My baby turns one! One year of motherhood

Last Tuesday, our son William turned one year old. Time really does fly! I’m starting to understand what Gretchen Rubin meant with, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

He is wonderful, fun, crawling all over the place, laughing, biting our noses (it really does hurt!), and always ready for a cuddle. But there’s something else worth celebrating…

A mother and father were born one year ago.

My husband and I became parents for the first time. We have learned a great deal about taking care of another human being and also about each other. I’ve discovered that Jacob can be surprisingly resilient at times when I have no more patience left. That’s amazing because it means that even if I’m spent, he has us covered.

And I also learned that I can (most of the time) understand and anticipate William’s needs and take care of him in a way that makes him feels good. I don’t always know the answer beforehand, but as things unfold, I somehow find answers. While uncertainty can be scary, I find it reassuring to have faith that we will somehow find a way.

A family was born one year ago.

I get the family feeling most strongly when we’re walking down the street with our baby in the stroller or hiking with William in the carrier on Jacob’s chest. It’s lovely to be together! It was still very pleasant when Jacob and I were a couple, but adding a child amplified the fun somehow. I can’t quite explain it, but simple, everyday things are more enjoyable. Even lying on the couch with the three of us feels like a special activity–family cuddle!

Happy birthday to William and happy birthday to our little family!

Mindset shifts of a new mom: A constant, fun companion

When I was pregnant, it was fun to think that my baby was my constant companion: he was with me wherever I went, and I could always rub my belly and feel like I was being cuddled. But at that point, I couldn’t yet see my baby. I could feel him move, but he still remained abstract in my mind, a bit like a little alien inhabiting my body.

This changed once William was born. Now I could clearly see his face as well as touch him and hear him, and he certainly made himself heard. During the first few weeks, we were apart only briefly. It’s strange to spend so much time with another person especially when you’re used to quite some autonomy. It can be unnerving or stressful, but it also grew on me.

I remember one time my mom took care of William while I took a nap. Upon waking, I had the strange, anxious feeling that I had forgotten him somewhere–that’s how unusual it felt to not have him next to me while sleeping.

By now, William is almost a year old, and I’m more used to being away from him for a couple of hours or for a day. But I’m also more used to being with him all the time, and it doesn’t feel so strange or anxiety-provoking anymore. He’s become a part of our life and a part of our family, and I miss him when he’s not there.

The truth is that William is really fun! He loves chilling on the living room floor and just playing with his toys. These days he plays with me when he hides behind the table, shows his face, and laughs at me. When I’m working, he crawls to me, pulls books off of the bookshelves, and plays close to me. While I’m exercising, he tries to crawl under me or climb over me (he makes push ups seriously difficult!). When Jacob and I are cooking, he joins us in the kitchen and plays by our feet. (He loves it when I empty or load the dishwasher! The moment the dishwasher is open, he crawls to it at top speed, shouting in excitement–the dishwasher is the most fun thing ever!)

I don’t mean to say that it’s all rainbows and flowers, of course. William sometimes whines and moans, wants to be picked up, or doesn’t want to play by himself. Sometimes he wakes up at an inconvenient time or doesn’t like an activity I thought would be fun for him. But, naturally, he is a separate human being and cannnot fit perfectly into my agenda. Really, nobody can carry out my plans flawlessly, not even I.

The funny thing is that I am someone who enjoys independence and control over my time, and I do appreciate child-free time. And yet, there’s something special about my son’s playing next to me while I write; it’s really pleasant to have him crawl around my feet while I cook. I’ve come to cherish William’s companionship, and I look forward to the many more activities we will be able to do together in the future.

Mindset shifts of a new mom: It’s not up to me

When William, my son, was about three months old, he started showing some character. I’d feed him, change his diaper, dress him warm, and put him in the stroller for a lovely walk outside. After a brief nap, he’d start screaming so loudly that it was painful to listen to. I tried walking faster, then slower, then singing a song… but he kept screaming. The only thing that soothed him was when I took him out of the stroller and held him in my arms. But once I put him back down, he continued crying and didn’t stop all the way back home.

I felt so bad. Was he hungry? Was he uncomfortable? Was he too cold? Was he too hot? What should I do to make him feel better? What should have I done to prevent him from crying? I couldn’t think of anything.

I was so worried every time we went out for a walk and awaited the time he’d start crying. I wanted to take him outside, so I kept at it, but it was seriously stressful and frustrating. I had imagined idyllic walks with my baby snugly tucked in his stroller, and this had been the case for the first two months when William slept for hours in the stroller. But now I had a screaming baby. Why this sudden change? What had I done wrong?!

This continued for a couple of months and started easing up around 5 months or so. He started enjoying the stroller a bit more and lasted longer before he started crying on our walks, and the crying was less intense. By now he’s usually fine for 1.5 hours before he gets frustrated (which I can understand; if I sit for 1.5 hours, I also get uneasy).

So what changed? How did I resolve this mind-boggling issue? Literally, the only thing that helped was TIME. He simply had to grow out of it. How frustrating and freeing at the same time! There’s nothing I could have done to fix it, I simply had to wait.

Now when I see parents out for a walk with a very young, screaming baby in the stroller, wondering what to do, I think, “There’s nothing you’re doing wrong. That’s just how it is right now, and it will improve over time.”

This applies to many other baby-related issues. Between 3 and 6 months, William was taking super short naps, 45 minutes max at a time. Four times a day. It was infuriating! I’d get him ready and put him to sleep, have 30 minutes to myself (if I was lucky!), and then there he was again, awake, ready to do it all over again! I read sleep books and blogs and followed their instructions, but nothing helped. What else was I supposed to do?

Seriously, nothing. Over time, he started taking longer naps, about 1.5 hours, and now he sometimes even naps for 3 hours! Nothing changed, just TIME.

We had so many examples of this. Breastfeeding. Leaving the house. Traveling in the car. Receiving visitors. Eating solid foods. And I’m sure there are things I’m struggling with right now that will also fall in this category after a few months (sleeping through the night, hopefully???).

It’s frustrating as well as freeing to know that there’s nothing more to do right now. On the one hand, I wish there were something I could do to fix things. On the other hand, it doesn’t all depend on me. Sometimes, things simply take care of themselves.

Mindset shifts of a new mom: Enormous responsibility

For the first two weeks after William was born, I had a similar dream every night: I was out and about, flying over mountains and slaying dragons, as one does in dreams, and then a wave of panic hit me, “Where’s the baby? Who’s taking care of him? Is he okay?”

A huge change had occurred. While being pregnant, I didn’t have to do much to take care of the baby. Then, when he came out of my body and became his own little being, I had to take care of him ALL. THE. TIME. And his father and I were responsible for everything that happened to him. That’s an enormous change to get used to.

I referred to this adjustment as “brain rewiring.” My brain had to make new connections in order to represent this new way of life and this new responsibility. Therefore, I tried to cut myself some slack and give myself time to adjust. If I was feeling overwhelmed, I’d just say, “It’s okay, my brain is rewiring,” which acknowledged the fact that I needed time to adjust to this momentous change and gave me some space in the here and now. At this time, I found this TED talk about matrescence extremely helpful because it normalized my experience.

During the first two weeks after William’s birth, I felt many new, very powerful emotions. In the evening, after a day of caring for our baby, Jacob and I would curl up on the couch together with the sleeping William on Jacob’s chest. This simple sight brought me to tears when I thought, “We’re a family now. We’ve made a new person! He’ll be our child forever, and we’ll be his parents forever.” This simple realization was sweet, scary, and overwhelming in its enormity.

I also experienced a lot of “split mind” (the phenomenon is discussed in the book What No One Tells You). Even when I was doing something else, a part of me was thinking about the baby, wondering what he was up to and how he was doing. I experienced this every time I went to the gym and left Jacob and William at home as well as when I went out with friends (it turns out it’s possible to be having fun with my friends and at the same be thinking about my baby). When I started working again, I thought about William throughout my work day, wondering what they were doing at daycare.

I was almost surprised but also very relieved to see that other people can take care of William just as well as I do, and that he’s happy when they do. That made my responsibility a little easier to carry and gave me breathing room. After all, raising a child does take a village.

Photo credit: Janina Pietersen

Mindset shifts of a new mom: Lack of predictability

There’s no way to convey the enormous change that occurs when you get your first baby. It’s not like anything you’ve ever imagined because your mind is not capable of imagining something you have no precedent for. But anyway, I’ll make an attempt of painting a picture for you.

You get woken up every ~3 hours in the night, and there’s no ‘good night’s sleep’ in sight; proper rest is not in your near future. You’re feeding the baby every ~3 hours, which is its own ordeal, and then the baby poops, so you change his nappy and maybe his clothes. When the baby falls asleep, you may think you have some time for yourself, but beware: he may wake up any second. He may sleep for 3 minutes or for 3 hours. You never know if you’ll have enough time to pee, eat lunch, do the laundry, call a friend, or all of the above.

A lack of predictability on the micro level

The toughest thing for me was the lack of predictability. It’s one thing that I like to plan out my days and have a routine–that was definitely out the window. The thing was that I wanted to be able to eat my breakfast without being interrupted, but if my son started crying, I had to pick him up, feed him, change him, etc. I could only return to my breakfast maybe an hour later.

It felt crazy to not have any wiggle room and to accept that whatever I was doing could be interrupted at any time, and, if that happened, I had to drop everything on a moment’s notice.

I’m talking about a lack of predictability on the micro level. Will I be able to finish cooking this meal? Don’t know. Will I complete my 10 minutes of exercise? No idea. Will I be able to brush my teeth or even pee? We’ll have to see. The biggest one was the shower. One time I got in the shower and 2 minutes later William started crying (I had just put him to sleep, and I was alone at home). I was all wet, with shampoo in my hair, and he was crying like crazy! I got to him as fast as I could, but I’ve never felt so guilty about taking a shower in my life.

It gets better with time

The good news is that it got better over time. After a few weeks or months, William no longer cried as hard when he woke up, and I didn’t have to feed him right away. In other words, I had more wiggle room: I didn’t have to drop what I was doing right that instant but I had maybe a couple of minutes.

The same was true for when he was awake and was gradually getting fussy. When he was really small, I had to attend to him immediately, pick him up and rock him, and I couldn’t put him back down at all. As he grew, the time from starting to get fussy to really fussy became longer and longer, which gave me time to, e.g., finish my meal or finish putting away the dishwasher.

Now that William is almost a year old, we have much more flexibility. He rarely wakes up crying anymore. Instead, he calls out to me while playing in bed. When he’s awake, he can sometimes play by himself for an hour, and I can do something, while checking on him and occasionally engaging with him. When I notice that he’s getting fussy, my strategy is to show him a cool toy to play with (opening and closing doors is his favorite right now), while I gradually finish up what I’m doing and get ready to take care of him.

The illusion of predictability and control

Life is slowly becoming more predictable for me again, but not entirely. Fortunately, William is keeping me on my toes by once in a while doing something unexpected such as being wide awake and wanting to play at nap time (or worse, at 2 am!). The good thing about this is that it reminds me that we can’t always predict events in our lives and we can’t control what happens.

It’s terrifying not to know what is going to happen to us. Will an illness cross our path? Will a terrible accident strike us? Or will we meet an amazing person who will bring joy to our life? Will we discover a new passion, a hobby that absolutely sets us on fire? Some people are excited by this range of unknown possibilities, but I tend to be scared by not knowing. The logical response for many of us is to try to control life, which is not always helpful.

A baby is exceptionally good at showing you that you can’t control what happens in your life. As I began shedding the illusion that I can predict and control my life, I was very uncomfortable, but I also found a new sense of openness. My heart became receptive like an exquisite musical instrument: I found my baby’s smile infinitely lovely; cuddling on the couch with my husband and son became my favorite activity in the world; seeing my son’s amazement at water flowing from the tap filled me with amazement too (not for the water but for my baby’s ability to learn about the world).

The truth is that none of these moments are a given, and I can’t predict what will happen next. So I’d better notice the current moment when it’s here because in an instant it will be gone.

Back to reality

Now, all this ‘appreciating the moment’ stuff is great, and I mean it, but it’s also not easy to appreciate the moment in the middle of the night when your child is crying and you so desperately want to sleep. Believe me, I’ve tried to appreciate that unpredictable moment, and it’s HARD.

That’s the truth about parenthood: it’s great, and it sucks, sometimes in very close succession. It’s really difficult sometimes, and especially the early months of no predictability are super tough for an adult who is used to mostly doing what she wants in a day (and gets mad when the line at the supermarket is oh so long, how is this even okay, it’s completely going to throw off my plans for the day!).

It’s super useful to get help from other people, so their lives can be unpredictable for a few hours instead of yours. Alone time is AMAZING at restoring a sense of well-being and self-efficacy, and so is doing something small for yourself such as reading a few pages from a book.

And the last thing I’d like to say is a cliché but a very true one: This, too, shall pass. It really does pass, even when you don’t believe it will. One day you may even miss it, or at least parts of it, so let’s appreciate those lovely moments while they are here.

Completing the challenge: The benefits of my first Whole30

I did it! I completed my first Whole30, woohoo! A Whole30 is a 30-day self-experiment where you take out certain food groups (grains, dairy, alcohol, sugar, any craving-inducing foods) and then reintroduce them one at a time to see how they affect you, i.e., whether you can eat them and feel good. I wrote about the beginning of my self-experiment here.

Today when I’m writing this it’s day 31, or day 1 after the Whole30 is finished. I’ve observed a couple of solid benefits during my 30 days of eating vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.

Stable energy

Quite quickly, my energy became stable throughout the day. I used to feel sleepy after a meal, reasonably energetic an hour later, and then very tired as I got hungry again. This became especially exacerbated when I was sleep deprived (which is not uncommon when you have a 6-month-old baby).

On the Whole30, I wasn’t sleepy after meals, and I didn’t have that I’m-about-to-faint feeling when I was hungry again. That’s a huge deal for me! It is really tough to try to get through your day feeling groggy and/or like you’re about to pass out. It felt great to have solid energy throughout the day!

Stable mood

Along with that, my mood stabilized. I used to get irritated and impatient when I was hungry (a.k.a. “hangry”), and I was also just more dissatisfied with things in general. As my energy and blood sugar stabilized, so did my mood. I felt at ease and more mellow throughout the day.

This also has to do with the fact that before starting the Whole30 I was trying to battle sleep deprivation by drinking green tea and eating dark chocolate. While I love these things, they were making me a bit jumpy, anxious, and impatient. When I removed them, I was afraid that I’d be unhappy and groggy the whole time. But once my energy became even and stable, my mood did the same, and overall I felt relaxed and at ease.

Patience and “Zen”

Funny enough, I became more patient. It took more to get me annoyed (don’t get me wrong, I still got annoyed, but my threshold was higher), and I became better at keeping things in perspective. For instance, if William was crying when he was supposed to be sleeping, I thought, “Poor little thing, maybe he is teething, let me cuddle him” instead of, “I was supposed to have time to read now, I’m so upset that he’s crying!”

I felt like I had more leeway in my response to other people. Instead of immediately getting frustrated or deciding that someone is an idiot, I was better able to consider people’s circumstances and generally be more patient.

William is extremely excited by my Whole30 progress.

Improvement in William’s eczema

An unexpected consequence was that William’s eczema improved. (I should mention here that I’m breastfeeding William, so what I eat has a direct influence on what he eats. Duh.) I was wondering why removing green tea and chocolate would have anything to do with his eczema, and, after doing some research, it struck me that both are high-histamine foods. Once I realized that, I also stopped eating sauerkraut (which is a very high-histamine food), and his eczema has been improving even more quickly.

I wish I’d known earlier that this was contributing to his eczema! How great it would have been if I had figured this out earlier and he hadn’t had eczema for the last 3 months… But I didn’t know back then. I tried out a bunch of things, and they barely helped. Now I’ve finally found what seems to be the answer, so now that I know better, I’ll do better. And I’ll give myself grace for not knowing earlier.

Love for herbal tea!

Finally, this Whole30 experience has rekindled my love for herbal tea! I’ve discovered that Pukka teas are awesome! I particularly love their Chamomile and Vanilla tea, their Three Licorice tea, and their Night tea. I can drink these all day long… (By the way, this blog post is not endorsed by Pukka; I just like their teas 😀 )

What’s next?

Now that the 30 days are over, I should be reintroducing the foods that I excluded for 30 days and observing their effect on me. While I’d love to do that and see exactly how grains, dairy, and sugar affect me, I’m a bit afraid to trigger William’s eczema again. So I’ve decided to go slowly and introduce only a little bit of each food at a time. If I notice that his eczema is getting worse again, I’ll immediately take out the food again. I really hope he tolerates ice cream well! 😀

My first time doing a Whole30 self-experiment

I love programs such as 30-day challenges. If the program resonates with me, I’ll do it 100%, with lots of excitement! But I also only embark upon challenges that I truly want to complete. If I commit to something, I am going to do it, so I have to be certain the thing resonates with me before I start it.

I’ve been hearing about the Whole30 for a few months now. It’s a reset or self-experiment where for 30 days you exclude certain foods that can be commonly problematic. Then, after the 30 days are up, you introduce them one at a time and observe how they impact you. The point is to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.

Apparently, the Whole30 is a big deal and quite popular, but I didn’t know about it until recently. When I saw the announcement that the Whole30AtHome was starting on April 13, 2020, and I decided to join! I was so excited!

I told Jacob, my husband, “We’re doing the Whole30!” “What is it?” he asked. After I gave him a brief description, he said, “Oh, it’s not so different from what we usually do. Sure, let’s do it.” Not exactly the enthusiasm I was hoping for, but he was on board, so I was happy.

What am I doing on this Whole30?

The Whole30 isn’t particularly different from how we usually eat at our home, but it is a bit more strict. Basically, on the Whole30, you eat meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. You don’t eat grains, dairy, soy, legumes, beans, added sugar, artificial sweeteners, processed foods, or alcohol. Generally, I don’t eat most of these things anyway, with the exception of sugar and artificial sweeteners, so this wasn’t such a big change for me.

Delicious side salads we made to go with our chicken for lunch.

But the Whole30 also places an emphasis on avoiding craving-inducing foods for the 30 days. This is the big deal for me… I looooooove sweet things, so I enjoy chocolate and dried fruit on a daily basis and a proper dessert once or twice a week.

This used to work fine for me until it became problematic a couple of months ago. Since I’m not sleeping properly because my baby wakes up multiple times a night, I am often tired during the day, so I end up craving sugar. The whole time I’d be thinking about when I can eat something sweet, and when I did, I just wanted more. This was quite exhausting, so I decided to cut out sugar for 30 days and see how it goes.

Another thing I’m cutting out is caffeine. Because I felt so tired, I was relying on green tea (and dark chocolate) to keep me going. You’re probably laughing right now: “Green tea? How about some coffee?” Well, coffee makes me go craaaaazy, so no coffee for me. While I absolutely adore green tea, it’s been making me feel anxious, rushed, and overall unable to relax. And then when I tried taking a nap, I couldn’t fall asleep because there was still caffeine in my system. Thus, for 30 days, I’m removing caffeine.

The combination of sugar and caffeine, albeit in small amounts, was resulting in my having energy peaks and dips. During the day, I felt like I was flying from activity to activity, which was exciting but also felt anxious. In between the peaks of energy, I had dips where I suddenly felt very tired and also cranky.

What results am I hoping for?

I have two main objectives with this Whole30: improving energy and mood. I’d like to have stable energy rather than peaks and dips. I’ll have to accept that I won’t have the excited peaks, but that also means I won’t feel super tired afterwards.

Related to these changes in energy are mood changes. During a peak, I feel excited but also a bit anxious and impatient, and then during a dip, I feel tired and cranky. I hope that by having stable energy, I’ll also have more stable moods, so I can relax and enjoy my days rather than hurrying around, feeling like I’m never doing enough.

Start the day with intention and finish it with reflection

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that I needed more intentionality in my day. I was basically reacting to whatever came across my path all day long, and that’s not how I usually do things. Baby crying? Take care of him. Feeling hungry? Eat something. Toys lying scattered on the floor? Tidy up. Package delivered? Open it. Feeling tired? Sleep.

Now, I’m over-simplifying things. I had certain things scheduled such as going to the gym three times a week (ah, the good times when the gym was open…) and going for a walk with William in the stroller every afternoon. But mostly my days felt like a random sequence of events.

There’s technically nothing wrong with having a day full of random events except that it made me feel like I didn’t have a purpose and wasn’t doing anything meaningful with my time.

I felt this very clearly when William was taking a nap and I finally had an hour or so to myself. What should I do? There were so many things I wanted to do! I’d start one thing, only to remember something else and then something else. I was running around like a headless chicken, half-finishing a couple of things, only to hear my baby crying and drop everything to attend to him.

That’s when I instituted the Daily Morning Practice and the Daily Evening Practice. As you might imagine, I don’t have tons of time for these, so they’re short and sweet. I’ve kept to them every day since! These practices are so powerful and at the same time so easy, and they are exactly what I need.

Start the day with My Top 5

Every morning, while having breakfast, I take out my little notebook (it has a llama/alpaca and a sloth on the cover! It’s awesome!). I start by writing the date. That’s important in itself because sometimes I remember there was something planned for today or perhaps I recall it’s someone’s birthday. Then, I check my calendar and my tasks for today. Jacob and I often do this together because we need to coordinate things.

The notebook in which I do my morning and evening practice.

Then, I write down my Top 5. These are the main five things I’d like to do today, and they’re usually very, very simple. These days, I always include “exercise” (during this staycation, I’ve been exercising for about 30 minutes every day), “walk” (I take our baby for a walk every day–we both benefit from the fresh air and sunshine), and “take care of William.” This last one can be fifty tasks on its own and it will happen for sure every day, but I like to include it anyway. I was falling into the trap of taking for granted all the stuff I do for William, and then I was wondering why I’m not very productive on top of that. I had to remind myself that taking care of him is a big job, and the fact that I’m accomplishing it every day is already productive. That’s why I include it in my Top 5 every day.

The other 2 tasks vary day-to-day: they may be something like “write a blog post,” “do the financial review,” or “tidy up the bedroom.” I make sure they’re not impossibly big tasks; it’s really important to keep these manageable. At the same time, it’s nice to be slightly ambitious because it makes me feel energetic and inspired about the day.

Set an intention

I also set an intention for the day. It’s something that I want to remember throughout the day and let it guide my thoughts and behavior.

These days, my intention often is to “be kind.” It’s super simple, but it encompasses so much. If I’m feeling frustrated, remember that I don’t need to take it out on someone else (usually Jacob, my husband, since he’s around all the time). If someone is being not-so-nice to me, give them the benefit of the doubt: maybe they’re having a hard time. If my baby is crying, that’s not a reason to get annoyed; he (probably) genuinely needs me.

Complete the day with reflection…

At the end of the day, I open up my notebook again and look at my Top 5. I check off the things I’ve completed and maybe add an extra task or two that I’ve managed to do. This shows me how much I’ve accomplished in that day even if it doesn’t feel that way (if the day was chaotic, went differently from expected, etc.).

Then, I write down a take-away message. These are one or two sentences about something I’ve learned that day or a conclusion I’ve come to. Sometimes it’s linked to the intention I set in the morning, and other times it’s completely separate.

These take-away messages can be profound (e.g., “changing my perspective changes everything”) or practical (e.g., “sleeping one hour more in the morning does wonders for my energy”).

Here is a sample entry from my notebook.

…and gratitude

I also write down five things I’m grateful for that day. I know that five sounds like a lot, but once I start thinking about things to be grateful for, many come to mind. It’s a wonderful way to reflect on and complete the day.

By taking a few minutes for these practices every day, I feel that I’m much more focused and intentional while going about my day. I still respond to the circumstances that come about, but I keep in mind what’s important and what I’d like to do that day. In the end, I don’t think it makes me much more productive, but it makes all the difference in my attitude. At the end of the day, I don’t need to be more productive to be happy; rather, I need to be content with what I’ve accomplished and be happy with what I already have.

Habits that can help you get through these exceptional times

At 10:47 am, you wake up. Your first thought is, “I’m late for work!” and then you realize you’re not going to work. You’re working from home, which is a very flexible idea. A wave of relief washes over your body. You enjoy your bed, lazily scrolling through social media. Some time later, you get up, eat something, check the news, and get scared because of the spread of COVID-19. It feels like things got even worse overnight; that’s the feeling you get every morning.

To distract yourself from the unpleasant feeling of anxiety, you look at some funny quarantine-themed memes and maybe even some cat videos (honestly, I love both of these!). By that time, it’s already noon, so you do some work. You feel like you’re falling behind with your work, but at the same time, there isn’t any real urgency, so you slowly chug along.

At the end of the day (or maybe even throughout the day), you check the news and feel anxious again. You finish the day with a vague feeling of anxiety that stems from the state of the world and the lack of real progress in your work.

And, I’d also argue, that anxiety is compounded by the fact that you haven’t felt anchored during your day: there is no structure to give you a feeling of stability and calm in the midst of the storm. In such exceptional times when our usual habits are disrupted, some stability in our lives is even more important to calm our minds. Here are the basic habits that can help.

Get regular sleep

Set a bedtime for yourself and stick to it. If you go to bed by 11 pm every night, your body will get used to that bedtime, and you will also naturally wake up around the same time the next day. Soon you will feel rested, which will do wonders for your health, mood, and energy.

Eat good food

If you have access to good food in your local supermarket, make use of it. Eating food that works well with your body makes you feel better, gives your energy, and improves your health. If you’re into cooking, you can use the extra time at home to make delicious meals. I’m challenging myself to cook one new recipe per week! Let’s see how it goes.

You don’t have to be into cooking to eat well, though. You can buy ready-made meals from the supermarket or order from local restaurants that are open for take-away and delivery. Do whatever works for you to eat food that makes you feel good and enjoy it.

Stay hydrated

You need to drink enough water, period. You know it’s true. I’d add that in order to stay hydrated, you need to get enough electrolytes as well. Check your sodium, potassium, and magnesium intake and adjust if necessary.

Tip: If you notice that when you drink a lot of water, you pee it all out, you probably need to add electrolytes. Start by adding half a teaspoon of sea salt or Himalayan salt to a glass of water and see if that helps.

Move your body

Go for a walk. Go for a run or a bike ride. Do some stretches. Work out at home. Dance in your living room. Do some gardening. Even though gyms are closed, we can still move our bodies.

A picture of us out for a walk on a sunny afternoon.

Be social

In these times of isolation, finding ways to feel socially connected is more important than ever. There are several things I’m doing to stay connected to people at this time:

  • Family meals. We have at least one meal together as a family a day. This is easier now that we’re all at home, but, since we have a young baby, we can still end up eating at random times and not sitting together, so we have to intentionally avoid that.
  • Call someone. I make a point of calling someone every day. It may be a call to a family member (especially to my grandmas since they are staying alone in their apartments all day long) or a video call with a friend. Since we’re all at home now, it’s easy to catch up with friends even if they’re in different time zones from us.
  • Go for a walk with a friend. I’ve recently had the idea of going for walks with friends who live nearby. We walk together, keeping our 1.5-meter distance, and chat while we get our bodies moving and, in my case, my 4-month-old son naps in the stroller I’m pushing. It’s a win-win-win.
  • Join your colleagues in a virtual coffee room. I have to admit that I have yet to do this because I feel overwhelmed by the idea of socializing with multiple colleagues while also taking care of my baby. But for people with more regular circumstances, it sounds like a great idea to have some (non-)work-related banter virtually.

Have some me-time

As things get crazy and unusual, especially if you have kids at home, try to have some me-time during the day. Some people find this in the early morning before everyone else wakes up. Others find it in the middle of the day if they go for a walk, read a book, or watch a video.

My me-time is currently in the evenings after we’ve had dinner and we’ve put little William to sleep. I’m not usually an evening person, but I now thoroughly enjoy the golden hours from 7:30 to 9:30 pm when I can read, write, watch stuff, or just relax with my husband.

If I don’t have me-time for several days in a row, I start to feel overwhelmed by even the smallest things. But if I’ve had some time to myself, I am better able to face whatever comes my way (such as a hungry baby at 3 am or an overly full diaper).

Find gratitude

I know, I know, gratitude is all the rage these days. But it’s true: grateful people are happy people. I personally like to write down five things I’m grateful for every night before bed, and they need to be specific things from that day. This means that throughout the day I’m looking for these little nuggets of joy to be grateful for. This changes the lens of my perception, so I can notice the positive things instead of focusing on the negatives. (This doesn’t mean that we don’t notice negative things–of course we do! We don’t avoid the bad; rather, we actively search for the good.)

How about you? What habits are helping you to stay afloat? Share by commenting below.

Life with a baby during the COVID-19 outbreak

The world is on pause. Everyone is at home, shops are closed, streets are empty.

At the same time, life is going at full speed: news popping up everywhere, people ill, countries’ borders closed, travel plans canceled.

How about me? I’m still at home, taking care of our little one. Not much has changed, and, at the same time, so much has changed.

So much has remained the same

William, my 4-month-old son, has no idea what COVID-19 is. Life has stayed exactly the same for him. He wakes up in the morning with a smile and coos at me. Just as before, the most important things for him are to drink milk, to be cuddled and entertained, and to sleep. He clearly has his priorities straight.

Much of our daily rhythm remains unchanged. The succession of feeding, changing his diaper, playing with him, and putting him to sleep remains as stable as ever. We still go for our daily walk, sing the same songs, and have a bedtime routine at night.

So much has changed

Unfortunately, we’ve canceled all our visits from friends. Before the social distancing recommendation, we were having 3-4 visits per week, and that was a lot of fun. People enjoyed meeting William, and I enjoyed having company. However, this is irresponsible now, so we’ve canceled all visits. We try to video chat with our families and friends instead in order to avoid feeling truly socially isolated.

When we go out for a walk, we maintain a distance from other people. Luckily, the park we walk to is big, so there’s enough space for everybody. It’s wonderful to see so many children and adults enjoying the outdoors and the sunshine and so strange to have to maintain a distance from everyone. It seems like everybody feels the strangeness of the situation: we are happy to be outside and are enjoying each other’s company, but we also need to keep our distance.

One fortunate consequence is that Jacob, my husband, is home from work. He closed his chiropractic practice for the time being, which means he’s at home with William and me for the next 2.5 weeks. Woohoo! It’s a lot of fun to have him with us the whole time. We’re trying to think of it as a staycation, our little vacation at home.

Another change is that I’m currently not taking William to the supermarket or any other shop, for that matter. I know that, apparently, COVID-19 is not super dangerous for babies, but I’d still rather avoid unnecessary exposure for the little one. Because of this, Jacob buys our groceries or whatever else is necessary.

A silly consequence of the pandemic is that I haven’t gotten a haircut recently even though I would have liked to. Several of my friends have also shared their struggle with wanting to go to the hairdresser and having to wait or cut their own hair (if I attempt that, the results would be disastrous, I’m sure…). I have a feeling that once the social distancing is over, the hairdressers will be flooded with customers! Good for them.

Finally, our gym has closed. This was really sad for me but perfectly understandable. Luckily, we have a beautiful set of kettlebells at home and some other equipment, so we are able to do pretty extensive home workouts. Still, for me going to the gym is a break from home life and also deeply needed me-time, so I miss it. But it’s okay: social distancing is important right now, and at some point I’ll get back to the gym. I’ll walk in and inhale the smell of barbells, weight plates, and kettlebells. Aaaaahhh.

Fortunately, our family is healthy and doing well, continuing to live our life almost as normal. It’s odd how a pandemic can change so much, and yet so much can remain the same.