mental health

BACK TO SCHOOL MINDFULNESS: PARENTAL EDITION

As labor day weekend comes to an end, we plunge headfirst into the season of fresh notebooks, sharpened pencils, ripe apple picking, brisk nights, and cider mills. That first month back to school can be a doozy, especially for parents still in summer mode. Not only are we faced with developing a whole new routine from scratch, but now we’re also faced with a whole new set of challenges as our children grow into the next school year. Teachers often have their students set goals for the coming school year, so it’s only fitting that we do the same!

The word “mindfulness” is thrown around a lot with the images of spas, fancy art projects, and far-off lands. When really all “mindfulness” means is checking in with yourself. We recognize that most parents don’t have time to sit down, much less getting their nails done or get pampered at a spa. With this in mind, we’ve come up with a 3 minute exercise we’d like you to do. Obviously we’re not going to ask you to do homework because we know you’ll get enough of that with your little ones ūüėČ

As the week goes on pick 2 of these prompts. Reflect on each of them for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Even set a timer if you need to! Focus on your thoughts and how you react to each prompt. 

  • What is your biggest win from the 7 days?
  • What are 3 attitudes you want to embody this school year?¬†
  • What makes you feel calm?¬†
  • Have you felt stressed or anxious today? What did you do to overcome it?
  • What realistic adjustment could you make to your daily routine to give yourself more energy?
  • What have you recently said “yes” to that is not a “hell yes”?
  • What does it feel like to go back to school after summer?
  • Who is someone you have not talked to in a while that you’re grateful for?
  • Is there an area of your life that needs to be more organized?
  • What is something you’re anxious about for the coming school year? How can you reasonably prepare for this?
  • What is one thing you need to let go of?
  • What is your 3rd most unique strength? How can you make it as strong as your 1st and 2nd?
  • What do you spend a silly amount of time on?
  • When was the last time you laughed?
  • What is important to you this school year?
  • When do you have a hard time letting go? When do you feel so overwhelmed you “check out,” and what does that look like for you (e.g. checking social media too much, feeling irritable, etc..)?
  • What is one long term goal you’re working towards?
  • How have you shown yourself patience in the last week? How can you continue to do so?
And that’s it! I know it doesn’t seem like a lot, but checking in with yourself (and your kids!) in this way for even just 3 minutes per day can work absolute wonders for your mental health. Being a parent can be unbelievably stressful, especially when you add the school year, your kids’ new schedules, extra curricular activities, homework, and work (job and/or house work) on top of that!¬† Both parenting and the new school year will come with a plethora of expectations from all directions. When the stress starts to pile on, these expectations can easily transform into self-criticism and sometimes even assumptions or criticism towards the kiddos. Practicing mindfulness not only improves memory, but also increases our patience, understanding, emotional intelligence, stability, adaptability, and decreases self- and outwardly-directed criticism. Will you still lose your cool sometimes? Oh heck yeah, because kids are a handful! Plus, no one is perfect! But giving yourself those 3 minutes per day will help lengthen your rope a bit so that you can let go of expectations, set goals, weather what you can’t control, and address what you can.¬†(PROTIP: goals are flexible and have the planning/growth process built into them, but expectations often revolve around assumptions with no means to achieve/ resolve them). You’re an amazing parent and your kids already know this. So please cut yourself some slack, show yourself some patience, and give yourself that 3 minutes per day!

Both you and your kids (and their teachers!!) will thank you for it ūüôā¬†

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: PRE AND POSTNATAL YOGA

Happy Thursday everyone! ūüôā This week’s Community Spotlight will be shining on the founder of Sweet Momma Yoga, the fabulous¬†Elise Bowerman!!! Elise is truly one of a kind. When¬†she’s not busy running the Sweet Momma Yoga studio, she’s spending time with her family and instructing incredible Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga Classes.¬†Within the walls of her studio, she facilitates parents finding peace, empowerment, resilience, and reassurance within themselves and between each other as a community.¬†So if you’ve been feeling the pressure of pregnancy, parenting, or just life in general lately, look no further!

ELISE BOWERMAN

Elise Bowerman operates the¬†only¬†Southeast Michigan Registered Prenatal Yoga School (RPYS) offering teacher training for anyone who’d like to specialize as a Prenatal (and Postnatal) Yoga teacher. As founder of Sweet Momma Yoga, she provides a one-stop-shop for those looking for Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga classes, and for the RPYS graduates a platform to build their business faster than if they were starting from¬†scratch. Elise has been practicing yoga for 20 years, teaching (even Prenatal Yoga) for over 10 years, and holds the following credentials¬†with Yoga Alliance: E-RYT 500, RPYT, YACEP. You’ll find Elise in Livonia (the city she grew up in) every Monday night for Prenatal and ‘Me Time’ Momma Yoga classes; and twice a year offering the 85-hour Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training at her home in Bloomfield Hills.

What brought you to support moms and babies?

The women in my life, including my mom, weren’t capable of offering the emotional or physical support I needed to feel normal, healthy, and confident as a mother; and as a woman. Plus, being depressed and anxious left me feeling alone and afraid most of the time.

Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga classes was where I found practical information and connected to other birthers to help figure out what the heck I was doing! It gave me reassurance to keep going through the long days.

Basically, on a deep level – I’m offering what I never received. I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed and afraid becoming a mother. By¬†offering time to tune-in, connect with the breath, the pulse of self + baby, and community in which we all belong¬†– I’m breaking the broken cycle women in my family were unable to tap in to, in hopes my children are empowered if they become parents one day.¬†

 

If there was one myth you could ‚Äúbust‚ÄĚ, what would it be?

The myth: one must be ’zen’ or athletic to participate in Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga. These classes are designed for our busy lifestyles and all fitness levels! In fact, most participants are brand new to yoga!

You wouldn’t expect to go to the gym¬†before¬†you get in shape, right? Same thing for the yoga practice… it’s called a¬†practice¬†for a reason. We meet ourselves on the mat to see what we’re bringing in that moment. Observing how we feel mentally and physically. Then we explore! We notice our thoughts, invite some new thoughts in, move our bodies to see if the movement provides support, a challenge, or simply curiosity to explore more. There’s no need to be ‘calm’ before coming to class. There’s no need to touch your toes, either. It’s the process of the practice that keeps us coming back for more.

 What do you enjoy doing when not working?

Now that¬†our¬†kids are nine and seven a greater sense of time apart¬†has¬†developed¬†compared to the five and under years… So, I‚Äôm basking in it! These days I love watching movies with my hubby and kids on the weekends. During the summer I‚Äôm outside tending¬†to¬†our yard; staying¬†connected with nature, and appreciative to all it has to offer. I love our home and yard. Maintaining it keeps me grateful for all our the blessings. During the school year¬†a morning highlight is¬†enjoying¬†breakfast or lunch with mom-friends after a yoga practice together.¬†Then coming home to no one else around… I really love that part. After school hours I’m running around with the kids ūüôā¬† #momlife

What moment are you most proud of?

On a personal level my proudest moment was birthing my daughter with no interventions. I knew I could do it, and when I did (peacefully), it ignited a passion to share with other birthers the possibility to birth with trust, understanding, and peace. 

Professionally I am most proud of the moment Рactually moments Рwhen former Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga students join in my Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training course so that they may provide the empowerment they received when they were students. When students become the teachers they are such a force of nature thrilling to witness!

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know.

Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga is open to all birthers; well, that’s not completely true… I have students who haven’t given birth join in ‘Me Time’ Momma Yoga because it really isn’t about parenting or birthing… it’s about the desire to spend time to decompress and connect with the ‘core’ of the body and self. In our classes¬†we are focused on building confidence through education, the practice of yoga, and the connection to one another. This yoga supports however and wherever someone births. As teachers, we are holding a light to help our community birth and parent with love.

“B” IS FOR BURNOUT

 

Let’s set the scene:

A young woman wearing boxer shorts and an oversized t-shirt sits on her couch watching television. A handful of popcorn goes cascading down her front as she misses her mouth entirely. She shrugs, flicks to the next episode of America’s Next Top Model, and slouches back into the squish of her sofa. An irritated look paints her face as she absentmindedly pets the grumpy cat siting next to her. Suddenly, the cat flies across the room in an explosion of screaming as the woman yells at the television “WHAT ARE YOU DOING MARJORIE?!?!?! GET YOURSELF TOGETHER, YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS!!!!” A feline death glare containing the rage of a thousand suns radiates from underneath the neighboring table. The woman pats the cat’s head, “I’m sorry kitty, it was important!”

This past weekend, that woman was most definitely me.

I can always tell I’m reaching the point of burn-out when my irritability is ramped up ten-fold. That, and when I spend an unusual amount of time watching (and yelling at) reality TV shows in my boxers. Self-care can be difficult as a doula, but we know that it’s even more difficult as a parent.

Becoming a parent means you are suddenly thrust into a position where taking care of yourself is no longer the priority. And honestly, a lot of the time it’s not even remotely on the radar. Your little ones become an extension of yourself, and caring for them quickly occupies the tiniest nooks and crannies of every day life. Of course we know that you love your kids! But for many parents, not having a minute to themselves throughout the day can feel incredibly draining, suffocating, isolating, and even alarming. Especially for parents whose self-care routines are integral to healing from mental illness or past trauma.

 

If you find yourself snapping at your kids more than usual, feeling guilty/inadequate, or in general feeling floaty/detatched, there’s a chance that you’re approaching or are already experiencing burnout. Recognizing burnout ahead of time can be incredibly helpful. Not only so that you can change course for a more sustainable day-to-day routine, but also to conserve energy, and ensure you’re feeling like the amazing parent that your kids already KNOW you are!

Here are a few things you can do to prevent burnout from happening even in the hectic whirlwind of parenthood:

1.¬†Take 5.¬†Even taking just 5 minutes a day for yourself can make an enormous difference. Whether you’re a new mama taking care of your newborn or a seasoned parent who’s been around the block a few times. Everyone meets their wit’s end sometimes. So take a breath, set a timer, and spend that 5 minutes doing whatever you gotta do to center yourself. Sit in a closet for some peace and quiet, listen to music, call someone who makes you smile, or even just lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling (this can be weirdly therapeutic). It’s okay to reset and collect your thoughts.
2.¬†Prioritize.¬†Pick the things that absolutely need to get done today and save the rest for later. Your house doesn’t need to sparkle 24/7, but the baby needs to eat and Jimmy does need clean underwear for school tomorrow. Put your energy where it is needed most.
3.¬†Nix the comparisons.¬†Comparing yourself to other parents is tempting, especially in today’s parenting culture. Everyone wants to be “The Best Parent Ever.” But the secret is, your kids already think you’re the best. Do what is feasible and makes sense for YOU as a parent. Ease up on the criticism and try seeing yourself through their eyes because they already think you’re pretty great! ūüôā
4.¬†Teach your kids to do things independently.¬†This one can seem daunting because kids can be so stubborn sometimes. But especially as your children get older, pushing through that resistance can save a lot of time and energy in the long run. Not having to worry about the little things like chores and getting everyone dressed will allow you to save your energy for the things that the kids can’t help out with. Plus it instills them with a sense of confidence and accomplishment!
5.¬†Change your expectations.¬†You don’t have to be perfect to be a good parent. It’s okay to not finish everything on your to-do list, and an extra few minutes of tv-time will not melt their brains into mush. Loosen¬†your grip on those expectations of yourself and tell your self-critic to take a hike unless they plan on paying rent! It’s hard enough to be a parent, so cut yourself some slack.
6.¬†Intentionally set aside time¬†for yourself.¬†I know this one can seen downright impractical, or even impossible. But it is so necessary. Making sure your own needs are met will allow you to feel more calm, collected and present (aka what every parent needs in the face of a tantrum). Your kids need you to take care of yourself because you can’t pour from an empty cup. So get out there, hand your kids over to your partner/ family member/ friend/ playdate/ babysitter for a couple hours, and go do something that makes your soul happy. No guilt whatsoever because a parent’s gotta do what a parent’s gotta do.
7. Ask for and accept help.¬†Reaching out does not make you weak, and there is no shame in accepting help when it’s offered. The image of “Super Mom” is enticing, but I assure you that she’s just a myth! It takes a village to raise children because no one can possibly be everything for everyone. Communicate your needs with loved ones and ask for help/support when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Being a parent is a full-time job and there’s no reason to make it harder than it needs to be!
8. Spend time with friends.¬†No one can lift your spirits or put you at ease like your friends. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’re losing yourself in the everyday life of parenthood, grabbing coffee or calling a good friend for a few minutes can help remind you of all that good stuff that’s already inside of you. Plus, venting and talking with other parent-friends can do wonders for lifting some of the weight off.
9. Be kind to yourself.¬†Turning kindness and compassion inwards toward ourselves is a game-changer. By changing the way we talk to ourselves, we give ourselves room to feel, grow, and exist as people. Instead of berating yourself over the things you “should have” done, try a few of my favorite reminders: “I’ve done my best for today. I will keep trying tomorrow,” “It’s okay that I’m not perfect,” and “I will show myself the kindness and patience that I show others.” And if those don’t work, sometimes a good old fashioned¬† “No one is bleeding or in immediate crisis so that’s good enough for now” will do the trick ūüėČ

If you find yourself nearing the Yelling-At-Reality-TV-In-Your-Boxers point of burnout, take a minute to breathe. You are human and deserve rest too. Give one or two of these a try every once in a while to see if they resonate with you. Above all else, please remember that you are not alone in this.

YOU CAN DO THIS. WE BELIEVE IN YOU.