If someone would have told me a year ago I would be spending my Saturday night drinking tea while browsing essential oils online (with the TV off!), and thoughtfully planning which yoga classes I can add to my schedule for the upcoming week, I would have told them they were bat shit crazy. Yet, this past Saturday, I was doing just that. In fact, many of my Saturdays have recently looked like this. This last year I have been on an incredibly transformative journey of self discovery, self care, and unlocking my authentic voice. And I can wholeheartedly say that I have never been happier.
Shortly after becoming a mother for the first time, I started what many would call a dream job. I was a manager at a high profile company, making great money, and fully indulging in the excitement it had to offer. What many didn’t know was that I gave myself away. I gave away my self care, my basic needs, and my identity. I gave up on myself not because I didn’t care, but I simply just ran out of time. My job was incredibly demanding, I was enduring a 3+ hour commute each day, I was devoting every spare second to my daughter, I was a wife, a daughter, and a friend. At the end of each day I was lucky to get 4 hours of sleep, and wash my face. I was certainly not taking care of myself, and I was certainly not present. I was not unhappy by any means, it was just the chaos became my normal.
Right before I gave birth to our second child last year, I was having a lot of anxiety I would not be a good mother. Not because I was scared of having a baby or the responsibility to follow, but because I did not know how I would possibly have enough time to take care of a baby. My life was already bursting at the seams. It was not until my maternity leave that I was able to let go, and for the first time in years, I was able to look in the mirror and see me. Not the me who was running 20 minutes late making sure the dirty pants I was wearing didn’t have any visible stains, not the me who was practicing a presentation for the next morning, but just me. I felt like a stranger was looking back at me.
The next few months were an incredibly pivotal moment in my life. I turned 30 years old, and for the first time in years, I was present. One of the most critical things I discovered was that I was not alone. There were millions of women who had unknowingly fallen onto the same path as me; giving away every fiber of their being to their children, spouse, job, family, and friends, and leaving themselves with absolutely nothing. Only nourishing our bodies and mind with the absolute minimum, just enough to stay afloat. My first thought was how could we as women let this happen, and my second thought was, how do I get out? It was not until I was out that I realized how far in I truly had been.
The first step I took was letting go of that dream job. I found a job much closer to home, that had work from home flexibility, and was not nearly as demanding. Although this was a huge moment that impacted my journey so positively, it was not the complete cure. However, eliminating my biggest source of stress finally gave me the clarity and time to nourish the other aspects of my life I wanted to change and grow. One of the biggest lessons I learned along the way was I needed to prioritize my needs. This was something I deeply struggled with because this brought immense guilt, and at times, still does. How could I put myself first when I have children to raise, and a household to run? But what I began to uncover was that I will never be the mother, wife, friend, and person I know I truly am if I didn’t add water and sunshine to my mind, body, and soul so I could continue to be fruitful for myself and those who depended on me.
To think how far I’ve come even in the last few months continues to astound me. How empowered I feel, how healthy I feel, how positive my relationships are, and how much more I feel connected with myself and life. However, my journey is still fresh, it has only just begun. I have only uncovered the tip of the iceberg, and have only begun to unlock my potential, and my worth. Life no longer feels like a marathon, but instead a journey.
Below, I have done my best to capture the key stepping stones of my journey thus far, key stepping stones that have forever changed me, and I will continue to follow for the rest of my life. These stepping stones are interchangeable, and can be fine tuned to best nourish your needs and life. If you are feeling overwhelmed, that there is simply not enough time in the day, and your needs are often neglected, I urge you to follow these stepping stones, even for just a short period of time to give it a try. Taking care of yourself is not selfish. Instead, it is the most selfless thing you can do for yourself and those who depend on you.
What would happen to your house plants if you stopped watering them? The necessity of taking care of yourself is no different than this, yet so many of us women have taken on this notion that our wellbeing is not as important as everyone else’s. Self care does not need to be an extravagant day at the spa (although you should do this for yourself sometimes if it brings you joy), it can be something as simple as going on a walk, or drinking tea by the window. Do what relaxes you, do what brings you joy. It is crucial to find at least a few minutes a day, everyday, to do something for you, and only you. You need to nourish your mind, body, and soul so you can bloom just as vivaciously as the house plant you water everyday.
I have made a conscious effort to find 20 minutes per day, every single day to do something for me. This ranges from reading, to painting my nails, to just sitting in silence. I do what I feel like I need, not what I think I need. I am also finding time at least once per month to do something more substantial like shopping sans kids, or a 4 hour yoga workshop. These mommy timeouts have become so necessary, and I cannot believe I lived without them for so long.
My mornings used to be a complete shit show. My husband leaves very early for work, so mornings are on me to get both kids ready, get lunches packed, get myself ready, battle a few meltdowns, and race off to work. There used to be tears (mommy included) and timeouts on a regular basis, and by the time I would get to work my energy and patience would be depleted.
I knew something had to give, and there had to be a better way. I started to research how to have a mindful and positive start to your day, that was realistic for a working mom. Despite all the ideas out there, there was one common denominator: wake up early, really early. In my 31 years of life I have never been a morning person, I have always been a tried and true night owl, so for me, this was not easy. However, each day, I started to set my alarm 10 minutes earlier, then another 10 minutes earlier, and so on. I am now to 5:40am, with a goal to get to 5am (slowly, but surely). I cannot tell you how something so simple has changed my life. I ease into my day calmly, I have coffee and breakfast with the morning sun, I get ready for work at a very leisurely pace, and most importantly my calmness and mindset has positively impacted the experience and attitude of my children in the morning. Having a morning routine sets the tone for the day.
Yoga & Meditation
This one is new for me, but has changed my life. I admit, I am a pretty lazy person, so working out was not always top of mind, and combining that with being a working mom, it was easy to not get around to. However, on a whim I decided to try out a yoga class. I immediately fell in love and felt like I was where I needed to be. I have had so many racing thoughts of bringing mindfulness, stability, and self care to my inner self, but it was hard to organize and apply these thoughts, until I started doing yoga and meditation. Meditation is also new for me, and something I am very much learning about. Although I have a long way to go in terms of truly reaching a deep meditative state, the taste I have gotten has allowed me to feel present and clear. Both yoga and meditation connected all the dots for me, and has brought me so much peace in both my body and mind. For me, it has opened a channel that has allowed me to see my authentic self.
I made a big shift to eating wholesome and organic food about 85% of the time. This had nothing to do with weight, but instead it had everything to do with how both my body and mind felt after eliminating processed, high sugar foods from my diet. What you put into your body each day impacts so much more than your waistline. It impacts how you feel both mentally and physically, your energy, and your thought process. You truly are what you eat. This is a lifestyle and not a diet. Diets are endless days of counting calories, stepping on the scale, and feeling guilty over the pizza craving you are having. Instead, I am giving myself the nutrition and fuel my body and mind deserve, the nutrition and fuel that make me feel good, but I also indulge when the opportunity arises.
What works best for me is my #freezer30 dinners (check out my other previous blog posts for more on this), and prepping on Sundays very simple and nutritious foods to grab on the go during the busy week: greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs, prewashed lettuce and veggies, cooked quinoa, granola, and the list goes on. The funny part is, despite being a big foodie, I have found the more I eat whole, the more I want it.
Just like diet, it goes without saying that good quality sleep is critical for a happy and healthy body and mind. We all know the classic recommendation is 8 hours of sleep a night. We also know that number is a load of shit when you are a mother. When you have small children, you get very used to broken up 4 hours of sleep total each night very quickly because you generally have no other choice. However, once you make it through hopefully this temporary phase (our 2nd child did not start sleeping through the night until she was 11 months, and still struggles) it is really important to make sleep a priority again. Sleep does more than rest your body, it is also the time our body is able to restore and detoxify, when our organs can really do their job to keep us healthy. On top of that, lack of sleep impacts our immune system, our mood, and ability to make good decisions, therefore spiraling us into a vicious cycle that can be quite damaging.
I have accepted that 8 hours is not a realistic number for me, but I also know if I get less than 6 hours, I really notice the negative effects on both my body and mind. Therefore, I now do everything in my power to at least have the lights out, and phone off for 6.5 hours a night. I may not be sleeping this entire time, but I am making the conscious effort that this is the time my body rests, and I have never felt better.
Expanding My Mind
I am definitely not an expert of being healthy, mindful, or living a simple life, and honestly have only just begun to scratch the surface of what this truly means. Therefore, having a solid and reliable, real life resources to help me along my journey have been critical to deepen my knowledge of what I need to do for myself and how to realistically apply this to my modern life. I surely do not have all the answers.
One of my favorite resource thus far has been the Mind Love podcast. This is an amazing podcast that introduces you to modern mindfulness. Each episode covers really interesting topics of how to essentially prioritize your self care, and bring mindfulness, love, and positivity to yourself and your life. The host keeps it real, which makes it much more relatable and easier to integrate into your own life. Fun fact, the host was a childhood neighbor and friend of mine, who hopefully won’t forget our summer days of rollerblading to Mariah Carey because she is about to make it big with this podcast.
In addition to this podcast, I have been reading books, such as The Yamas and Niyamas, and finding inspirational blogs and other social media accounts to follow. All of these resources have been a huge inspiration and a huge push to expand my awareness.
In a modern day world, especially being a working parent, life feels anything but simple. Before this journey, my life felt like an endless loop of cramming everything into the day, never accomplishing all of it, falling more and more behind, and finally drowning. I decided to sit down, and map out exactly what brings me stress, what takes up my time, and what brings me challenges. As much as I would like to not have to work, have a private chef and maid, I also needed to be realistic about what works for our family, especially financially.
We live in an exciting time where a lot of these mundane tasks can be outsourced, however, like most families, money is limited. Therefore, I decided to tackle what I can control, and what had an affordable and simple resolution. A big one for me was that after a long work week, I was spending a huge chunk of my weekend doing errands like the grocery store, Target, etc. I felt like I had no time to just have a proper lazy Sunday, and just relax. One thing I did was eliminate my weekly Sunday grocery store trip by instead having groceries delivered.
I try tackling one challenge at a time and finding a solution. Such as identifying one 20 minute cleaning task a day, therefore I chip away at it throughout the week vs having to sacrifice 3 hours on the weekend to do it all. Or investing in a 5 compartment hanging shelf in my kid’s closet so we can pick out school day outfits on Sundays together, and eliminating any sort of meltdown over clothes on a weekday morning. Essentially, when I find myself feeling like I am really dreading “X”, I sit down and think how I can simplify “X”. Although we cannot completely eliminate these challenges in our life, there will always be a way to simplify it.
Living in the Moment
This one I struggled with for a long time, and truthfully still do. My mind is always racing, and I am always thinking about the next task I need to tackle while I am still in the middle of tackling something else. I have learned when I don’t live in the moment, I take on much more stress and anxiety because when you are constantly focused on the next thing to do, your responsibilities can feel much more overwhelming. Taking one thing at a time, and most importantly, truly savoring the moment I am in has greatly reduced my stress and made me experience the small pleasures life has to offer that I would have missed otherwise. Be present, be free.
Positive Vibes Only
As we know, life is not always sunshine and rainbows, and there are many negative aspects we cannot control such as politics, world violence, and even a traumatic event that happened to us when we were younger. However, there are plenty of things we can control, and what I have found is that making these aspects of my life as positive as possible has a profound effect on my well being and outlook. I would be doing a disservice to myself if I stayed inside a positive bubble all the time, ignoring the negatives around me, but I am doing an incredible service to myself by letting go of what only brings weight with no true purpose.
A perfect example is the news. It is important I stay informed as to what is happening with the news, despite most of it being horrific and upsetting. However, the sensationalized headlines of someone torturing their dog 2,000 miles from where I live is just not something I need to read about everyday. I know horrible things like this everyday, and I know it is important to advocate for those who have been wronged, but I also cannot take all of it in each day. Therefore, I have made a much more conscious effort as to what news organizations I follow and read, ones that keep me informed, of the good and the bad, but also ones that do not sensationalize horrible events just to get more website views either.
I purposely left this stepping stone as the final one. Not because it is the least important, but because all the stepping stones I have followed have guided me to my mindset. Your mindset impacts every single moment and aspect of your life. Your mindset determines how you view and take care of yourself, your loved ones, and the world. Your mindset is the true core to your being. Your mindset is everything. By having the right mindset, everything will fall into place, and the challenges and negatives will simply melt away. When I find my mindset start to drift from what I intend it to be, I go back to one of the stepping stones above to bring me back to center. Sometimes it is an extra dose of self care, sometimes it is simplifying something, and sometimes it is expanding my mind. Life is a rollercoaster, with so many ups and downs, but having a happy, healthy, and positive mindset, you can truly take on anything.
So there you have it, my path to celebrate myself, nourish myself, and discover myself. Don’t get me wrong though, life is life, and I still lose my patience with my kids, snap at my husband, and get overwhelmed at work, but I find I recover more quickly than I did before. That many of these challenges never permeate me, but instead just dissipate. I am more aware of myself, more aware of what my body and mind need to be centered and balanced. Life no longer feels like a marathon, but instead a journey.