53 Transcript: How Self Care Helped Me Face My Struggles with Strength (with Jen Riday, part 1)

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J You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 53.

Intro: Welcome to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, stories of vibrant women living happy lives. And now, your host, Jen Riday.

J Hey there, Jen here, and welcome to Vibrant Happy Women, I'm so glad you're here. Last week, I chatted with Loren Brill, founder of Sweet Loren's cookies, and she shared the importance of really digging deep and doing what you're supposed to do with your life. That is an excellent episode, I've had so many good comments about it. And if you haven't listened to that yet, go back to jenriday.com/52 or you can listen on itunes, episode 52. Well, I had a listener send me an email, her name is Angela, and she said, “Jen, I want to know more about you. Have you been on any podcasts? Have you been a guest on some podcasts?” Well, I shared a few with her, but it got me thinking, “Why don't I do a 2 part series explaining a little bit more about me?” And I wanted to talk about self-care so I chose the topic of ‘Facing struggles with strength through excellent self-care’. We all struggle. If there's anything I've learned through my podcast and through my business helping women is that we all struggle. Some of us face those struggles more easily than others. And I'm not claiming I face struggles easily, but I have found a few strategies that helped me; and I'm going to share some of those today.

So on the show, we often talk about the guests low point; and I'll tell you my low point. I earned my PhD in human development family studies many years ago when my first 2 children were born, and then I became a stay-at-home mom. We moved to Madison, Wisconsin where my husband got a job and I really loved being a stay-at-home mom. I had learned all that research in human development and family studies and I wanted to apply it; I wanted to be the best mom ever. And so I spent a lot of time playing and read books and I tried to make amazing meals, I went to playgroup, I had my kids involved in things, I hosted some elaborate birthday parties. I remember one birthday party, I had a newborn, like just weeks old, maybe even just days old (let me think; yeah, it was for my daughter's birthday). Anyway, I had this little baby and I hosted a birthday party, my husband was even out of town, it was massively stressful; I don't know why I did these kind of things to myself. There were tons of kids, tons of moms there for this party and I had a newborn in the baby Bjorn on the front of me, and I was barely hanging on; I was so tired. Anyway, I did all of those things; I wanted to be the perfect mom. I even baked bread, loaves and loaves of homemade bread because I was going to be that perfect mom.

After I had 5 kids, I suffered a miscarriage. It wasn't my first miscarriage, but it was my worst because it was Christmas time and I never seemed to stop bleeding; it was terrible. So on Christmas day, we were visiting my parents, all our kids were with us, and I woke my spouse up and I said, “I think we have to go to the hospital. I'm really, really dizzy and I almost feel like blacking out,” I'd lost so much blood. And so he packed up baby Jane who was 1 at the time, we left the other 4 kids with my parents and we drove to the hospital. Now, when I'm stressed out, I get a little bit bossy and I kind of said to my spouse, “You need to change Jane before we go. I mean, she's sopping wet, she hasn't been changed yet for the day,” and he completely refused. And of course, I interpreted this as, “What? What the heck! He doesn't love me at all! Why would he want me to do it? I can barely stand up!” and I… and then I was just so upset, “What? Shouldn't he care about me? I've had a miscarriage.” So I interpreted this thing all wrong, he was just like, “Forget the diaper, we've got to get to the hospital!” he was thinking safety mode. Well, of course the whole thing escalated into a massive fight the whole way to the hospital, and I continued to engage in my side of the story with a slight victim thinking like, “Wow, why are we fighting? I mean, I'm totally about to pass out and I having this miscarriage. Why is he being so mean to me?” and he thought I was being critical (Laughs); you know how these things go.

So an hour later, we arrived at the hospital; yes, my parents live in a very rural area in southwest Iowa. We parked the van and Jane was asleep in the back of the car. And so my husband stayed in the car with her (which was fine with me because I was so upset with him, and I walked into the ER and I said, “I need to see a doctor, I'm having a miscarriage.” So they got me in, I went into the waiting room all alone, and the doctor finally came in and just looked at me like, I know she was thinking I was high on some type of drug because where was the person that should be accompanying me to the hospital? So I said, “I'm having a miscarriage, I'm Rh negative I need a RhoGAM shot; that's part of the reason I drove all the way here. I probably need an IV because I feel really dizzy,” she just stared at me, she said, “Okay, well, I need to confirm that you're pregnant.” So we did that blood draw, which didn't go well because my veins are already very small and I was dehydrated it; took forever. So that went to the lab and I'm waiting and waiting and waiting and I finally get the IV and everything (Laughs). And then she comes back and says, “Well, it turns out you are pregnant,” this is Christmas day, mind you, she was probably grumpy she had to be working. Then I said, “Well, I'm Rh negative,”

“Oh, yeah,”

“And I told you that before, ma'am.”

“Okay, well, we need to order that too,” (Laughs). So another blood draw and they test for the Rh factor; sure enough, I was Rh negative. This is like 5 hours after I'd woken up by this time. I've had the IV and I finally get that RhoGAM shot and we are on our way (Laughs).

My husband and Jane even came in at the end wondering what was taking me so long. So we drove back to my parents in relative silence, we were no longer angry, yet I felt really hurt. The whole experience was awful; this giant fight, I'm in the emergency room alone, the doctor completely disrespected me (by the way, later must have felt bad about it because she didn't even charge me; awesome). Anyway, we went back, we he celebrated Christmas and I had to deal with all the sympathy from my relatives; it was seriously just a nightmare day for me in every way. After that point and over the next few weeks, I really had some emotional trauma and I was upset with my husband. Like, even though we weren't fighting verbally, I had so much resentment for him just for weeks and months, “How could he treat me so badly on the day I had a miscarriage?” and it just festered. I thought about divorce frankly, even though we had 5 kids and that wouldn’t have been good for them at all, I just could only see the bad about him.

Now, my husband is very left brained (he's a scientist) and I'm very right brained (I'm emotional). And we've often had conflict because of how different we are; in fact, we once saw a therapist and the therapist said, “I have never, in 25 years of counseling, counseled a couple as different as each of you are. I'm not sure I can help you.” (Laughs) So we were fired from marriage therapy once.

So, anyway, how did I deal with all that? I was dealing with the emotions of not really liking my husband at the time, I was exhausted as a mom and just so, so tired, and I had to figure out a new strategy because I was tired (sick and tired, in fact) of not feeling happy, of not feeling like my spouse was good enough, of not feeling like I was good enough. So that winter, I began my journey of self-care, and I'm going to share all the steps of that with you and how my choice to engage in excellent self-care has changed everything, including my happiness, my marriage, my interactions with my children; everything.

So how did I make those changes? Well, as far as I can tell, there were 5 main steps. So I was really feeling emotionally separate from my spouse and kind of resemble… resentful of my role as a mom and having to meet everyone else's needs all the time and ever my own. So I remember sitting at the kitchen table one morning, just thinking and praying a little bit about my life; about who I was. And I remember praying, “Do you love me?” Now, I had learned as a child that yes God loves me, but this time, for some reason, even though I knew it intellectually, I felt this really deep peace and the thought came to me, “Yes, I love you so much.” Now, whether you believe in God or not, I think you can develop this same sense of self-worth and self-love that I experienced. It requires quiet moments and contemplation and thought. And another strategy would come from Louise Hay who is a proponent of what is called ‘mirror work’. She says that you should spend the 30 days looking in the mirror, morning and night, and looking deep into your own eyes and saying, “I love you; I really love you.” And as we develop this strong sense of self-love, we develop that strong sense of self-worth. So what did that do for me? Well, I no longer needed approval from my spouse or from anyone else. I suddenly had God in my corner who loved me, I didn't need anyone else; it was so empowering. So that was step 1.

Step 2, I realized, “You know what? I don't like the way I've been feeling. I don't like

feeling resentful. I don't like feeling upset. I don't like feeling mad and I'm going to change all of that. I'm going to do the things I love.” It was like, first, I knew I was loved, and second, I was empowered enough to start doing what I loved without the guilt. I realized, “I'm a 100% in charge of my happiness. What have I been doing? Why have I been baking all of this bread and throwing these crazy birthday parties? No one even really appreciates it.” And that leads me to step 3, I realized, “You know, what have my kids been seeing from me? This grumpy, tired kind of sad mom who was doing it all, trying to be the perfect mom according to how society presents that on TV or in the media, but she's not happy.” And I knew my kids thought that, and I thought, “You know, what are my kids going to learn from me?” and I thought, “You know, they're not going to learn happiness. What is the number one thing I want my kids to learn? How to live happily, how to be in charge of their happiness,” and, ah, that was such a mic drop moment for me. I had to be happy to teach them that; I couldn't give them what I didn't have. That is my favorite quote now, “Moms, greatest gift you can give your kids is your own happiness.” And then applies to non-mothers as well, “The greatest gift you can give your loved ones is your own happiness.” Think about those people you love to be around, they are vibrant and bubbly and effervescent, and when you’re around them, you just feel uplifted and you're laughing and you're happy and life is good. And I realized, “I want to be that person; I want to be that person for my kids.” And then it all came down to this idea of doing the things that truly made me feel happy.

So you see this chain of awareness building; I was loved and worthy, I'm a 100% in charge of my own happiness, and the greatest gift I could give my loved ones was my own happiness. All of these allowed me to let go of that guilt and to feel like truly taking care of myself and making myself happy is the ultimate, most wonderful thing I can be doing for myself. Now, that's not all I do for myself, and I realized there are some people out there that only do that for themselves and not for anyone else. You have to strike a balance, but for many moms, we don't do enough of that.

So step 4, I realized, “I'm happiest when I take care of myself.” And that leads us into this self-care component. I created something for the Vibrant Happy Women Academy which I'm going to share with you. It's called ‘The wheel of happiness’ and it includes 8 areas that are really important for us to meet our needs in so that we feel balanced and truly happy. These areas are body, mind, emotion, spirit, contribution, relationships, being outdoors, and resources. Let me explain each of those areas, but before I do, you can grab a copy of that in a freebie I'm sharing with you today; it's at jenriday.com/selfcare. Now, ‘The wheel of happiness’ is not the only thing there, and I'll tell you more about that in a minute. This is probably the greatest freebie I've ever given away on the show, so you're going to want to go grab that at jenriday.com/selfcare; all one word.

So, anyway, ‘The wheel of happiness’, body, mind, emotion, spirit, contribution, relationships, being outdoors, and resources; these are the areas I want to tell you about. So for our body, we need to be hydrated, to exercise, to eat well, and to get enough sleep. We know these things, right? mind, we need intellectual stimulation, we need to learn, we need to experience new things, we need novelty, we need fun. For emotions, what is our self-talk? What is the… the line of thinking constantly going through our head? Are you thinking, “Oh, I'm a terrible mom. Oh, my house is a mess. I have so much to do. I'm doing a terrible job,”? Are you thinking, “Hey, I'm doing a great job.” Also, how do you handle stress? How do you handle the ups and downs of life? Do you have some strength there; some resilience? And for that section on spirit, we need to have those quiet moments that truly recharge us and replenish us spiritually or otherwise. Maybe your spirituality is in nature or it's through meditation or through prayer and journaling, but those unique moments meet our needs in a unique way. We need all of those that I've mentioned so far; taking care of our bodies, stimulating our minds, having positive emotions and thoughts around those emotions, and taking care of our spirits so we don't operate from a place of empty. Moving forward around that wheel of happiness, the next one is contribution. I believe we are all hardwired to want to make a difference, to use our talents, to make the world better, to volunteer to help and to share our gifts. So if we're not doing that, sometimes we can feel a little bit empty inside. And that's what happened to me when I hit rock bottom as a mom. I had given in ways that really didn't feel good to me; baking that bread, throwing those elaborate birthday parties, I wasn't really using the gifts that I had (and there'll be more on that later).

The next one, relationships. Do you have friendships? Do you have a good marriage? Do you need to work on your relationships with your kids? I had a lot of work to do in that area and I'm happy to say it's so much better; it's not perfect at all, but it's so much better. And you need to have some fulfillment in those relationships and those friendships. One tip would be to make sure you have at least 5 people who form a support network for you; people who make you feel amazing and uplifted and positive, they leave you feeling energized and not trained. And that might not be your spouse, it might not be all of your kids, but that's okay. Build those people into your life through friendships or perhaps it's with co-workers, neighbors, people you meet at a meet-up. And then moving around; spending time outdoors. Oh, we don't get enough of this, but it feels amazing, you all know that feeling of going on a hike or lying in the sun, taking a nap or breathing the fresh air. Having the sun on our skin is important for our vitamin D levels, so being outdoors is so important. And finally that last one, resources. This is all about taking care of our time and our finances and the cleanliness of our environment that we live in.

So thinking around that wheel of happiness we have body, mind, emotion, spirit, contribution, relationships, being outdoors, and resources, which one do you spend most of your time on? Well, I'll tell you the area most women spend their time on and that is resources. We are constantly taking care of our homes and our schedules and our to-do lists and worrying about our finances and we do so much there that we fail to spend time in all those other areas that would be so uplifting and help us to feel so amazing. So when I began my journey of self-care, and that is step 5, balancing out all these areas on ‘The wheel of happiness’, everything got better. So for body, I began attending hot yoga classes; which I loved to this day. For me, noticing how I feel afterwards, I found that attending a 1-hour hot yoga class made me feel just as good or even a little bit better than taking a weekend away to go visit a friend; powerful, 1 hour. Meditation, another one; that helps me in the area of spirit, just quieting my mind for 10 or maybe even 15 minutes a day and going inward and noticing how I feel, what I'm feeling in my body, what thoughts are going through my mind, how I'm feeling emotionally, this little check-in. And then to let go of those feelings that don't serve me and replace them with thoughts and feelings that do serve me. I found when I do this meditation at the beginning of the day, everything goes better. I’m more patient, I'm happier, and I'm more productive and focused; so I love that.

Well, I could go on and on about ‘The wheel of happiness’, but I have a better idea. I would like to invite you, my listeners, to share a blurb with me about the thing you struggle most with in life and one thing from the wheel of happiness that you're going to do to start taking better care of yourself so you can have more strength as you face that struggle. I would love to take all of these responses and share them on next week's episode. This is like the ultimate book club where we're all going to share our struggles and our solutions; those wheel of happiness items that we can do to start taking better care of ourselves. If you want to stay anonymous, that is totally fine, you can send your email to support@jenriday.com, sharing the thing you struggle most with and the thing from ‘The wheel of happiness’ that you're going to focus on to strengthen yourself to face that struggle, and then you could say, “Hey, I want to be anonymous; don’t share my name.” I'm going to read your responses on the episode next week, and if you're lucky, I might ask you to Skype with me so I can share your voice as well, on that episode. It's going to be like a gigantic book club, I'm going to love this.

So if you're confused by everything I said and you want to read about it, go to the show notes page where I will give you a recap of these instructions, and that's at jenriday.com/53, and you'll also find a link there to the self-care toolkit for busy moms; which I mentioned earlier. This toolkit will help you analyze those 5 things they talked about. It includes a video training from me that's 20 minutes long, along with a workbook with some important questions you need to answer to get in touch with why you might have problems with self-care such as guilt or perfectionism or all these other things. So you want to watch that training, fill out your workbook, and you'll also see a checklist there with 5 mindset shifts that will help you more easily engage in self-care, you'll find ‘The wheel of happiness’ there that I mentioned throughout this episode, and you'll get 2 guided meditations that will help you relax and get in touch with how you're feeling, what you're thinking, and let go of the feelings and thoughts that don't serve you so you can more easily start to take better care of yourself and have strength to face your struggles. Again, that's at jenriday.com/selfcare; all one word. I will see you next week for part 2 of this episode where I share the rest of my story, how engaging in better self-care helped me to improve my marriage and my relationships with my kids and really every area of life. I haven't been happier and I can't wait to share all that with you. You'll also get to hear stories from other Vibrant Happy Women listeners who share their struggles and the one thing they're going to do to engage in better self-care; I can't wait. Don't forget, grab your self-care toolkit at jenriday.com/selfcare. Make it a great week and take care.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast at www.jenriday.com.