Archive for the ‘Sarah’ Category

Getting Rid of the Mama Guilt

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Get Rid of Mom GuiltWhile reflecting on 2015 and settings intentions for 2016, I would love to share with you some thoughts on “mama guilt,” We all know it, right? Some of us all too well, perhaps? But I’ve decided 2016 is going to be a GUILT FREE year for this mama! And I invite you along on this journey.

What I have discovered is that guilt is a highly unproductive emotion for me. When I engage in feelings of guilt, a cascade of edginess and anxiousness follows. Allow me to give you a concrete example:

My Little has had the same sleep pattern for a while now. He generally falls asleep right after I drop my 3 Bigs off at school and will sleep for roughly an hour. I used to refer to this time period as my “power hour.” I would rush around madly trying to get 3 million things checked off the never ending to-do list. Then when he would wake up I would be like, “Grrr! He’s awake already?!? I barely got anything done!”

That mad rush from the time I woke up–squeeze in a workout, make a healthy breakfast, get kids ready and out the door, arrive to school on time–would fester into an upregulated nervous system and linger for the rest of my day; to the point where I was cranky and snappy with my family all the livelong day. When I realized this pattern I thought, something needs to change. My “power hour” was turning out to be quite unproductive to my well-being. And when it came down to it, that hour wasn’t even serving its purpose to help me feel more organized and on top of life. In fact it almost made me feel more scattered and stressed.

So I have a whole new approach to that precious hour of my day where my world is quiet and no one needs anything of me…I savor it! If I want to have a hot cup of coffee and read a book, I do. If I want to snuggle with my wee one and mindlessly scroll social media, I do. If I want to take a hot bath while listening to my favorite Spotify playlist, I do. If I want to pin a bunch of recipes I’ll probably never end up cooking, I do.

I decided to use that time doing something that nurtures me and my nervous system. It’s even become a bit of a joke between my hubby and me. He texts me almost daily around 9:15 a.m., asking what I’m doing. I often reply with a selfie to show what I’m doing with the hashtag #sorrynotsorry.

Ok. So believe me when I say that at first allowing myself an hour a day to simply relax and “do nothing” of apparent value took strong convincing. For some reason in my head it was a luxury; one that apparently I didn’t feel worthy of.

Wait!

Hold up.

I AM WORTHY! And so are YOU!

Who knows why I didn’t place value on self-nurture? Gosh, that seems crazy to me now! But I truly didn’t.  I now better understand (and appreciate) that when I engage in activities that restore and nurture me, I approach life with more clarity, focus, intention, creativity, and (gulp) even kindness.

So mamas, as we approach a new year, I encourage you to spend time discovering what truly nurtures you. Pay attention to what leaves you feeling peaceful, relaxed, and joyful. Really be open to the idea of learning what help regulates your nervous system. I used to mistakenly think running was my outlet… but it actually is a highly UP-regulating activity for me. Yes I LOVE the endorphin rush it gives me, but I have discovered I need to balance it out with some activities that soften and slow the vibration of my heart.  Once you know what best relaxes you, examine where you can infuse these practices into your life to the greatest extent possible. YES. You heard me…as MUCH as possible! Be the resourceful mama you are and find ways to make this happen. The benefits of self-care/love/nurture are deep and radiate from the inside out. The world shifts in response to YOUR positive energy. Own it. Express it. Live it!

Ten Tips for Postpartum Fitness: Part 2

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

Ten tips for postpartum fitnessAfter the birth of a baby many women are eager to feel strong, healthy, and fit. Although it is often overwhelming to know where to even start; especially when you look into the mirror and see a body you don’t recognize as your own. Additionally you are busy adjusting to having a new family member to care for and it can be hard to find the time and/or motivation even when the desire to exercise is very strong. Remind yourself that you ARE worth it AND that being healthy is a highly valuable aspiration. Investing time and energy into your health has a positive impact on both you as an individual and your entire family.

A while back I shared some Simple Postpartum Fitness tips. Here are a few more important tips to get you started.

Nutrition Counts
Honor your body by feeding it nutritionally dense (and of course delicious!) foods. I cannot emphasize this enough. Exercise is only a percentage of the equation to being healthy and fit. Your food choices will greatly impact your energy levels and your results. Keep in mind though that a healthy diet is not at all about deprivation. It is about nourishing your body with the optimal fuel it needs to function at its very best! Focus on a clean diet consisting of whole foods rather than worrying about calories, fat content, etc.

Sleep is Essential
Another HUGE piece of the puzzle is sleep. Study after study show that exercising when you are sleep deprived holds very little benefit. Your body needs adequate sleep in order to restore, regulate, and balance itself. Hormone levels are especially effected by sleep and when our hormone levels are off, a myriad of issues can ensue. In other words proper sleep trumps exercise! BUT one thing to keep in mind is that exercising actually HELPS you sleep better. So there is definitely a reciprocal relationship to the two elements of a healthy lifestyle and finding your balance is key. I know for about the first six month postpartum if I had the option between taking a 30 minute nap or exercising, I often chose the nap. At first there was a little bit of guilt associated with that, but I kept reminding myself that sleep was just as important to my health as exercise.

Practice Functional Fitness
What does this mean? You don’t have to spend countless hours at the gym or on a treadmill to be active. Instead embed activity into your everyday rhythms and routines. Simple changes can make a big difference! One easy place to start is simply walking more. Are there places you go on a regular basis that you could walk to instead of drive? Do you have a friend you can meet up with to take walks together? As a family can you take an evening or weekend? We got into the habit of taking a family walk together shortly before bedtime. My older boys ride their bikes or scooters, while the little one is in the carrier or stroller.  This has seriously increased our family wellness tenfold! Hubby and I get time to chat about our day and the boys get some fresh air and exercise right before bed (and I feel they are sleeping really well because of it!). With the winter approaching we might need to find a new rhythm, but remember that’s all part of life; being able to roll with it and adapt to the seasons of life. Which brings me to the next tip…

Focus on What You are Already Doing Right
It is easy to focus on where we feel we are falling short. Maybe you missed a workout or indulged too much over the weekend? Don’t sweat it! Seriously, just move forward. The negative energy and/or stress you place on yourself is not worth it and is counterproductive to your health. Focus on all the wonderful and great things you ARE doing! Maybe you took a walk with your baby. Or played tag with your older kids at the park while your baby napped. Or nappe with your baby. Or enjoyed a healthy meal with your family. Honor and celebrate whatever positive things you are doing for yourself. A positive mindset feeds your spirit and leads to abundant wellness. Each season in life brings you new opportunities, so embrace them fully!

Love Yourself
Don’t worry about what your neighbor who had a baby 8 days after you is doing. Don’t worry about what that celebrity on the cover of People magazine who just had a baby is doing. Focus on you. Look at your own body with loving eyes. Be kind and gentle to yourself. Appreciate all the amazing things your body has done and will continue to do. You grew a baby. You birthed a baby. You have nurtured LIFE! I made a commitment to myself that any time I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror I would smile and appreciate my reflection exactly as it was. It may sound kind of hokey, but that made all the difference for me. Stop any self-loathing about your postpartum body. Immediately! Your journey is unique to you. Be patient and curious about what your path to wellness will hold.

Sarah is a crunchy mama to four boys. Her family feels blessed to currently live abroad in the Netherlands and enjoy exploring all it has to offer.  She blogs about health, nutrition, and exercise at fitafter.com

How We Do Bedtime

Friday, October 30th, 2015

20151011_163232Our bedtime routine has gone through many various transformations throughout the years. New home, new sleep space, new baby, nursing baby/toddler, and weaned baby/toddler are some of the main factors impacting our bedtime routine.  We also try to take into account the individual sleep needs of each family member.

We are currently in a pretty good rhythm as far as bedtime, but to be honest there were periods when I completely loathed bedtime.

Before jumping into our nighttime routine it might be helpful to share some background:

  • We are a family of 6; Dad, Mom, and 4 boys ages 8, 6, 4, and 14 months.
  • We are a cosleeping family.
  • My 14 month old nurses to sleep.
  • The older two boys share a bedroom. They have twin beds that are pushed together.
  • The 4 year old has his own bedroom with a queen bed in it; he will eventually share this room with his younger brother.
  • We have an “open bed” policy. Kids are welcome to sleep in our bed when/if/as needed. We have a king bed in our room.

Here’s what currently works for us. It’s a bit of the divide and conquer approach.

Bedtime routine starts at 7:30ish with the goal of lights out at 8:00pm.

First, the kids eat a snack at the kitchen table. Then they brush teeth, pee on the potty, and put on their jammies. Most nights my husband reads from a chapter book on his e-reader (so the lights can be off) to the older two boys in their room. He has a chair he sits in next to their bed and reads to them for about 20 minutes a night. Sometimes they listen to an audio book or read to themselves for that 20-minute period. Nighttime reading is very important to us; mainly because they attend a Dutch school and therefore get no exposure to English reading/writing outside the home. We need to continue to foster their English literacy skills so when we eventually go back to the States they are roughly at grade level. Once the 20 minutes of reading is done, daddy leaves the room and the two boys talk themselves to sleep each night. We don’t mind them talking as long as it is quietly and they are not being silly/wild. I actually really enjoy eavesdropping on their bedtime conversations. Most of the they speak to each other in Dutch and it’s always fun for me to listen in.

While daddy is with the older two boys, I lay with the younger two boys. My 4-year-old picks two picture books for me to read to him. While I’m reading to him, I nurse my 14 month old, who will generally fall asleep at this time. My 4 year old falls asleep really fast; like literally the second I finish reading he rolls over and passes out.  The two of them spend the first part of the night together in the bed. When my 14 month old wakes to nurse, I either nurse him in the bed there or bring him in the bed with me. It mostly depends on what time of night it is and/or how tired I am.

The above is all best-case scenario of course, and there are so many things that can hijack bedtime. There are nights it seems we play more musical beds than I would care for but as the boys get older this is happening less and less.  And I feel like solid sleep is happening more and more. I have a Fitbit that allows me to track my sleep and I always feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I meet my sleep goal, lol!

Closing the Gap: Diastasis Recti

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Abs are always the cover story any time a celebrity mom makes her first appearance after having a baby. Most non-celeb moms aren’t too overly concerned–bonding with baby trumps having a washboard stomach at six weeks post partum.

But in some cases, your abs should concern you. During pregnancy, your abdominal muscles actually separate to accommodate the growing uterus. You can tell this has happened because during braxton-hicks contractions your stomach comes to a point instead of remaining rounded.

After pregnancy, your abdominal wall will slowly come back together. In fact, it’s one of the reasons you need to go really easy on your body following childbirth. Overexerting yourself with exercise, housework or heavy lifting can cause further damage while this area is healing.

In some cases, the gap remains months after it should have closed. This is called diasasis recti. While some of these cases will eventually require surgery to completely close, many women can help ease the process along themselves with a simple set of exercises.

Make sure to talk to your doctor or midwife before you begin any exercises to help deal with diastasis recti.

Sarah Johnson is a crunchy mama to four boys. Her family feels blessed to currently live abroad in the Netherlands and enjoy exploring all it has to offer.