Motherhood In It’s Own Time

Greetings!!! My apologies for the delay…..This post continues our series of narratives from real women who had their first baby over age 35.

This week we hear from Rachel Wiederhold, who became a mother again, again, and again despite years of ambivalence.

Rachel writes: “Growing up, I never recall wanting to be a mother. In fact, it was quite the opposite. My mom and I had a contentious relationship, especially in my teenage years. My mom became a mother at the young age of 19. She came from a very large southern family and married my dad at 18. I’m sure she wasn’t truly prepared to become a mother but from her perspective it was what you did after you left home and were married. I’m sure my childhood experiences very much influenced my own life even to this day. 

I met my husband, Alan, in college. He was 6 years older than me as he served in the US Navy before pursuing his degree. He was already a father, he had a son from a previous relationship. His being a father was something that I had to reconcile internally before becoming emotionally involved in a relationship with him. Obviously, I was able to embrace both Alan and his son and, after 1.5 years of dating, we were engaged. We planned our wedding for the fall of 1997 following graduation. When Alan went to pick up his son for summer visitation, his son’s mother informed him that she thought it best for him to come live with us. Alan called me and prefaced the conversation with “Are you sitting down? It’s a boy.” It was at that moment I officially became a mother. Becoming a biological mother would happen much later. It was in raising my stepson that I decided to put any thought of bringing my own child into the world on indefinite hold. My stepson at the age of 7 had so much emotional baggage from his own mother literally “giving him up” and other forms of abuse. While coming to live with us was by far the best thing to happen to him, he didn’t necessarily believe that. He was more focused on being abandoned by his mom. He’s now in a better frame of mind after years of therapy and soul searching

My hold on biological motherhood was based on a few factors:

  1. Not wanting to be the type of mom that I personally experienced: young, inexperienced, and emotionally reactive
  2. Not wanting to have my stepson think he was being replaced by my own biological children
  3. My own desire to do the things I wanted and not be tied down.

 

My husband and I never really discussed expanding our family, even after 16 years of marriage (at that point in time). Many of our friends began having children and likely shaped my own personal desire to have a child. We were in the camp of not trying but not avoiding. I had been taking birth control since college and I was 38 years old. I had no idea if my fertility was intact or not. It didn’t take long to discover that everything was fully functional. I discovered I was pregnant right before Christmas in 2013. My pregnancy was relatively easy with the exception of high blood pressure that lead to an uneventful induced birth of my daughter at 39 weeks. Raising my daughter was a breeze through the baby phase. She’s now 4 and smart, strong willed, and outgoing. A mini version of myself. I can only imagine how much more challenging motherhood will become.

Two years after having my daughter, I found I was pregnant with my son…at the age of 40 due to forgetting to take my birth control. That pregnancy was also stress-free. No blood pressure issues like I had with my daughter, but he came very quickly into this world six weeks early.  His premature birth was never determined to be related to my advanced maternal age. After 18 days in the NICU, my son came home on oxygen for a month. And at nearly 2.5 years old he’s small but mighty. 

I personally find that having a child at a later age was the right decision for my husband and me. We’re much more patient, mature, and established in our lives. We have a greater understanding of how to balance work and life. We devote time and attention to our children, while maintaining careers and personal interests. In our 20’s we raised Alan’s son and looking back, while we did the best we could, we feel like we would have done a much better job knowing what we do now. I guess that is the beauty of hindsight. Despite your best planning you don’t always know how life will go and have to learn to adapt at any stage in life. I don’t regret waiting to have children. As an added bonus it makes others think you are younger than your current age! ;)”

Stay tuned:  In two weeks, I will post our reflection on Rachel’s story.

About the author:  Rachel Wiederhold  grew up in Monroe, Michigan. She attended Western Michigan University where she became a Delta Gamma and earned her BS degree in Psychology & Communications. Upon graduation, she married her college sweetheart and Navy veteran, Alan. In 2004 she relocated to the Baltimore area where she lives with her husband, 2 children, and an Italian Greyhound. She is founder and co-owner of 5 Star Staging, LLC and works with Baltimore area Realtors, investors and home owners in preparing their home for the real estate market as well as redesign projects. You can find more at fivestarstaging.com or follow her on Instagram or Facebook at @5starstagingllc

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Hard for the Holidays

Infertility and the winter holidays can be a really bad combination.  Ok, so that is obvious but let’s talk about why and how to cope.  So much of the pain that accompanies infertility is about the precariousness of the dreams that we assumed would manifest into reality in our adult life. We’re cool with wild New Year’s Eves with friends and cozy Christmas/Hanukahs at our parent’s home during our twenties because that matches our station in life.  As we age, we expect to start our own traditions and it can feel like a jolt when that is delayed due to infertility.  We can end up in a no-man’s land of sorts.  We outgrow the parties of our youth but don’t have the kids that we thought would anchor us into adulthood.  At a deeper level, we start to see just how fragile life is.  What we thought was a basic biological function- have sex without birth control=pregnancy- is no longer certain. What else can fail?

This is the under riding – theme of many emotions associated with infertility, however it is magnified when we are inundated with happy photos of kids and families celebrating the holidays.  The salt is poured into the wound when we have to interact with relatives who have their own hopeful expectations of our fertility or complete insensitivity around it.  I give some tips on dealing with that here   and here .

It can also be problematic because as families grow, every limb of the tree has its own scheduling complications, so planning get togethers can be a logistic nightmare. The schedules and needs of infants and small children need to be prioritized but often families do that at the detriment of everyone else.  You can find some good ways of setting boundaries and accommodating everyone here.

Lastly, as women and aunts and friends and daughters we are often the givers.  We run from store to store to find the perfect gift, we stay late at the office so our co-workers can get home to their kids. We put all our energy into others.  I urge you this season to do things a bit differently.  Take time for you.  Gift yourself something special.  If you are short on cash, it can be a walk in the woods or a day on the sofa watching your guilty pleasures.  If you have the resources, then take some time to think about what would make you really happy and splurge for it!  For all you know, this may be the last holiday without a baby so indulge yourself while you can.

 

Photo by Elena Ferrer on Unsplash

 

Stop Trying To Relax While TTC (or The Power of Dishes)

Welcome back!  I feel like I could give a lengthy apology for how 2 weeks morphed into almost 8 weeks but that would just be more stalling.   Please know that I really do care about you dear reader, sometimes I just overestimate what I can get done.  That would actually be a great blog post or fodder for my therapist…..but I digress.  In our last post, Jessica shared her beautiful story of becoming a mother.  Many themes emerged including, being “that couple” as she puts it.  The one that gets pregnant once they start the adoption process (or adopt).  She also speaks to the fear and insecurity infertility creates during pregnancy.  Lastly, making decisions and switching gears.  All are important issues and I will explore the first in this response post.

All of us who have experienced infertility have had some version of the “just relax and it will happen”  touted to us by a well-meaning but ill-informed friend, acquaintance, or family member.   This statement stings because it puts the onus of infertility on the couple.  It also feeds into the myth of control.  Like this is something we can simply will our bodies to do. Many women experiencing infertility have spent the decade or so prior intentionally and successfully not getting pregnant so when they are trying to conceive it feels like they should be able to switch the gate open and get pregnant.  This is logical, if using birth control worked, then why wouldn’t not using birth control work?  For most couples this is true and in fact, roughly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned.  However, when you are experiencing difficulties it feels shocking. Unfortunately, many women who are having trouble conceiving feel shame.  This is either directed at their body for not “working” correctly or at themselves, feeling like they are being punished in some way. Being told that all you need to do to make this terribly devastating phase of your life end is relax compounds the shame.

It is also not true.  Yes, certainly reducing stress is great for your health in multitude of ways but there is no concrete proof that it will increase your fertility.  One thing we are clear about in our work is the mystery and miracle of pregnancy and birth.  We never offer one special protocol because, as Jessica says “There isn’t a scientific explanation for everything.  Sometimes it’s inexplicable.”  In fact, these how-to-get-pregnant-plans feed into the myth of control and when they fail, lead to more frustration and shame. (Many of the conception protocols will improve your health so may be worth following from that perspective.)  I also started to look into statistics about conception after adoption and they are parse.  This makes sense, though because many couples may start using birth control after they adopt as they may not want subsequent children, they may be truly infertile (i.e. the male had cancer treatment and is now sterile, the woman had a hysterectomy and cannot carry a child), and, if we are being really honest, sex life can take a major dip with a newborn around. Simply, there really aren’t statistics around this issue.

Reducing stress and maintaining a positive attitude offers a plethora of benefits, not just for living your best life while trying to conceive, but also for pregnancy, birth, and parenting.  There are many ways to do this.  The most important thing is to be mindful about what brings your joy.  This changes at different stages of your life so keeping your options open helps.  Being present during your daily experiences will help guide you and connect you to things and people and experiences that feel nourishing and keep you away from those that drain you.

A simple way to start the process of developing mindfulness is to wash your dishes mindfully.

  • As you approach the sink, take notice of your posture. Where is your tension?
  • Take notice of your thoughts? Are you annoyed, neutral, curious?
  • Observe the dishes. How many? What type of food stains?
  • How does the faucet handle feel? Turn on the water, how does it sound?  How does it feel on your hands?
  • How does the scrub brush feel? The soap?
  • What are you hearing? What are your hands feeling?
  • Every time your mind wants to go back to something non-dish, gently bring it back to the task at hand.

Mindfulness is like a muscle, it will take time to build but doing this simple exercise daily will help.

Photo by Jim DiGritz on Unsplash

The Inexplicable

We are back to blogging!!!  I am so sorry for the hiatus, I opened a practice (just for women!) and Emma moved, etc, etc, etc.   We are here now and committed to bimonthly posts!   Both Emma and I agree our favorite part of writing the book was interviewing such a diverse group of women.  We wanted to keep doing that so are embarking on a series of blog posts that features a new woman’s narrative monthly along with our take offering insights, coping skills, and statistics in a follow up post 2 weeks later.

We start with Jessica Luty Kabrhel, mom, therapist, friend (and also one of the most fashionable people I’ve ever met).  These are her words:

 

I was 39 when my little boy came into the world, a squishy mess of gangly limbs and bright blonde hair.  He was delivered by emergency c-section after 24 hours of labor, half of which was in the middle of the night in my basement.  I didn’t want to wake my husband until it was absolutely necessary, but the fact that my labor presented in my low back and buttocks made it a very long night.  I was relieved to finally hear his wail, my assurance that he was okay. 

Becoming a mom at 39 wasn’t my choice.  I tried to get pregnant for several years and was ultimately told that I needed a donor egg as mine were “too old”.  We entertained that possibility and ultimately decided that money like that was better spent on adopting. We spent the next year collecting everything we needed to become adoptive parents.  We were JUST about to finish the process and make ourselves available to be adoptive parents when I found out I was pregnant.  It was the shock of our lives when that little stick gave us a plus sign.  And, suddenly, we were THAT story.  The one where, if you just forget about it for a little while, you get pregnant.  The one that well-meaning people like to throw around to help you feel better when you’re hoping to become pregnant. 

 Becoming pregnant after so many years of ovulation tracking, IUIs, IVFs, temperature-taking, and finally making peace with not being able to have a biological child was incredibly overwhelming.  It felt like a frighteningly fragile invasion more than a miracle.  I couldn’t truly relax for many weeks, until my optimistic nature took over to ensure that I didn’t spend ten months in a panic.  It was also helpful that my doctor looked at me and said, “Just because you had trouble conceiving doesn’t mean that you will have trouble carrying a baby to term.” She was so matter-of-fact about that, and about the fact that women my age have babies every day, that I had to exhale. 

 As a young woman, I wasn’t ever sure that I wanted to have children and never even thought about it seriously until I was 30.  I married at 33 with the idea that we MIGHT have children.  I worried that I may have trouble, as I’d had various ovarian and uterine difficulties in my twenties.  I will never know whether my “heart shaped” uterus or my cranky ovaries had anything to do with the years that I struggled.  Maybe my little one simply came when we were both ready.  Nothing prepares you for the struggle to get pregnant, but that struggle made me more palpably grateful to be his mother than I could have ever imagined.  I don’t know if I would have always been the mom I am today, or if the struggle created me.  I do know that I look at him every single day with conscious wonderment and gratitude.  Every bout of fury, every tear, every silent curse, every wrinkle, every ache was paving the way for the little boy who is perfect for me in the most miraculous ways. 

 There isn’t a scientific explanation for everything.  Sometimes it’s inexplicable.

 

Jessica Luty Kabrhel lives outside of Baltimore, MD with her husband and two children. She is a psychotherapist who specializes in trauma as it relates to motherhood.

 

Photo by JUDY ANN DAYOT on Unsplash

The Not So Anxious Life

I distinctly remember during our arduous fertility journey knowing that I would one day be a parent.  I didn’t know how or when, but I knew I’d be a mother.  It was non-negotiable in mind.  Somehow, that confidence didn’t transfer once I was pregnant.  I spent the first trimester riddled with fear that there would be no heartbeat.  I spent the second trimester fearful that I would have a late loss.  We opted out of first trimester testing but did the 18 week anatomy scan.  I was sure something terrible would be revealed about my baby at that point. Once that proved we had a perfect baby girl, my fear turned to the possibility she would be born still.  None of this panned out.  I had a relatively easy birth and a brilliantly healthy baby.  However, my fear didn’t stop.  It shifted to the next thing….SIDs, kidnapping, etc.

As one of the women in our book put it, “anxiety is free floating and will attach to anything”.  I realized this quickly on and made a firm decision that I could not live my life in fear.  Doing so would not create the childhood I wanted for my daughter nor the motherhood I wanted for me. Intellectually, I was able to separate out the things I could control from the things I couldn’t.   Specifically, the only thing we can ever truly control is our reaction to events.  We can reduce risk by doing proper research and taking appropriate precautions but ultimately, we control nothing but our own minds and heats.  This is easier said than done.

You have probably heard a lot about mindfulness and meditation.  There is a reason they are so trendy.  They work!  A regular meditation practice will help translate that intellectual knowledge of control into a deep, heartfelt experience of acceptance.   There is a lot of noise about meditation and I find that people don’t really seem to know what it is.  It is not a blank mind.  It is a mind focused on one object.  I give explicit directions on how to meditation in our book along with other resources for developing a practice.  Like any skill, it takes time and patience to develop.  You wouldn’t consider running a 5K without some training, same with meditation.  Once you get in the swing of it, it becomes easier.   Mindfulness comes from meditation.  It is “presence”, or “being in the moment”.  The point of developing mindfulness is  to catch your mind when the anxiety or fear starts to take over.  So, when you are waiting to take a pregnancy test or going for a treatment, instead of having your habitual response of fear or anxiety, you can separate from it.  The anxiety can become its own entity and not take over your mind.  This will help you throughout your entire journey whether you are trying to conceive, pregnant, or currently are a mom.

 

 

Sharon Praissman Fisher is currently accepting clients at her practice, Nurtured Well, LLC

Photo by joshua yu on Unsplash

 

When You Are The Lucky One

Guest Post by Emma Williams, co-author of Beyond the Egg Timer: A Companion Guide for Having Babies in Your Mid-Thirties or Older.

Recently a friend from work told me that she’s delighted that she finally overcame her challenges in conceiving in her late thirties and has a beautiful baby boy, but here’s one more challenge: What to say to her friend who’s had three failed In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycles?

At first, I thought I should have some wisdom to share on that subject. Sharon and  I recently published a book about women trying to conceive in their thirties and forties. I already have two children when we started writing the book, while my co-author was trying to conceive her first  and hitting multiple roadblocks. Plus, I have been in that situation with other friends and family members.

 Photo by Hian Oliveira on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Hian Oliveira on Unsplash

Then I remembered specific things I had said on this subject, and decided I should write a blog about what not to say.

First, although this doesn’t relate directly to my friend’s scenario, don’t assume anyone is not trying to conceive (except maybe if they became a parent in the past few weeks.) Once I brought my infant, Lila, to a wedding, and Rebecca,* a college friend that I’d largely lost touch with over the past few years, held Lila much of the time. I said, “Watch out, Rebecca, you might catch baby fever.” She was married, but I assumed they did not want children yet. Then she told me that they had been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for several years. I cringe when I think of what an insensitive remark that was. That was before I started writing the book–one of those valuable parts of the writing Beyond the Egg Timer is that it made me more sensitive to the widespread, let largely invisible, challenges people face around fertility.

Don’t be an oracle or a Hallmark greeting card. My friend Kristyn once had a miscarriage with medical complications while on a work trip to Uganda, which was just as traumatic as you might imagine from that short description. One year later, she delivered a healthy baby boy, and she said to me, “Right after the miscarriage, you told me that I would have another baby this time next year!” I have no recollection of making that idiotic statement. It’s nice that the story has a happy ending, but we should never promise things like that when we have no way of knowing that our prophesies will come true. (In my defense, I had two children under three years old and was completely exhausted most of the time.)

Remember that it’s OK if she doesn’t want to talk to you about this. My cousin Meg recently reminded me that sometimes it’s better to let the other person decide that they want to talk about a difficult subject. Try not to worry that this difference in your situations will wreck your friendship. Most women are able to become mothers if they keep persisting. It’s likely that her fertility challenges phase will end, possibly in a short time. Then you can start having baby play dates.

Don’t assume that your joy is killing her inside. My friend Jessica has two sons on the autism spectrum, and people often worry that spending time with “normal” children will upset her. It really doesn’t. She loves and appreciates her children and accepts them as they are. Likewise, although it is possible that a childless friend would envy you for having a baby, it is equally likely that she feels encouraged by your experience, especially if your ages are similar, or if you did not conceive easily.

Finally, forgive yourself if you say something that you later regret, especially if you said it while parenting a newborn. Or if you keep making this mistake despite your best efforts, since infertility is such a taboo subject, and it is not polite to ask people if they are trying to conceive.

We shared more thoughts of this subject in a previous blog post and in our book.

* All names are pseudonym’s, except Meg’s.

Header photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

This post was initially published on Psychology Today.

Birth Was My Triathlon

Have you noticed its becoming a triathlon crazy world?  I can’t go on Facebook anymore without seeing pics of friends training, posting near impossible run times, or posing in sleek suits made just for the occasion.  There is even a book out exploring this new obsession, Women Who Tri by Alicia DiFabio, a heart inspired exploration of the trend and one woman’s foray into it.   It’s a good read that almost, sort of, made me want to try the tri.  But then I thought about it and, for myriad of reasons will not be spending my non-existent free time training for this impressive physical feat.  In part because I’m lazy, in part because I’d rather play with my kids, but more importantly because I already took my body on its biggest adventure yet.

I journeyed into infertility and came out victorious, not once but twice!!!  For me infertility, pregnancy, and child birth were my triathlon. Simply getting pregnant took years of diligent research and strict discipline. I followed various diet plans to improve my fertility.  We had perfectly timed sex.  I negotiated doctor’s appointments, surgeries, and medications.   Once pregnant, I took meticulous care of my body and mind.   I wanted the environment that baby was being created in to be as nurturing as possible. Since, I was in effect creating her, I only wanted good stuff for building blocks as well.

Somewhere along the way, I became obsessed with an unmedicated birth.  By this, I mean no epidural and as few interventions as possible.  We decided to learn Hypno-Birthing. It required weeks of learning and practicing the visualizations and meditations in a formal setting followed by daily in-home practice. Physically, I knew I had to train as well.  My body would be put to the test.  No matter what kind of birth you have, it is the biggest thing your body will probably ever do.  I did yoga , Bodypump, and walked regularly.  I was ready to go days without sleep and only ice chips to eat.  (I did ultimately have an IV line with fluids pumping in to support baby’s heart rate during the delivery and keep me hydrated).

I went into labor a week early.  We were giddy with excitement.  I tried to push down the fear.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear that my body would fail me (it had before). Fear something would happen to the baby.  Fear that I wouldn’t be able to handle it all.  We headed to the hospital, as ready as we would ever be.  I imagine starting a triathlon is much the same way.  I had a level of acceptance that we had done all that was possible to prepare, and it was now time to perform. My surges started slow and steady.  They actually stayed about five minutes apart throughout the whole labor but as the hours passed, fatigue set in.  At one point, I briefly considered an epidural but my Doula reminded me of how great I was doing.  My husband did all he could to support me but at the end of the day it was really about me and baby making it to the finish line. Unlike a triathlon, no one can really tell you when that is.  You need faith.  Faith that your baby and body can do this.  Faith that your providers can care for you, keep you and baby safe.  Faith in your resilience.   However, there is a finish line.  Babies are born and when yours is, that first snuggle on your chest, that first cry, that first rush as you marvel in what you have made is grander than anyone announcing you are an Ironman.  You are a mother.

 

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

An Open Letter to Those Trying To Conceive

I can see you.  You are the beautifully dressed executive that came to my house and played with my kids after you spent a long day at work.  You are the Auntie that always knows the coolest toys. You are the friend that cried with me through each failed attempt at pregnancy.  You are the one who rejoiced once I conceived. You have always been there, supporting each friend, sister, co-worker through achieving their dream of a family. You stayed late at work to get the job done because you knew your colleague was stressing about daycare pick up. You have patiently waited your turn. You gave.  I can see that.

You did not wait to have a baby.  You waited for the right partner (or may still be).   You bid your time well.  You went to graduate school; you took the promotion.  You are not career obsessed.  You simply weren’t going to sit on your hands until the universe conspired to bring the right man into your life.

I can see how much you give to the world.  I can see all the volunteer work you do.  I can see how you show up at every event, willing to celebrate other’s milestones as you await your own. I see you visiting your friend after she had a baby or taking your niece out on a special “date” to give mommy a break. I see you caring for your parents because your siblings are busy with their own kids.  I can see you.  You are important.  You give.  You nurture.  You matter. I can only pray that you too will be blessed with a baby.  That all that love you give out will be returned to you.  Hold tight, have faith and know that you are seen.

 

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

My Personal Penguin

My daughter is in love with a penguin. It’s small and plastic and she lights up when she sees him. If she’s fussy, “pengi” can calm her down. Once we found out that Sandra Boynton wrote a book called My Personal Penguin, we added it to her library. The book’s theme resonates with me as the main character is the child’s number one cheer leader and wants to be with her always. I feel that we could all use a little of that. During my fertility journey, I know I certainly needed support. I’ve been the hopeful new patient at the fertility center, the desperate woman trying to conceive, the happy and anxious pregnant lady, and the elated and anxious new mom. Now, I’m an overextended working mom of two. I’ve utilized lots of coping skills along the way but the one that has been the most consistent are mantras. Mantras are meaningful phrases that you recite to yourself. They can center you as well as instill hope or confidence. They keep things in perspective, much like a good friend whispering affirmations in your ear.

We write more about mantras in our book. Here is an excerpt:

Pick a mantra that speaks to you and try meditating five minutes a day on it. You can choose a short phrase from spiritual writings or poetry, or you could write your own short phrase. It is important that the mantra reflects your true feelings and also reflects acceptance of your situation. Below are some simple examples:
I whole-heartedly accept things as they are; I understand that they are temporary.
I am taking great care of myself, creating a safe place for my baby.
I will be a mother, I just don’t know how or when yet.
People get pregnant, so will I. It is just taking longer than I like.
Throughout your day, repeat the mantra to yourself, especially when you start to sense stress rising. You can say it, chant it, sing it out loud, whisper it, or you can repeat it silently in your mind. Experiment and find out what’s most effective for you.

My personal favorite mantra is: “I’m doing the best I can with what I have. With grace and gratitude, I’m moving forward.”

I’m very intentional about the words because so often we blame ourselves for failures when it’s really an impossible situation. It’s important to remember what you are working with. It’s also important to stay thankful for what you have and what is going well. Lastly, we cannot change the past so there is no need to get stuck there.

Spend five minutes now thinking about a mantra that would work for you and write it on a post-it. Place the post-it on your bathroom mirror so you can start your day with it. Remember to refer back to it throughout the day.

Photo by AGL Fotos on Unsplash

Top 5 Calming Techniques While TTC

Infertility is often a silent struggle.  Unlike cancer or a broken leg, no one automatically knows you are going through it.  This means that you are often juggling multiple medical appointments, complicated emotions, and all the normal hectic life stuff.  No one cuts you any slack while you are trying to conceive.  The work assignments are still due and the social obligations beckon.   It can be hard to implement coping skills amidst this busyness.  However, this is exactly the time self-care is crucial!  Below are five calming techniques that anyone can implement almost anywhere.

  1. Four-Six-Four Breathing: Gently compress your left nostril and inhale through your right for the count of four, hold the breath for the count of six, and then exhale through the left nostril (release compression) for the count of four. Repeat in reverse order.  Compress the right nostril and inhale though the left for the count of four and so on.  Do this for 4-6 rounds.
  2. Belly Breathing: Place you hand on your belly and inhale deeply through your nose as you observe your belly rise, slowly exhale and observe your hand drop with your belly Keep your focus on your belly and you nose, switching between them.  Do this for at least five breaths or for however long is comfortable.
  3. Visualization: Close your eyes and envision the sun shilling on you directly, warming you without overheating you. Focus on the sensation of the sun’s warmth.
  4. Stop and Smell the Roses (Literally): Inhale deeply any scent that is soothing to you. Don’t be ashamed to smell your neighbor’s flowers on an afternoon walk.  Some people like essential oils like lavender.  This process makes you literally stop and redirect your focus. Olfactory (nose) memory is well linked to emotions.  Therefore, pleasant smells can bring you to your “happy” place.
  5. Drink: No, not wine. Insure you are staying hydrated.  Drink plenty of water throughout the day and enjoy a cup of chamomile tea in the evening.

 

It is best to integrate these calming techniques on a regular basis throughout your day.  This can reduce your overall stress.  It will also make you more likely to utilize these calming techniques when you are completely overloaded.   You can set a timer on your phone or schedule some relaxation breaks in your Outlook calendar.  These five techniques each take less than a minute so aim for doing them every hour or two.

Photo by Ilham Rahmansyah on Unsplash