What Are the Best Ways to Increase Happiness On Maternity Leave? Tell Me About Your Happiness

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It’s an important question, isn’t it.  How do I feel happier on maternity leave?

I know all of you are out there working hard to have a beautiful, fulfilling and happy maternity leave.  It’s a journey that’s for sure.  There are amazing days, and not-so amazing days.  It’s kind of shit sometimes.  Even if you have all of the happiness tools in your tool kit, it can be tough to come by because of the hormone ride and massive life adjustment we are on.

One thing I noticed is that many women have fond memories of maternity leave, and the power of hindsight is something really worth talking about.  Author Gretchen Rubin talks about this phenomenon,  which she called the fog of happiness.

Where moment to moment, we may be feeling like we are about to go crazy, and it sucks.  Yet with time, all of those moments create a thick peaceful fog – a feeling of fulfillment and overall happiness.  We remember the crappy moments, but they also seem to be shrouded in a gentle fog of happiness. 

I can only write about it now in July 2016, because I sit here two maternity leaves later, having experienced this fog not once, but twice.

 “Fog is elusive. Fog surrounds you and transforms the atmosphere, but when you try to examine it, it vanishes. Fog happiness is the kind of happiness you get from activities that, closely examined, don’t really seem to bring much happiness at all–yet somehow they do.” – Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project.  

This concept changed my life and how I get through the moments of my little guy popping his first molar and wailing in my ear at 2am.  Because honestly, “this too shall pass” sometimes doesn’t cut it.  The deeper knowledge of the overall fog of happiness, which will cloak those tougher moments, is what gets me through.

My biggest goal is to take a scary, intimidating time of intense learning and challenges, and help you turn it into one of the most deeply fulfilling years of your life, where you have great experiences and adventures, but also retain your identity and a sense of who you are.

Today, I ask if you can answer a couple of questions about what made you happy on maternity leave.  It’s a fun one, you get to think about happy memories, and it’s less than five questions.

Your participation will help others mamas, too.

Just pop over to this link to answer, no sign up, and your answers are anonymous.  

Thank you so much.

 

 

 

Is It Possible to Start an Online Business With a Baby? YES! 15 Truths for Online Entrepreneur Success – With a Baby in Your Arms.

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I’ve taken online courses, I’ve studied online entrepreneurs, I’ve read books and listened to more than 200 hours of podcasts. Most importantly, I’ve started acting on these lessons and am entering the world of online business in 2016.

The foundation was slowly built over maternity leave, and continues to be developed.  But the revenue is beginning to trickle in.  The potential is there, and now I am going from building mode to testing and refining mode.  I’ve tested a few models and it’s time to sit down and clarify the goals, and intensify my focus.

Most online entrepreneurship classes hammer home the whole niche thing.  As a multi-passionate I really, really struggled with this question.  I did not find my niche.  I just started putting a few ideas and business products out there, to see a.) what I enjoyed and b.) what gained traction.  I actually think this is the best way.  Most entrepreneurs get stuck at the start line because they feel like they have to have this entire formula figured out. What is your niche? What problem are you solving? What are you going to charge to solve it?  And so it goes. 

The sweet spot is developing a product that catches hold with your audience, and catches hold with you.  A and B above.

A few products that I developed started returning a revenue.  But I realized in working on some of them, that I wasn’t passionate enough to invest most of my time and focus in that one area. So I redirected my focus to the few that made me come alive – where I had a deeper well to draw from.  The thing is, you won’t know this answer (and cannot possibly know this) till you try it out.

So jump into online business with the intent to discover one type of product you like, and one type of product you don’t like.  I mean it.  Your goal is to have one success and one failure, at least!  There really is nothing to lose other than the time you put into it.

1.) Building an online business is a lot of small tasks.  They can drive you crazy unless you think about them as steps that get you closer to your goal.  One day is going to be about getting mail chimp set up.  Another day is just sorting out some nice typography for your instagram.  One day is going to be setting up / learning about Facebook ads.  Another day may be organizing receipts in your inbox.  Another day may be buying more storage in iCloud.  Acknowledge and learn to enjoy the satisfaction in completing these tasks, even if they are overwhelming and there’s a steep learning curve.  There’s a lot of them, so get over it.  It’s quite satisfying crossing them off in a journal or on your note taking app.

2.) Remember, anything you do, is one step closer to your goal.  While others are quitting at 3 months in, you are just taking one step at a time and being strategic.  The tortoise wins the race.  Most successful online entrepreneurs will tell you they were working at it a while before things took off.  I’m a big fan of the blunt truth talker Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich – check out the infographic in his post showing his product development over six years!

You’ve got at least 40 years left on this earth. Don’t worry about it. Do it because you love it.  Don’t compare yourself to the entrepreneurs who have 70 hours a week, or even 20 to work on their projects and launches.  You are working very hard on a few precious hours per week.  Things will happen for you, but they will happen on your schedule.

4.) Ignorance is bliss, and it contributes to action.  Find some amazing people who are doing what you what to do.  Study how they do it, their webpage, their brand and learn from them.  But be cautious.  I do think that some over-confidence / ignorance is bliss.  Study others just enough to know how to do things well, but not too much.  As soon as you see how many people are doing what you are doi ng, you will become intimidated and discouraged.  When I started my successful Kickstarter campaign, I found two other campaigns I loved and made notes on their models. I focused only on a few successful ones and did not look at just how many children’s books are on Kickstarter.  I wouldn’t have started had I known how saturated Kickstarter is and how much better everyone else’s campaigns looked.  I’m so glad I ran a basic campaign (with much room to improve) and learnt from it, rather than never doing it because I was blocked by intimidation and the desire to do it perfectly. Block out the external noise and focus on what you need to do.

5.) Have a clear idea of what lifestyle you are working towards.  I use Pinterest to do some vision boarding. I have a board called “My goals // my life in progress” (yes, that’s my board right there!) and it is images of the lifestyle and rewards I want for myself and my family. Even as simple as pictures of someone standing in the window, sipping coffee – or a family photo of parents playing in the snow with the kids. I am constantly adding images to this board and it builds a powerful desire – deep within – to keep plugging away.

6.)  Make sure you enjoy your entrepreneurial journey and the project itself, as much as you’d enjoy the lifestyle that comes with it. Your project should be a “Hell yeah” project.  Actually, anything you do should be a “hell yeah or no” situation, as put forth by the fabulous writer Derek Sivers.  You cannot be an influencer in something you are not passionate about. People see straight through that. That’s why there is so much talk about #authenticity on the internet these days.

7.) You don’t necessarily have to take an online course. Most online entrepreneurs’ courses are simply repackaged and re-branded versions of content they have previously published. It is extra work to commit and dig through old content, but it is doable.  So really, we are talking about time vs. money.  If you want to spend less money, there’s more of a time investment on hunting down the information.  If you want to spend more money, you’ll cut some corners and avoid some mistakes other entrepreneurs made.  Eventually, both routes end up at the same destination.

8.)  That being said, the action of financially investing in a course and being part of a community is powerful.  Connecting with other students is a great framework if you are concerned about follow through and prefer team environments.  I also believe online courses are very helpful for those of us who are not skilled in the technical aspects of online business.  I’ve made wonderful connections in some entrepreneurs’ communities that I gained access through, as part of the course. The Smart Passive Income community, Kimra Luna’s #Freedomhackers and others.

9.)  Attend conferences and work outside of the house. Just get out there.  In the business world, networking, friendships, potential deals and closed deals happen outside of the office.  They don’t happen when you are sitting alone on a laptop in a room.  Get out there.  Attend a conference.  Yes, it’s $500 – $1000 to do, but trust me, that investment will pay itself off in a few years down the road with business that is generated as a result of the relationships you made at that conference, or as a result of the business improvements or renewed motivation you received from that event.  This one I have not done yet, and I have this conference on my bucket list.  I cannot wait to do this!  I’ve also added this one – Lewis Howes’ Summit of Greatness – to my pinterest board.

10.) Start saving receipts with the Wave app and creating a “receipts” category in your Gmail now.  There’s so many random little expenses with starting up online.  Cloud storage, random apps, Skype credits, Domain registration, etc.  It’s easy to forget about all of those expenses.

11.)  Don’t ever put too much weight on your total Instagram likes or comments.  80% of your Instagram activity will be hustlers.  Focus on the 5 or less people who you authentically connect on there.  And get unique with your hashtags.  What hashtags would you look for?  Don’t use the “most popular” hashtags.  It’s like dangling bait in the water – the sharks will come circling in.  I onced used #fitfam and #fitspiration and #postpartumweightloss – The Beach Body coaches that came running…..

12.)  Have your product researched and developed before you launch it.  If you arrive in the online business arena with a developed product, you will give less of a shit when the haters or non-supporters rear their ugly heads.  I had a hater a few weeks ago on Kickstarter.  A really unpleasant message that felt like a kick to the gut, initially.

If my children’s book wasn’t 90% complete, I would have taken his comments to heart.  The completion gave me immunity and the ability to pen back a professional letter addressing his trolling.  He wound up apologizing and pledging to the campaign.

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13.)  Be mindful of phone time. If you want a great check in, have your partner take a photo of you holding the phone up in front of your face.  Look at that picture.  This is what your kids may see.  It’s really hard, I know, especially when you are excited about your work and are desparate to work on it!  I’ve realized that I have to be in a separate room or working during the kids’ sleep hours.  They don’t need or deserve the back of my phone in front of their face.

14.)  You are going to get up early or stay up late to work on your business.  My formula has been:  Nap when the baby and toddler nap at mid day, and then wake up super early a few days a week.  A great day is a 5-5:30 start so that I have 1.5 hours to get stuff done with a nice cup of coffee.  It sounds insane but I love what I do enough that it’s not hard to get up.  Wait.  That’s a great question!  Do you like it enough to get up at 5:30 am (or stay up until 2am) working on it?  It is shocking how much you can get done with 1.5 hours, trust me.

15.)  Filter all social media and read selectively.  Follow inspirational or helpful feeds.  Your time is precious as an entrepreneur.  If you are going to take a precious 30 minutes for an iPhone break, fill it with good things that inspire.  Also, stop reading all of those pages, blog posts, social media posts that talk about motherhood and “being too busy” “losing balance” blabllablablabla. You can get stuck in the travails of early motherhood and circle around in that loop, or you can climb above it.   Those are all legit opinions, and motherhood IS hard –  but will they serve your goals if you decide to take those opinions on and make them your own?  Or spend your time steeping in those messages?

Probably not.  Start hunting out and reading about success stories.

A Day in The Life of a Working Mom and the 168 Hour Log. How to be More in Control of your Time.

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One of the most influential books I read on maternity leave was Laura Vanderkam’s book I Know How She Does It:  How Successful Women Make The Most of Their Time.

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In the book, Vanderkam gave a number of successful women diaries to keep.  For one week they logged every activity from the first shrills of the alarm, or cries of their babies, through to the last moments of consciousness.

From those diaries, Vanderkam distilled her findings, culminating in the New York Times Bestseller book (link above.)

There are many fascinating practices that came up again and again across these women.  I am sure you can guess many of them – in fact, Vanderkam reviewed some of them in this article for CBS.

Everybody wants to have better mornings.  I know a bad morning for me, is being in a reactive place – not being prepared and then waking up to my baby or toddler’s voice, then scrambling to get coffee in me, lunch prepped, breakfast ready and then out the door.  Why is it bad? I feel rushed. Scrambled. Unorganized. I forget things.

A good morning is having some time to wake up before anyone else, slowly reboot my brain with some reading and social media scrolling, and then get some idea of the things I need to get done in the quiet moments because I’m not a good details person.  I’m calm and grounded when the kids get up, and focused on what needs to be done.  Not all over the place.

That is so much easier said than done, hey?

There are countless articles on the web, advising you on what the most successful people do in the morning. They all start like this “The 10 most important things that…”  “Twenty ways to change your day” etc etc.

My hangup has always been – and always will be – “We already know!   SO HOW DO WE ACTUALLY DO THIS EVERY DAY AND IMPLEMENT IT WITHOUT FORGETTING?”

It turns out, that to take new actions, we must first know ourselves inside and out.

You cannot reprogram yourself without 100% total awareness of what you were doing before.

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I spent a week doing what Vanderkam calls the 168 hour challenge.  I logged my days from wakeup to pass out.  I’d put “go to sleep” – but most days, I’d literally collapse into bed with a blissful sigh, absolutely pooped after a baby or toddler wakeup at 10pm – just when I thought I was in the clear! 

In recording just one week, I was astounded at the patterns I could see. In reflecting upon those patterns, I was astounded at the lessons I learnt and the newfound motivation to adjust my daily practices and incorporate new ones that I had studied (but never implemented.)

I learnt what I needed from my mornings.  What I needed to set my energy up right for the day.  I learnt that with a monkey brain, I needed to set clear intention and focus in my first few moments of the day. I learnt what my natural tendencies are, when my discipline and focus are missing.

Everyone is different.  Where I am trying to slow down my energy in the morning, others may be trying to improve it.  So take the log here with a grain of salt.

The point of this entire post is to encourage you to journal your day and reflect.

Then, set some new intentions.  Try them out with the new motivation you will have.

Try out new things.  Scrap what doesn’t work.  Keep what works.

There’s a reason this entire process took a year.  It’s constantly trying things out, reflecting and going back to the drawing board, researching some more, and adopting other techniques.  It’s not about a perfect 100% dialed in day; it’s about the journey to get there, the constant little improvements, day by day, week by week.  Then, a year later, you realize that a whole chunk of your day has shifted.

It’s about the bravery to break out of unconscious routine and habit, and choose to implement new things with the type of intention that propels you toward your life goals.

I bring to you a before and after  –  a peek into my own day (this is just a 1 day sample.)

Here’s a typical “unconscious day” before I studied and learnt from this book, followed by a “conscious day” where I have successfully implemented a few of the “successful women strategies” as well as other daily routines outlined by people like Tim Ferriss (see his 24 hours schedule here.)   Once you listen to hundreds of hours of podcasts, you realize successful people tend to have very similar morning routines and daily habits.

 

BEFORE – APPROX 1 YEAR AGO

7:10 AM – wake-up to the sounds of my toddler.  10 minutes lying there thinking it’s too early.  Scroll Facebook.

7:20 – Realizing I have to leave for work in only 20 minutes.  Why didn’t I get up earlier?  I could have worked out. I should have gotten up. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.  

7:25 – 7:45 – Get coffee machine on, get toddler up and half dressed

7:45 – 7:55-  Realize I need to leave in 20 minutes.  Berate myself.  Get snack ready for toddler, coffee made and get my underwear on.

7:55-8:10 – Get mascara on, baby awake.  Go get him up and dressed, prepare some milk.  Get back to getting dressed.

8:10 – Remember I haven’t made any lunch.

8:10-8:15 – Quickly throw together some breakfast food, get my handbag and get my toddler dressed / brush her hair.

8:15 – Look for shoes, car keys, other random things I need.

8:25 – Couldn’t find car keys, or coat, or something else I need.  Hop in the car.

8:25-8:50 – Drive to work, get there in the nick of time.

9-5:30 – Work at the University.  Wind up staying a bit late and feeling guilty about it.  Don’t take a lunch break or my morning and afternoon breaks – maybe a random 30 minute break  (I am bad for this and it’s a habit I am trying to break.)

12:00 – Buy lunch briefly and go back to work, eating lunch in front of computer.

5:30 – 6:15 – Drive home with a podcast, stress a bit about not being disciplined about leaving on time.

6:15-7:45 – Intentional, present family time with the kiddos.

7:45 – 8:15 – Bedtime preparations, get kids in bed.

8:15 – 8:45 – Husband and I make dinner, eat late.

8:45 – 9:30 – Have a glass of wine, relax and chat.

9:30 – 10:00 – Clean kitchen or complete a short tidying up task so house is clean for morning.

10:00 – 10:30 – Tuck in, read non-fiction.

10:30 – lights out.  Spend next 30 minutes thinking about the non-fiction I just read.

 

AFTER – CURRENT STATE

**Note:  This is an ideal day here- in any one day I don’t check off every one of these things.  I am at about 60% success rate at this point in the game.  For every one item dialed in, I miss the other one.  This is a work in progress (and a fun project at that!)  – but after trying each one of these components, I know now what an ideal day looks like, and what to work towards, and it ALL starts with how that first 2 hours goes in the morning, before I even get to work.  

5:50 – Get up naturally without need of alarm (if I go to bed at 10pm and keep a routine – this takes a lot of discipline!)   I’ve been experimenting with programming thoughts before bed to have my body wake me up – it WORKS.  If you trust it….
5:50 – 6:10 – Lie in bed, slowly wake up with scrolling through Instagram (I only follow accounts whose images represent goals, lifestyles or lessons I want to learn.) Good inspiration.

6:10-6:30 – Make lunch while coffee brewing.  Make the bed if husband is working  (watch Admiral McRaven’s speech on making the bed every day for reference to the importance of this task and how it sets you up for a good day.)

6:30-7:00 – Drink coffee in living room and cross off some to-dos with my businesses I am building on the side.  Last week, this time was for my Kickstarter campaign.  other weeks it might be packing an order I received through my Etsy Store.   *A less “dialed in” version of this would be 20 minutes of Facebook and only 10 minutes of work, lol.

7:00 – 7:20 – Get dressed and actually do some decent makeup beyond mascara.
7:20-7:30 – Specifically assign myself 10 minutes to find shit like my car keys and sunglasses, which I know I constantly misplace.  See, I haven’t improved on it, I just build this time in now and ALLOW myself the time / acknowledge this as a regular event.

7:30 – 7:45 – Assemble breakfast and lunch for the day.

7:45-8:30 – Run on a nice trail somewhere along the commute to work.  Also listen to a favourite podcast for inspiration and to set my frame of mind for the day.

8:45 – Arrive at work with time to change out of running clothes; enjoy a nice americano and a green juice / hard boiled eggs (my go to breakfast.)

8:45-9:00 – Take the time to write down my to-dos and goals for the day in a little journal I carry around.  This helps me control the bazillion ideas I have each day, and maintain a focus.  I repeat this practice at the end of the day before I leave the office, making a note of a small success that day.

9-5:00 – Work at the University

12:00-1:00 – Take lunch.  TAKE the break. Get outside. Do.Not.Work.  Ideal is excercise or listen to the Headspace Meditation App.  

5:00 – 5:30 – Before leaving office, reply to personal emails,plan social events, life administrative stuff like budget checks, iCal updates (my husband and I share one.)

5:30 – 6:00 – Commute home with another (easier listening) podcast, intentionally focus on leaving work at work.

6:00 – 7:00 – Fully present time with the kids, relieve husband while he preps dinner. Best case scenario is to go outside in garden or to park or walk along ridge.

7:00-7:30 – Eat in various stages depending on who wants to eat and who does not lol.  You know life with toddlers 😉

7:30 – 8:15- Kids ready for bed: Bath, teeth brushing, bottles for baby, set up beds, put on pjs, etc.  Each of us takes one kid, gets them down at same time.  Intentionally focus on breathing and clear mindedness while rocking baby to sleep; not on kindle.

8:15-9:00 – Cup of tea and talk time with husband in living room.  Also: Myofascial rolling while talking a few times a week.

9:00 – 9:30 – Clean kitchen, tackle a few house tasks.  Somehow the physical activities shut down the brain for bed

9:30 – 10:00 Reading fiction (so I can’t think about it) or another Take 10 session from headspace app.

10:00 Lights out.

 

 Evernote Observations from Keeping This Log:

-How much time I was wasting scrolling through social media before.  I still love social media, but filtered it so that the accounts showing up are inspiring or help me proceed towards goals.

-How precious  free, solo time is and the need to get up before my family to get set on the right foot.

-That email can wait.

-That a small habit like a green juice, making my bed, or a good cup of coffee actually does set the vibe for the rest of the day. Small, seemingly mundane tasks have a powerful ability to shape our mindset.

-Morning is a prime energy time.

(When are your energy flows?  Worth noting in your time log)

-The best business ideas for me, happen in the car.

-I use my phone and check emails a lot less often, this has helped with focus and not jumping among too many tasks and diluting energy / effectiveness.

-That there are 168 hours in a week, after sleeping and working, that leaves me 72 hours to decide intentionally what to fill that space with, and how.  

 

Now, here’s your homework:

Spend one day in your typical cycle.  Record what you get up to.

Then, design an ideal day and make it your goal to execute that one ideal day, with the purpose of writing about it – either privately in an email to yourself, your journal, in Evernote, or in your phone notes.

The moment you record your day, reflection happens and a world of motivation opens up.  You can’t help but notice where the obstacles and opportunities are, and you can’t help but become intentional with this one gift we have; time.

You have 168 hours in a week, what do you do with that time?

How to Avoid Talking About Poop and Diapers: A Conversation Upgrade Guide for the New Mum

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How do we get away from the Mom conversation loop?  How do we insert conversation in that doesn’t revolve around Diapers. Husbands. Naps. Sleep deprivation.  Losing weight. Diapering. Poop blowouts.

How do we reconnect with ourselves and others beyond “Mom?”

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for these topics above.  I’d go crazy if I couldn’t discuss the reality of my days with my friends.  But today, we’re talking about upgrading our conversation.  Adding another level to it, and staying out of the endless loop.

So, let’s chat.

I definitely get it.  The first chance you have for some social interaction with other Mums is amazing – you finally have the opportunity to run through successes and challenges, ups and downs, and you try to figure out what the hell just happened to you, and your life with a sympathetic, understanding, and knowledgeable ear.

The tricky part though is how do you get away from the same conversations?

I bet you know the loop I am referring to.   

Feeding habits…Diapers…Naps…laundry…Complaining about mom things.  Husbands coming home late from work.  Those universal touch-and-go points that fill our days on maternity leave.

Remember those days when you used to talk about world events? Interesting facts, maybe a dash of celebrity gossip?  Dreams and things you were looking forward to?  Positive things?  

Then you get to this place where you realize you are replying to “how are things?” with “good” and then discussing bowel movement highlights of your baby.

It’s a slippery slope down into the same Mom conversation loops.  Especially if you are with a group where there are varying degrees of friendship and familiarity.

It’s just too easy, right?  Find something in common with someone you don’t know, and establish a rapporal by connecting on your similar experiences.

“Oh, how old?”  “Eating/walking/rolling yet?”

But, what then? How do we move beyond that?  How do we get back to the place of conversation we miss so much on maternity leave and connect with other mamas beyond diapers, and naps, and feeding, and sleep deprivation?

How do we acknowledge in ourselves -and- other women, that we are so much more than our babies? That there is more to our identity?  More depth than just that? 

Shifting conversation is surprisingly difficult because it takes forethought, putting ourselves out there and intentional effort.  

Every few years we run into life changes where we have to re-examine and upgrade our skills.  We have to overhaul our nutrition and workouts after pregnancy and childbirth to lose that baby weight.  And just like our physical health, we can re-examine and overhaul other areas.

Ramit Sethi runs a fantastic series on how to master group conversation – which is a must-read (and watch) for anyone who engages in networking and different forms of group conversation.  Sethi’s blunt honesty is not for everyone, but I love his insights.

You can access this series here.

I recommend it as a supplemental read to deepen your knowledge and motivation.

Here are some tips from the best conversationalist Moms I know, on how to have better conversations on mat leave and stay away from the bitchfests (they feel good but they have a *limited* time and place.) 

First, become more aware.  Your job is to start becoming conscious and notice when the conversation gets stuck in the usual loop.

Follow a few fascinating facebook pages or general interest blogs and put them at the top of your feed “appear first” so they don’t get lost in the other content.

(Some of my favourites)

Kara Cooney, Egyptologist posts really interesting archaeology & anthropology related topics

Brain Pickings or Wait But Why – Long form blogs on interesting topics of relevance to all of us. Gets your brain ticking and leaves you with questions you want to ask your friends about. I often read these while I feed the baby.

Blinkist for iPhone summarizes all of the latest non-fiction books into nice 15 minute condensed summaries and is smart at picking up on your favourites and suggesting other new releases.  Another go-to during baby feeding time.

I purposefully don’t watch the news – but I do like to maintain a connection with world events – the Skimm, a daily (sassy) summary email is a great quick + short read to stay on top of important topics.  Get this summary delivered to your inbox each morning.

Think about a goal you have coming into a conversation.  Do you want to inspire?  Make someone laugh?  What is your style.  Also think of your conversation partner.  How do you want them to walk away feeling as a result of being with you?  Lighter?  Happier?  Educated? Grounded? Inspired?

We are so limited in our time to connect with others, especially our mama friends.  Let’s really make that time worth it by choosing great conversation.

Take time to think about 3 stories this week that have nothing to do with your children. They can be profound, humorous, or of a feel-good nature. Ramit Sethi calls this technique the story toolkit.  You carry those stories with you and pull them out in conversation.

For us Mums, taking time to intentionally think about 3 stories particularly important because

a.) We have brain fog

b.) Our higher levels of thinking and conversing sometimes get lost in oh I don’t know, onesie folding and isolation all week? (I can say this because I’ve been there!)  We need to retrain our brains.

c.) Poop takes over everything.  It’s amazing.  But we really should talk about more things.

Stop being weird with eye contact.  If you are in a group with more than one mama, practice making eye contact with each person rather than focusing on your nearest and dearest friend or most familiar acquaintance.  This can help with the cliquey-ness that we feel (and sometimes unknowingly contribute to!)

And if all fails.  Just drink more wine.  And maybe have the book of questions around.

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My friend bought this pre-kids and it has made for some pretty fantastic conversations. (So has the alcohol lol)

It still does.

I can’t wait for our next girls’ getaway because this book comes out and so does the laughter and connection (and for one or two nights, the chance to remember who we are and feel like ourselves again!

Try it out.

 

xo  – Carina

Taking Anti Depressants on Maternity Leave – An Official Q&A and my own Q&A!

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So I was browsing the interwebs for information on anti-depressant medications from a student services point of view (I work as an advisor and many of my students take medications in the SSRI and SNRI categories.)

I came across a Duke University Psychological Services Page that goes through Anti-Depressant Medication Questions & Answers.  I thought it would be interesting today to juxtapose my experience with SSRIs, with the Q & A on the official website.

I haven’t actually read the Q&A yet. I am literally going to read it as I go along here with you and type my answers in blue below the Duke text.  Let’s see how this goes!  My goal is to reflect upon my own experiences once I made the decision to go on some medication & also to inspire others to be open 🙂

 

The writing in black is the Duke University Q &A Text.

The sentences in purple are my own personal reflections on how the above Q&A applied to my situation.


1. Why would taking a pill help the way I feel?

Anxiety, sadness, and even depression are normal feelings that all of us have experienced for brief periods at one time or another. Usually we have an idea of what led to these feelings and what we can do to feel better. However, prolonged, more intensely down or anxious feelings are different from everyday sadness or anxiety, and medication can help with these symptoms. Often caused by changes in chemicals in the brain, these more tenacious problems sometimes make no “sense” to you. Even when you can identify a starting cause, the depression may get in the way of clear thinking and interfere with your ability to figure out coping strategies.

It may feel like nothing you try to do helps, or you may notice changes in yourself that you can’t understand, such as problems with sleep or appetite, low energy, or frightening thoughts. It’s also not normal for bad days to outnumber good ones for weeks or months on end.

Because depression and anxiety disorders are sometimes caused by biological changes in our body, a biological treatment, such as a pill, can be helpful. In some cases a biological treatment is absolutely necessary. Antidepressant medicines correct the chemical changes that lead some people to feel depressed or anxious.

In a lot of reflection of late (I’ve been re-reading my childhood & teen journals) I’ve realized I was actually quite depressed throughout my teen years, much more prolonged and intense than the typical teen ups and downs. For months at a time.  I’ve also experienced what I’d describe as 3 minor depressive episodes.  However, I did not know it at that point in my life.  

It didn’t make sense to me at the time, because I was using my tool kit for happiness and had a great life.  In terms of family dynamics,  I had one parent who was super intense on the tough love / suck it up spectrum and I bought into that mindset and sucked it up, held my chin up and carried on.  

At the time I was not simply aware of what was normal and what was not. I also did not understand that how I felt could be caused by chemical imbalances.  As a teen and in my 20s, I just felt like I was going through similar ups and downs to everybody else.  Life is a struggle, right?

I was very positive and engaged / active in my life, but couldn’t escape the internal biological feeling of crushing sadness. Only now, at the age of 33 with development and the power of hindsight, do I realize I’ve had ups and downs in mental health over the years.  

2.  Why can’t I do it on my own?

If you could just “snap out of it,” you probably would have by now. Often students try hard to “get over” their unpleasant feelings before coming to CAPS. Medication is not the only treatment option: some kinds of depression and anxiety get better with counseling. Sometimes, however, the level of pain is high enough, or interferes enough with your ability to function in your daily life, that medications are especially needed. Just as people with high blood pressure can’t simply “will” their blood pressure to go down to normal and have to take a pill to help it, people with certain kinds of emotional suffering need a pill to get back to normal.

That’s not to say there aren’t things you can do to make a big difference. Just as people with high blood pressure can make lifestyle and diet changes that help bring their blood pressure into normal range, so can people with depression or anxiety. A pill won’t solve all of your problems, but it will help diminish the symptoms which interfere with your ability to work on them.

My thought processes do improve with counselling, because in my down times, my positive nature and great self talk spiral down slowly and gradually.  I am able to observe and catch it now in its earliest stages, which has taken work over several years.  I noticed it just recently and that made me pick up the phone and resume counselling. Externally I still show up as positive, but the % of positive self talk slowly decreased on the inside.  They say depression is an invisible disease; it is. You are battling it on the inside, without it showing on the outside (or if it does, it is subtle.) 

This is just personal preference:  I would not have gone on meds if I only needed to work on the mental component. I think therapy, journalling and personal research /CBT work helps with that patterning. 

What made me sit up and take notice and consider professional help & medication was the body component. For me, that’s when shit gets real.  I’ll give you an example of the last two months at work:  Though I was on my game performance wise, I was working my.ass.off. to show up and perform at a relatively average level for me.

My brain felt like it was wrapped in cling wrap, I was struggling with simple cognitive tasks (missing normal turns on my commute home from work), focusing on reading an email, this internal “heavy” feeling, brain fog, and feeling panicky when I laid down in bed at night. I was crushingly exhausted ALL day every day.   In the past I have had a major insomnia episode and I felt myself going there- trouble falling asleep and jolting out of bed at 4am with nightmares.  

I was feeling so energetically down and drained that  I HAD to take a nap at lunch to get through 3 hours in the afternoon.  Lunchtimes I was desperate to find some space on campus to rest.    For me, that is unusual. That is when it started interfering with my life. That is the benchmark –  When things become “unusual” for me and they start making basic tasks difficult.

3. How do these medicines work?

The answer to this question is not entirely clear. The brain is a very complex organ and we are just beginning to understand how it malfunctions in anxiety states and depression. Having said that, it is clear that these medicines do work, and work very well.

Antidepressants adjust the brain’s balance of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine. When these and other neurotransmitters get out of balance your brain doesn’t function normally; the neurons become less responsive and less adaptive. This translates into symptoms such as changes in sleep, changes in your ability to concentrate on schoolwork, excessive worrying, panic attacks, changes in eating patterns, loss of interest and motivation, loss of pleasure in one’s usual activities, feelings of hopelessness, thoughts about death, and even loss of interest in sex.

Once the medicines have corrected the imbalance of neurotransmitters, gradually over days to weeks the brain resumes its normal functioning. The neurons start responding normally and the depressive symptoms resolve. After a period of time on the medicines, usually six to twelve months, the brain regains its ability to maintain its healthy balance without the help of medication.

I take a 10mg dosage of an SSRI, Cipralex.  I went on it 3 months post partum in 2013 when I was in the deepest stages of grief from losing my mum and struggling to adjust to new parenthood. I was just so raw and emotional after 18 months of emotional lockdown as a cancer caregiver and preggo with hyperemesis.  I was quite acute at that stage, crying every day.  It’s hard to separate grief and depression, but I knew whatever it was, it was a lot to overcome and my physical symptoms (listed above) were beginning to interfere with being able to function on a basic level.   It’s hard to remember that stage but looking back, I went on it in the new year of 2014 and I do remember many moments of joy and grattitude in the spring/summer – I had a fantastic time the rest of my maternity leave and was in a really, really great place.   That means it took about 3 months for me to see some results. Everyone is different.

I am currently adjusting again, from 10mg to 15mg which hasn’t really had any side effects. I am now 2 weeks into a different dosage but I have not noticed tangible improvements yet.  The key point to underline here is how holistic this whole process is.  With a decision to take meds comes the decision to employ EVERY tool in the toolkit.  It means commitment and making promises to yourself, as well.   

 

4. What are the side effects?


All medicines have the potential to cause side effects, but, fortunately, modern antidepressants don’t cause major side effects in most people. Some people feel a little queasy the first couple days as they get used to the medicine. Some people feel the medicine wakes them up like a cup of coffee and can interfere with sleep if they take it late in the day while others feel it makes them a little sleepy so they take it at bedtime. Other possible but not too common side effects include vivid dreams, headaches, and increased sweating. Most of the newer antidepressants don’t cause any significant change in weight.

Occasionally, an anti-depressant can make a person feel restless, agitated or anxious. Very rarely, these feelings might trigger thoughts about harming oneself. It is very important that you call your doctor immediately if you experience these side-effects.

The most common side effect of some anti-depressants is a sexual side effect. It usually manifests as delayed orgasm in both men and women. Some women develop anorgasmia, the inability to have an orgasm, which can be very frustrating. In contrast, some male students find that mildly delayed orgasm improves their sexual function. Your doctor can suggest solutions for this particular problem, or discuss changing or stopping the medicine if you are troubled by sexual side effects.

All of the side-effects that can occur with anti-depressants go away once you stop the medicine. There are no known long-term problems caused by these medicines.

 

Surprisingly, the SSRI had a profound effect on my chronic back pain and took me from a 6/10 daily pain level to a 1-2/10 daily pain level.  I didn’t know this would happen when I first decided to go on it. It was a great, unexpected outcome.  I decided to stay on the SSRI from 2013 to now, because of this one game-changing effect it has had on me.  With a back injury, I manage daily pain and have attended  pain clinics and pursue regular manual therapy – the SSRI bought it to manageable levels for me in combination with continued treatment and corrective exercise.

It’s tricky talking about SSRI side effects because it really depends on you and what you already had challenges in to begin with.  I have a pretty low sex drive (I am comfortable owning this part of myself at this point in my life) and I have noticed it has been REALLY low since 2013 (I also have had 2 children in 3 years –  this may be a factor LOL.)

I’ve always thought that for my activity levels and clean eating and healthy lifestyle, my body is surprisingly resistant to losing weight.  I was able to lose the baby weight first maternity leave – about 40 lb over 10 months.  I am still on the same dosage of meds, on a second maternity leave but haven’t been able to shift more than 20 / 40 pounds up to this point.  So I don’t think the meds are the issue. I think the issue is me 🙂  

5. Are these medicines addictive?


No. Because these medicines don’t make you feel high and because their onset of action is over many days, they don’t produce any psychological craving to take the drug. They also don’t produce any physiological dependency. You can stop taking the drugs at any time. It’s important to understand, though, that your risk of lapsing back into depression or anxiety is much greater if you don’t stay on the medicines for several months.

Some students have physical discomfort if they stop some of these medicines too suddenly. You might feel dizzy, have minor visual changes, nausea, or fIu-like symptoms. These symptoms can usually be avoided by tapering the medicine slowly. If they do develop they are usually mild and fairly short-lived. If you have trouble with these symptoms talk with your doctor about a remedy.

Not addictive at all, BUT I was so surprised when I tried quitting SSRI meds. I tried coming off of them 2 different times and I had really, really bad headaches and after a week felt pretty down, and threw in the towel.

 That frightened me a bit, I’m not going to lie, because a part of me is, and always be a bit resistant to medicating.  I am not 100% comfortable yet, talking about the fact I am on medication.  I do have a lingering fear that coming off of them will mean more struggles.  But I want to come off of them.  

 Part of me still believes (even though I know this is not the case) that if I really wanted to, I could fix this myself without medication.  So taking meds still feels a bit like cheating and giving in to big pharma.  I have to remind myself that this is a chemical imbalance in my brain that needs some pharmaceutical care, because I am already using all of the mental, physical and spiritual tool sin my tool kit and pursuing the best life I can.  

 

6. If I start one of these medicines do I have to take if for the rest of my life?

No, but taking the medicine for several months will reduce your risk of relapsing back into a depressed or anxious state. Anti-depressants take several weeks to start working, and once they’ve returned your brain chemistry to normal, it takes several months before your brain is able to maintain the restored balance on its own. The research shows that the longer a person stays on the medicine the less likely he or she is to redevelop depression. Current recommendations are to continue the medicine for six to twelve months after your symptoms are gone. Most people feel that if the medicine has been helpful and there are no troubling side-effects, then it’s not a problem to continue taking it for this length of time. Obviously, if the medicine is not particularly helpful or you have side effects you don’t like, the medicine can be stopped at any time.

The bottom line is that if an antidepressant works for you, you’ll increase your chance of staying well if you stick with the medicine for six months or more.

Another disclaimer, this is my experience:  I was excited to to get off the meds as soon as possible (during my 2nd pregnancy I wanted off of them) but my doctor was in favour of me continuing to manage my back pain (which goes through the roof in pregnancy) and staying on it because it was such a small dosage (and safe for the baby.)

I’ve been on the meds now for 2 years, and was feeling like I’d totally restored my brain chemistry, but 2 months ago, I started to cycle down into a tough episode that I am working to climb out of now.  This was a really important reality check for me, that I am still vulnerable & dealing with a few major life events did knock me off kilter (we had a death in the family, natural disaster and family stress.) I recently decided to increase my dose by a very small amount. 

7. How do I know if it’s working? What will I notice?


Most antidepressant medications take two to four weeks to begin having their effects, although some people notice improved energy sooner. You can expect to feel less moody, and less tearful. Your concentration and memory should return to normal. You may also notice you’re “back to your old self,” enjoying the things you used to enjoy, and less preoccupied with negative thoughts. That does not m’ean you will feel happy all the time. These are not “happy pills” – they simply seek to return you to normal functioning, where you can feel the full range of human emotions rather than mainly sadness or anxiety.

Once you’ve started a medication, it’s very important to meet regularly with your doctor to monitor your progress. As you start to feel better it may be hard to remember just how badly you felt, and an outside opinion may be especially helpful.

What I noticed:

The overwhelming heavy, dark, sad, lethargic  energetic feeling slowly lifted.

My aches and pains improved (especially my back pain)

I was able to muster the motivation to take part in little challenges for myself (ie a walk, going to bed early one night, eating healthy, etc.)  and those built on each other like building blocks.  I do believe the meds got me back to that initial motivation stage (they got me to the start line) then it was up to me to keep building on that (and get myself to the finish line.)

Less meltdowns.  I have spectacular “let teh steam out of the kettle” crying / grief bursts.  A totally normal part of the grief process when you lose one of the most important people in your life.  However, the frequency of them decreased.

Thinking patterns:  The overall % each day of positive self talk to negative self talk totally improved to a 90% positive self talk ratio.  Again, it got me into the right place to practice it and it was up to me to practice.  

Hobbies became fun again.  Running left me feeling euphoric.  **Right now, going through a relapse, I’ve gone from running 10ks and loving runs, to feeling absolutely nothing on runs – no joy, no grattitude, just”meh” – for me that is such an obvious indicator something is not right.  Sometimes you don’t have the classic symptoms of depression, but I do believe pattern that is consistent across the board is you do lose the level of joy you once got from your favourite activities. You feel more detached / not present during the activity, when it used to be a source of presence and flow. 

 

8. Can I drink alcohol with it?


Alcohol can interact with medicines in unpredictable ways, and different people react differently. If you drink alcohol while on antidepressants, you might get drunk much faster than without the medicine or the alcohol might interfere with the medicine’s ability to help your symptoms. Driving after drinking is especially dangerous. Because these medicines need to be taken consistently-every day-to work, you can’t stop the medicine for a day in anticipation of going out and having a drink.

Certain medicines may have more dangerous interactions with alcohol, so be sure to ask your doctor about the specific medicine you may be taking.

Keep in mind that alcohol is also a depressant, meaning it can make you feel worse whether or not you’re taking a medication.

I am a social drinker and have gotten pretty drunk a few times being on these meds. Over the last few years it hasn’t had any side effects, but in this latest episode I am noticing that I am in a really, really down mood the day after getting drunk.   My mental state and self talk are pretty bad and my energy is non existent.  (Oh right, that might be a hangover.)  Yes it could be a hangover, but it feels more intense than that.  I just feel SO blah.  Lately I’ve really noticed that.    Also, I notice if I lie down after a night out and a few beers, I feel “spinny” sooner than I ever did before medication.  It would take me a lot to feel like that before medication.  

 

9. Will it change my personality?

If you are having trouble with depression or anxiety and you take an anti¬depressant, after a period of time you will feel “normal” again. Students often report feeling like their old selves again. If you have been depressed for a very long time, then perhaps this change could make you feel like your personality changed. Most students find they think more clearly and are better able to get their work done once their anxiety and depressive symptoms are successfully treated.

This is a difficult question to answer fully, because the depression experience has a mostly internal component, with possible external components, too.  People who know me would have to answer the external piece.  I would say personality wise, yes, the medication helped –  because I think overall my friends know / see me as a really happy, engaged person – but they’ve seen me at two major lows (my mum dying in 2013 and my father in law dying recently which were both times I decided on medicine.)  They can see the difference between outgoing bubbly enthusiastic Carina, and quiet, reserved, hermit styles.  The medication helped a ton with clear thinking and regaining the precision focus and intellectual ability that is important in my job at a University (and similarly important for a student!)   

10. How much does it cost? Is it covered by insurance?


Most of these medicines are fairly expensive, costing from $70 to $100 per month. They are virtually always covered by insurance. The Duke Blue Cross plan pays 80% of medication costs, reducing the out of pocket expense to $14 to $20 per month. Other insurance plans may have insurance cards that allow you to get your medicine with just a small co-payment.

In Canada I have two Alberta Blue Cross supplemental plans through our employers, one is a University and the other is the City of Calgary – so we are very lucky.  My medication is fully covered under both plans, but one plan does not cover “brand name cipralex” – only non-brand name (huge price difference so the insurance companies obviously support the ones whose prices haven’t been jacked.) There is a serious financial consideration to medication if it is not covered, because you will be committing to it for some time to re-balance your brain chemistry which is a gradual process.  We’re talking months, not weeks.  

Conclusion

Depression and anxiety cause miserable symptoms, as uncomfortable as any physical pain. Although medicine is not always the answer to this kind of psychic pain, often it can be extraordinarily helpful. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, you owe it to your self to talk to a professional about the option of medication. If it’s appropriate for you and works for you, you will be amazed at the relief treatment can bring to your life.

I like that they call depression psychic pain but for me, my thinking patterns and thought patterns are quite evolved through lots of work with a brilliant psychologist, reading, worksheets, podcasts, practice and journalling.  In my experience of it, minor depressive episodes are in the form of  energetic and somatic pain – a dampened aura (for the metaphysical types,) exhaustion, aches, crippling sadness, lack of engagement, a foggy head and feeling detached, and supremely unmotivated (my normal is a very motivated, engaged form of life.)

I decided to medicate and work on things before getting to what I knew would be the rock bottom stage which involves crying, misery and deep sadness. I have never been to the next level, and never want to, which I’d assume is hopelessness.  

My pilot light, the little voice that says “it will be all ok!” NEVER goes away. I know I will be fine because I have all of the tools that are needed to climb up and out and re-balance my mood.  Maybe this is the gift of sub optimal mental health? Knowing you can fall down and get back up?

I’ve done this a few times now and have accessed the appropriate help.

That’s why I wanted to write this article because I’ve been in and out of these processes. I stand here in another “valley” but am confidently working my way out and back to normal. This time I have no expectations around timing, because it is not a step-by-step sequential process.  You can’t look at it that way:  “If I do A+B then I will feel C.”

If you are going through your first major “down” in your life, and you are thinking about counselling, medication, doctor consultation, etc. I encourage you to explore your options. 

Leave your expectations and judgements at the door. Go in, be you, be authentic. Be honest. Be open.  Embrace the unique version of your own mental struggle and be able to elaborate on it.

 It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help.  But did you know that up until the 1980s in research literature, it was considered a bad thing to seek help ?  There is still a powerful stigma against seeking help, and it is because only 30 years ago (when some of us were kids) it was not okay to ask for help. It was a sign of failure, and researchers AND the media told us that.  Crazy, no?

 There’s also powerful conditioning amongst us millennials when it comes to big pharma. We have learnt to see it as the scourge of the earth. I think there are horrible, horrible practices in the big pharma world and their corporate ethics are questionable – yes – but I also have a chemical imbalance in my brain that I need to manage. I hate the system, that pharma is for profit, yes, but I also realize the profound impact of medicine.  

If you’ve worked your butt off and things aren’t improving with your own self-help, or you can’t even bring yourself to help yourself, TALK TO SOMEONE.

Speaking from 3 years down the road and about 3 episodes in my 20s and 30s, each time you go through it and climb back out, you acquire new tools, and most importantly, that powerful inner messaging that stops it from swallowing you. That inner message keeps telling you that you will get better and be back to normal.  

Every time you go through depression or a prolonged decline in your mental state, you become that much closer to unbeatable.  The most powerful people I know / have studied, are those who have struggled the most.  

Stay strong 🙂 

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: How to get over being a rookie mom that makes mistakes.

 

Today I’m going to address some of the barriers we have to learning.  I see students run up against barriers to learning when they are immersed in courses at the University level. I wrote an article about it on Linked In today, but I decided to adapt it for the Great Maternity Leavers too, because this is such a big topic for us.

On maternity leave we are learning how to be Mums, but I’ve noticed there is an absurd amount of pressure to be perfect and that we cannot make mistakes.  There are no mistakes in motherhood.

How many of you had a moment with your baby when you learnt something new and secretly in your mind you thought “oh man, I’m so glad noone saw that, they’d think I was such an idiot.”

Oh hi, yes, I’d like to my hand up about fifteen times on this one?

To truly embrace learning and a path of change as we embrace motherhood, we must take an honest look at our obstacles to learning, shine light on them and then choose to tackle them head-on.  The fear of judgement and our own egos are an intense hurdle to overcome.

Our egos have a strong hold over us – and it is reinforced by our fear of judgement from others  (which is the ego’s work too.  The ego wants to have everyone love us and think we are amazing, lol.)

 

There’s an external battle. There are so many moms out there who are SO quick to judge and stand on their high horses, right?  Especially on the interwebs.  You cannot make any mistakes as a mom.  Their egos are running rampant.  They spend so much time judging others to make their egos feel good, that they in turn are terrified of being judged.  They are locked in a really bad cycle.  One thing I’ve noticed as I became a mum, is that it feels like all of a sudden I became an item of public interest.  The public feels it can comment / judge my mothering and offer their feedback – in the grocery store, at the park, etc.

There’s also the internal battle. The ego convinces us that making mistakes and learning will disadvantage us in life. It throws out all sorts of thinking patterns to avoid the situation.

Did you know our thoughts create a stress response in our body (threat responses) to further convince us not to engage in discomfort?

All of a sudden, it’s making sense that there is so much pressure to be a perfect mum. The pressure comes from two angles – external and internal.

This specific barrier has a nasty effect – it blocks us from learning, and immersing ourselves in a new experience.  It also blocks us from the practice and repetition that allows us to embody and master a new area of learning.

I can give you a really good example.  I love rollerblading, and it’s a key fitness activity for me.  I’ve been doing it since I was 6 and am good at it.  When I had my babies, I decided to start rollerblading with the stroller.  But, it took a few weeks to get the courage up.  I hit a barrier to learning.

Internal barrier:  What if a fall and look like an idiot?

External barrier:  What if people think it is wrong that I am rollerblading, or worse, what if I fall and people see me falling?

Those two barriers made me procrastinate and procrastinate.  Eventually, I got the courage to do it and eventually, each time I went out, the discomfort faded away.  I’ve got to tell you though, I had to face my fears.  I have people shake their heads at me (usually mums) – but I also have people say “that is AWESOME! Good for you!” (usually dads.)

And the best part? I DID fall.  I wiped out on my rollerblades with the stroller.  The fears came true.  People jumped out of their cars and ran over, horrified.

So uncomfortable.  But because I learnt about rollerblading with a stroller and figured out how to do it (failures and all) it means that now, I get amazing exercise, my kids have an absolute blast in the chariot, and I am a happier and healthier mum that gets to be around  longer for the kids.

 

Now, let’s put the story aside, let’s get back to the meaty parts.

A key to overcoming this learning barrier is first becoming aware of when this barrier occurs and how it shows up in your mind.  And in what areas of your life is this triggered?

For me, I am always a bit intimidated to participate in meetings or conversations with new people of high intellect.  I have worked through acknowledging this discomfort, engaging with it, understanding where it is coming from and choosing to go for it anyways and add my two cents.  It has become easier over time, to the point where I have moved from crippling shyness to easy, enthusiastic networking and engaging conversation.

How does it show up for you?  What do you think?

 

 

I get excited when coaching clients reveal this struggle. This, right here is fertile ground.  Their reflection and awareness is the best sign.  It is the first stage to growth and overcoming learning barriers.

The next part is what do you do in that moment.

How do you override the ego and biological systems that are conspiring against you?

They want to keep you in a net of security and safety.  They don’t want you to learn or grow.  They tell you “don’t go rollerblading!”  “don’t try to install your carseat you won’t get it right and you’ll get in trouble”  “nah, put off figuring out how to unfold your stroller until there’s noone around.” 

 

When you dig in and get uncomfortable often enough, it begins to silence the ego.

This week, choose to do something new with your baby.  Something small (figuring out that moby wrap) or maybe something big (figuring out the configurations of your stroller – I cried my first time.)

This is called embodiment.  When you practice being uncomfortable enough that the body thinks “ah, I’m familiar with this,” and the ego shifts from a shout, to a whisper.

All of the super mums you know who easily embrace challenges, new baby carriers, going on hikes or just doing really cool things that intimidate the bravest of us – they are so used to getting uncomfortable that it doesn’t phase them anymore.  They still feel uncomfortable, but the ego doesn’t overrule everything with its shouting.

 

The second technique is to actually put yourself through a thought experiment.

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Do you know anyone in your life who never challenges themselves, never learns, who cycles through the same pattern with a fixed mindset, every day in the bubble that they have created for themselves?

Do you know anyone in your life who challenges themselves, is always learning something new, who has a growth mindset and is constantly upgrading and evolving their life?

They are two very different stories, aren’t they?

 

What if you were too scared to leave the house,  try out that new stroller, what if you worried so much about your baby crying in the grocery store you avoided it?  What if you used to love hiking and don’t do it anymore because you are afraid of the weather, or stumbling, or the baby crying? What does that feel like in your gut if you imagine giving in to the fear of judgement and your ego?

What if you figured out that new stroller (but you definitely cried as you watched youtube over and over) and finally got the hang of it, and your baby got used to it, what if you found a new freedom in going out each day with it?  What if you had a nutritious meal, because that time you went to the groceries you took a deep breath and rolled with the baby crying?  What if you rediscovered the joy of hiking and rediscovered a way to feel like yourself again?

Tell me, how does each feel in your gut.

Keep pushing the edges of your comfort mama, you’ve got this. It gets easier.  Stay steady on that path to growth and evolution.

Acknowledge it’s totally uncomfortable and be ok with that.  Know that great rewards come with great challenges.  It is so worth it.

 

 

What I’ve Learnt from 200+ Hours of the Tim Ferriss and School of Greatness Podcasts

Podcasts can be a new mum’s best friend.

They are intellectual stimulation and a sense of connection and engagement in what can be a lonely and isolating time.  Today I share the podcasts that changed my life and daily practices for the better.

I discovered podcasts on my second maternity leave, and fell in love with the Tim Ferriss and School of Greatness podcasts.

The range of interviewees and topics discussed was food for my brain, which had recently departed the world of adulting and intellectual conversation, and had entered the rather lonely world of maternity leave.  Podcasts were my intellectual stimulation and each one left me scrambling to record ideas, inspiration, quotes and notes.

One of my fondest memories from mat leave was walking (and then training for a 10k) with these podcasts going in my earbuds. I can’t list off specific guests (guess I’ll blame the brain fog) but I can certainly tell you that each podcast left me completely jazzed up.  No matter the topic, I came away feeling engaged.

Despite not remembering the names of more than a handful of guests, I have absorbed a lot of information, and my daily practices have shifted.  Some were intentional and planned out, others I believe have occurred in a strange process of osmosis.  Here are the 15 ways in which podcasts have changed me.  These are all practices that I aspire to and have worked on in the past year or so.

The 15 game-changers that I learnt and applied from the School of Greatness and Tim Ferriss Podcasts:

The biggest reward of meditation is not immediate.

Meditation is a practice that is performed in the present moment, and connects you with exactly that.  However, its most rewarding application is not the practice itself.  It is the ability to apply the results of a regular practice to times of stress and chaos.

Meditation takes many forms.  If it hasn’t stuck with you, try out different styles.  Lie in the sun and visualize the rays penetrating through the skin’s layers.  Listen to a relaxing song without vocals.  Pull up a youtube video and listen to it with earphones on.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MR57rug8NsM   Download the headspace or flowy app.

START AND END EACH DAY WITH AN INTENTIONAL RITUAL THAT CAPSTONES THE DAY.

Here is my daily greens juice, blasted in the vitamix blender then drained through a mesh sieve.  https://www.vitamix.com/Recipes/Ginger-Greens-Juice/C-Series/Variable-Speed/Classic-64-Ounce here is my go-to. Minus celery. I don’t like celery.

Other capstones I’ll employ in the morning:  Running.  A great cup of coffee.  Loud music in the car.   In the evening:  Foam rolling hip flexors (strangely relaxing) and licorice root or adaptogen teas.

 

FILTER YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA TO THAT WHICH ALIGNS WITH WHO YOU ARE, AND WHO YOU ASPIRE TO BE.

Filter out the noise that distracts you from your goals, and leaves you scrolling aimlessly, looking for something that catches your attention.

Spend a day reducing the accounts you follow to 30% of what you once did.  Pick only those that a.) are your family or friends b.) represent a life or mindset you are working toward.

STOP READING YOUR EMAIL FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.

Today, I slipped up.  I opened my email to a hate message from a troll type on kickstarter.  It was rude, insulting and discouraging.  That is how I started my day today.  No Bueno.

In the first hour of your day, you are rebooting your brain and setting your energy for the day.  Fill it with good things and good energy.

LEARNING IS A LIFELONG PURSUIT.

 

Be curious.  Google.  (But then look into proper research.)  All of the interviewees followed paths of curiosity, whether it made sense at the time or not.

YOU MUST ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING TO 1.) REFLECT UPON, 2.) ENJOY IN THE MOMENT, AND 3.) LOOK FORWARD TO IN THE FUTURE. SANDWICH YOUR DAY BETWEEN GREAT MEMORIES AND INSPIRING GOALS.

My mum was one of the happiest, most engaged human beings I had the pleasure of knowing.  Her biggest rule was always have something you are looking forward to.  Listening to these two podcasts, every.single.guest lights up while they are talking about a project.  You can hear it in their voice, even if you can’t see them.

TREAT SLEEP WITH THE SAME PRIORITY THAT YOU GIVE AN IMPORTANT BUSINESS MEETING IN YOUR CALENDAR, IF NOT MORE.

WHILE WE’RE ON THAT TOPIC, GO TO BED EARLY AND GET UP EARLY.

BE PICKY ABOUT WHO YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH. REALIZE IT IS A CHOICE.

Surround yourself with game changers, inspirations, teachers, mentors and happy people.  If you are part of their lives, their stories will become your stories, and vice versa.

FOR ACCESS TO CREATIVITY, ENTER THE STATE OF FLOW ONCE PER DAY.

The flow state lights up the brain and promotes creativity.

KEEP A JOURNAL FOR THOUGHTS WORTH SAVING, BUT ALSO TO PUT ASIDE UNHELPFUL THOUGHTS WHILE COMPLETING A TASK.

SOME OF YOUR BEST IDEAS WILL COME WHEN YOU ARE DRIVING OR IN THE SHOWER.

SHIFT YOUR MINDSET AROUND HEALTH; BECOME THE CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER OF YOUR HEALTH AND BODY.

Your Doctor is a consultant in your health.  They can offer great advice and services – but it is up to you to do the day to day work.  Treat yourself (within reason) as a science experiment.  Try out different things. Find the unique combination of health practices that work for you.

CREATE A DAILY GRATITUDE PRACTICE.  INSTAGRAM PICTURE AND HASHTAG, JOURNAL ENTRY, FACEBOOK STATUS UPDATE – THE FORMAT DOESN’T MATTER.  THE REFLECTION DOES.

READ THE BOOKS THESE PEOPLE RECOMMEND (YES, THEIR OWN TOO) AND KEEP LISTENING TO PODCASTS!

Great books I’ve read as a result of these podcasts:

The Power of Habit

The Upside of Stress

I Know how She Does It

Outliers

The Myth of Stress

Finding Ultra