Monday Mindset – The one habit that transformed motherhood

If I were to look back and try to pinpoint what set in motion all my mindset and habit changes over the last four years, one thing in particular stands out. Waking up ahead of my kids… This ability to safeguard a little bit of time for myself at the beginning of each day without a doubt transformed my motherhood.

When I started waking up early I was pregnant with Johnathan, Will had dropped down to one nap a day. Suddenly I was scrambling for time to get things done, uninterrupted. My day would start with fussing and crying and I would instantly feel behind. I had started my coaching business, and my to-do lists were long. I was feeling frustrated, short tempered and was quickly realizing I needed to change something. I started small, just 15 minutes ahead of when Wills sound machine would click off. I’d take a few minutes to wake up, maybe jot down a plan for the day, wash my face in silence, sit and pet Juno. This quickly increased to me waking up 30 min early so I could get my workout done first thing. An amazing thing happens when you start giving your body and your mind this space. You begin to CRAVE this silence, this peace. I pretty quickly noticed a shift. Mornings where I didn’t get up early felt tense, I was easily thrown into a bad mood, I was on edge. Mornings where I gave myself a few minutes to wake up allowed for a sense of calm and the ability to handle whatever came at me!

Now I know what you’re thinking “there’s no way I could wake up any earlier than I have to”, stick with me here. I want to be clear, I was never a morning person. I love to sleep in. My former nightshift self relished in getting to sleep until 5pm. However, for the season of life I’m in, with young children, sleeping in is not only unattainable but also not functional or efficient for my life. In this season, when my kids are at home the majority of the day and still need me for many things, I need to front-load my day. When I do this I’m happier, I’m more patient, I’m certainly more productive. I’m able to approach my kids and my family from a place of calm and compassion. Instead of waking to the onslaught of toddler demands, I’m able to exert a little control in how I start my day. If I want to listen to a podcast, if I want to sit in silence and drink coffee, if I want to meditate outside, I can. When I give myself this gift of space and time to wake up, I’m no longer thrown off or upset when I find my two year olds night time diaper malfunctioned or whatever unforeseen event is waiting for me when the rest of the house wakes up. The reality is there are few places throughout your day where you’re able to find some extra time, so giving yourself even a 15 minute cushion of time in the morning allows for you to feel less stressed and more prepared for the day. As mothers we act from a place of servitude, however resentment can rear it’s ugly head when you feel like you’re serving others from the moment your eyes open each day until you fall in bed that night.

** Important caveat here – there are seasons of your life where this is not possible and sleep takes priority, hello newborn bubble. If you are in a season like this, grace. Grace is your biggest friend. Give yourself a big serving of grace, take seconds if you need to, and know that this season will pass **

consider this:

We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic but what it is a profound failure of self respect and of priorities. Then nearly a quarter of us do something else that starts us out on the second wrong foot of the day. We reach for our cell phones within one minute of waking up. Over half of us are checking messages within ten minutes. The majority of people go from out cold to processing mountains of information within minutes every morning. There are only six cars that can go from zero to sixty in under two seconds. Like most cars, humans are not built for that kind of sudden transition, mentally or physically. 

Dan Baker, What Happy People Know

Try this: skip the AM scroll.

Pick a day or two this week to set your alarm 15-20 min early & hold off on immediately scrolling, instead focus on a transition. When we immediately start our days by staring into our prized little rectangles we are giving our energy to other peoples messages, emails, we begin subconsciously comparing and our minds are instantly drawn to things we thing we “should” be doing. When we start our days with high pressure or high stress, we program ourselves to stay in that state the rest of the day and it can be hard to self correct out. By giving ourselves even just a few minutes to transition we can drastically alter the tone of the day.

I’ll share the framework of my morning routine in an upcoming post, but know, it has seen many iterations through the years. And ultimately our needs and circumstances are all different. Some women will want this time to read, to make lists, to workout, to pray or to run their businesses. What works for me in this particular season may not serve you as well. It’s less about how you fill this time and more about creating time that serves YOU. If spending 5 min unloading the dishwasher before everyone is up will make you feel on top of your game do it. If spending 15 min reading while you drink coffee will energize you do it. Consider you pain-points. What is making your morning feel chaotic… is it trying to get ready while little hands grab at you, is it never having time or motivation to workout, is it trying to prep school lunches and make breakfast? Most of our morning tasks can be completed much faster when we’re alone, it’s those tiny people that drag efficiency down… love em’ but it’s true!

I would love to hear if you already do this, or if this is something you’ve tried but struggled with or something you’ve just never considered. For me, waking up 30 – 40 earlier than my kids gives me vastly more energy than staying in bed would for that same amount of time. It sets my day off on the right foot, I dictate the tone and the energy. Try it and see how your motherhood transforms!

Introducing: Monday Mindset Series

Welcome to the Monday Mindset

A series I’m launching where every Monday I’ll share some mindset inspiration to start the week. Our mindset can propel us forward, into a state of gratitude and abundance or it can constrict us, keep us stuck in negativity, paralyzed by anxiety and self limiting beliefs. We’ve all had days where we oversleep, leave our coffee on the counter, hit unexpected traffic, have a rude interaction, and it sets us on this spiral of “everything is going wrong today” and yes objectively things may not have gone the way we expected but only we have the power to guide our minds out of this negativity trap. We all have the opportunity within us to begin again whenever we choose fit. As mothers our mood, our demeanor, our reactions are the unspoken propellent within our households. Our children can easily sense how we feel. If our mindset is chaotic, riddled with anxiety or stress, our children absorb these emotions just as easily as they take on our joy and our calm. Regardless of our efforts to conceal these feelings; the reality is what we feel, our families feel.

It’s no exaggeration when I say the benefits from this mindset work have rippled out into my motherhood, my marriage, my friendships, my nursing career. I feel called to write about this process. And to use this series as a way to share some of the lessons, tips and insights I have learned and adopted over the last few years. Exposing what has helped me move away from a place of stress, anger, negativity and led me to finding joy amidst the chaos, and given me the power of self forgiveness when my old ways resurface. Admittedly I am no expert, but I am extremely passionate about this ever long journey of our mindsets. Everything I share here, is what I work on myself and are the tools that have led me away from simply reacting out of habit to every unpleasant bump or allowing myself to succumb to the weight of modern motherhood. Most mothers will agree, raising humans is the hardest, most challenging yet simultaneously beautiful thing you’ll experience. But if your mindset is stuck in a negativity loop you’ll struggle to be present and feel the joy and love of the beautiful parts. I hope this series enables you to slow down, to feel more present, more grounded and more joyful in your life and in your motherhood. If you’re curious what sparked my personal journey inward, I share a lot about the catalyst that truly started it all for me in the post The Monday in March That Started It All .

Consider This...

Happiness is neither a mood nor an emotion. Mood is a biochemical condition and emotions are just transitory feelings. Happiness is a way of life – an overriding outlook composed of qualities such as optimism, courage, love and fulfillment. It is nothing less than cherishing each day.”Dan Baker (author of What Happy People Know)

Try This: Try a daily gratitude practice. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or in depth. Take 3 min before bed and jot down a few things to be thankful for, the smaller the better!

Why This? It’s easy to be grateful for your health, your kids, your home, but finding gratitude and joy in the little things is where the mindset shift truly happens. Noticing the warm dog curled up at your feet, the close parking spot, the impromptu hug from your kid, the cool breeze, the hot shower, the zoom call that got cancelled; the little things are the big things. We are often racing through our lives on auto pilot, you know the feeling when you drive somewhere and then suddenly have little recollection of the actual drive? So many of us, especially moms are moving from moment to moment like this. Training our brains to find gratitude in daily life brings about mindfulness. At first it might be hard to recall the little things throughout your day that you’re grateful for, but it gets easier the more we use our gratitude muscle! Mindfulness flips this autopilot switch off. It encourages us to be present for our lives and notice all the little things that really do go right. If we are only ever focusing on the negative that is all we will see. So try this gratitude practice & see what happens! Worst case? You’re the new owner of a little notebook or a scrap of paper with a list of good things 🙂

The Monday in March That Started It All.

For most people March means the welcoming of Spring & St. Patricks Day. But for me, March will always make me pause, make me look around and think about all the different ways my life could have gone. Three years ago on a random March Monday our world flipped upside down. I thought I was taking my husband to the ER for an unmanageable migraine. In the hours that followed, his mentation deteriorated, I held my 10 month old son, and watched as my coworkers work fervently trying to figure out what had caused my high functioning husband to suddenly become unable to finish sentences, use his hands, or even follow commands. I sat beside him as a machine breathed for him, in the same room I had cared for countless intubated patients over the years. Stunned that this was my reality.

About a month after Chris’ “outage” as we jokingly refer to it now, I did write a post about our experience with viral encehphalitis, you can read it here . It’s funny because there are similar threads, thoughts on immense gratitude for life but reading it now it’s clear that at the time I thought “welp processed that, time to move on”. I refer to Chris’ recovery in the past tense, when in reality it would be over a year before he truly felt like himself again. And I would spend the year having intense flash backs and resisting attempts at truly processing it. Perspective baby.

I wish I could say that those nights in the ICU were the hardest part but the weeks and months that followed would be far more arduous. The get well flowers wilted and life outside our apartment walls went back to normal but inside I felt shell shocked. I was on edge wondering if every bout of dizziness or return of a headache was the start of Chris’ encephalitis returning. In the midst of balancing the household responsibilities and caring for our ten month old son the trauma loomed over us. At the time, I remember mostly saying “I don’t wanna talk about, let’s just move on”. Spoiler alert – you can’t just move on from your trauma without ever processing it.

I resisted for so long, thinking the walls I was building up would protect me. My decade as an ER nurse has been a masterclass at keeping trauma at arms distance, emotionally detaching myself from immense sorrow. It’s how us nurses are able to go from compressing a lifeless chest one minute & doing a vision test the next. A skill that I’ve since learned should be used with measure. When it came to this, the more I turned away the more it hurt. As much as I yearned for everything to “be normal” again it wouldn’t be. And that was the point. This was meant to transform us, if we’d let it.

I started recognizing that even though I didn’t want to “relive it” I already was, and it was happening out of my control (usually at work). Those memories seared into my brain, played like a movie with crystal clearness. I would get flashes of what happened that day, my coworkers sprinting around. The looks on peoples faces. The same hallway I walk dozens of time per shift, that I sat and sobbed in, all those memories loomed under the surface, red hot. About a year ago I was transferring a patient to the ICU. The patient was going into the same room Chris had been in. When I crossed the threshold in an instant I was taken right back to being at his bedside. The first two nights I had ever spent away from my son. As I wheeled my patient waves of overwhelming heaviness and fear washed over me. Fear of not knowing what life would be like when he was extubated. Wondering what would he remember, how much PT would he need, how far from baseline would he be starting at? Would I suddenly be caring for my son & my husband? All the feelings and fears I never allowed myself feel in real time because I was flexing my detachment muscle as hard as I possibly could.

That night I went home and wrote. I wrote about what it felt like to walk back into that room, I wrote about my fears, I wrote about the last twelve months. I wrote about things I didn’t even realize were below the surface. Some of which would be the skeleton of this post. My younger self used to fill journal after journal growing up. That habit abruptly stopped when nursing school took over my life. Writing in journals suddenly felt juvenile, like something I did only as a kid, before I had real problems. But here I was watching the words pour out of me. Chris’ encephalitis albeit life altering and terrifying has been the single biggest catalyst for change for not only Chris but myself as well.

This transformation certainly didn’t happen overnight, and in writing this, I know it is still ongoing. In some ways this experience feels like yesterday and other times it feels like a lifetime ago. It isn’t until you’re met head on with life’s raw fragility that you’re faced with either growing and evolving or hiding away. I could have continued to turn away, continued to say “I don’t wanna talk about it or relive it” but I’m convinced I wouldn’t have grown. Instead, eventually, I turned into it.

Right away we prioritized physical health – Per his doctors recommendations we did the Whole30 diet to figure out what had caused his body to be in such a hyper-inflammatory state. Chris embarked on Neuro Physical Therapy. I leaned into my at home workouts that I knew were keeping me from totally losing it. We slowed way down. Chris started talk therapy, and I actually agreed to open up about my experience. We discovered our enneagram types and recognized the role they played in our relationship, our daily lives and the way we communicate with one another. I started writing again. And last year I started meditating. Sitting with my thoughts, creating space and stillness has opened entire new worlds for me. I started intentionally choosing to use that experience to shape my life going forward. I recognized that through bettering myself, through facing my trauma I could help others.

This March I felt a very strong pull to lean back into things that bring me genuine happiness. I bought a doodle pad, I dusted off my sewing my machine, I’m reading books that make me laugh and cry. I’m posting here more! I’m planting flowers in every open space in our yard. I’m filling journals again, I’m overcommitting to projects (because I secretly love that)!

So this morning, this March Monday, I’m up before the sun. I’m giving my mind the gift of pausing. I’m moving my body and overall I’m thankful. Because even thought it may not seem like it it. It’s all connected. Your gifts, your circumstances, your purpose, your imperfections; your journey, your destiny. It’s molding you. Embrace it.

21 in 2021

Nearly all of us have made New Years resolutions only to watch them fizzle out before February. The end of the year can stir up all kinds of feelings. Whether your year was filled with great change, new additions to your family or maybe your year was filled with setbacks or grief, or maybe like most of us, a little of both. Sometimes it can be hard to look back and try to set goals especially if maybe your goals haven’t changed much. I love reflecting on the year, and thinking about what I want to take forward with me into the new year, but the idea of making resolutions is kinda bleh. A few years ago I was listening to a podcast where they shared the idea of instead of making resolutions creating a list for the year (20 for 2020, 21 for 2021 etc). Often times resolutions don’t strike us as fun things, although they certainly could be. The list is a way to reframe resolutions. You can fill your list with anything you want. Maybe it’s a list of 22 recipes to try this year, or 22 hikes. Or maybe it’s a list of half fun half tasks. They even suggest leaving a few spaces blank so you can fill it out with throughout the year when you get inspired. I personally like to fill my lists with some fun things, a few larger goals for the year, and easy things that I’ve been putting off but that can be crossed off in a day. The goal isn’t necessarily to get every single thing crossed off the list. It’s more just about thinking of what you’d like to accomplish in the year and adding some whimsy! I figured I would share both my 2021 & 2022 lists to give some inspiration!

21 in 2021

  1. Take the boys to the snow!
  2. Go to the dentist – did this with 8 days left in the year!
  3. Night away with Chris
  4. Take the boys to the beach
  5. Meditate / gratitude daily
  6. Take Will on day dates (I want to do more of this in 2022 – we only did a handful of these this year)
  7. Read 10 books (currently reading book # 10)
  8. Create 2020 photo book
  9. Holiday photo frames
  10. Get family photos taken – had these scheduled but bad weather had us cancelled. 2022!!
  11. Swim lessons for Will
  12. Have a spring garden
  13. Get vaccinated
  14. Host at our house
  15. Redo boys closets
  16. Find a PCP
  17. Go to Yosemite
  18. Less than 5 hours screentime / day
  19. Get Johnathans birth certificate
  20. Hike LimeRidge – This was a 2020 roll over! Made it happen this year.
  21. Overnight BFF trip – This did not happen this year but will happen in 22!

22 in 2022

  1. Get family photos taken
  2. Read 12 books
  3. Trip to NYC
  4. Redo front yard landscaping
  5. Day dates with boys
  6. Switch to clean makeup
  7. Run a 5k
  8. Go to the dermatologist
  9. Find a PCP
  10. Do 3 Day Refresh
  11. Get pictures off old macbook
  12. Do a 30 minute meditation monthly – I want to push myself to sit in stillness longer this year.
  13. Take boys to Tilden / BADM 3x
  14. Plan and Plant a spring / summer garden
  15. Pay off mazda
  16. Take Juno on weekly walks
  17. Make an album of now
  18. Paint master bath / add shelving
  19. Take a social media Sabbath each week
  20. Go to a National Park
  21. Try therapy
  22. Shiplap entry way

I’d love to know how the ending of a year makes you feel? Do you enjoy reflecting on the year? Is it hard to come up with resolutions? Or do you take a spin on resolutions and do something whimsy filled like a fun list?

I think most of our lives are more complex than just “good year” “bad year”. 2021 for me was filled with seeing more family, getting to take our boys on adventures, finding a new world of calm and presence through meditation. Turning inward and looking at barriers and old wounds that are holding be back from being the happiest version of myself. There were also moments of grief and struggle. We lost my cousin this year. And in October I laid with my son in a hospital bed for 70 hours while doctors decided if he needed to go to the ICU. None of us are immune to the sorrow that life will inevitably throw at us, but we are capable of looking for light & allowing that light to come in. I’m always brought back to a quote by Milan Kundera from his book The Unbearable Lightness of Being “The heavier the burden the closer, the closer our lives become to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. what then shall we choose? Weight or lightness”. No matter what 2021 brought to you, I hope you are able to find light & take that light in 2022 with you!

Cheers to a New Year! Oh & if you make a list I’d LOVE to see it!