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I'm not going to lie, as I write this, I'm fighting back tears and fighting with every ounce in me to cultivate more optimism to carry me through this transitional time. A lot of you know I had been planning a “maternity leave” for quite a while. I had all my content planned out through April for both the blog and podcast, and felt great about things. Well, a lot of you also know that my husband has been starting a company for the last year, and unfortunately, funding hasn't gone as planned. In the past, I've said it always takes twice as long to get funding for a new venture than you think… and welp, that's exactly what's happening here, and then some. We really thought his company would be funded by December or January at the latest. However, we are now in March with far too many investors having fallen through at the last-minute. And my maternity leave? Well let's just say that went out the window since we've been living off my income since July.
Oh and if all of that isn't exciting enough, aside from having our daughter in January, we also bought a house that we are closed on this week. Oh and let's not forget the compounding family drama (catch up on that in this podcast episode). So let's just say, when it rains, it pours around here.
Expectations vs. Reality
Again, I know there is a lot to celebrate; but as I write this I'm fighting back tears trying not to crumble under the weight of the pressure I'm feeling. This was supposed to be a time where I could focus on becoming a mother. A time where I could finally get a break from my 16 hour days. A time where I'd be sleep deprived but instead of working during nap time, could nap myself. A time where I could ignore all the ridiculous work emails and one week deadlines. A time where I had laid the boundaries to avoid family drama, and could rejoice in the space I'd created with said boundaries.
As if the emotional and mental weight wasn't enough, my physical health has been taking a toll too. The other week I was fighting off getting sick because I've become so run down. In baby's first month, I've fought two stye's in my eye, a sore throat that's lasted two weeks, sleep deprivation, and a blocked duct in my breast. I've honestly been so tired and exhausted that I can't even think of the words a lot of the time. Now as I write this, I've fully blown past blinking back the tears to full on crying thinking about everything I'm currently going through.
But alas, here we are. Expectation has certainly not been reality. Nor has the external projection of my life, matched up to the internal struggle I've actually been facing. Sure, I ask for help but at the end of the day, no one can run my business or produce my content other than me. No one can breastfeed my daughter other than me. And those two things alone take up over 12 hours of my day alone. And the other 12? Well that's a mix of trying to get baby girl to nap (she isn't a fan of daytime naps, which leads to an overtired cranky baby so we have to work at getting her to nap), me trying to sleep in between feedings and emails, soothing baby girl and actually enjoying her and bonding with her so I don't become resentful that I'm just a milk factory, making sure I eat and shower, changing diapers, laundry, and trying to recharge as best I can.
So how am I not totally losing my mind? Where's the pep talk in this?
Research shows that choosing optimism can be a catalyst to better physical, emotional and even financial health, and since I need help in all these categories right now, I'm choosing optimism. I'm choosing to find hope and confidence about both my present, and my future. I know the weight of my current challenges are only temporary so I'm choosing to shift my focus and mindset each day through the following practices.
Daily practices to cultivate optimism as a new mom:
Staying connected to nature
The first couple of weeks home with our daughter were the roughest. While my delivery was really easy, and I felt like superwoman for about a week afterwards, I accidentally overdid things physically. We live on three-stories and I love going for long walks (before having our daughter I'd walk around 5 miles a day give or take). So one week postpartum I found myself at my midwife's office after I almost fainted the day before and thought something was wrong. Fortunately, there wasn't. I was just over doing things. I had to stay on bed rest for a couple of days to let things heal. But after a week of only being in our house (we don't have an outdoor area and live on a major road so we don't open the windows thanks to the fumes), I started losing my mind.
I needed to get outside.
I needed to smell the ocean air. I needed to feel the wind on my face. So at just under two weeks old we brought our daughter to the beach for the first time in the evening so no sun would get on her and I finally started to feel like myself again. Since then, every week we make it a priority to get to the beach at least once. Now, one month postpartum, I walk for about 2 miles a day again. I soak in the less humid South Florida days and the wind on my face and know that everything is going to be okay.
Leaning on friends
It's easy to fall into an isolated black hole when you're struggling; at least it is for me. But I've found that it helps when you get out of your head and lean on friends. Each week I try to connect with my friends. I'm fortunate to have a group of friends who all had babies within a few weeks of me, so DMing or texting with them about what's going on has been a huge help. I also talk with my best friend on the phone or FaceTime which keeps me connected to life outside of mommy-hood every week. And I even went and met a podcast listener for tea the other week which really helped fill my cup up.
Leaning on friends who are going through a similar stage, staying connected to those at different stages, and also meeting new friends allows me to stay optimistic about life. It gives me confidence that I am still me and the weight I'm feeling right now is only temporary. Plus, where focus goes, energy flows; sometimes the best medicine is just getting out of your head and shifting your focus onto the positive relationships in your life.
Taking care of my hygiene
Over the years, I've heard so many new moms share how they struggled to even get one shower in each week. So when I became a mom, I decided I was going to make personal hygiene a top priority. Every day I get a shower in, floss, and brush my teeth. I know these may sound like simple little tasks, but when I get to check these things off in my day, it gives me hope and reassurance that I'm doing okay. It's a reminder that, while things could be easier and better, things could also be worse, and I'm filled with gratitude that I can get each of these things done in a day.
Whether it's gratitude over brushing my teeth the day, or for the wind kissing my face, I try to find ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude each day. Michelle Gielan, Positive Psychology Expert, explained how this works in Frost Banks research on optimismFrost Banks research on optimism:
“A plethora of studies show that while genetics and upbringing set the baseline for optimism, it is malleable and can be increased at any age. For example, one study on elderly pessimists found that those who engaged in a simple, two-minute daily positive habit of writing down their gratitudes became significantly more optimistic in just a couple of weeks. Actions that remind the brain our behavior matters in influencing our mood and mindset fuel optimism.”
Each day, I try to mentally acknowledge, or physically write down, a few things I'm grateful for. When I can focus on these things, it's easy to see just how rich my life is. Even though breastfeeding was a big challenge for us the first month that left me in tears and wanting to quit, I am grateful for my breasts as they allow me to feed my daughter. And seeing her milk drunk face after nursing makes the struggle we had in the first month worth it.
Remembering past wins
This is a trick I learned back in my counselor days. I ask myself, “when have I overcome this situation, or a similar one, in the past?” When I reflect on that, I realized just how capable I am. Especially as far as us living on one income goes. I know we are more than fine financially. The truth is, I still could've taken my maternity leave and we would've been more than okay financially. By January this year, I had already invoiced for half of what I made last year. Moreover, both my husband and I are entrepreneurs, so we have a years worth of living expenses in an emergency fund for exactly our current situation.
The financial “stress” I've been feeling has more to do with mourning an expectation I had placed, rather than my reality. I'm grateful that both my partner and I took the time to learn from our financial mistakes and learn how to manage finances, overcome financial setbacks, save money and keep healthy bank accounts, and we can easily decrease our spending based on our current situation. Feeling confident in myself, my habits, my choices, allows me to lean on my mindset which, despite wanting to cry when I started this post, reminds me just how optimistic my present and future really are. FUN FACT: Frost Bank found that optimists are 7x as likely to experience more financial health than pessimists! So just know, that by cultivating optimism in your life, it can have a ripple effect, even if you are feeling financially stressed right now.
Give yourself a pep talk
Another useful technique I learned back when I was studying mental health counseling, ask yourself, “what would I tell a friend or a child going through the same situation?” I wrote this post, as a pep talk for myself. I needed to shift my focus from all my “problems” or “heaviness” to celebrating my wins and recognizing just how well I'm doing. As I finished that last section, I realized I was no longer crying, nor suppressing the tears.
I realize I actually am really proud of myself and how far I've come in this last month. Sure there have been tears and wanting to hide, but then I realize I'm doing okay. No scratch that, I'm doing more than okay, I'm doing great! I'm becoming a mom, while buying my first home, while running a business, being a wife, taking care of myself, and am the primary bread winner in our house. After giving birth, I felt like superwoman. I felt like I could do anything. Then the hormones hit me pretty hard around one week postpartum and I felt like I couldn't function. But now I look back, and realize I'm still that superwoman. I can do anything I put my mind too – and I can ask for help whenever I need it (because, shoutout to all the people who helped us the first month with cooking, we ate damn well, and didn't need to cook our first meal until four weeks postpartum!).
It's time to celebrate YOU!
Remember, we often give our friends or kids bigger pep talks than we give ourselves. We see their wins so much more clearly than they do when they're struggling. It's time to use that clarity on yourself. Recognize just how well you're doing, and believe it. Don't fight it. Don't play victim in your own life. Celebrate the fact that you washed your hands, or brushed your teeth, or even put on a fresh shirt today! Those are all accomplishments AND gifts (not everyone has access to clean water or clothes on their back). You'll quickly realize just how well you're really doing and give yourself the space to feel peace and optimism.Recognize just how well you're doing, and believe it. Don't fight it. Don't play victim in your own life.Click To TweetCelebrate the fact that you washed your hands, or brushed your teeth, or even put on a fresh shirt today! Those are all accomplishments AND gifts (not everyone has access to clean water or clothes on their back).Click To Tweet
How are you cultivating optimism in your life? How has optimism gotten you through a tough time?
If you're looking for more ways to cultivate optimism in your life, you can sign up for Frost Bank's 30 Day Optimism Challenge here!
I'd love to hear in the comments!
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