waiting for me to let my guard down so they can invade my space.
When I first started practicing mindfulness on my own it was uncomfortable so after a minute or so of I would find comfort in going back to my unmindful state, but the more I practice the more comfortable it has become.
I now find myself being mindful at some point almost daily. Not just when I am overwhelmed but just to check in on myself and see how I am doing emotionally. Each time I control it better and work on it lasting longer. Now, I have learned how to take in the moments. Any moments, small or big.
Once my brain got used to being in this space, it started to go there on its own. I crave mindful moments.
The more mindful moments you have, the more you will let go of anxiety, the less you will be overwhelmed, the more you will feel true bliss, and the more you will fill your cup.
Your brain will allow you to live in the moment if you let it.
I wouldn’t say I could count my friends on my hand but I would say that as a mom I have learned to be selective about who I consider my friend.
Making mom friends can be very intimidating. My kids started at a new school and I sat down at orientation night looking around at the parents that surrounded me and my mind went back to when I started at a new school and wondered who I would be eating lunch with that day. A decision that I thought would define the rest of my life back then (haha to be young a naive again).
I have been pretty lucky when it comes to friendships thankfully, but there have been those that have been harmful too. There have been various moments in my lifetime that I have had these revelations where I realize who would be lifelong, who were acquaintances, and who was just toxic. I would do things to try and impress the toxic people, and now I don’t try to impress anyone. I am just myself and I am very careful who I consider friends because I know how much negative people can harm me emotionally.
Every time I have gone through a big transition in life (like moving 25 times in 34 years) I have been able to find my “people.” Sometimes it happens quickly, but most times it takes a while. The friends I need the most, and that will stick the most, present themselves just at the time they need to. It’s like with every transition, new “tribe” categories open up. When you get married, have kids and move, there are new spaces open for new people that weren’t there before.
It’s an ever-shifting process because I grow and change all the time. Some people grow together some grow apart, and it’s all part of the transition. It’s a matter of being patient and being open to what life has in store for you.
When you become a mom, you have very little free time and you want to make sure that when you can spare some time you spend it with genuine and kind people who aren’t around you just to drain your cup.
I feel everyone crosses our paths for a reason. I believe some of those who have come and go was meant to be in my path so I could find the friends that I do have who are (among so many great things) kind, selfless, and genuine.
The real friends I have include people I don’t see or speak to on a daily (or even monthly) basis, but I know that when we do speak the friendship is still there.
With this last move and feeling as empty as I did, I was missing a new category of my tribe. I don’t know if it’s G-d or fate or whatever you want to call it…but it happens. Be it via phone, or in person, new or old friends…they appeared just when I needed them most.
Here is my big revelation…
Most of the time you meet people who do things for something in return. Be friends with the people who don’t. It’s that simple.
I know this is a simple concept that is way more complex when it comes to actually doing it. The only thing your friends should want in return is your friendship. They should want to be with you exactly as you are, you shouldn’t be acting or thinking differently than you do. Sometimes people are just not meant to be part of your tribe, and that’s fine. They might be perfect for someone else’s tribe.
Your friends become your support. Though that support may change depending on where you are at in life, I feel that when you are a mom that support can be incredibly important. I don’t mean just being there for each other with carpool, but also surround yourself with people you can trust to lift you up when you need it most. Enough guilt comes along with being a mom on a daily basis, wouldn’t you rather hang out with people who lift the guilt off you rather than add to it?
Friends give without thinking about what they get back.
People who are selfish or jealous are not people you need in your life, much less should you be calling these people your friends. These are cup drainers, sometimes it happens a drop at a time until all of the sudden you look into your cup for some help and there is nothing there.
Friends are happy for you when good things happen to you, they listen when you need to be heard, they send you messages on facebook just to say hi because you crossed their mind and they wanted to make you smile, they take you to get coffee on a Tuesday after drop-off just because they know you need a mommy time out.
True friends are cup fillers.
I thought about how I had moved over 20 times in my lifetime, I was always fine. This time would be no different.
Apparently, that was not the case. It was very different to move when you are a daughter or a single adult than moving when you are a wife and mother.
My plan was to be the superwoman who didn’t need help and all my choices were going to turn out perfectly.
In 2015 my husband, son, daughter and I packed up and moved from Colombia to Florida.
We went from living pretty much on our own to being surrounded by almost all our extended family.
In Colombia we had a staff of housekeepers and drivers. Yes, I did spend time with my children. I knew what they were doing all day, I helped with homework, was home with them when they were sick, went to all their school events, etc.
I am not saying parenting there wasn’t work, I am just saying you could put in as much or as little as you wanted.
“Sometimes you don’t know until you know…” -Uncle Joe
Everything went by so quickly. When we finally got stateside we were already exhausted. Then, in our zombie state, we had to go house hunting.
We decided to move to an area that was 30-40 minutes from family, school, and work and thought that was fine because we came from spending hours in traffic on a daily basis (on any given day it could take you 30 min to go 5 blocks in Bogota).
It was also a very quiet suburb (we wanted to try a change from big city life).
It was all going to be wonderful and everything was falling into place.
Except it didn’t.
What we thought was going to be a 40-minute commute for my husband turned out to be an hour plus.
I would take my kids to school (30 minutes away via highway), then run a couple errands and then pick up my daughter. We would go to a park or the grocery store or drive around so she could take a nap until I had to pick up my son a couple hours later and then off to after-school activities. I also kept working from home.
I would spend at least 4 hours a day going to 3 different grocery stores, 2 of which were nowhere near my house because I was just unorganized. I remember sitting in each aisle googling what cleaning products were best, or translating cuts of meat to english.
I was also trying to do right by both our families so I made sure we saw them all at least once a week. Which meant at least two 45 minute trips (without traffic) at some point between Friday afternoon and Sunday.
We were nomads.
Like the gas tank of my Acura that I had to fill up every 3 days, all I was doing was running on empty. I hadn’t found time to rest. Even going to yoga became a chore because I wouldn’t actually enjoy it with my mind racing.
This was not going to work.
My brain hadn’t completed the transition
I was dragging myself down to a depressing level of exhaustion. I was like a shell of myself, I physically looked like myself but inside there was just emptiness.
I was missing my friends. All the feelings I had suppressed before we left in order to help me power through the move were now flooding, no more like tsunami-ing, my brain.
Sad and angry I had no patience with my children and yelled a lot. I second, third, and fourth guessed everything I did. I was not me.
My husband and I argued a lot. I tried to snap out of my funk, he tried to help me snap me out of my funk. Nothing was working.
I was doing the exact same things I did in Colombia so why wasn’t it working? Was I not cut out for this lifestyle? Was I failing at being the superwoman?
First identify the problem
Firstly, I was trying to live based on the experience that I had, and that experience didn’t fit our new lifestyle. I didn’t take into account that in Colombia I had house staff to help me at any given time.
Secondly, I never gave myself a chance to slow down and take a break so I could register the transition emotionally.
Things needed to change. I realized I had to do something to get back to myself.
Lesson Number 1
I needed help.
Accepting help, or asking for it, once we moved stateside was probably one of the hardest lessons to learn with the move. I never really needed it before. I never wanted to burden anyone so I always figured something out.
I started to ask for help because if I didn’t start taking care of myself, I was going to implode from exhaustion.
My husband would help take the kids to school once a week at least so I could sleep in (to his credit he had offered way before this, I was just too stubborn to say ok).
Lesson Number 2
I needed to keep things easy. I didn’t have 6 other people to help on a whim.
I was living like I was used to living on vacation and had to make sure to see everyone we had to before we left, except this time we weren’t leaving so there was no need to cram family time into every weekend.
I started to keep the weekends open for fun with friends or time for the four of us. Friday was still alternated between both families, but if we had another invite from someone else for Shabbat dinner, we went. We chose what we wanted to do, and if people didn’t like it so be it (turned out nobody cared, that was all in my head).
If there were no tangerines on Wednesday, well the rest of that week we had no tangerines. I started going to the grocery store max twice a week.
We moved much closer to the kids school (now it’s a 15 minute commute) and to what we needed on a daily basis.
As soon as I realized it was of the utmost importance to simplify my life as much as possible and asking for help didn’t make me weak, I felt a big weight float off my shoulders.
I stopped being the mom who yells and started to be the mom who laughs and plays and has fun!
I am confident this move was the best choice for my family. I even found a way to hire a housekeeper 4 days a week without breaking my budget!
I am not saying everyone who moves will experience the same things, but the point is any transition can be hard, especially when as a mom you are the one your family looks at to know everything is going to be ok.
If I had just taken the time to re-energize by simplifying I might have had a completely different experience. I thought to be superwoman meant that I had to be able to do everything alone, but really it meant I had to have the humility to know when I was stretched too thin. Being humble doesn’t make you weak, it makes your strong.