It Takes a Village to Raise a Mother

It takes a Village to raise a Mother
My very first mama village, at my Mommy + Baby Retreat, Sacred Beginnings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve all heard the phrase that says “it takes a village to raise a child.” This refers to the idea that children are brought up not only by their immediate family, but by the many different caretakers in the community which make an impact on their lives. Children that grow up to be adaptable and resilient are often a result of developing healthy attachment to their parents, having close ties to their community, and knowing that there are people out there who are vested in their wellbeing.

The same can be said about mothers.

As mothers, we thrive on community. Child rearing is hard. It can be isolating and challenging. Having the support of a group of women who understand motherhood and all of its innate challenges can make all of the difference.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I thought that I was ready for motherhood. My husband and I had been together for 6 years. We had thoroughly enjoyed our time as newlyweds and felt ready for our next life phase. I had experienced a blissful pregnancy where I meditated daily and felt connected to my daughter already. I had designed my perfect baby nursery. We had read “The Happiest Baby on the Block.” I thought I was all set.

And I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When my daughter was born, I was completely taken aback by how much she required of me. I had never really been around a baby that young before and I was quite honestly shocked at how demanding it was to care for her needs. As a newborn, my daughter wanted to be held and nursed constantly. I had naively thought that I would be able to put my baby down and carry on with my life, aside from diaper changes and feeding times. (Ha!) That was not at all my experience. I was blessed with a baby that despised being put down and wanted to nurse 24/7! I quickly started to feel trapped. I worried that I was doing something wrong, or that there was something wrong with my baby.

In those early months with my daughter, we quickly fell into a phase that I now call “the newborn bubble”. Everything from that time is a complete haze to me. My daughter was colicky, which basically meant that she was cranky and fussy for a large portion of the day. I quickly learned that the only way to calm her down was to feed her, so it started to feel like I was nursing for hours on end.

Before having a baby, I had worked really hard to create a quiet and peaceful home life, and I found the sound of my baby’s constant crying extremely jarring. I felt like a horrible mother for feeling this way and hated hearing her in distress. I also started feeling really anxious about leaving the house, because I wasn’t yet comfortable breastfeeding in public, and I worried that if we went out, and she freaked out, I wouldn’t know how to handle it. We spent a lot of time home on the couch, because that was the only place where I felt confident that I could care for her needs. This was not what I had imagined life with my precious baby girl would be like.

Around this time, I was invited to go on a Mommy + Baby retreat. I was hesitant to go because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if it would be worth it to leave the comfort and safety of my couch to go spend a weekend with a group of women that I didn’t really even know. But something inside me urged me to go on this retreat, and thankfully, I listened, because it ended up changing my whole experience of motherhood!

Being surrounded by a group of mothers who understood what I was going through was extremely comforting. I was reassured that I was doing a great job, and that there was nothing wrong with me or my baby. I learned that it is completely normal for newborns to want to be attached to their mothers, cry a lot, and nurse for extended periods of time. (Who knew?!) By surrounding myself with other mothers, I instantly felt seen, heard, and understood. This loving group of amazing women had a tremendous impact on me. I gained confidence in myself as a mother, and was able to return home and be the peaceful and happy mama that I had always wanted to be.

My daughter will be 2 in June, and as she has grown, so has my village of mamas. I am extremely grateful for my mom friends. Having the support of other mothers is invaluable. So much of parenting is trial and error. What works for one child, may not work for another. Because of this, it is extremely helpful to have other mothers to talk to, to bounce ideas off of, and to get different viewpoints for managing whatever challenges you may be facing. As mothers, we can all relate to each other. We all want the best for our children and we all want to be the best moms possible. In my experience, the best way to do this, is by surrounding myself with other mothers. It truly takes a village to raise a mother, especially a happy and confident mother. 🙂

Enrollment for my program for new moms, New Mama Bird Circle, is now open. If you are a new mother looking to find your own village of mamas, we would love to have you join us! It would be my honor to support you on your motherhood journey.

 

How to Keep your Love Alive through the Seasons of Life

How to Keep Your Love Alive

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the different seasons of relationships. I’m blessed to be married to an incredible, hard-working man who I love very much. But that doesn’t mean that things are always perfect for us. Marriage is a commitment and relationships take work. In order to make your love last, you have to put in the time and effort to establish a strong foundation to help you weather the different seasons of life.

Every relationship starts out in Summer. This is the beginning of the relationship, when you are first starting out on your journey together. Things are hot, sexy, and fun. My husband Angelo and I were lucky to have a long season of summer early on in our relationship. We were together for 4 years before getting married, and then enjoyed being newlyweds for 2 years before I became pregnant. We truly took the time to get to know one another, to travel, and to have adventures. This helped us set the foundation for the next season: Autumn.

I think of the time in which I was pregnant as Autumn. It was a time of shedding and letting go of our old personas and identities as we prepared to welcome our baby into the world. We knew that our lives were about to change drastically, and it was a time of releasing all of the habits and routines that would no longer serve us once we were parents. There is a big identity shift that happens when you become parents. During autumn, we started preparing for the inevitable change that was on the way.

When our daughter June was born, Angelo and I entered the season of Winter in our relationship. During this time, our romance took a backseat as the priority shifted to nurturing our beautiful baby girl. It was a time of quiet hibernation and our relationship entered survival mode. We were doing all we could to keep ourselves and our baby alive during this huge life adjustment. Winter can be cold and brutal, but it has its own unique beauty that can be found when you take the time to look for it. It also helps to know that this is a season, and that Spring is coming.

Angelo and I are currently in the Springtime. Our daughter is now 19 months old, and we have adjusted to life as a family of 3. We love being parents, and now that our daughter is slightly more independent, we have more time to focus on our relationship. We are in a season of renewal and rebirth. We are figuring out a way to get to know each other again as the new people that we’ve become. We are spending more time alone together and starting to re-prioritize our relationship. This is not always easy, but we are making an effort to allow our love to bloom.

As you can see, things are not always perfect in my marriage. But we are committed to navigating life together and maintaining a strong love for one another. I am very much aware that my relationship with my husband will be the model for my daughter’s future relationships. I want her to grow up in a home with two loving parents who have a healthy relationship. I think that there are 3 key things that create a solid foundation for any relationship:

1) Be besties.
Your partner should be your best friend. This is the person you have chosen to share your life with, so it is important that you share your life with them! Be open with each other. Share your hopes, dreams and secrets with one another. Confide in each other. Spend quality time together. Go on adventures. Have fun. Laugh.

2) Be intimate.
A relationship requires intimacy. Your partner should be your best friend, but not be ONLY your best friend. Being intimate is what crosses you over from being friends to being a couple. Keep that in mind. Be lovers. Even if you’re too tired, or not in the mood. Make an effort. At the very least, be affectionate. Cuddle together. Hold hands. Kiss. Hug. Make out. We all want to feel desired. A little physical touch can go a long way in sustaining a healthy relationship.

3) Be supportive.
You and your partner should be each other’s biggest cheerleaders in life. Encourage each other to have outside interests. Take an interest in one another’s hobbies. Allow your partner to be a happy, fulfilled individual, and do whatever you have to do to make sure that you are one as well! Praise your significant other. Acknowledge when they do something right, not just when they do something wrong. Cheer them on and do whatever you can to help them achieve their goals. Encourage one another. Cheer for each other. When one of you wins, you both win.

In my 9 year relationship, I’ve found that these 3 things are vital to making sure that my marriage is headed in the right direction. When I notice that Angelo and I are arguing a lot, or that things are a little off, I check in with these 3 ground rules, and usually notice that at least one of them is not being met. Having these guidelines gives me a great reference for knowing what I need to do to maintain a strong marriage no matter which season of life we happen to find ourselves in.

The media leads us to believe that a good relationship is one in which you are in an endless summer, but that’s just not true or realistic. Your seasons may look different from mine, depending on your life circumstances, but make no mistake, every relationship has its seasons. Create a strong foundation and you will find that you have what it takes to shelter you through any kind of weather.

Happy Valentine’s week my beautiful friends! Wishing you a beautiful week full of LOVE!

Be well,
Ambar

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Why I Stopped Making a Living in order to Make a Life

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I quit my job this week! It’s been a big, momentous occasion that I thought would leave me feeling overjoyed, but instead, I’ve been feeling very emotional. Not because I doubt that this is the right decision, I am 100% confident that this is the right choice for me at this time in my life. But still, just because something is right, doesn’t mean it’s easy. Let me explain.

For the last 4 years, I’ve been working as a care manager for children with emotional and behavioral issues. I’ve supported a lot of families in making sure that their children get the care they need in order to feel healthy, confident, and secure. I’ve helped families improve and heal their relationships. I’ve helped the kids I work with find positive recreational activities, learn healthy ways to cope with their feelings, and excel in school. The work has been meaningful and rewarding. I have learned so many important resources and skills that will help me indefinitely now that I am a parent myself. When I got hired at my job back in 2012, I was recently married and we had just moved to the beach. I was new in town and wanted a job where I would get to know and help my new community. At the time, this job was my dream job. Until recently, when it wasn’t anymore.

I heard a theory a while back that the main 3 resources we have at any given time are time, money, and energy. The idea is that we are always trading one of these resources for another. Whenever you are lacking in one area, you can make up for it by focusing extra hard on one of the other two resources. For example, if you would like to make more money, you can devote your time into working extra hours, or you could use your energy to create a product to sell. If you would like more energy, you could spend money to join a gym, or spend more time doing activities that give you energy. If you would like more time at home, you can spend less time and energy at work, and vice versa. This last category is where I have found myself recently.

When I went back to work last year after 4 months of maternity leave, it was very difficult to leave my daughter. It felt unnatural to me to be apart from her, after being in our newborn love bubble 24/7. But, as I got used to going to work everyday, it honestly started to feel like a bit of a relief. I started to see how nice it was to have adult conversations, to be doing meaningful work, to be able to eat my lunch in peace without a baby crying for my attention. But, when June turned one year old this summer, I started to rethink things. I started to feel very strongly that parenting is my main purpose in life right now. I started to feel like I was living for the weekends, those precious days where I could devote unlimited time to my little family. I started to notice how very quickly the time is going. I began thinking that there are only a few short years left until she will be in preschool. I started to feel like I was missing out on these precious moments of my daughter’s young life… time that I will never get back.

Around the same time, I started working on this blog. I craved more time to dedicate to writing, to supporting other moms, and to helping other women. I wanted to continue working with families, but I needed to find a way to do it in my own way, and on my own time.

And so, I made the decision to leave my job. I am excited for this opportunity, for all of the unknown that lies before me. I know I am blessed to be able to do this, and it is not something I take lightly. I am very much looking forward to spending more of my life bonding with my young daughter, taking her to music classes, and story time, and sharing fun experiences together. I know that these are times that I will cherish. I am excited to work on my blog and offer more yoga and meditation classes. I can’t wait to see how this all unfolds!

I am also sad to be leaving my job. I feel emotional about leaving my friends at work, the awesome people that I have shared my life with for the last 4 years. I feel scared about leaving something that was such a big part of my life, a job that feels secure and comfortable. I worry that I won’t be the mother and wife that I tell myself that I want to be and can be.

But I know I have to try this. The only way to grow is to continue challenging myself and doing things that feel uncomfortable. I want to teach my daughter that she is capable of living her life in whatever way she wants, and I know that the only way to do that is by living my own life in this way and setting a living example for her to follow. Work-life balance is difficult for all mothers to figure out, and there is no right answer, only what feels right to each one of us individually. In the work I’ve done in my career, I have helped many families, and now it is time for me to help my own family. This is what’s right for me, and it’s what’s right for us. In the next few months, I will be figuring out my new balance. I don’t know what that is yet, but I know it’s not working full time. I will be sharing my process as I figure it out. 🙂

Now it’s your turn. Are there any changes you feel called to make in your life that you’ve been putting off because they feel scary or uncomfortable? Take a look at your time, energy, and money exchange. Does it feel right to you, or is there a shift that you would like to make in order to feel more balanced?

Make difficult choices. Take chances. Trust your gut. Follow your heart.

Be well,
Ambar

 

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I am giving away a free Holiday Survival Kit throughout the month of December. It’s your guide to getting clarity around what matters most to you this holiday season. Also includes 25 ways to choose Presence over presents and 25 ways to prioritize your own Self Care during this busy time of year. Wishing you a beautiful + intentional holiday! Enjoy! 🙂

 

 

 

 

A Story About Manifesting

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At the beach with June this year on 11/11/2016.

 

I first heard about manifestation back in 2008 when I read the book “The Secret“. “The Secret” talks about the law of attraction, which basically states that whatever you think about and focus your energy on, is what you bring about, or manifest, into your life.

At the time when I read this book, I was still grieving from my mother’s death. I was in an incredibly unhealthy relationship and was living in a condo I could barely afford. I had a severe drinking problem and a substance abuse habit. I was clinically depressed, suffering from anxiety, and I was on a myriad of prescription pills. To put it bluntly, my life sucked. For years, I had been telling myself that life was hard, that I had been dealt a bad hand, and that there was nothing that I could do to make it better. I thought some people had easier, better lives, but I wasn’t fortunate enough to be one of them. I believed that I would be miserable forever.

Reading “The Secret” was incredibly jarring to me. Because if the idea of there being a law of attraction was true, then that meant that all of these difficult life circumstances were not just happening to me. It meant that I was somehow making them happen by being caught up in this negative cycle. And that’s when I started to wonder, if I could make so many bad things happen to me, would it also be possible for me to make good things happen?

And so, I got to work. The first thing I did was to end the unhealthy relationship I was in.  This eliminated a lot of negative energy and cleared up a lot of space for me, physically and mentally. And immediately, things got a little better. As I started to feel better, I started to drink less, and I got off of my prescription pills. I started doing a little bit of yoga, reading more self help books, and picking up some healthier habits. As I changed my habits, little by little, my life started to look better. I started to notice that the way I felt really did make a huge difference in how life responded to me.

And then, for the first time in my adult life, I started dating a nice guy and entered into a happy, healthy relationship with a man that I thought I didn’t deserve. (Spoiler: he would later become my husband). When I first met Angelo, I knew that he had been through some challenges in his life, but I saw that instead of this making him want to numb out and hide in a corner, as it had for me, it made him want to do more with himself, to live a better life, and to be BETTER. I was so inspired by him and the way that he chose to live his life, that he made me want to be better too. In trying to make myself into someone that felt deserving of his love, I learned to start loving myself. And that’s when all of the big changes happened.

Fast forward to the fall of 2011. 11/11 is said to be an angel number that represents that whatever you are thinking about is going to be manifested into existence. This makes November 11th one of the most auspicious days of the year. On November 11, 2011, Angelo and I had recently gotten engaged. The one thing that I had always known to be true for myself was that I needed to live by the beach. I had just sold my condo, and we decided that we were going to buy a house near the beach. My dream was close to coming true. On this date, I had the day off from work and spent the day house hunting. Once we were done looking at houses, I decided to go to the nearest beach. I sat by the ocean and thought about the visions I had for my future life that was just beginning. I felt so much hope and possibility for what was to come. Shortly after that day, Angelo & I found our perfect home just 3 blocks from that very beach I had been sitting at.

Every year, on 11/11, I walk down to the beach to reflect on the previous year, to think about how far I’ve come, and to set intentions for what I want to bring forth in the future. In the last 5 years, I’ve manifested my dream home close to the beach, a solid marriage to an incredible man, a blessed and healthy pregnancy, and the most magnificent little angel for a daughter. I am truly blessed.

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I share this story with you, not to brag, or to say “look how great my life is”, but to show you that you too, have the power to manifest the life of your dreams. It starts with you and it starts with  your thoughts.

I’m not saying that life is always easy. We all go through difficult times, and life can be hard. But I have witnessed firsthand that if I walk around telling myself that life is hard, my circumstances suck, and I am destined to be stuck in a dismal situation, then that is what the world is going to reflect back to me. If instead, I tell myself that life is challenging right now, but I’ve been through worse; I’m strong and I am handling this; I am willing to change and it’s all going to be ok, then life reflects a very different experience.

Start by taking responsibility for your life. Take an honest look around you and recognize what’s not working. Get to work to change the things that are within your control. Let go of toxic people, habits, and situations. Focus on treating yourself well, feeling good, and being happy.

Surround yourself with positive thoughts. Surround yourself with good people. Surround yourself with those you love, those that inspire you, and those that make you want to be better. Believe that you are capable of anything that you set your mind to. Visualize the future that you want. Hold it dearly to your heart, and see it clearly. Set intentions for the way you want things to turn out. Focus on the good. Focus on the positive. Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. Do what brings you joy. Find a way to laugh and smile everyday. Be happy and grateful. Surround yourself with good energy, and the world will reflect that back to you.

If it was possible for me to go from being a hopeless, depressed, substance abusing young girl to now being a ridiculously happy, healthy, and grateful wife and mother… imagine what else could be possible?

Life is good, friend. Life wants to help you and support you. But first you have to help yourself.

Think good thoughts, get out there and make your dreams happen! Everything that you want is possible once you start to believe that it is.

Have you heard of manifesting before? Please share your experiences in the comments below! Let me know what you are ready to manifest in your own life.

Be well,
Ambar

Adapting Your Morning Routine to Fit Your Life

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I’ve heard it said that the way we start our morning sets the tone for the rest of the day, and in my experience this is very true. A morning routine is an intentional action that you take first thing in the morning. It can be as simple as doing some simple stretches and breathing exercises before you get out of bed, or taking a few moments to write in your journal while enjoying a hot cup of coffee. All that matters is that you find a special way to begin your day with an activity that brings you joy and nourishes you. Having a morning routine is the best way I’ve found for getting my day started in a way that leaves me feeling calm, centered, and ready to have a great day.

When I first became a mom, I started to notice that I was waking up every morning to the sounds of my baby crying. My daughter, June, had become my little alarm clock, and it felt like a very unpleasant way to start the day. I wanted to start my morning differently, but I told myself that I was too tired and needed every precious moment of sleep that I could get. However, I knew the importance of having a morning routine, so I started to implement one. When June was a newborn, we started a morning routine of waking up and immediately going for a walk every morning. We would go for a long walk by the beach first thing everyday. Since she was waking up very early at the time, we were often the only two people out, and it became a very nice and calm way to start the day. Some of my favorite memories as a new mom are of these early mornings out in nature with my babe.

As the weather started getting cooler, and my daughter started getting a little older, our morning routine started to shift, and instead of going for our morning walk, we started doing mommy & baby yoga every morning. This also became a special way for us to bond, and for me to get in a little movement to start my day. Yoga makes me feel more calm and centered, and doing just 10-15 minutes of movement in the morning started to help me carry these good feelings with me throughout the rest of my day. I also loved being able to share something that I love with my daughter, and incorporate it into our daily routine together.

Lately, I’ve noticed that this morning routine is no longer working for me. June is now 16 months old and she is very energetic. She is going through a stage where she is no longer content spending every morning on the yoga mat. Our beautiful morning practice started to turn into me trying to do yoga while June destroyed everything in her room or cried to get my attention while I was trying to do a headstand. I had really loved having our mommy and baby yoga practice as our morning routine, so I was reluctant to admit that this wasn’t working. But last week, I started realizing that I was no longer feeling peaceful while doing yoga in this way, and it wasn’t creating the feelings of centeredness that I was counting on to carry me through the day.

So, once again, I changed my morning routine. I started waking up before June does. For the first time in over a year, I’ve been getting out of bed on my own, without a baby’s cries waking me up. I go downstairs, roll out my yoga mat, and do a short yoga practice while the house is still quiet and still. Then, when June wakes up, we play a little bit and have breakfast together. I enjoy my time with her more because I know that I’ve already done something to take care of myself. These precious moments alone make my mornings feel more spacious. My new morning routine helps me feel more focused as I go about my day.

And that is the importance of a morning routine: it is something you do to make yourself a priority first thing in the morning. The effects of this will stay with you throughout your day. Your morning routine doesn’t have to be set in stone. Deciding to create a morning routine doesn’t mean that you choose one thing that you rigidly decide to do everyday for the rest of your life. Your routine can evolve as your life circumstances change. All that matters is that you pick something that works for you and then do it consistently until it no longer makes you feel good. Then, find something else that does!

Do you have a consistent morning routine? Has this encouraged you to try one for yourself? Please let me know in the comments below.

Have a beautiful week.

Be well,
Ambar

Beginner’s Guide to Meditation

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There are many benefits of having a meditation practice. Meditation is said to relieve stress, promote happiness, improve concentration, and increase energy. I’ve been meditating for several years, and I honestly believe that it is the #1 skill that has helped me to manage my anxiety and become a calm, peaceful, and happy person. There are a lot of misconceptions about what meditation is and I want to clear some of those up. Meditation is not something that is just for monks and yogis who are totally zen all of the time. You don’t have to sit in quiet stillness for hours in order to have an effective meditation practice. This guide will show you that meditation is for real people just like you and me. Here are my 5 guidelines for starting a meditation practice.

1) START SMALL

My #1 tip for anyone looking to begin a meditation practice is to start slow. It is unrealistic to think that you can sit still and meditate for 20-30 minutes per day if you’ve never done it before. Start with a commitment to meditate for 2-3 minutes per day. A few minutes a day is all it takes for you to reap the many rewards of meditation. Everyone can spare 2-3 minutes, so there is no excuse not to get started now!

2)  BE CONSISTENT.

Consistency is key when establishing a meditation practice. Take a look at your schedule and decide when and where you can fit a few moments of meditation into your life. Can you wake up a few minutes early to sit in stillness before your family wakes up? Can you take a short break at lunchtime to go sit outside, or in your car and meditate? Can you dedicate some time before bed to set up your meditation practice? Figure out what will work for you, and then commit to meditating at that time everyday for a week. After a week, you can reassess and decide if this is working for you. If you find that you are hitting snooze instead of waking up to meditate, maybe you should try meditating in the afternoon instead. If you wanted to meditate at night before going to sleep, but find that you were too tired and fell asleep every time you sat down to meditate, maybe an evening meditation is not the right fit for you. It may take some trial and error, but with a little bit of commitment, you will figure out the time of day that works best for you.

3) USE A PERSONAL ANCHOR

An anchor is another word for a reminder. It’s a symbol that you choose to help you remember to meditate. Using anchors can be extremely helpful in keeping us on track when starting a new habit. For example, if you’ve decided that you’re going to meditate every morning when you wake up, maybe you can set your alarm’s ringtone to be your favorite song, and every time you hear that song it will remind you that it’s time to meditate. If you’re going to meditate at lunchtime, you can put a post it note in your lunch bag or on the fridge reminding you to meditate. If you’ve decided that you’re going to have an evening meditation practice, perhaps you can place a special candle on your nightstand, so that when you see it, you remember that it’s time to light your candle and settle in for a few minutes of meditation before you go to sleep. You can also program the alarm on your phone to go off at the same time each day with a reminder to meditate. Set a daily alarm to read “Don’t hate, meditate” or “Peace please”. Have fun with it and make it work for you.

4) USE A MANTRA

A mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat over and over in your mind while meditating. Mantras can be very useful in meditating, because they give your mind something to focus on. You can use different mantras based on what you are hoping to get from your meditation. If you are feeling anxious, a simple mantra to use is “calm down”. With your eyes closed, begin breathing in and out, saying to yourself “calm” as you inhale, and “down” as you exhale. You can also practice inhaling “peace” and exhaling “love”, and make “peace, love” your mantra. If you are looking to add some extra joy to your day, your mantra can be “I am joyful”. Simply breathe in “I am” and breathe out “joyful”.

5) TRY A GUIDED MEDITATION

Guided meditations are great for beginners because they make meditation very simple. All you have to do is sit quietly, close your eyes, and listen to the words guiding your meditation. There are many guided meditations on YouTube. Just search for “guided meditations” and see which ones you are drawn to.

I hope you find this guide helpful! If you follow these 5 steps, you will be well on your way to establishing a consistent meditation practice and becoming a more peaceful person!

Have a lovely week!

Be well,
Ambar

Un-Label Yourself

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As I mentioned in my last post, I recently returned from a weekend retreat. It was my first time being away from my family for an extended period of time since my daughter was born last summer, and it was a deep learning experience for me. I want to share a bit about what I’ve learned in hopes that it may apply to you too!

On the first day of the retreat, I felt extremely lost without my family. I realized how attached I am to them and how much I love them. I also started to really appreciate the sweet, peaceful life I’ve created with my husband and daughter. I started to notice that they have become my safe haven. While these are all wonderful things, it was also a little scary to witness how much I rely on them. It felt extremely foreign to me to be separated from my little family, and the first day I cried many times because I felt so unsettled.

As the retreat went on, I started to get more comfortable being by myself, and began to rediscover parts of me that I had forgotten. I connected with a group of brilliant women and I had plenty of alone time to do yoga, journal, and meditate. I got reacquainted with the goals I have for my life that have nothing to do with my family. And little by little, I started to get to know myself as an individual person, instead of labeling myself as “wife” and “mother”. I started to ask myself who I am aside from the labels I place on myself.

I recently heard an interview with one of my favorite bloggers, Glennon Doyle Melton, who said something like, “Ask a woman who she is, and she’ll tell you who she loves.”  I found that so interesting and accurate. As women, it’s very common for us to wear our hearts on our sleeves, and to think of our identities as being intertwined with the roles we play and the people we love. We identify ourselves as being wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters. And while it’s amazing that we have the capacity to love so wholeheartedly, and that our love for others can seem so all encompassing, our identities include all of the labels we wear… but also so much more.

Before I met my husband, I lived alone for the better part of a decade and I considered myself fiercely independent. I had a very active social life, was very outgoing, and thought of myself as the life of the party.

Through the years, I’ve settled down a lot, becoming a quieter, softer woman than I used to be. When I look back on my younger self, it’s hard for me to relate to that person because I’ve changed so much through the years as I’ve devoted myself to being a wife and mother.

Being away from my daily responsibilities for an extended period of time gave me the opportunity to revisit all parts of myself. And I started to wonder what would happen if I started dropping all of the labels I place on myself? What if instead of viewing my younger self as being wild and carefree, and my current self as being older, wiser, and calm, I embraced that these qualities are all parts of me?

I can be independent, even though I am deeply attached to my family.

I can be eccentric, even though I have a conventional lifestyle.

I can be silly, even though I am sensible.

I can be free, even though I am settled.

I can be excitable, even though I am peaceful.

I can be easy going, even though I have responsibilities.

I can be self sufficient, even though I am completely supported.

It is all me. Being a wife and mother does not diminish the other parts of me. They are all still there, hiding underneath the labels, underneath the stories that I tell myself about what a wife and mother should be. There is freedom to be found in my daily routines and responsibilities. I just have to make the space to look for it and cultivate it.

What would happen if we all decided to un-label ourselves, and got curious about the parts of us that are hiding underneath? What if we stopped putting so much pressure on ourselves to act the way we think we are expected to act, and instead allowed ourselves to just be? We are not just one thing. We are many things. Un-label yourself and let all  of your innate qualities shine through. They are what make you whole. They are what make you YOU.

Wishing you a week of self discovery.

Be well,
Ambar

Compare no more!

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*Photo taken by my talented friend Olivia Hamilton Jones

Do you ever compare yourself to people around you and feel like you’re not adding up? Do you think that others have it all together, or are better off than you are? Do you sometimes find yourself stuck in comparison and feeling badly about yourself? I think it happens to all of us at times. I’ve learned a unique way of looking at comparison, and I wanted to share it with you today.

I’ve recently been playing with the idea of turning comparison into a compliment. Think about it. When you find that you’re comparing yourself to someone else and thinking that they are better than you, it’s a sign that there is something you really like and admire about that person. Why not tell them?

I had a chance to do this the other day at my local Anthropologie store. Anthropologie is my absolute favorite store. I love everything about it: the clothes, the home goods, the accessories, the style, and the whole vibe. I decided to stop in to my local store the other day on my way grocery shopping. I found something I liked (of course) and went up to the register to pay for it. I noticed that the saleswoman behind the counter was wearing a gorgeous, trendy outfit, complete with perfect accessories and impeccably styled hair. I looked at myself in my yoga pants and unwashed hair and immediately felt inferior. I started spiraling down the cycle of comparison, and was feeling pretty lousy about myself, until I recognized this as an opportunity to turn the comparison around. I realized that the comparison I felt stemmed from my admiration of how put together this woman looked, and my own desire to look and feel like I stepped out of an Anthropologie catalog. In admiring the woman’s perfect accessories, I noticed that she was wearing a beautifully unique engagement ring, and I commented on it, saying how pretty and different it was. She immediately broke out into a smile and told me I had made her day! We started chatting about her engagement and the comparison I had been feeling completely went away. We were just two women having a friendly conversation. In that moment I learned a powerful lesson: Connection Cures Comparison! As soon as I put my feelings of inferiority aside, and connected with this woman, we were instantly able to drop all pretenses and have a lovely chat.

Next time you find that you’re comparing yourself to someone and thinking that they are more stylish than you are, have better behaved kids, a nicer home, a sweeter disposition… why not compliment them? Chances are, it will lead to a moment of connection with that person that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. As human beings, we all crave connection. We all want to feel good about ourselves, and we all appreciate compliments. Next time you find yourself comparing and despairing, turn it around. Instead of getting stuck in comparison, focus on what you are admiring about that person, and tell them. It will give you the opportunity to make someone else feel good, and in turn, you will feel better yourself.

Wishing you a week of less comparison and more compliments and connection. 🙂

Be well,
Ambar

Top 5 Tools to Stop Anxiety

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Earlier this week a friend told me that she was having panic attacks at work whenever she had to confront her boss. She had a meeting scheduled for later that day and asked if I knew of any exercises she could do to prevent her anxiety from getting the best of her. I taught her a simple breathing exercise to use before going into her meeting. The next day she told me she had done the exercise and was able to go to her meeting feeling completely at ease and felt that she was much more confident and able to get her point across to her boss. This made me so happy! It’s no secret that I struggled with crippling anxiety for many years. It still acts up at times, but it no longer runs my life. The only difference is that I’ve developed a toolkit full of different ways to manage it. Anytime I start to feel anxious, I reach into my anti-anxiety toolkit and use one of my tools. I am usually able to get back to my calm and zen way of life shortly after. I wanted to share my top 5 tools to stop anxiety, in hopes that it can be helpful for some of you too!

1) ONE MINUTE BREATH

The breath is always the first tool that I use when I feel myself starting to get stressed out. This is because it’s something that is always available to us in any situation. When we feel anxious and panicky, it’s usually a sign that we are not breathing adequately. When we are anxious, we often take short shallow breaths, which sends a signal to our body that it is not getting enough oxygen. This causes the panic response to increase even more. By focusing on our breath and slowing down our breathing, we can trigger a relaxation response in our body. My favorite breathing exercise is called the 1 minute breath. When you start to feel anxious, bring your attention to your breath. Start to inhale slowly for 5 seconds. Then hold your breath for 5 seconds. Finally, slowly exhale your breath out for 5 seconds. Repeat 3 more times, or until you start to feel the anxiety fade away.

2) GO FOR A WALK

Going outside for a walk usually does wonders for my anxiety and general disposition. Not only is fresh air healing, but moving our bodies is too! Changing our environment helps us to refocus and take a breather from whatever is causing us stress. A short 5-10 minute walk can reset our mood for the rest of the day. Next time you feel stressed, head outside for a walk! As you walk, start to really take in everything around you. Take some deep breaths and really breathe in the fresh air. If you need a little extra boost, you can grab your headphones and listen to some fun music or a motivational podcast on your walk.

3) SHOWER MEDITATION

This is a new tool that I’ve been using lately when I don’t get enough sleep and wake up feeling cranky and stressed out. Get in the shower and grab your favorite shower gel or essential oils (I like to use lavender or frankincense when I’m feeling stressed). Lather yourself up and as you stand under the shower imagine that all of your stress and anxiety is being washed down the drain. Watch the soap being rinsed off your body and envision it carrying anything that’s bothering you along with it. Focus on the sensation of the shower rinsing all of your troubles away. When you are done, you can get out of the shower feeling completely light, clean, and free of worries!

4) JOURNAL

Sometimes, anxiety can be a sign that we are not processing our feelings. I’ve started a habit of journaling regularly, especially when I notice that I’m feeling a bit anxious. Set aside a few minutes each day to write in your journal. Get in a comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed and start to write down whatever is on your mind. You don’t need to censor or edit yourself, or try to solve your problems. The purpose is simply to get your thoughts and feelings out of your head and onto the paper. Write until you have nothing left to write anymore. Chances are you’ll start to notice that whatever was stressing you out no longer feels as major after you give it a chance to be expressed.

5) 5 SENSES EXERCISE

The 5 senses exercise is something that you can do in the moment as soon as you feel that panic and overwhelm are starting to kick in. Simply stop whatever you’re doing and focus on your five senses. Look around and say out loud 5 things that you see. Next, tune into your hearing and list the things you hear. Take a deep breath and notice what you smell. Then, focus on your mouth and notice if you taste anything. Finally, focus on what you feel on your skin in this very moment. By stopping the mental chatter for a few moments to focus on your 5 senses, you give your mind a chance to reset and shift the focus from whatever was bothering you.

Bonus tip: If you notice that you are feeling extra stressed and anxious for a few days in a row, watch your sugar intake! Sugar does wacky things to our bodies and can actually increase our stress response. Try to limit sugar when you are feeling anxious; it will make a big difference!

The best way to keep anxiety at bay is to take a proactive approach to it. You can start practicing any of the steps I listed above right now, even if you are not currently feeling anxious. The trick is to be consistent and make these activities into habits. Bring them into your daily life and you will start to have a more calm and centered way of being.

I hope you find these tools helpful! What other ways do you manage stress in your life? Please let me know! I’m always looking for new tools to add to my anti-anxiety toolkit! 🙂

Wishing you a calm week ahead.

Be well,
Ambar