Posts Tagged 'self-care'

Hey, we’re in this together! A reminder for new parents

woman with arms around man

Unaltered image. Ashley Webb, Flickr. CC license.

Your baby is finally here and your dream of being parents finally came true. Sure, this is something the two of you excitedly dreamed and talked about for so long, but now that baby arrived, you may find yourselves feeling unhappy and disillusioned. Maybe you and your partner are feeling distant from each other when you thought a baby would bring you closer. What’s going on?

Most importantly, know that you aren’t alone. Research conducted by Dr. John Gottman, a renowned couple’s therapist and researcher, found that two-thirds of couples report increased conflict and decreased relationship satisfaction after the birth of their first baby. It can be one of the most stressful times for a couple’s relationship.

It’s been said that having a first baby is like throwing a hand grenade into a marriage. Those sweet little babies explode into our hearts and lives; they are the center of our world and the subject of almost all conversations. As a result, becoming new parents is one of the happiest times of our lives, while simultaneously being one of the hardest.

Those first weeks often leave parents feeling scared, clueless and exhausted. Many parents are overwhelmed with the endless work caring for an infant brings. They feel angry and betrayed when their partner doesn’t help out more or seem to care about them or their needs anymore. Parents often take their disappointment and frustration out on each other. Even a strong relationship can be severely strained during this transition time.

So what can couples do to lessen the conflict between them and improve their relationship as they adjust to becoming parents? Here some suggestions to help you keep your relationship positive and strong.

Communication is key

  • Talk to each other. Tell your partner how you’re feeling and what changes would help you feel better. Be sure to avoid criticisms and attacking language, such as using “always” and “never,” which only escalate conflicts. For example, stay away from statements like, “You never help out around here,” or “You’re always late coming home.” When partners hear things like this, they only think about defending themselves instead of truly listening to what you’re saying.
  • Listen. Really, truly listen to your partner’s concerns. Try not to become defensive with each other and instead, look at things from a problem-solving perspective.
  • Be understanding. Make the time and effort to find out what’s going on in your partner’s world from his/her perspective. For example, new moms are biologically hardwired to focus on caring for their newborns and don’t stop to think about how that feels to her partner. While moms don’t intent to exclude or ignore, it is often how dads feel. As a consequence, dads can act out their anger and frustration at feeling left out.

Define a new normal for awhile

  • Welcome help and support. It is perfectly appropriate to ask for and accept help from others. Families used to live in the same area generation after generation, and these relatives helped while first-time parents adjusted to their new roles. That’s often not true today. Instead, accept help from friends, family, co-workers, your religious organization, or community programs that offer it. Ask for help if needed. There is no gold star given for doing it alone.
  • Lower your expectations. It’s OK to let household chores slide or not cook homemade meals. As new parents, your focus should be on caring for baby and taking care of yourselves, which includes getting adequate sleep and bonding as a family. Some other things may need to lapse temporarily and that’s fine. As children grow and parents adjust, these things will once again be addressed.

Returning to work

  • Establish a new routine. Once one or both parents return to work, give yourselves time to work out a new routine. Review it every few weeks and adjust it as needed so that it works for both of you. Understand that finding what works for you both make take some trial and error and it will be unique to your situation.
  • Divide and conquer. Work out a division of labor that seems equitable to both of you. Caring for children, especially infants, is very work intensive. Arguments about “who does what” are common causes of relationship problems for new parents. Find solutions that work for you both then follow through on your part of it. Agree to tweak it as you find what works and what doesn’t.

Appreciate each other

  • Check-in daily. Make time to touch base with your partner daily, even if it’s only 5 minutes. Listen to his/her concerns and be supportive, but don’t try to solve the problems. Sometimes we all need to just vent and know that our partner is there for us. The biggest connections between partners can come from the small moments of feeling heard and valued.
  • Small gestures matter. Leave a note or send a text letting your partner know you’re thinking of them. Thank them for doing something helpful especially when you didn’t even have to ask. Let them know what a great mom or dad they are already. Even a small thing will show that you still love and appreciate your partner.
  • Make time for yourself. Give each other some “me” time on a regular basis, in a way that feels fair to both of you. We all need some time to ourselves to recharge and to stay connected to the person we were before becoming a parent. Revisit your arrangement and adjust it as needed.
  • Time together is important, too. Schedule some time together on a regular basis to have some fun. Too often couples become consumed by the demands of working and parenthood and they neglect each other. Make having fun together a priority!
  • Schedule time for intimacy. No, it doesn’t sound romantic, but with the busy life of new parents, it’s often schedule time for this or it never happens. It’s important to remember that you are both not just parents; you are the partners who fell in love enough to create a family together. Take the time to continue letting your partner know how special he/she is to you and how much you still value them as a person and as a partner.

And remember: Keep your sense of humor! Sometimes the way we look at things and the attitude we take makes all the difference between a big fight and a good laugh!

– Karen Duffy, LPC, NCC is an IFS coordinator with the Beaumont Parenting Program

Even dads get the blues: Postpartum depression in men

silhouette of man with head down

Having a baby is an amazing and wonderful experience, but it can also be overwhelming and stressful. No matter how much moms and dads prepare for the day when they bring their little bundle of joy home, parents can still be shocked by the reality of life with a new baby. It can take time to find the family’s new groove.

This can be complicated further with the addition of the most common complication of childbirth: postpartum depression (PPD). A whopping 10 to 20 percent of new moms will experience PPD and/or postpartum anxiety, and that is only the number of moms who report it!

But what about the dads? Does PPD only affect moms? The answer to that is no. Research is showing that up to 14 percent of new dads in the United States (compared to 10 percent internationally) experience paternal postpartum depression (PPPD).

The symptoms may differ from traditional depression symptoms, making PPPD challenging to diagnose. These symptoms may include:

  • Irritability isolating or withdrawing from relationships
  • Working a lot more or less
  • Low energy
  • Fatigue
  • Low motivation
  • Poor concentration
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Impulsivity
  • Risk-taking behaviors, often including turning to substances (e.g., alcohol, prescription drugs, etc.)
  • Physical symptoms (e.g., headaches, muscle aches, stomach/digestion issues, etc.)
  • Anger and outbursts
  • Violent behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts

Untreated depression in dads can have incredibly negative effects in many aspects of life, including impacting their children. Depressed dads are more likely to be stressed out and neglectful, as well as more likely to spank their children and less likely to read/interact with them, all of which can cause long-term consequences for their kids (Nauert, 2015).

The good news is, much like maternal PPD, paternal PPD is easily treatable. If you or someone you know may be experiencing PPPD it’s important to get help. The sooner treatment starts, the sooner you’ll enjoy your new family and be the dad you always wanted to be! For more information please check out these websites:

– Raelle Plante, MSW, Postpartum Adjustment Coordinator with the Parenting Program at Beaumont, Troy

References:

Types of Teas and Their Health Benefits

tea and infuser

Regarded for thousands of years in the East as a key to good health, happiness, and wisdom, tea has caught the attention of researchers in the West, who are discovering the many health benefits of different types of teas. From green tea to hibiscus, from white tea to chamomile, teas are chock full of flavonoids and other healthy goodies.

Studies found that some teas may help with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes; encourage weight loss; lower cholesterol; and bring about mental alertness. Tea also appears to have antimicrobial qualities.

“There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea,” says Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD. “I think it’s a great alternative to coffee drinking. First, tea has less caffeine. It’s pretty well established that the compounds in tea – their flavonoids – are good for the heart and may reduce cancer.”

Although a lot of questions remain about how long tea needs to be steeped for the most benefit, and how much you need to drink, nutritionists prefer brewed teas over bottled to avoid the extra calories and sweeteners.

Types of Tea

Green, Black, and White Tea

Tea is a name given to a lot of brews, but purists consider only green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong tea, and pu-erh tea the real thing. They are all derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, a shrub native to China and India, and contain unique antioxidants called flavonoids. The most potent of these, known as ECGC, may help against free radicals that can contribute to cancer, heart disease, and clogged arteries.

All of these teas also have caffeine and theanine, which affect the brain and seem to heighten mental alertness.

The more processed the tea leaves, usually the less polyphenol content. Polyphenols include flavonoids. Oolong and black teas are oxidized or fermented, so they have lower concentrations of polyphenols than green tea, but their antioxidizing power is still high.

Herbal Teas

These are made from herbs, fruits, seeds, or roots steeped in hot water, and have lower concentrations of antioxidants than green, white, black, and oolong teas. Their chemical compositions vary widely depending on the plant used.

Varieties include ginger, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, hibiscus, jasmine, rosehip, mint, rooibos (red tea), chamomile, and echinacea.

Limited research has been done on the health benefits of herbal teas, but antioxidants in chamomile tea may help prevent complications from diabetes, like loss of vision and nerve and kidney damage, and stunt the growth of cancer cells.

Instant Teas

Instant tea may contain very little amounts of actual tea and plenty of sugars or artificial sweeteners. For health’s sake, check out the ingredients on the label.

My Favorite Tea

Good Earth sweet and spicy tea

image credit: Good Earth

I enjoy “sweet tea” but prefer not to add sweeteners to my beverage. I found a brand of tea called Good Earth that makes a caffeine-free tea called Sweet & Spicy. It’s an herbal tea with natural sweet flavors and spice. Sometimes it is hard to find the Good Earth brand at grocery stores, but it’s also available online. Products similar to the Good Earth brand that can be found in local grocery stores include Meijer brand “cinnamon spice” and Kroger Private Selection brand “cinnamon hibiscus” herbal teas. In the colder months, I enjoy drinking my tea hot and in the warmer months the same tea can be made into an iced tea beverage.

– Bethany Kramer, M.A., R.D., is a registered dietitian with the Weight Control Center at Beaumont Health Center.

Information adapted from http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/tea-types-and-their-health-benefits#1

Helping my daughters feel full of themselves

mom and daughter doing push ups

When my eldest daughter was in kindergarten, she came home from school one day and asked me why she had a pudgy tummy. She proceeded to point to a very thin lamp base in my bedroom and said, “I want to be skinny just like that.” I will never forget that moment — partly because I was horrified but mostly because it became the catalyst for the kind of role model I was to become for my girls around body image and self-acceptance.

During this time, it became clear to me that there was nothing I could do about what others would say to my daughter about her body. I realized I couldn’t predict what effects would be long-lasting versus what she would brush off.

And so, in my attempt to gain some control back, I adopted some absolutes around my own behaviors as they related to my body. I figured if I could practice what I preach, perhaps they would follow suit?

  • If I talk about my body, I’m mindful of my word choice. I use words like healthy and strong. I try to focus on all the things my body can do, not on what it looks like.
  • I try to model gentleness in the way I care for myself. There are little ways to do this: choosing scented body creams and shower gels, using essential oils in our diffusers and on our bodies, resting our bodies when they are tired, etc.
  • I eat. I choose healthy foods and unhealthy ones too. I love my sweets. I take second helpings. I try to model moderation. I remind my girls that food is the fuel our bodies needs to work: the better we feed it, the better it works for us.
  • I don’t talk about carbs, fat or calories. Instead I try to provide my family with balanced meals and snacks that speak for themselves.
  • I drink water. I encourage my family to drink it too. I even buy fun and fancy cups to keep water accessible all day.
  • I move my body. I take the stairs instead of the escalator. I ride my bike to the store. We walk the dog. I workout. I sweat.
  • I never say “I am fat,” or “I feel fat,” in front of them.
  • If I’m watching what I eat, I don’t call it dieting. In fact, I don’t call it anything.
  • I try to stay away from using the word perfect at all.
  • I don’t talk about other people’s bodies, only my own.
  • When I need a break or feel grouchy, I go workout or take a walk. When I get home, I tell anyone who is listening how much better I feel.
  • I ask my husband to brush the girls’ hair when they get out of the shower. Listening to his compliments as he brushes their hair also plays an important role in my girls’ developing sense of self.

Ultimately I want my girls to feel full of themselves. I want them to take care of their bodies, to appreciate the work it does for them, and to feel confident about all the unique ways their bodies are developing. And in the meantime, I will continue to do my part to be the best role model I can be.

– Andree Palmgren is a volunteer with the Beaumont Parenting Program and mom of four kids ages 14, 12, 8 and 4.

Mindful families: Fewer meltdowns, more fun

Young boy meditating

Tuesday morning, 7:15 a.m.

Maria and her kids are already late. Her daughter is still brushing her teeth, her son can’t find his folder. Maria crankily yells at them to get moving already. Everyone is quiet in the car, afraid to say much. She realizes that she forgot her purse and work bag. She swears quietly under her breath. Every slow-moving truck and stoplight hinders her. She drops the kids off and rushes back home. Then she hears a siren and see flashing lights – she’s being pulled over for speeding. Now she will really be late, and could get an expensive ticket! She grits her teeth in frustration and feels her heart racing.

Have you had days like this? How can we break out of this rut? One important key is mindfulness. This is not some “new-age gobbledygook,” says mindfulness expert Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. In fact, 60 Minutes has a great 12-minute video on the powerful benefits of mindfulness.

You can bring the power of calm into your family too! Research shows that mindful caregivers and parents have calmer, happier kids. But before you teach your kids how to be mindful, you need to learn this skill yourself. “You can’t teach what you haven’t experienced,” says Dr. Carla Naumberg, author of “Ready, Set, Breathe: Practicing Mindfulness with Your Children for Fewer Meltdowns and a More Peaceful Family.”

Mindfulness is not difficult, and doesn’t have to take long. You can find ways to build “mindful moments” into your day, and with practice, these become habitual.

  • Think “connection before correction”. Try to calm yourself so you can figure out what is going on rather than reactively doling out punishments or harsh words.
  • Three “Magic Breaths”. When you feel yourself getting worked up, or can see that your child is starting to spiral, take three deep breaths together. Then talk about what is going on from a more stable point of view.
  • Use cues. When I hang up my keys near the front door, I take a deep breath, let the workday go (with varying success sometimes) and then greet my family. That’s my way of hitting the reset button and getting ready to be more present with them. Or use a small STOP sign to cue: Stop, Take a breath, Observe, Proceed more calmly.
  • Be kind to yourself as you learn. Minds are made to wander! When you try to focus on an activity or even just your breath, your mind will run off like a puppy. When you notice this, gently bring your attention back to your focus (e.g., building with LEGO with your son, raking leaves with your daughter, etc.).
  • Mindful media and technology. Technology is a good servant but a poor master. Constantly responding to the dings and pings of our electronic devices is anything but mindful and often leaves us feeling frazzled and exhausted. Take breaks from the screens and use them with intention and purpose. Take three deep breaths before reading an email or hitting “send”. We make fewer mistakes or rash decisions when we are focused and calm!
  • Try a brief loving kindness meditation. There is growing research on the power of meditation, mindfulness, and a special variety called “loving kindness meditation” (or metta) on promoting health and well-being. There are even structural changes in the brain as the result of these practices.

One quick version is to remember whenever you see an ambulance to send out loving kindness to the helpers and the people who need help. There are many variations on metta, but I particularly like “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you feel loved.”  Even in the midst of a busy day, I can remember that one!

As we all know, stress is everywhere. If you learn how to handle yours better, and model this for your children, you’ll be teaching them skills that last a lifetime!

– Dr. Lori Warner, Ph.D., LP, BCBA-D, Director, HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s Hospital

 

Put your best foot forward

Close up of feet walking on a colorful lit floor

Cropped image. GPS, Flickr. CC license.

I’m stubborn. I learned from one of the best — my Dad. He and I are very different in so many ways, but way too similar in every other way. My inherited stubbornness recently nearly led to my downfall. Let me explain.

First, I was in a job that I dreaded going to each day. So much so that I went to the doctor (which is a big deal, more on that later) because I got physically ill nearly every morning. Why? Because I didn’t want to go in to work. It just wasn’t for me, wasn’t the right situation for me, and because of a number of varying factors, my self-esteem was at an all-time low.

I allowed people to get in my head, which made me second- and third-guess myself on everything I did. Seriously, I questioned every word, every comma for nearly a year — which isn’t a good thing for a writer. I had trouble looking for a new job because I didn’t have the self-confidence needed to interview. I became a shell of my former self.

We parted ways finally, and I found myself having to find those bootstraps people always talk about and start pulling. I found them at the gym and went nearly every day for a few hours to clear my head. Everything was going well until I formed (and popped) a blister on the ball of my foot. I tried to “play through the pain” but it was too much, so I went to the doctor to get it looked at.

Everything was going fine until our insurance went away after the job loss. We looked into getting different types of insurance, but by the grace of God and the help of an old friend, I was able to get a great job with a great company … with even better people!

The foot was OK and got better for a bit, then unfortunately it got infected and I had to see a specialist. Treatment was fast and swift, but the foot wasn’t responding to the treatment. That meant going to go see another specialist. Remember, I’m stubborn and hate doctors; but when one mentions “amputation” you drop the stubbornness. After getting a second opinion, I’m working with a new team of doctors who haven’t used the “a”-word and I’m on the mend.

So what do my trials and tribulations have to do with a parenting blog?

Simple. If you find yourself in a situation — be it a horrible work situation or a bum foot — you have to take care of yourself and do what’s best for you, because nine times out of 10 the best thing for you is the best thing for your family.

Take care of yourself and you’ll take care of your family.

– Jim Pesta is a Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

A few important mottos for parents

Three young girls huddled together

First, I’d like to introduce myself and say I’m so honored to be writing for the Parenting Program blog. I have three girls (that’s them above) and am pregnant with my fourth! (Yes, someone pinch me — four girls!) After 13 years of marriage to an amazing man, rigorous medical training, four difficult pregnancies, and a brain tumor, I picked up a few goals along the way to help keep me healthy, sane and happy.

As a pediatrician for more than 10 years, I’m in awe of the amazing parents I see in my practice every day. They inspire me to strive to be a multitasking, loving, empathetic, energetic mother. All of us as parents are trying our best, and we all want what’s best for our children.

Sure that comes in many shapes and forms, many ups and downs, many trials and errors, but at the end of the day we are all doing our best. And our best is good enough, it really is!

Sometimes that means taking it one day at a time (or even one hour at a time). I’ve also learned that our happiest, most “successful” children aren’t always the smartest or most athletic, but instead they are confident, loved, and emotionally secure children who have healthy relationships with their peers and parents. Those are the ones who go on to do the best in school and life.

Now on to a few important mottos I’ve learned as a parent:

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Life happens, dishes pile up, and laundry never ends. But the special moments with your children are like a blink of an eye. Learn to let go, learn to ask for help, and not feel guilty about it. Why? Your children will remember the moments you played with them more than the spotless house.

Now that isn’t to say we should neglect our duties in the house, but instead, finding a balance will make you a happier, healthier family. Better yet, get the kids involved with the chores; you get help and it helps teach responsibility, pride and appreciation for all that you do in the home and outside the home.

Talk to your children. We often want to shield them from our emotions, forgetting to let them know about our good days and feelings. But sharing our feelings in kid terms (even when you’re overwhelmed) helps children learn empathy. They emulate us and when they see us open up about our feelings with open dialogue, they will tend to feel more comfortable and forthcoming with their feelings as well.

Let go of the guilt. As a full-time working mother married to a full-time working physician father, we constantly struggle with guilt. Seriously, I still cry when I drop my older girls off at elementary school. (Let’s keep that between us, OK?) Whether you work outside of the home or work at home as a full-time parent, we all suffer from guilt in one way or another.

There are days my girls are home sick, but I’m at work taking care of other sick children. I have a commitment to both my children and my patients. Finding the balance isn’t always easy, but I learned to deal with the feelings that come my way. I learned the various sacrifices that need to be made as a physician and mother.

Learn to be kind to yourself and realize none of us are perfect. Every day is delicate balancing act as a parent. We learn to prioritize — sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t — but at the end of the day, we survive, learn from mistakes, and celebrate the successes of the balancing act we call “parenting.”

Take care of yourself so you can take care of your family. Oh boy, this is one of my favorites! I’ve learned just how important over the years.

As a mother, I found myself getting burnt out with my children. I hated how I felt when I would snap at them or when they sensed I was short and unhappy simply because I was exhausted and overwhelmed. There were some days I would come home and have absolutely no energy left to interact and I was struggling to find joy with my children.

Then in October 2011, I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor and temporary lost my vision. I endured spinal taps and treatments just to get back to being healthy. But my role as a parent never stopped; we can’t just “stop” being parents. So the show went on and — although difficult — we managed. This was my aha moment, when I knew I had to change my lifestyle and take time for myself or I wouldn’t be there for my family who needed me most.

A couple smiling

My husband, Ali, and me

I started running (well, at first it was a walk) and five years later, I’m an avid runner. Believe it or not, my husband and I ran over 10 marathons in the past five years together (raising money for pediatric cancer) and more than 40 half marathons. Before then, I never did a lick of running and it has been life changing! It is my “me” time, my thinking time, my healing time, my outlet for my stressors, and a source of joy. The end result: I’m a better mother and physician, emotionally stronger, and healthier mentally and physically.

Morale of that story: Parent burn out is a real thing. Find a hobby you like and run with it (no pun intended). Take moments for yourself, have date night with your significant other, get some fresh air on a walk, turn on some loud music and dance like nobody is watching, read a good book, color, whatever it is — make time for yourself. Your children will thank you in the long run for taking care of yourself. They will learn we become less stressed, less snippy and overwhelmed with them. And the time we spend with them becomes more precious, enjoyable and special.

Final thoughts

Well if you got this far, thank you for reading my very first blog article! I’m looking forward to writing more in the upcoming months. As a pediatrician and mother, I have much to share. Above all, thank you for being the parents that you are and for to raise emotionally happy and healthy children. Remember to be kind to yourselves, you are likely doing a million times better job than you think you are! Happy parenting!

– Dr. Hannan Alsahlani, is a pediatrician, Beaumont Children’s Hospital Residency Program faculty, and associate professor at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine. But my greatest title of all is Mother!


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