Self-Care: Cornerstone of Health and Healing

May 17, 2021

One of my biggest struggles as a mother has been recognizing the importance of self-care. I think I have convinced myself over the years that any time not spent on my children or my family was self-indulgent. I put myself way down on the list of priorities and that can contribute to mental health issues. During our last visit, my postpartum-therapist asked me to do something that makes me happy over the weekend. To be honest, I had a hard time recalling anything that made me happy other than things I do for my children. My daughter likes to read, my oldest son loves archery and my youngest just wants to nurse. I couldn’t remember the last time I did something because it made ME happy, and a mother should never feel guilty about trying to make herself happy from time to time.
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I told my therapist that I liked to garden and I love growing flowers. Today I practiced a little self-care by enjoying my peony beds and assembling a new toy for my youngest children so that we could spend a little time together outside.

I love flowers and not the fresh cut kind, unless they’re from my own garden. There’s something special about nurturing and caring for a plant until it blooms. Mothers should nurture and care for their children in the same fashion, but we should also remember to care for ourselves. I have two large peony beds that my husband and I have planted throughout the years, we started them on Mother’s Day shortly after we finished the house. I also have assorted varieties of hydrangeas, roses and petunias, plus a sweet little magnolia tree. It has made me happy to plant each of them and watch them grow.
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Gardening is definitely a form of self-care for me.

My personal forms of self-care are:

  • Writing (nothing that I’m forced to write and I struggle with prompted pieces)
  • Gardening
  • Photography
  • Cooking (when it’s something new and fun, and I’m not in a rush)
  • Reading
  • Watching birds and nature (my husband built me a bird feeder)
  • Mediate on my relationship with God

I started to create a list of possible self-care activities, but the point of self-care is that it’s enjoyable to the individual. The things that make me happy might not make you happy. I don’t enjoy fixing my hair, painting my nails or experimenting with makeup, like I know lots of other women might. I don’t read romance novels and I hate reality TV. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with those, but my point is that self-care is all about caring for your needs as an individual.
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It shouldn’t be anything that causes you stress. I actually stopped taking photos for a while because I stressed myself out trying to make them perfect and it was anything short of relaxing. All of the photos on this post were taken with my iPhone and they were stress-free. I will cherish them just as much.

What do you like to do for self-care? Any suggestions for not readily thought of self-care activities?

It Gets Darkest At Night

May 16, 2021

I sat in my recliner to go to sleep in usual fashion, but it rarely came quickly. I had managed to hide from everyone that I slept in my leather recliner holding my infant son every night. It wasn’t anything new; I had done the same with my daughter. It was a weird routine and anything short of “normal”. I had two pillows under my legs, a boppy pillow under my arms, a travel pillow around my neck and a blanket across me. I would put his Owlet sock on for good measure, even knowing the false alarms would send me into a panic. He liked to be held while he slept and it made it easier to nurse him. I was horrendously embarrassed that anxiety had taken such a hold of me. I had convinced myself that a vengeful God might steal him from me in his sleep; I feared I would have to pay penance for sins from my past.

In my mind at the time, I had a very vengeful God. He had dealt me a lifetime of suffering and heartbreak:

I had found my great grandmother dangling over her bed after a stroke.

My brother had been killed by my stepfather.

I suffered a hemorrhage following the birth of my oldest, and every birth after him.

In my mind, God and I had been at odds for a while.

Sometimes I’d lie awake at night watching Whittaker breathe, just as I had done with my other two children. This time the night seemed to get darker for me and I wasn’t prepared for how dark it would eventually get.

I’m not sure when the real “darkness” started to set in; it seemed to creep in quietly. I heard noises outside that would jolt me awake; sometimes I recognized them. It was a dog barking across the road, the sound of a radio, the steady hum of a car engine, the light or noise from a cellphone or something falling over in our yard. Things I would later learn were likely hallucinations.

Other times I was awoken by the heat. I originally thought my hormones were fluctuating or it was the additional body heat from the tiny boy laying in my arms. I had tried to adjust the thermostat but that didn’t seem to work and I even had my husband replace the digital one; I thought it was malfunctioning. Or maybe it was because my entire family slept in one room? This was largely due to my anxiety too. Our master bedroom consists of a king and queen size bed, and my recliner. The queen size bed was added when I felt guilty over my 11 year old sleeping on a cot. Don’t misunderstand–he had his own queen size bed in his own room, but he slept in my bedroom to ease both of our minds. What if there was a fire or someone broke in? What if he walked in his sleep and went outside? In my mind, anything bad could happen. And to be fair, he has a history of sleepwalking and sleep-talking.

And then I saw the light. No, not the spiritual light you might be thinking I would find at the end of this story. This was a real light–or at least it was real to me. Did someone have a flashlight outside the bathroom window? “Jeremy wake up! What was that?” I whispered. I couldn’t exactly run to the bathroom window with a sleeping baby in my arms. When he or I finally got to the window it had vanished. Who was out there and what did I see? Was someone trying to break into our house, or maybe the garage? It hadn’t been that long since I saw our strange, shirtless neighbor in our driveway. I had convinced myself he was high on meth and casing our house or trying to steal our mail. He had pretended to jog and air box as I photographed him from an upstairs window.

Maybe it was him?

The light came again the next night. And the next night. It was always just a flash and only in the same bathroom window facing my recliner.
Who was out there?
Why did they keep coming back?
I’d try to wake Jeremy but by the time I had gotten him up, it was always gone.
I was afraid to sleep, but being awake was equally painful.
Once I saw the light it was impossible to get back to sleep, unless I finally fell into exhaustion.

Eventually, I didn’t need the noises or the heat to awaken me, I couldn’t fall asleep. Would the light appear again?
And it always came.

Night after night.

I eventually stopped sleeping. Most “new” moms lose sleep, but this was on a grandiose scale. I was lucky if I got 2-3 hours a night. The torment from the light and noise had made it impossible to sleep, I was always on alert, just waiting to see it.

The thought consumed me.

Who was tormenting me? I didn’t understand it. I live a rather secluded life. Our home is on a farm. My life consisted of trips to archery tournaments, practices and Cub Scouts. I rarely leave the house and most of my day revolved around convincing my 3.5 year old to brush her teeth, practicing archery with my 11 year old or nursing my then 6.5 month old from daylight until past dark.

I even put a note on my phone for the “light” to find.

“Y’all are going to cause me to have a nervous breakdown.  I’m not sure if I’m making things up in my mind or they’re real anymore. My PTSD symptoms are through the roof. I haven’t slept in 3 days. What exactly do you think I’ve done or capable of? …“

I kept asking myself and eventually started asking other people, who or what was out there?

I told my friend, it had to be the devil himself.

I had been driven to the brink of madness.

Or was I already there?

My 3 children and I, May 2021

An article in Frontiers in Psychology stated that severe sleep loss can cause sensory issues including hallucinations and delusions, and extreme sleep loss can even result in death. There are several studies that suggest sleep loss can largely contribute to postpartum psychosis and is often a primary complaint for postpartum mothers.

This is just a small piece to my story of having Postpartum Psychosis. It’s the only part that I’m comfortable sharing so far. In the weeks following my experience, I would contemplate taking my own life. I told everyone that some outside force was compelling me to do it. I knew about postpartum anxiety and depression, but I didn’t know that postpartum psychosis was a recognized condition. I hope that the pieces of my story might help some other new mom or someone in her life to recognize the symptoms and seek help. Postpartum psychosis isn’t readily diagnosed and finding treatment can be even harder. There are lots of resources available through Postpartum Support International. The United States have some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the industrialized World and this needs to change.

If you or a loved one is struggling with postpartum issues such as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder or psychosis, please know that you are not alone. There are resources available and people who can help you find the help that you need. I will always be here with an ear to listen or to help you find providers in your area.

10 Easy Ways To Give This Holiday Season

December 6, 2017

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #bebetterbygiving #CollectiveBias

It’s fun to receive gifts during the holidays, but it’s also fun to give to others. Several years ago after the tragic loss of my brother, I started to volunteer more to help pass the time and heal my heart. His birthday was December 15, so the holidays were especially hard. Every year since I can’t celebrate with him, my son and I celebrate in our own way. There are lots of easy ways to give this holiday season and many of those can be inexpensive gifts. I’ve compiled a list of easy ways to give this holiday season with the help of my sponsor b+b® so that you can help make someone’s holiday season be a little merrier.

10 Easy Ways To Give This Holiday Season

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Do You Need A Doctor On Demand?

May 9, 2016
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This post was sponsored by Doctor On Demand as part of a Blog Blast Activation for Influence Central.

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Getting my #MorningWin with Oikos and belVita

April 29, 2014

I have partnered with belVita and Dannon to help promote the belVita and Dannon 
partnership. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program, which 
includes writing about the promotion and product. However, my opinions are entirely my 
own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments. 

When I was in high school and occasionally even as a college student, my grandmother would make breakfast every morning. It was generally something I could carry on my way to school or work. Wasn’t it great to be a kid?

Life as a single mom is hectic. On a good day, I remember to grab something while I am walking out the door, and usually I just skip breakfast altogether. I have a toddler to get ready for school every morning, and I tote around several bags for work. It is easy to forget breakfast, and this just reinforces my bad eating habits.

Reporter/Photojournalist essentials laptop bag, camera bag, and my purse.

Implementing a healthy breakfast routine was part of a series of lifestyle changes that I chose to make. I wanted a breakfast that tastes good, but also has a sufficient amount of protein and fiber. Crunchy belVita Breakfast Biscuits and Dannon® Oikos®* Greek Nonfat Yogurt made it easier for me to change my bad habits. On hectic mornings, I put the yogurt and biscuits in my bag to eat at work. 

Occasionally, I get to enjoy my breakfast lounging on the front porch.  

Crunchy belVita Breakfast Biscuits are available in five delicious flavors which are Blueberry, Golden Oat, Cinnamon Brown Sugar, Chocolate and Apple Cinnamon. The biscuits are a good source of energy to start your morning moving forward. 
One individual pack contains 4 biscuits:
  • 3 grams of dietary fiber
  • 19 grams of whole grain

Dannon® Oikos®* Greek Nonfat Yogurt is available in a large selection of flavors, and has nearly twice the protein as regular low fat yogurt. 
  • 12 grams of protein per 5.3 ounces. 
  • 80 to 130 calories per 5.3 ounces. 
You can pair the two with a serving of fresh fruit for an easy, delicious, and healthy breakfast. 

The Productivity Pro, Laura Stack has a few tips that will help you get organized and score a  #MorningWin. 

  • The secret to a smooth, sane morning is doing as much as you can the night before. Leave as little preparation as possible until the last minute – you’ll thank yourself in the morning. 
  • Spend twenty minutes at the end of each day planning your to-do list. When you download the next day’s activities beforehand, you can devote your morning to enjoyment rather than stress. 
  • Be sure to start your morning with a delicious, balanced breakfast. Together, the nutritious steady energy of belVita and 12 grams of protein in Dannon Oikos Greek nonfat yogurt along with a piece of fruit will help you get more out of your morning. 
For more information check out belVita and Oikos on social media. 
Do you have a morning breakfast routine? 
Do you have any tips to help others get a #MorningWin? 

New Year’s Resolutions: I Failed Miserably

April 16, 2014

It is hard for me to admit that I failed miserably at anything, but I have failed at keeping my New Year’s Resolutions this year. I wrote a public letter to myself (found here), in hopes that it would improve my chances of keeping my Resolutions.

I think my failure was a direct result of several things, diet “burn out” from the last few years of heavy dieting and very strenuous exercise, and stress. Looking back, I don’t think I even needed to take part in strenuous exercise to help me lead a healthier lifestyle. I probably should have listened to my friends when they told me to take up yoga for beginners instead. It would’ve given me the same sort of benefits, whilst having a relaxed mind at the same time. If I did this, I probably would’ve been able to have kept my New Year’s Resolutions. I have had a few friends say that taking a relaxed view towards their resolutions have helped them, but they have used such support as THC to calm their minds when they feel overloaded. Knowing where to find legal THC products near you doesn’t have to be difficult, especially if you want to make sure you are getting the best quality. It may be something I should check out too, heaven knows we all need to have some relaxation.

When on the hunt for some THC to relax however, it’s good to be really aware of what you are consuming. Since cannabis has a huge market now, it’s really easy to fall prey to scams and end up buying reggie weed instead of high quality cannabis. Although cannabis can be a great way to relax after a long day, it’s good to be mindful of what you put inside your body. Well, enough digression, let’s go back to what I actually wanted to talk about.

I did keep a few of my resolutions.

  • I did manage to find someone to edit my posts, one of the many advantages of having a Professor as a fiance.
  • I also turned off the television more, and that resulted in more “Mommy and Me” reading time for Gabe and I. I love that he chooses to read with me 30 minutes before bed instead of watching cartoons.

I realized that I really suck at a few things.

  • I don’t treat my body that way I should
  • I constantly criticize my body, and refer to myself as “fat”.

I procrastinate when it comes to my dieting and exercise routine. The worst advice you can give yourself is, “I’ll start my diet tomorrow, or I can squeeze in a few extra minutes of exercise tomorrow.” Why wait for tomorrow when you should start today? In reality, these shouldn’t be daily decisions, I should make long-term lifestyle choices.

My biggest vice is stress eating. It s a cycle of stress, comfort eating, guilt, and then stress eating again. It is a coping mechanism for me. It is a very unhealthy pattern, and I am working hard to control it. I have been reccommended weight lifting as a way of distracting myself from this cycle and will probably look at or similar for some more information. If it works for other people, it might work for me.

Last night, instead of reaching for a chocolate bar I had a bowl of sliced strawberries and raspberries.

This morning, I had a bowl of oatmeal made with skim milk and fruit.

Today’s lunch will be a mint chocolate Zone Perfect bar and a cup of greek yogurt.

Here are a few suggestions for making healthier eating choices:
Two of my favorite snack or meal replacement options are:

I am going to change my New Year’s Resolutions to Lifestyle Resolutions. I am going to make a promise to myself that I will make healthier lifestyle choices.

I have created a Pinterest board with lots of healthy eating ideas and recipes.

Visit Jessica Urgelles’ profile on Pinterest.

Zone Perfect bars are a great way to establish healthier eating habits by adding low calorie protein and fibers sources to your diet.

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Don’t wait until New Year’s to make resolutions, you can make lifestyle resolutions anytime.

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? Did you keep them? If so, how did you keep yourself on track? If you didn’t, what was your biggest barrier to success. I would love to hear about changes that you have made or plan to make.

Disclaimer: I was selected to participate in the Blog Forward Challenge. I received complimentary product and ZonePerfect promotional items for my participation, but all opinions shared with readers are entirely my own.

Happy Wisdom-filled Wednesday,