Tag: coping mechanisms

Parenting, anxiety, and smudged nail polish

Parenting, anxiety, and smudged nail polish

It happened. There’s no going back. There are certain moments and events that change your life. Irretrievably.

No matter what happens from now on, I have been forever changed.

Exactly five weeks ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. We’re parents. To be honest, it’s still a surreal experience for me. I still catch myself staring at my son in a state of disbelief. In a good way. A great way.

They say that nothing can prepare you for parenthood. And yet, we still attend antenatal classes, download the apps, follow the blogs, etc. Does it prepare you? I think that selecting the correct classes etc for you can help to prepare you to a certain extent.

The thing that best prepared me for being a mommy? My journey through depression.

And no, I’m not talking about postnatal depression here: on the contrary, I have found the first five weeks of motherhood to be incredibly fulfilling.

So just how on earth did the most trying and devastatingly dark periods of my life prepare me for the most overwhelmingly poignant experience?

Ironically, my journey through depression (“through” implying that you can in fact reach the surface and gasp the fresh air) has taught me many invaluable lessons. Not only have I gained insight into my own psyche, for want of a better word, but I have also come to understand what kind of life I want to lead, and the best mindset and approach to realise this.

The goal-oriented, perfectionist, compulsive nature of my anxiety just doesn’t wash with the daily reality of being a mom. I sat down last week to write a blog post. I got as far as switching on my laptop. That’s it; no further. There is nothing perfect about parenthood. Nothing. I decorated the nursery exactly as I had imagined: a perfect replica of my vision. Two days ago I found myself moving furniture into the centre of the room so that I could wash off projectile pee from a large section of wall and nearby furniture. As for being compulsive, it’s simply not an option. Especially when you have a newborn who has a finely tuned sixth sense that wakens him as soon you step into the shower, pour a cup of tea, or apply a fresh coat of nail polish.

My resultant level of anxiety? Nada. Why?

Before becoming a parent I decided that I would try to be as mindful as possible. I decided that I would not set goals. That I would not entertain ideas about being a supermom. That I would adapt my days to my child’s routine to the best of my ability. That I would not read a single pregnancy or parenting magazine. That I would take each day as it came. That I would trust Mother Nature to give me sufficient maternal instinct to ‘wing it’ for the most part.

So far, I’m managing. Of course, it’s only been five weeks. I might be singing a very different tune next week. Or at three o’clock tomorrow morning. Regardless, my point is that depression and anxiety have provided me with countless opportunities for growth. Sure, I did not grasp all those opportunities. But I did take advantage of some.

It is this ongoing process of reflection and growth that I hope will stand me in good stead in this new stage of my life – smudged nail polish, tepid cups of tea, and all.

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How tomatoes encouraged me to meditate

How tomatoes encouraged me to meditate

I love tomatoes. Weird perhaps, but true. But I never thought that tomatoes would show me the path to meditation.

I was first introduced to meditation a long time ago. And for those of you who think meditation is some sort of woo-woo practice (or worse), this occurred in a religious context. A Christian context, if you must know. However, it wasn’t something that I pursued (either the meditation or religion). Although I’ve always thought meditation to be a good habit, the true healing power was only really made clear to me when I started incorporating it into my life as part of mindfulness.

Like many things, I got out of the habit. You know how it goes: life gets busy and all these things fall by the wayside. Which is a pity. It’s also counterproductive because it’s when we get increasingly busy that things such as mindfulness and meditation are that much more crucial. Despite several concerted attempts to practice regularly, I just didn’t develop the habit. That’s where the tomatoes come in.

I was recently reading an article that mentioned the Pomodoro Technique in passing. Upon embarking on the inevitable Google search I discovered that this is not something new. Even though I’m rather late in getting the Pomodoro memo I decided to give it a try. Not because I struggle to procrastinate, but because I tend to focus so much when writing that I neglect to take breaks. Although this might sound like a thinly veiled attempt to sound smug, this pattern is just as destructive as procrastination, if not more so.pomodoro technique

And then, just like anything else in life, I discovered that there are several Pomodoro apps. Because who doesn’t need a desktop tomato kitchen timer? It even has all the sound effects of a traditional timer.

My 5 minute Pomodoro breaks typically involve green Rooibos tea. My daily consumption of the stuff is quite impressive. After four Pomodori I hit the twenty minute break. What to do? And then it hit me: meditate. It’s amazing what a twenty minute mindful meditation can do. I feel much calmer, more focused. And happier.

tomighty pomodoro app

Weird as it may sound, and bizarre it definitely is, as long as I use my desktop tomato kitchen timer, I find the time to include meditation as part of my daily routine. And I’m much the better for it. So you see, I have been right all along to love tomatoes!

What has been your experience of an unexpected source of motivation?

Avoiding reverse gear (and preferably not stripping the gearbox)

Avoiding reverse gear (and preferably not stripping the gearbox)

You know that feeling when you’re running enthusiastically, all is going well, and then out of nowhere you land flat on your face? I do. (Apart from the running effortlessly part. That never happens.) Sometimes I feel like my life is like that.

So those of you who read my previous post about pink jellytots and other hire cars will know that for two weeks I have to drive a mobile air raid siren that had the reverse gear where I’d expect the sixth gear to be. So basically every time I am about to slide into sixth out of habit, I have to prevent myself from stripping the gearbox. My life is like that too.

Sometimes everything seems to be going so well. It’s like the universe is smiling down on me. Everything falls into place. Everything is as I want it to be. I seem to be approaching the next level of fulfillment but as I try to get to that next gear, I find myself in reverse with the danger of causing extensive damage (to my mental wellbeing that is).

You’d think that after many years of going through life’s ups and downs I would be used to it. Not so much. I still feel frustrated, angry, and depressed when I hit a ‘down’. Especially if it’s a long fall from the ‘up’. On the other hand, I still enjoy the intoxicating exhilaration of life’s good times. It’s just a matter of prolonging the ups and minimising the downs.

Perhaps the key is to be conscious of where you are, and avoid anything that might precipitate a down. Much like I have to remind myself on a daily basis (for two annoying weeks) that when I’m in fifth I need to stay there, and consciously avoid any movement towards reverse. You need to find what moves you backwards in your life, and consciously avoid it in order to move forward.

Finding Perspective When Things Are Pear-Shaped

Finding Perspective When Things Are Pear-Shaped

There is nothing (NOTHING!) that infuriates me more than someone telling me to ‘chin up’ when things in my life are a little pear-shaped. (Any references to my figure are completely coincidental and unintentional.) Or when someone tries to point out that ‘everyone’ experiences this. Or that their lot in life is far worse than mine. Once my unabated fury at their complete insensitivity and lack of empathy has worn off, I do have to admit that I understand their intention. There is some wisdom in trying to get things in perspective and see things in a more positive light. However, making tactless comments is not the way to change anyone’s mindset.

Simply telling someone to look for the silver lining is not going to work. It just isn’t. The focus is all wrong. People have to learn how to respond to difficulties in their own way that enables them to have a sense of mastery and control in their lives. The coping mechanisms that we employ will ultimately determine the degree of power that these difficulties can exert in our lives. As ever, I have a nifty little quote…

“Difficult things are part and parcel of life itself. It is how we handle those things that makes the difference between whether they rule (control) our lives or whether we can relate more lightly to them.”

There is a way to respond to and cope with difficulty that neither negates the experience of it, nor renders one powerless in its wake. Each one of us has to develop the skills to handle difficulties effectively, as such things can and will arise in our lives.

And this brings me back to my original point. It’s futile to try to diminish the severity of the difficulties someone is experiencing by imposing your views and advice on him/her. You will simply come across as being inconsiderate and insensitive. Difficulties have to be accepted and acknowledged if they are to be dealt with properly.

For any person, the focus needs to be on how you can handle negative situations in your life so that in the end you can find your own sense of perspective and ‘relate more lightly’ to the difficulties as they present themselves.