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A Peek Into My Art Journal

A peek inside my art journals :: www.nurturedmama.net

I keep a little book in my purse at all times. It may be a stretch to call it an art journal, although it always has a little art in it. It is my catch-all, my notebook, my sketchbook, where I write down my to-do lists and phone numbers and dates before they get into my computer. More and more there is evidence of Bean in my books – her stickers, her lines, her drawings, sometimes the things she brings me to draw, if she catches me sketching.

These books are my grounding, my reminder that I am here, I am not lost, I have dreams and ideas and curiosities. Sitting down with my book and a pen or a brush is my easiest, most common form of self care. Here are some peeks inside those pages.

A peek inside my art journals :: www.nurturedmama.net

A peek inside my art journals :: www.nurturedmama.net

A peek inside my art journals :: www.nurturedmama.net

A peek inside my art journals :: www.nurturedmama.net

A peek inside my art journals :: www.nurturedmama.net

A peek inside my art journals :: www.nurturedmama.net

These next few pages come from a larger book I keep in my studio. It is messier, painty-er and where I experiment. In these pages I am finding my way back to myself as an artist.

A peek inside my art journals :: www.nurturedmama.net

A peek inside my art journals :: www.nurturedmama.net

A peek inside my art journals :: www.nurturedmama.net

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What Will I Remember?

What will I remember from these years, this moment? The hard or the beautiful? Will I remember it when I need it most? :: www.nurturedmama.net

I wonder what I’ll remember? Will it be simply that the Spring time change is something I loathe with a particular passion? Will I remember why?

Will I remember how she stuck her fingers in her ears and scowled at me from her car seat while we were driving home from the pleasant two hours at Hakone Gardens, a break from the otherwise angry day we had spent together so far? “I don’t want to hear this music. It hurts my ears.”

Will I remember how I said, “Suck it up, I’m tired of all the things you don’t like today,” and then turned the music up a little louder to drown my frustration?

Will I remember how I realized I didn’t really like that music either, but hell no I was not going to turn it off after putting my foot down about it and I made us both listen to the whole album?

Or will I remember the moment in her room that night, after I turned off the iPhone with the playlist she’d borrowed from her dad, which music that was decidedly not sleepy music and she screamed and kicked at me and I used that low voice I’ve only used a handful of times in my life and never to her to say, “Stay. In. Your. Bed.” and she recognized that voice even though she’d never heard it before and she did stay, and then asked for a tissue and wiped her eyes with exactly the same gesture I use when I’m sitting on my therapist’s saggy tan couch and I’m crying but I wish I wasn’t?

Will I remember how then she asked me to sing to her, and I leaned over the side of her bed to sing the song about a baby owlet, and she listened and sniffled, and then asked, “Why poor owlet?” and I sang the next line, “He is tired/from crying so,” and she said “Why is he crying?” and I remembered what I’d been forgetting all day, which is that she’s a sensitive girl, and she feels my tension and anger deeply. She doesn’t pout just to be mean to me. Maybe she didn’t like my music because she was mad, but maybe it really was hurting her ears. And I remembered how neither of us had slept enough for three nights running and both of us need a lot of sleep. And just as I felt like I would cry for being so mean and unfeeling to her, she did cry, big sobs that curled her small body up, and said, “I’m so sad, too.”

Will I remember how I said, “I love you,” and she said, “I know you love me even when you are mad. And I do, too. I love you when I’m mad. But it makes my stomach hurt a little,” and I knew exactly the feeling she was talking about because I’d been feeling it all day?

Will I remember how said she wanted it to be tomorrow, and I asked, because I know that feeling too, “Because you want this horrible day to be over?” and she said, “Yes.” She said, “I don’t want us to fight tomorrow.” Will I remember how much she needs to feel connected with me and how much it hurts us both when we are arguing?

Will I remember the way she climbed down out of her bed and tried snuggle into my lap, the way she used to fall sleep every night? She doesn’t really fit any more, but we made do. Her legs hang down almost to the floor, but her head still fits under my chin, her ear against my heart. She wrapped her arms around my arm, pulled my hand to her cheek. Will I remember that? “You’re the best, Mommy. I love you so so much.” Will I remember her easy forgiveness?

Will I remember, when we care barely recognize each other through a haze of her hormones, how much she is like me, and how that little girl still somewhere in her long teenage body just needs to know she is seen and heard and understood, and loved in spite of anything we might have said to each other? Will I remember to hold her and say I’m sorry, and I love you so, so much, and I love you even when we are mad at each other?

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What We Should Learn From The Dress Debate

 

Is the dress white or blue? Or maybe we could all agree that it is grey? What we should learn from the dress debate. :: www.nurturedmama.net

Photo by Hugo Kerr.

I have a secret indulgence: I like to lay in bed in the morning and read email and blog posts on my phone. So Friday morning, while indulging, I discovered that the internet had blown up overnight about a dress. Specifically, what color the dress was. Was it white or was it blue?

“Huh. Crazy internet,” I thought. “Clearly the dress is white.”

When I got up, I showed the photo to my man. “What color is this dress?” I asked.

“Its blue,” he said.

“That’s so weird,” I said. I read him the article I’d found about how the difference in perception was due to how our eyes receive color and how our brain analyses that information. And then we continued with our morning.

Later in the day, I scrolled through Facebook again and noticed that the debate was still raging, but what struck me most was how angry people were getting in defense of what color they believed the dress to be.

I saw people being dismissive of people who saw the dress in other colors than they did. I saw someone say it made her feel angry when someone told her they saw other colors than she did. Some thought it was a joke or a hoax, and others started to doubt their own eyesight.

The heat and volume of the discussion reminded me immediately of other topics that have recently been debated in the media (both social or traditional):

  • gay marriage
  • vaccinations
  • capitol punishment
  • The Affordable Care Act
  • whether “free speech” applies to religious satire or not
  • home birth vs. hospital birth
  • breastfeeding vs. formula feeding
  • Democratic vs. Republican ideology

Some of these positions are backed up by evidence, and then we argue about whether the evidence is valid or not.

Quickly, the arguments wind themselves into name calling and finger pointing and mean words. A few stand on the sidelines and wonder, “Can’t we all just get along?”

It appears we can’t.

“We live in polarizing times,” my man said, when I told him about my observation on the dress debate. It is as if we say, “If you aren’t with me, you’re against me,” instead of “We can’t agree on everything, so let’s have lunch.” Even our politicians are so dug in to their opposite positions that it is becoming hard to pass a law or a budget in our Senate or our House, either.

Is it because we are afraid to be wrong? Afraid of what it might mean to be wrong? Is it because we are afraid of what it might mean for other views we hold tightly if the other person is right?

Two articles published in last summer, one in the Atlantic, and one in The Washington Post, discuss the results of a Pew study that showed that political polarization in the US is rapidly increasing and becoming more and more deeply embedded in our society. In a nutshell, the study showed that higher education makes liberals more liberal and conservatives more conservative. We tend to marry and live near people who hold similar views to our own, and people with social and geographic mobility (which increases with higher education), tend to move to and live near other people who think like they do.

But the good news, The Atlantic article says, is that we have the ability to overcome our polarization. How do we do that?

What if we approached divisive topics with curiosity, rather than anger? What if we actively tried to put ourselves in the shoes of people on the other side of the argument? Wouldn’t that change the conversation entirely?

Instead of It’s blue and brown. Period. Next?  ask, “I wonder why we each see different colors? What would cause that?”

Instead of dismissing the opinion of someone who votes a different party line, ask, “What top three issues would you like your elected representative to vote on, and why?”

Instead of spouting an opinion over where birth should happen and how, ask, “What was the most magical part of your birth experience?”

Wouldn’t those questions lead to a much more interesting, connecting conversation? It would take courage. It would take a willingness to see outside of your opinion, and accept that your mind might might be changed. Or that you will be thrown out of certainty into doubt. But how much could we gain from connecting rather than dividing?

What if instead of assuming there is only black (or blue) and white, we actively look for the grey?

Is there one topic that you feel strongly polarized about? What is it? 

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The Real Problem With Pink Legos

Pink Legos are controversial. Are they bad for girls, or good for them? Are they insulting and limiting, or a great invitation to STEM-related play? I have an opinion about the problem with pink Legos, and it might not be quite what you'd guess...

My daughter turned four at the beginning of February. She’s interested in building things, pretend play, super heroes, and animals. Between those interests and the twin gift-giving holidays of her birthday and Christmas, my partner and I have had a lot of conversations about pink Legos in the last couple of months.

We try to be a household with a wide expression of the gender continuum. Although he works in an office and I stay home to be with our daughter and prepare our food, we pretty evenly divide everything else. He wears his hair long and I wear mine short. We both use the power tools, we both work on the cars, we both know how to sew and how to draw. We encourage our daughter to try everything, climb everything, say what she means, express her feelings and follow her interests into whatever subjects she’s curious about.

So even though our daughter’s favorite color is purple, buying the box of Legos that came in pink and purple still gave me pause.

You can read the rest of this post on Bluegrass Redhead, where I’m filling in while Sarah is on maternity leave this week. I’d love to hear what you think about Legos for boys and girls!

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The Most Important Love Letters You’ve Never Written

I’ve been doing some work in my archives and finding great posts I wrote before this blog had many readers. This one, from 2013, is perfect for this week. Happy Valentine’s Day!

By mid-January, there were sparkling red hearts everywhere I turned, enjoining me to declare my love to my nearest and dearest. I try to make it a practice to make those declarations every day. Every morning I lift my daughter from her crib, kiss her nose and say, “Good morning, my love, how did you sleep?” I tell her I love her so many times each day that she just nods in response. Yes, she knows. Likewise, I kiss my man and tell him I love him every time we part, whether we will be separated for a few minutes or several hours.

But these hearts have had me thinking about the other things I should be giving some love but may instead be taking for granted. What could I create if I turned some loving energy on new parts in my life? What if, instead of writing a love letter to my lover, I wrote one to myself? What would I say? What if I expressed my love for something less tangible, like money, or pain?

I’m curious to try. Here are six ideas for love letters that I’m going to write this month.

To yourself

You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. – Sharon Salzberg

It is so easy as mothers to turn all of our love, affection, and attention on others and forget to take care of ourselves.  How many times have I ushered Bean to the door bundled up and ready to go out on a cold day and then realize I’ve forgotten my own coat? I know that if I do not love and take care of my own self I know I will quickly run out of love and care to give.

A love letter to yourself can be as simple as a quiet moment, a long, deep breath, and a recitation of the traditional lovingkindness meditation phrases:

May I be filled with love.
May I be safe from danger.
May I be well.
May I be at ease.

To your family

A love letter to your family could be to the family you envision being – whether or not you are there yet. It could be a letter to your family of origin, either in gratitude for loving you and teaching you how to raise your own family, or in forgiveness for falling short of what you needed.

I am going to write a letter of gratitude for the family we are becoming together, a family I never could have imagined just a few years ago.

To your money

I’m part of a new year-long group led by Nona Jordan. Each month some of us choose a daily practice and support each other in keeping it and learning from whatever comes up around it.  This month several of us are writing daily love letters to our money. This is a simple but powerful exercise. Try it.

What is your relationship with money today? Is it loving? Playful? Cranky or hurt? How would you let your money know you love it and appreciate it?

To your body

My poor body. Always last on the list. Never quite enough time to exercise enough. All my meals interrupted by trying to entice a distractible toddler to eat, and rarely enough water or sun. And yet, my body carries me through each day, uncomplaining (well, a little complaint from my sciatic nerve lately). My body grew a whole new human! It is amazing, and I need to love it a whole lot more. This month my body’s love letter is going to be weekly yoga and more glasses of water. What can you do to show your body some love today?

To something that hurts

It feels counter-intuitive to offer love to something that is hurting you, but I have found so much healing in learning to turn toward hurt rather than clench away from it. In my yoga class, the instructor invites us each to set an intention for our practice each day. Today my intention was “love this hip that hurts.” Instead of feeling frustrated by poses that were painful because my back is tender, I leaned into stretches that loosened it up and modified the ones that were difficult until I could hold them with ease.

After an hour, my back hurt noticeably less. And my mood, without that nagging pain, was noticeably lighter. What is hurting in your life right now? Who is causing you pain? How can you offer that some love?

What love letters are you writing this month?

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Be Nice To Your Future Self

What can you do today be be nice to your future self? :: www.nuturedmama.net

I read about this idea, being nice to your future self, in a recent post by Heidi Swanton on 101 Cookbooks. She was talking about how making a big pot of soup so she’d have lunches to take with her to her studio is an act of kindness to her future self. What a brilliant way to think about taking time for self care, or organization, or preparedness, as a way to be nice to yourself in the future.

If I sit down with a cup of tea for 10 minutes before I go pick up my daughter from school, I’m being nice to my self two hours from now, when I would otherwise be grumpy with her.

If I choose to go to bed early tonight, I’m being nice to my tomorrow self.

If I sit down and make a menu plan on Sunday night, I’m being nice to my Monday morning self by having my shopping list ready before I go to the store, and my dinner hour self all week because I know what I’ll be cooking and I know I have all the ingredients.

If I plan a large meal on Monday, I’m being nice to my Tuesday and Wednesday selves when I can skip cooking and just reheat.

If I make time for my dreams, I’m being nice to my future self who will be able to see those dreams realized.

If I take a little time to rest, I will be a better parent, partner, and friend – and that’s nice to me and everyone around me.

What will you do today to be nice to your future self?

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Mama Grief: Claim Your Right To Heal

So your baby is healthy, but you are still sad? Claim your right to heal, no matter what you are grieving. :: www.nurturedmama.net

I originally wrote this piece as a guest post on Modern Alternative Pregnancy in 2013. Writing it was cathartic and healing, but around Bean’s birthday, which is this week, wisps of this old sadness still rise. I hope sharing it again here will give some mama somewhere permission to voice and heal her grief, whatever that looks like for her. 

I cried when I came home from the hospital with my newborn daughter. I walked through our rooms, cleaned and prepared for us by my sister and my best friend, and sobbed. They had washed and put away the dishes. They brought a bouquet of flowers that nearly filled our dining room table. They put the red silk comforter back on our bed and deflated and put away the birthing tub that I never got to use.

Our daughter was supposed to be born there, delivered into warm water and surrounded by candles. I wanted her father to catch her body and bring her to my breast. I wanted the soothing music I had carefully selected.

So your baby is healthy, but you are still sad? Claim your right to heal, no matter what you are grieving. :: www.nurturedmama.net

 

Instead, on the morning of my third day of labor, when I was still only dilated 3 cm, exhausted and scared, we sat with our midwife and came up with a new plan. We caravanned to the hospital, where I got an epidural, Pitocin and a long nap. It took 12 more hours of labor and three of pushing in a room where I could hear strangers passing by the open door before Stella was born just before midnight, 76 hours after my first contractions. Because her white blood-cell count was elevated, we were kept at the hospital for another night before they let us come home.

When Bean was a few days old, I tried to explain my sadness to my best friend. She had supported my choice of a home birth and came over as soon as I called to say my contractions had begun and stayed with me until the end. She had leaned in my back to ease my pain over and over, fed me handfuls of almonds to keep my stamina up and sat vigil over me that last long night before we went to the hospital. Still, surprised at my grief, she said, “But you have a healthy baby! That’s all that matters!”

I didn’t regret going to the hospital. I was grateful for the nurse who said, while fastening the ID bracelet on my wrist, “I had two babies at home. I know you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have to be. We will take good care of you.” I was grateful for the drugs that got me through that final stretch. I was grateful for the skilled obstetrician who turned my baby’s body the tiniest bit to get her past my pubic bone and kept us from a cesarean. I was so grateful — of course I was — for the beautiful and healthy baby in my arms.

But I was also grieving for the birth I didn’t have. I was grieving for not being able to bring my baby into the world the way I had envisioned. Having a healthy baby wasn’t all that mattered to me, but I quickly learned that no one wanted to hear it. So I packed up my grief and stuffed into in a small corner of my heart.

Now, two years later, we are trying to get pregnant again. That corner of my heart still aches. I’m afraid of laboring. I’m afraid how much it will hurt, how long it will last, and whether I’ll have the strength to get all the way through it. I read birth stories of mothers who feel powerful and fierce after they give birth and I am jealous. My birth story doesn’t feel powerful.

So your baby is healthy, but you are still sad? Claim your right to heal, no matter what you are grieving. :: www.nurturedmama.net

I know I have to heal this sadness before I give birth again. I need to claim the moments in my story where I was fierce and strong. I need to find my power in my own experience. I trust what my midwife said to me a few days after Stella’s birth: “You won’t have this birth again. The next one might be harder or easier, but you won’t have this exact birth again.”

If, like me, you are grieving a piece of your pregnancy, birthing, or mothering experience, you have a right to feel that grief. Whether you faced an unwanted cesarean or unexpected interventions, if you were unable to breastfeed, if you suffered from depression, or if your birth came so fast you could barely process it, you have a right to feel sad, or angry, ripped off or disappointed.

Embrace those feelings. Find someone you trust to listen and support you while you talk through it. I urge you to process that particular grief, not bury it because it isn’t popular or because your baby is healthy and that’s all that matters.

You matter, mama. Birthing and mothering is your experience, too.

What do you grieve about your pregnancy, birth, or early mothering experience? What do you need to do to resolve that grief and feel powerful again?

To get posts like this delivered directly to your mailbox (along with my free ebook and a monthly newsletter), you can sign up right here.

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Summer Resources for the Southern Hemisphere

Tired of reading about winter when it is summer where you live? This round up of summer ideas is for you! :: www.nurturedmama.netI’ve been writing about winter stuff a lot this month because I’m all up in the middle of it. But I know some of you live in the opposite hemisphere, so I wanted to share a bunch of links to articles that are more relevant for you this month. Enjoy!

The Taste of Summer

Getting Outdoors

Self-Care in the Summertime

Crafts and Outdoor Play

Do you have other resources for summer fun? Share them in the comments below!

 

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Preparing to Conceive After A Miscarriage

Ways to help your body and soul heal after a miscarriage before you decide to try to conceive again. :: www.nurturedmama.netI originally wrote this post in 2013 for Modern Alternative Pregnancy, where I was a contributing writer. I wanted to share it again here, because I think these healing steps are so important (and often overlooked). 

This summer I sat on an exam table in an ER in Denver and heard a phrase I had hoped never to hear: “I’m very sorry, but we can’t find a heartbeat.”

I was in the ER after a car accident, where they confirmed that I was only bruised, not badly injured, but that the baby I was carrying had died perhaps a week earlier, at nine weeks gestation. The doctor called it a “missed miscarriage,” which is when the fetus has died but the mother’s body hasn’t yet shown any of the usual signs of miscarriage such as cramping or bleeding. My body still felt pregnant, but the baby was gone.

I declined the Misoprostol and D&C and flew home to let my body complete the process naturally. It took another couple of weeks, a round of acupuncture and Chinese herbs and a dramatic onslaught of bleeding before the fetus finally passed from my body.

Several months have now passed and I have learned a great deal about how to heal both the body and the heart after the loss of a pregnancy.

If you find yourself in this lonely and tender place, I hope the information in this article will help support you in preparing to conceive again.

Support Your Body In Healing

Miscarriage is a traumatic experience for the body, as well as the heart. In my case, I experienced labor-like contractions for several days before the actual miscarriage, during which I had significant blood loss. I then had follow-on complications which required medical support, including a round of heavy-duty antibiotics.

After a miscarriage you may feel surprisingly postpartum, with extended bleeding, a roller coaster of hormones and emotions, and bone-tired exhaustion. You may have night sweats or other trouble sleeping. It can be beneficial to supplement with additional Iron and Vitamin D and may also be a good idea to take extra Vitamin C and Echinacea to ward off infections. It is a good idea to stay hydrated and eat protein-rich, healthy and simple foods. Check with your doctor to see what he or she recommends for your particular situation.

Let yourself rest as much as you need to – your body has been through a lot and is in recovery. You may need to sleep longer and nap or sit down more often. Too much strenuous activity will wear you out quickly and may increase your bleeding significantly. You may need some extra help during this time to keep up with household obligations. The six-week recovery period recommended for recovery after birth very much applies after a miscarriage.

During those six weeks, take precautions to avoid an infection. My doctor warned me against intercourse until the bleeding subsided, but other sources also warn against hot tubs, douching and even baths. Even if you follow all of the precautions, as I did, your body may retain some tissue that could trigger an infection. Watch for the warning signs, which include cramping or tenderness in the uterus and abdomen, fever, or foul-smelling discharge. See a doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms.

Ways to help your body and soul heal after a miscarriage before you decide to try to conceive again. :: www.nurturedmama.net

Process Your Grief

After my miscarriage, I felt angry for a long time before I felt sad. I worried that I was somehow at fault, that I had done something or failed to do something that put the pregnancy at risk. I was ashamed that my body had failed to keep this baby alive. I worried that I was too old to have another viable pregnancy. I was afraid I might not want to try again and risk another loss. I pulled away from my partner and grew impatient with my toddler daughter. I was angry at my body for the complications and how long it took to heal. It took several months for me to feel like myself again.

The grieving process looks different for everyone and in every situation. There are several things that may help:

  • Talk to people who have been there. When I miscarried I couldn’t think of anyone I knew who had experienced this kind of loss. But when I started talking to my friends about my experience I found out that several of them had recently miscarried and I never knew. Not only did those conversations help affirm my feelings, they brought us closer as friends.
  • Create a closing ritual. Whether your loss was very early in the pregnancy or there was a tiny body to bury, give yourself the gift of a ritual to mark your loss and remember your baby. You may want to plant a tree, choose a name for your baby, or create some other memorial.
  • Find someone to talk to. Talk to your partner about your feelings. He will be processing his own grief and sharing your sadness and healing will support for both of you. You may also find support from family, a grief councilor or other therapist, or support groups and forums for women who have experienced loss.
  • Treat depression if needed. If you or people close to you are worried that you are showing signs of deep or ongoing depression, seek treatment. Untreated depression can be dangerous, especially once you conceive again.
  • Give yourself time. Grief has its own timeline. It doesn’t end just because you want it to, or your husband is ready to try again, or your friends think you should be feeling better by now. Allow yourself to feel what you feel for as long as it takes. Be prepared for sadness to come up again at milestones, such as your expected due date, or the date you found out you were pregnant, or the anniversary of the loss.

Try Again When You are Ready

Different practitioners offer varying advice on how long to wait before conceiving again. Some say it is safe to try again as soon as the bleeding stops. My OB recommended two months and my midwife suggested three. The main reason for waiting is to allow your body to have at least one normal period before conception, which will allow clear dating of the next pregnancy.

My acupuncturist’s perspective on the healing process was this:

  • The first month allows the body to clear the pregnancy tissue and hormones.
  • The second month allows your cycle to regulate.
  • The third month is for your heart.

In my experience it really does take this long, if not longer, to grieve and recover, so this advice makes a lot of sense to me.

Talk to your own practitioners and your partner to determine what is right for you both physically and emotionally.

Ways to help your body and soul heal after a miscarriage before you decide to try to conceive again. :: www.nurturedmama.net

Prepare For Pregnancy

If you have had repeated miscarriages, it may be a good idea to talk to a professional about testing to identify potential causes of your losses. However, if this was your first miscarriage, the odds are good that you will conceive again easily and have a healthy pregnancy.

Preparing your physical body to conceive after a miscarriage is no different than preparing to conceive at any other time: Eat well, take prenatal supplements, avoid smoking and alcohol, track your cycles so that you know when you are most fertile.

Preparing your heart may take a little more effort. Even if you have made peace with the actual miscarriage, being pregnant again will likely bring up fears and tenderness for you. Many women say that their fears tend to ease after they pass the milestone of the previous loss, but some women experience anxiety all the way through subsequent pregnancies. Talk about your feelings with people you trust and seek help if the anxiety or sadness feels out of control.

Conceiving again after a pregnancy loss takes great courage and faith. These things will be most available to you if you have allowed both your body and your heart adequate support and time to heal.

 

If you have experienced a miscarriage, what did you find most useful in helping you be ready to conceive again?

 

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Survival Strategies For Winter Blues

Winter Blues are rough, but there are some straightforward things you can do to help yourself cope and even feel good in the winter. :: www.nurturedmama.net

Original image by Volkan Olmez.

 

I have written here before about how winter often brings along Winter Blues. Even when I think I should be feeling fine, because my home and relationship are great, and the sun is shining and the beautiful mild place I live is being beautiful and mild, the winter months stretch forever. I sink into my personal combination of depression symptoms and every year I’m convinced I’m never going to feel normal again. I always do, but I always forget that I do.

After this last year of illness and recovery, my reserves are especially low. I’m struggling. A swift downward spiral hit me hard about a week before Christmas and I’ve been limping along ever since. In spite of California’s drought (which means endless sunshine in January), I’m still having a really rough winter.

It is really easy to beat myself up about feeling bad. What right do I have? My life is great! Being depressed is so selfish! What is WRONG with you? In fact, when I start hearing that refrain in my head, it is my first warning sign. That’s when I need to start paying attention so I don’t fall even deeper into depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, (often called winter blues, though for some people it hits in the summer) is an official disorder and described in the DSM. I’m seeing more and more people talking about how they deal with their own versions of winter blues, which I think is wonderful.

If this is something you struggle with too, here are some things that help me nourish myself deeply so I can keep an even keel until spring:

Go Slow

Winter is my molasses season. Have you ever tried to pour molasses out of the jar on a cold day? My thoughts move like that in the winter. My body moves like that in the winter. I need more sleep, more time to get from one place to another, more time to get from one thought to another.

So I go slow. And when I feel the need to go faster, I remind myself that there is plenty of time and just keep on going slow.

Going slow also means embracing the things that take time. I knit more in winter, and enjoy the process of one stitch after another sliding along my needles. I cook long-simmering stews and I bake bread. Slow can be cozy and wonderful.

Where in your life could you nourish yourself by going more slowly?

Edit Everything

All that slowness takes time. So I give myself more time. I schedule fewer things. I go to bed earlier. I don’t try to do all the things (even though new things are jangling at me from every direction in January!). I don’t even think very hard about any goals for my life or business until at least February. I don’t take on new clients or projects. I keep our weekends unscheduled as much as possible.

In addition to making time, I give myself physical space, too. I recently read about a study that linked home clutter with depression. It goes both ways – clutter can increase stress hormones, which trigger depression, and when someone is struggling with depression, cleaning up their stuff feels overwhelming. Clutter in my home raises my anxiety. So I use my higher-energy moments to pick up one room at a time to keep it under control.

What can you edit to make yourself some extra time or space?

Winter Blues are rough, but there are some straightforward things you can do to help yourself cope and even feel good in the winter. :: www.nurturedmama.net

Get Outside

Exercise, fresh air and sunlight are all recommended to counter the effects of SAD. Get them all at once by stepping out your door and going for a walk outside. If your winter weather doesn’t allow that as easily as mine does and you need a lot of extra layers to get outside or you need to get your sunlight through a window (or from a light), try to get a little of each of these things every day. Even a tiny bit will help, I can attest.

Have you been outside today?

Watch What You Eat

When the weather is cold my body craves sugar. Sugar in the form of bread, starchy foods, and straight up sugar (Have you tried the almond biscotti from Trader Joes?). I also want to pour myself a glass of wine in the evening, or put some brandy in my last cup of tea in the evening. None of these things are helpful to my emotional state. Carbs make me bloated and foggy. Sugar gives me a brief high and then a deeper crash. Alcohol is a depressant and I know I don’t need any more of that. When I drink a cup of coffee in the late afternoon because I’m dragging, I sleep badly that night and am even more tired the  next day. That’s a vicious cycle!

When it comes to eating in the winter, I have to override my first desire almost all the time and make a healthier choice. That means keeping healthier choices at hand and keeping the bad choices out of the house so I don’t have to depend on will power to overcome them.

I’m not advocating a January diet, a juice cleanse or anything else drastic. I’m just saying pay attention. If you eat that cookie and then you feel bad afterwords, don’t make it worse by beating yourself up about it. Just move on, and maybe skip buying the cookies next time so they aren’t tempting you.

What food makes you feel good that you could include in a meal today?

Winter Blues are rough, but there are some straightforward things you can do to help yourself cope and even feel good in the winter. :: www.nurturedmama.net

Add Supplements

I am not a doctor and please do not take any medical advice from me without consulting with your doctor, but I have found that taking non-prescription supplements has helped me manage the symptoms of SAD. There are a number of supplements recommended for depression support (both with and without scientific evidence).  What has helped me personally is an increased dose of Vitamin D in the winter, and in years when I’m especially struggling, a few weeks of St. John’s Wort. If you are already doing all the things I’ve suggested above and are still feeling really bad, talk to your doctor about what supplements make sense for you. And if you are feeling severely depressed or thinking about harming yourself, get help now! Prescription anti-depressants can be a life-saver.

The most important thing I do is listen deeply to my needs in this season, and in each moment. When I’m feeling off center I take a moment to check in with myself and ask, “What do I need right now?”

Often the first answer is something true but not necessarily useful (“I want a cookie! And I want someone else to be the mom!”). But if I keep listening, the true and useful will bubble up. Often it is simply that I need to take a break. I really want to sit down and read a few pages of a book. I want to color. I need a snack. Sometimes is is acknowledging that I’ve been really bad about getting enough sleep and I’m so very tired. So I promise myself an early bedtime. Sometimes it is setting aside the work I planned to do during my childcare hours and doing something that looks a lot more like radical self care instead. Sometimes it is throwing over the menu plan and texting the LHM to meet us for dinner at the neighborhood sushi joint so I don’t have to cook.

How do you feel in the winter? What other survival strategies can you suggest?

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