Ankylosing Spondylitis Journey, Happiness, health coaching, Physical Wellness, Working Mom, Working Parent Life

Returning to Work from Maternity Leave and Depression at One Year Post Partum.

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Currently I’m working through a hard season.  I’m in a disease flare-up (severe exhaustion and pain) and a depressive episode.  The two intermingle and make it a very difficult time mentally, emotionally and physically. The gravitational pull is hard to overcome and this is where self-care checklists feel almost impossible to accomplish. You’re just in an entirely different head space, mood space, and body space where any one of the checklist items that used to make you feel good, that you logically know will help you, just don’t appeal enough to overcome the total lack of vitality.

I’m not writing this post to have a giant complaining session, because there’s an important point I want to make at the end when you’ve read through this.

First, that you are not alone, and second, that this kind of stuff is a great gift.  I know, that sounds ridiculous, but read on…

xo

 

I’ve been through both before, but this time it was compounded by driving myself into the ground at work. And truth be told, this round doesn’t feel straightforward to get out of. There is a deeper matter here of who am I and what does my soul need?

I think THIS is the million dollar question that we must ask ourselves, when we find ourselves in a state of dis-ease.  Not just disease (illness) but not at ease.  Unhappy. Dissatisfied.  Frustrated.

With my return to work, I came back to the same pace I had always gone at.  Except, this time I was ill, tired and also the mum of three kids.  I jumped straight back into my old habits . I just kept working bigger, better, harder, faster.  I stopped taking breaks, or self care, or anything.  I love what I do, I truly do and that’s why it was so easy to get back into that crazy unbalanced work mode.

But here’s the thing. My symptoms don’t discern between work I love and work I don’t love.

They discern between  I am taking care of my soul and I am not taking care of my soul. I beginning to suspect that disease + depression are so closely intertwined with whether we are on the right path for our souls at any given point in our life’s journey, or soul’s journey.  I believe they are a reliable indicator that we are ignoring our own intuition, and the body’s best way to yell at us to pay attention 🙂

I had returned to work in the summer fresh off my disease diagnosis, surgery, 3 kids under 5 and major passion for my side projects and full time work.  I was excited that I had negotiated to work 4 days a week for the first few months.

Then, it began to all fall apart.  First, I was feeling great so I came off of my SSRIs. I think that was not the wisest choice in hindsight.  If you are on anti-depressants, no matter how good you think you are feeling, do not come off of them in a major transition!

As I found myself back at a desk and in pain, I began to struggle with a level of exhaustion that I’ve never known.  It was so bad that I desparately sought out places to lie down on breaks, struggled to put my socks on (immobility) in the mornings, a few urgent care trips, and increasing panic at work with every additional meeting, or project in an already full schedule with people waiting weeks to get one of a few coaching slots. I have an hour commute each way, and each commute was filled with this horrible impending sense of dread – dread that work demands were far exceeding what I was capable of.  Doubts that I could keep up to others as a mother of three That I couldn’t handle my own life. Usually, this is a pretty good sign to buckle down and take care of oneself.  Except, I was so far in, I couldn’t even claw back the time for ANYTHING that fuelled my spirit. Nor was I motivated to.  Being outside in nature. A social life. Creative expression.  My happiest places couldn’t lure me back.  Mostly, I just wanted to lie still, sleep away the pain and exhaustion and shut my panicking mind down.

My days became – Just drive to work. Work like a madwoman (keeping up the standards of a worker without 3 kids.) Buy unhealthy snacks and a crazy amount of coffee to keep me going.  Drive home. Make dinner. Put the kids to bed. Pray for no-one to wake up. Go to bed at 9. Repeat.  This is the story of so, so many people out there. 

Nothing was keeping my soul afloat, and I could tell that was making the disease worse too. Yet, I couldn’t clamber out, because in my mind I would say to myself “ah, you’ll get through this just start going to the gym, get an extra nap, etc.” You know, the usual self-care checklist. But I literally couldn’t move past the exhaustion, pain and total lack of desire to do anything.  I ignored intuitive alarm bells.

And that friends, is depression.  You feel so utterly overwhelmed and exhausted that you want to curl up in a ball and hide from the world. You don’t know where or how to begin, because nothing you knew before, seems to work this time (or it still does but you’re in a bleak place and totally unmotivated to do them, and the gravitational pull of the bed / rest is too intense to overcome.)

That is depression and auto immune disease intertwined.  And this, for any of you parents out there reading this,  is when you get your ass to your doctor, and a psychologist and be KINDER and more LOVING to yourself than you have ever been before. That is when you dig deep and listen to what your soul really needs.

It’s time to start listening closely to your intuition in the moments when your brain stops panicking and rushing.  The Universe has been sending you hints all along as to what is right for you, it’s just that you’ve been ignoring them.

So at this point, it is sending you MAJOR hint bombs that what you are doing is not ideal for you at this stage, place, moment in your life’s journey and that change is ahead.

Depression and disease can be one of the greatest gifts you’ll ever receive because on the edge of massive shifts for the better, is suffering.  Suffering prompts us to shift, to change, to grow, to listen to our intuition and get one step closer to who we really are.  Yes, it’s a shitty process, but it is one where pain overcomes fear.  Suffering forces you upward and forward and will not allow you to stay where you are.   There are always, always gifts and rewards from the hardest moments and that knowledge is never lost, even in tough times like these.

 

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time management, Working Mom, Working Parent Life

Time Management is about Letting Some Things Go. What I’ve Learnt about Trying to Clean the House with 3 Kids

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Let’s get into REAL time management skills for REAL parents.  I’m not going to list a bunch of life hacks and tips and tricks.  We all know that if they worked, none of us would be struggling and frantic and thinking how the F do I keep up with my life right now with these little kids and all of the things?

I ask myself this all the time, and then, very often about 30 seconds after I ask myself this, someone will ask me how I manage to have a career, a creative side hustle, co-found and scale a company and run a podcast with my husband – and have a lovely family life with my husband and three children under five.  Then I get a bit of perspective and realize, I must be doing something ok.

My answer to that question? The truth is, I don’t try to do it all and I consciously practice not doing things.

Some days I let go and accomplish nothing, others I am doing all of the above and loving it.  So, my first answer, is go with the flow of your energy and what feels right.  Experiment with gearing up and gearing down in your life, become flexible and adaptable and able to.  The day you feel like you can’t relax or gear down is the day you KNOW you need to practice that more.  Lately I’ve struggled with that and I let it go far before practicing it again.

My second answer dives deeper and it explores what we do with our time…and…equally important…what we don’t do with our time.  As a time management specialist, I see more issues with the latter.  Everyone’s trying to do more, but at the same time, struggling to decide what to let go of, in order to let other things expand.

The code for modern parents is kind of like the olympic motto “citius altius fortius” which means faster higher stronger.  Except our code is basically more of everything, much faster, and on a bigger scale of accomplishment.

I’m getting better with managing this…  I am becoming increasingly selective over where my time goes, and my children gave me that gift, as they have for you.  You’ve realized with kids that those windows of free time are so limited, and you are way more purposeful about it, right? You are using that time to really act out that future life you want, right?

I am SO proud of you if you are making progress in that direction, and if not, this is a wonderful personal development piece to try out and practice that will benefit your life hugely.  You’ve got this blog to help you get there 🙂

Let’s break it down…

1.) Identify the things to keep and spend more time with:

One of the best things you can do is sit down and reflect on your values, the things that are deeply important to you. Yes this will take a deliberate and conscious effort to carve out the time to do this on pen and paper.  Less thinking.  More writing it, speaking it and doing it. Don’t let them fade away into the mists of your consciousness for the 100th time.  Write them down somewhere.

To prime your brain and tease out your priorities and values, you can answer these questions:

At my eulogy, what would I want people to say about me?

In the last month, where have I felt most happy, creative and inspired, what was I doing in that moment?

When do I wish time could stand still?

What are the most important values I want to pass onto my kids?

What do I admire most in other people? 

What my idea of a perfect day with my family and what are the feelings that come up when I imagine that day? 

What do I say “hell yes” to? 

Identify your “hell yes” categories.

They do change and develop over the years.  Just a few of mine I have written down are:

Time in and appreciating nature

Learning

Kindness

Serving others in elevating their lives

Authenticity and openness

Creative expression 

 

2.) Identify the things to let go and examine why you struggle to let go of them:

As Steven Covey says, the most important thing is to have the YES categories burning inside of you.  When you have those, it is easier to set boundaries and say NO to other things.

That is the other side of the time management coin:  Saying no to things which do not align with those priorities you sat down and clearly outlined.  These are the pieces where you practice the art of letting go.  I fully appreciate that this is harder than it sounds. Most of my clients really struggle with this piece and it takes practice.

Where have I let go?  My house.

I don’t often have people over (or if I do it’s a close trusted circle) because truthfully, it’s much messier than the average house and I don’t care to spend huge chunks of my day cleaning it, neither do I have the means to hire housekeeping right now.  I know my house bothers some people, others it is no big deal.  I want to say it’s easy and that I am okay with that piece and I’ve let go of any and all challenges around that – but that’s not how life is – we have to work at it, acknowledge our internal struggle and then make the choice that aligns with us (not others’ priorities FOR us.)

Yes, I still have to work through the inner shame that activates in me all the time, but I can make a choice now instead of act unconsciously.

So I choose to rebel, ignore the judgements, perhaps not have the people over that don’t feel comfortable with our house, and embrace the ones who embrace our crazy house style.  Let me tell you, it’s freed up so much time to deepen what I really care about.

Instead of feeling guilty I’ve explored it enough to know it is on a level, “learned shame” because a messy house does not align with how I was programmed:  Growing up,  society’s expectations in general (check out people’s houses on social media, there’s only a few brave souls who show their house au naturel,) family and outside judgements that continue to this day, not to mention the remnants of general gender roles and unspoken expectations.

But with awareness there’s something else you develop.  Choice.  You’re human and will feel those feelings, you will feel the fear of judgement, and then you can shake it off or cave to it.  Which lines up with who you really are?

Do I cave to other people’s judgements and spend hours cleaning my house over and over to maintain what is largely a facade of a clean organized house?

Or do I stay true to the values and priorities I set out for my self, in terms of how I want to spend my day? I know which one leads to the life I’ll be proud of.

And then… I take my kids outside.  To free play in the beautiful fall weather.

Because that’s the life I want, and that makes me alive.  Not spending more time cleaning my house, to avoid the judgment of others and keep up to expectations.

It’s truly not for me.

Kraft dinner comes out of shag rugs easier when it has dried and gone hard, anyways 😉

~

Moral of the story:

With better awareness comes freedom to make a choice.

With choice comes actions that align with who you are, and who you want to become, and the life you want for yourself and your family. 

Always, always before saying yes or no just ask yourself quickly in your mind:

“Does this align with where I want to go, who I want to be, what my future life shall look like? If it does, keep it.   If it doesn’t, let it go.  That is true time management.  

 

Book Club, Essays, Life Hacks, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Organization, time management, Working Mom

How to Manage Your Time as a Working Mom – What My iCal Looks Like

Hello everyone!  At work this week I’ve been running a ton of presentations and doing a heck of a lot of coaching around time management, now that we are in the exciting month of September.

For many, this month marks a shift into a different pace and rhythm, especially those of you parents who have kiddos continuing (or starting!) school.  Doubly true for those of you who simultaneously work in industries that ramp up in the fall and winter!

As a higher education professional, that certainly applies to me!

First point, I want to say, is be gentle with yourself!  As you get into the rhythm of a new season, it’s going to take some adjustment over the month.  You’ll do too much, then you’ll go the other way and not enough and then you’ll find that “just right” rhythm. There’s a Scandinavian quote I love, “not too little, not too much, just enough.”  I believe you can’t find “just enough” until you try the other ends of the spectrum and your boundaries.   One person’s too much is another person’s just right.… right?

Personally, in my own time management life, I’m trying to figure out how to fit meal prep and a more effective morning routine into my life, but my ical and outlook schedules are pretty dialed in.  I’m also back at work after maternity leave and having to trust that my husband has the home front and home iCal under control while I am in sessions or workshops.  The hand off of child schedules during the daytime has been a wild (but awesome) adjustment for both of us, and we just keep the lines of communication open around our own personal strengths and weaknesses and where the other needs support.

Second point I want to make, is that we are all constantly working on time management, and then adjusting our schedules and rhythms as each new element comes in.  I am a time management expert and I have to work at it every day!

We NEVER discover a perfect system and then install it… we are ALWAYS adjusting and constantly responding to changes…  I’ll talk about this in the video.

On IGTV (Instagram TV) today I shared a behind the scenes video of how I manage my schedule as a working mother with a career, a few side hustles and 3 kids. I show you my iCal and my outlook, and the systems I use to stay on top of things.

I’ve also posted the video below, which is also saved to my channel on Youtube.  

 

FYI, I share lots of coaching, tips and insights on my Instagram account, so if you don’t already follow along, do check it out at https://www.instagram.com/great_maternity_leave_yyc/

I find it incredibly helpful to “see” what other peoples’ lives are like, and people’s work / home schedules are fascinating to me. I love studying them, but it’s often not something that people open up about and show (or even talk about in conversation.)  It’s kind of like finances in a way, so, that is exactly why I am sharing my own.

Let’s have these conversations!  They help us elevate our lives and manage the full days of parenthood.  Where do you excel? Where do you struggle? What has helped you?

If you are a working mother and are very curious about balancing multiple roles, I strongly recommend the book “I Know How She Does It” by Laura Vanderkam which has lots of ‘sample’ schedules of real working women she interviewed.  The paperback is $22 and the Kindle edition (I personally read this on Kindle so I can save and review the notes) is $16.

I Know How She Does it by Laura Vanderkam
One of my favourite books on maternity leave, it helped me with time management for working moms

Time management really is a passion of mine, I love how fluid it is and how it is an ever-shifting thing.  I have an entire category of the blog dedicated to it, so here are some additional articles that may be of interest.  I’ll also make a note to share my own notes on this book above!

EXTRA READING:  Other Time Management Articles on the GML

Why we should stop saying OMG I AM SO BUSY

Add This Approach to Your Time Management Practices

My Thoughts on the Whole “Too Busy / Too Overwhelmed” Dialogue In Society

 

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.

Free Life Coaching Guides, Happiness, health coaching, Learning, Life Hacks, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Personal Development, Spirituality, Working Mom

What Does a Life Coach Actually Do? Ask Me Anything about Life Coaching.

www.trajectorycoaching.org
Carina Huggins

Carina Huggins

BA, MSS, ACC, MBTI®

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I was chatting with someone the other day about being a professional coach, and they said to me, “so basically you listen to people’s problems and give advice?”

I stopped and thought about that for a moment. The answer that I gave?

“No, actually I don’t do either of those.” Hardly the reply my acquaintance was expecting.

We were having coffee, so there was time to explain.

I wanted to share this question tonight, because it was an opportunity to both clarify the art and science of coaching and address a common misperception. Two birds with one stone.

There are so many definitions of ‘coaching’ out there. Yes, there are some out there who solve problems, give advice and act in a consultant model (which are certainly excellent models) but what is it like with a professionally certified ICF coach?

Let me tell you, because it is an interesting distinction.

I don’t ‘listen’ to my client’s problems.

In fact, the actual problem doesn’t sweep me up the way it does for a client. Though I listen with my ears, as a coach, it is not serving you if I dive right in with you to the story and resonate with it, body mind and soul. When a client is working with a problem, they are swimming in it. I like the analogy of choppy water on a lake – A client is paddling, working hard, staying afloat, solving the problem, coming up for a gasp, and then another problem arises… from the same exact lake.

It’s not easy swimming in choppy water. A client’s problem can easily take up an entire coaching hour, and it is up to the coach to respect the client’s needs and goals for a session, have them know we truly hear them, but also know when it is time to gently guide them out of the water, and have them wade onto the shore. From the shore, together a coach and client can examine the entire lake from an outside perspective.

Coaching is like finally deciding to clamber out and sit on the shore after battling the waves. I always tell potential clients that they must be able and willing to step into the mode of “a human simply being” and approach things with curiosity and an open mind. To be with themselves and be with the coaching process. Be willing to put some things into practice and be willing to stay accountable. If they stay in “human busily doing” mode with a strong desire for benchmarks, outcomes, a fixation on the goals, they are basically out there still swimming in the lake, just harder and faster. They won’t trust me enough to come sit on the shore beside me. They won’t develop trust in the relationship or go dive deep in session.

But back to the lake…

I am not listening to my client’s problem. I am listening with my ears to a client and their problem, yes but I am listening on several other levels, as well. I am watching the subtle shifts in body language, eye contact, gestures and posture. I am quite literally feeling the energetic shifts in a conversation and the associated moods and emotions. A client doesn’t have to tell me when they move into sadness or happiness in a story, the change in the air and energy of a room is palpable. I may offer this as a gentle observation to deepen awareness and context of the discussion, particularly if we are working not just on a conversation and logic level, but an emotional and intuitive level.

As I listen to a client, I am not listening to their problem. I am listening to the person behind the problem. The helpful beliefs, the harmful beliefs, the statements that shut down future possibility, the statements that open it up. The vast background of emotions, moods, experiences, and beliefs that have made this neutral event in this person’s life a problem for them that is keeping them from where they want to be.

And giving advice? Nope. Definitely not that either.

I don’t give advice in a coaching session.

After 3000 coaching sessions, I know for a fact, that the only true expert, the only content matter expert in that specific client’s life is themselves. Only they know precisely where they truly want to be, and only they truly know why their ‘right now’ is not doing it for them. I don’t have to wake up with them every day. They have to wake up with themselves every day for the rest of their lives. I think about this all of the time, because I really appreciate how profound that statement is.

It is a catalyst for ownership, responsibility and accountability in clients. Try it yourself. Write on a post-it note, “I will wake up with you tomorrow, and every morning for the rest of my life. Love, me.”

Giving advice doesn’t result in someone crossing the bridge from where they are to where they want to be. It simply gives them a brief glimpse of the other side, described by someone else. They don’t see how amazing it is.

What makes someone walk over to the other side of the bridge and truly step into their new life, finally take action and get results? Well, I can tell you it is not advice giving.

I cannot walk that bridge for them and shout out from the other side “It is amazing over here you should join me! Just start walking!” (by the way, a lot of coaches do this.)

However, I can walk alongside a client over that bridge. As we step over the cobble stones together we co-create what the other side looks like. We partner in helping the client gain perspective, awareness, clarity and choice. And when they get halfway over the bridge and slow down or perhaps move backward, we can deepen practices, accountability and move deeper to remove final blocks that have held them back all these years. When you are moving forward, you develop ways to move forward, but you also develop ways to fight the urge to move backward, to where you came from. To safety. Security. Familiarity.

This is another important piece of coaching; the call of safety, security, familiarity is strong. It is literally wired into the brain. As a client moves into new possibilities for their life and new opportunities, the brain will use its best tools to convince a client to return to where they were. Coaching is a dynamic process and this bump in the road shows up in different ways depending on the client. Recommitment to the original problem and way of thinking, with even more passion, rescheduling a session or a lot of “I don’t know”s in a session. These to me are not obstacles but opportunities. It’s an exciting indicator they are moving well along the bridge and the best work is about to happen.

I don’t give advice.

In fact, you are giving me advice on your life, where you want to be and how it is going to happen, and why you need help. I’m asking you LOTS of questions precisely so that you are in that place of giving me advice on you. I’m simply a highly invested partner on this journey of YOU believes you’ll get there and sees how that is possible (even if you don’t yet.)

The moment you step out of yourself and take that outside observer approach you’ll find yourself stopping mid-sentence and realizing what you’ve just said – then, you’ll realize the incongruency of what you just said with what your future life is supposed to be.

And then you’ll look away, perhaps sip at your coffee and I’ll thoroughly enjoy that moment, because it is a magical one. When it comes to a client having a true moment of insight, or an “ah hah moment” I know at that moment, whatever has been seen in your inner perspective cannot be unseen.

I am here as a confidential, supportive, professional partner in your journey. I’m here to have the conversations that you don’t get to have with anyone else, that dive deep inside to who you are as a human being. Unlike therapeutic or clinical approaches (healing, recovery, issue resolution) my time is spent focusing on your elevation, enhancement and growth.

Coaching is an evolutionary, forward facing process. We have all of the information in the world to get us to where we want to go, but we don’t, do we? And that is what coaching focuses on. It gets us there, and then acts as a catalyst for flashes of insight which will ensure you’ll never see anything the same way again and you won’t go back to old patterning or beliefs.

On a personal note, I think that at this time in our lives, we are all in deep need of deeper conversation, deeper connection and more engagement with who we really are. In the 2018 world of humans doing, we all desperately want to be recognized and engaged with as humans being. We are deep. We are growing, and evolving and going through massive shifts. We want someone to bear witness, to support, and be a partner in this process. We should have someone who can be that. It is tragic to experience this rich evolution in this lifetime and not share it with anyone, collaborate with anyone or use our experiences in turn to serve others.

Maternity leave for me has been the CRAZIEST personal growth, evolution, awakening.  Truly on body, mind, intellect, soul, spirit, love – on all of those levels I was cracked wide open, rebuilt and vastly different (in a good way.) Early parenthood is an accelerated growth incubator and it is a gift in that ALL of the above is revealed to you.  It is a wild ride, and I engaged with a coach during it, because I wanted to make sure I was clear on my dreams, the life I wanted for my fam, and wanted to let a few self limiting beliefs go.  I also worked with a psychologist to heal some old wounds, and endeavoured to undertake a variety of “great maternity leave projects” to keep my focus forward facing and fun!

Amidst the surface level day-to-day life of humans doing, we are all hopping online to have deep conversations, listen to podcasts, read books and learn. Have you noticed the explosion in podcasts, following shortly on the explosion of blogs? We are all humans being – yet we do it silently, and alone.

In my gratitude practices (5 minute journal format) I often note down the internet – I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to write and share and express my own deep internal worlds.  Motherhood can be lonely, I have a 3 hour window where all of my three kids are happy and awake (9-12) and then they turn into pumpkins and it’s go home for nap time.  Did I mention I work full time? So there’s very little time (and sacred space) to dive deep into these conversations.  I don’t think it’s our fault that we mothers are left scraping the surface of connection with surface level conversations.  We don’t have the time and space to go there, yet.  But, when in just a few years, that place will open up again we will have SO MUCH TO TALK ABOUT.

But in the meantime, I think it’s really, really important to talk now, endeavor to grow, enjoy the journey and have a partner in the process.

For a long time, I didn’t want to because of my own limiting beliefs and reference points, which I worked through and overcame with a coach. I can feel my old mind saying “Carina, this is a really long post and it’s way too personal” but my new mind says, you have a choice in whether to believe that or not, and you no longer do. You know the way to move forward is to share your deepest thoughts and insights and help people understand the profession.

I am here writing precisely because I decided to collaborate with a coach to dive into my deeper internal worlds and clarify where I wanted to go. I am eternally thankful for the rapid evolution and elevation it set me on.

I hope you enjoyed this deeper dive into the coaching profession. I write these from a totally authentic viewpoint of someone who was unsure what it was, went through being coached, and then became an Associate Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation.

I enjoy writing these because I enjoy sharing human stories and help people understand we are all connected and growing together.

To become a coach isn’t to figure it all out instantly, in fact, most coaches are on their own *fun* ( because it’s what they love to do) evolutionary paths. Every day they work through the same thing their clients do. Gaining some tools and insights, reframing, shifting their perceptions, priming their state, practicing awareness and choice. Even the greats like Tony Robbins or Oprah Winfrey do this. Every day.

If you are interested in gaining the tools, shifting your axis and a partner to work with the big shifts and evolution in your life, you are most welcome to shoot me a message.

And do leave a comment if this lands with you – or even better if you have an additional insight to offer that this sparked for you! Reading articles and engaging with others in the comments, let me tell you, has been (and still is) a fundamental part of my own growth path. My mission is to now serve others in their own growth.

Breast Reduction, Physical Wellness, Trail running, weight loss, Working Mom

Learning to Dress my Body After Breast Reduction and Finding a Fashion Sense after Three Babies.

BREAST REDUCTION SURGERY AFTER BABIESWHAT IT WAS LIKERECOVERYAND MORE!

Breast reduction, weight loss and fashion… All in one post.  Wow.  Coffee is kicking in today and it’s not even 9am!

So one of the things I bought for surgery last week was a black button up shirt dress (my FAV wardrobe staple and it was really just an excuse to buy another one haha.)

For 15 years I’ve been wearing long black button-up shirts.  They look awesome on busty and curvy women, especially if you are tall.

So last night was 7 days post breast reduction surgery. After drinking smoothies and not having an appetite all week, I was absolutely voracious yesterday.  My husband and I decided it would be a nice opportunity to go out and grab dinner (and get me out in the world after my week of being ensconced in the house.)

Putting my black button up shirt dress was a trip and I am beginning to realize there are a lot of psychological shifts with a breast reduction surgery.   Up to today (day 7) I had been wrapped up in how freaking awesome I felt, how small my boobs were and all the potential I have to workout and run in comfort now.  I feel that with week two, I’m settling into some of the psychological adjustments of a new body (I am also walking around in a body that is 50lb lighter than last summer, and am only 20 lb away from my goal weight.)

Last night was when the magnitude of body change hit me on a deeper level.

The exact same shirt, my go-to for feeling sexy and put together for the last 15 years,  is a completely, completely different look.  It actually went from bangin’ body flattering, show-off-the-curves shirt, to a loose drapey shirt tucking in at a very weird place in a way that no longer flattered me.

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The two images at the top of this picture are exactly how, for 15 years, this black button-up shirt fit me.  The bottom two images represent how it fits now.  Totally different right? Tbh it didn’t feel right as a long tunic.  I realized that the days of long button up shirts have shifted and I will be (gasp) tucking into my pants.  I am so used to using the top part to hang down over the abdomen.  I think I am used to covering up my body in general.

One of the things I am really looking forward to doing in the fall is getting some help understanding this different body and how to dress it because *I love* style and fashion.  Winners is my happy place lol.

My plan is to work with Espy experience here in Calgary to get some basics and understanding of what to choose to highlight this new shape, and also define my style.

One of the things I am coming to appreciate is the combination of defining your unique style with the functional needs that you have as a mum with 3 kids.  As much as I want to go back to my pre-kids style, I need a “version” of that, that allows for me to chase, pick up and go out and play with them.

One of the things I was struggling with, before surgery, was dressing in some “grownup” clothes again.  I was excited to get into them, but then I’d get frustrated because they weren’t allowing me to spontaneously go out for walks or adventures with the kids.  So I’d come home, change out of the clothes and go back into my Lululemon crops, tank and runners.

I need to find a nice place between fashion for work life (I like classic British equestrian style, I have an entire Pinterest Board dedicated to it lol ) and function for family life (being a very active mumma.)

So here I am, in my housecoat with a coffee, realizing that one of the Great Maternity Leave Projects coming up is…. FASHION.  Who knew?!  I never thought I’d blog on clothes and style in Calgary.  The closest I ever got to the fashion world was an offer from Ford Models to go to New York when I was in high school around 2000, I believe at the time they were starting their plus-sized division.  The fashion world at the time seemed so scary and cut-throat at the time, and the scouting agent was so honest about it, and what it would be like, that I was like, mmmm I’ll go do university instead, sounds way safer and admittedly, kinder.

Funnily enough, as I near the end of my weight loss and body transformation journey I was thinking “shit, I don’t have any Great Maternity Leave Projects in the pipeline” and thinking I need to do some brain storming . Well, the next project just came and landed in my hands. Which goes to show you that sometimes, you just need to trust and let the universe bring you things.

It also means I need to start saving up a bit of money to dive into this endeavor.

My plan is to work with the amazing stylists at Espy Calgary who are all fashion stylists.  I’ve always steered away from the fashion world – it intimidates me to no end – but going into Espy a few weeks ago to find jeans for my 6’9 husband, I found that it really isn’t!  It’s not about trying to fit into a style or keep up with fashion. It’s more about gaining clarity about what you like and what flatters your body.  Yes, there’s an industry of defining and setting trends, and high fashion where it’s about art + creativity + pushing the boundary. I think that’s what I associated with fashion.  But there’s also an industry for the rest of us mere mortals and 36-year-old moms who just want to get out of their lulu crops some of the time, haha!

I write this post with gratitude though. I observed the last 5 years of body changes in utter astonishment. It gave me an appreciation for what the female body can do.  Have you ever thought about how many lbs of change, expansion and shrinking your body has gone through in pregnancy? You’ve even grown entirely new organs (the placenta.) And these changes are not just in body fat – your skin has expanded, hell,  even your internal organs have cumulatively moved SEVERAL FEET in your pregnancies.   Wow.  Just wow.  I can’t feel bad or regret wearing leggings + tunics for the last 5 years.  It’s what I needed to do as I did the more important work of human building. 🙂

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Please let me know in the comments if this is something you’d like me to share!

Shall we call this the “dressing a body after babies” journey?  Or perhaps “dressing a body with no babies or boobies” – hmm.

Instagram will be a fun place to share the journey with you as well, so if you haven’t followed The Great Maternity Leave yet on Instagram, head on over.  Admittedly my writing is 1000% better than my photos, but as always, my goal is authenticity, sharing a life coach perspective, and (hopefully) inspiring all of you to continue expanding and elevating your life, even in early motherhood.

The early years of motherhood and mat leave are a perfect time to undergo deep personal growth and expansion in your life.  With the arrival of a baby, you are cracked wide open, the deepest parts of you are exposed.  You find yourself reflecting and taking all of those beliefs and values, deciding which still serve you, and which no longer do.  You find yourself changing, as well.  Building new beliefs and values, and perhaps even new identities.  And a new wardrobe, apparently!

I get excited about new motherhood.  It is a time for immense growth, learning, and reflection.  It forces you into a growth mindset, and in that first year you are so brave and courageous.  Please don’t deny yourself that acknowledgment.

You are thrown into completely new situations and experiences with a new baby.

EVERY day you, my friend, learn something new, face something new and work through fears.  One day you are you-tubing how the hell to wrap a baby in a Moby wrap (and practicing with a real life, sqwawking human which you can’t make mistakes on) and the next day you’re learning about brain development and taking a crash course in developmental psychology.  By the way, there is an amazing FREE online course called Brain Story, where you learn about your baby and child’s brain’s story and what they are going through.  Highly recommend this resource. 

That is NOT something that everyone can say they do. Some people live in safety, security, and stability. They are happy with the knowledge they have and most definitely feel no need to change. They don’t want to acquire more knowledge or test their limits.  They are in a fixed mindset.  We all know plenty of people like this.  It’s not wrong, or bad, it’s just one of many ways to live.

You? you’re most certainly not in that place if you are here on this blog today.

We’ve chosen an extraordinary adventure, and it is definitely none of those things, but it’s WORTH IT. The rewards are incredible when you work through the challenges.

It is exactly why I went from no kids to three in five years.  It’s all so worth it.

While the shell is cracked, why not think about your beliefs, your values, the life you want for you + your family.  Why not undergo the process of taking all of those and elevating your life? 🙂

xo

 

Carina

Essays, Happiness, Personal Development, Working Mom

Tips for Transitioning Back to Work after Maternity Leave.

As Maternity Leave #3 came to an end last week I was struck with the bittersweet nature of it.  Any change and transition is wonderful, but also can be hard. This is my third time going back to work after a full year of maternity leave.

What people don’t mention is that the whole end of maternity leave // back to work experience is very fluid. What do I mean by that?  Two things:

First, you can experience happiness and sadness at the same time.  Maternity leave has taught me this.  You can simultaneously experience 3 different emotions.  Before children, I operated in a very binary mode, good or bad, happy or sad.  To say that my emotional range has expanded and become more complex is an understatement, but it’s an amazing gift I wouldn’t take back.  It came wrapped in a bow with the birth of my first born.

Second, your transition back to work from mat leave really, truly depends on the day, and the state you are in.  I am a huge advocate of being aware of your physical and emotional shape, because it shapes the conversation your brain has with you.

Your brain is a toddler.  If it is hungry, tired, or unstimulated it will stomp around with a pout and say “I don’t like you!”

If it is satisfied, engaged, well rested, the same situation will be interpreted totally differently.  Your toddler brain will run around with a smile and say “I wuv you!” and be a little angel and fill you with love and happiness.

With mat leave ending, some days you wake up, the sun is shining, you feel good! Life is good! I’m pumped to go back to work! I don’t midn this traffic! I love this podcast!  This is such a nice balance for me!

Other days you wake up, the kids are off, you’re tired, and your filter shifts.  Your mind ruminates on the things you’ll miss and how weird and quiet your office is.  Traffic sucks, people suck, fml.

This transition back to work has been the best one so far.  First up, because unlike last time I’m not taking any family members off of life support (dark humour, sorry) but because I have taken the two lessons from above and created some strategies.

I wanted to share them because if you, too, are returning to work, you may find these help ease the transition.  

When my brain is in the sub-optimal state and is filtering everything through a sad lens, I need perspective and to remind myself it’s a temporary state, and it’s not really me, or how I want to be.  The first thing I did was make a list in my journal (and iphone) of great things about going back to work. It is a list of all of the reasons going back to work is the right decision for me, and why it will be great to be a working Mum.

This is my list of things that make me feel great about going back to maternity leave

I come home so engaged and excited to see my kids at the end of the day.  I do think distance makes the heart grow fonder when it comes to members of a family.

A job I truly like!  The variety of enjoying work and then coming home and enjoying family is such a good combination for me!

Feeling like I am making an impact in the world (outside of my home – which I do honour as making an impact too but in a different sense.)

This sounds silly but walking or driving and listening to podcasts is AWESOME. I love podcasts.

Morning is my best time, I don’ t have to leave for work until 8 and the kids are up at 6, so we can still squeeze in quality time, all I have to do is shift my mindset around that.

I need the space to write and create and just be, and coming back to work and having that space between 9-5 has boosted my happiness immeasurably.

There are lots of long weekends, which means every month I get to spend 4 days back to back with my family.  And there’s vacation time. If I have a week where I really particularly miss my kids, simple, take it as a vacation day.

I have negotiated Fridays off for the best quality time with my family.

There are so many fun things to do on campus!  So many fitness classes at lunchtime 🙂 Taking courses, learning! All the things that energize me.

I am away from the home more, which means it is less messy (I am messy) and less cleaning.

Being at work gives me the physical space and time on my breaks, to organize our lives – things like updating the calendar, balancing the budget, figuring out dayhome / kindergarten / date night logistics are once again possible (it was impossible to find those windows of time for deep thinking while I was at home.)

I am able to have deep and interesting conversations with coworkers and members of the University community.

Umm, having a paycheque again?  Benefits? Getting massage and physio and chiro?

The week is only half over at lunchtime on Thursday, so technically I have almost half the week with my family and half the week at work, save for 4 hours.

We desperately need to replenish our savings and pay off debt after 3 mat leaves and launching our coffee company!  We can finally do this. I do stress about money and to relieve that stressor will be good.

 

The next thing I did was design a morning routine to help shift my state to a more optimal one, even if I’m tired.  There are a few things I know get me in a good groove.

*Coffee before anyone is awake – this is really hard to do, but to sit and have coffee, wake up and get mobile and dressed is so much better before everyone else is up.  It prevents me from being late, rushing and I am more present with the family. It is so hard getting woken up by a toddler and jumping to action right away, I find my state shifts into panic / busy parent mode if I do that.

*Uplifting music.  This has been something I’ve done for years but I make sure to do it on the regular in my car, and even in the bathroom getting ready and putting makeup on. I have a playlist called “uplifting” and another called “saturday morning” that I love – I truly believe that music has different energetic states to it, and by playing it, our body shifts to the state of that music.

*Nature in the morning.  Not a full hour workout, as I’m usually quite stiff and in a lot of pain but even just walking in the fresh air. I’ve added 20 minutes to my commute time and half way into my commute, I stop at the resevoir on the way, and get in 20 minutes of whatever – running some days, walking others.  Other days I’ve pulled up beside the bow river just before ascending the road up to campus, and simply walked and taken photos of a few wildflowers.  There’s something about nature that is grounding.

For everyone, these special little “state setting” activities are different.  Do you have any?  What was particularly important for you during that first month back at work? Would love to hear. xo

Essays, Happiness, Lifestyle Design, Personal Development, Spirituality, Working Mom

Struggling with Finding Your Purpose outside of Parenthood? Read this.

Early motherhood is busy.  There is a hell of a lot of stuff to do on the surface, and in the day-to-day. I said to my husband the other day that just managing the clothing (washing, putting away, picking up) of two toddlers and a baby is fully a part-time job that takes up at least half a day out of each week!

One thing that has been bugging me lately though, and if I’m being honest, giving me a bit of anxiety, is feeling like I haven’t hit my potential in life yet, that I haven’t found a passion, a calling, a purpose.  Don’t get me wrong, motherhood is amazing and raising the next generation is the most sacred, purposeful thing one can do – but as you know, my blog focuses on our lives, our questions outside of motherhood, because as much as we are “mom” we are still US.  I am still Carina, and Carina has her own interests, hopes and dreams that she tries to keep alive in the snatches of time that she has. I think it is so important to continue to do this and not get lost in motherhood.  I see this happen to way too many women, and they emerge but only a shell of themselves in their 50s, when their children leave home.

I absolutely LOVE my career at the University, but outside of work, and motherhood, I still feel like I’m not serving people in the way I can.  Does this make sense?  Do you ever feel like this as well? I’m hoping I am not the only one, the whole point of writing is to feel less alone and connect with others feeling the same way!

My actual full time job is coaching university students in this topic every day.

Most of my work focuses on the early stages of this proccess, because you truly need to be an expert in yourself and to know (and accept) some of your strengths and talents, before you embark on the purposeful life.  The 20s are exciting because you are just embarking on designing your own individual identity.  In your 20s, you are being exposed to new ideas, identities.  You are choosing to reject or accept things you held as truth growing up.  You are crafting your life.

I often use psychometric instruments like Strengths Finder, the MBTI or the Strong Interest Inventory as a ‘base’ from which we can pursue the goal of “know thyself.”  I work with students to shift their language and self-perception, to that of strengths and talents.  I want them to graduate with a minor in strengths & talents.  I love doing this.

Had I had this in University, I would have embraced my multi-passionate, inquiring nature and it would have saved me so much angst, as I blindly changed majors constantly and worried about picking a degree that would be looked upon well by the outside world.

But once you get to motherhood and your late 20s / early 30s, and you experience the profundity of carrying and birthing a child, mortality, etc. your inner landscape shifts a bit.  Whether you like it or not, you do become deeper, more spiritual, introspective and realize there is more out there to a meaningful life than going through the motions of parenthood, workerhood, domestichood, partnerhood, family hood.  Right?  You look up and think “there’s something else I’m supposed to do.”  This is documented in psychology and sociology textbooks.  It’s not just me talking, this is research talking.

I have been researching, studying and experimenting with this path to feeling fulfilled and like I am on track to my right purpose here in this lifetime.  My main goal on this third maternity leave is to heal my body and regain vitality, but I feel the urgency increasing too.  What can I do to serve others in the way I can?  I’ve looked up and asked “help me figure it out!”  In fact, at the full day meditation workshop I attended last week, I put it out there as my intention going forward as well.

 

I am slowly coming to realize that to figure out your purpose in life is to live your life, and you only really understand your purpose in hindsight, when it has come to fruition, and you can then craft a description around it. In living our best daily lives, and using our talents, we are actually slowly bringing about our purpose.

This is the most unsatisfying answer in the world, because it doesn’t align with our human needs to have answers, schedules, and be in control (the ego wants this.) This is why I (and probably) always feel so annoyed when you read an article and then feel like your question wasn’t answered.  It’s why my students have to keep coming back in for appointments because it is a process.

This approach to figuring out our purpose has no immediate answers,

only in hindsight do the dots connect, to illuminate your larger process.  It’s like looking at individual stars in the sky, but then connecting them all to see that there is a constellation there. 

The key here is that we have to focus on creating some dots (or stars in the sky) that eventually we can look up at, and realize that they all connect into a unique constellation. 

The dots that we focus on creating, can only come about by living according to some very important rules.  I’ve spent about a week crafting these rules based on deep research and hundreds of books as well as meditations, so I’m pretty excited to reveal them!

There is no schedule because things come about on their own schedule (the people, places, things you are meant to experience and learn that all connect to this mystical purpose you have here) and they sure as hell are not in your control.  99.9% of the major events that will set you on the path to your purpose are chance happenings or coincidences.   Things like this:

You meet someone randomly, in a coffee shop, and strike up a conversation.  That launches you down the path to a new career which happens to be your true calling.

You do some googling and by chance click on a link to a website which happens to connect with you on a deep level, you wind up taking an online course that takes you down a path of growth and deepening of your sense of who you are.

You simply embrace motherhood, stop the anxious “what is the meaning here” chatter, and are taken aback when your realize that all of the hobbies you have with your children, all of the things you add to pinterest, tie to your most important values which have a common theme.

You simply cannot predict these things.   But what you can do, is increase the probability and you can shift up the  time line a bit of figuring your shit out, so to speak.

If you start living your life right now, more closely aligned with the right forces, you will be on a faster track to figuring out the meaning of your life and the unique way you are meant to serve others (outside of partner and children of course lol.)

If you are uncomfortable with things just unfolding and are struggling to enjoy what life presents you, feel irritated reading this article, and admit that you find yourself wanting to be in control of what comes down the pipeline, there is another force at play.  That is the ego, which likes to be large and in charge and cares what other people thing.  It’s why we get so attached to particular benchmarks.  It’s why choosing a major is such a big deal for my students, because it is a way to show the outside world what your worth is (when really it isn’t the whole story.) . Ask yourself, why do I think I can control everything on a schedule?  Has my life been like that? Do I actually have proof of that or is it a need my ego has and keeps pushing for?  It’s an interesting exercise to do.

So now that I’ve got your mind ticking, I’ll keep you in suspense!  (Also, I really need to drink some coffee and get out of my house coat.)

This weekend I’ll reveal the rules that will help you fast-track to your purpose and feeling fulfilled.  Remember, these are dots, or stars in the sky to create, and the more you have, the more the constellation will start to form.

Happiness, Organization, Personal Development, time management, Working Mom

The Passion Planner is one of the Greatest Time Management Products I’ve Seen for Busy Moms.

The other day, a student in my office introduced me to the Passion Planner.  She seemed surprised that I did not know what it was (luckily my students keep me up to date with the times!)   I AM SURPRISED I did not know about it!

The moment she pulled a beautifully inscribed journal out of her bag, I knew it would be right up my alley. I am a huge proponent of analog methods of time management (not to replace, but to complement digital methods.) However, I did not know how many great things were inside the pages until she showed me.

The passion planner is a fantastic combination of two important components of time management: It has a tactical component (day to day execution pages – with weekly and monthly calendars, personal & professional to do lists)

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And a strategic component.  There are pages for passion roadmaps and concept charts for 1, 3 and 5-year plans incorporating SMART goal setting principles.  Tips abound and plenty of space for creative brainstorming.

concept

Smart time managers are also adept at another practice:  They reflect.  The passion planner also allows for that, with a monthly reflection at the end of each month with prompt questions.  The monthly reflection has you think about whether you stayed true to your priorities, how to improve, what successes you had and where you feel gratitude and a sense of accomplishment. It is a nice balance between celebrating success and identifying areas of improvement.

monthly-reflection

 

If you have a journalling or time management enthusiast in your life, this is perhaps the best Christmas gift you can get them, ever, along with a set of fantastic coloured pens 😉 Especially for those returning to work from mat leave, or setting a new year and new priorities for what they want to get out of their maternity leave – or out of their busy lives which include motherhood.  The sacred space to plan, reflect and assess is one that we are all too often missing in the busy days of motherhood, and is perhaps one of the most beneficial gifts we can give to a mother 🙂

http://www.passionplanner.com/

I have mine already on order & can’t wait to show you what I do with it!

 

 

Firefighter Wife, grief, Grounding, Happiness, Physical Wellness, Working Mom

The 5 Things You Can Do to Cope with Stressful Life Events

  

I spent the final month before returning to work alternating between mixed emotions (Excited! Sad! Scared! Happy! Yes! No!) about going back to work.

I kept myself busy and constantly reminded myself to focus on the present moment and just enjoy my time with the kids.  What is the point of trying to anticipate what something will be like, before you get there?

My brain was a mix of

—–

Okay B!  1-2-3 Catch! *throws beach ball to daughter”

(omg how do I sort out childcare, what if one of them is sick? Will my bosses think I am not committed to work if I have to peace out and get sick kids home? How come I am the one getting my kids ready before I go to work? My husband should be doing that before he goes to work to (other feminist / equal parenting ranting, blablabla))

NO!  FOCUS!  You are playing catch!

(but what about dropoff at 8am how do I get ready for that with 2 kids)

NO!  THROW THE BALL TO YOUR DAUGHTER!

——

I was also confused by the greater sadness this time around, which is why I wrote this previous post where I deconstructed my sadness about going back to work. 

 

It turns out, that returning to work last week was really a minor event in the week that was the first week of May.

Just days after I arrived back in the office a few things happened:

-There was a massive fire in a city north of us.  My firefighter husband went to fight the fire, leaving me scrambling for childcare (I wound up booking a few days off work) and handling the nights / mornings / days solo as I adjusted back to commuting, etc.

-My sister in law and husband got evacuated from the fire and came down to see us in Calgary.

-While my husband was away, his sister was dealing with the evacuation, his parents had a medical emergency on their cruise in Mexico.  Long story short, his dad was transported back to Canada via air ambulance in poor health.

-My university became a housing centre for evacuees and I took a full day to work with them – lots of charged emotions among people.

 

***No big deal, right?

 

I kind of giggle now because what the hell was I so worried about with going back into work?

There were WAY bigger things that happened last week in our life.   It certainly put things into perspective.

You think an elephant in the room is big, but wait until 3 or 4 MAMMOTHS walk into the room beside it. Then you don’t even worry about the elephant.

 

So today’s post is just a little bit about how to cope with mega-stressful situations, because there’s a few tools in my toolkit here, since this is NOT my first rodeo with natural disasters, being a firefighting family and sick family members.


Five Ways to Cope When You Are Faced with Big Life Events

1.) Staunchly commit to a daily practice of something you enjoy.

My self-care practice is running.  Last night I barely had time to do anything but I committed to a 2km (15 minute) run. Just 15 minutes.  That’s what you’d spend cleaning the kitchen and unloading the dishwasher.

You know how on airplanes you get the whole talk about if the oxygen masks drop down, do yours first? When the shit hits the fan, put your self care right up there on the list.

This is easier said than done. We have been strongly conditioned to see self care as selfish and vain.  Even writing this I felt a twinge of guilt, the fear that someone would read this and think “how can she go for a run when her family needs her.”  As I struggle with this thinking, as I type this sentence letter by letter, I remember that after my run last night I came home in a good mood and while my husband was at the hospital, I was able to read my toddler a book, give her a cuddle and a bottle, and operate as I usually would. I can tell you right now, if I didn’ thave some kind of pressure release or self care practice last night, it would have looked like me giving her the bottle and plopping her in the crib with a short, business-like demeanour.

2.)Realize that self-care can be small actions & try a new one.

(That you wouldn’t normally do.)  In our day to day operations, we have our “self-care” things here and there. Maybe an occasional massage.  Treat at the coffee shop, etc.

However, stressful times aren’t exactly day to day operations.  The stress is much greater.  Therefore, self-care needs to amp up a bit as well.  During the week of stress, I ran every day, even if it was downgraded to a walk or just 1-2 km.

You may push back with “I don’t have the time, the last thing I can do right now is self care.”  But I would ask you this.  In order to have a great stress response – and use the fight or flight response in your body effectively, you have to give it opportunities to exit out of the fight or flight response and relax a bit, before going into the next one.

The fight or flight response in your body, emotional state, and mental state is amazing.  It allows you to operate at your best in truly difficult situations.  But it is only meant to fire off for short bursts of time.

If it is switched on for extended periods, it wears you down, compromises your immune system, mental state, emotional state, physical state.

To keep it running at its best, give it breaks. Even if it’s an hour massage, reading a magazine, watching a tv show, having a nap, or whatever activity floats your boat and distracts you.

3.) Begin to frame each stressor differently.

Think of them as using different “Muscles.”

I used to do a type of workout called CrossFit which is an absolutely bonkers workout that pushes you to muscle fatigue.  If we had a workout with squats, a core movement and an arm movement, it was easy to go into “I am overall all exhausted.”  The one thing that always got me through it was to think “ok, my legs are shattered after those 10 squats, BUT I am switching to pushups now, I am using different muscles now, fresh muscles.”

Through the workout, I’d remember that as I switched to each movement – that this particular muscle group had been given a brief break and were ready to go again.

You can do this with stressors.  Think as one stressor as using your legs.  One stressor as using your arm muscles.

 

Before I ran last night I was feeling high strung and more on edge than usual

(and my right eye was twitching.  Eye twitching is so incredibly annoying.)

I took note of which things were stressing me:

-My beautifully organized childcare plan for May falling apart.
 -Worrying that my bosses were questioning my dedication to my role with all of this time off.
 -Feeling emotionally tired out from dealing with upset evacuees all day (I am very sensitive to other people’s energies and read auras.

 

These are all things I will just straight up have to deal with in the next few days when we begin to sail into calmer waters and adjust the sails.

I decided that the childcare plan uses my “logistical brain muscles,” worrying about what my bosses will think about my dedication uses my “core value muscles” and feeling emotionally tired out uses my “empathy muscles.”

Each of these stressors places different demands on me in different areas.  By separating them out and thinking about how they use different facets, it made me feel less “globally overwhelmed” and not as drained as I move to a different task.

4.)  Turn to humour.

It could be the fact we carry British genes & we Brits love our black humour, but all of our lives, in stressful events both my brother and I always turned to hilarious youtube videos, reddit feeds, and other random things that made us laugh. Monty Python’s Life of Brian, “Always look on the bright side of life” singsong is a classic for us Brits.

During heightened stress, if I sit down to hit the Facebook or the Instagram, I also make a point to find some funny videos to watch.  There is something about having a good laugh, -for just one moment – that is therapeutic.  It releases as much steam as a good cry.  You feel so much better afterwards.  If anything, your sense of humour becomes enhanced in stressful times.  You are quicker and easier to laugh at something stupid when you are tired.  Maybe it’s because the body knows we need to laugh?

Laughter physiologically undoes the fight-or-flight response.  Did you know that?

In fact,

Philosopher John Morreall believes that the first human laughter may have begun as a g­esture of shared relief at the passing of danger.

5.) Be open with people about what you are going through.

As a supremely open person, I do have to remind myself that people have varying degrees of privacy.  But here’s what it is like to be open:  Talking about something a few times with someone else helps you process it and removes the power from that event.  It’s like draining the battery on your phone.  The longer you have your phone out, interacting with it, the faster the battery drains.   The more you have your heart out, sharing it with other people, the faster the emotional charge drains.

Soon you just look at the event and think “yeah, that sucked” but without the lip tremble, the tears in the eyes, or the tightness in the chest.

 

Another thing that helps with being open is it removes the situation where we have an “invisible background.”  Do you remember when I talked about worrying that my bosses would think I am not dedicated?  That is a great example.  It WOULD be a problem if they didn’t understand the background of my situation.  It would be a problem if I was not open with them.

 

If I had not shared what I am going through, for sure they would notice (and not in a positive way) having to adjust my hours to leave early, taking two days off, having to leave a meeting to answer my phone, being cooped up in my office at lunch.

But they know that background.  I made sure it was not invisible.

They know that when I look at my phone in a meeting, it is because I am keeping tabs on messages coming in updating me on how my father in laws surgery went in the hospital, when I am cooped up in my office at lunchtime, it is because I am talking to my husband in Fort McMurray.

When I take a day off, it’s because I couldn’t throw together childcare in a moments’ notice for an entire day for a baby and a toddler (and that’s what our family days off are for anyways.)

 

 

My friends know that I”ve been through some big ass life events in the last few years  and I did consistently get comments like “how do you get through all of this ok” “how do you stay so positive?”  “How do you cope with all of this.”  Aside from having a positive attitude (and I suspect a fairly positive “set point”) it really comes down to these five items.

 

I am also a positive realist.  Here’s the thing.  All of us have parents now who are approaching their 60s and 70s.  We are soon going to be initiated into that stage of life where our parents get cancer, get sick, have medical emergencies, possibly pass away.  I don’t mean to be fatalist, but these things are going to happen.  The first time they happen, it SUCKS.  It’s just an initiation by emotional fire.  The second time, the third time, you start gaining tools to cope and these five above are an example of those tools.  And each time you go through the fire, you become a bit stronger, a bit more skilled in self care, and a bit more resilient.

 

Shit is going to hit the fan in our lives, and sometimes several piles of shit hit the fan, like this week.  But we all get through it.  We all survive and come out of the other end a better person.  We manage to quell the fight or flight response with some extra self care after the fact to “come down” from the fight or flight response.

 

Big stuff is going to happen to us in our lives.  Do we want to go into crisis mode each and every time it happens and fall apart?  Or do we want to take the chance to develop some coping skills, become stronger and  be better prepared for the next time it is going to happen? Because it will.

 

Xo

 

Carina

 

 

 

 

 
 

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