Guest Article by Sheila Olsen from fitsheila.com
Sleep is one of our body’s most important functions. It gives your mind time to rest and recharge, allows your muscles to heal and strengthen, and even regulates mood and boosts immune function. However, most of us don’t get the quality sleep we need.
This can happen for many reasons, especially when it comes to fertility and birth. Women who are trying to conceive often experience high ambient stress, especially if the process is taking much longer than they’d expected. Pregnancy can interrupt sleep in a variety of ways from conception to birth and, of course, newborns aren’t known for their sleep-enhancing qualities.
That said, there are ways to mitigate these issues and get the rest you deserve. Breathe with Lauren invites you to take a look at some of the common reasons women lose sleep and give you the tools to overcome them.
Stress and Anxiety
One of the most common reasons people can’t fall or stay asleep is stress. Most people with anxiety, whether temporary or chronic, spend their days stuck in stressful thought patterns. When they try to fall asleep, their minds can’t step away from these patterns long enough to wind down and sleep. This leads to more stress about the fact that you’re not sleeping.
There are several ways to tackle this. Many people who stress before bed benefit from playing soothing music, a calming meditation, or white noise over speakers that connect via Bluetooth in their bedroom. This gives your mind something specific to focus on that isn’t your stressful thoughts. You can also try reading or journaling before bed to ensure your last thoughts aren’t anxiety-ridden ones as you drift off to sleep.
Finally, if you absolutely can’t sleep from stress, get up for a little while. Drink some herbal tea (check ingredients if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive) or do some light stretching — anything other than beating yourself up for being awake. Staying in bed while anxious about not sleeping can build up mental associations that make sleep even harder in the long run.
Sleep Issues During Pregnancy
When it comes to addressing sleep problems during pregnancy, you need to identify what’s keeping you up. For example, early on you might be dealing with pregnancy nausea. Don’t let the name fool you — morning sickness can happen at night. There are tons of morning sickness home remedies out there; try some out to see which work best for you. If none of them work, or your nausea and vomiting are severe, talk to your medical provider to get relief.
Heartburn is another common sleep issue in pregnancy. Although hormone changes can cause heartburn to happen throughout pregnancy, it gets more common — and for some moms, unavoidable — as the baby gets bigger and begins to press on your stomach. Pregnancy pillows and over-the-counter or prescription meds can reduce discomfort.
How to Sleep When You Have an Infant
There’s no getting around it — babies put a serious dent in your sleep schedule. There are several approaches you can take to getting sleep when you have a little one. For starters, there’s the tried and true “sleep when the baby sleeps.”
Newborns need to eat every three hours, which means it’s nearly impossible to get a full night’s sleep even with plenty of support, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Eventually, your family will find a rhythm and you can use naps to do chores or just take a breather, but at the beginning, you need to take sleep wherever you can find it.
If you have a partner, work out a routine that allows you both to get a decent uninterrupted chunk of sleep overnight (if you breastfeed, pumping can allow your partner to take an evening feed without waking you up). You can also lean on family and friends in order to catch some extra Zs.
A good night’s sleep can feel impossible sometimes, but these tools can help. We hope this article empowers you to get the rest you need and deserve.
Looking for support on your fertility or pregnancy journey? Want to try some online yoga classes? Contact Lauren Enright today to get started by calling 514-622-4401.
Sheila Olson has been a personal trainer for five years. She believes the best way to achieve physical fitness and good health is to set and tackle small goals. She encourages her clients to stay positive and incorporates mindfulness and practices for reducing negative talk into her sessions. She created Fit Sheila to spread the word about her fitness philosophy."
Do you enjoy the benefits of yoga, but struggle with practicing at home?
Maybe it's been hard for you to start your home yoga practice, or maybe you've struggled to maintain it. For many people (myself included), working out (in any form) - on your own AND at home - is difficult! You may not have a proper space or props, there are so many distractions, and there is often a lack of motivation.
Before COVID, I had never practiced yoga at home (except for when I would prepare my classes). I relied heavily on going to a studio and having the guidance of a seasoned teacher. But when yoga studios closed in March 2020, I was presented with a choice:
Over the last year and a half I have developed a few key habits that have really helped me keep up with my home yoga practice (and therefore keep my sanity 😆) and I'd like to share them with you.
HABIT #1: Leave your yoga mat rolled out where you plan to practice (don't put it away!)
So I know this may not seem super practical, especially if you are living in a small space and are used to your home looking a certain way (hint: this is an invitation to work on letting go of control 😉), but simply the act of seeing your mat on the floor will remind you to get on it and move your body!
I'll tell you a little story about how I learned that something so simple could be so effective. This summer my family and I spent 6 weeks in a cottage in Morin-Heights, QC. I had the choice of setting up my yoga space in the basement, or right next to our bed in the mezzanine. The basement option seemed like the logical choice, as it would permit me to be free(ish) of distractions from my family. But the basement was also dark and we weren't spending very much time down there. So I rolled out my yoga mat right next to our bed and didn't put it away for 6 weeks. The result? I woke up every morning with my mat staring me in the face; it was literally saying: "come sit on me". And so I would accept the invitation. Sometimes just for 10 min, or sometimes for a full practice. I have never been so consistent!
Habit 2: Choose WHEN you will practice, and write it down!
I HIGHLY recommend practicing in the morning, even if it means having to wake up a little earlier. From my personal experience, I've learned that if I don't practice first thing after waking up, I'll never do it, even if I have the best of intentions. Now I know that a morning practice may not be possible for every body, so if you already know that a different time of day works for you, go with it!
Now that you have decided when you will practice....write it down (on paper preferably)
This part is just as important (if not more important) than the 'when'. And the act of writing it down seems to be more effective than simply scheduling it into your electronic calendar.
This month I started using The Mastery Journal (to master productivity, discipline, and focus in 100 days). At the beginning of each page there is a prompt to write out my morning routine, including what time I wish to start and end by, and the tasks I would like to include. The key to this habit is doing it the night before, because as John Lee Dumas says: "we win tomorrow, today!".
I was amazed at how effective this simple act of no more than 3 minutes became! On the evenings where I would write out my morning routine I had a 100% success rate of actually implementing my plan (which was very new for me as I normally have a hard time with discipline and routine).
So here is something you can do right now to get one step closer to your consistent home yoga practice. Make sure to write your answers down!
Habit 3: Be part of an online yoga community
The truth is: starting and maintaining a home yoga practice is hard because most of the time you're doing it alone.
But what if you had a group to show up to?
What if, before your practice, you got to chat with the other humans, just like you?
Would that make it a little easier to show up each week?
In my 15 years of practicing yoga there have been 2 major things that have helped keep me on my path of living yoga:
When I try to do it alone, I loose my drive, every time. And this is why community has become the foundation of my yoga and coaching programs: because we ALL thrive with support.
I would love to help you find an online (or in person if you are in the Montreal area) yoga community where you feel at home! My Breathe with Lauren family consists mainly of womben at all stages of the Motherhood journey (so those TTC, pregnant people, and new and seasoned moms). I offer fertility yoga, prenatal yoga, postnatal yoga, birth doula services, as well as private and group fertility coaching programs.
But if you don’t fit into one of these categories, I can still point you towards the right community for you (as I have been around the yoga block many, many times). Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bringing the mental and physical benefits of yoga to more people is my jam!
Have you ever noticed how your emotional state can impact your perception of time? Like when you are really enjoying yourself time seems to go by so fast (I swear the wedding I had spent a year planning was over in a single blink), but when you are uninspired (perhaps at a work meeting ;) time seems to go by sooo slooow....
Or maybe you've observed that when you're feeling busy or rushed there never seems to be enough hours in a day, but when you have nothing fun to do (hello COVID) time seems to drag on?
I am on the constant pursuit of finding ways to bring more ease and joy into my life (and yours!). And so the scientist in me LOVES thinking about these types of things...how does variable x influence variable y?
Whether you are a professional, a student, a mom, or an empty nester, today most of us feel busy and rushed. We keep moving, keep working to get it all done (often without taking breaks) because we think that pausing will slow us down... BUT (and this is super counter intuitive) taking a break and slowing down is actually the ONE thing that will buy us more time in the long run.
The thing is that feeling rushed is exactly that: a feeling. And a feeling always comes from a thought. When you feel rushed, your mind is constantly thinking about the next thing on your to-do list, so you are always living in the future (in your mind at least) which makes time feel like it's going by faster.
But when you keep your mind anchored in the present moment something magical begins to happen: time seems to slow down! You begin to feel less rushed, less agitated, and more in control. But it's not your to-do list that has changed, it's your perception of time!
I've been reading the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown and I've been happy to see that he too emphasizes the importance of things such as taking breaks to sit and think, sleep, and play to increase productivity (and not reduce it).
Over the years my yoga and meditation practice that has helped me learn to tame my mind (amongst MANY other things)- so that I don't spend too much time in the future (which often leads to anxiety) or in the past (which can lead to depression). And in doing so, I have acquired the superpower of being able to slow down time.
I would love to share my superpower with you, and teach you how to harness this skill too! There various free and paid ways for you to learn with me:
You can get a taste of what I have to offer with my free fertility yoga, prenatal yoga, or For the Love of Yoga recordings. Or join me for a live yoga + meditation and journaling workshop , or 6 week group education & support series (I have fertility yoga, prenatal yoga, mom and baby yoga).
And if you have any questions about how to use yoga and meditation to slow down time please leave them in the comments below!
A few months ago I watched the Netflix Documentary The Social Dilemma (have you seen it?) and was terrified by it. I was already quite conscious of my digital consumption behaviors, but the show made me even more aware of how social media and my smartphone was affecting my (and my family's life).
I recognize this is a hot topic- and I don't take it lightly. Addiction is a strong word. But given that "People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences" (American Society of Addiction Medicine) I do believe I had developed an addiction to my phone.
I never had an 'addictive personality'. In my early twenties, I could have a cigarette with a drink (yes, I was a 'social smoker' at the time) but I always had control. I wish I could say the same about my relationship with my phone.
One way I could tell I was starting to become addicted to my phone is that I could feel my desire to check it even when there was no reason to. I could feel my brain craving that dopamine hit from the next comment or like on a recent post. And the worst part was, I couldn't keep myself from doing it! Repeatedly, I would find myself pressing that 'home' button even when I was telling myself not to.
Another aspect of addiction is that it interferes with your relationships. This was the case for me. Being on my phone 'all the time' (in my husband's words) came to be an issue of contention in our marriage. "But I'm doing work" I would argue. Which was true. But did I need to be doing work first thing after hopping out of bed? No.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? I imagine it does. I believe that many of us struggle with our relationship with our phone.
As one mom said in my mom and baby yoga class: "it's hard, because I'm so isolated right now, and I use social media to feel connected to others, but then I stay up too late instead of going to bed when I know I should".
I've been there too. Scrolling, and feeling worse because of it.
There is a rule of thumb I like to use in life: if something makes you feel better, keep doing it, but if it makes you feel worse, stop!
I feel like ONE of the problems with social media is that we never stop to take the time to notice if what we're doing is making us feel better or worse.
Fast forward a few months (so this post doesn't drag on too long 😆) and I have been working hard at setting boundaries with social media and email. I tried going cold turkey (ie. implementing many boundaries at the same time) but that didn't work- so now I'm taking it slow, making one change at a time.
Two changes I have been successful with so far:
1- I don't touch my phone until after I drop my kids off at school. This allows me to be more present with my family in the morning and pushes back the start of my "work day".
2- I have been doing a Sunday social media detox. No posting posting to my feed or stories, and no consumption. When I was a little girl Sunday was always a day of rest. Stores were closed and we went to church. Things seemed a whole lot simpler back then. And that's what I'm striving for: more simplicity.
What I'm working on now is my night time boundary: powering down. I find this one a lot harder- probably because I've been disciplined for most of the day so I feel I have permission to 'rebel' at night. But baby steps, right? Just the act of me telling you that I will be off my phone by 9pm every night will help me get there. And looking forward to a good book and bath before bed, things that actually make me feel better and not worse!
If you've stuck around till the end, bravo 👏🏼! This was a long one. And (I believe) a really important one. I hope you use my story as inspiration to either:
- become more aware of how your phone/social media usage impacts you (and other people's) lives
- try setting some boundaries for your own digital consumption behaviors.
As always, I'd love to hear from you- can you relate to my story? Have you already pared down your social media feeds? Do you have any tips for me???
Lauren is a trained neuroscientist, who after a decade of teaching left her job to start her own business. Her struggle with migraines and anxiety is what brought Lauren to yoga, and kept her coming back as it became a medicine for both her body and mind. Today, Lauren is passionate about teaching meditation and yoga to a large audience as tools to develop more resilience and joy, with less anxiety and overwhelm. Lauren lives in Montreal with her husband and two children, Cedar and Oscar.