5 Secrets for a Happier 1st Year of Motherhood

Little M just turned 10 months, and as her 1st birthday approaches, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the past several months and my introduction to motherhood. Things are much easier now. That anxiety around doing things “right,” not irrevocably screwing up this tiny creature in my charge — stressing over her sleep and how much she’s eating, over which cup to get her that will promote development and not give her speech issues or expose her to dreaded mold — all these fears seem a distant memory.  I finally feel like I know what I’m doing, like I’ve got this motherhood thing down.  I know full well that this feeling is temporary; that as we barrel towards toddlerhood, we’ll be met with a whole new set of anxieties and uncertainties.  But for now, I’m enjoying this calm and confidence.  I am so in love with this creature and with being a mom, and can honestly say that this past 10 months have been among the most fun and fulfilling times of my life.

I know that my experience isn’t shared by all moms. And certainly the cultural narrative of what motherhood looks like in the first year does not support my cause. We are bombarded with images of harried new moms, living in yoga pants and a messy bun, covered in spit up, with a screaming baby in one hand, and a rapidly cooling cup of coffee in the other.  It can be so easy to succumb to this vision of motherhood, and resign oneself to the notion that this is just what life will be life for a year (or more).

The converse seems to be completely unattainable.  The Instagram visions of skinny moms with perfect hair and makeup, dressed to the nines, with a perfect baby and spotless house, who somehow find time in their day to whip up professional-looking gluten-free, vegan cupcakes and three course dinners, while simultaneously sewing Etsy-worthy patterned onesies with matching hats.  It’s enough to make you feel like a failure before you even get out of bed in the morning.

5 Secrets to Happier Motherhood

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Free webinar: Eat for Less Stress!

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With all the work we do to manage our stress with exercise, yoga, meditation, we’re woefully unaware of the effect that the foods we eat have on our anxiety and overwhelm.  With just a few simple tweaks to your eating, you can make a huge difference in your emotional balance!

Sign up for my free webinar on Eating for Less Stress next week, with an intro by the incomparable Buddhist psychologist and life coach, Vanessa Scotto to learn:

  • What foods actually increase stress, overwhelm, and anxiety
  • What foods create more create more calm, balance, and ease in your day!
  • The 3 most important supplements for feeling your best, physically and emotionally

Sign up at: http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EB54D687814D3C

Amazing Natural Anxiety and Stress Relief

By: Natasha Uspensky

Yes, some stress and anxiety are a natural part of every day life. But how much is too much? How much is “normal”? If your stress and anxiety causes you to:

  • Lose sleep, or experience poor quality sleep
  • Emotionally eat or over eat
  • Turn to drugs, alcohol, or other substances for relief
  • Avoid social gatherings, giving presentations, or other situations that may out you on the spot
  • Experience stress-related health issues like ulcers, IBS, fibromyalgia, adrenal fatigue, weight gain (particularly around your midsection), or chronic inflammation

…then your stress and anxiety are out of hand. This is not something to “just deal with,” ignore, or drown in medication.

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Sweat Outdoors for a Mood-Boosting, Stress-Busting Workout!

by Nkechi Njaka, Msc.

I am not a gym person. I cringe at the very thought of having a membership to sweat indoors. When I have belonged to health clubs, it was more for the hot tub, the sauna and the occasional yoga class (before I discovered studios, and before I was a yogi). But yeah, the gym? Soooo not my thing. Never has been.

As a runner, I’ve always enjoyed my cardio done outdoors. And studies are showing that there is something to that!

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Is Your Food Raising Your Stress Level?

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Did you know that your food choices can have an impact on your stress levels?  I know, it sounds like a stretch, but your diet might be full of foods that are making you feel more stressed out throughout your day.  The foods below create inflammation in your body and cause your whole system to work harder to process it.  This makes you a lot less able to handle the normal stressors that come your way, leading to heightened feelings of overwhelm, overburden, and, yes, stress!   Avoiding these foods is not only going to help lower your stress levels, but it will also improve your overall health, improve sleep and digestion, combat anxiety, and improve your mood!

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9 Natural (and fun!) Ways to Relieve Anxiety

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Your job, your health, your relationships, money, the future, the end of the world… Sometimes it seems like life is filled with an endless stream of things to feel anxious about.  If left unchecked, anxiety can run rampant, taking over your thought processes and making everything feel like a major catastrophe.  This is no way to live!  Life is just too short to spend so much of it worrying.  Plus, not to worry you even more, but the long term effects of anxiety can wreak havoc on your body, your immunity, your digestive system, and even your skin!  So it’s time to take control, and stop letting anxiety rule you.  The best part is, the natural ways to relieve your anxiety that I detail below are FUN… which, in and of itself is a wonderful balm against anxiety! Now before you read this list and start thinking of a million reasons why these remedies won’t help, or don’t apply to you (“I mean, how can having more sex help me feel less anxious about money??”), just take a breath and give them a try.  When you are in a happier and more balanced state, you are much more able to calmly take on life’s challenges without letting the anxiety take over!

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Good vs. Bad Bacteria – How To Maintain Balance In Your Gut

By: Stephanie Heino

The human body plays host to a number of micro-organisms, most of which are our friends.  But we do have some that create imbalances which show up in your overall health. Our colon has the largest microbial community in the body, and this is where the micro-organisms live. In this part of the body, the bacterial population usually doubles once or twice a day. Many of these bacteria are, of course, also eliminated during the course of the day, so that a healthy balance is maintained. Under normal circumstances, the microbial community in the colon – which includes more than 300 different species of micro-organisms – regulates itself. These micro-organisms normally prevent infection and growth of “bad” bacteria (parasites like Salmonella and clostridia, for instance), and have a positive effect on nutrition.

However, the intestinal flora of the colon can very easily be disturbed. This may change the balance of normal micro-organisms in the colon greatly. Several factors, like stress, altitude changes, starvation, parasitic organisms, diarrhea, and use of antibiotics, could contribute to such an imbalance.

When the balance is disturbed, one can become susceptible to disease. In these circumstances, boosting the numbers of “good” bacteria present in the gastrointestinal tract can be particularly useful. This is where probiotics come into play. Probiotics are microbial foods or supplements that can be used to change or improve the intestinal bacterial balance to boost the health of the host. The most common forms of probiotics include Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. These good guys destroy the overgrowth of toxic bacteria by competing for attachment sites and nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract. Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria also produce organic acids that reduce the intestinal pH and retard the growth of “bad”, acid-sensitive bacteria.

If you are like me, and aren’t a fan of fermented dairy products, there are tons of other forms of fermented foods, such Imageas sauerkraut (white cabbage cut finely, salted and fermented in its own liquid shown in picture) or kimchi, miso (a thick paste made from fermented and processed soy beans) and tempeh (a dish made from split soybeans and water), which are also cultured with Lactobacillus, bifidobacteria, and other forms of beneficial bacteria. However, the potency and number of live organisms in commercial products may vary greatly. And many manufacturers are finding it difficult to overcome technical problems, especially in terms of keeping the micro-organisms alive under unfriendly conditions.

When it comes to intestinal health, we also need to consider prebiotics, which are non-digestible carbohydrates that act as food for probiotics. When probiotics and prebiotics are combined, they form a symbiotic relationship. Prebiotics include foods like dietary fiber that nourish the beneficial micro-organisms in the gut. It is therefore essential to include enough fiber in the diet by eating fruit, vegetables and whole-grains, as well as bananas, onions, garlic, honey and artichokes.

So if you are not a fan of dairy (like me!) make sure to get enough of these foods, or choose a dietary supplement like NOW Dairy-Free Probiotic-10. You don’t necessarily need probiotics to be healthy. However, these microorganisms may help with digestion and offer protection from harmful bacteria, just as the existing “good” bacteria in your body already do.

Probiotics may help to:

  • Treat diarrhea, especially following treatment with certain antibiotics
  • Prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
  • Treat irritable bowel syndrome
  • Reduce bladder cancer recurrence
  • Speed treatment of certain intestinal infections
  • Prevent and treat eczema in children
  • Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu

Make November Your Self-Care Month!

After all the stress of the last few weeks, a lot of my friends and clients have been playing catch up, trying to get life back to normal. In all the hullaballoo of to-do’s and appointments, the first thing to go is almost always self-care. We invariably spend more time on work and the house and running around from thing to thing than on the one factor that will consistently give us the energy, calm, and presence of mind to get it all done! And then of course we wonder why the weight keeps packing on, or why we’re bloated and frazzled and craving all kinds of god awful, crappy foods. This cycle of craziness needs to stop!

This month, I challenge you to make self-care your NUMBER ONE PRIORITY in life. I know, I know, I can hear you already thinking of all your “but’s” — the bills! the kids! your work! Consider this, a frazzled, tired, stressed out you makes a much worse parent, provider, and employee than a happy, balanced you! You OWE it to your family, your friends, your partner and your co-workers to be better, and the only way to accomplish this is to take care of number one.

Below, I’ve compiled some great resources around the blog for you to start sleeping better (and by better, I mean a full 8-9 hours every single night!!), minimizing stress, and simplifying your life. The less clutter you have in your brain and your environment, the better!

I’ll let you in on a little secret… Self-care is not a luxury only afforded to New Jersey housewives, trust fund kids, and actors. It is a fundamental need that all of us have, as vital to our health and longevity as water, and air. No, you won’t immediately drop dead if you haven’t had some down time, a good night’s sleep, and a yoga class, but the effects of consistently skimping on the lifestyle choices that help you feel calm, relaxed and taken care of add up! Stress and consistent lack of sleep have been identified as among the top contributing factors to higher risk of cancer, inflammatory disorders, hormonal imbalance (including infertility!), premature aging, and a slew of other unpleasant things. So if being happier and more balanced isn’t enough motivation for you, hopefully that will be.

So let this month be THE month. The month you get your act together and start taking care of that phenomenal and complicated machine that is your body. Below, post your favorite ways to take care of yourself, and publicly state your goals and intentions for increasing these activities in your life, even if it means cutting out something that isn’t serving you. And as always, please be in touch if I can support you in any way!

Check out:

How to Sleep Better, Naturally!

8 Ways to De-Stress and Simplify Your Life

Less Stress and More Energy Through Breath!

4 Surefire Election Day Stress-Busters

Still in line to vote after an hour and a half wait, I can personally attest to the need for some serious stress relief today! Check out this post I contributed to from The Daily Zeel for some ideas!

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After months of mudslinging politicians urging us to vote this way or that, Election Day is finally here. Off to the polls? Don’t forget to bring along these four surefire tips for relieving voter-related stress.

Yoga: Salute the Sun

If you need to relax after casting your ballot, try working off some of that nervous energy or tension with a simple yoga flow. Zeel Expert and SMARTer Bodies co-founder Melissa Gutierrez suggests something slightly rigorous, like a couple of sun salutations or, if you’re looking for a single pose, warrior 3. After holding the pose (which can create some muscle tension), Melissa recommends topping off the sequence with a few cat-cow poses to find fluidity in your movement and energy in the spine. “This little routine helps to get me to a more relaxed place,” says Melissa. “It forces me to focus and slow my breathing.”

Acupuncture: Point by Point

Endorsed by the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization, acupuncture may be just what you need to battle voting booth-induced anxiety. “There are specific points that help facilitate both an endorphin and serotonin (natural anti-depressants) release in the body,” explains licensed acupuncturist and Zeel Expert Bruce Mandelbaum. “The patient also is evaluated, and points are added to promote balance in the body as well. The treatments are pain-free and very relaxing. Change can often be felt within a half hour.”

Massage: What You Knead

Similar to acupuncture (only without the needles, of course!), massage therapy has the ability to balance hormone levels when your stress goes through the roof. “Massage has been known to reduce cortisol in the body and increase serotonin and dopamine levels,” confirms Zeel Expert Cory Moran, a nationally certified massage therapist. “Massage not only helps the body let go of physical issues but emotional and mental issues as well!”

Nutrition: In the Kitchen

“There are lots of foods that have a wonderful stress and anxiety-busting effect on the body and mind,” says Zeel Expert Natasha Uspensky. “In general, opting for grounding foods like whole grains, beans and root vegetables is great for staying calm, focused and firmly rooted. Foods rich in healthy fats like avocados, almonds or pistachios and omega-3′s like salmon and walnuts are also amazing for reversing the effects of stress. The combination of fat and vitamins B and E in these foods can have an almost immediate effect on a stressed out mind. They are also super stabilizing for blood sugar levels, which can be a major contributor to freak-outs when it gets low.”

In addition, Natasha touts the benefits of foods that are high in magnesium, like spinach and other leafy greens. Magnesium’s relaxing effect on the body and mind can “do wonders,” she explains.

Natasha adds: “A perfect stress-busting meal plan for a crazy day could be a bowl of grounding, fiber-rich oatmeal with some sliced bananas and a handful of nuts for breakfast; quinoa with roasted root veggies and salmon for lunch; and a creamy, calming tomato-avocado soup with rye toast for dinner.” On another note, she also cautions against raw veggies (“which although super energizing and creativity-boosting, can be too light and spacey for a stressful day”), coffee (“which can increase anxiety and trigger higher stress levels”) and sugar (“which can also increase anxiety, and lead to a blood-sugar crash later in the day”).