Posted in Health and Fitness, Keeping your sanity, Parenting, Working Parent

How I Have Beaten the Insomnia Demon

I have suffered from poor sleep for years. Long gone are the days of a blissful 8-9 hours of sleep. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Ever. Prolonged insomnia can lead to so many health issues down the road, and it absolutely wrecks you mentally in the short-term. If you’ve ever gone even a few days of not having good sleep, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s horrible.

My sleep problems started just before I moved to the UK for grad school. Yep, stress. Stress of getting my visa approved, stress of moving internationally, stress of being surrounded by some of the best flute students anywhere. Then, of course, there was the pressure once school started. So. Much. Stress. I think I averaged 1-3 hours of sleep total each night my first term, and I was able to up it to about 5-6 hours by my third term. I was so grateful! By the time I graduated and moved back to the States, I was sleeping better until I started having children. The cycle began again. Now, with changing hormones, it’s only getting worse! Enter another bad cycle of poor sleep. Over time, and working with my doctor, I learned some tricks to help. It’s still not perfect every single night, but I am sleeping so much better than I have in years. I’ve even managed to sleep through storms. That’s new! Now, even when I go to bed with my mind racing, I can still get to sleep. I want to share these with you, because, like I said, I wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through this, ever. (Sorry, fellow mommas, but these methods work best when you’ve not had that glass of wine.)

1. Melatonin. First of all, ask your doctor or health care provider before starting any supplements, but I use 5mg of melatonin to help me reset my circadian rhythm. We think between grad school and waking babies, it just got out of whack. I only used it once I was finished with my pregnancies and breastfeeding. Start small, like a 3mg dose if you’ve never used it before. Again, see your health care provider first!

2. Use a weighted blanket, a heavy, large DIY rice pack that you can heat up, or anything with weight. The extra weight that you put on your body helps you to feel more secure. I absolutely cannot sleep without something extra across my chest. When it is the summer, and it’s hot out, maybe I’ll just use a pillow to hug, but having the extra weight has worked very well for me. My sister-in-law let me borrow her heated rice pack when we were staying the night at her house, and it worked brilliantly!

3. Write down your worries. If you are laying down for the night and you find yourself starting to worry about anything and everything, get right back up and write them out immediately. Usually you’ll find that either the problems don’t seem so huge when you look at them on paper, or you’ll realize that you can’t actually deal with them that second, but you can easily get to them the next day. I have found that this helps me to relax because I know I have a list of tasks to tackle, and I won’t forget about them.

4. White noise. I know that they say to have a completely silent room, but that actually doesn’t work well for me. It unnerves me to have complete silence, allowing you to hear every creak and pop your house or apartment makes. Maybe I’m odd? I think what happened was learning to fall asleep with my baby’s sleep sheep over the years, and now I have to have some noise. In any case, we have a small fan that we turn on every evening. It helps to keep the air moving, which is so nice, and it gives me the white noise I feel like I need. The other advantage to white noise is that it can give you something else to focus on as you fall asleep, instead of your racing thoughts.

5. Mindfulness and imagery. I use a few techniques here. One is to breathe in slowly while thinking of the word “in” and breathe out slowly while thinking of the word “out”. This worked for me for a long time. When I begin meditating, I’ll often use this to help me get fully relaxed. Another technique that I learned from a friend is to start at your toes and imagine that you are slowly filling up your body with sand. This has been working extremely well lately. I don’t even get past my ankles before I’m out! I imagine that my feet are hollow, and the sparkling sand is very slowly falling from my toes to my heels, filling up my feet. Once your feet are full, move up your leg, allowing your leg to feel quite heavy. I love this trick!

If you are suffering from poor sleep or full-blown insomnia, please know that you are not alone. Not by a long shot! So many of us have been there, and we all wish you the best sleep. There are loads of ideas that might work for you. I also highly recommend seeing your health care provider, too. Sleep is crucial to a healthy life and for being at your best when you are caring for your children or at your job. Do try the above methods and see which work best for you. I use all of them every night, because I absolutely have to. Sweet dreams!

Posted in Parenting

Mommy’s Gotta Study

Math homework. Math tests. Ugh. We’ve all been there. Your child comes home with homework and questions, and you stare at the book, racking your brain trying to make heads and tails from this new way of presenting what otherwise should be a straight-forward math problem. It reminds me of the scene in the Disney movie, The Incredibles 2, where Mr. Incredible is trying to figure out his son’s 3rd grade math. “WHEN DID THEY CHANGE MATH?!?!” (The theater absolutely erupted in laughter with parents who have been there! It was great!) Yep. Brew some coffee. This going to take us a while.

So, it was with my daughter. She bombed her most recent math test. Ouch. Luckily, so did most of her class, and they got the opportunity to do a re-take of the exam because the class average was so low. Whew! (These are very bright kids at an excellent school, so that is saying something.) So, I decided we were going to take it step by step and work some each day until the day of the re-take. Well, then she developed strep throat, was really sick, and that threw my plans into the waste bin. I instantly had to go from teacher-mom to nurse-mom. Yikes, and we had only one full day after her sick day to work before the test. (Ok, don’t panic, I told myself. We can do this.)

While she was resting and fighting off her fever, and after talking through the methods with my husband, I sat myself down and worked problems over and over until I felt comfortable enough to try to teach it to her later. Yes, I sat down to study and work out 6th grade math. Ha! It’s not that I can’t do 6th grade math, but the methods used are a bit different now, and they have to use these newer methods. Sorry, kids, no more 80’s math! You have to relearn everything you were taught.

So, much later in the day, when she started to feel well enough to think about a little math, we started working. The next day (our one full day left), we literally figured the chapter out together — with a lot of rest time in between, of course — and honestly, it turned out to be fun for both of us! I genuinely got super excited when I stumbled upon how to approach a problem, and she was just as excited for me. It was all coming together for us! It was magical, and I’m not overstating it. By the end of the day, she wrote out her own test using numbers from the practice test in the book, and did it all correctly. She was proud of herself and the work we put in, and she felt ready. We had made plenty of mistakes along the way, but we got through it and learned from the mistakes. (I even got in a bit of practicing during her rest times!) This morning we touched on a few things as I was brushing her hair, and I sent her on her way full of confidence. We studied and learned together, and I found it to be a special time of bonding for us, too.

Posted in Health and Fitness, Keeping your sanity

Making Me the Best Me

Why do I workout? Why do I excitedly or begrudgingly take off my comfy pajamas to squeeze into my tight workout clothes? (I do love my fabletics gear, but let’s be honest… ) Why do I turn on my HIIT workout and force my body into doing these crazy, super hard moves for nearly 30 minutes?! Well, I’ll tell you: I love it, and it improves me.

I love the feeling I get when I’m finally finished. That I’m-going-to-die, I-can’t-catch-my-breath, kinda-ouchy I’m-going-to-feel-this-in-the-morning feeling. I love it! If nothing else gets me through my workout, focusing on the positive feelings I’m going to get later, definitely gets me there. I love that it’s improving my phrasing and endurance with practicing and performing. I love that it takes me to my limit, so I know how hard I can push myself. Maybe I can push myself even harder the next day. I love that I have energy to play with my children at the end of the day. I love that little bit of time I can focus on ME and improving myself. (And let’s be honest here, I like to wear little sundresses, so I had better workout!)

Whatever pushes you or encourages you, find it! Use what you learn about your body and your endurance while you workout or run, for example, and apply it to other parts of your life. What I’ve learned from working out is to focus on the end and those endorphins you get when you’re finished, that “runner’s high,” right? It gets me through my 3-mile runs, and it gets me through my crazy-hard HIIT workouts, and I apply this to other tasks that have to be done but that I would rather not do. Focus on the end game and what you are trying to achieve, and allow it to push you to your goal. This is what makes me a better “me” and doing what I want to do. Try it.

Posted in Parenting

Want to Reconnect? Two words: Special Time.

I love special time. It’s time you set aside and devote to one of your children at a time. It’s time just for them, and it makes all the difference. They get to pick the game, activity, you name it, and they get your undivided attention. Wow! That makes them feel so….well….special! They get you, and they don’t have to share for 15 (or whatever you decide) whole minutes. That’s huge for a child!

The benefits of special time are immense. When the child feels like they don’t have to compete for your attention, they just don’t. They get you all to themselves. It fills up their craving to play or just be with you, and kids need this, whether or not they know it or can even articulate it. It gives them a feeling of security by being in your presence, and this carries with them. It helps to build trust and faith in you, too! And when they get to pick the activity, that gives them some positive power. Super cool — a two for one!

I always notice a big difference when I’ve neglected special time. I’m an imperfect human — my day gets away from me, we’re rushing around with sports practices, laundry needs to get finished because they need their uniforms washed, you name it! We’ve all been there. What happens when I’ve let special time slide? Behavior problems start to come up again. I’ve not given my child that positive attention that he craves, and so he acts out to get it. It happens every time. The nice thing about this is that it’s fixable. Every time. So, don’t give up! Fill your child up with quality special time every day, and be consistent. I always see a change for the good! I’m looking forward to some fun after dinner this evening!