Grounding, Happiness, health coaching, Mental health, Nature, The Fourth Trimester, Trail running

A Nature Based Meditation You Can Do While Walking With a Stroller! This Will Help with New Mom Anxiety.

I do something called nature coaching where I use the natural world to help clients shift their mindset, physiological and psychological state.  It’s fun and I never know what lesson nature will offer that day, so it is a practice I enter with curiosity and excitement. I’ve developed many of the techniques while out walking with my baby on each maternity leave, and I wanted to share one that has stuck with me. I find it very helpful when I experience the anxiety of the fourth trimester when my body is on high alert for everything(!)

This is a very calming and grounding mindful practice, and short nature-based meditation that you can do while walking that uses your senses instead of your breath.

This is perfect for the days when you are out with the baby in a stroller (and hopefully said baby is sleeping!)  I also find this an effective technique when breath-based meditation is not available to me (I suffer from chest pain when I take deep breaths, as a result of an auto-immune disease called ankylosing spondylitis which causes interesting flare ups in unexpected places haha.)

This practice has the same benefits as breathing-based meditations and walking-based meditations, but it includes a sensory component (since you are out in beautiful nature.)  The sensory component I actually adapted from some training that Navy SEALS do (!)

I explain in this youtube video!  Enjoy, and try it out on your next stroller walk!

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Families in Calgary, Happiness, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Personal Development, The Fourth Trimester, Working Mom

My Letter to New Parents who Are Feeling a Bit Overwhelmed with All of the Advice.

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You have A CHOICE.  A choice in however you want to take on the next few years of your life, a choice in how you incorporate parenthood and you-hood in a way that works.

You have the RIGHT. The right to explore how parenthood has been defined by others around you, by the society around you and you definitely have the right to explore what you’ve picked up and taken on as your own definition, and what your deeper intuition is saying to you.

You have the RIGHT.  The right to ask questions, to ask yourself, is this really my belief, or someone else’s?  What feels right for me?  Am I doing it for me, or because I don’t afraid of being judged? What serves me and my family best?  What makes me hold back who I really am?

Parenthood is tricky.  People are intense about how it should be done.   I do believe most people come from a place of kindness… it’s just that they come at it with whatever their own background references are, and assume their background stories and beliefs should be yours, too. That’s a bit silly, isn’t it?

When well-meaning people share their own ‘idea’ of parenthood and attempt to push that style on you (most often without asking for permission,) defuse your irritation by remembering they do come from a good place. Good intentions. When kids are involved people are acting from love, not hate.  It’s noisy out there, everyone wants to tell you what you should do.  The fun part is though, that you have the right to question everything.  Smile and say to yourself “nope.”

I think we all forget, that none of us are parenting experts.  There’s no answer.  There’s never any one right answer.     That’s why the parenting industry is so noisy and loud and clamouring for our attention by dangling the sticks of fear and doubt in front of us (parenting magazines, anyone?) We’re all searching for the answers to parenthood which funnily enough, are within us, not out there. 

You have the FREEDOM. You have the freedom to break from the group.  Even if everybody REALLY wants you to follow the group and what has been done before and what is done now.  Or… what is done now according to some television producer out there, or magazine editor who chooses what gets published and put out to the public.

You have the ABILITY.  The ability to embrace doubt, to feel discomfort, feel a bit lonely, and seek out others on the same path, and in the proess, realize that you’re not lonely, or different – you’re perfect just the way you are.  Perfectly imperfect.

And hey, if you are a hexagon parent in an octagon world, wicked, that’s space for you and you can celebrate your hexagon-ness.  And the beauty of technology is that if you need others, you can find other hexagons to enjoy and share the journey with.

You have the RIGHT.  The right to explore which ‘conceptions of parenthood’ you picked up conciously and subconsciously.  You have the right to understand how much is habit and how much is intention.  Intention is fun in parenthood.  It’s where you decide what YOU want and then you practice it. Every day.

You have the DUTY.  The duty to get rid of the messaging and beliefs that do not serve you.  Get rid of any crap that stops you from being the best version of you.  Because the best version of you, is the best parent for your kids.   And guess who knows what makes you tick? What makes you happy?  That’s right… YOU.

We have a gift in this lifetime, and that is called choice.  To really own the freedom of choice though, you have to shake off the burden of being concerned about others’ judgments. You’ll always be judged.  Judging is powerless, we don’t have to take a judgement on…. yet we run around like they are lasers and they’ll take off our foot or maybe a leg, or an arm.  We are outraged.  We are hurt.  We frustrated when we get judged.  But.. here’s the question…why even take that judgement on board? we could have stepped over that lazer beam instead of walked right into it.

With judgment, the truth is, some people want to sit in their armchairs and be spectators and comment on everything.   They aren’t living their life and it’s much more interesting watching you live yours (?)  But you know what? They are not your concern.

You’re busy being on the field and in the game.

No athlete would win a game if they paid attention to the audience and followed the advice of 20,000 fans shouting 20,000 different things from every direction.

(So why do we do this in parenthood?)

The only people qualified to tell you if you are an awesome parent are your own kids, and in these early days at least, they will most certainly tell you that you are great, followed by a big wet sloppy toddler kiss, before asking you to get them a snack.

You have the DUTY.  The duty to take on only those approaches which are true to you and make you fulfilled –  because a damn good parent is any parent, of any style, who is at peace, who is present and who is growing.

I’ll leave you with this thought: According to stats Canada there are almost 10 million mothers in Canada. That’s 9.8 million women with totally different personalities, backgrounds, stories about what it means to be a mother and ‘styles’ of motherhood.  There’s plenty of room for all of us.

Essays, Grounding, Happiness, Learning, Mental health, The Fourth Trimester

Why Moms Should Practice Getting into Flow State. Tips to Overcome Post Partum Anxiety.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to what the heck happens to us on maternity leave.  Why do we become so afraid of things that were simple daily functions before (unfolding the stroller for the first time?  Going out in public with a baby for the first time?)

Seriously, where does all of this total internal doubt come from?  Why is it so bad on maternity leave?  Who is this fearful anxious person and where the hell did she come from?  

It is a strange experience to have your first baby and consequently have the shell of comfort and security cracked wide open.

EVERYTHING is new and NOTHING is comfortable in the fourth trimester.

It’s only when you look back at photos of newborn baby two years later that actually ‘enjoy’ your baby and have warm fuzzy memories.  And when you realize that you finally feel good about your mat leave a year afterwards, you’re like geez, what was I so worried about?  

I’ll tell you right now, it’s not you, it’s your brain.  It is designed to worry and keep you safe and alive, not happy and growing. 

I have come to believe (now that I’ve done it three times) that this initial torment of maternity leave and new motherhood is A GIFT.  It teaches us to overcome our own brain and our own biological instincts.

It will take me a few paragraphs to lay this idea out, so bear with me. 

We don’t like to push the edges of our comfort zones.  This is exactly why personal training as an industry exists.  Trainers push us harder than we would go.   It is a very small % of the population who push themselves beyond their comfort zone in the gym.  Usually, those people are professionals.

Having a baby is like having a personal trainer who pushes all of your comfort zones – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

In addition to having all of our boundaries pushed, we get a bit messed up as well, because our day becomes one of many “human doing” tasks. Amongst all of the “doing” and “laundry” and “diapers” we retreat inside ourselves.  On maternity leave, our own internal chatter becomes a loud roar. There’s so much to do on the outside during maternity leave.  But there is SO MUCH MORE going on in the inside.  Massive love, massive fear, massive engagement, massive suffering, massive doubt, massive confidence.  It’s so confusing.

The fourth trimester is a time of contrasts.

There is rich growth + reflection + introspection.

There is also a hell of a lot of doubt, negative internal talk and fear.

Why? The brain and biology of a new mom screaming is a very anxious voice that is pointing out danger EVERYWHERE.  You can’t blame your brain.  It is collaborating with your hormones and nervous system to keep you and your baby alive and your hormones well tell you EVERYTHING IS DANGEROUS.  Your brain’s priority in the fourth trimester is not your happiness.  It is staying alive.

This is what your brain says to you in the fourth trimester: 

“F your sleep, you hear that baby crying?  YES.  I’m sending you panic hormones right now so that you hear every sound and snuffle, and you will definitely wake up to crying.  F your sleep.”

Your brain knows you won’t die with no sleep.  So it won’t let you.  See?  Your brain is entirely unconcerned with your happiness, your wellbeing or any of that.  It’s concerned with keeping you and babykins alive.  Basic needs.

So how do we manage this?

How do we prevent ourselves from spiralling down into a deep place of self doubt, isolation, anxiety and fear?

How do we make mat leave about growth and expansion rather than isolation and contraction?

 I really care about this topic because I contracted on the first, and somewhat on the second mat leave, and began to expand on the second and third mat leaves.

There are so many things to share with you but today, I want to share on Flow State.  It is a very specific, very intentional practice that SHUTS DOWN the parts of your brain that are concerned with doubt, self talk, anxiety, etc.  We have enough moments in our day where we worry and contract.  Let’s carve out some space in our internal worlds to trust and expand, and that starts with activities that put us in flow state.

If you’d like to dive into the science of flow state (they’ve literally scanned the brains of people in flow state) activities that get you in flow and how you can start doing it today, just click onto the next article.

https://thegreatmaternityleave.com/2018/08/21/how-to-overcome-post-partum-anxiety-with-flow-state-recovery-from-post-partum-depression/

If you read this article and thought YES, YES and YES this is me!  Then take the next step.  Learn about the science of flow state and start practising it in your life.  This is your first chance to practice growth and expansion on mat leave.  If you don’t click on the article, then you are staying where you are and staying comfortable. 🙂 That is okay too, sometimes we need to hold the boat steady, stop it from rocking.  But once it’s stopped rocking and we are ready to go somewhere, we need to put the sails back up.

(oh and sorry I HAD to use the Moana boat as an analogy.  I’m a parent of a 4 year old girl and Moana is AWESOME.  And the song lyrics are weirdly approprio for this article.)

Image result for moana boat
“See the light as it shines on the sea
It’s blinding
But no one knows how deep it goes
And it seems like it’s calling out to me
So come find me
And let me know
What’s beyond that line
Will I cross that line”
Happiness, Learning, Mental health, Personal Development, The Fourth Trimester

How to Overcome Post Partum Anxiety with Flow State. Recovery from Post Partum Depression.

Practising getting into flow state has been one of the most helpful tools in overcoming post-partum anxiety and the general fearfulness and mind chatter that has marked my three maternity leaves.

Today I wanted to share a bit of the neuro-science (in easy to understand language) and why we mamas should be intentionally practicing flow state activities (and the best part is, they are the things you LOVE doing and leave you feeling awesome.)

Hopefully this will give you an extra boost of motivation to get back into some self-care and activities sooner (assuming you’ve given your body time to heal + recover.)

When I first tried to get back into running, I did it from a place of “it’s probably good for me to be ME and get out of the house.”  However, understanding a bit of neuro-science and having solid scientific evidence as to WHY it helps, well, that’s a much more powerful motivator. I GET why it pulls me out of funks now, and tbh, I probably would have done it more consistently with my first baby had I known what was happening and why it made me feel so good (and less angsty.)

The more I study successful moms and people in general, the more I’ve realized that all of them have a flow state practice.  It’s like realizing you’re part of a secret society when you realize that all of these people do similar things.

So, the basics.  What is flow state?

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“Flow” is a term coined by a psychologist who wanted to understand a particular state of consciousness that the brain can more into. This particular brain state evokes feelings of creativity & innovation, connection, deep enjoyment, confidence, and their internal chatter and negative emotions literally switch off. People who experience this state, come out feeling greater involvement, engagement and enthusiasm in life. Personally, as someone who studies metaphysics, I think this state of conscious is really about connecting in with our deeper intuition and creativity and the divine nature of ourselves that transcends the limits of our mortal side.

But… I digress.  Back to the science.

This book was published in 2008 but I’d say this has become a topic among the public only in the last 6 or so years.  technology has advanced too, and scientists now can get people to induce flow state and then watch their brain on a functional MRI scanner to see what brain regions are lighting up.

Figuring out what makes us happy, engaged and free of internal self-doubt?

YES PLEASE.  MORE OF THAT.

Why, as mamas would we want to be in flow state? 

Because it boosts the brain centres responsible for:  Involvement, enjoyment, intrinsic motivation (Ulrich, Keller and Gron, 2015) and it tones down the brain centres responsible for negative emotions, self talk, self doubt, and attribution of negative emotions to oneself. (Grimm et al. 2009)

How do we achieve flow state?

The key is finding an activity that hits the right balance of being challenged (demand of the task) and our own skills.  Not boring, not overwhelming.  Just right.  There’s a saying in Scandinavian countries that I love “Not too much, not too little, just enough.

Moments like these are consistently reported as the most rewarding, expansive times in our lives.

They are not like the times where we are in a state of overwhelm (too much stimulation) or boredom and lack of stimulation.  In those suboptimal times, a part of the brain responsible for internal negative chatter lights up. Conversely, in flow state, that part of the brain switches off. I don’t go into it here but there are two very different cocktails of hormones and neurotransmitters that are released in these two states, as well.

Think about it in your own mat leave life. When does boredom or overwhelm rear its ugly head?  When do you experience crushing self doubt, anxiety, negativity, constant internal chatter, feeling wound up and defensive.

What tasks are you doing (or not doing)?

In overwhelm or boredom very different parts of the brain are activated.

Want more?  Watch this video on the Neurochemistry of Flow State.  

Have you noticed that you DON’T  feel these things after a task that challenges you a bit or requires your full focus and concentration? That your mind just shuts up. 

 

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There you go.  Different parts of the brain are activated, and bathed in cocktails of hormones and neurotransmitters.  Go for the good one.  Cheers. 

 

Identify Some flow State Activities.

Think about this: Where it is the right combination of skill and demand for you? It’s a place where you feel strangely satisfied.  Other clues? Time disappears in flow state and often you are in full focus or concentration.  You are fully engaged and pushing your edges just the right amount, and you don’t have time to think about other things.

Some of my flow state activities are:

Trail Running, Mountain Biking (newly discovered) and Needle Felting (newly discovered,) reading and journalling my own insights.

A Concluding Thought on Flow State and Motherhood: 

In my experiments with induced flow state, I can say with certainty that experiencing flow is to experience a fog of total wellbeing and satisfaction.  Your internal anxious mom operating system (AMOS) cools down for a bit.  The chatter of angst, anxiety, self doubt, isolation, contraction and negativity are silenced.

As that system downregulates, a new system upregulates, the fulfilled mom operating system (FMOS.)  What is that one? It is focused on possibility, connection, happiness, opportunity, content, trust, and expansion.

THIS is where we should be most of the time.  To get it back, we need to practice it and refire those parts of our brain.  we need to make time for it every day, and treat flow state activities as worthy of our time, attention and protection in our ical.  Everyone in our life benefits from a Mom operating her FMOS system. Is it worth the time in your day?  Absolutely.  In fact, the research experiments I cited above had the participants in flow state for only 3 minutes!

xo

Happiness, Life Hacks, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Physical Wellness, Sleep, The Fourth Trimester

Managing Sleep Deprivation with a Toddler and a Newborn. Ways to Hack your Fatigue from a Mom who’s been there.

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I wanted to share with you some of the strategies and things I’ve learnt about being a sleep deprived mom, starting with the ‘simple’ strategies everybody tells you, including the psychologists, then I’ll dig a bit deeper and share my own experiences and things that have worked for me, when I am operating on little sleep. 

I take the view that life is a big, fun experiment.  I love learning, researching, collecting advice and then testing it out on myself.  Today, we chat about sleep. My god, I love sleep. Did I mention I have a 2 year old and a 5 month old?   I know sleep deprivation.

This is a topic I was maybe just a bit obsessed with in the trenches of newborn life, round 1 and now, round 2.

In my life, I’ve experienced every sleep type, from able to sleep through a nuclear war (my 20s) to almost losing my mind from insomnia during a stressful time in my life (late 20s.)

Now, in my early 30s?  Babies.  I share my life with small, sqwawky noctural bats.

Theearly weeks with a newborn are a blur.

I was so shattered, that I experienced my first real hallucination.  At 4am I stood in the kitchen watching the walls melt onto the floor.  And the ceilings?  Popcorn ceilings are f*cked when you are that tired.

With my firstborn, I cried at 4pm every day. I couldn’t execute on a quick decision like needing to take an alternate route home if there was a traffic jam.  No jokes.

When you experience varying levels of sleep duration and quality, you come to be an expert on your own body.  Everybody is affected differently by a lack of sleep, but it puts into somewhat of a primordial state where we regress into a version of ourselves that is not that different from our toddler.  Our prefrontal cortex shuts down and we go into primitive mode.

In my case, sleep deprivation makes me very clumsy, emotional and if I’m being honest, a bit grim. I can’t frame my mind positively and tend to notice the negatives.  I have a low ability to cope during the day when I am very, very low on sleep.  It’s scary. I don’t like feeling that down in the dumps. The effect is immediate and profound.

For this second maternity leave, I committed to studying, experimenting and understanding this thing called sleep. I may not get the quantity, but I am committed to getting more quality and am experiencing less energy deprivation than the first go-around.

Useful tips and tricks (that I actually tried.) 

I’ll go to the insomnia stage in my late 20s, because that is where I began playing with sleep hygiene. I was dealing with HUGE levels of stress.  BIG life events.  This was before babies, too.   I went to counseling, because I realized that I was going down a tunnel of bleak sleep deprivation and desperation very quickly.  I was miserable after a month or two of it.   With insomnia, the more tired you are, the less able you are to sleep, and then you develop a total psychological hangup about sleep because you are so desperate for it.   It was with a psychologist, that I learnt about sleep hygiene practices.  If you are wondering what they are, here is a list from the National Sleep Foundation.

At that point, I also got a prescription for sleeping pills and used a couple, a few nights in a row just to get some form of rest.  That gave me enough energy and a bit of mental improvement so that I could really start to work on the other pieces I list here.

I harnessed technology and monitored my sleep using an app.  (This article by Lifehacker has a great list of sleep tracking apps.) I absolutely love Sleep Cycle and over the long run, if you buy the pro version, you see some really interesting trends with your activity, sleep, even the moon cycles!

I took adaptogens (mostly in tea form,) limited screen time before bed and supplemented.  Melatonin before bed, as well as chamomile tea or licorice root. I played around with ashwaganda and valerian but it tasted like sawdust that had been pissed on, so that’s a no from me.

I installed blackout curtains and much to the chagrin of my husband, created a nice cold room to sleep in with several windows open every night.  HUGE improvement with these two techniques. *Edit:  another kid later, I can also say that heavier blankets are well, well worth the investment.  There is quite a lot of research proving that heavier weight blankets (you can buy weighted blankets on amazon btw) help with anxiety, calming and sleep.

I eventually got over this rough patch of insomnia.  It took about 6 months of dedicated sleep hygiene and some stress management in my daytime life.  Life improved considerably until I entered another sleepless stage of my life, 2013. My first born child. I’m going to be very honest when I say that I feared for my own emotional and mental wellbeing on little sleep. I just do.not.do.well.  And holy smokes, I did not do well the first few months.

I knew I would need to go beyond the sleep hygiene.

I could incorporate all of the great practices I’d learned to get a good quality sleep, but the reality was that there’d be days where I would simply have to survive on a few hours sleep.

I thought to myself, who would be an expert at dealing with sleep deprivation?  Answer? Soldiers.  Snipers. Special forces.  The brave men and women who have to complete intricate life-or-death operations and lightning-fast decisions on little to no sleep.

I began to research military publications on sleep management and techniques. There was a wealth of information from the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research, pub med, the Armed Forces Journal, and of course, the many forums for men and women in uniform.

I’ll share some of the best tips I have found in my research.  In this post, I will only talk about things that worked for me, but I encourage you to do research of your own and try things out.

Experiment with different types of naps and timing

The experts say that 20-30 minutes is the sweet spot, but to be honest, if I’m sleep-deprived and needing a recovery nap, I’ll go in the 60-90 minute range.  Everybody is different, though the most common recommendations are shorter time periods.  It is also possible to have multiple short naps in cases of serious sleep deprivation.  Here is an interesting article about the multiple nap techniques of ocean sailboat racers.

If I know I’ve got a tough night ahead, and do a preparatory nap, I’ll go in the 20 minute range and do it on a couch, not in a bed.  You can also stockpile sleep (new research findings) if you have a few days where your partner or someone can cover you.  Eventually, if you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll turn out to be crying disaster and you will be forced to go to bed, so perhaps it is better you just ask now before you are voluntold because you’re a disaster 🙂

Notice I referred to two different types of naps.  We don’t hear about the preparatory nap, because most of us are taking recovery naps.  The recovery nap is a reactionary approach to sleep deprivation.  But what about a proactive approach? Replenishing the bank account before all the bills come out?

Throw off the external programming and shift your perspective:

If you spend time among members of the military or emergency services, you will notice that sleep and naps are treated with respect rather than derision.  Both services know that with critical decision making and other peoples’ lives on the line, they have to take care of themselves.

I found this perspective very interesting, because up to that point, I had found that napping is so often treated with derision in wider society and particularly among mother groups.  All of us can think of a time when napping has been framed in terms of “laziness” and “lacking motivation” or “ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Consider this:  

Tell a new Mum she needs to nap.  There is a 99.9% chance you’ll get an eye roll, a comment along the lines of “I wish I had time for that” or a wishful sigh. There’s that perspective.

Now, tell a cop who’s just gotten off a night shift that she needs to nap.  Totally different reaction.  They’ll probably agree.  And go nap.  They KNOW the crucial importance of taking care of themselves, their physical and mental capacity.

The day I stopped eye rolling and started treating my sleep with respect and priority, rather than buying into the other messaging, is the day I started really taking charge and ownership of my sleep and getting some recovery. It was no longer an afterthought. It was an absolute priority.  Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to nap. Don’t wait until the stars are aligned.  Stand up and tell your partner or family what you need. 

As mamas who are up multiple times a night, every night, are we not doing the same difficult work? Feeling the same fatigue? Pulling the same hours?   Without ANY recovery time?   Let’s treat ourselves with that respect and ask for the support and space to recover, from our partners as well.

Note:  If you find yourself reading this with a bit of an eye roll or resistance, ask yourself the honest question, why am I resisting this suggestion?  What beliefs am I holding that make me react this way to a blog article?  I always say to my coaching clients that when they can feel derision, resistance or an eye roll coming on, there’s a rich thing to explore right there, because it indicates a trigger or some sort of deeper held belief.

Don’t focus on how many hours per night you get

The reality with kids is that every night is different.  It is so up and down!  If you start focusing on the 7-8 hour per night goal, it becomes a fast-track to the negative practice of “score keeping” with your partner.  (I could write an entire article on score keeping – I’ll make a note to do that!)

A more effective approach is to focus on your overall sleep bank a few days at a time. Look at the accumulation of sleep over a few days, and incorporate the above practices of preparatory naps and replenishing your sleep bank account if you get any opportunity to.

It is easy to get obsessive about not getting 7-8 hours per night, but I can tell you, that the nights I’ve had a magical night and 10 hours of sleep, I’ve still felt just as exhausted the next day.  You only start to feel normal after a few days.  That’s why I take the 3-4 day approach.

1 day’s worth of monitoring is not an accurate gauage of how you are feeling.  I know my partner often expected me to be magically recovered if he gave me a full night’s coverage of the kids or a big nap…  it did help but it didn’t solve everything (which was frustrating for him)

Throw in intermittent or shorter-term activities

With sleep deprivation, the effects are much more intense and noticeable when you are engaged in longer, more continuous tasks involving coordination and mental processing. It uses the part of the brain that really doesn’t do well on lack of sleep.  You’re mostly running from an older, more emotional part of your brain.

This is why fatigue “hits” you when you are driving or trying to read or talk to someone.

Tip:  Sprinkle in some intermittent or quick activities that are physically-based to get away from hitting the wall. If you begin to notice that physical tasks (quick chores, etc.) are becoming impaired – for me this is being incredibly clumsy – take note.

I often wondered why I was such a disaster in the morning (dropping coffee beans all over the floor, knocking stuff over.)  It’s actually because the effects of sleep loss are most severe cognitively, and physically, before 9am.  So make that coffee.

Be wise with the caffeine

A lot of special ops seem to recommend that if you must rely on caffeine for an important operation (in our cases, social event that lasts beyond 9pm lol) it is a great technique to cut back on caffeine leading up to the event.  This is so that cup of coffee prior to going out will have a more intense effect.  Be careful though, don’t consume coffee 6 hours or sooner before your sleep. Another great tip is to put coconut oil or another fat (butter is great too) into your coffee to lengthen the boost of the coffee (fat prolongs the metabolism.)

SLLS

This tip was shared by an army veteran and went around social media for some time.  “Stop, look, listen, smell” was a technique that he used to maintain focus during operations, and is a great way to deal with the onslaught of fatigue.  This incorporates the mindfulness techniques of refocusing on the breath, the immediate environment and present moment.  Pausing and reconnecting with the body ,the eyes, the ears and the nose is a brilliant way to detatch – even momentarily –  from the mental story of “I am exhausted” and this hits the reset button.

Sit in the dark

Both of my babies had similar feeding patterns but I was way, way more messed up with my firstborn.  Looking back, I did several things to compromise the quality of sleep between feeds.

One of the most detrimental things to my sleep quality was my iphone screen.  As I laid there and fed my daughter her bottle, I’d scroll through instagram or whatever was at hand, trying to keep awake.

The light emitted from our electronic devices directly effects our melatonin and cortisol production, interfering with the circadian rhythm and our sleep cycles.

A link between screen time and time spent in REM sleep (the restorative sleep) was found.  And it wasn’t a positive link. The Atlantic Magazine provides a great snapshot of the latest research findings in this area.

Needless to say, no more iphone during the night feeds. I teeter on the edge of consciousness during the night feeds, in the dark and quiet room, and creep back to bed afterward.  I replaced blue light from my iphone with the soft glow of a himalayan salt lamp.

Know that music is life-changing

One of my biggest struggles with having a baby was the torture of not being able to fall asleep, even if I had someone helping out and covering the kiddos so I could have a few uninterrupted hours.

Every sound, whimper, snort, snuffle (babies are loud) I would wake up with a jolt of shock.  This isn’t just a new mum thing.  This is a light sleeper thing.  Oh god, it was torture.

Discovering the power of music has been a god-send.  Over the last 2 years and last two new humans joining our household, I have used one particular chill-out music track and incorporated it into my naps or sleep windows. Same song.  Every time.  It has just enough background / ambient noise to distract my brain from the noises of the household.

I strongly suspect this particular song has embedded itself in my brain as a sleep cue.

The research on music and the brain’s response to it is absolutely fascinating.  This article is worth reading, and allows you to sample a song that incorporates all of the elements researchers have found to assist with relaxation and sleep.

They describe it as “one of the most relaxing songs ever recorded” and provide a breakdown of the song and the reasons why the brain responds so well to the track.

Consider adding this song to your phone (in airport mode!) and putting it on repeat as you drift off, if you struggle with light sleeping and being jolted awake by household sounds.

These are just a few of the incredible tips and tricks I’ve learnt that have truly helped me survive the second go-round at managing with a newborn baby. Let me tell you, this second go-round has been much easier, and much less zombie-like.

I’d love to hear your own self-experimentation and discoveries when it comes to the pursuit of that gorgeous thing called a great night’s sleep. Or in my case a decent cumulative total over the space of a week 😉