As you may know, a couple of months ago Baby Zand broke her ankle. It changed our daily life dramatically. She was in pain, didn't want to eat anything, needed to be carried everywhere, and only slept on my chest while I sang to her all night. She was so incredibly disappointed with herself, and frustrated with life that she couldn't run around and play like she used to. I survived on less than 2 hours of sleep every night, with practically no time to write for the blog, make food, exercise, or do anything around the house. I put all my work on hold, and didn't see any friends. Most rooms looked like a bomb had exploded in them, especially with all the new toys Baby Zand was gifted for this "special time" to entertain her. It stressed me out that life was such a mess, and on top of that it was just a few really difficult weeks. After the first week I realized I needed to change my mindset, otherwise it would all just get worse. We all have stressful times that hit us, sometimes expected (like the birth of a new baby or a work deadline), sometimes unexpected (illnesses, injuries, the loss of a job or a loved one). I have made myself a little toolbox, things I fall back on to when I am in such a stressful period of my life. The main thing is that you know it will end, that it is a limited time that you can survive and that you will survive. And you may as well make the best of it. Here are my top six things I do when life gets a little too much:
1. Don't beat yourself up
The first and most important rule for me is not to beat yourself up over all the things you are not doing. Maybe your exercise routine has gone down the hill because of your stressful period, maybe you are not eating very balanced, maybe you don't have time for your loved ones. Whatever it is that you are neglecting, don't beat yourself up.
For a full two weeks while Arman was traveling I had no time to cook. We lived on avocado toasts, bags of spinach, green smoothies, and bananas. Things we could just eat without any preparation. I never had my hands free for long enough to soak and cook brown rice, to chop up veggies or whip up a soup. It just is what it is in the moment. You try your best. I had a bar of chocolate every single day, because when I am sleep deprived all I want is sugar to keep me going. No need to beat myself up over it. I knew it was a limited time, and things would go back to a better routine soon - and they did!
2. Eat more leafy greens
Having said that, I did make sure I had more greens than usual. I bought bags and bags of leafy greens and just snacked on them all day long. Because leafy greens grow towards the sunlight, they give you all that energy when you eat them. With so much missing sleep I knew I needed all the help I could get to make it through the day. I had leafy greens for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and in between. This is such a simple tip, because with bagged greens there is literally no work involved. You don't even need to add a dressing, just open bag and nibble. It also helps you to not feel bad about letting your balanced eating slip a little when you know there is still some good stuff going into your body.
3. Give your body extra love
Even if your regular exercise routine completely falls away, try to move your body somehow every day. For me this just meant stretching my body every morning (most often with Baby Zand on my chest) to ease the lower back and neck pain from holding her all the time. I didn't go for a run or do yoga, I simply lay in bed and moved my body, so the stress could also leave my body. Give your body some extra love, while it is working so hard to keep you alive in these stressful times. I suddenly started craving hot bubble baths, which I barely ever have. When Arman was home, he was on Baby Zand duty for a couple of hours, and I would sneak away to draw myself a bath, light some candles, and read a few pages in a book. I started using more lavender essential oil to rub my body with for calming and restful sleep. And I made everything super cozy for my body to feel comfortable - from the bed I was sharing with Baby Zand to the clothes I was wearing every day. These are just little things that barely require any extra time, but made a huge difference to how I felt.
4. Get some fresh air
When you are in a stressful period of your life, chances are you are spending a lot of time indoors with recycled air that lacks oxygen. Oxygen is what carries energy through our body. Going outdoor every day, even if it is just for 1 minute to breathe some fresh air can help you feel uplifted and energized. It also helps with balancing your awake and sleep hormones, so that the time you do get to sleep is restful. There is just something about connecting with nature that makes you seem small, that make your problems seem small. You realize that what seems so huge to you in the moment is just a blip on the screen for this mama earth.
Thanks to our puppy Haigo we still had to go outside every day. I would pack Baby Zand up in her stroller with toys, bubbles, and a big blanket, and off to the dog park we went every day. She was suer unhappy at first because she couldn't run around with the dogs like she usually would. So I created new rituals for her at the dog park: we would use this time to sing, and find flowers, and see ladybugs, and observe the waves crashing on the shore. She got a whole new appreciation for nature and seeing what is around us.
5. Ask for help
In times of stress, don't be shy to ask for help. You may want to seem like superwoman, but we aren't. Every mom who has a lot on her plate, also has a net of people to catch her and help out. Don't be scared to ask for help. People want to help, just often don't know how to. Sometimes it's not even actual physical help you need, but maybe just some words of encouragement, the understanding of what you are going through can be enough. Reach out to friends or family that you can rely on and feel comfortable with. No one is going to think less of you because you asked for help. In fact, when people see you not having your shit together, they see you as human and love you even more.
Sometimes asking for help may be someone making you a home cooked meal, sometimes it's asking for someone to just sit and listen to your concerns, and sometimes it is going outside of your circle and asking for help with doctors and therapists. Whatever you are going through, there is someone to help you make the burden less.
6. Ask yourself: what are you supposed to learn?
Everything we go through in life teaches us a lesson. While we are in the moment, it is hard to see the lesson that we are learning. That wisdom often comes months, if not years later. And then we probably wouldn't want to change anything, because these stressful times make us who we are. I find it can sometimes help to just slow down and ask yourself, what am I learning from this? For me, it was definitely enjoying the moment with Baby Zand: making her laugh while reading many books, coming up with new art projects we could do sitting at the table, and trusting in her ability to pace herself. She knew when she was ready to stand up again, walk again, jump again. I didn't have to coach her, warn her, or hold her back. I just had to remember to trust. That was my lesson.
I hope these tips help you to make it through difficult times. Please feel free to reach out to me when you just need someone to listen, I always have an open ear.