The first time I was introduced to Natural Family Planning (NFP) was when Mike and I went to our "Pre-Cana" or marriage preparation class. A young couple talked to us about the hows, whys, and benefits of NFP. They definitely left a strong impression on me and the biggest thing that I noticed is how much they seemed to LOVE using it.
But I wasn't quite ready to take that "leap of faith" and for the first year of our marriage I continued to take the pill to prevent pregnancy. A year later the timing felt right. I knew we would want to start a family (relatively) soon and didn't want to continue with a chemical contraceptive. Also I had decided to convert to Catholicism around the same time. The decision to learn and use NFP felt right.
Why was I drawn to this method? More importantly, why do I feel so strongly about it now that I want to spread the word about it? Well, first of all it is a great method both for preventing pregnancy and also maximizing your chances of achieving pregnancy when you want to. Because your body isn't dealing with any foreign chemicals you are free every cycle to decide what is best for you and your family. There is no waiting or worry that you may not be able to get pregnant because of the contraception you've been using.
On that note, check out this awesome post about birth control. I believe most people will learn something that they didn't know about the various forms of "birth control" and why these prevention methods may not be the best for you. I'm not going to rehash them all because the author does a great job of breaking down each form of contraception and explaining what the real, very serious physical and psychological health issues that are associated with each type.
"But what about EFFECTIVENESS?" you ask. (I can hear you yelling all the way over here!) Before letting you in on the rate of effectiveness you need to know that NFP is NOT the rhythm method (or counting days), it is a method that uses a woman's fertility signs (basal body temperature, cervical mucous, and cervix position) to determine with a high degree of certainty when her fertile time is. Yes, you are going to get very familiar with your body. No, it is not gross (well you may need to retrain your mind on this one, but I really believe it!) Yes, it is a wonderful and beautiful thing.
With that said, let's have a little drumroll please...
(INSERT DRUMROLL SOUND HERE)
When properly practiced NFP has an effectiveness rate of over 99%. That's right, I said OVER 99%. (See the aforementioned awesome article for some links to studies about the effectiveness of NFP in areas of the world where it is the norm.) I can tell you from experience that NFP is VERY effective both in preventing and facilitating pregnancy. Both of our children were completely "planned" and very much desired pregnancies. In addition I used NFP to prevent pregnancy for a full year between the time of stopping conventional contraception to the time when we started "trying". Once we were ready to "try" it only took 2 cycles for Miss Marisol to be conceived.
So in addition to the health benefits I reap from NOT using chemical or barrier forms of contraception, I still have peace of mind knowing that we can effectively use NFP to prevent pregnancy.
"But what about our sex-life??" I hear you wondering now. I mean surely using this method will have an impact on *that*.
Fear not, as my new favorite article notes:
"It might be misleading, however, to say that there are no side-effects of using NFP. There are some: NFP couples report increased respect for self and spouse; they almost never divorce; they report an increase in communication with each other and an increase in the quantity and quality of intercourse. (emphasis mine) For me, I think women deserve to have these side effects."
Wow. So what more is there to know? It's safe, it's effective, it costs virtually NOTHING once you know what you're doing, and it improves your marriage and sex life! That sounds too good to be true - but I'm here to tell you that it's not.
I believe EVERY WOMAN should have this intimate knowledge of her body and cycle. For me, my fertility signs have only become clearer and more obvious with time to the point where it takes very little effort for me. Yes - there is a learning curve in the beginning, and it takes time and commitment to learn, but it is SO worth it! I am definitely going to make sure that Marisol and any other future daughters (wink wink) are armed with this knowledge later in life because I believe this is so much more powerful than any other "birth control options". (I'm not going to keep information about contraception away from them either, I do trust that they will know what is right and best for them when that time comes). I really feel so strongly about NFP because of all the benefits I have felt in my life. I think it's rather obvious, but I still feel the need to state that this method is NOT "just for Catholics" or "religious" people - it's for everyone. I am infinitely grateful to the Catholic church for introducing me to this method before I was married though.
I learned the method through a home study course through the Couple to Couple League. The home study course used the book, The Art of Natural Family Planning, but has the added benefit of getting support from someone knowledgeable in the practice. So as you learn to chart your cycles you mail them to the person and they help you by looking over your analysis and giving you feedback.
I highly recommend this book and home study program if you are interested in learning about NFP. If there are live courses with an instructor near you, that may be an even better option.
This week's giveaway book ties into this topic but is specifically about how breastfeeding can help space babies for families using natural methods.It's called, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing: How Ecological Breastfeeding Spaces Babies by Sheila Matgen Kippley.
After the birth of a baby many mothers that practice NFP and choose to breastfeed are able to prevent pregnancy for many months through lactational amenorrhea. Most doctors will tell new moms that as long as baby is exclusively breastfeeding (no bottles or pacifiers either), that baby is nursed on demand (including during the night), and the baby is less than 6 months old, then it is safe to trust lactational amenorrhea to prevent pregnancy. This is a very conservative interpretation. One of the biggest factors that affects a return to fertility is night nursing (or the lack thereof). The easiest way to continue to nurse your baby throughout the night is to sleep with your baby. With my two children I experienced 27 months of no periods after my daughter was born and 31 months after my son's birth (yes, over 2 1/2 years!) Needless to say I love that part of breastfeeding and co-sleeping. I know that not every mom's body reacts the same way mine did - even moms who practice attachment parenting. However, it *is* true in native cultures the average age difference between siblings is 3-4 years old without any use of contraceptives. So families that use NFP and ecological breastfeeding don't necessarily have huge families and babies very close together in age. At this moment my family consists of two children 3 years apart in age (6 and 3) - oh, and none currently on the way either (wink).
After Marisol was born, I wasn't sure how or if I would know when my fertility was returning, but I trusted and waited and sure enough my body began to give me signs. I was fairly certain of the first time I ovulated - even before having a period. This is definitely an advantage to learning about your fertility signs before having children - when the pressure to understand your body is less (in my case I could not have been terribly upset if I got pregnant again since I knew we wanted to have a second child!)
After Gerry's birth I felt even more confident about when my fertility was making a comeback - so much so that I packed my "feminine products" when we took a vacation to Florida last winter - and sure enough after over 2 1/2 years my dear friend, Aunt Flo, made her comeback appearance while we were there! I'm pretty amazed at how in tune with my body I am now.
I realize that this book will be for a very specific person - but if you are in your "baby years", and are breastfeeding and co-sleeping then this is a great book for you. I read it quite a while ago but remember it being a great resource for me when my babies were tiny.
So please leave me a comment here to let me know if you would like my copy!
"Panem et Circenses translates into 'Bread and Circuses'. The writer was saying that in return for full bellies and entertainment his people had given up their political responsibilities and therefore their power."
I recently read the "Hunger Games" trilogy. After I finished it I felt a deep kind of sadness. The author, Suzanne Collins, wrote a brilliant story. But what made it most brilliant is that it is not a story at all - it is a harsh, undeniable truth - a commentary on our present society.
Of course I can relate to the beautiful and brave heroine, Katniss (we all should!) But what stings more is recognizing just how much I am like the people of the Capitol: well-fed, plenty of time to dedicate to leisure and entertainment, and nice, perhaps, but severely disconnected from the harsh realities of most of the world.
Soon after I finished the series I was driving in the car. It is one of the few times that I can really reflect during the day while the kids are awake. I was thinking of the upcoming election and of the quote that I started this post with. Have we as a society "sold-out" in favor of comfort and entertainment? Was it so easy for us to relinquish our power?
I have never been "into" politics. For whatever reason it is just not something that has really caught or held my attention. But that day I saw so clearly what matters - people and the earth. It's so simple. And I've felt guilty before about not being "up" on things but I also have been able to justify my ignorance pretty easily too. That day I decided: I will no longer use the fact that politics are "not my thing" as an excuse not to do better when it comes to being educated and in deciding where my vote should go.
What I really don't understand though, is how in our two-party system people are so brutal towards other people - their own brothers and sisters. I have very dear, close loved ones on both "sides". Many feel very strongly about "their" issues, "their" side, and "their" candidate. I have to say that so far I have not found a "side" or a "candidate" that I feel has it 100% "right". Also it seems very hypocritical to say the things people say about each other. This includes comments about people who are undecided - I've heard several remarks that people who are undecided are stupid, idiots, etc. What?! Maybe they are actually weighing their decision out carefully!
In my moment of clarity I thought, I know for sure that I'm going with a third party candidate. It seems so right to me and to make sense - someone who I agree with a LOT more - maybe not completely, but enough to feel good about.
Then of course, the clarity left for a while and other voices crept back in - "it's wasting your vote!" or "You're in a swing state - you're vote is really important!" or even, "why do you think this is the way - because it seems 'cool'?"
But I have to agree with the people that say we cannot compromise our beliefs too much in an attempt to go with the "lesser evil". If enough of us would realize that we need to TAKE our power back then REAL change will occur because we demanded it.
For now, I'm going to keep doing my best in my every day life - which mostly means being the best mom, wife, friend and neighbor that I can be. It also means that for the most part I continue to keep the HUGE problems afflicting our world - hunger, war, and oppression to name a few - tucked into the back of my mind. It does not do me OR the world any good for me to dwell and immerse myself in these matters. BUT I do need to take responsibility for actions I can reasonably make right now... and I dream of future days when I can do more to change the world.
It's hard getting a good shot of yourself with your iPhone. So I decided instead of picking one, I would collage-it-up. And yes I do realize that it is October 24th, not December 24th - Remember that party we planned? Yeah... besides I think the lights add a perfect festive touch. I'm trying to see how long a caption can be... are you still reading?? Anyways - HAPPY BLOG-IVERSARY! Let's celebrate ;-)
Exactly one year ago today I got this beautiful blog up and running complete with my first post! I have such a feeling of accomplishment from keeping up this habit of writing for a full year. When I stop to think about it, I believe this is the first time I've ever consistently stuck with something that was completely born of my own internal motivation. For example exercise - sure, I've been in REALLY good shape before - but I was always involved in highly structured competitive sports - since graduating from college my exercise routine has been spotty and completely inconsistent (that's changing though, I can feel it!)
So, who knew? I'm so close to actually calling myself a WRITER (although philosopher may be more accurate, but perhaps they go hand-in-hand?) Ha! I think I've mentioned before but I just have to say it again - I have always considered myself a READER and never a WRITER. I only wrote throughout my school years because it was required of me. Was it the coerced nature of the writing then that made me resist it? Who knows. But now I stay up late and get up early willingly to write because it feels great!
I'm really excited to celebrate by doing some new things here on Together Walking. First of all I finally took a leap and invested in my own domain name (my blog-iversary gift to myself!), so no more "weebly" in my address - you can now go directly to togetherwalking.com
Also I've created a facebook page for sharing blog posts and as a place to inspire myself and others.
But what I am most excited about is that I am going to be doing a series of give-aways over the next couple of months. I have been lucky enough to "win" quite a few blog give-aways the past few years (a potty and book, homeopathic remedies, and admission to a writing e-course - not bad!) and I feel like it's time for me to return the favor! So I'm going to give away one of my favorite things - books. Some are new copies and many are my personal copies that I'm ready to part with, but they are all books that have had a huge positive impact on my life.
My first give-away starts this week and is dedicated to my friend Scott Wischmeyer for giving me the push to start this blog a year ago. I was actually just thinking of "reviving" my other blog but through a series of comments on FB (also known as the modern day "conversation" ;-) he inspired me to start a whole new kind of blog - the kind where I actually write what I think and share my experiences.
To thank Scott and to celebrate, I'm giving away a book that I bought through his blog Our Tiny Earth, by clicking on his affiliate link Chelsea Green Publishing (find the link on his about page). The book I'm giving away is called "Journey for the Planet: A Kid's Five Week Adventure to Create an Earth-friendly Life". You can click here for a review, description, and peek inside. Scott is a huge inspiration to me in an area that we are growing a lot. (And by growing, I mean we have a long way to go!) Sustainability and living in an earth-friendly way are topics that are really important to me and I know that there are so many ways that I can do better. I also adore his focus on community and feel like that is where the two of us really share a common message.
I love watching Marisol learn about earth-friendly living because she really embraces it all and *wants* to protect the earth and all its creatures and treasures. I know we are going to learn a lot from this book (I bought us a copy too!) It seemed like the perfect choice because it is for kids (my passion) and it is a cause that is near to my heart.
To get your name in the random drawing for this book leave me a comment here. To get your name in the drawing two more times, "like" my Facebook page, share it and let me know you did in your comment!
Thanks to everyone for your energy... and for reading, commenting, and supporting me as I follow this strange, new urge... to write and live out loud.
EDIT: Kathy is our winner! This give-away is over but make sure to check back for more!
This is going to be just a stream-of-consciousness type post - just some of the thoughts I've had swirling today.
After my post on Monday - which I stayed up quite late to finish before the "deadline" for Blog Action day - I've been thinking how I must be irritating some people by insisting that some parenting practices just aren't nice. And I have to admit it makes me a bit uncomfortable because I don't like making people feel bad. But then I thought, well hey, that's kind of good if someone's bothered by something I wrote, because that means that it got into their head and it's sticking there. Maybe it's like a little grain of sand that will rub until it turns into a beautiful pearl.
Tonight Marisol and I were reading Dr. Seuss' story about the Grinch and she said that she likes people with the Biggest hearts -then she looked right up at me and into my eyes and said, "I think you're one of them". Oh my goodness, did I melt and cry? Oh yes I did!
I don't write here to brag about how wonderful my kids and life are, or to show off how perfect and compassionate I am. Because although my kids are wonderful and I love my life, we're not perfect by any stretch of the imagination - we have meltdowns every day and I feel my heart contract and turn cold when she freaks out about something that seems insignificant to me. But we've been making a habit of saying what we're grateful for at night before going to sleep and tonight she said, "My life", and she keeps telling me in so many ways, and I just want people to know that they can have that too! I see a lot of hurting parents and kids and I just want them to know it doesn't have to be that way.
I feel a bit like I'm becoming "One-note-Nelly" and my monotone mantra is "Be Nice to your kids!" but I guess it could be worse. And I have some different stuff coming up soon that I'm excited about (how's that for a teaser? Stay tuned!) So in the near future I'll be a little bit less like a 1-Hit Wonder (although I'd be excited just to have 1 Big Hit at this point!)
I was messaging with an old friend a bit and talking about how writing here just fills me up in a way I never could have predicted. She mentioned that she's not surprised and it's a good way to connect with like-minded people. I guess it kind of is. But actually that was more what my "secret" blog was for - and Xanga is a great blogging community for that because you can search for specific things, like homeschooling, and then "friend" or follow people. Other great places for finding people you gel with are Yahoo groups - I've found international and local groups which have been great for inspiration and making friends in real life.
But again as I wonder why (wonder but don't question... it's too good to doubt it) I'm doing this - writing, sharing - why I've been able to keep it up so consistently for so long, I'm realizing that it's my way of living out loud. And it feels great.
1. influential: able to exert a lot of influence and control over people and events "a powerful nation"
2. strong: having or exerting great physical or mental strength
3. effective: possessing the strength or qualities to produce a fast and effective result "a powerful antibiotic"
There is no doubt that we are a very powerful species. Whether this power is used for the benefit of our own and the rest of the planet or for destruction is the question. A remarkable man who calls himself the Peace Artist has a unique perspective from his experience of running across the United States with only Art Supplies and the clothes on his back. Before his adventure he noted “We will either learn to live together in peace or die in mutually assured destruction.” After experiencing the kindness of countless strangers on his travels he hopefully asserts "I say this wholeheartedly: everything that is done from compassion will be met with success. The nature of the universe is love.”
The key to harnessing our collective "power of we" and to promoting peace and quality living for all of earth's beings, is compassion. It sounds so simple, and yet, it is not easy or we would have it all figured out by now. But the message is everywhere if our hearts are open to it - uniting the major religions of the world in the Charter for Compassion or in Sprouting Seeds of Compassion's mission to plant trees.
As our greatest strengths are often also our weaknesses, in this case the problem is contained within the solution - Passion. We all have our causes that make us burn. Just as real fire can help feed us, warm us, and keep us safe, our passion can be a very powerful force for good. Passion causes us to cry out when we witness injustices and brings us to action. But what happens when someone or something flies right in the face of beliefs that we may have spent many long hours, days, or even years piecing together? It's as if someone threw gasoline onto our fire! The explosion will potentially burn anyone too close to our fire - ourselves included. Passion divides us when we use it to judge or condemn others and creates an illusion of otherness. The truth is that we are all interconnected and our actions will always affect each other - it's up to us to choose a loving path, and the sooner the better.
It's been helpful for me to think of wrapping my Passion in Love. Practically speaking this means taking a deep breath or waiting to speak my mind when I feel my passion as anger instead of love. If we can move towards doing this more and more, then we can begin to get to a place of Compassion. And from this space we can harness our true collective power to make positive change in the world.
Compassion is the ability to transform and we can see its metamorphic power in stories like this and this (I just noticed these both take place on airplanes! Is there something magical about being confined to a small space with strangers?!) Yes, compassion is the key to thriving in the future, but only by practicing it now. And let's not forget the past - how can compassion do anything about what's already over and done with?
Compassion for the Past
In one simple word: forgiveness. After learning whatever lessons we need from our experiences, challenges, hurts and trials it is time to look back on it all with a compassionate heart. We cannot change the past so to move forward effectively we must make peace with it and release it. We must forgive ourselves and others. I've read a lot of great material on forgiveness in the past year because it's something I struggle with personally (not because I've had such terrible things happen to me, but because I am a perfectionist and one side effect of this is dwelling on things - both about myself and others. It's not healthy.) All the wisdom I've come across states that forgiveness is for yourself, not for the person who hurt you. If you are carrying hatred, anger and hurt inside then you are not operating at your highest capacity. Not only that you just aren't living the happy, joyful life that you are entitled to! But don't beat yourself up too much if you struggle with forgiveness - forgive yourself for it and believe that we are all doing the best we can at any given moment. Then move on and strive to do better. If someone can release the abuse of their children or their family's killers, in the case of Immaculée Ilibagiza, then surely we can learn to forgive ourselves and loved ones for leaving the ice-cream out or telling each other to "shut up".
Compassion in the Now
Although this post is all about how through compassion we can finally harness the sea of communal power - of our "we" togetherness - I believe the present relies on us committing to individual, personal, and deep introspection. Only by knowing ourselves, our triggers, our faults and where we can improve can we then move from compassion. If something irritates us or bothers us that is our cue to turn the mirror back on ourselves and examine our own actions. Even if we really, truly believe (or even KNOW) deep in our core that we are in the RIGHT, we can still look at our reactions, how we relate and communicate with others, and most importantly what compassionate action we can take after processing. And actually, just looking at that word "right" kind of says it all. Because "right" and "wrong" sets us up immediately for competition instead of cooperation. Compassion is putting ourselves in another's shoes and seeing things from their perspective. It's learning about what they've been through or what their thought process is before jumping in with your own battery of explanations, reasons, research or stats.
Oh, and I know this isn't easy which is why we have to go easy on ourselves as we learn. It's especially difficult with those we are closest to - our partners and children. Why is this? That we often become our worst selves with those that mean the most to us? Perhaps because they are who we feel the safest with or maybe just the laziest with. But if we cannot put the effort in with our loved ones in our own homes, how can we expect peace to spread the globe?
My Alma Mater's motto is "Meliora" which the University of Rochester translates to "Ever Better". We may not be perfect but armed with forgiveness for mistakes and a willingness to always work on ourselves we may become ever better at this thing called compassion.
Sowing Compassion for the Future
I cannot believe how many amazing writers, causes, and blogs there are out there - I find new ones every day! And behind each one is a person. But how can we really maximize this human potential in our future? Through our children, which means through our parenting or any adult/child relationship.
My passion is my children and parenting - both personally and generally as a practice. I have a lot of very specific ideas about what it means to raise children in a loving, respectful manner and most of these ideas are not the norm in our modern, western culture. I truly, in my heart-of-hearts believe, that compassion in the future starts with our children, because they are literally our future.
Right now it is commonplace in our culture for children to be spanked (hit), punished for a wide range of behaviors - many within normal developmental ranges - shamed, and isolated. Are any of these compassionate? And how can we expect our children to grow up to be compassionate when this is the way they are treated from the time they are babies?
People don't like to hear it spelled out that way. They will say, well children must learn, or be taught, or have any number of reasons for their actions.
But here I go. You see - I'm becoming passionate and when I do that it becomes, "me versus them", and I'm leaving compassion and therefore our power behind. So what do we do? How do we become compassionate when we see others acting in a way we don't believe is?
I will say it is easier in every day life. Because I love the people that I know sleep train their babies or spank their toddlers. I love my friend who takes away her kids' candy because she's worried they'll eat too much or gives her kids time-outs. Right now the best thing I know how to do is to not participate in conversations that I don't agree with, to offer my life, my family's choices and our relationships as our living testimony, and to bare it all here on my blog.
I also remind myself that many of the parenting practices I find unkind are actually a result of parents trying to cope with our modern social constructs. Right now most families live in isolated "nuclear" units - parents and children. Most children are raised by a single stay-at-home parent, a nanny, or daycare or some combination of these. This is not our natural state. We are communal, social animals - evolved to live in tribes. Now instead of having a whole network of support woven around you 24 hours a day that consists of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends, we have single adults raising multiple children.
Look at this beautiful picture and read the story put with it.
That is compassion. Would this ever happen in our neighborhoods? How can we start making changes so that does become our reality?
I was worried as I worked on this post about getting too preachy, self-righteous, and "know-it-ally". But then I released that worry (actually I mentally said "F**k it!" - but that's my new, not so PC way of releasing worries). I thought to myself, this is my theory and belief and something I've thought deeply about. I've read many stories and testimonies of families choosing to buck societal norms and who are raising amazing children. Children who may grow up to change the world. I believe each of us is here to experience life and part of that is putting our theories to test. The trick is to not get too attached to them. If what I'm practicing isn't working out so well then I will reassess. I think that is what we should all do and stop worrying about being "right" or "wrong". I want others to trust me that I am on the right path for me so I'm working on offering that same consideration to everyone else.
In the end the one constant is kindness. Compassion is what will enable our race to evolve further and preserve our mother-earth. And the only people who can tell me whether I'm keeping up my end of the deal in this regard are living right here, under this roof with me.
I began the week with a heavy weight sitting in my chest. Like a dense, flat stone wrapped in achy despair, I could physically feel Depression getting comfortable inside of me, making breathing difficult, much less any other activity. You know the feeling - when you have zero motivation or desire to DO anything, and the voice in your head (the critic, censor, gremlin - whatever you call it) gets louder and harsher every minute - especially because you didn't *do* anything all day (more accurately, you feel like you didn't do anything even if you did a lot). "You are a terrible mother", "Every choice you've ever made is questionable..." and let's not forget, "What's your problem - your life is amazing and you have nothing to complain about!" and on and on and on...
What triggered this emotional despair? Why did I have this unwelcome guest living inside of me?
The house felt small, confining... and very messy. Of course I had my period (again?? really? didn't I just have it last month?!) - so maybe it was hormones? My parents visited the prior week - a very, very fun day, but also too, too short - was it the normal sadness I almost always feel after seeing them? Of course the house was a disaster. The weather was cool and gray, so maybe it was a seasonal thing. Or was it the less than supportive exchange between me and my husband the other night? The sadness I felt soon amplified by my own thoughts, even after he apologized. And - did I mention my house was (I mean is! it's kind of it's normal state) a MESS?!
But I decided it mattered little why I was feeling this way. And being no stranger to the feeling, I took matters in to my own hands the best I could. Monday night I was slouched low on the couch surrounded by chaos, toys littering the floor, and no dinner to be found when Mike got home from work (this is often the case when he gets home, it was only my *internal* environment that had changed). I could not think of one thing that I wanted to do even though I knew there were plenty of things I "should" do. I looked up at him and said, "I'm going on a jog." He didn't argue, only asked, "Can we come too?" And so we all went on a family jog/bike ride, bike trailer and sneakers ready to go in a few minutes.
I don't know why I was so inspired (as exercise is still not even a weekly habit yet, much less a daily one), only that I was thinking of the runner's high I've gotten before and how amazing that feels. And I thought afterwards I will be motivated to do other things. And it was just as I expected! After that short jog and some fresh air I returned home re-energized and ready to tackle the dishes in the sink.
Depression wasn't quite ready to give up so quickly though, and Tuesday morning the dull, heavy ache returned, as did the dark thoughts of how my life could be better if only this or that were true. (Oh and did I mention that my dear son stayed up till after 1 am the "night" before?) Again that evening we laced up our sneakers and temporarily I shook the big "D" off my trail. That night I reflected on the last time he wasn't so easily shaken and stayed for several months. I remembered how I finally got him to take a long hike - it was a good conversation with my husband. I made a mental "note-to-self".
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday brought beautiful fall weather, time with good friends, and a new, inspiring book. I'm feeling like I may have evicted Depression from his comfortable bed in my chest so I distilled my experience from this week into a list: 10 Things to Do When Depression Tries to Settle in For a Stay:
Take Care of Your Basic Needs:
1) Move! Exercise is always important, but never so much as when you are feeling down. The natural feel-good hormones released and rush of adrenaline you get are enough to expel bad feelings for at least a little while. Lethargy is "no more", and you often have enough pep afterwards to tackle a few other things you didn't even want to look at before. And even if you don't want to do "other things" you can feel good, because, hey - you exercised!
2) Rest - This is really important if you haven't had enough sleep. Make time to rest. Of course this does NOT mean lie around on the couch watching soaps or in bed under the covers all day. It means if you are drained to take care of yourself and not run yourself further into the ground.
3) Eat well - take the time to prepare healthy foods for yourself even when you don't feel like it. The act of cooking alone helped make me feel more accomplished this week.
Beyond the Basics
4) Don't think - This is especially true if you are tired - and often sleep evades us when we are depressed. Tired thinking is NEVER helpful (and I NEVER use the word NEVER!) Our thoughts often become cyclical and more negative with time when we are down so we spiral farther and farther down into sadness. Best to just recognize we are tired, sad, or whatever else and that now is NOT THE TIME TO BE THINKING!
5) Breathe, Meditate and Mantras - this is especially helpful if you are having a difficult time with numbers 2 or 4. Deep breathing is very relaxing for our whole selves. Meditating is a powerful way to rest your mind, body, and spirit and get to a calmer, lighter place. Another way to evade those negative self-defeating thoughts is to have a few handy mantras to repeat with your inhale and exhale - "Breathe in Peace, Breathe out Love", "Rest my mind, calm my heart", and "Be here, Be now" are a few of my current favorites. And of course don't forget Affirmations! If you're having a hard time stopping the flow of thoughts at least you can redirect your mind with some kind, loving thoughts towards yourself.
6) Vent - Let those closest to you know how you are feeling. Get the feelings OUT of you. Of course you don't want to constantly be talking about your woes either, but it doesn't do you good to bottle them up. Find a couple (or in my case a few more than that!) of trusted loved ones who you know will listen and honor you.
7) Connect - similar to number 6 yet different. If you're a parent with young kids - plan a play date with friends that you all love and feel comfortable with. Call your mom or best friend. We are SOCIAL beings and being alone with dark thoughts and feelings only exacerbates loneliness. Of course when we are feeling depressed it is often the hardest time to reach out - and this is why it is imperative that we do.
8) Get out! Get outside or at least out of your house. If the weather is nice go for a walk. If you have kids get to the playground. Fresh air and a change in scene is so crucial to the health of our spirit.
9) Listen to music - For someone who was pretty heavily involved in music in the past I've really gotten away from it since having children. But this past year I've begun to have music be more a part of my daily life again and it is such a powerful mood-booster. I love me some Pandora!
10) Plan a party! I'm not kidding. Tuesday Marisol started planning a party, and all I could think was, "Really?! I do NOT want to plan a party right now." But by Wednesday I had embraced the idea and we are in full on preparations now. There is literally no time for me to wallow because I have to get ready! If not a party, plan something in the near future that you have to work on.
Usually when we are feeling sad, lonely, or depressed we don't "feel" like doing many or any of these things. Sometimes we just have to make ourselves pick one and just go for it. I know for me it made a huge difference to try all of these things this week.
What things do you do to turn things around when you are feeling blue?
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.