parenting · self-care

What Makes You Feel Like Yourself?

It can be hard to feel like yourself when you are busily parenting all day every day.

You are always YOU. Yet there are different versions of you. Mommy Kerriann doesn’t do all the same things that Just Plain Kerriann does. She doesn’t always like all the same things.

For example – Mommy Kerriann loves the beach, but might opt out of a beach trip under certain circumstances. Mommy Kerriann might decide that the amount of preparation and gear and attentiveness involved with bringing a baby and a pre-schooler to the beach might fall into the category of Not Worth It.

But, Just Plain Kerriann? That girl will NEVER EVER EVER pass up a beach trip. It won’t happen. A spontaneous beach trip that makes no logical sense in the grand scheme of life is one of the things that makes her Just Plain Kerriann.

I often reference one of my favorite podcasts, The Girl Next Door, in my blogging. One of the co-hosts of The Girl Next Door, Erica Ladd, sometimes mentions the times she asked herself this question as an overwhelmed new parent: What makes me feel like myself? 

I love this question. It forces you to think back to B.P. – Before Parenthood. What were you like? What were the things that made you who you are? I think a lot about the kind of mom I want to be, but I sometimes forget what makes me feel like Just Plain Kerriann. I have to squeeze my eyes shut and remember – when I was in college, when I was doing AmeriCorps, when I worked at an outdoor ed center – those times in my life when I felt very Kerriann – what specifically was it that made me feel like me?

  1. I feel like myself when I get to spend time at a coffee shop all by myself with my journal, a book, and my laptop.
  2. I feel like myself when I am wandering around a used bookstore.
  3. I feel like myself when I am being silly, playful, and creative. Like when I make up funny and nonsensical stories to make Edgar or Tamara laugh out loud. Or when I turned Edgar’s bedtime routine into a treasure hunt. (The treasure was a library book we’d read 30 times already, but he didn’t seem to mind.)
  4. I feel like myself when I’m reading a really great book, one that I have trouble putting down and want to prop up and read while I eat my breakfast or read frantically while I’m stopped at a stoplight.
  5. I feel like myself when I blow dry my hair. Like, all the way blow dry it so that it feels and looks healthy.
  6. I feel like myself when I spend time with an old friend.
  7. I feel like myself when I have energy! For me to feel energetic, this usually means I’m running regularly and eating well.

This list is a work in progress, as are most of my lists! I hope to add to it whenever I discover something else that makes me feel like Just Plain Kerriann.

What makes YOU feel like Just Plain You – not Mommy/Daddy You or Work You?

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Who I am as a mother is also who I am as an individual.

 

self-care · writing

Knowing When To Take A Break

When I sit down to draft my Monthly Goals post, I rarely know what I’m going to write. Drafting the blog post helps me to consider what I want to focus on and make decisions about what priorities to set. One of the greatest gifts I’ve gotten from the blogging life is this space where I can explore my goals and priorities in the way that’s most helpful to me: writing it out on a blank page.

It was mid-August when I sat down to write out my goals for September, and the first thing I considered was my writing. That, all by itself, is an achievement. For the past year, I have truly made writing a priority. I no longer need to remind myself that I want to post on the blog twice weekly; the habit is firmly ingrained. (Pay no attention to my accidental beach vacation hiatus! That was a fluke.)

What I realized when I sat down to write my September goals is: I need to take a break from writing the novel.

I haven’t written nearly as much as I’d hoped to this summer, and that is okay. I am making plans to incorporate novel writing time into my regular routine once the school year starts. But right now, as I transition from staying at home with the boys to working full-time once again – the thing I am most concerned about is maintaining everyday self-care, establishing good routines, and developing a healthy rhythm for the new year. I want to meditate. I want to plan ahead regarding snacks and meals so that I don’t end up eating Commute Candy whenever I’m stressed out. I want to manage my to-do list so that I don’t have low-level anxiety that’s with me subconsciously all day every day.

None of that has anything to do with writing.

It’s about exercise, diet, meditation, and living in a way that is unhurried and intentional. And I don’t feel I can do that while also feeling the pressure to cram in writing time every morning, evening, and nap time.

I feel really good about this decision. It can be so hard to know when we need to step back from a project or activity. When we take a break, it can feel like we’re quitting or being lazy. BUT WE’RE NOT. Especially when we do it with intention. I get to choose what my number one priority is, every minute of every day.

So I’ll take a break, and I’ll revisit the novel in October or even November. (I hear November is a great month to write a novel!) Stay tuned.

beverage break breakfast brown
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self-care

Everyday Self-Care

All summer long, my self-care has been pretty great.

It’s not perfect – it never is – but I’ve been exercising, eating well, and making time for writing and reading whenever I can.

white ceramic mug filled with brown liquid on heart shaped coffee beans
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It’s so easy during summertime! The weather is gorgeous, the days are long, and there are few demands on my time. Just keep these two children alive and semi-entertained. The best thing is that I don’t have to deal with the drive home at the end of the work day; that’s when I often find myself stopping to pick up an unhealthy snack in a stress-induced haze.

Now, however, the school year has started, and I need to find a way to incorporate self-care into my everyday routine. This is always my weakness when it comes to self-care – the maintenance. I’m great at taking a day off or a weekend to take care of myself; what I need is to develop strategies for maintaining good self-care on a daily basis, so that the stress and chaos of LIFE and OTHER PEOPLE don’t interrupt my commitments to being healthy, intentional, and present.

How do people do this?!?!  My pattern is: excellent self-care, then stress out and crash and burn, then resume good self-care again. I don’t know how to take care of myself and then KEEP taking care of myself indefinitely.

However, I am hopeful. I’m refreshed after a great summer, and I now know that the key for me is developing a plan for self-care that is all day every day no matter what. It’s not about whether or not I go for a run. If I meditate before work and I run after work, but I spend the entire work day getting swept up in chaos and eating unhealthy snacks, then that’s not good self-care. And, let’s be real – when I don’t take care of myself during the work day, there’s almost zero chance that I’m going to actually go running or be a present and playful parent once I get home.

These are my tips for maintaining everyday self-care, which I’m going to test out and report back on midway through the school year:

  1. Plan ahead. Make sure you have healthy food available, at home and at work. Pick out your outfits ahead of time. Think about what’s coming – weekends away, late days at work, meetings at other schools – so that you can plan for it. YOU ARE NOT GOOD AT SELF-CARE ON THE FLY; that’s when you eat trail mix for lunch.
  2. Stretch and move and dance all day long! I don’t always have the time to exercise as often as I want. But I find that it is helpful if I just think of every moment of my day as a time to stretch and utilize energy. Like having dance parties with the boys! That’s not a workout routine but it’s definitely exercise. When I remember to move and stretch throughout the day, it helps me to not sink into a sluggish state, which then helps me to actually prioritize exercise when I really get the chance.
  3. Allow yourself time and space to think before you speak or act.
  4. Keep self-care at the center of your mind, your heart, and your life. 
  5. Keep the Planning Central space clean and clear. There’s a desk in my living room where I like to keep my planner. I think of it as “Planning Central” – it’s the place I can go to when I’m dealing with my to-do list or my schedule. When I keep that space clean and clear, it’s easier for me to feel focused and motivated to stay on track.
  6. Maintain your recovery work. Go to meetings, write your daily gratitude list, do your daily inventory, and stay in touch with your sponsor. When you make these things a priority, the rest of your life (including mental health and daily self-care) seems to magically fall into place.
  7. Do a morning and evening check-in every day. I have a plan for my morning and evening routines that includes doing a little check-in with myself – a time to ask myself, Have you slowed down? Are you being intentional about your choices?
  8. Be RUTHLESS about making sure you have time to slow down and check in with yourself. Don’t let anyone else set your pace. And don’t let yourself get caught up in chaos – yours or anyone else’s.
  9. Whenever you get off track – AND YOU DEFINITELY WILL – just get going again as soon as possible. Without beating yourself up for being human, please and thank you.

I love this plan, and I’m going to check back in on it monthly.

balance · self-care · simplifying · wellness

Summertime

I have always loved the idea of summertime having a different vibe than the rest of the year. I enjoy it when my life feels seasonal – cozy and homey in the winter, active and fun in the spring, adventurous and busy in the summer, and slowing down in the fall.

A few years ago, I remember reading something Gretchen Rubin wrote, about wanting summer to have a different feel. She talked about people who actually live someplace different in the summer – they spend the summer at the beach or in the mountains or abroad. (Which I would love to do someday!) I’ve noticed that some friends achieve a different feel to their summer either by a) enjoying Summer Fridays at their jobs, when everyone is allowed to leave early on Fridays, or b) changing up how and where they spend their weekends, like retreating to a country home or the beach for Saturdays and Sundays.

This year, my summertime will DEFINITELY have a different vibe. This is my first summer off after starting a new job as a school social worker at my local middle school. And I am pumped. Psyched! And also, curious. Because what will it look like, to have the summer free to be home with my boys and to write and to have open, lazy days when we have no requirements for where we have to be and what we have to do?

I don’t know, but I am so excited to find out.

The vibe I want to cultivate for my family is all about rhythm, routine, recreation, and rest. I want to establish an enjoyable and healthy rhythm for our family; I want to create beneficial routines for all of us that we can carry into the next year; I want to have FUN and adventures!; and I want us all to have a good rest from the running around we’ve been doing all spring.

I love summer because it is a huge opportunity to press the reset button – to start new habits and to change the rhythm of everyday life. We have had a bonkers year – that post will be coming soon! – and it’s time for us to have a restful, rhythmic, fun-but-not-bonkers summer.  I can’t wait. Which is good because it starts TODAY!

green plants on ground
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balance · self-care

Staying Grounded

The list of things I need to do to feel grounded on a day-to-day basis is long.

I didn’t notice how long the list was until I became a parent with limited time available for self-care.

The things I need to do to feel grounded every day are: read, write, do yoga, go for a run, spend time outdoors, spend time with my family, meditate, and go to a recovery meeting. It was hard to get to everything on the list every day even when I was an adult without kids. Now, it sometimes feels impossible.

Last Saturday, I hit a bit of a wall. I woke up to Jonas’s crying, which is never my plan. I almost always plan to wake up before the boys so I can squeeze in one of my grounding activities before the day gets going. Lately, however, I can’t seem to get myself up and going until it’s absolutely necessary. I’ll hit snooze over and over and over – and I’ve never been a snooze button person! Throughout my life, I have bounced out of bed the first time my alarm sounds, excited to go for a run or write or just get started with my day.

Not these days. I’m exhausted. And I feel trapped, because the strategies I have previously used to unexhaust myself – a weekend away, a mental health day from work, a long run – are much harder to arrange than they used to be.

This past Sunday – the day after I hit my metaphorical wall – I forced myself to wake up at 4 a.m. ON A SUNDAY – a day when there was a chance I’d be able to sleep until the luxurious time of 6:30 a.m. I need sleep, but I decided that what I needed more was an hour to myself in the morning. I hate rolling out of bed and crashing into the day bleary-eyed and half-asleep.

I woke up a few minutes after 4. I sat on my yoga mat and did some mindful breathing and a short body scan. I did six minutes of yoga and stretching. Then I climbed back into bed with my laptop to write. I did this again on Monday and Tuesday. Then on Wednesday and Thursday I found it too exhausting to get myself up that early. On Friday I went for an early morning run, which was a great start to the day. On Saturday, I got myself up before the boys (Tamara goes to market really early on Saturdays), and I squeezed in a few minutes of grounding activities before the boys started to stir. On Sunday, I went for a run early, and then on Monday I was so exhausted from night feedings that I hit the snooze button five times before I finally put my feet on the floor.

It's called balance
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What I’m saying is – it’s hit or miss. Some days, I wake up early and use that first hour of the day to center myself. Some days, I’m wiped and I crash into the day with bleary eyes. And that’s okay. I love when I am able to start my day feeling grounded and centered. On the days when that can’t happen, I’m going to practice self-compassion and do my best to incorporate activities throughout my day that will help me to stay grounded. (More on that soon!)

Today I squeezed in a quick run, a few mindful moments, and a little writing time before the boys woke up. I also listened to my mindfulness audiobook, The Mindful Kind, on my way to work. I feel happy and calm and Kerriannish, and that’s a lovely way to start the day.

 

mindfulness · self-care

Thoughts On Mindfulness & Self-Care

I’ve been reading a lovely book about mindfulness. It’s called The Mindful Kind and it’s written by Rachael Kable.

Currently I am reading the chapter on self-care. Which is wonderful, because I continue to a) be obsessed with learning about and talking about self-care, and b) suck at actually doing self-care myself.

One thing the author talks about is her previous practice of saving all her self-care for weekends and holidays. I thought about it for a long time, and I realized that I do the same thing. I will elaborately plan out my snow days or my vacation weeks with self-care activities, but on regular work days, I pay little or no attention to my daily self-care. No wonder I am burned out by Friday afternoon!

I wrote about my adult coping skills in a February 2019 post. I didn’t love my list. The healthiest and most reliable coping skill for me was to write. Utilizing writing as a coping skill is talked about a lot in The Mindful Kind. It’s actually mentioned as a therapeutic way to transition from work to home – and that’s how I’m using it at this exact moment. Right now, as I type this, it’s the end of a work day, and I’m in my office at my job. I am feeling squirrely – antsy and overwhelmed. I’m excited to go home, but my afternoons are tricky. I often make unhealthy snacking choices and end up feeling lethargic and cranky until I’m able to crash into bed at the end of the day. (SEE? My weekday self-care sucks!)

These are my ideas for everyday self-care:

  • Eat healthy food, all day every day. (THIS ONE IS SO HARD LATELY.)
  • MOVE all day long! (My current job is more sedentary than I’d like. I am encouraging myself to stretch and jump and dance and walk whenever I get the chance. Little dance parties with Edgar and Jonas are helping!)
  • Slow down. (I get so caught up in the pace that is set by others; I have to be intentional about allowing myself to speak slowly, take my time, and not rush from activity to activity mindlessly.)
  • Take mini breaks to write when you start to feel out of sorts.
  • Spend time outdoors. (I’d always rather be outside, but sometimes the need to clean the house means I’m inside cleaning while Edgar plays in the yard. That’s okay, but it’s better self-care for me to be outdoors.)

I’m going to write more about everyday self-care soon; the Mindful Kind book is really helping me to think about this topic, and there will be more to say! Stay tuned.

chair scenery summer abandon
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self-care · writing

Write What You Need To Read

When I write blog posts, I write what I need to read.

This is even more true when I’m as tired and time-strapped as I am lately. The more tired I am, the more personal and frank my writing is. I basically sit down on the couch, plop my laptop onto my knees, and write about what I need to read. That’s what it’s all about, I guess. I think that writers write about what they need to think about and read about.

And right now, what I need to read about and think about is how to make time for writing and exercise. (WARNING: this may be one of those rambling posts that really belongs in my journal but ends up here instead. Apologies in advance.)

Things are SLIGHTLY better in our house with regard to Baby J.J.’s sleeping. Last night, he slept for five hours in a row, which was a record. (WOO HOO!)

I’d really like to take time to think about when and how I can start increase the amount of exercise I get every day. I’m noticing that my twice weekly runs – Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon – aren’t really getting me where I want to be vis a vis strength, endurance, and cardio. I’ve been encouraging myself to run faster when I do run, and that is helpful. (If you can only run for 20 minutes, you need to SPRINT – is what I’ve been telling myself!)

The key for me is the mornings. If I can get it together to wake up at 4:30 a.m., there’s a decent chance I can squeeze in yoga and writing before the boys wake up. I woke up at 4:50 a.m. today and had time for three minutes of yoga and about 20 minutes of writing. That’s not bad, especially for a writer who’s also a mommy with two kids under three; we have to be pretty economical with our writing time. (The three minutes of yoga was more about me being exhausted than me being short on time! Even three down dogs is exhausting when you haven’t been yoga-ing for a while.)

I am wondering if I should alter my Monthly Writing Goals post so that it includes goals related to exercise or wellness, too – at least for May 2019. I’m not an Upholder a la Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies framework, so I don’t know if it will be helpful for me. But it’s worth a try!

Anyway – here are the things I need to read today:

1. There is enough time to do everything you want and need to do.

2. Enjoy this moment in life. Don’t spend this moment worrying about when you’ll have time to do other things. Someday, you will miss this moment – when your kids are tiny and life is sweet and simple – more than you can imagine.

3. You can exercise. It may not look the way you want it to right now, but you can incorporate exercise throughout your day. 

4. WAKE UP EARLY. You don’t need that extra hour of sleep; you’re exhausted anyway! 

Maybe this is what someone else needs to read as well. I hope it is!

ballpen blank desk journal
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