Realistic Resolutions

Inspired by this post written three years ago, I'm here to bring you some updated, short, sweet, and realistic ways to set your wellness resolutions for the new year. 

It seems like many folks set goals to get healthier: most often, you hear of resolutions focused on physical health: intentions to increase exercise or incorporate more nutritious foods into one's diet. Goals to increase physical health are all fine and good, but what if we took it a step back (or forward, depending how you look at it) and decided to set resolutions that focused on your mental health instead? What if it was getting a grasp on your emotional self-care that eventually paved the road to the physical health you're looking for? If simplifying and turning your focus INWARD is on your mind as we round out 2016, keep reading...

A phrase heard often while in my undergrad program was: "Anyone can do anything for a short amount of time". If I've learned anything, both as a human trying to get through life and in my career as a social worker, it's that this phrase holds some serious truth. When we look at goals and try to make them more attainable, it helps to break them down into short and achievable objectives.  You CAN do these things. Sometimes the 'starting' is the hardest part.

In looking into the New Year, here are three ways to keep it short, simple and sweet in balancing your emotional health. Meeting these short objectives daily or a few times a week will hopefully help you on your path to those bigger goals, if that's what you're aiming for. These are things everyone can do. 

Five Mindful Minutes

Aim for this daily. The goal here is to focus with awareness for five minutes straight. Whether it's while washing the dishes, taking a shower, switching laundry from the washer to the dryer, or enjoying silence: notice your senses. All of them. In five minutes, no matter what you're doing, see if you can name 5 things you see, 5 things you hear, 5 things you can feel, 5 things you can taste, and 5 things you can smell. It's a form of meditation. Small increments make big changes.

Twenty Minutes in the Tub

There was a time a few years ago in my pre-Mom life where I recommended an epsom salt bath several times a week. HA HA HA. Since the purpose of this post is realistic objectives, let's aim for once a week. An epsom salt bath, as noted in the previously linked post, has many benefits, both physical and emotional. It's the perfect way to practice mindfulness and escape at the same time. Aware of what's going on in the now, and escaping from what's going on everywhere else. Good for the soul. 

jot it down

I have always had a passion for writing, so journaling, making lists, and keeping my ideas on paper has long been a therapeutic release for me. Even if writing isn't your thing, writing a few quick sentences about your day helps download your brain and unload your thoughts. I have found profound healing in writing my thoughts. If the attainable objective is writing down your thoughts, the action can be tailored to whatever the bigger goal is. Example: Keep your thoughts on post-it notes on the bathroom mirror if you need daily affirmations for positive thinking. If your goal is getting rid of negative thought patterns, write them down and then rip it, crumple it, or even burn it (safely). Let the action be a symbol of what you're trying to achieve in the 'bigger picture'. 

Have any ideas of your own? Share them below! 

Happy New Year, readers. 

The Confident Calm: Our Doula Experience

Looking back, we're not quite sure what we would have done without her. We know the end result would have been the same: our daughter, June, was somehow going to be born. She was going to come out. The doctor and nurses were there to make sure that happened safely. I've been wanting to write about our birth experience, but for me, it isn't just about June being born. Somewhere in there, between the time that my water broke and the time that we met our daughter, something else happened. A mom and a dad were born too. My husband and I brought June into this world and experienced what it was like to be held, supported, open, and trusting, during the most vulnerable transition of our lives. Today, two and a half months later, we still tell others: we couldn't have done it without Melinda. 

Melinda, owner of Doula's of Marquette, was there for us as we began to prepare for labor and birth. We began by meeting a few times to talk about what it might look like, what our wishes were, what my ideal situation would be. It became apparent right away that there was very little that was within my control. I wrote about the anxieties I experienced as I progressed through pregnancy and was able to manage my anxious thoughts pretty well, for the most part, throughout my second and third trimesters. We had finalized our "ideal birth plan" and discussed all the what-if's with Melinda weeks before, but when my water broke at 38 weeks, the anxiety came flooding back (pun intended?) as I experienced the biggest adrenaline rush of my life. 

I had thought about sharing my birth story in detail, but instead I'll share it in some quick bullet points:

  • Water breaks at local brewpub at 7:30. Shock.  
  • Clean at home like a madwoman for 3 hours before contractions started coming every 3 mins. 
  • Melinda shows up. Gut instinct: go to the hospital. Arrive at 10:45. 
  • Horse lips, horse lips, horse lips (it's a way to breathe during labor, people. Look it up). Peanut ball. Cold washcloths. Progress from 2 cm to 7 cm in one hour.
  • Transition. Shit gets real. Ask where the doctor is. State my inability to go on. Over and over and over. 
  • Need to push. Doctor shows up. Start pushing. Pushing sucks. Ask for those meds I said I didn't want before. Hear it's too late. Swear, a lot. 
  • Experience indescribable sensations.  Meet the love of my life at 1:53 a.m. 

The truth is, having a doula made all of the above tolerable. From the moment my water broke, she was on the other line reminding me that my story was just beginning. Keeping my anxiety at bay by letting me know that everything I was experiencing was a normal, healthy, part of labor. Amidst the chaos, Melinda was our confident calm. Whether it was reassuring my husband, who had no idea what to expect, or giving me the counter pressure I needed - she was ALL there. 100% present and helping me to advocate for what it is we wanted as a family. She was there to take photos of the best moments of our lives, to celebrate when June finally arrived, to call us Mom & Dad.  

Sharing parts of our birth story means advocating for having a doula. I had desired an unmedicated birth and achieved it, though I'm almost certain I would have gone an alternate route to manage pain had it not been for Melinda keeping me in check emotionally and reminding me of my coping skills. I can't envision a birth situation where a doula wouldn't be helpful in some way. No matter how you want to give birth, no matter how your baby ends up joining you earthside, all the mamas and papas need support, options, and encouragement. Support without judgment, for whatever experience they're going for. 

In jumping back into the blog-o-sphere, I have been reassessing what this blog is to me. I realized that our birth story, and the involvement of our doula, is everything Effort & Ease is about. Balancing the hardest work with the ease of an exhale. It's about feeling supported, living in the moment, listening to and being in my body, being flexible in my thoughts, and trusting the process. Our birth experience was the perfect balance of strength and surrender, the foundation of Effort & Ease. It is my hope in sharing this that Mamas feel encouraged to reach out in support of themselves throughout their pregnancy and birthing experience. If I've learned anything since June was born, it's that a Mama that cares for herself cares better for her baby. Of course, there are a lot of ways to do this, but having a doula was one way we eased into parenting and I can't imagine doing it any other way should there be a "second time around".

Part of the beauty in all of this was having the flexibility to make our doula experience what we wanted it to be. We were in the drivers seat the whole time, with unwavering encouragement no matter what it was we were going for. This, alone, is a reason to have a doula. Don't be afraid to take charge, Mamas, and know that if you choose Doulas of Marquette, they're going to have your back (during labor, quite literally), through it all. 

Using My Yoga

I had a baby six weeks ago. In the time since her arrival, I've been floating through life in some kind of crazy-awesome, bliss-filled survival mode. I let my body recover from birth until my intuition told me it was okay to explore asana again. Being on my mat again has allowed me to revisit that very special sense of awareness of what's going on in and around me. I'm in the process of reconnecting with the "me" that isn't growing a baby. I'm deciding to jump back in with both feet and rediscover my passions.

I took a break from teaching group classes beginning in May to focus on what felt "right" for me and my growing baby. I needed to focus on my pregnancy: the very special, very short and sacred time that it is. I've noticed that my identity since giving birth has changed. I had a lot of roles before I had my daughter: wife, daughter, friend, social worker, yoga instructor, etc. My new role as "Mom" is challenging me in all of the best ways and forcing me to look at what makes my heart dance. Since getting back onto my yoga mat, it is still undeniably obvious to me that sharing yoga with others is my passion and part of my greater purpose.

I'm ready to get back at it but I'll have you know, with no shame, that it's scary to me. It's scary because I am, admittedly, removed. I'm not as connected anymore to many yogis I saw so often. I'm scared because my days now are filled with fewer opportunities to study the practice, to design a sequence, to indulge in my own practice. My days now are filled with cold coffee, baby snuggles, one handed meals and half-finished chores. But - even with all of this - there is room, beyond my most important and cherished role of "Mom" - to embrace my yoga instructor role again, whatever that looks like. So many things are physically different for me right now but that doesn't mean different is bad. Different feels scary. I'm acknowledging it, accepting it, and putting my yoga to it to guide me. I'm using my yoga practice just as I always have to guide my intuition. 

Stay tuned for more.