Over the last few months, we've all gone through stages. Stages of grief, acceptance, frustration, fear. I have found that when I allow myself to focus on the negative, the dark, I forget about how much light there is in my life. I have found that actively practicing gratitude has helped my mood immensely. I have always been someone who is grateful for what she has, but I have found it even more important lately to practice gratitude.
When I forget to be grateful, I focus on my husband leaving his clothes on the bathroom floor instead of reminding myself that he serves me coffee every morning. I focus on the messes my kids make instead of on the memories they made. I focus on the things I didn't get done instead of the things I did.
At the very beginning of this pandemic, I quickly realized that if I wasn't being actively grateful for the things I DO have, I could easily fall into this hole of self-despair and woe-is-me. And honestly, that's not a place I really wanted to be. So throughout the day, I found ways to stop and be grateful for something.
I chatted with Dr. Erika Velez of The Mindful Corner, who gave me some really interesting information. Robert Emmons is considered the world's leading expert on gratitude, and he says that gratitude has two important components. The first is that gratitude is an affirmation of good things in the world. In the second, we recognize that the things we are grateful for exist outside of ourselves. We acknowledge that God and other people give us gifts both big and small to help us achieve the goodness in our lives. Gratitude is a source of strengthening relationships because it requires us to see how other people have been able to support and affirm us.
Emmons found that people who practice gratitude consistently report many benefits. Physically they can have stronger immune systems, can be less bothered by aches and pains, can have lower blood pressure, exercise more and take better care of their health, and sleep better. Psychological benefits include higher levels of positive emotions, more alert, more joy and pleasure, and more optimism and happiness. Social benefits of practicing gratitude include being more helpful, generous and compassionate, forgiving, outgoing, and feeling less lonely and isolated.
Practicing gratitude is something that requires mindfulness and intention, so while sometimes it may seem like I am just doing something to check it off a list, it is done intentionally and to build it into my routine so it becomes a natural practice. Because I have seen firsthand some of the benefits listed by Emmons above, I want to continue to be consistent in this practice.
Some simple ways I practice gratitude:
And there you have it - 5 simple ways to practice gratitude daily. It doesn't have to be a complicated process. Just make the intention to do it, and you will find yourself finding more ways to be thankful each and every day.
Let me know in the comments, how do you practice gratitude?
The last four and a half months have been hard on everyone. There are stresses of all kinds, there’s not much relief, someone is always underfoot. But it’s really important to find ways to give yourself a break, and for most of us, the spa isn’t really a feasible option right now. I'm sharing 10 ways I give myself a break - whether it's with or without the kids.
I hope these give you some ideas of ways you can get a mental break without spending much (if anything), and while keeping yourself and your family safe.
A couple of weeks ago, my cousin's wife Kristy reached out to me and very sweetly - in the midst of a pandemic and being in the newborn fog to her third baby - offered to write a guest post sharing her experience with delivering their third baby during this pandemic. I think she provides a really solid point of view and I hope it will help ease the minds and answer the questions of some of you who are on the verge of delivering a baby. Thanks Kristy for sharing your experience!
As I neared the last trimester of my pregnancy, the Covid-19 numbers in my county started to climb. My OB required me to wear a mask during office visits and warned me that my husband may not be able to be present in the delivery room. I was mixed with excitement and fear for the coming months, because while I was excited to finally meet my baby, I desperately wanted my husband to see our daughter born. I was unsure of what to expect during delivery, and neither Google nor my doctor's office gave me the answers to my questions:
What can I expect from my hospital stay?
Do I pack my hospital bag differently?
How do I protect my baby, my husband, and myself during our hospital stay?
Before I answer those questions, here's the scoop. Years ago, I worked as a nurse. My husband also works in healthcare, so I was no stranger in navigating the ins and outs of disinfecting the house and taking precautions to keep our family safe. But for this hospital stay, I wasn't the nurse- I was the patient AND momma bear. So while I'd like to tell you I had all of the answers prior to my hospital stay, hindsight is 20/20. This is what I learned:
(Disclaimer: This was my personal experience at one hospital, and I'm wearing my Mommy hat. This is not medical advice and you should follow your doctor's recommendations and policies/procedures).
When I checked into triage, I was screened for Covid-19. They had a verbal survey, took my temperature, and required that I wear a mask *at all times* while in the hospital. I'm happy to report my husband was able to be there with me, and was screened in the same way upon entry to the hospital. I was only allowed to have 1 visitor with me (I had my husband) and I wasn't able to switch-off visitors during my stay. They discouraged him from leaving the hospital at all, and asked if he had to leave that he not be gone longer than a couple of hours. All of the hospital staff wore masks and gloves, and changed their gloves often. I was really impressed with the level of care the staff took in protecting us.
This is baby #3 for me, so I'd consider my hospital bag neither minimalist nor extensive. In addition to what I'd normally pack in my hospital bag, I also included:
The health and safety of my family was at the top of my concerns delivering during a pandemic. If I could send you with ONE takeaway from all of this, it is:
Advocate and (politely) demand for the best practices done for your family!
I typically shy away from confrontation, and it is hard for me to ask questions, but I cannot stress this enough. When someone came to do a procedure on baby, if I didn't see them wash their hands, I requested they do so. When the staff was changing out gloves, I made sure they washed their hands in between. If a machine or equipment was to be used on my baby, I asked that it be disinfected first. If a procedure needed to be done where I was able to hold the baby instead of a staff member, I did. The hospital was very diligent in doing all of the above on their own, however, when I noticed it wasn't done (or done correctly), I would kindly remind them. And when I did, the staff was great about responding right away to the request. My husband and I both were both watchful during interactions between baby and staff to ensure the best care was given.
Aside from a few different policies and procedures, I found that my hospital stay wasn't all that different from my previous deliveries. Not permitting extra visitors actually gave the 3 of us a really sweet bonding experience during our stay, and alleviated the stress of "hosting" visitors after delivering a baby. Hubby and I ordered lots of take out and watched movies while we snuggled our new little addition. Delivering during a pandemic can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be! With a few extra items in the hospital bag and these tips you'll be well prepared to protect and enjoy your sweet baby.
About six years ago, when I was pregnant with Caleb, my neighbor invited me to an essential oils class. I went, and I was intrigued, and I thought everything smelled incredible. But I wasn’t buying it, literally and figuratively.
Fast forward to the end of my pregnancy, and at 36 weeks pregnant, I developed a cough. When I went to the ob-gyn they told me to treat it basically the same way I’d treat a baby with a cough - steam bath, humidifier, liquids, and rest. The coughing fits were so bad that I was changing my underwear four and five times a day, and every time I coughed, I swore Caleb’s foot was coming out of my nether regions. After a couple of days of this, I asked my neighbor, “Hey, did you buy any oils that might help with this cough?” And she told me she sure had, and let me borrow the bottle. I was worried about applying it topically, so as soon as I walked home, I put it on my wrist and took a couple of deep breaths, and I felt relief for the first time in days. I ordered a bottle right then and there, along with two other blends, and I have been hooked since.
While the oil blend didn’t cure me completely - I had already developed bronchitis and ended up on antibiotics - it really did help with the symptoms and helped open up my airways until the medicine took full effect. Ever since then, I have been consistently using oils in my home. I use them more for preventative measures and to help with symptoms of whatever we are suffering from, but I use them in tandem with modern medicine.
There are three ways that essential oils can be used: Topically, aromatically, or internally. I tend to use them topically and aromatically more than anything, but I have also used some internally as well. *I use DoTerra, so I’ll be talking specifically about their oils since that is what I know.
Oils, when used topically, can be very effective at penetrating the skin and getting into muscles or helping to alleviate certain ailments. I’ve already talked about one way I used essential oils aromatically. DoTerra has a blend called Breathe, which is a respiratory blend. It contains Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Cardamom, Melaleuca, and several other oils that helps to create feeling of clear, easy breathing. I apply this, diluted with a carrier oil (DoTerra actually sells rollerballs that already come diluted for topical application for adults and for kids), to my chest and to my back and it really does help me breathe more easily. I’ve also used this on the kids when they are sick (diluted, of course).
Another of my favorite blends is OnGuard, which is a protective blend. It supports healthy immune function and contains cleansing properties. I use OnGuard when I clean (they make a cleaner with it, too), and I always feel like it really helps eliminate some of the nasty germs that can be persistent with little kids around. You can dilute this and roll along the base of the spine or on the soles of the feet to help boost kids’ immune systems and prevent them from getting sick. I've been doing this often during the pandemic.
I have also used Melaleuca, Lavender and Frankincense on my skin for different ailments, including acne. And their Digestive blend DigestZen has helped with nausea when applied topically.
Particularly on the kids, I’m always really careful and read up a lot before I use oils topically.
This is the most common way that we use the oils. I have been able to cut down significantly on my use of candles. Don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE candles and I will sometimes burn them when I have people coming over, but for daily use I have switched over to diffusing essential oils. DoTerra releases seasonal blends, so I usually pick up a bottle or two when they do this, and I love to find blends that are uplifting or calming. One of my favorite combinations to diffuse is Lemon & Lavender. A couple of drops of each and you're transported to Lavender fields. Another favorite for the morning is 2 drops each or lemon, orange, and either grapefruit or lime. It's such an energy-boosting blend and it helps you wake up.
When my kids were babies, I used to diffuse OnGuard. Especially when people were coming over. During the coronavirus pandemic, I have also been diffusing OnGuard frequently. If nothing else, it smells so good when it is diffused.
There are many people who ingest their oils. I don't do this often, but I have used OnGuard and Lemon to make a tea when I have been sick - the clove in OnGuard helps to numb your throat if you have a sore throat. I've also added Lemon or Grapefruit to water. DoTerra also has a blend called DigestZen, that is to aid in, you guessed it, digestive issues. I have used this internally when I've been backed up, and after surgery a few years ago, we gave this to a family member and it helped instantly to help them go.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of ways to use these oils, and it truly depends on what you want to get out of them. I always recommend OnGuard to everyone, and for anyone who suffers from respiratory issues, Breathe is another big favorite in our house. I always recommend starting with a blend that can help you with a specific issue, but there are so many individual oils and there are so many things that they can help with.
As always, run anything you use by your physician, and read up on safety when using them around kids or pets (and yes they work on pets, too, but pets can be particularly sensitive to certain oils).
If this post has piqued your interest and you would like to learn more about oils or even get a few for yourself, I have some awesome ladies to whom I can refer you. Shoot me a DM or leave your e-mail address in the comments of this blog post below and I will send you their information.
Okay, so we’re about to get super personal here. Like on another level personal. If you’re a dude, you might want to quit here. Unless you have a keen interest in menstrual cycles or you - for whatever strange reason - want to pitch a menstrual cup to a lady in your life, I’d suggest you skip this blog post altogether. You’ve been warned.
If you made it past the disclaimer, yay! Let’s talk menstrual cups!
First of all, what is it?
A menstrual cup is an alternative to a tampon. It’s reusable, worn inside the vagina, and it collects flow rather than absorbing it. They come in tons of shapes and sizes to fit every wearer, and they are made from silicone. They are safe, and I have found a menstrual cup to be a much more comfortable way to manage my flow. You can watch here for more information.
I started using a cup in 2016. (I checked my Amazon orders to confirm this date, btw) I remember being really apprehensive, and thinking this would never work for me. After having Caleb, I had heavy, uncomfortable periods and was constantly having to change my pads or tampons. But I figured that a cup was worth a shot. After all, I was buying into the promise of not having to spend more money on pads and tampons on a monthly basis, and that a cup could hold as much as 2-4 tampons worth of menstrual flow.
The first two cycles came with a definite learning curve. I wore pads as backup, I leaked a couple of times, and I almost gave up. But that third cycle? On a trip to the beach I realized I could spend all the time I wanted in the beach or the pool and not have to worry about running out to a bathroom to change a tampon immediately after getting out of the water. I had zero leaks my third cycle using it, and I was sold. I wear it to exercise, to swim, while traveling, etc.
Last summer, we spent a week at the beach, and of course, my period arrived earlier than expected. I had forgotten my cup at home (I usually throw it in my bag anytime we travel, regardless of whether my period is expected or not), and I had to buy tampons. First of all, organic tampons are super expensive. Also, having to change a tampon every couple of hours, or every time you come out of the water at the pool or beach sucks.
Anyway, I’m no expert, and I’m definitely not in the medical field, so I cannot give you medical advice or facts. But there are a few reasons why I have found a menstrual cup to be life-changing.
Okay, so now that you know entirely way too much about me, I hope that you’ll consider making the switch (or at least trying it out!). An amazing resource is putacupinit.com. You can take a quiz there to see which cup might be your best fit, as well as read up on FAQ, and additional resources regarding menstrual cups.
For reference, this is the one I use: https://amzn.to/2VKq5HK
I hope this all helps!
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