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As a mother, it’s normal to put your family’s needs above your own. But truthfully, that doesn’t help or benefit anyone. Your mental and emotional health takes a serious toll when you continuously burn yourself out for the sake of others. Look at it this way: the people you sacrifice so much of your time for genuinely want you to feel just as cared for and loved as they do. Set aside moments where you can take a step back to solely focus on yourself. During this time, one of the most impacting things to do is to get up and exercise.

Besides its physical benefits, exercise contributes these emotional and mental health benefits.

Photo by Maria Fernanda Gonzalez on Unsplash

Staying in the present becomes easier

It’s inevitable for a mother’s easy to overlook how we actually feel, but exercise allows us to remain in the present so that we learn to focus our energy on one single action.

Calm the stress and chaos in the mind

Thanks to physical activity, our levels of cortisol and adrenaline tremendously reduce so that we don’t always feel the need to be in “fight or flight” mode. Furthermore, because exercise lowers stress levels, we are able to think more clearly and sharpen our memory. When one is heavily stressed or overwhelmed, it becomes difficult to prioritize, think rationally, or do anything. Additionally, exercise is a healthy coping method which gives you a natural high – which therefore prevents you from turning to any unhealthy stress-relieving route such as drugs or alcohol.

Boost not only confidence and self-esteem, but develop emotional strength

Besides seeing the physical changes, such as muscle gain or a straighter posture, you will feel empowered with your newfound sense of confidence and high self-esteem. Your appearance and body image improves with the constant hard work put into exercise. Over time you begin to see the minor but significant physical changes that are a result of exercise and can translate that attitude into other areas of your life. If you work hard for a strong body, you will be just as willing to overcome obstacles and stay committed to your obligations.

Get the deep sleep you deserve and need

If there is one thing that mothers need more of, it’s sleep. The most crucial stage of sleep is REM sleep. This is the stage of the sleep cycle where our bodies rebuild cells and rejuvenate our energy. Without that proper recovery period each night, we become more prone to sickness and exhaustion. 

Prevent the symptoms of depression

Not only does exercise lift your mood, but the process also prevents you from developing any symptoms of depression. When you’re breaking a sweat, your body triggers the production of dopamine and endorphins – the “happy” chemicals. Without the two, it becomes difficult to reduce our feelings of pain or bounce back from a bad day. Furthermore, finding an exercise that is fulfilling and challenging gives you more motivation to improve in it.

Now, the next time you feel exhausted, stop what you’re doing. Remember that stepping back and taking a moment for yourself is vital to your well-being. There’s never any harm in recharging with the therapeutic benefits of exercise. Your mind and body will thank you!  Lastly, remember, you are never “just” a mother. You are a mother, warrior, and a human being with needs just as important as another. You deserve to take care of yourself and always feel your best.

Photo by Maria Fernanda Gonzalez on Unsplash

Author Bio: Trevor is part of the content marketing team for Detox Local and a recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying any type of fitness activity imaginable.

To carry a child is one of the most rewarding experiences in a woman’s life, but it also comes with a fair share of challenges. Your body goes through a wealth of changes to accommodate your baby – from shifting bones and stretched muscles to swollen appendages and surging hormones, there is a lot of discomfort to endure before that magical delivery day. When you’re feeling so achy and drained, the last thing you probably are thinking of is working out.

But if you’re not at least getting in some yoga every week, you’re doing yourself – and your baby – a great disservice. Yoga’s concentration on stretching, deep breathing and mindfulness not only relieve some of the more bothersome physical symptoms of pregnancy but also contribute to a healthier baby and safer delivery. Find out more details on these benefits and more below!

prenatal fitnessSymptom Relief

While everyone experiences pregnancy symptoms differently, negative side effects often worsen in the second trimester; fatigue, poor circulation, lower back pain, and morning sickness are just a few of the issues that can make even the most physically fit woman want to crawl back to bed. But even with some simple yoga stretches and breathing exercises, you’re promoting greater oxygen intake and increased circulation throughout your body.

R & R

If the physical problems weren’t enough, heightened hormone levels also lead to emotional distress, with many moms-to- be falling victim to depression, anxiety, and paranoid thoughts. Fortunately, yoga is a meditative practice that forces you to be more in tune with your body and baby and less focused on racing thoughts and irrational fears. Soon, you’ll notice decreased stress levels, uplifted mood, and, yes, fewer crying spells. Not only does yoga calm the mind, but it also lends some peace to your overtired body. After activating parasympathetic mode through deep breathing, a person can attain more quality sleep and therefore reduce overall fatigue throughout the day.

Workout Replacement

Making time for the gym or even at-home workouts is almost like a part-time job in itself despite the health benefits. But then pregnancy comes in to throw a curveball for even the biggest fitness junkies. The answer to these gym woes is yoga’s beneficial but low- impact nature. Practicing yoga – whether in a class or at home – will help you to continue building muscle strength and burning calories. Not all yoga is just quietly sitting around and stretching – if you’re looking for something a little more intense, there are classes that will get you to break out in a sweat; just be sure you sign up for a prenatal class or inform your teacher of your condition so they can give you modified instructions since certain activities could be dangerous for the pregnant woman and her growing baby.

Muscle Strengthening and Belly Support

Yoga is not only important for maintaining overall physical health, but it can prevent some complications that come with pregnancy, such as diastasis recti, a condition where the walls of the abdomen separate and don’t return to their former structure. Yoga can help to strengthen the muscle groups that endure the most tension from a growing baby, including your core, legs, and back.

Labor Preparation

One of the most annoying things you can hear before delivery is “stay calm!” Similar to the Lamaze technique, yoga teaches pregnant women the proper ways to breathe and relax the body so that labor pains aren’t as intense and delivery goes more smoothly. Some yoga moves can be difficult to hold in the absence of careful breathing, so dealing with this discomfort teaches expectant mothers how to channel pain through breathing.

Connect with Your Unborn Child

The excitement before childbirth mounts steadily with each passing week, so you’ll likely want to bond with your baby in any way you can before the big day. Singing lullabies to your baby bump, feeling its kicks and wiggles, and debating on baby names are just a few ways that mothers grow closer to their baby. But did you ever consider yoga for the same reasons? Not only is meditation calming, but it allows a woman to hone in on the inner goings-on of a baby’s nestled place within your womb. When it comes time to have your baby, you’ll already feel like you know them so well from all the times you
spent concentrating on their fulfilling presence within you.

Being able to rely on a calming activity like yoga for healthy, stress-relieving, pain-reducing benefits allows you to let go of the negative side effects and embrace your role as the beautiful life-creator that you truly are, while at the same time, promoting the health of the fetus and, in the end, a safe delivery.

Author:
Heather Lomax is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for Orangetheory Fitness. She writes for a variety of health blogs, and in her spare time, takes special interest in researching methods for achieving optimal fitness goals.

Photo by Marcos Moraes on Unsplash

Each year the onset of the holiday season is a mixed bag with feelings of excitement, anticipation, sorrow, and a tinge of dread. I love the holidays — the music, the food, the lights, the chilly weather and dark evenings. But, I am also flooded with a longing for loved ones no longer with us and memories of a home that no longer exists. Many people talk about going “home” for the holidays, but for me, that has been gone since my mom died 15 years ago.

In a home that was often full of turmoil, Halloween through New Year’s Day we got to feel like a “normal,” happy, loving, festive family.

My mom came to life during the holidays and filled our house with joy. Since she’s been gone, I tend to feel like a fish out of water not knowing what to do, where to go, who to buy gifts for, or how to feel. There have been amazing years spent traveling or spending time with friends and family, and years alone drinking too much wine and breaking down into more than one “ugly cry.”

This year I am beginning to feel those same conflicting emotions. They are perhaps a bit amplified with it also being our sweet baby’s first holiday season.

Kasey obviously has no idea what this time of year means, but I am excited to document her first holidays in pictures and memories of our new little family. I now get to do for her what my mom did for me – make this time of year joyous and full of love.

Although, my wish is that the holidays don’t feel all that special for her. I hope that she can look back and remember a home that was joyous and full of love throughout the entire year.

 

When I was younger, I used to pick apart my body. Too scrawny, too pale, too hairy, too imperfect in a variety of ways. Over time I was able to stop the barrage of attacks from my judgmental inner voice by catching myself in the act and swapping the thought for something I was grateful for. When looking in the mirror and noticing my “pooch” instead of six-pack abs I would thank my core for being strong. Putting on shorts and criticizing my pale or veiny legs, I would think of an activity that I love to do like hiking in nature and appreciate my legs instead of hating them. This practice was surprisingly difficult at first, but over time it became second nature. I began to love and respect my body and accept the less than perfect traits as part of the package.

That was before I had a baby.

As a pre- and postnatal personal trainer, I am aware of what a woman’s body looks like after pregnancy and the challenges she faces getting back in shape. In fact, I’ve written a book that includes a chapter on postpartum recovery and have offered many disheartened clients moral support — “do rehab exercises that include your baby,” “it took you nine months to gain the weight, don’t try to lose it overnight,” and “focus on self-care, not weight loss.”

But, knowing what a new mom looks like after having a baby or understanding the obstacles she’s facing, is not the same as feeling and experiencing it firsthand.

I want to apologize to my past clients for thinking that I grasped the depth of your experience. You were exhausted beyond what I knew was humanly possible. You were living in a body that did not feel like your own. Even if you were motivated to workout, you didn’t know where to start or if your body could even handle it. You wanted to eat better but knew you needed extra calories to maintain your milk supply, and most days barely remember to eat or drink at all because your only concern was if the baby has eaten enough.

I’m currently three months postpartum and have done little more than short walks around the neighborhood. My trainer-self would say that “something is better than nothing” and I should start small to develop the habit of exercise. My trainer-self would also have premade healthy snacks on hand instead of eating cereal and trail mix.

My trainer-self did not know what it was like to be a new mom.

I assumed that women who didn’t have enough time to eat, shower, exercise, cook, etc. must not be managing their time well. Don’t infants just sleep all day?!

Moms, I am truly sorry for my ignorance. I didn’t know. I get it now.

Although motherhood is an amazing journey, the sleep deprivation and preoccupation with caring for this new little human that has taken over my life has left little time or interest in taking care of my needs.

It is incredible how quickly after giving birth (maybe even a little before) I fell back into my old ways of looking in the mirror and immediately criticizing instead of appreciating. I’m once again having to practice changing my thoughts until they slowly, but surely become loving instead of critical.

The last ten pounds of pregnancy weight will not seem to budge, and on a small frame, it is enough to make none of my clothes fit. Breastfeeding and neighborhood walks are not enough. With winter weather just around the corner, I am dreading dusting off my pre-pregnancy jeans and confirming that they do not fit past my thighs. So, I’m delaying this as long as possible to avoid tormenting my psyche.

The idea of buying clothes in a bigger size hasn’t sounded very appealing, but putting on the pre-pregnancy spandex that accentuates my muffin top does not make me want to hit the gym. It makes me want to stay inside, hiding from the world and eating chocolate.

Recently some friends got me a gift card to Fabletics for my birthday. That was enough motivation to browse outfits online. Surprisingly, reading reviews about how great the women felt in their new clothes got me a little more excited about the idea of an interim wardrobe. Getting a package of new clothes for my bigger, softer, and albeit very accomplished body, made me want to get out of the house and get my groove back.

It is amazing how doing something so small for myself helped boost my confidence and self-esteem. Putting on my new clothes instead of the oversized, unflattering t-shirts that I’ve been wearing the past several months makes me stand a little taller and want to move my body.

The time for hibernating in pajama pants is over. I may not look how I did a year ago, but I can feel better in my skin and take steps each day to get stronger. This week I went for a long walk (even added in a short jog!), made a couple of quick trips to the gym for some light weights, and felt more confident going out to the store and grabbing lunch with a friend. I still have a long way to go before I reach my fitness goals, but at least I now feel like I’m headed in the right direction.

As I tell my clients, it took nine months to get here, be patient when trying to get back. As it turns out, that it is easier said than done.

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