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Guest Post by Amy Mazur

Amy enjoying ME TIME on her horse Dee

So often as women we get consumed with our loved ones, our family and friends, and in our work. We pour every ounce of who we are and what we have to give into being the best possible mother; the dedicated wife; the reliable friend; the loyal daughter; the ideal employee.  I could go on and on. We not only forget to take the time for ourselves but we also feel guilty for wanting/needing to. We develop this mentality that we would be wrong to say “No, I cannot (or won’t) do that right now”. We feel guilty for taking a 30-minute bath or leaving the kids for an hour to go to the gym or to go swimming. We think it selfish if we spend $100 at the salon or spend a couple days in the month not constantly doing for others, but instead reading a book or watching a show.

The problem with this mentality is that when we are not taking time for ourselves and recharging, we have less and less to give to our loved ones, to our friends and at work.  This mentality needs to change. The guilt needs to be removed. The stigma of “me time” needs to be vanquished.

We need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone else.  Three years ago, after I had my second daughter, I was so blessed to be introduced to a group of women who call themselves FOMM, for Friends of Muskoka Midwives. In addition to supporting the Muskoka Midwives Clinic and helping to raise money for them, they also created an event for the mothers called “Fill Up Your Cup”.  It was there that I realized just how much subconscious guilt I personally held for leaving my girls with ANYONE, for ANY REASON.  I realized that I felt shame when I didn’t get the laundry done because I was exhausted and needed to nap with my baby. I desperately missed my friends because I wouldn’t leave the girls at home to go out even for a coffee and my friends did not always want me bringing my kids with me.

I share all of this because I feel it is so very important. I listened to other women and other mothers talk about all of their struggles and “shortcomings,” none of which were in fact shortcomings.  I realized that all of us were just normal women and that we cannot be superwomen all the time. The number of women at that event that advocated for each other taking a breath and “filling up their cups” was empowering and life changing.

If anything I have said has resonated, please talk about it. Talk to anyone…even a stranger.  Perhaps there is another mother at the park that you could chat with or a co-worker that seems to be just as exhausted as you are. You are allowed time for yourself; you NEED time to recharge and breathe. If you are empty, you cannot assist anyone else.  Even if you just set aside 10 minutes a day where, sans a life-threatening situation, nobody can disrupt you or ask anything of you, that would be a good start.

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Visualization to Combat Anxiety

Many people suffer anxiety.  Since COVID more people than ever find it stressful to complete day to day tasks.  A close girlfriend of mine hums when she is in a situation that makes her feel overwhelmed.  It is a subconscious coping mechanism to calm her nerves while she deals with the problem.  Another 19-year old gal breaks out in hives and cold sweats when she enters a store and fears she will have to interact with a stranger.  A young girl hyperventilates and feels faint when she is put in an environment that makes her feel inadequate.  These are just three of countless situations that demonstrate how pervasive anxiety is in our daily lives.

When I was younger I don’t remember my friends suffering from anxiety disorders.  Perhaps they did but we didn’t call it that.  Nowadays, every teen group has a number of kids that have trouble with nervousness and worry, and it is common knowledge amongst their friends.  Recognizing the problem is one thing; fixing it is quite another.

One way of trying to combat the issue is to employ visualization.  Visualization is designed to help you imagine situations in which you become nervous and then develop and implement coping strategies for dealing with the stress generated by the situation.  If you practice how you are going to cope, it makes it easier to actually do what you practiced in real life.

I have found a handful of videos helpful in this regard.  A woman named Paige Pradko speaks frequently about dealing with anxiety and staying calm.  Developing the ability to stay calm in life is a critical skill and Paige’s methods seem to work for some people.  There is also a woman named Kristen Ulmer who talks about visualization as it relates to sports anxiety.  Many athletes, even at the top levels of sport, become debilitated by anxiety and need help to overcome the feelings of inadequacy and fear.

If you can learn to harness your emotions and calm yourself when your body becomes stressed, your life will dramatically improve.  It may enable my girlfriend to stop humming; the 19-year-old to enter a store without feeling nauseous; and the young girl to stay upright and breathe when she enters that intimidating environment.

Perhaps spend some time watching Paige and Kristen and give visualization a try. I would be interested to know if it helps.