My #1 sanity-saver as a new mom

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After the twins were born, my husband and I were overwhelmed. Shell-shocked. Exhausted. The days blurred into nights. Our living room became a round-the-clock hub for feedings, diaper changes, naps and occasional contact with the outside world, via visitors who came to see the babies.

I began to forget who I was. What I liked to do before the babies were born. What I found funny. What I was passionate about. I had become a robot with a singular mission: keep these two babies alive. And, as with most new moms, my every thought and move revolved around them.  As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, my anxiety began to increase, eventually reaching new heights.

My husband came home from work one night, excited. His colleague had mentioned that he and his wife, shortly after their twins were born, each picked one night per week to be “their” night. On those nights, they did whatever they wanted after work. The only rule was they couldn’t go home, because they’d most likely get sucked into household and parenting duties.

I loved the idea, and we agreed on our designated “free nights.” I had lofty goals for my first night. I’d go to a yoga class and start writing again, and maybe even make progress on that novel I started before the babies were born.

Here’s what really happened: I wandered into Target and, out of habit, made a beeline for the baby section, where I picked out new outfits for the twins. Then I went to Starbucks, where I sipped coffee while checking the nursery camera from my phone every five minutes until it was time to go home.

I had forgotten how to exist without my babies in my sight, and I felt guilty leisurely strolling the aisles of Target or relaxing with a book while they were home, so little and vulnerable, without their mama.

Fast-forward to today, and my free nights look completely different. I fully detach. I write, exercise, shop for myself (not the babies), get a manicure, treat myself to a non-rushed dinner with a friend – whatever my body and mind are begging for.

It took me a while to get here, but I’m so glad I did – with small steps. I moved the icon for the nursery cam to the last screen of my phone (out of sight, out of mind… kind of). I registered and paid for yoga classes in advance so I’d go, or committed to plans with friends. I held myself accountable to others at first, then finally to myself.

After these evenings, I feel refreshed, grateful and ready to throw myself wholeheartedly into parenting again. And when I skip these nights, boy do I feel it. By the weekend, I’m exhausted, anxious and burned out, which is exactly what I don’t want to be around my husband and kids.

To be the best mama I can be, I need to find the time to do what inspires and energizes me. I need to be me.

Mamas and dads, what do you do to stay more balanced? I’d love to hear. 

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The impossibility of having it all

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The idea came to me one day while I was driving (as all good ideas do!). My mind, which these days, as a new mom, feels so overloaded and exhausted – somehow pulled together all the thoughts and experiences I’d had over the past eight months into a a cohesive story.

I quickly dictated the ideas into my phone (seriously the best phone function ever!), and worked on it over the next couple of weeks until I felt satisfied with its message. I wrote it partly out of the need to get it out of my head and on paper – writing has always been therapeutic for me – and partly because I know I’m not the only mama out there to experience the extreme anxiety that can take hold after baby is born.

I figured if my story could help one person, the article would have done its job. So I submitted it to ScaryMommy.com, and they decided to publish it: The Impossibility of Having It All (And the Toll It Takes On Our Health When We Try).

Putting something so personal out there, and then sharing it with friends and family, was terrifying, but so rewarding… and so freeing. Both old and new friends have reached out to tell me they experience the same inner conflicts and challenges. A few have also battled anxiety their entire lives.

Some of the people who reached out gave up trying  a while ago, and some are still convincing themselves they need to. But regardless of their progress, there is a community out there, of mamas and non-mamas alike (and a few dads, too), who’ve helped me realize I no longer need to hide my anxiety anymore. There’s no need to be ashamed of it, and I’m not alone in my struggle to try to have it all.

9 things I’d tell my 13-year-old self

Photo by Andy Teo

Photo by Andy Teo

During a recent dinner with friends, one casually posed the question, “What would you tell your 13-year-old self?” I’d heard this question before, and typically dismissed it with a silly or smart-ass response (“Spiral perms are never a good idea!”), but this time I took a minute to think about it. And a bunch of ideas flooded my mind – all serious advice that I wish someone had given me when I was a scared, newbie teen who was anxious about everything and struggling with an eating disorder.

So I decided to share, in the hopes you’ll show it to a teen in need of some advice from the future – or that something will resonate with you.

  1. Don’t be afraid. It will all work out.
  2. Be who you are. Make yourself happy first.
  3. Everyone else is insecure about something, too.
  4. Be a child as long as possible. Your dreams will come true. But enjoy today first.
  5. You’re not dying. It’s an anxiety attack.
  6. Don’t do things hoping you will be rewarded with love or acceptance. The right people will love you for who you are, not what you look like, wear or accomplish.
  7. If you need help, there are places you can go and people to talk to. Get the help – demand it – now.
  8. Know your worth. You deserve happiness. You are perfect as you are, but…
  9. Remember that there’s no such thing as perfect.

So what am I missing? What do you wish you’d known all along? Add to the list by posting a comment below.

Victory Rituals and the life-changing list

Photo: TASTEdaily.com

Photo: TASTEdaily.com

I’m blessed and cursed to have my brain. I learn quickly, so I get bored very easily. I’m a skilled organizer and rarely lose anything, but I break out in hives around clutter. I’m an over-achiever, so I always have a running list of no less than 20 goals I want to accomplish. All good, but all very exhausting.

So when I read about the opportunity to be part of the Victory Rituals beta group – a program designed to help participants focus on and achieve one of their goals – I eagerly signed up. With so many items on my “to accomplish” list, I was overwhelmed and ineffective. I’d focus on one goal for a week or so, then divert my attention to another, ending up with a bunch of big and small half-baked projects. Not very motivating or fulfilling.

The beta
Led by Nicole D’Alonzo of TASTEdaily (if you haven’t checked out this site, do it. Like now.), the beta has consisted of two 30- to 45-minute video workshops to date. The first focused on optimizing your morning routine so you can practice those Victory Rituals that will get you to your goal(s). Nicole offered up tips on identifying your long-term goal, then establishing your daily trifecta – those three things you want to accomplish for the day.

The second workshop focused on getting enough sleep so you can be truly productive, as well as the benefits of rituals. By becoming habits, rituals open up space in our minds so we can focus on the bigger picture. And as we work toward the big picture, we get that motivation and fulfillment those day-to-day tasks just don’t deliver.

So here’s what I did and didn’t do
I decided to focus in on exercising consistently, preparing healthy meals and fitting in time for relaxation as part of a larger goal to become healthier physically and mentally. The first few days after the workshop #1, I was gung ho, setting and accomplishing my trifecta each day. Then I lost steam. My overachieving side was fighting back.

“What about writing that book? When are you going to that?” It taunted.

“And how are you going to get that Project Management Professional certification if you’re busy exercising and relaxing. Seriously, relaxing? You have too much to accomplish to do that!”

But rather than give in, I got out a sheet of paper and wrote down all the goals whirling around in my head. Then I ordered them, with 1 being the most important. And I made a deal with myself. I wouldn’t even think about #2 until I did something that day to work toward #1. And #3 would be but a shadow in the back of my mind until I did something to get me closer to #2 that day. And so on.

By prioritizing my goals, I gave myself the mental room I needed to work – or not work – toward them each day and make actual headway.

The results: I’m down seven pounds, physically stronger and less anxious, and I can finally prepare a healthy dinner for myself without setting off the fire alarms. Success!

While I’m still not a morning person (sigh), Victory Rituals did set me in the right direction toward achieving my goals.

Interested in creating and working toward your own Victory Rituals? Get on the waitlist for the program’s official launch.