Overcoming Postpartum Anxiety

Inside: Symptoms, risk factors, and tips for managing postpartum anxiety.

When I had my first baby, I remember getting sent home from the hospital and thinking, “How in the world are we going to do this?” We had been in the hospital for 4 nights due to an emergency c section and some difficulty I was having with breastfeeding. Honestly, I didn’t want to leave!

At the hospital, we had all of the experts helping us with feeding and making sure that our baby was ok. I remember getting into our car and my husband driving no more than 40 miles an hour on the highway, because we were both afraid we were going to break our little bundle of joy.

Then the challenges with feeding continued, and I was constantly second guessing myself as a mom. Despite having a background in children, I felt like I had no idea how to take care of a baby. Not to mention the fact that I’m a girl who likes her 9 hours of sleep so sleep deprivation felt devastating to me. What I didn’t realize was that I was experiencing more anxiety than what was normal for a new mom.

According to Postpartum Support International, about 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety. This number is probably not completely accurate because many moms don’t know that what they’re experiencing is postpartum anxiety so like me, they may not seek help. Although this can be a debilitating illness, there is hope. Once a mom who is suffering from postpartum anxiety gets help, there is a great chance she can learn to overcome it with the right tools.

Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety

It can be hard to tell if what you’re feeling as a new mom is a natural response to having a baby. Most moms worry from time to time, especially those who are new at it. From worrying about if your baby is getting enough milk to how will you find time to do housework, there is plenty to worry about.

But when the worry becomes something that interferes with your ability to care for yourself or your baby, that’s when you might need to seek professional help. Other symptoms of postpartum anxiety are:

  • Constant worry that you can’t turn off.
  • Sleep and appetite disturbance.
  • Physical symptoms like nausea, hot flashes, heart pounding, dizziness.
  • Racing thoughts.
  • Feeling like something bad is going to happen.

Risk Factors

There are some things that might make you more likely to experience postpartum anxiety than other moms. Some of those risk factors include:

  • Family history of anxiety.
  • Previous diagnosis of anxiety or other mood disorders.
  • A traumatic birth experience.
  • Lack of social or familial support.
  • Previous pregnancy loss or death of an infant.
  • Thyroid imbalance, diabetes, and other endocrine disorders.
  • Abrupt discontinuation of breastfeeding.
  • Financial strain.

Getting Help With Postpartum Anxiety

Asking for help can sometimes be the hardest part about recovering from any mental illness. Navigating the challenges of motherhood is hard enough, especially when you have an infant and are only getting a few hours of sleep a night. Not to mention the fact that you have to admit that you need help before you can ask.

But as I’m sure you probably already know, you can’t be a good mom to your baby if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Even making small changes in your day can help you overcome anxiety. Here are a few places to start:

Get regular exercise:

This can even mean putting your baby in a stroller and going for a 15 minute walk. Your exercise routine may not look like it did before you had kids, and that’s ok. The point is to get some fresh air and get your body moving.

Practice mindfulness:

Mindfulness means staying in the present moment. Anxiety has a way of getting you caught up in regret about things you haven’t done or what might happen in the future. Doing things like taking just a few minutes to take a some deep breaths can help you refocus your thoughts to what’s going on right now.

The 5 senses exercises is another great way to help you focus on the here and now. The 5 senses exercise is thinking about 1 thing you can see, 1 thing you can hear, 1 thing you can feel, 1 thing you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. You can do this from anywhere and it only takes a few minutes. It’s a great way to help you get grounded.

If you have a little more time, like maybe when your baby is napping, yoga can be another great mindfulness tool. Yoga has many benefits for moms including relieving stress, making you stronger, and increasing your balance. You can read more about why I love yoga in my previous post, 5 Reasons Yoga is Crazy Good For Moms.

There are tons of great free yoga videos online that you can do from your own home. One of my favorites is Yoga With Adriene. She has a really soothing voice and offers different types of yoga to help with specific issues you may want to work on. Instagram is another good resource for finding yoga videos that you can do from anywhere.

Balanced Diet

Sometimes just finding time or remembering to eat can be a real struggle for moms. It’s easy to get so caught up in taking care of everyone else that you forget to feed yourself. But fueling our bodies with adequate nutrition is crucial to being the best version of ourselves. Our bodies need vitamins and minerals in order to function. Did you know that your body creates serotonin from carbohydrates? Serotonin is a chemical in your brain that influences many of your bodily functions, including your mood.

Keep some easy healthy snacks on hand so that you don’t have to think too hard about getting adequate nutrition. Snacks high in protein are the best for fueling your body and giving you a little boost until you can actually sit down for a meal. A few of my favorite go to snacks are: cheese sticks, yogurt, hummus or guacamole and carrot sticks, or a handful of almonds.

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep

If you’re a new mom, you may be thinking how am I supposed to get enough sleep when my baby doesn’t sleep longer than two hours at a time? This is a valid thought and your sleep is definitely going to be different now that you’re a mom. Even sleeping when the baby sleeps, may feel impossible to you because your sleep cycle is so off now that you’re up all hours of the night. But talk to your friends and family about how you can get some help to make sure you’re at least getting 6 hours a sleep at night, even if that time is broken into smaller chunks throughout the day.

Support from other moms

We’ve all heard the term “it takes a village to raise a child“. But until you become a mom, you probably don’t get what that really means. It means that it’s entirely impossible to do it on your own. Maybe you’re a single mom and you HAVE to do it on your own, but are you really doing ok? If you’re an introvert like me, the idea of meeting a mom at the playground and actually asking her to hang out probably seems like the last thing you want to do.

Luckily, there are groups out there who have made the getting to know you part a little easier. I joined a local moms club when my 2nd was only 6 weeks old, because getting out of the house was a must for us. Looking back now, I honestly don’t know how I would have survived without those moms. Now I consider some of them my best friends. When we moved last year, we even moved into a new home in the same neighborhood so we wouldn’t lose those connections.

If you live in a more rural area, one good thing that has come out of the pandemic is that now many of these groups meet virtually. So there really is something for everyone. PSI has a list of free support groups on their website and meetup.com is another good place to look if you aren’t sure what’s available in your area.

Seek professional help

If you’ve tried these things and still feel like you spend more time worrying than not, it may be time to seek professional help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been found to be very effective in treating postpartum anxiety as well as postpartum depression.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, helps you identify problematic thoughts that lead to unhelpful behavior. With a therapist you can learn to reframe those thoughts to positive thoughts and develop healthier habits or behaviors.

Some people need medication to give them the extra boost they need to manage their anxiety. Unfortunately there is a stigma about mental health and even more so about taking medication to manage it.

Just because you take medication for anxiety or depression, it doesn’t mean that you are weak and it definitely doesn’t mean you are crazy! It may be something you only need temporarily and it can be like training wheels to help you use the coping skills you learn in therapy. No matter what getting help looks like for you, remember that this too shall pass.

If you’re in the state of Georgia, you can reach out to Patrice here to schedule a free 10 minute phone consultation to see if you’d like to work with her.

5 Quick Tips To Help You Beat The Winter Blues

Many people notice a change in their mood during the winter months. You might experience an increased sadness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, or a disruption in your sleep. It could be because the days are shorter and your time exposed to natural sunlight is significantly less this time of year. Add to that the colder weather and the fact that most of us spend less time outside in general. This can lead to our bodies producing more melatonin. The body naturally makes more melatonin when it’s dark. So, when the days are shorter and darker, more melatonin is made. More melatonin can cause a disruption in our circadian rhythm (or sleep cycle) making us more sleepy or lethargic. 

“Winter blues is a general term, not a medical diagnosis. It’s fairly common, and it’s more mild than serious. It usually clears up on its own in a fairly short amount of time,” says Dr. Matthew Rudorfer, a mental health expert at the National Institute of Health.

But when the change in seasons causes you to feel sad or unmotivated to the point that it interferes with your daily functioning, it may mean you are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). SAD can also include anhedonia or the inability to enjoy things that you used to enjoy. The good news is that both the winter blues and seasonal affective disorder are treatable.

5 Tips For Beating The Winter Blues

Here are five things that you can do to beat the winter blues. Most of these things are free and easy to do.

1. Get Outside

Licensed psychologist Rachel Goldman, Phd says, “Being in the sunlight helps balance serotonin activity (the happiness chemical), balances your circadian rhythm (or sleep cycle), and increases vitamin D levels, which can all lead to an improved emotional state.”

As hard as it may be, getting outside during the winter months is crucial to staying balanced and avoiding the winter blues or SAD. So bundle up and go outside for a walk, even it’s just for 5 minutes. Once your body gets warmed up you more than likely won’t realize how cold it is.

If being outside isn’t an option light therapy- exposure to a special light for a certain amount of time each day may be helpful.

2. Check Your Vitamin D

Many people don’t get enough vitamins in their diet and vitamin d is one of the few that has been scientifically linked to mood. If you are not getting outside very often, you’ll also miss out on getting vitamin d naturally through sunlight. If you’re feeling depressed or a decrease in energy, you may be deficient in vitamin d. Consult with your medical professional to see if you need to take vitamin d supplements.

3. Stay Hydrated

Our bodies are made up of about 60 percent water and our brains are actually made up of about 75%! We lose water throughout the day and it’s important to replenish our supply so that our bodies can function properly. Drinking water actually stimulates the hormones that produce endorphins- there are those happiness chemicals again.

4. Spend Time With Friends and Family

Being around others can significantly impact our mood. We all were born with an innate desire to be connected to others. Even if you’re feeling down and not in the mood to hang out with your friends or family, reach out to someone to let them know you’re having a hard time. Chances are they will want to help and will suggest something you can do to get out of your funk. My friends and I have a code word that we use to let the others know that we are having a hard time. They know that if I say I’m riding the struggle bus, that I need them to come over and drag me out of bed or to call my therapist.

5. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is a research based form of treatment that focuses on helping you understand your thoughts and behaviors and how they affect your mood. The cognitive part is about challenging your negative thinking patterns and learning how to flip the script in your brain to healthier more helpful thoughts. The behavioral component includes learning coping skills for your anxiety or depression that can help you move forward and live a happier life.

In a recent American Journal of Psychiatry study, researchers described a trial that compared the use of light therapy alone to a combination of light therapy and CBT. Results were positive in both groups; however, after one year, participants treated with CBT were faring much better than individuals treated with light therapy alone. Further analysis controlled for ongoing treatment still revealed that the CBT participants showed more improvement.

If you aren’t sure if what you’re experiencing is the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder, seek help from a trained professional. I offer a free 10 minute phone conversation where we can discuss if working with me might be a good fit for you. Fill out the form below and I will reach out to schedule a time for us to chat. You can also check out www.psychologytoday.com to find a trained therapist in your area.

Navigating Maternal Mental Health

Did you know that 1 in 7 women experience either postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety after having a baby? The good news is that there is help. Before I started specializing in helping moms, I had no idea how prevalent postpartum depression and anxiety are. I also didn’t realize how many resources are available.

I know that as moms, we often put our own needs on the back burner because we’re busy taking care of our families. Sometimes even if you know something isn’t right, you might not know how to get the help you need. Not only is there a huge stigma attached to mental health and admitting that you need help, but it can also be overwhelming making it hard to know where to start.

Fighting The Stigma

In fact, I’m pretty sure that I had undiagnosed postpartum depression with my first child. My OBGYN actually prescribed an antidepressant when I went for my check up. I couldn’t stop crying and I had answered a few questions about how I was feeling. But at the time, I was so against taking medicine even as a therapist who was recommending it to her clients! I was just so afraid of how it would make me feel. I worried if it was ok to take while I was breastfeeding. After talking to some friends, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who thought being a mom was hard.

This made me feel better and I never took the prescription that I had filled. But after years of suffering and having multiple professionals recommend antidepressants, I finally agreed to try them. Through lots of trial and error, I’m finally happier than I have ever been. I just wish that I hadn’t waited so long to accept help.

It’s ok to not be ok, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get better. Getting help doesn’t make you weak. It actually makes you stronger! If you’re feeling sad or overwhelmed to the point that you think it’s interfering with your ability to take care of yourself or your child, you may need to seek professional help. If you don’t know where to start, here are some websites to guide you through the process.

5 Maternal Mental Health Resources

1. Postpartum Support International

Postpartum Support International is full of resources for moms and their support systems. They have FREE online support groups as well as a helpline that you can call or text and someone will call you back to answer your questions or connect you with resources. They also have an online directory of qualified perinatal mental health providers so that you can easily find someone to help in your area.

2. Mother To Baby

Mother To Baby is an organization that is full of information about the safety of medications and other exposures during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It can be scary to think about whether or not it’s worth the risk to take medication for depression or anxiety while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. But sometimes the risk far outweighs the cost of not getting help. Mother To Baby can answer your questions with expert, confidential, and no cost information via phone, text, email, or chat.

3. National Postpartum Depression Warmline- 1-800-PPD-MOMS

This is the toll free number that you can all to reach a volunteer at Postpartum Support International who will help connect you with resources for postpartum depression or anxiety in your area.

4. Psychology Today

Psychology Today is a free database of therapists, psychiatrists, and other mental health providers. You can simply enter your zip code and search for professionals by name, zip code, or city. You can also read a brief description of the services each person offers and request an appointment from there.

5. Call Your Insurance Company or Healthcare Provider

Most doctors have some training in mental health and can complete an assessment to see if you might need specialized treatment for anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders. Your OBGYN should be able to provide you with some referrals to psychiatrists or therapists in your area. You can also call the phone number on the back of your insurance card to request a list of referrals.

Other Resources For Moms

2020 Mom

2020 Mom is an organization that works to close the gaps in maternal mental health. They offer trainings for professionals and resources to help raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental health.

Our aim was to shine a light on the problem, change the narrative from calling the range of disorders “postpartum depression” to “Maternal Mental Health Disorders” and identify the barriers and solutions.”

2020 Mom

You can become can become an ambassador for maternal mental health by doing good deeds to help raise awareness. Share your postpartum story to help other moms see that they aren’t alone and 2020 Mom may post it on their website.

Push Thru Podcast

The Push Thru Podcast is written by fellow maternal mental health therapist, Keisha Reaves. She talks about postpartum depression, her own postpartum story, and other challenges of motherhood. Keisha also has a private practice in Atlanta, Georgia where she specializes in treating moms. She has made it her mission to normalize therapy and assists women who are trying to conceive, have infertility issues, currently pregnant, adjusting to motherhood, dealing with postpartum depression or have experienced infant loss.

Running In Triangles

Running In Triangles is a blog written by two moms who are also sisters. Their goal is to help spread the message that motherhood isn’t a competition and there isn’t one perfect way to do it. They have lots of good resources on their website about motherhood from maternal mental health, to breastfeeding, and even gift guides.

The Blue Dot Project

The Blue Dot Project was created by Peggy O’Neil Nosti, a mom who suffered from postpartum anxiety with her third child who wanted to find a way to let other moms know they were not alone. Peggy created a subtle image of a blue dot and a silver lining to illustrate hope. 

The symbol was selected by the former National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health after one of its member organizations, Postpartum Support International hosted a contest to seek symbol ideas. The symbol is now being used in multiple ways to promote awareness and solidarity. 

You can help the Blue Dot Project by participating in their annual Blue Dot Run and join together in solidarity with other women to lift the stigma and shame surrounding maternal mental health.

Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts

Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts is a book written by Karen Kleiman, founder of The Postpartum Stress Center. It’s filled with stigma busting cartoons that help moms validate their feelings, share their fears, and start feeling better. It’s a great resource for busy moms, their partners, and families.

Pickles & Ice Cream

Pickles & Ice Cream is a web platform dedicated to providing all the prenatal and postpartum information you need. It’s a place you can connect with other moms through message boards, gain valuable information about motherhood, and join their online groups or classes tailored to specific topics.

I hope these resources help you navigate the challenges of maternal mental health. If you want to talk to a licensed professional contact us to schedule a free consultation to see how we can help. Remember, you are not alone!

5 Strategies For Reducing Holiday Stress

The holiday season is officially here and with that comes our never-ending to-do lists leading to an increase in stress for most of us. Those who struggle with anxiety may be wondering how they are going to make it through the next month. Possibly, some of us are even feeling a sense of dread instead of the elusive holiday cheer.

If you’re someone who does feel anxious or more stressed this time of year, fear not. There is hope! There are many simple things you can do to help reduce your stress and anxiety so that you can enjoy spending the holidays with your loved ones.

5 TIPS FOR REDUCING HOLIDAY STRESS AND ANXIETY

1. Practice Mindfulness

To practice mindfulness means to increase your awareness of the present moment. It’s focusing on the here and now.

There are many ways to do this, but the simplest way is to breathe. Taking deep breaths helps you get enough oxygen into your body to help it function at its best. Without enough oxygen, stress can build up leading to physical ailments like heart problems, stomach aches, and trouble sleeping. If you can incorporate 5 minutes of deep breathing into your daily routine, you’ll more than likely notice a difference in your stress level after just a few days.

More Mindfulness Stategies:

  • yoga
  • listening to music
  • guided imagery
  • progressive relaxation
  • meditation
  • focus on your 5 senses

Check out The Mayo Clinic for more mindfulness exercises and how they can help you manage holiday stress.

2. Ask For Help

Most moms tend to struggle with this. I think it’s because society puts pressure on us to do it all and we’re afraid that we might look weak if we can’t. But that’s not true! As you’ve probably heard before,

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

That means that none of us can do it on our own. We just have to learn how to reach out for help without feeling guilty about it. In my experience, when I have asked my friends to help by grabbing something for me from the grocery store or watching my kids for an hour or two while I go to a Dr’s appointment, they have actually been more than willing to help.

Helping others actually makes people feel better about themselves and anyone who is a good friend will want to help you when they can. Plus you can return the favor and help them in the future.

3. Set Boundaries

During the holidays, it can be easy to fill up your social calendar almost every day of the week. Not only are there parties and family gatherings, but you may feel pressure to participate in every food drive or cookie exchange. There are also more community events this time of year like tree lightings and holiday programs at your church or school. Then you have to factor in the time it takes to get your holiday shopping done, write and send out cards, and decorate your home.

There just isn’t enough time to do everything! So we have to say “No” to some things. You may get pushback from family or friends if you decide not to send out holiday cards this year, but that’s ok. You can always send them out for New Years or try again next year to do them earlier when you have more time.

4. Take A Technology Break

We live in a society that expects us to be “on” 24/7. Not only do people want us to answer their texts and phone calls right away, but we’re also constantly being bombarded by new information on social media. Sometimes we just need a day or even a few hours to shut off our devices and unplug from it all.

I purposely leave my phone at home when I exercise because it’s usually the only time I can get a break. If I don’t do this occasionally I find myself getting easily overwhelmed, especially during the holidays. Another idea is to put your phone in another room and turn it on silent for a set amount of time. I know this can be really challenging, but I assure you the phone call or text can wait a few minutes.

5. Be Proactive

Building in time to your schedule for self-care is crucial this time of year, especially for those who struggle with anxiety. I suggest looking at your calendar at least once a week and finding time to exercise. Even if this means 15 minutes of yoga or going for a quick walk. I would even go as far as writing this time down in your calendar so that you are more likely to honor the commitment to yourself.

It’s also important to be aware of what you’re eating and drinking. Limiting your consumption of alcohol and sweets can be challenging with all of the parties and social gatherings this time of year. But having a plan for how you’re going to handle these situations ahead of time can be really helpful. Also, remember that it’s ok to say no even when it’s really tempting to give in. Practicing this with a friend or partner ahead of time can make these difficult situations a little easier to handle.

If you don’t have a support network to help, counseling is another great option for managing holiday stress! I’d be happy to help you figure out if it might be an appropriate time to seek counseling. I offer a free 10 minute phone consultation where we can determine if the services I provide would be a good fit.

You can contact me here to schedule your free consultation today.

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

If you’ve heard of impostor syndrome, chances are you’ve probably felt it at least once in your life. It’s actually a term that’s somewhat new to me. I first heard it a year or so ago when I was telling my husband that I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing as a blogger.

He told me there was actually a name for that- Impostor Syndrome. It’s when people doubt their skills and accomplishments and they feel like a fraud. When I looked it up, I found out that it was pretty common for bloggers. It helped to know that I was wasn’t the only one who felt this way sometimes.

Now that I’m exploring my options for going back to work as a counselor, I’m starting to feel impostor syndrome again. I haven’t done it in so long and I’m afraid that I won’t know what to say or how to help. Plus how can I help others when I’m dealing with my own problems? Surprisingly, I’ve learned that many counselors feel the same way. The more I learn about it, the more I see that most people have felt like an impostor at some point in their careers.

Letting it stop you from trying the thing you’ve always wanted to do isn’t the only option though. I’ve been working through mine with my counselor and today I realized that for me impostor syndrome comes from being a perfectionist. I put too much pressure on myself to be perfect. So I don’t feel like I’m an expert because I’m not perfect.

But expecting perfection from myself or anyone else is unrealistic. No one is perfect! No matter how hard you try, you can’t know everything there is to know. So instead of focusing on what I don’t know, I’m working on paying more attention to what I do know.

pinterest pin Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

Fighting Impostor Syndrome

To overcome impostor syndrome, I’m working on reminding myself these things:

  • I have the skills I need to be a good counselor.
  • Not only do I have a Master’s degree, but I went through all of the steps to get licensed.
  • I care enough about helping others that I want to make it my job. That has to be a good place to start.
  • Before I had kids, I was building a successful private practice. My clients were coming back so they must have thought it was helping.
  • If I don’t try, I’ll never know if I could have been successful.

This is still a work in progress for me, but I will always have to keep learning and working on myself if I want to be good at anything.

If you’re trying something new or going back to work after some time away, maybe you’ve had the same fears I’ve had. What has helped you to work through the self-doubt?

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More Than Just A Mom

10 Tips For Surviving Disney With Kids

Last month we got to go on a trip to Disney with our kids. It was one of the best family vacations we’ve ever had. It also took 6 months to plan and caused me alot of anxiety! Check out Disney Bound for more about my experience planning our trip.

I was lucky enough to have some friends who gave me lots of good advice. I also joined a Facebook group where I learned about the best restaurants and which rides we had to go on.

So I wanted to share some of those tips with you in case you’re trying to plan a trip to Disney with kids.

10 TIPS FOR SURVIVING DISNEY WITH KIDS

pinterest pin 10 tips for surviving Disney with kids

1. Lower your expectations, and then lower them again.

You’ve probably heard people say that Disney is the most magical place on earth. Don’t get me wrong, it is pretty magical and my kids will tell you that this is true. But if you go to Disney with kids thinking everything is going to be unicorns and rainbows, you will be disappointed. If you go to Disney in July it will not feel magical the whole time. It will be hot and it will be crowded.

Expect long wait times and don’t expect every Disney employee to be willing to bend over backwards to make your trip the most magical vacation you’ve ever had. I’m not sure where that came from, but our experience at The Beach Club was far from it. The resort was beautiful and the pool was amazing. We enjoyed our stay, but all of the cast members working there didn’t seem to love their jobs like we expected them to.

2. Bring water and snacks.

Most moms know not to leave home without a bag full of snacks, but I didn’t realize how important this would be at Disney World. Having a snack on hand when waiting in line with bored and hungry kids can be a lifesaver! Or maybe my kids are the only ones that get hungry when they’re bored.

I also wish we would have brought our own breakfast. We ended up ordering breakfast from the store in our hotel every morning. Not only was it expensive, but it took time that we could have been spending in the parks.

Another thing I wish we had brought was water. Again, I almost always bring water with me when we go anywhere, but for some reason we didn’t bring any with us.

One night we stayed at the pool until closing, and by the time we got back to our room the hotel store was closed. My husband searched the whole resort for at least 30 minutes trying to find bottled water. He never found any. We could have easily brought our own, and I actually saw several people bringing it in by the case at check in.

As far as bringing water to the parks, you can bring 1 or 2 bottles and then fill them up at the restaurants for free.

3. Choose your bag carefully.

I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to bring a bag with me to the parks. I didn’t want to have to find a locker to put it in while we went on the rides. But of course, like usual, I ended up carrying everyone’s water bottles, ponchos, sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats. Also there was a space to put your bag on every ride so finding a locker wasn’t necessary.

I brought a medium size Kavu sling bag, but there were times I wish I had a larger bag.

Of course, the bigger the bag you bring, the more you’ll end up carrying and the heavier it will be. So I would keep that in mind when deciding which size bag to bring.

4. Make dinner reservations ahead of time.

This was something knew to me as a Disney rookie, but I’m glad that someone told me ahead of time. Right now, you can book your Disney dining reservations 60 days in advance if you’re staying in one of the Disney resorts.

I recommend setting a reminder in your phone once you know when you’re going that way you won’t forget. You can book the reservations for all of the meals during your stay 60 days in advance from the first day of your stay.

We had some really good meals on our trip, and I’m so glad that we had reservations for them. We were lucky enough to get dinner reservations at Be Our Guest, and I think this was our favorite meal.

Not only was the food really good, but the service was amazing and it was really cool when the beast made his guest appearance. I thought maybe my 9-year-old was too old to appreciate it, but the next day he asked if we could go to more restaurants with characters.

Other restaurants that we enjoyed were:

5. Use the Disney app.

We loved having the DisneyGo app. You can not only use it as a map, but you can also see wait times for the rides. We decided what to ride next based on the wait times and could avoid walking all the way across the park for a ride that had a really long wait.

The app is also helpful for ordering quick service food and finding last minute dinner reservations.

6. Build in some down time.

This was one thing that we failed to do this trip. We learned our lesson the hard way, but now we know. Next time we go to Disney, we will make sure to plan an extra day where we don’t go to any parks. If you’re staying at one of the Disney properties you can lounge at the resort pool or you can spend a whole day shopping at Disney Springs.

7. Wear comfortable shoes.

We walked over 5 miles every day that we were in the parks, so having comfortable shoes is essential. I recommend wearing tennis shoes and if you can bring an extra pair. There’s nothing worse than having to wear wet shoes and you’re bound to get caught in the rain at least once on your trip. Since we didn’t bring extra shoes we were able to dry off our shoes a little bit using the hotel hair dryer.

8. Pack sunscreen.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan said “Going to Disney in July is like walking on the surface of the sun.” Even if you don’t go in July like we did, it’s always sunny in Florida. And no one wants to be miserable after getting sunburn the first day you are there.

9. Expect it to rain.

It rains almost every day in Florida. Usually the rain showers are short and sweet, but it still stinks to walk around Disney with wet clothes.

So come prepared for the rain and bring ponchos! If you forget, most of the gift shops carry them, but you can get them much cheaper at Target or on Amazon ahead of time.

10. Don’t forget to have fun!

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to ride as many rides and see as many shows as possible. But unless you’re willing to wake up at the crack of dawn and drag your kids through the parks until closing for at least a week, there is no way you can physically do it all.

My husband and I decided before we even left that the most important thing about our trip was for our kids to have fun. We knew that it was going to be hot and if everyone was miserable we could go back to the pool at our resort.

So on the 2nd day when our boys wanted to do just that, my husband had to remind me that we were there for them. Who cares if you don’t get to close the park down? Maybe you miss the fireworks show, but if your kids are happy that’s what should be most important.

What tips would you add for surviving Disney with kids? Tell us in the comments and be sure to share this post with your friends!

Disney Bound

When you plan a trip for six months, the pressure to get it right can feel overwhelming.

Add in a trip with kids where you’re spending thousands of dollars to what’s supposed to be the happiest place on earth and the fact that you tend to over think everything. And it can start to feel like you’re planning your wedding all over again.

A friend asked me if I felt like my families’ happiness was on my shoulders and it was like she was reading my thoughts. Except she isn’t a fortune teller. She’s just a mom who has planned a Disney trip or two.

I spent the week or two prior to our trip feeling almost frozen. All of the pressure had gotten to me.

The pressure that I had put on myself. My kids have only been to Disney once and they were only four and one. So really they had nothing to compare this trip to. They didn’t know how many or what kind of rides to expect.

The Spiral

Even still I had overwhelming anxiety about our trip. I started having anxiety about my anxiety. This wasn’t really something new to me, but this time it felt like it was never going to pass.

My anxiety had me fooled into thinking that I’d be too anxious to enjoy Disney World.

What has the world come to that moms are spending their time worrying about whether or not their family will have fun on vacation? It’s not that I didn’t have anything else to do. I just couldn’t get these bad thoughts out of my mind.

Thankfully once we set out to drive to Florida, all of that did fade away. It was like Disney was somehow already working it’s magic on me.

Am I the only one who has experienced this roller coaster of emotions? Please tell me I’m not alone.

Stay tuned next week for tips on surviving Disney World with kids.

Understanding Your Child’s Personality

There are many types of personality tests out there. You may have heard the word Enneagram buzzing around, but I think it’s more than just a new trend. Knowing your child’s personality can be the key to helping you parent and to having a happier family.

If you can understand why someone is doing what they’re doing or not doing it can help you respond in a way that is more likely to make that person feel heard and understood. What parent doesn’t want to have that kind of connection with their child?

I’m not saying that you don’t know your child if you haven’t done a personality test on them. In fact you probably can predict how they will respond to any given scenario nine times out of ten. But do you know why they would respond that way? I’m talking more than understanding if your child is stubborn or easy going. More than if they are outgoing or shy.

Which Animal Are You?

A few months ago, my son came home from school excited to tell me about his day. This is kind of a big deal. Usually when I ask how his day was his response is minimal. I’m lucky to get more than something like, “it was good,” so I was eager to hear more. But as someone who studied psychology, he really started speaking my language when he told me that he took a personality test at school.

He wanted me to take the test too and had extra so that everyone in our family could take it. That night he kept bugging me to take it until I finally did.

Then when I told him my results he just said, “Ok” and walked away. Apparently he wasn’t asking us to take the test because it was for an assignment or homework. He was genuinely curious to know. This was the point that I realized my nine year old is starting to grow up. Maybe he wanted to know what our personality type was because he wanted to understand us better.

The test that we took was The Five Minute Personality Test. It tells you which animal you are most like. When my son told me which animal he was, it made so much sense to me. It has given me more awareness of why he is the way he is. Now when I start to feel frustrated, I remember that he isn’t trying to be difficult, he’s just responding because of the way he thinks about the world. It’s who God made him to be.

Knowing your child’s personality type doesn’t mean you have to change the way you parent completely. Of course if we could all wave a magic wand and know the right way to respond to our children in any situation that would be ideal. But that’s not really realistic. I think just being aware of what your child’s personality type is and noticing when it starts to come out is key.

When people can really stop to think about where others are coming from and truly empathize that is when relationships can thrive. It takes emotional maturity and effort to do, but just reading this post is a start.

4 Types of Personality Tests

I encourage you to take one of the tests listed below and see if you can better understand who your child or even your spouse is.

Maybe next time you have an interaction with them you will remember reading this and simply pause for a brief moment to consider their point of view. Not only how they think about the situation, but how God made them to think about the situation and that he purposely made that to be different than he made you to think about it.

1. Enneagram

The official RHETI can be purchased at The Enneagram Institute for $12. You’ll get a thorough print out of your results including what you’re like at your best and your worst as well as why you get into relationship conflicts and who you are most compatible with. You can also take a free version here, but the results will not include as much detail. There is a ton of information online and social media about the different enneagram types. My favorite accounts to follow on Instagram are @enneagramashton and @enneagramexplained.

2. Myers Briggs

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator explains how people perceive the world and make decisions. It assigns people into four categories: introversion or extraversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving. Your result will take one letter from each category such as INJF or ENFP. This test can be really helpful in personal growth and improving relationships, but in my opinion it’s a little more complicated than some of the other personality tests I’ve taken.

3. The Color Code

The Color Code will tell you which color your personality is most like. This test is widely used in Europe by psychologists, government agencies, and universities to screen their candidates. Before you take the test, see if you can guess which color you will be: red, blue, white, or yellow.

4. The 5 Minute Personality Test

This test will tell you which animal you’re most like. I think it’s super easy to take this one to see what your child’s personality type is, because all you do is choose which adjectives are most like them on a scale of 1-4.

Once you determine which animal you are (Lion, Otter, Golden Retriever, or Beaver) then you can see what your natural strengths and weaknesses are. I found it helpful to know that my son who is a beaver, has the desire to be right. It’s also good to know as a parent that he needs security, gradual change, and time to adjust. As a beaver, he is likely to want stability, low risk situations, and tasks that require precision and planning.

When guessing how my husband would answer this test, I found out that his personality is most like the lion. The lions communication style is great at initiation communication and not good at listening. While I’m not sure that this is true 100% of the time, it does help when I feel like he never remembers things I tell him. He also needs to solve problems and wants direct answers. Knowing this about him can help me understand why he gets frustrated with me, the golden retriever, who tends to be indecisive and sacrifice results for the sake of humanity.

It may seem like our personality types are bound to clash, but you know what they say- opposites attract! At least now we can be aware that the other person isn’t trying to push our buttons. They are simply being who they are supposed to be.

Have you taken any of these personality tests before? Were you surprised to find out the results? Stay tuned for more about personality tests for kids.

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Redefining The Summer Slump

I started out this summer on top of my game. I was feeling really good and ready to conquer spending 24/7 with my kids for the next ten weeks. They would have to earn screen time every day and it would be limited to two hours a day. I had ideas for activities to keep us busy and active every day. But even the best laid plans go out the window sometimes. 

Instead of setting screen time limits, I consider it a parenting win when there is an hour in the day that my kids are not watching tv or playing video games. Didn’t I say I’d never use tv as a babysitter? Never say never. 

Instead of spending time blogging every day, I’ve had a pretty consistent daily afternoon nap. But it’s ok, because this summer I’ve decided to totally embrace the “whatever goes motto.” I’m keeping my kids alive and fed and that means I’m doing my job. 

Instead of feeling guilty about how much screen time my kids are getting, I’m reminding myself that sometimes we’re meant to slow down. Instead of calling this season the Summer Slump, I’m renaming it the Summer Slow Down.

I’m considering the fact that maybe I need to catch up on my sleep. And I’m giving myself a little grace for not having activities planned every single day of the summer.

We’re actually getting ready to go on vacation tomorrow and then have another trip planned at the end of the month. So we’ll probably need a vacation from our vacations soon.

How is your summer going so far? Please tell me I’m not alone and share your story in the comments.

Five Ways To Encourage Your Child To Love Reading

This post is sponsored by Storytime. We will always give our honest opinions on these products and the opinions expressed on this blog are purely our own.

My kids have always loved to read. I’m not sure if it’s because they have two parents who enjoy it or if it’s because of the things below that we do to encourage them to love reading. But I know how important it is for every child’s education and development. So I’m going to share some of the things we do in our house in case you need ideas to help your kids develop a love of reading. Here they are!

Five Ways To Encourage Your Child To Love Reading

pinterest 5 ways to encourage your child to love reading

1. Don’t Interfere With Their Choice Of Books

My boys love to read books like Captain Underpants, Super Diaper Baby, and Fart Quest. Basically if it has anything to do with bodily functions they are interested. They also are only really interested in reading graphic novels. My oldest is fully capable of reading books without pictures, but any time I try to encourage him to read more challenging books he loses interest in reading altogether. So I try really hard not to interfere.

As much as I’d like for him to read the classics, it’s important that I allow him the option to choose what he reads. I don’t want reading to be one more thing that he has to do and I want him to enjoy it so it’s important for me to give him control over what he reads.

That being said I do still gently encourage other books by suggesting the ones I think he may be interested in. There have been times when he looked at a book that my youngest picked out and said it was dumb. But then when I started reading it to him, my oldest would stop reading his book and listen.

This leads me to my next suggestion.

2. Model Reading

Children learn by watching others. So if you want your kids to love reading show them that you do too. My husband and I both love to read so this is easy for us. If you don’t love reading or don’t feel like you have time I encourage you to give it a try. Maybe you just haven’t found the right book.

Goodreads is a website where you can enter in the names of books that you’ve enjoyed and they will make suggestions based on your interest. You can keep track of books you want to read and books that you’ve read too! I’ve found some books that I ended up loving this way.

A few of my recent favorite books are:

3. Never Say No To Books

Ok I never say never so instead I should say we hardly ever say no to books. If my kids bring home a flier for the book fair from school, I almost always send in money to let them buy at least 1 book. We also like to take trips to Barnes and Noble and let our kids pick out a book when we need something fun to do.

We almost never say no when they ask for a new book or when one of their favorite series comes out with a new book. The downside is that our house is overflowing with books, but I know that eventually they will outgrow some of them and we’ll pass them on to someone else.

4. Make Books Accessible

We have books all over our house. Both of my kids have bookshelves in their room that are full of books. We also have books in their playroom and there’s usually a book or two in the car. Having books throughout the house makes them more accessible and they are more likely to pick one up if they’re bored when there’s one nearby.

Many times when we go run errands or pretty much anywhere, my kids are reading in the car. Even though having books in the car makes it seem more cluttered, I allow it because it encourages them to pick one up to read every time we’re in it.

We recently discovered a book subscription service called Storytime. Storytime delivers hand-selected books to your door through the USPS that are tailored to your child’s development. These books are focused on topics that encourage social-emotional learning and help your child process major life events.

Even though my boys are into reading chapter books, they both really enjoyed reading the books that we received from Storytime and chose them to read several nights in a row. I was surprised by how much they enjoyed Those Shoes as well as the other books that were in our bag.

In fact, my 6-year-old didn’t want to send them back! The cool thing about Storytime is if you want to purchase the books, you can! And Storytime’s prices are cheaper than what you would pay anywhere else.

5. Make Reading A Part Of Your Bedtime Routine

We’ve been reading to our kids every night at bedtime since they were born. If your kids are older and this isn’t a part of your routine at night already, that’s ok. You can start small by reading 1 book or 10 pages of a book if it’s longer every night. The goal is to read 20 minutes every day, but even if your child reads for 10 minutes a few times a week that is better than nothing.

These are a few things we do in our house that encourage our kids to love reading. Do your kids love to read? If so, what else would you add to this list? Share in the comments below.

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