Once upon a time, I was working in my dream job.
Okay, I've had a few dream jobs - but this one in particular was a dream because of who I got to minister to every single day: moms. And not just any kind of mom, but moms who had been through or were going through the roller coaster ride of preterm birth, birth-loss, and birth with defect(s).
Having been through preterm labor and bed rest on and off for fourteen weeks with my son, working with this particular demographic of women rocked my world. We imagined greater support systems, and even put some in place. We connected and grieved over the loss of healthy pregnancies. We cheered other mothers on when their babies survived (and thrived!) post premature birth. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my short and long life.
What I saw during this time, that I deeply craved tending to, was traumatic stress coursing through lives - with no particular end in sight for many. These women were home with sick babies. They were separated from sick and hospitalized tiny miracles - some weighing only a pound or two at birth. And they were losing babies... without support.
As we dig into Part II of this series today, I want to talk to you about support. Support prevents the bad kind of stress. But support also helps manage the escalation of bad stress into something that is far more difficult to treat.
Here are my two best tips for Stress Management, plus a link to an at-home yoga practice you can do today from one of my favorite virtual yoga instructors, Caroline Williams.
Let's do this.
1. Become a vehicle for other women to get to know support. Do you have a story? Share it. It was over eight years ago now, when I ran my first blog (which turned into our mother's yoga studio back East). I never imagined that other women might look like me. Yet, they did. Dozens of women began reaching out that they too struggled with what I struggled with (at the time it was preterm labor; uncontrolled morning/day sickness; and perinatal depression). Dozens became hundreds. Hundreds has most likely become thousands, looking at my following on social media. (May God bless each of you for being a part of my story! You are incredible.)
2. Become a part of another woman's story. Listen. It's a wonderful thing to tell a story! It is a gift to share the storms that the Lord has led you through! But listen. Pause. Hear what's on another woman's heart and allow it to change yours. This week makes five years since my contract ended with the March of Dimes. And while this charity is still so near and dear to my heart, my life has evolved. I've listened to so, so many stories and now get to contribute to a half-dozen causes that we've been touched by. It's my life's work to build a foundation that imparts peace to each of these causes - and I announced the first phase of The Barefoot + Brave Foundation's launch this past week on social media. Become a part of another woman's story. I promise you, it will change your life.
Sometimes, you just need to include a picture of your first healthy baby. While I went into preterm labor twice, God blessed me with this tiny miracle... on her due date! She's been all spice and wildness these last 5.5 years. But she's also opened my heart to listening... again... and again... and again.
Now for that yoga practice I promised you!
Click here to see one of my favorite flows: Yoga for When You're a Hot Mess, A Gentle Heart-Focused Yoga Flow. Managing present stress is something that many of us overlook. Once it's here and present and now, I've seen a lot of us panic. Myself included! We label it... and almost claim it... as a season. In my 20+ years of practicing yoga (I started at age 11 - thanks, mom!), I've found that a simple centering practice can take me from mind-full to mindful. Some days, I even find myself thankful for (some of) the stressors I experience, because without them, I wouldn't remember to keep utilizing the practices I hold near and dear. Which for me, would mean developing unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Psst - Don't worry if you've already got unhealthy coping mechanisms, by the way! We'll be tuning into Treating Stress in the last of our three-part series next week.
In wrapping up, tell me what practices do you use to manage current stress. Are you cultivating a support system beyond your yoga mat, running shoes, or couch? I'd love to hear where you're at - and where you're willing to go - during this season.
An end-note: as I went to conclude today's post, I heard a whisper, "Tell them good news." So, here it is! The good news is that this life, no matter how stressful, isn't it. You aren't home. And if you still feel irritable, frustrated, or overwhelmed even after reading this optimism-packed article (hmmm, is this an article or a post or a blogpost? who knows!), it's okay! We must remember daily that the peace we so desperately crave is always available here, but it's not always visible here in the wildness. My prayer for you today is to take a moment to be filled with God's light and love and joy, in whatever way He guides you. It's a long road home, but God is good. Always. The Savior reminds me of this, daily.
Blessings, and Happy Chanukah!
I love sharing helpful resources! I may also make a small cut that keeps me fully caffeinated and my brain research-packed (because we can't serve from an empty well, and I really love collecting all the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom I can for both of us.) Always, I'll do my best to keep you on the right path, but I'm no doctor even though I play one at home - often - and mostly for myself. Life with CFS sure keeps things interesting! Life with you + CFS keeps things full of JOY, too.