Tips for fighting stress!

We’re already halfway through the first month of 2018! Along with a new year comes new opportunities as well as the opportunity to look back on the previous year, providing the opportunity to reflect on both all of the good and the bad.

2017 was a fabulous year! Our family of four traveled together, I enjoyed the last 6 months of my last maternity leave, Julien and I had a getaway to Banff, my sister moved home from Vancouver and we spent lots of time with our family and friends.

Like most, 2017 also presented us with some difficult times. Just before Christmas 2016, we lost my grandma. Lucky for me, mom and I were with her when she passed. I’m honoured that I was able to help granny through her last day on earth but this experience was both stressful and heartbreaking. Granny was my only grandparent present in my life and meant so much to my mom, sister and I. I could dedicate many posts to granny and all of the things that we did together and how much I/we loved her. She literally dedicated her entire life to her children and grandchildren and I will forever be grateful to her for that and all of the memories we have.

A few weeks after granny passed, Mom was diagnosed with stage 3B ovarian cancer and less than a week later, underwent major debulking surgery, two days before her 59th birthday. She spent quite literally the rest of 2017 fighting her cancer. For anyone who has had a parent diagnosed with cancer you know how difficult this can be and how helpless it can leave you feeling. For those who know me, you know that my mom is my world and quite literally my first love! She, like granny, has dedicated her entire life to her babies and I’m SO lucky to have such a present, loving and fun mom.

So, now it is 2018 and I’m happy to report that December 2017 was mom’s healthiest month since her diagnosis. She hosted an amazing Christmas dinner as well as NYE with her friends and she’s had more energy than ever. She’s been able to snowshoe, keep up with her grand kids and spend lots of time with family and friends. She’s even been working out. What a champ! She’s a real life superhero :)!

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Three peas in a pod!

Even better, mom had her regular 3-month appointment this week with her oncologist and she received positive feedback 🙂 our family couldn’t have asked for anything better. Her chemo worked really well and her cancer remains in remission. F*uck you cancer, you messed with the wrong mama!

Like most, the love that I have for my family is immense. I wouldn’t be who I am without all of them so when mom was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer, 11 years after she fought breast cancer, I was devastated. I was half-way through my maternity leave and was heartbroken. It was one of my biggest nightmares. Although I had SO much good going on, I felt as though I was drowning in pain over this. As though I couldn’t cope with mom’s diagnosis and our new reality. It just wasn’t fair…of course, like many, I learned that life isn’t always fair.

Lucky for us, mom is strong and recovered from the insanely difficult surgery and recovery, her painful chemo and is living each day to the fullest. She is positive 95% of the time, allowing herself to have the occasional pity party day, understandably. Because of her strength, I try to encourage myself to show the same strength and to focus on all of the good that we have going on in our lives!

Since the end of her chemo, she see’s her oncologist every 3 months at which time they tell her about her markers etc. This process has been quite stressful. The first two months we’re all happy and well 🙂 we focus on all the positive and try not to think about the cancer but as we approach the third month we become more and more anxious. I don’t know about you but I’ve never experienced real anxiety until this year and sometimes it can be quiet overwhelming. I think that it’s directly linked to the lack of control that I have in this situation. So, I’ve decided to share with you some of my tips and tricks for dealing with stress and anxiety 🙂 I’ve only recently (2017 onward) started practicing these activities and although they weren’t easy to do at first, I’ve come to love each of them.

As I’ve noted before, I used to be a major cardio junky. This changed, in the last year, as I really needed to slow down, relax and breathe. Here are my tips for staying calm anytime and especially when you’re feeling anxious or stressed:

Incorporate yoga into your weekly regime, including conscious breathing:

As previously mentioned in my post about our family trip to Florida, yoga really helped reduce the stress that I was feeling at the time. I started practicing with my father-in-law and really helped reduce my anxiety, around mom’s diagnosis, when I was on maternity leave. Being a runner, I loved nothing more than intense workouts. Yoga can be intense but the conscious breathing, holding of poses and reflection at the end are medicinal. I swear tears literally fell, quietly, at the end of many classes as I lay there on my mat, practicing mindfulness and gratitude.

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Yoga taught me that it’s ok to slow things down. That both my mind and body appreciate it and that practicing conscious breathing greatly reduces ones stress/anxiety. For those who feel as though your days are flying by and that you have little down time, I highly recommend that you give yoga a try. Like meditation, it is SO hard to slow your mind and body down, at first, but with time you will reap the benefits.

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Meditation and mindfullness

Do you meditate? If so, I would love to know which apps or books you follow. If not, you should totally try it out 🙂 Why? Why not? Even before mom’s diagnosis, she tried to encourage us to meditate and I’d always say sure mom lol well, like everything else, she was right. Meditation is AWESOME and has helped me get through the difficult times this year and continues to help me daily.

I love to use the apps headspace and calm. At first, it was SOOOO hard to meditate. All I did was think about all I had to do, how weird it was that I was lying on the couch or sitting on a chair trying to focus on nothing when all I could do was focus on all that I had to do. Well, like most activities, meditation takes practice and, if you give yourself time, and practice regularly, your meditation sessions will improve and bring you much joy.

Like yoga, I started practicing meditation last summer, when mom was undergoing chemo. I figured why not try it out. I’d put our daughter down for her afternoon nap, lay down on the couch, plug myself into headspace and do a 10 minute session. For those who use this app, you already know how intoxicating this guys voice is. You can’t help but hold onto it and try hard not to fall asleep. At first, it was hard to make it through 5-10 mins but now I do at least 10 minutes a day and, if I need it, I will do an additional 10 on my way home from work.

 

 

Presently, I use headspace, once and a while, on my commute home from work and I use Calm before bed. Julien probably regrets telling me about Calm lol because I listen to it EVERY SINGLE night before bed and without headphones. It’s amazing. You can listen to meditation for sleep, relaxation, stress etc and to different sounds. My favourite sessions are those for sleep with rain in the background. Amazing! I swear I’m asleep within the first three minutes. I highly recommend adding meditation to your daily routine. Another benefit is that is allows me to practice conscious breathing and gratitude daily. #grateful!

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Dehumidifer and calming scents:

Last, but not least, my parents-in-life bought us a dehumidifer for Christmas and it has also become part of our evening routine. We like to use it with a variety of amazing scents that encourage relaxation. I like to use it when we are watching a show in the living room and then again when we go to bed 🙂 I set it so that its on for two hours, turn my sleppy time meditation on and I am gone lol is there a better way to fall asleep! We have a few scents now but I would love to hear about your favorite ones so please do feel free to leave a comment with your recommendations.

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So, there are a few of my tips for reducing stress. Tomorrow, after waiting 9 weeks, I will be receiving my BRCA results. I can promise you that tonight, like every night ;), I will be going to sleep with my dehumidifier, and calming scents, while listening to my sleepy time meditation and I encourage you to do the same.

For those who try these tips out, I hope that they bring you much joy. As for staying positive, this is just in my nature. I’ve always been and will always be a positive person. Life is good and I encourage everyone to wake up with a grateful heart. Grateful for their life, their children, health, family and friends!

Hope you have a fabulous weekend! Thank you so much for stopping by and for your ongoing support.

Love,

Ash xo