emotional wellness

The Great Pause

By on March 30, 2020

Here I am writing from my little nook in St. Augustine. It’s noisy, the kids have pulled out all of their toys. I look at the clutter around me and sometimes I don’t feel a huge change in my day-to-day. Having Mira has really slowed my pace down and I already feel like I live a rather quiet life. I feel that familiarity until I want to go to the beach or run to a thrift store and can’t.

We have spent these few weeks trying to stay positive. We are adjusting and adapting to our current new reality. While staying focused on our goals and being gentle with ourselves. We have had to pull out all of our tools to stay positive as we have more confined time together and have to navigate the emotions that go with all of the world’s current uncertainty.

I know as a global collective, we are all adjusting to our new reality. People are working from home who are used to going to an office, people are laid off, people are worried about their health, their finances, having their children home for school, and the list goes on.

Finding ways to stay relaxed and calm helps me so much as a wife and mother. The calmer I am, the easier I can breathe– the easier the family life and rhythms fall into place.

I have found it a necessity to stay away from (majorly limit) social media and the news. The days I spend too much time on social media really disrupts my sleep. I see and feel everyone else’s emotions. Their fears, worries, and theories. I have enough of my own and seem to be able to feel it all intensely when I lay down to sleep at night. My mind will go to the worst-case-scenario mode and will keep me up for hours.

To find my calm, I need to be 100% present with whatever I’m doing. If I’m doing laundry, do laundry. If I’m with the kids, I actually play with the kids. The phone is put away, I get out of my head and enjoy the NOW for what it is.

The simplicity this quarantine is allowing my husband and I to connect to each other and our true value of living a simple life. A life with way less consumerism, way less waste, no need to hoard– the need is to be resourceful. It’s been kind of fun to plan ahead more and shop less.

For what it’s worth, embrace the chaos. Send yourself loads of love when you start feel your feelings. It’s okay to feel fear, it is okay to feel anger, just don’t let the fear or anger (or whatever it is you feel) define everything. Finding a sense of peace is the best thing we can do for ourselves and our families. I feel like where we are mentally and emotionally right NOW will mean so much on the other side of this crisis.

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success

Affirm Your Reality

By on February 22, 2020

This week my teenager has been jittering with nerves and excitement because he is participating in a Tae Kwon Do sparring competition. He has been so concerned with his snacks, his playlist, and his electrolyte drinks. At first, I found it cute– until I heard some of the words he used to describe himself.

His negative self-talk is a bully. This made me stop and think. Where did these thoughts come from? Why do we as humans have these types of thoughts that turn into destructive self-talk?

We walk through life bombarded with suggestions. We see advertisements, we hear our parents, our peers, our society. The brain can only filter so much, and after a lot of repetition, we tend to automatically gravitate toward the negative.

Think about the weight loss program that is being sold to you every single time you open your computer. How often is the result (product) sold to someone? The odds are that the majority are just being “sold” the thought that they are fat and need to do something about it. This is how our subconscious minds are programmed by what we see, what we hear, and what we are exposed to. Whether you buy it or not, the seed is planted that you’re not good enough as is, or you need to change.

I think about my son, this year we made the decision to leave brick and mortar school, and the main reason was that he could not handle the environment. The way the kids were talking and making choices that made Keenan feel anxious. What he saw and heard, whether directly or indirectly, made an imprint (or trauma) on his psyche.

The negativity from our earliest childhood exposure (age 5 and younger) make the strongest impact on our young minds and can be the toughest to unwire. Although everything else we pick up along the way cumulates, one thought on top of the other.

We can receive suggestions in 2 ways. The suggestions of others. These are other people’s thoughts and suggestions that stay with us. We think it and feel it as our own, even if it isn’t rooted in our own experience. And we have thoughts that are truly ours and ours alone.

A personal goal of mine is to make conscious choices about what I think and do. I know I have been on autopilot many times or adopted other’s values as my own so that I gained a superficial sense of acceptance.

Because I grew up in a traumatic environment, I have researched and tried many therapeutic methods to help release negative thoughts (traumas). I have also found that the deeper the scar and earlier the imprint the harder (more work, more effort, more time) it takes to unwind the “damage”.

One of the most powerful ways I have found to retrain thoughts is by using an affirmation. This technique is simple and just requires consistency to be effective.

Only use one affirmation at a time, and stick with it until you see success. As I said before the deeper the scar, the longer you may need to use the affirmation. When writing an affirmation, write in the progressive tense. Meaning I am — ING. I am becoming. Not I am already, or I will, you have to write/say as if you are moving toward improvement.

A good starting point I have shared many times is the affirmation “Every day in every way my mind/body is becoming healthier and healthier.” Write it down on a post-it note and put it in every space you visit frequently. Your bathroom mirror, your computer, in your car, etc.

This has proven to be powerful for me and has improved my self-confidence and awareness when negative thoughts or reactions start running through my mind. I gave my son this tool and hope that has he uses it, to master his inner bully of self-talk and move toward adulthood with confidence and strength.

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postpartum

Essentials for Postpartum Mental Health

By on March 21, 2019

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Postpartum Depression and Anxiety are huge topics these days. I am in Facebook groups that have thousands of members, all of which are dealing with and healing from varying levels of PPD/PPA.

My Story

After my second son was born, I experienced Postpartum Anxiety. It was rather unspoken, and actually quite scary. My husband knew I was “off” for some time. We chalked it up to sleep deprivation, me dealing with a lot of change very quickly, and our son’s premature birth and NICU stay. I tried counseling for a few visits and never went the medical intervention route.

Luckily, I finally confided in one of my dear friends who is incredibly versed in holistic health and she helped me figure out what my body was asking for from a nutritional and hormonal perspective. I knew something was going on in my body– more than normal postpartum hormones.

Know this. If you are feeling off after pregnancy, you are not alone. The immediate drop in progesterone and estrogen in a mama’s bloodstream cause emotions that many of us have never felt. When these hormones drop our entire endocrine system is disrupted, our natural serotonin levels can be affected, and sometimes our body has difficulty finding homeostasis again. All of the emotional chaos is “normal” for a bit after pregnancy, when it persists more than a few months you may have more of an issue.

I am also NEVER suggesting you forgo medical advice, I am just a mama sharing my story. 

The things that helped me the most were simple changes and additions and just knowing in my heart that these small changes would help me feel like me again. The funny thing about motherhood is that when you have a “mental health” challenge, it is easy to feel you are a complete fuck up, your kids are suffering, and your husband hates you. It is how the mind works, and the thoughts keep the “funk” going when you are in a rut.

Be Gentle With Yourself

During the postpartum period, and when healing from any sort of issue, it is a step by step process. There will be ups and downs, nothing is instant. After a mom has been pregnant for 9 months; it takes time for physical recovery, adjustment to the “new normal”, hormonal rebalance, and emotional balance. It is not going to happen overnight. There will be good days and bad days. The better we get and the better we feel, more than likely the good days will outnumber the bad.

All of the tools I am sharing in this blog today are things that I am still doing throughout this pregnancy (which has been completely different and much easier than my last), and I will definitely take it beyond the postpartum period.

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Ways to Support Recovery

  1. Keep Self-Care Routines– This is something that I can not stress enough. If you are a mama who needs a shower every day to feel human, take one. Even if it means getting up 20 min early so your husband can entertain the baby. Don’t feel guilty if you must shower with the baby in a bouncer, crying for a few minutes. I am not one who can dry shampoo for 10 days and be okay with it. A shower, washed hair, and shaved legs make me feel like a better person, so I make sure it happens. Also, resting when baby rests is important, especially in those first few weeks. Sleep deprivation is real and the cumulation of lost sleep can cause damage. I have a difficult time napping, however sometimes just resting for 10-20 minutes quietly can really recharge my batteries.
  2. Get Outside– Luckily, we live in Florida where the weather is pleasant more days than not and we have easy access to nature. Fresh air, sunshine, and the sounds and smells of nature are incredibly mood boosting. My husband and I work from home, so sometimes we don’t feel the need to get out. However, making the effort to get out for a little bit each day is always on my schedule. As the newborn grows a bit, story-times or other mom & baby activities are great for mental health. Social support is often instrumental in feeling “normal” again.
  3. Good Nutrition– Diet is another thing that is incredibly important for health and wellness. Meal planning before baby is a good way to go. If that didn’t happen prior to birth, meal delivery services, Instant Pot meals, or even enlisting family and friends can take the pressure off. You can even grocery shop online these days and quickly drive by for pick up. Processed foods, sugar, and many grains really affect my anxiety levels. My friend said to me– “what if you can no longer say I am Lucy with anxiety and instead realize that I am Lucy and this feeling is how I interact with certain foods?” After eliminating the offenders from my diet, it is easy to feel that “interaction” when reintroducing the culprits.
  4. Supplements– Taking good quality supplements have been vital to my health and well-being. It is nearly impossible to get all we need from diet alone. I know I have written this and said it SOOO many times in my life– our soil quality is poor, it is difficult to find good quality meats due to factory farming, there are a lot of pollutants, and our food travels many miles to reach our grocery store and finally our plate. All of these affect the vitamin and mineral content of the food we consume. I will share supplements that are valuable for PPA/PPD and why.

Two time Nobel Laureate, Dr. Linus Pauling, said: “You could trace every disease and every ailment to a mineral deficiency.” Approximately 99% of the human body is comprised of minerals, yet minerals are generally overlooked when nutrition is considered. Chromium is especially important for the postpartum period. Having an adequate balance keeps the insulin levels balanced and allows the body to use glucose as it is designed to, keeping stress from our major organs and maintaining our energy levels. Adequate magnesium intake is also important for mental health, and supplementing can calm the nervous system quite rapidly. I buy my mineral

Again I’ll suggest a probiotic. I have written many times about gut health. A short synopsis is that our gut is our second brain and serotonin and dopamine levels start in the gut. For me, I noticed a rapid change in my mental health after starting a good probiotic. My shakiness and racing thoughts calmed way down. Life 9 has a lot of the good mental-health strains of bacteria and is specifically encapsulated so that you actually receive the bacteria in the GI tract. I have tried many other probiotics. However, what I didn’t know is that many brands can’t actually survive the digestive juices to populate the gut adequately. Game. Changer.

Vitamin D3– The symptoms of a Vitamin D3 deficiency are vast. A quick google search will show you very quickly how bad you can feel with a lack of this essential vitamin. One of the first symptoms listed is depression/anxiety coupled with decreased endurance and exhaustion. It is also difficult to heal from wounds with this deficiency. I use Vitamin D3 throughout my pregnancy and beyond.

5. Uplifting Music & Books– A drive to the beach in my minivan with a good playlist is often my best therapy. Sounds like the epitome of motherhood, lol. I keep my phone stocked with good music & audios because when I am feeling down, flooding myself with positivity will help break the mental cycle of depression or anxiety.

My favorites are:

The Gifts of Imperfection or anything by Brene Brown

Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Napthali is a book I found early in my motherhood journey. Even though I am not Buddhist, she had wonderful insight into living present-centered and releasing anger, worry, or fear.

Everyday Blessings by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn

The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins

Atomic Habits by James Clear

6. Journaling and Affirmations– These are tools I often use to change my mindset. When I am overwhelmed, anxious, or feeling down writing what I am feeling helps release the negativity and become aware of how my mind is circling around certain ideas. Affirmations of how I want to feel are also helpful. I will write them on post-its and put them on mirrors, on my computer screen or somewhere I look many times per day. I have even been known to make an affirmation the screen saver on my phone. What else do I look at more often than my phone?

“Be Gentle With Yourself, You are Doing the Best You Can”

“I am Doing an Amazing Job”

“I am honest with my partner”

“I am surrounded by love, and so is my baby”

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Being Well

There are many steps and tools to utilize during the postpartum period. Just know that if you are not improving while taking steps to nurture and recuperate, you may need to seek medical attention, and that is okay. Especially if you are feeling the impulse to hurt yourself or your baby.

I hope this information was helpful in any way and I am always here if you want to reach out. Understand how to get your supplements here for 24% off. You can find me through email, or on IG @integratedmama or facebook.com/integratedmama.

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gut health | women's health

Gut Health: The Delicate Balance to Ultimate Health

By on February 16, 2019

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Gut health and the human microbiome have been recurring themes in my blogging. On Monday, I received my 25 week pregnancy update and in the article it stated that during these next few weeks of pregnancy, the baby is establishing and developing her immune system. I started thinking, and researching what to do to make sure her immunity will be the best it can be.

Maternal Microbiome

All of the research pointed back to gut health, and the microbiome. Ah-ha! Something I am familiar with. Why is gut health so important? Our guts are literally our second brain, there are over 100 million neurons that line our digestive tract. Our guts house more neurons than our spinal cords! That is pretty incredible! These neurons, along with over 100 trillion bacteria need to stay in perfect balance to help maintain our health.

When the “bad” bacteria is abundant, we see many problems. Compromised immunity, skin issues, trouble achieving and maintaining our ideal weight, brain-fog, lack of focus, and even our emotional/mental health are linked back to this delicate balance of gut bacteria. Craving sugar, wheat, starches and gluten is a warning sign that the bad bacteria is “louder” than the good bacteria in our gut. When this happens, it is possible to starve out the bad bacteria and nourish the good to begin to find that balance. Removing grains and sugar from the diet will starve the bad guys. Foods that nourish the good bacterias are fermented foods, such as keifer or sauerkraut, and fibers from dark, leafy green veggies.

Knowing what your “second brain” is telling you by listening to your food cravings is a great way to build your own immunity, which in turn will give baby a heads up as she develops in-utero, and if mom’s microbiome is functioning well, baby will receive what she needs during the birth process and the “good-guys” will colonize quite quickly. When our microbiome is uninterrupted, that is when we are in “good” health.

The Antibiotic Conundrum

When our immunity is compromised it is easier to pick up viruses and bacteria and suffer their ill-effects. We see our doctor and are often prescribed an antibiotic. An antibiotic may kill the bacteria that is making you ill. However, it also wipes out the delicate ecology in the gut. Have you ever been sick after a round of antibiotics? Maybe started having digestive or skin issues? Possibly a yeast infection? All of your “good” guys have been destroyed and now need nourished and fed.

In the medical community, it is often suggested to take a probiotic immediately after taking an antibiotic. This is good advice, although restoring the microbiome to its original homeostasis can take up to 18 months after 1 round of antibiotic. And, no. I am not saying do not take an antibiotic if you are truly ill with a bacterial infection! The moral of this information is to get your microbiome and immunity in tip-top condition by taking care of your gut health to prevent the need for an antibiotic.

The Body’s Biggest Job

All day, every day our bodies are working on ingesting food, digesting food, assimilating the nutrients from the food, and eliminating the remainder. This is another piece of the puzzle that will boost immunity and microbiome for mom and baby. In our gastrointestinal tract, having an appropriate balance of digestive enzymes supports the digestion and assimilation process.

We need support breaking down proteins, carbs, and fats from the foods we eat. The Standard American Diet, along with commercial farming practices and cooking methods do not allow us to receive adequate enzymes from our food alone. One of the benefits of adding additional digestive enzymes to the body is increased energy. This is because our body is adequately breaking down and assimilating food without increased energy output going to the GI tract just for digestion.

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Postpartum & Beyond

Knowing that gut health is linked to so many disorders of the human body really is great information when it comes to postpartum health and beyond. No matter who you are, pregnant or not, male or female, young or old, gut health is the place to start when wanting to achieve wellness.

For me, learning that certain strains of gut bacteria are responsible for emotional and mental health was quite enlightening. After delivering my second son I suffered from postpartum anxiety. Luckily, I was able to change my diet and add a few good supplements and I received relief from my symptoms very quickly. Knowing this information, I can prepare myself for what’s to come postpartum with this birth by adequately nourishing and supplementing during my pregnancy. So, my supportive methods are supplementing my diet with fiber, digestive enzymes, and probiotics. The benefits for me are increased immunity, better skin and slower aging.

If any of these issues spark your interest, or you know your gut is something you are needing to rebalance and restore. Feel free to email me and I am happy to help you with get started choosing food, supplements, or even just to point you in a direction to do your own research.

 

 

 

 

 

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emotional wellness | integration

Mama-Nesting: Tidying Up to Clean out the Mental Junk

By on February 7, 2019

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No. I am not referencing Marie Kondo in this post! I am nearly out of my second trimester, it seems time is flying these days. I generally feel ready for Mira’s arrival and I am not stressing about preparations. I haven’t even read a pregnancy book. The weekly growth reminders from my app are all I need.

It is kind of weird to be in this space. Naturally I am a planner, but somehow this pregnancy is letting me go with the flow more than I ever have in my life. I mentioned in a previous post the personal work that is required of me at this time. I wanted to expand on those thoughts a little more.

Identifying the Clutter

When I wrote Integrating the Mama, I identified the types of thoughts that have negatively occupied my mind. This is the first step in healing any type of wound. Identify the problem, know how you react, what the mind does when you think those thoughts, and consiously change your behavior.

Just as you walk through your home (my Marie Kondo insight) and feel if your things spark joy, you do the same with your thoughts. Thoughts are things, and holding on to negativity will create a negative outcome in life. So, if a thought doesn’t spark joy– release it, change it, get rid of it!

Catch 22

Yes, it is easy to say stop thinking “bad” thoughts. Actually doing it is something else. We are creatures of habit. We have been told many things that are not always in alignment with our true nature, and we’ve started to believe it. We have maybe been abused or endured a trauma that has left its mark. Maybe feelings and thoughts around those events creep back in more than we care to admit.

It all becomes a habit. The emotions we are “comfortably uncomfortable” with are easier to dwell on than the joy we can create. Trust me, I speak from experience.

I think the definition of my habitual attitude is “brooder”. Merriam-Webster defines that as someone who worries about everything, lol. I will brood about something that happened 10 years ago and feel nothing will ever be “right” when everything within my grasp IS right. You see quite a catch-22.

Owner/Victim Choice

A few years ago I was pointed to this audio by Steve Chandler. It is totally worth your 30 minutes to listen! He outlines two very different outlooks on life, the choice of being a victim or an owner of life. I was a victim, who had a glimpse of ownership. An owner is someone who sees life as a gift and uses life as an energy source to create what they want for themselves. A victim is someone who is lackluster, feels that life is unfair or a burden.

I was raised by victims. My main influences were people who were defined by their negative circumstances and often blamed their problems on those circumstances. A very common thought in my family was that something bad happened 10, 20, or even more years ago, so today is doomed. This is why my childhood was riddled with addiction.

My parents and grandparents fell victim to their emotional pains, so they would reach for a substance or choose an action to numb those negative feelings. They could not name the thought, claim it, and tame it. I had (and yes, it still sometimes reappears) tendencies to lean toward some of those thought patterns.

Becoming an owner is to recognize it and know that I have complete and total control of how I think and feel. Each and every day it is my choice to wake up and choose to be happy. I believe life is a gift and there is beauty all around, so my to-do list each and every day is how am I going to recognize this beauty and express it to the world around me?

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Weed and Seed

There are many techniques for changing our mental habits. To truly tidy-up the mind you have to make a commitment to yourself to make a mental change.

To begin my “weeding” process I take an inventory of things that I engage with that are either fulfilling or draining. What am I listening to? Who am I spending time with? What am I watching on tv or engaging with on social media? Being aware of what is nourshing points you in the direction of what you need to do more of.

Consciously program in all that’s GOOD. I do this by listening to something inspiring in the morning and reading something positive as I end the day.  I do not spend a lot of time reading rants on the internet or diving too deeply into politics.

Spend time in nature. This is another big one for my well-being. Connecting with nature and taking in the beauty allows my mind to relax and feel expansive rather than constricted. Too many days without doing this exercise can really change my mood, and not for the better.

Surround yourself with a tribe of good people! Just a short coffee break with a friend or a playdate with a wonderful mama is a great way to nourish and keep yourself uplifted. It is easy, especially as a mom of young children, to stay inside and sweep up crumbs. Take time to nourish yourself and your relationships!

These are the tips I use to keep myself in a positive mindset, and something that I am making a habit of during these last months of pregnancy. I am keeping the garden that is my mind clear of the weeds, and planting plenty of good seeds that I can nourish and grow as I move into this next phase of life.

 

 

 

 

 

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