People keep asking me how I’m doing through all of this.
My second daughter was born mid-February. People assume I must have higher-than-usual anxiety around COVID-19 because I have a tiny baby at home.
But since going on maternity leave, my life really hasn’t changed much. In fact, being at home for long stretches of time worrying fanatically about the safety of society’s most vulnerable humans is exactly what maternity leave is!
“There are so many factors that are at play,” she says.
Perhaps the greatest of which is simply that your life has changed big time.
“What most women find most surprising is just the demand of being a new mom,” Sara says. “I don’t know how to prepare moms for it. There are no words.”
“Taking care of a baby seems simple. You change them, feed them, do a little play with them – but it’s the same thing every day. The monotony of caring for a child every single day is exhausting because it’s all-consuming and it’s twenty-four hours a day and you don’t get a coffee break.”
Sidenote: I think she diagnosed my problem in five sentences here haha.
Nine months can also be a noteworthy mark in the post-partum experience, Sara says.
“Women may be feeling thrown off that they’re still tired at nine months – they think, ‘I should have bounced back by now, my life should be normal, I should be able to go out all day with my baby and not need a nap.’
“But the post-partum body takes a full year to recover.”
Sidenote: I was mista
While the monotony of day-to-day child rearing may be the entire reason for your fatigue, there are also many other factors that can contribute, Sara says. The good news is that they are all treatable.
Factor:Not taking care of yourself
Sara says she sees many women who get so busy taking care of their new babies that they neglect their own health needs.
This can mean they don’t make time to plan healthy and consistent meals and can have nutritional deficiencies as a result (iron is a big one). They can also feel too tired to exercise post baby, even though this is a very important factor in post-partum recovery.
Your health and nutrition qualify as self-care and these are critical for new moms, Sara says.
“Getting a pedicure or massage once in awhile isn’t enough.”
Factor: Not getting enough sleep
Many new moms have problems sleeping and experience insomnia, even when their babies are sleeping well, she says.
“Not sleeping because your baby is awake is one thing but not sleeping because you’re not being able to fall asleep is a big red flag. That can lead to developing a post-partum mood disorder.”
Do whatever you can to make up for missed sleep, she says.
“Go to bed a 7PM if you have to.”
Also, an over-reliance on coffee when you’re sleep deprived may be problematic, she says.
“When you’re exhausted new mom and living on coffee this can work against you.”
Factor: Not asking for help
The majority of new moms are exhausted because they’re not getting and/or accepting help, Sara says.
“Not every new mom has family or friends they can call but many do and don’t use them because they think they shouldn’t need help.
“You do. You deserve it. Call that person in.”
Factor: Comparing yourself to other moms
This one gets me every time (I have a perfect older sister).
We see other women seemingly doing a better job than us.
But the reality is that everyone struggles, Sara says.
“All the other moms that we think are doing it perfectly are in the same grind you are.”
Social media is a big contributor to this line of thinking, Sara says.
“Feeding a baby all day, you have a phone in your hand and that’s all you’re looking at. But just remember – it’s not really real.”
Factor: Bigger issues at play
Post-partum fatigue can also be emblematic of a bigger problem, Sara says, so it’s important to watch for signs that that you could be having more serious issues, such as post-partum depression or mood disorder.
“Maybe it starts with fatigue and turns into irritability, fits of frustration or even rage. When it starts escalating, it might be time to check in with yourself.”
If your fatigue stops you from getting out of the house, enjoying life, and engaging with the world for longer periods of time, or just leaves you feeling overall unhappy for days on end, that could be a problem.
“You need to be able to ask yourself, ‘is this just a bad day?’ Bad days are expected but when it’s compounded over time and not getting better that is a warning sign.”
“Each mom knows what their normal so it’s important to check in.”
The whole purpose of this article is just to make all my fellow TIRED new moms (and dads) feel better. You’re all killing it ladies and gentlemen.
When you think of a food bank, you probably think of an agency that gives food to people who immediately need it.
Which the Regina Food Bank does.
But it also does so much more.
“We have 9,000 people come through our doors each month, so we have to be able to find out how we can help them in terms of food security,” says Todd Sandin, Director of Operations.
This means not only striving to eliminate hunger but also to solve the longer-term problems associated with food insecurity.
One component of this is educating people on food – where it comes from, and how they can grow and prepare local foods for their families.
Another component is growing sustainability within the organization’s own operations, a necessary requirement when you receive upwards of 3 million pounds each of food and non-food donations each year.
Because of these focuses, the Regina Food Bank is home to some super cool and innovative initiatives, some that are not yet being done at any other food bank in the world (just one more thing you can be proud of in this amazing city!)
Here are five delightful facts about the Regina Food Bank.
It has a machine that turns waste into fuel!
Officially it’s called a “gasification unit” (I think that name needs some marketing input) and Regina is the only food bank in the world to have one, Sandin says!
Here’s how the machine works: You put in up to 500 pounds of waste/non-perishable items (except plastic, unfortunately) and the machine slowly breaks it down and “cooks” it, turning it into fuel. The Food Bank then uses this fuel to heat its greenhouse and warehouse and has enough left over to share with other partner agencies as well (for example, the YWCA has used it to heat its pool!).
Altogether the machine has helped the Food Bank save $30,000 a year on waste that has been reinvested back into programs.
They’ve only had the machine for six month, Sandin says, but future plans include sharing their knowledge and experience with it to other agencies across Saskatchewan that may also benefit from such technology.
It has a Farming Robot!
Or FarmBot, if you will.
This is basically a machine that uses the same technology as 3-D printers, laser cutters and CNC routers to power a little farm that operates without any human interaction (the only thing it cannot do on its own is harvesting).
Why does a Food Bank need a farming robot? This is part of the educational component, Sandin says.
“When we sat down with our team to discuss what would be the best use of our assets, we found that the education program actually produced an amazing yield of engagement with students, what they learned about where their food comes from and how important local food is as well,” he says.
“It’s really important to show kids these days where their food comes from, how they can do it at home, how they can be more of a family unit when it comes to producing their own food.”
And of course, what better way to engage kids than ROBOTS.
Which leads me to ….
It teaches people about food production and how they can produce their own food
The robot is just part of a greater educational program.
The Food Bank also has a year-round greenhouse which is home to 30 “ecotowers,” (little standup gardens that can grow a bunch of stuff in a small space). Schools and other community organizations can tour the greenhouse and learn about food production.
Partner schools in the city have been able to use the ecotowers to grow their own produce in the classroom. One classroom used their yields to have a potluck. Another class grew lettuce to feed their own gerbil. How sweet is that?!
The Food Bank also has a commercial kitchen that is used to teach people how to cook with certain food products. For example, lentils, which the Food Bank receives large donations of.
They don’t just deal with food.
This is another way the Regina Food Bank is unique – every year it “repurposes” 290,000 pounds of non-food donations to 120 partner agencies, that then distribute it to people most in need.
The Regina Food Bank is able to do this for a number of reasons, Sandin says.
First, they have a massive building (35,000 square feet of warehouse, which was donated to them). Second, they have amazing network of business partners, transporters and volunteers, which allow them to get the donated products from their warehouse to the places in need.
“We have a great alignment of stars right now,” Sandin says. “Not all food banks have that luxury.”
Are you wondering what 290,000 pounds of donated products looks like? They have had everything from shampoo, to bikes, to wine glasses, to BBQs, to branded office uniforms (which they were able to unbrand and donate to Comso Industries!).
“I’ve literally seen it all,” Sandin laughs.
They welcome everyone to get involved!
While there are the traditional ways to get involved – make a financial or food donation – Sandin says all community engagement is welcome.
“Get involved, volunteer some time, come see what we’re doing now. There’s a lot of great unique initiatives we have going on in our building, our greenhouse, our mobile pantry, our commercial kitchen – a lot of ways for people to get involved.”
Since becoming a part-time stay-at-home mom, I have begun to enjoy some things I used to find extremely inconvenient.
Such as grocery shopping.
Previously I would get in and out of there as quickly as possible, throwing my usual items into the cart and silently cursing at people in my way.
But nowadays I lull my child to sleep in the shopping cart, then leisurely drink a coffee while lingering in aisles, comparing products and pricing.
Which brings me to the huge discovery I have made regarding grocery shopping that I’m going to share with you.
Not only is the international aisle at Superstore a super fun wonderland, it’s also where you can get many of the same products that are sold in other aisles, just for way cheaper!
I will save the speculation on why North American consumers are prone to pay more for products with a non-foreign label on them, or that are easy to find, and just get right down to this:
We are paying a SIGNIFICANT premium for products in the regular aisle compared to the international aisle, and not because of a difference in quality.
To demonstrate my point here are the specs on five items that I buy regularly. (In cases with multiple examples from the regular aisles, the premiums are calculated according to the highest priced product versus the one from the international aisle.)
Canned black beans
All the products are canned and packed in Canada (and are likely grown here) and all these companies are Canadian (including ARZ). So you are supporting Canadian business and likely farmers no matter which of these brands you buy (but saving a lot of money when you buy the one that looks foreign). Hahaha #irony.
Flaxseed Premium: 63%
Despite the fact that we grow flax right here in Saskatchewan, neither of these is labelled a product of Canada and likely come from the U.S. According to industry insiders, there may be slight variation in the oil content of different flax crops which could affect the quality of the product, but the difference would be too minor for the consumer to tell. I’ve tried both these products and cannot tell a difference.
International aisle for the win!
Oregano Premium: 578%
This is one my absolute favourite because not only are you paying a HUGE premium for the regular aisle brands, I think the ARZ brand is the most delicious oregano I have ever tasted. It tastes like it just came from the garden (it actually comes from Lebanon). Since buying this brand I put oregano on pretty much everything!
Basmati rice Premium: 36%
OK to be fair on this one, I haven’t tried both brands. I just don’t need that much basmati rice. I doubt anyone needs 18kg of basmati rice – but maybe at a 36% premium you DO?
Canned green lentils Premium: 157%
Same deal as with the beans, these lentils are both canned and packed in Canada, by Canadian companies (and are likely Canadian lentils) so you are buying local whichever one you buy — you’re just paying more for one!
Please note: these are just five random products I chose to illustrate my point. If you looked at dry beans and lentils, and probably many other products, I am sure the savings would be even greater.
AND I distinctly left one off because I want you to look at the comparison yourself and then experience the extreme high of International Aisle Savings. (Please note: this is reserved only for people who don’t get out much, like me haha.)
Happy grocery shopping my friends and see you in the international aisle!
I had a baby six months ago and began working again (reduced hours) after about two months.
Cue the gasp from many people I tell this to.
“That’s so early!”
Comparatively speaking, it’s not.
Canada offers one of the longest government-subsidized maternity leaves in the world (up to 61 weeks as of last year!).
We often celebrate this and we should. We are so fortunate to live in a country that values the very important role of parents.
But this option isn’t for everyone.
Many people who are self-employed like me (one study thinks it will be almost half of us in coming years) are not eligible for government-subsidized maternity leave.
Other women simply choose not to take a full year.
And, based on my own experience, I think this is a good thing.
Because – when I push my guilt aside – I must say that I enjoyed the balance of being able to take a couple hours away from the very intense world of caring for an infant to exercise my mind muscles and remaining engaged with the world I previously occupied.
The more I spoke with other women about my arrangement, the more I found women who had done similar things and had positive experiences.
And so I have come to believe that doing so (remaining engaged in the work world, even at a reduced rate, after having a baby) might help your mental state at a time that is proven to be extremely vulnerable – the new mom stage.
But of course, what the H do I know. So I talked to some experts to explore my theory.
Here’s some interesting things I learned.
Having a baby is a tremendously life changing experience.
As soon as that baby is born, the life you lead up to that point abruptly ends and all of a sudden your job, all day (and ALL NIGHT), is to care for this tiny human.
This change can complicate our sense of self, says Sara Beckel, a certified labour and post-partum doula with more than a decade of experience.
“Nobody tells you that there’s a loss of identity,” she says.
“We’re told that you’re going to have this baby and you’re going to love this baby and your life is going to be complete.
But no one is talking about the fact that it’s normal for women to grieve the loss of their old lives, Sara says.
“We’re only allowed to talk about the joys of having a baby, not the parts where you kinda want to quit today or send this baby back for a couple days. Because every single new mom has those thoughts. We’re just not posting them on social media.”
There’s even a name for this period: “matrescence,” which refers to the identity shift that happens in women when they become mothers.
“What I hear from moms is that they just lose themselves,” she says.
There are a couple reasons for this, in her opinion. First, she believes that new moms often put the needs of their child before their own and have anxiety around making time for themselves.
“They express to me that they want to take care of themselves but something stops them and it’s often anxiety related,” she says.
She says women are also conflicted about what they should be doing versus what they want to be doing.
“We get mixed messages, like ‘it’s OK to go back to work, but you really should take 18 months.’ Or, ‘we support you either way, but why wouldn’t you take 18 months?’”
“Navigating that can be very difficult.”
Another very common theme for new moms is that of isolation, which goes hand in hand with matrescence.
Today’s new moms just do not have the same levels of support as they did in previous generations, Kayla says.
“We live in a world where the village doesn’t exist anymore. We don’t always live close to parents or friends and family and we haven’t always created close knit communities for ourselves as adults.”
And even if you have supports available to you, many women feel uncomfortable asking for and/or accepting help, she says.
“You might have support available to you but you’re not accepting it because it’s seen as weakness for us to accept help. We wonder, ‘why can’t I do this on my own?’ ”
Further complicating the isolation is the fact that we feel we can’t complain, Kayla says.
“Loneliness also comes from society not being OK with women complaining or having negative emotions. We are told to ‘cherish’ this time.”
“The truth is that it’s hard and it’s hard to do by yourself, if your partner is working or you don’t have support close by.”
This feeling of isolation can lead to further complications, such as post-partum anxiety and depression, Sara says.
“I think isolation is a huge factor. Maybe some women wouldn’t feel as stir crazy if they felt they were involved in a strong community where they could meet their social needs. Loneliness and isolation just adds to the underlying feeling of loss of self or temporary loss of career.”
How to prevent these problems?
In theory, it’s really quite simple, Kayla says.
“Keep doing the things you love. That’s the message across the board for anyone experiencing anxiety or depression.”
For me, that meant continuing to work (I am lucky to have a job I love). But for others, that could mean joining a support group, hanging out with other moms, playing team sports, or continuing to do the same social activities you did before your baby was born.
“Just get out and find your people,” Kayla says.
In practice though, she admits it can be harder to manage logistically.
“I’ve been telling myself to go to aquasize for three years now,” she laughs. “So I understand there’s all kinds of limitations.”
“But you just need to start somewhere. Moms don’t love to hear this part but there are likely pockets of time in the day to do the things you love.”
In other words, make time for self-care and make time for you.
The idea of continuing to do the things you love, or that make you feel normal and productive, seems intuitive.
So why don’t more women just do it?
I think a big part of it is guilt. Most days when I’m typing away on my laptop, I ask myself one or all of these questions: Should I be with my baby now instead of working? Am I a bad mom?Is she missing me? Am I affecting our bond by not being with her right now? Am I selfish?
And the questions continue hahahaha.
These feelings are normal, Sara says, but here are a few things to remind yourself when these feelings start arising.
We know that having a primary child care provider at home during the early years is very important for childhood development, but we also know that doesn’t always have to be a full-time mom.
“Ideally it’s a parent but at the end of the day if the mom isn’t happy and healthy we don’t have healthy children,” she says. “If you’re miserable and inattentive and angry about being there, those things really do affect baby development.
“So it’s really important for moms to make decisions to make sure they’re feeling healthy, over and above what they think they’re supposed to do.”
In her own experience returning to work after her son was born, Kayla says one of the valuable things she learned was making a distinction between quality versus quantity when it came to time spent at home.
“You can still work and be a part of your child’s life – it’s how present are you when you’re with them. Quality time for a child is twenty minutes, not three hours. By all means do the three hours if you can but for a busy working mom they just need twenty minutes when you walk through the door.”
Some other considerations:
So many people told me that continuing to work after having a baby was a terrible idea because my brain wouldn’t work the same as it once did so I was kinda expecting this to happen.
But my experience was quite the opposite.
First, I think that exercising my mental muscles keeps them sharp. You have probably heard of “mom brain” – the concept that moms are forgetful/absentminded after having babies.
What I think is indisputable is that being overwhelmed and sleep deprived (which is almost certain to happen after having a baby) does impact your brain function. But in my case that’s why it was even more important to keep working. Working for me is exercise for my brain (and I love exercise in all its forms). I truly believe this helped me better deal with “mom brain.”
But here’s what really surprised me. Having a baby motivated and energized my work!
I think there are two reasons for this.
First, increased levels of serotonin support creativity. Because my work is creative (as all work can/should be) I felt like I was able to approach it from new perspectives.
Second, I think probably more specifically because I had a daughter, I now feel more inclined than ever before to set a good example for future generations of women, to show them that we can do work we’re proud of and be examples of the forces we want to be in the world.
I realize that my situation is unique. The type of work I do allows me to work from home and set my own schedule (to some degree). I am also incredibly lucky to be able to hire help to come into my home to allow me time each day to focus on my work.
Finally, I realize many women WANT to take time off work to have a full maternity leave experience. That is wonderful and I fully support and admire those women.
My intent with this article is just to tell women to consider exploring or creating new options for themselves. And you might be surprised how open others are to helping you make these options work. My current employers have been incredibly accommodating and flexible with my situation.
Most importantly, I encourage you to do what feels right for you and your family and not feel guilty about it (or at least try not to hahahaha).
I was chatting with a friend the other day and we were struck by the fact that we both know women, in our close circles, who have been or are currently in abusive relationships.
This shouldn’t have surprised us as much as it did.
Although some groups of people are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, it affects all segments of society.
And it’s especially prevalent in Saskatchewan.
According to a government report released last year, Saskatchewan has the highest rate of police-reported interpersonal and domestic violence in Canada. And according to Statistics Canada, the rate of police-reported family violence in our province is approximately double the Canadian average.
Given these stats, and the current climate of heightened attention to harassment and abuse primarily targeting women, I wanted to understand how we might all be more cognizant of this problem and constructive in our response to it.
So I decided to chat with Gwyn Tremblay, the Executive Director of SOFIA House, a Regina-based organization that provides comprehensive services to families who have experienced domestic abuse.
(“Comprehensive services” means they take a long-term, sustainable approach to helping victims break the cycles of abuse and re-integrate back into society, through programs that include counselling, education, jobs and more. The organization also aims to help children break out of the cycles of abuse and stay in school.)
Most people in the type of role Gwyn’s in have a social work or counselling background but Gwyn has an MBA, a business background, and a history of high-powered, corporate jobs.
Her motivation for making this vast career change not long ago?
Her experience trying to help a friend escape an abusive relationship.
She recalls, several years ago, getting a panicked phone call from her friend in the middle of the night. The friend was fleeing her home with her kids after a charged fight with her husband, who Gwyn knew to have a history of anger and violence.
“The wind was blowing, I could barely understand her – she was screaming,” she says.
Eventually Gwyn was able to track her friend down using an iPhone app and after realizing she was returning home, decided to meet her there.
“As I started walking up the driveway, she came running out of her house,” she recalls. “The door had been knocked down, the frame was gone and her husband came after her with a gun.”
Gwyn says that within seconds, the gun was pointed at her.
“I just kept walking. He chose to back down, thank God.”
After the incident she tried unsuccessfully to get her friend to leave her husband.
“That was my biggest mistake,” Gwyn says. “I didn’t know what being trauma-informed was back them. I tried to force her.”
The experience changed her, she says, which is why she jumped on this current opportunity, to try and make a difference for other people in her friend’s situation.
Gwyn helped me come up with a few ways we can all try to help.
1. Understand what domestic violence is
Many people assume that domestic violence refers to recurring physical abuse.
But that’s only one part of it. The term and concept of domestic violence covers a wide range of behaviours including physical, emotional and psychological abuse, as well as criminal harassment (such as stalking) and threats of harm. The term also refers to threats of physical violence.
Some people downplay the severity of verbal abuse but it’s just as significant as physical abuse, Gwyn says.
“Verbal abuse is where it starts. That’s usually the precursor to domestic abuse. That’s how they wear you down.”
2. Don’t stigmatize it
Like I mentioned above, domestic abuse doesn’t affect just one segment of the population.
It affects people of all education and income levels, all cultures and communities and both men and women.
However, some groups are more at risk than others.
According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, women aged 15-24 are at a much higher risk than women in higher age categories. Aboriginal women are much more likely to be victims of violent and fatal crimes than non-Aboriginal women. And while men can also be victims of domestic abuse, rates of reported abuse are significantly higher amongst women.
Even if you don’t know anyone personally affected by domestic violence, it still impacts you.
The Canadian Women’s Foundation estimates that Canadians spend about $7.4 million a year to deal with spousal violence.
But beyond financial impact, Gwyn says domestic abuse affects our communities in more qualitative ways.
“You’re only as good as your weakest member as a commnity,” she says. “At SOFIA House we often see people affected by domestic violence that could be contributing to our society and have lots of give.”
Gwyn gives one example to illustrate this. One of the current tenants of the house is an immigrant who was a doctor in her home country. Bolstered by the support she’s receiving from SOFIA House, she has been able to get her driver’s license, get her daughter into English classes, and has begun the process of obtaining her Canadian medical license.
“When we run these programs, it’s not just removing victims from violent situation,” Gwyn says. “It’s empowering them to be contributing members of society, be self-sustainable, and create bonds and relationships in the community.”
4. Support victims you know
When I was having the conversation that inspired this article, I was bemoaning the fact that I don’t know what to do for my friend in question.
So I asked Gwyn for guidance. She says it’s common that people don’t know what to do in these situations and so often choose to avoid it.
“When you have a friend who is being verbally abused, especially in public, people just don’t want to get involved – they feel like it’s none of their business,” she says.
But it’s important to show that you support them, she says.
“Sometimes that just means putting your hand on their leg or calling them the next day and asking if they want to talk. Just being their friend is probably the number one thing you can do for them, so that they know they have support.”
She also says it’s important to not get frustrated when you feel that victims aren’t making the right decisions.
“You have to look at situation,” Gwyn says. “When someone’s in trauma they don’t make the best decisions for themselves because cognizant thinking just does out the window. They’re in fight or flight mode and usually it’s fight mode so the best thing you can do is just be there with a level head.”
There are two situations where you need to take more action, Gwyn says.
First, if there is physical abuse, she recommends you call the police.
Second, if you feel you are helping enable the abuse and/or it’s impacting your wellbeing you have to consider your own health.
“Being there as a friend is one thing but if it gets to a point where if there’s no action, there’s not much you can do. If it’s hurting your psyche or self-esteem or the way you think about things that when you have to walk away.”
5. Help support SOFIA House!
Due to significant constraints on corporate sponsorship in recent years, SOFIA House is facing an approximate $70,000 deficit this year. And when deficits happen, the first thing to get cut is programs for women and children – which are critical to the success of the organization.
Gwyn is currently trying to use her business mind to come up with new and innovative ways to raise funds and there are some new and exciting projects on the go.
But in the meantime, she reminds people that every single dollar that comes in gets put to good use.
“People sometimes have the mindset that financial donations goes to administration or frivolous things. But they don’t – we still have to pay bills and fund our day-to-day operations.
She also likes to remind people that even small donations are hugely appreciated and go a long way.
“Let’s say you have a Tupperware party and put 5% towards a local charity – it doesn’t necessarily need to be us even – you may think it’s only $20 but that money is so important to our organization.”
Since having a baby four months ago, I have experienced many of the wonderful aspects of being a new mom.
But I’ve also experienced something unexpected and unpleasant: a lot of anxiety.
And while some of it is warranted (ie. concerns about SIDS, the scariest thing in the world), some of it is not (ie. my fear that someone will kidnap my baby in the night).
I’m not normally an anxious person, so this is a new – and extremely uncomfortable – place for me.
Once I began talking with fellow parents (and non-parents), I have come to understand that heightened anxiety for new parents is common, and not just amongst women. One male colleague of mine was kind enough to share that after he had kids, he would get up several times a night to make sure his doors were locked.
In fact, this type of anxiety is so common that there’s actually a term for it: post-partum anxiety (PPA) (clever, hey?).
According to Postpartum Support International, 10% of women will develop PPA (compared to 6% who will develop post-partum depression). The same organization also lists symptoms of PPA as:
Feeling that something bad is going to happen
Disturbances of sleep and appetite
Inability to sit still
Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea
(Most people who’ve had a baby – and those who haven’t – will probably tell you they’ve had some/all of these symptoms at some point in their lives so take that “10%” with a grain of salt my friends.)
Regardless of the stats and numbers, I decided I need to deal with this, mostly because I cannot afford to lose ANY MORE SLEEP because of this baby (whom I adore).
So I contacted the psychology department at the University of Regina, and was put in touch with Kerry Spice, a registered psychologist and eTherapist with the Online Therapy Unit (a program that offers free online mental health programs to those in need – read more about it by following the link).
Within a counselling role, Kerry focuses primarily on cases involving anxiety and depression, so she was a wonderful resource.
Here are a few things I learned:
Anxiety is normal and it affects everyone
I used to think that people who suffered from “anxiety” and “anxiety disorders” were different than me because I didn’t. (I’m a slow learner haha.)
This is not the case, Kerry told me.
“Although we may see anxiety as sort of an exclusive concept, it is actually a normal human emotion,” she says. “It’s natural and healthy for everyone to experience some levels of anxiety and it’s actually a survival mechanism, to help prepare us for things that are threatening or dangerous.”
So, in many ways, anxiety is normal and can even be helpful for motivating you do to things.
Anxiety becomes a problem though when it happens too often, is too severe, and occurs at the wrong times or doesn’t match the environment, Kerry says.
“When it affects our quality of life, then we call that an anxiety disorder – so the difference is that function or impact on quality of life.”
She also said one in four people suffer from anxiety or depression, but many more experience these issues at milder levels at some point throughout their lives.
Anxiety can be triggered by life events and some people may be more susceptible than others
Obviously, it’s not just new moms who experience anxiety.
Some people are more genetically susceptible to anxiety but genetics can’t explain all anxiety.
A better predictor is how we perceive and react to life experiences and “trauma” (which can be any emotionally charged event – it doesn’t necessarily have to be a crisis). Our stress levels and available supports are also relevant, Kerry says.
“You and your best friend might experience the same event and have very different emotional reactions to it. That’s based on your underlying beliefs, experiences, and available supports.”
Anxiety is more likely to develop when we feel like events are out of our control, like we can’t cope, like we don’t have support or when we view the events as severe/catastrophic.
According to a Parents.com article about PPA, you may also be more susceptible to post-partum anxiety if you have “a personal or family history of anxiety or previous experience with depression, certain symptoms of PMS (such as feeling weepy or agitated), eating disorders, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).”
Side note: I know this is a serious topic but I have to make a joke here – is there any woman in the world who has NOT experienced the PMS symptom of “agitation” hahahaha.
There are easy things you can do to help!
Talk about it
This was the most important thing I learned from Kerry: TALK ABOUT YOUR ANXIETY WITH YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM!
This may seem like common sense, but for introverts like me talking isn’t always as easy as it seems.
But sometimes that’s really all you need, Kerry says.
“Sometimes it’s the avoidance of taking about the issue that makes it worse because it makes it scarier.”
Talking about your anxiety will help you solve problems you might not be able to on your own, Kerry says.
“Sometimes we can internally problem solve and work through things but not always, so if we’re not doing helpful things to problem solve then talking to someone else can support that along.”
Side note: I can verify this works. One night my husband and I were supposed to go out and leave our baby with a sitter. About an hour before we were supposed to leave I began to feel anxious.
On a whim, I told my husband why – I was worried we would get into a car accident on the way to the venue and I wouldn’t see my baby grow up – and waited for him to laugh at me.
Instead, he told me that he often had similar concerns (validated my feelings) and then proceeded to map out the most technically, statistically safe driving route to our destination. (Hahaha I love this man.)
I felt a million times better and we proceeded to have a lot of fun that evening.
Write it down
Another option for helping us problem solve is by writing things down, which can help validate what you’re feeling and again, help promote problem solving, Kerry says.
“Sometimes you’ll know intuitively that something is unrealistic but when you write it down, that makes it real,” she says.
“That then helps promote our ability to problem solve, think of alternative thoughts, or spin the problem into a different frame. Sometimes it takes more than just positive thinking, it’s about being realistic too and then being able to manage and cope with that.”
Side note: I can also verify this works. I usually feel particularly anxious at night, so in the mornings I write out a list of all the worries from the previous evening that kept me awake. Usually once I see them on paper, I can appreciate how unrealistic they are. Sometimes I send the list to my sisters and we laugh at them together. But sometimes the list features a valid concern, so then I know I have to deal with it in a realistic, practical way.
Maintain overall good health practices
Mental health is part and parcel of your overall health, which is why meeting all your basic health needs is always important, Kerry says.
This includes making sure you are sleeping, eating a nutritious and balanced diet, staying active, and practicing the laws of moderation.
Side note: I want to make a joke here about moderation and wine consumption but I don’t want the Judging Mom Police on my case, so will refrain hahaha.
When to seek professional help
I don’t think it ever hurts to talk to a therapist.
“Good emotional wellbeing and maintaining this is important and it would be ideal for all people to consult a professional at some point in their lives,” she says, adding that too often people only seek the support of a professional once their symptoms are impairing their functioning in some way.
“In my opinion, it would be ideal for everyone to have a wellbeing check-in – like you have a medical checkup –just to keep coping in a healthy range, but this is not always possible.”
Beyond that, however, there are clear signals that it’s crucial that you seek professional help for your anxiety problems. This includes if your functioning is impaired, if you’re not able to cope with day-to-day life, and again, if your anxiety occurs too often, too severely, at the wrong times, or doesn’t match the environment.
“The key is to keep our symptoms within a healthy range and this can look different for everyone,” Kerry says.
A therapist can talk to you about more coping mechanisms, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Disclaimer on this article: I am in no way an expert on this topic and I am not offering medical advice. I am just sharing my personal experience and some information I received from an expert, in the hopes that it might help others who have had similar experiences. Please feel free to “write down” your list of post-partum concerns in the comments if you wish!
Not only because moving is an overwhelming job (especially with a newborn, right before Christmas) but also because it forced me to confront the shameful reality of how many clothes I have.
Way more than I need. Especially now that I work from home, have an infant that barfs on everything I wear anyways, and am at a stage of my life where I can admit that some trends were just a bit too “fun” for me (ie. the acid wash jean vest that I held on to for approximately ten years and wore once. With a belt.).
Because of this I have decided that my January project, in an effort to live more meaningfully and thoughtfully, would be a meaningful closet cleanse.
I did some research on steps I could take to feel better about my wardrobe and here’s what I came up with. I hope this information helps you too.
1. Cleanse and donate somewhere responsible.
In the past, I would routinely go through my closet, dump all the clothes I didn’t wear anymore into a garbage bag, and then drop it in my closest clothing bin without even considering who I was donating to and why.
I’ve since decided this process is almost as bad as the mindless shopping that brought me to my current problem in the first place.
After doing some research I feel better choosing a donation program that supports a cause I believe in and is managed transparently.
Here are a couple options I would recommend to you.
This is an international not-for-profit (with offices in Regina and Saskatoon) that supports women by providing them with professional clothing and other supports to help them be successful in work and life. What a great cause, especially at this critical time for the women’s movement.
How to donate:
They accept clothing donations that are appropriate for the workplace: suits, skirts and tops, accessories such as shoes, boots, purses, scarves, and jewelry, and outer wear such as coats, hats, gloves, bags. It’s also important that the donations are still in current style and in good condition (they discard donations with stains, rips, tears, pilling, etc.)
Side note: I’m actually collecting clothing donations for them until the end of February! Ladies: feel free to drop your suitable donations off with me before then and I will wash, sort, drop them for you.
Your local shelter/homeless outreach program
Why I like this option:
Unlike the donation bin programs, with these programs donations generally go directly to these who need them without a middle man.
For example, Regina’s Soul’s Harbour Rescue Mission collects donations right at their clothing store, where it then gets sorted by volunteers and given away to people in need. A related note about Soul’s Harbour – my husband and I have volunteered in their soup kitchen before and they are a wonderful organization with very hard working, dedicated staff.
How to donate:
For Soul’s Harbour, just drop your donation off at 1836 Halifax Street (in the Gerri Carroll Hope Centre) Monday to Friday from 12:30-3:30PM.
They really are convenient (donations bins seem to be everywhere) and the vast majority of proceeds from clothing donations support the Saskatchewan Association For Community Living, an organization that helps people with intellectual disabilities live ordinary and fulfilled day-to-day lives and become included and valued members of society. (Community Living retains some of the proceeds to cover their operational costs.)
Simply because diabetes is becoming everyone’s issue. You probably know someone affected by the disease (the Canadian government estimates that approximately two million Canadians have it) and it is a rising cost for Canadians (the government also estimates the disease costs us up to $9 billion a year). Therefore, by donating your clothes to Diabetes Canada, you can feel like you are somehow helping a major, growing national problem.
Note: Both Community Living and Diabetes Canada partner with Value Village to run their clothing donation programs. The respective organizations collect donations and sell them to Value Village, which pays for them by the volume.
Value Village has been criticized recently for not being as “charitable” as it alleges to be and for overstating how much of its proceeds from direct donations are passed on to the charities it supports. If you’re interested, here’s an interesting article about this. This is why I wouldn’t recommend donating directly to Value Village and instead donating via the organizations mentioned above. But make up your own mind about what’s important to you!
Salvation Army operates its own thrift stores and proceeds from these thrift stores go towards supporting the organization’s great programs, including homeless shelters, women’s shelters, disaster relief, camps, etc.
I also like that this clothing donation program has an emphasis on recycling. According to the organization, in 2016/17 their donation programs helped divert 73,339,300 lbs. of used clothing, household items, and furniture from local landfills. Their recycling efforts also encompass clothing and materials that can’t be re-sold – these items are sold and re-used for other purposes overseas.
Note:Some critics will argue that selling non-usable clothing to developing countries is worse than just throwing it out because it undermines local, community businesses and because of the environmental impact of shipping items abroad. Again, I encourage you to make up your own mind about these issues before donating here.
Ten items may be a bit of a stretch but the basic premise was do-able: invest in a strategic collection of fewer, high-quality items rather than many low-quality items.
What are high-quality items? Items that will not only survive wear and tear but will also survive fashion trends. Many of the brands we know and love these days are criticized for perpetrating “fast fashion,” which means they turn our lower quality clothing with faster turnover, a process designed to get you to buy more, more often. Some brands that are most notorious for this are Zara, Forever21, H&M and Joe Fresh.
Avoiding fast fashion means you will be paying more for high quality items. In order to help you make sound investments, decide on an “uniform” look, or an outfit/colour scheme you feel comfortable in and that suits your body and style. This will limit your criteria for shopping and will keep your wardrobe tight.
I found this practice useful. My “uniform” these days is skinny jeans or leggings and a long top (that can be barfed on several times a day by my aforementioned adorable child). Not only did this idea help me decide which clothes to donate, it also makes getting dressed in the morning about a 30-second affair. Win/win!
3. Don’t shop emotionally.
Maybe the most important part of this whole cleanse for me was understanding the fundamental reasons my wardrobe got to be so big in the first place.
I’m a rational person and generally a conservative consumer. So why do I buy more clothes than I need?
Because for me (and for more people) shopping is emotional. Anyone who’s taken an entry level marketing class knows that we shop to fulfill basic human needs, encompassing everything from desires for belonging, self-esteem, youth and self-actualization (here’s a little refresher, courtesy of Wikipedia.) For example, my thought process ten years ago might have been something like this: If I buy this jean vest, I will become younger, more attractive, confident, carefree, etc. I bought the dream.
Just understanding the emotional underlay of why/how we shop was important for me. If I know I’m going to shop emotionally I can put the proper limits in place. Now I have a rule that I will only go shopping when I need an item that fits into my uniform and I will only buy that one item.
Note: I also have a personal rule against buying anything from online ads – they are expertly designed to prey on your most vulnerable impulses!
In conclusion: I am not purporting to be anywhere near where I should be in terms of only having what I need. However, taking these small steps has helped me to live a bit more thoughtfully and meaningfully.