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5 top tips for mothers

Her name is Nina. She changed my life in 2014. She changed me.

This journey through motherhood is a never-ending one. Among many other things, it has been teaching me about the meaning of deep connections, selflessness, and unconditional love. It has taught me what empathy (really) means and what comes along with it.

As any other journey in life, motherhood doesn’t come without bumps along the way (pun intended!). Although I have always considered myself an empathic person, it wasn’t until recently that I understood the strong impact empathy can have on one’s life. Empathy is defined asthe action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another, of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner;” in other words, it is the “ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”

When we become mothers, the physiology of the brain changes; our hormonal production changes to make us more empathetic with the purpose to adapt to the tiny human being that we have generated.

As soon as our babies are born, we become able to feel with them in order to be able to respond to their needs in the best way possible. We feel their pain. We cry with them. We suffer with them. And we become so immersed in our babies’ needs that we start losing our focus on ourselves as individuals. Motherhood comes with priority shifting, and, at some point, our identity gets shaken off.

Through my coaching practice and from talking with other mothers in informal settings, I observed that a lot of mothers suffer from some lack of confidence, have a negative self-image, and sabotage themselves by negative self-talk and limiting beliefs.

I frequently hear self-castrating beliefs such as “I shouldn’t dress the way I want because I am mother now” or “I am not allowed to have fun if my child is not with me” and so forth. This limits their freedom – to feel, to behave, to be. And most of them seek me in order to help them to deal with negative emotions that have been triggered or enhanced by maternity (such as fear, guilt, anxiety, and frustration). It truly breaks my heart to see so many wonderful women not valorizing themselves as they deserve. So, when DelftMama invited me to write a blog as a guest, I decided to give my contribution by sharing simple tips to get you going through the day in a more healthy way.

I am not going to be extensive here, but I hope that by starting to practice the following suggestions you may find it easier to get through your day and avoid falling into the negativity spiral.

 

Tip #1: Mind your (negative) language

Are you familiar with the expression “careful with what you wish for”? Yes, the way you set your mind for something is halfway to being successful (or unsuccessful).

Expressions such as “I don’t deserve,” “I am not good,” “I can’t,” etc. are behavior sabotagers! People have no idea of the impact that their own words can have on their psychological processes. When we say something like “I am not capable of doing such and such,” we are already believing that that is true; we are accepting it and, therefore, creating a limitation.

Our brain literally believes in everything we say, either out loud or in internally. So, instead of using negative language and focusing on negative aspects of yourself or your life, make a conscious effort to praise yourself, to point out and talk about the good things about you, about others, and your life. Describing yourself in a positive way is already halfway to build a healthier self-image!

 

Tip #2: Breathe and connect with yourself

Breathe when you are annoyed. Breathe when you are happy. Just breathe!

Allow yourself to take a few minutes a day and stop whatever you are doing just to create a moment to connect with yourself. Breathe in and out naturally while paying attention to any sounds surrounding you. Observe how you feel in your body, pay attention to your emotions, let your thoughts come and go without judgement. Go back to breathing.

If you are not used to meditating (or even if you are!), my suggestion would be to listen to guided meditations. These are a great tool to help you to take a little break during your day. You can find meditation videos and podcasts on Youtube, or you can download the app “Insight Timer” on your smartphone – I am hooked on this one, as there are literally hundreds of podcasts to choose from!

 

Tip #3: Take a break

No matter what that annoying voice tells you, you-deserve-to-take-a-break! Indulge yourself, take care of yourself. Literally do anything that YOU enjoy doing. Meet with friends, exercise, have a drink (or two!), play video games, go for a massage, go to the movies, go silly, just go on a spree!

 

Tip #4: Go out on a date

Spend some time with your partner. Cherish and indulge each other. It is difficult when you have a little one (or more) between you. My advice would be to make time to spend some quality time together.

 

Tip #5: Get it out of your system

Whatever you are feeling right now you may find yourself thinking that you are the only one. You may assume that other mothers don’t feel the same way and that talking about your feelings will perhaps be a burden on others. I get it; I have been there and got the t-shirt. But you are not alone in this. Venting out and sharing your feelings with friends, other mothers, or even a professional will very likely help you to find some balance. And, remember, by expressing your feelings you may actually help others do the same. It’s a win-win situation.

 

So, after reading these tips I hope you already have your diaries at hand and are ready to plan a date with yourself, with your partner, or a friend for this week!

Just have some fun! Oh, and make sure you attend the Delft MaMa events – they are a great way to have fun while sharing experiences.

And, remember, just breathe!

 

 

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In your face!

You just had a tough morning, got the fussy kids fed and finally to school, got yourself racing against the clock and made it to your job. And then it happens: not your best pal at work, but some random Dutch co-worker wishes you a good morning in the most charming way: “meid, wat zie jij eruit vandaag”. Which roughly translates “you look like sh*t today”.

There you go, Dutch directness. To some extent, directness can be seen as bluntness or even rudeness. But it can also be seen as being honest, sincere, and not hypocrite. So, what makes the Dutch being seen as (too) direct?

It is actually your perspective on the Dutch culture that makes you categorize it as being too direct or rude. It is your “own culture” that reacts to this approach. We’ve all been raised with values and within visible or non-visible cultural boundaries and faux pas. While growing up you suck up like a sponge the way you should or not behave and react, the way to start or continue a conversation. Your surroundings and education is full of unwritten rules and expectancy rooted in your culture and the society around you. So is the Dutch kid growing up, she absorbs the way to communicate, to bring her message across, to deal with situations and social courtesy.

There’s the thing with Dutch culture and the way the Dutch communicate. World wide you can divide the way people communicate to one another as being “confrontational” or being “avoiding confrontation”. Cultures as the Dutch one (but also the US and German one) are communicating the confrontational way. The message must be simple and clear. Cultures as many Asian ones, but also the French one for example, are avoiding confrontation. Their message is full of nuances and there is lots to read between the lines. So when you come from a confrontation-avoiding society, it is not surprising you find the Dutch at least too direct.

But there is more. Another way to divide societies world wide, is the way a society relates to power; in other words, how hierarchic a society is. As you can expect, the Dutch are one of the less hierarchical societies. And because there is less hierarchy, there is also less of a need for imposed politeness and communication layers. This also means less etiquette, more feeling of equality, and there is a more open, two way communication. This all facilitates a more direct approach to all facades of life.

And there you are at this birthday party, and you find yourself chatting with this Dutch guy. And then he throws at you something like pure statements. This is this, and this is that. And then you block. That is not the way to engage in a conversation, not the way you’ve learned it. But that is the whole funny thing, that is exactly the way a Dutch person wants to fire up a conversation. Talking in statements, for many other cultures a conversation stopper, is the Dutch way to start a debate. It’s not a non-disputable statement, and the Dutch really don’t mean that their statement is the truth. It’s not that black and white. It should be an ice breaker, you are invited to exchange ideas. And you should start telling your point of view. The Dutch are taking pride in the freedom of speech and are very open to debating and making an argument.

As I wrote earlier, it’s most of the time your own cultural background that might make you feel offended by Dutch directness. And it is hard work for your cultural antenna to get the right message. It is hard when you are not so well acquainted with Dutch culture to differentiate between Dutch directness and real Dutch rudeness. Let’s be honest, there is a fine line between funny and sarcastic even in your own culture. But look at the up side of Dutch directness. When someone tells you something straight in your face, you just know where you stand. No false politeness, no pretending. And actually, when your co-worker tells you you look like sh*t, take a few moments to digest and have a good look at the face of your colleague. I am pretty sure that most of the time the non-verbal communication will tell you: “been there, I feel you”.

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The tao of running

One foot in front of the other. My thighs are burning a bit, my breathing is regular. My whole body feels like in some kind of a trance. I keep on going and I feel good. It seems there comes no end to this Indian summer, the colors are amazing, the sun is soft. I look ahead to see which turn I will take in Delftse Hout, and without much thinking I just follow my internal compass. Leaves, branches and acorns are cracking under the soles of my running shoes. I take another deep breath and I brace myself. Another 10 minutes to go. I can do this.

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