Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

I’m Not Going to Stress-Eat the Holidays This Year

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

holiday health

I make a mean chocolate chip pumpkin bread. Totally tooting my own horn, I know, but it’s fine. It’s worth it. Because that bread is amazing. And because I grind the flour myself, and it has pumpkin in it, I convince myself that it’s practically a vitamin.

Vitamins are good for you, right? So it’s okay to eat it for every meal of the day.

It’s a lot easier to convince myself of this misguided truth when I am feeling the stress of the holidays. It seems that the shortened days filled with grayness and bitter cold are never ending, and yet there is no time to do all the things that need to happen between Halloween and Christmas. So while I’m engaging into the fourth hour of a 30-minute craft that we both know won’t turn out, desperately trying to give the perfect neighbor/teacher present, those baked goods scream that they will offer validation and comfort in my distress. So I eat, and I numb, and I eat, and I numb, and then I wonder why I don’t have any energy to get the things done that I need to.

This holiday season, it will be different. We will be different! Because we are going to health-up the crap out of this season. Here is my plan.

  1. Drink all the water. If part of your winter routine means putting on a Costco sized bottle of lotion each day, chances are pretty good that you aren’t drinking enough water. Shoot for half an ounce for every pound of body weight. You may pee every three seconds, but eventually, your body becomes accustomed to the increased water volume, and you return to your normal peeing patterns.
  2. Do an emotional inventory to identify what you feel like when you’re stressed. Sometimes during the holidays, we go into panic autopilot, where we just do things to get them done because we know we have to, and then we end up crashing and burning once our checklist is complete (or even when it isn’t). If you aren’t sure what your stress cues are, ask someone who knows you well what they notice about you when you’re stressed. Figure out what those are, and take a time-out when those cues pop up.
  3. Give yourself the gift of physical activity before the holidays start. Been eyeballing that Zumba class that meets at the rec down the street? Sign yourself up. Perhaps yoga is more your speed, or you’ve been wanting to try weightlifting. Find out what’s available in your area, and do what you can to treat yourself to this. Getting out and seeing other people who are taking care of themselves can be therapeutic in itself, and it will also give you the endorphins to make the stress more manageable. If nothing is available nearby, get a new DVD to work out with.
  4. Give yourself permission to say “no.” If someone asks you to do something and you don’t immediately want to respond with a resounding “yes!”, opt to take a beat to think it over. Practice saying no in the mirror until it feels comfortable. Decide that pleasing yourself is at least as important as pleasing others.
  5. Go ahead. Eat the pumpkin bread. Ask yourself first, though, if you’re eating to feel the joy inherent in delicious pumpkin bread, or if you’re eating to numb the stress and despair that can come with the season. Because when we eat treats to enjoy the treat, we are more likely to enjoy them, and we are satisfied a lot sooner. But if we eat them to stop feeling the difficult feelings, we tend to keep eating, and eating some more, and our poor emotional health starts to impact our physical health.

Enjoy the good things about this holiday season, because you deserve to experience joy. Seek out those things in your every day. And when it starts to feel like it’s getting difficult to find the joy, take a break. Watch some garbage television. Go to a spin class. Put the “me” back into “merry.”

Treat yo’self.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

How to Get a Break This Holiday Season

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

How to Get a BreakI know the feeling of being at breaking point. I’ve had three children in four years. Our budget is tight and can’t afford childcare for the sake of self-care. I’ve worked a full-time job with on-site on-call hours as well as stayed at home with the children. I’ll note I do not have to manage additional challenges of a partner away for long periods, being a single mother, or behavioral, physical, or other particular attributes that some parents must balance in caring for their children. Here’s what has helped me find breaks, sometimes just five minutes in the day, and sometimes more.

Get off Facebook or whatever your social app of choice is. Social media and apps are a great resource as long as they add to your life. Checking for the umpteenth time if I received an email or looking every time my phone dings with a notification wastes time I could use getting a few minutes of solace. When I discipline myself to check my email minimally (maybe once a day or once an hour, depending on your work and situation), I somehow find a half-hour a day because of the five minutes here and there I save. Delete the app, limit the notifications, or simply put your computer and smart devices away for periods of the day to give yourself some space to breathe.

Write down your gratitude. Keep track of when you do get a break. I get more moments to myself than I realize. This is not to say I don’t deserve them, nor is it to deny that I may need more. Somehow, though, being aware of my time allows me to really feel the reprieve those breaks offer, even in retrospect. I keep track of the moments as the day passes. Try on a post it or in your planner or whatever system works for you. At least use a few slow moments of the day or in the evening to reflect back. This doesn’t have to be a time-consuming chore. Write down a word or phrase (e.g., “all napped at same time” or “15 minutes of quiet Legos”).

Reassess expectations. Figure out what you really need to find a little peace to really get your break. My oldest can help fold or put away the clothes, even though the result is a tad wrinkled, and the toys don’t have to be separated and stored exactly as I’d like so long as they are mostly put away. Also reassess what a break means. Can it be just 2 minutes of quiet? Does it need to be two hours completely away? Likely it’s both, sprinkled throughout the week.

Figure out what pushes your buttons. You can make the most of your break if you understand what you need a break from. My children can be around all day and I’m fine but them sitting on me, or breathing on me, really taxes my need for space. I also ask for “breaks” from requests. I don’t approach the kitchen until a certain time, so they are learning to wait until I’m ready for breakfast requests. Lunch is served at a certain time. This cuts down on the endless requests for food and snacks through the day. You can also put approved snacks within reach of little ones for self-service. Once you know what you need, you are better equipped to get it.

Reach out, and be direct about your needs. I do not claim to know your relationship with your partner, friends, or parents. Given your particulars, speak honestly and clearly about your need. Speaking passively or generally may not prove as effective as speaking clearly. For example:

“I’m so tired!”

Versus

 “Grandma, I’m exhausted with all the sleepless nights from infant teething. Do you have a day coming up when you could watch the kiddos for a few hours?”

Take what’s offered. Even if it’s not exactly what you want, accept it. If you just can’t bear to put your children in someone else’s care, stay home but go in the other room. If your children still come to you, put up a gate, put in earplugs, and let go or take a walk around the block. For me, leaving the kids at home with my hubby means coming home to a messy kitchen or living room, which is more stressful than not getting time alone. So I prefer they go on an adventure to the park. You can also voice how the messy kitchen doesn’t really give you a break, or have them clean up once you return. You can also just accept that whoever offers the help—hubby, parent, friend, church lady—may not be the finely tuned multi-tasking machine that you are. If getting a free hour or two means cleaning up a little extra later, it may be worth it to you.

Let go. You cannot have the space, break, or reprieve if you’re unwilling to let go. I can’t need the break but also need everything to be exactly as I would do it. Someone may pout for a little while, the shirts may not be folded as you would like, or they might get a greasy dinner instead of the well-balanced meal you would provide. If you want a break, you have to actually take a break. Enjoy it.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 7 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

When You Haven’t Lost the Baby Weight

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

When baby comes and you find yourself still struggling with your weight, here are a few things to consider.You find out you’re expecting and it is so exciting. That moment finally comes when you can wear the stretchy, maternity pants and the loose-fitting shirts. I don’t know about you, but I love the moment when I can finally ditch the jeans with zippers. You go through your pregnancy and have your little miracle baby, and then there is this saggy belly instead of this cute, hard belly.

All of us women have different bodies. We are different sizes and shapes. According to the American Pregnancy Association, these are guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy:

  • Women with a BMI (body mass index) of 18.5-24.9 should gain 25-35 pounds.
  • Women who are considered underweight with a BMI of less than 18.5 should gain 28-40 pounds.
  • Overweight women with a BMI of 25-29 should gain 15-25 pounds.
  • Women who are considered obese should gain 11-20 pounds if their BMI is over 30.

Now we don’t always fit into this magical category. For me, my BMI was around 19 pre-pregnancy and I have gained around 40 pounds with each pregnancy. This time around, I am well on my way.

When baby comes and you find yourself still struggling with your weight, here are a few things to consider.

  1. It takes time. It took you 9 months to gain the weight, so don’t expect it to fall off automatically. With my previous pregnancies, I lost all of my weight except the last 10 pounds easily. Those last 10 pounds were a struggle. I tried Weight Watchers, exercising regularly, and tried to count calories. I can tell you that before each of my three pregnancies, my weight has been within 5 pounds of where it was before. So, don’t stress momma. It will come off.
  2. Nursing helps. If you do decide to nurse your baby, breastfeeding will help your weight come off. One study done by the Danish National Birth Cohort showed that women who breastfeed are more likely to lose all of their baby weight within the first 6 months. As a mom who has nursed both of my babies over a year, let me tell you this wasn’t true for me. It did make me more health conscious, however. I was more aware of what I was eating, since in turn my little one was also getting what I was.
  3. Embrace your new body. Postpartum bodies are beautiful bodies, but even at the same weight, they won’t be the same body you had before. So, embrace your new body. Maybe you have a bigger bust or a booty you never had? It’s okay to not be the same. Treat yourself to some new clothes if you can. Remember, it’s probably been a year or more since you bought non-pregnancy or postpartum clothing. Changing styles can make as big an impact as a changing body.

Get creative with exercise post-baby. There are classes you can take and exercises you can find online that will help you get moving, and will also help you mentally as you recover from pregnancy and birth. Even just going for stroller walks can help. Use this new little person as a reason to get yourself healthy. Try new recipes, find new kid-friendly foods.

Take care of your emotional health, too. Find mom friends, get breaks for yourself, and find a hobby you love. Even if it just means watching Netflix alone after everyone is asleep, take the time to do something that makes you happy.

The weight will eventually come off, and if you’re like me, you may be pregnant again before you know it. You are perfect just the way you are momma, and now you have a little miracle. That’s totally worth the weight!

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of two in Northeast Arkansas. She needs to remember her giant baby bump is a blessing, not a burden.

What is PPMD?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

PPMD“So what brought you into the emergency room tonight?” I was seated across from the patient’s bed, desperate to remain composed and professional. It was the beginning of my shift, so professionalism should not have been a problem: I was rested, refreshed, and should have been focused. However, this particular patient had a three-week-old baby in the room, and it was taking all of my energy to pay attention to the adult and not the adorable bundle she brought with her.

My priorities realigned, however, when I noticed the strained smile on her face. There was a pause before she answered, as she struggled to compose her response, and suddenly tears spilled from her eyes as quickly as the string of words expressing desperation, sorrow, and guilt over how she was feeling about her new role as Mom.

Postpartum mood disorders affect up to 25 percent of new mothers, and symptoms can develop immediately after birth or months after your little one has come into the world. Depression manifests differently in different people, but typical symptoms include chronic crying, increased anxiety, feelings of despair or guilt, weight loss/gain, sleep disturbance, feeling distant from your child, and fixation on your child’s safety out of paranoia that something dangerous could happen, or thoughts of hurting your child yourself. Dealing with depression by itself is an exhausting task, and doing it while caring for a child can border on the impossible. Doing it without help can create dangerous situations, for both you and your child, and it’s important to ask for support when you recognize that things feel harder than they should.

So what can you do if you feel you or a loved one is having a hard time adjusting to parenthood?

  • Know the signs. Postpartum mental health concerns can arise at any point of the journey, including during pregnancy. Taking the time to check in with your own mental health on a regular basis can help you recognize when things are taking a turn, and knowing what to look for can help you see the red flags sooner rather than later.
  • Have a support person. Depending on where you live, the resources available for treating postpartum mental health can be difficult to navigate. Having someone to advocate for you while you find a good therapist and/or medication provider can make the difference between getting help and giving up.
  • Know that you aren’t alone. There are more individuals who experience postpartum depression each year than who sprain an ankle in that same year. As postpartum mental health becomes more widely understood, a “Congratulations!” will ideally be accompanied with a genuine, “How are you doing?”

When you’re feeling isolated, alone, and experiencing all the difficulties of depression/anxiety/OCD/psychosis, sometimes the hardest thing to do is to reach out and ask for help. If you are struggling, know that you deserve support, not only because it will benefit your child, but also because it will benefit you.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

Coping with Weaning and Depression

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

weaning and depressionNursing is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do as a mom, and yet, I experienced a sadness each time when it was over, even though I some ways I felt like I had anticipated this moment from the time my daughters were each born.

Weaning marks a new freedom in your life, but also an additional separation between you and your baby. It’s normal and natural and good, but it can also be sad, especially so if this child is the last time you’ll get to experience the closeness of the mom/baby nursing relationship.

What can really complicate this already very sunrise/sunset moment is hormones. (Don’t they complicate everything? Geez.) Hormones are added and subtracted each time we cycle, get pregnant, have a baby, miscarry, start nursing, decrease nursing, or cease nursing. Each event kind of creates a trainwreck of the old mix of hormones making their way out while the new mix is making its way in, and that can make you feel pretty crazy, especially if you’re under any other additional stressors at the time.

There are some things you can do to help minimize the impact of the just the hormonal ups and downs. If there are additional things going on in your life while you are weaning, these tips may not help by themselves. You may need to talk to someone or seek some other solutions until things settle down in your life or until you adjust. But if you don’t have additional stress, try ideas for helping your body adjust to your new hormonal normal.

  1. Get exercise. When you wean, you’re suddenly deprived of oxytocin, that life-giving hormone that also carries with it a serious natural high. One way to get some of that high again is through exercise. New recommendations by some experts indicate that the average person needs not just 30 minutes a day, but an hour. And if you can get that exercise outdoors, even better. Sunlight and natural vitamin D are great for your immune system and your mood. I stay motivated to exercise by making it me-time. No double jogging strollers for me, thanks. I like to go it alone and have some time each day where I only have to worry about me.
  2. Breathe properly. Many times when we are feeling stress, the shoulders tighten, our chest tightens, and we end up hunched over and closed up. Focus on sitting with your shoulders back and chest open. Breathe deeply for a count of 5 or 8. Focus on your breath and nothing else. Here are 6 great breathing exercises that can help de-stress you. Encourage your kids to participate if they are with you and you need a moment.
  3. Don’t lean on sugar and caffeine to prop your mood up. It’s tempting to reach for a cup of coffee and comfort food when we feel down, but sugar can mess with hormones in a bad way. Make sure you’re eating enough protein and healthy fats, and try to keep processed foods to a minimum.
  4. Regulate your sleep. Sleep has a huge impact on mood and energy levels, but you probably didn’t need a blog to tell you that. Try to go to bed and wake at about the same time every day—even on weekends—and turn off electronics about two hours before bedtime. Dimming lights and eliminating screen time before bed will help everyone in your home transition to bedtime easier.
  5. Encourage the production of oxytocin. You can help wean your body off those big hits of oxytocin you used to get through nursing by giving it smaller hits. You get small doses of oxytocin released from your brain when you hug, snuggle, kiss, or cuddle with your kids and other loved ones. Oxytocin is also released when we spend time with our women friends, too. You heard it here first—girls’ night, doctor’s orders!

If you feel “off” during or after weaning and just can’t seem to recover your mood, talk to your doctor, midwife or doula, naturopath, or a counselor. There may be additional things you can do to help that don’t involve medication, but sometimes medication is a very helpful option, too.

Every mom’s journey is different, even the same individual with different children, so give yourself the space and grace to work through this time without judgment for how you get through it.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls. She lives and writes in Oklahoma City.