Articles Tagged with: Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
GUEST BLOG by Shelly: Hey Mama! It’s Time to Focus on Bouncing Back Into Life After Baby, Not Just Your Body

Bearing life comes at a cost – sadly that cost is usually burdened by the Mother.  For years, the pain that women go through to bring a child into the world has been a silent process.  We have only recently begun to open up and talk about the bowtie pain effect that comes with having a child:

  • The Want and Hardships of actually getting pregnant 
  • The Birth
  • and lastly The Child and You phase

Each of these bullet points warrants its own Lord of the Rings trilogy both in running time and intensity.   However I want to focus on YOU for a minute.  

We women often fade to the background when a child arrives just as we are about to enter one of the hardest times of our lives.  We are not only adjusting to a new life, new routines…we are also adjusting to a new version of ourselves, one that seems to be in a perpetual state of transformation.  With so much change, it is no wonder that we are yearning to bounce back to life as we knew it before baby.  

For years, the notion that you had to “bounce back to your old body” post pregnancy was a goal most mothers strived for postpartum.  As a clinical therapist working in mental health for over a decade, you can imagine my thoughts about how toxic this thinking is to our health.  However, it was only after having a baby myself in 2018, that I truly understood what women face post baby and just how difficult it is to resist societal pressures to erase any signs of the incredible process me as a mother had just gone through.  

As I navigated bleary eyed through the early days of my maternity leave, I was shocked to see how many people would comment about my body.  Whether I was seen as having bounced back to normal or now possessed a “mom body” that I had to accept, the message I received as a result of my body being a focus of scrutiny was that no matter what I looked like, I was being judged.  

There were times I wondered, “Am I doing this right? Why haven’t I truly bounced back? Is something wrong with me? Do people think I am unhealthy?” And then I stopped in my tracks. I remember sitting down with my baby in the park and thinking that I was falling victim to the Bounce Back Epidemic (The BBE) and if I continued, it was going to make me sick.  That’s when I found my resolve, my determination to reclaim the experience of motherhood for myself so I did not miss out on another second of it by worrying about somehow not meeting society’s standards of being good enough.

The skills that helped me get through The BBE were the very skills I teach my clients to help them be PRESENT in their experience, no matter what it is, without judgement.  These were the lessons embedded in the meditation practice I have followed and taught for years.  Motherhood was the ultimate testing ground that challenged me to truly embody my practice in my daily life.  

As I adopted this mindset, I began to notice the critical thoughts that swam through my own mind as just that…thoughts.    I wanted more than anything to be PRESENT with my baby and not to be bombarded with critical and toxic thoughts. But sometimes they happened.  Being present in my experience allowed me to recognize that I could choose to give these negative thoughts energy or I could just let them pass and wait for other more helpful ones to show up. 

Weening off of social media was also critical.  Expectation can be a troll and reducing exposure to media that plays on our inherent tendency to compare ourselves, was one of the most important things I did to attain inner peace.  My goal was to accept all the moments and focus on what I could control.  I set attainable goals that made sense based on where I was at (not where someone else thought I should be) and worked towards those realistic outcomes.  I decided that I would no longer allow someone else’s ideals deter me or push me off my own centre of balance.

So with that mindset, a lot of practice, and support from some like-minded moms, I bounced back to life.  I worked to connect with my baby, my husband and loved ones.  I bounced back to self care.  The result…more bounce in my step. 

Having navigated this journey, I am now even more confident in my ability to help other mothers fight the BBE and apply the teachings of mindful practice in their daily lives.  We work on building a new life, and accepting our new identity while not losing sight of who we were before baby.  It all hinges on having the intention of being present in our lives, and appreciating the journey first and foremost for ourselves.  

Interested in learning more about Shelly and how she helps women Design Their Lives? Click here to learn more and to book your free consult today.

 


YEARNING

The spot, my spot, my refuge in the city.
The place I have gone on the same day, at the same time for the past year
Is now fenced off due to “Hazardous Conditions”.

The waters have risen so high that it has almost become completely submerged
The landing becoming visible only briefly as the waves recede.

On other days it was an island with rocks spaced in a way that tempted me to try to
take a leap to try to traverse the gap.
I laugh at how my mind tries to find ways to go back
In spite of the natural and man made barriers that prevent my return.

I need to find a new place.

So I start my search.
I choose a day other than the one when I typically do this run to begin my exploration. When doing an exercise to be present, I don’t want to feel like I am floundering to find my place.

The first option seemed like a good idea; another look out point among the trees. Until four legged friends and the balls they were chasing proved to be too incongruous to the sanctuary I was seeking.

The next week I went a little further to the boat house. A look out point away from the boardwalk that juts out into the lake. It was rocky but there were some flat rocks should I choose to sit. There were even kindred spirits doing yoga on the beach close by and amazing pebbles and polished glass on my mindful walk back to the path that I collected in my back pocket.

It was a great option and yet…

Today I didn’t go there. I had to check on my spot, my place, my refuge in the city. The waters seemed to be receding elsewhere. Maybe it will be OK.

I stopped there today. The barricades were still there. But I know I could have made it onto the landing with just a little skip from the closest rock. I laugh again at how attached I have become.

Today I don’t run to the other good option just a few minutes away. Instead, I find a way to sit cross legged on the large log that found its way to the beach right beside the now hazardous site.

I focus on being present there and its good.

As I run back to where I started, I laugh again at how attached I have become to the spot, my spot, my refuge in the city.

I know that I need to let go of my attachment to allow myself the ability to fully enjoy other options that are magnificent in their own way. But to be honest, part of me doesn’t want to. And so I yearn. And I am comfortable with that. Because that place meant something to me. It was special. And I am not ready to let it go.

This was not my home. I was not born there. I did not have family there. I didn’t find my purpose there. I did not create a lifetime of memories there.

It was just the spot, my spot, my refuge in the city.

As I get ready to go on with my day, my heart has grown a bit bigger, my empathy more profound for all those in this world, who have been displaced by natural or man made barriers, making their spot, their refuge, their home a hazardous place.

I can only imagine. Can you?

Dr. Stacy


The MUSE Headband: The One Piece of Tech I Let My Son “Play” with As Much As He Wants

A few months ago, while immersed in creating curricula to assist families incorporate mindfulness into their daily lives, I realized that I was becoming the caricature of the acclaimed architect who leaves her own house unfinished.  The fact is, that while I was focused on guiding and encouraging others to find ways of integrating meditation as a mindful practice, I was not doing the same for the people nearest and dearest to me – my own family.

And so one day during dinner, I decided to announce my hope that we would all start a regular meditation practice.  The reason I gave my audience, made up of my husband, my 2 year old daughter and 6 year old son, was that it is a practice that essentially gives us super powers.

Meditation is like doing push ups for your brain.  It literally makes the part of your brain that is in charge of controlling your emotions, your behaviour and your creativity, bigger.  The stronger it becomes, the better you are at focusing your attention, which is important for performing your best at whatever you want to do.  It also feels good to do it and it is a tool that you can use to calm down when needed. Dealing with challenges without feeling overwhelmed, leads to better decisions, and ultimately allows us to lead happier lives.

I am telling you, I sold it well.  Everyone was on board. The sell was easy.  As for the implementation…?  Well, that did not go as smoothly.

To be clear, it’s not that my children are completely new to meditation.  I have incorporated some kind of guided meditation in their bedtime routines for years.  However, I felt it was time to up the ante a bit and make it a more conscious process, so that it could become a go-to strategy they could use in their waking lives.

My initial idea was for all of us to get in the habit of doing a breath meditation for 2 minutes when we got home as a way of transitioning from the activity of the day to time together at home.  Sounds good in theory, doesn’t it?  But the reality was that, for my son, 2 minutes of quiet focus was up against the lure of LEGO, toys, TV or whatever it was he had his heart set on doing.

Soon, the enthusiasm he had for the idea in the abstract, quickly became the barrier to fun in reality.  It was something that had to be done in order to get to the good stuff of being home; something that had to be done to appease Mom. This was definitely not the vibe I had intended nor was it conducive to the practice itself.

And so I retreated and recognized that the answer to getting my family to buy into adopting a meditation practice lay within the core of the resistance I faced.  I had to find a way to make it fun.

As if in direct response to my quest, the Universe answered in the form of an Instagram post by my colleagues at the Integrative Health Institute featuring the MUSE Headband. Bingo!  I had my answer.

The Muse Brain Sensing Headband essentially reads your brain waves as you engage in a meditation session and gives you feedback in the form of a change in the sounds you are hearing to let you know when you have drifted away from focusing on your breath to reviewing the to do list, replaying a scene from the day, or the million other random things that pop up when the monkey mind is in full swing.  When you are in a calm meditative state, you hear soft rippling waves on the beach. When you maintain that calm state for a while, birds start chirping.  When you drift, you hear the low rumbling of thunder, like a storm approaching from the distance.  This is the cue to just come back and refocus on the breath. Brilliant!

me-with-muse-headband

Even cooler, is that once your session is done, you get to see your own data:  the percentage of time your brain was actually in a calm vs. neutral or active state, and a graph of exactly when those different brain states happened over the course of the meditation.

muse-interface

 

And for those with a healthy sense of competition, there are extra points you can earn based on the amount of time spent in the calm zone, recognition for high levels of performance and the ability to advance to a higher level once you have demonstrated mastery.

Whoever developed this device clearly knew their stuff when it comes to both brain science and how to foster motivation.  Not surprisingly, a quick perusal of the team behind the product confirmed that none other than Dr. Norman Doidge, Toronto psychiatrist, and bestselling author of The Brain’s Way of Healing and The Brain That Changes Itself is on the advisory board among other top researchers and tech developers.  Enough said.

So now, with the help of the MUSE, we are playing “the meditation game”.  My son not only loves it, but like many children, he is a natural Zen Master.  And he is curious to see how he will do as he advances to the next level and meets new challenges.  Mission accomplished.

Just as going to exercise classes with me from the age of 3 months to 3 years helped to imprint exercise as a fun game he loves to play vs. something he “should do”, my hope is that playing the meditation game as a family and cheering each other on as we progress to higher levels using the MUSE will help ingrain this practice as part of a healthy lifestyle that will be maintained for years to come.

In the meantime, I am curious to know what you might have tried to integrate meditation into your family life?  What has worked?  What have been the challenges?  I’d love to hear about your experience, so please share your thoughts and experiences.  We can all benefit from learning from each other.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Stacy

Order the Muse Headband on the D.Y.L. Shop!