I Finally Got Around To Making my 2019 Vision Board: Here’s How.

A simple guide to creating your vision board

I have long been planning to make a vision board. When the New Year rolled in, I made sure to put that on my list of things-to-do (Alafu, is there anyone who is still saying Happy New Year? Because it is ageing really fast!) I finally got around to making it and was pretty stoked by how it turned out.

A vision board, just as the name suggests, is a tool on which you display pictures that represent what you aspire to be or have in your life. This not only helps you clarify your life goals, but it is also a wonderful way to stay focused on your goals.

A simple guide to creating your vision board

Why create a vision board?

When I decided to make one, I started by visiting this site to read up on vision boarding and what it entailed. In this day and age, many of us tend to be distracted from our goals quite a bit – whether that is because of a demanding career, transition to a new stage in life, a breakup, even social media! There are many things that make it easy for us to get distracted. This is where creating a vision board comes in handy.

Read More: 8 Lessons I am Learning From Being Unemployed

3 solid reasons to create a vision board

  1. A vision board gives clarity for your goals

Many of us will typically create resolutions at the start of the year. For the most part, these may include wanting to exercise, travel, eat better and improve relationships among others. But how specific are these goals? What would it take to exercise well for instance, or to improve your relationships?

Having a vision board provides clarity for these goals. This is because to make one, you will need to look for pictures that accurately capture the details of your goals. For some, exercise means going for a daily jog, taking bi-weekly Zumba classes or even purchasing a home workout DVD. In seeking these images, it is then possible to turn those resolutions into tangible action and achievable goals.

  1. A vision board is a great addition for your daily affirmations

For the most part, a vision board contains pictures of what you would want to do or achieve. It is important, however, to include words or phrases that resonate with your values and goals. This helps to silence the ‘Inner Critic’, you know the negative voice that never shuts up and continually discredits your capabilities? That voice is the one I am referring to as the ‘Inner Critic’.

Affirmations are a reminder of the potential that you have, away from the grip of the Inner Critic. Some great affirmations include:

“I am present in this moment”

“I am enough” and

“Worthy of the space that I occupy”

  1. A vision board helps you to stay focused

Lastly, a vision board helps you to stay focused. We are all too familiar with how quickly the ‘New Year, New Me’ vibe is easily buried by the demands of daily living. How then is it possible to stay focused? By creating a vision board. Regardless of what happens, this vision board serves as a reminder of where you would want to go. It taps into your conscious and subconscious so that your mind is fixated on your goals.

Now that we know the benefits of having a vision board, I will share the process of how I made mine below.

Read More: 7 Lessons in 7 Years of Motherhood

What you need to make your vision board

Most websites will include the use of a poster frame, glue, marker pens and old magazines as the things that you will need to bring your vision board to life. I, however, did not have the resources to purchase all those things. Here’s what I used:

  • The hard backflip of last year’s calendar, but you can use manilla paper or even buy a dry erase board for this purpose.
  • Office glue
  • Old newspapers
  • Old magazines I had kept in my closet (and which everyone has finished reading anyway)
  • Marker pens

Here are the simple steps I followed to make my vision board

  1. I first blocked out a period of time to prepare the vision board, ideally about 2 – 3 hours uninterrupted (Yes, I opted to do this while kiddo was in school). I then made cuttings from the newspapers and magazines, choosing pictures and words that resonated with my 2019 vision plan.
  2. Once I had all the cuttings, I divided the hard backflip of last year’s calendar into squares to cover different aspects of my goals. Mine included PPDKenya (the organization I founded to raise awareness on Postpartum depression and offer support), Finances, Health and Fitness (More about my fitness routine for 2019 in this post), Family, Relationships, Work, Travel and Books. This way, it would be easier to assemble relevant ideas on the board.
  3. I then collected the cuttings in the different categories and began to paste them onto my ‘board’. This went on until I had a collage of photos that represented my dreams and goals.
  4. I then let the vision board dry, before placing it on my desk where I would see it every day. I especially loved that I found words which I feel, are defining for my 2019 – BOLD and EVOLVE. Every morning I wake up, say a prayer and take a good look at my vision board. It is a reminder of where I am heading and what I would like to achieve this year.

PS: For anyone who would want to prepare their vision board on their gadget, the use of vision board software may interest you. Read more about that here.

PPS: Spurred by my pictures, my son also made newspaper cuttings and made a mini version of his vision board. In it, he has pictures of guys exercising (guess my enthusiasm rubbed on him, hah!), footballers, a spanky new car and a beautifully designed living area. I found his choice of images pretty interesting, and I hope his dreams come true!

 

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7 Important Things I Do in My Morning Routine

Creating a Morning Routine

For most of my life, I never really thought myself to be an early riser, or what we commonly refer to as the morning person. I felt better suited to sleep late into the night and sleep in some more in the morning. It certainly did not go well during high school, and most of the times I would sleep in my uniform so that I am ready to go when the morning bell rang. That, or I would drag my sleepy self to class in my nightdress and a Maasai shawl to ward off the morning chill in Thika.

In my adulthood, I would only wake up early for work, and even then, it was a mad dash out of the house. I would typically wake up late, prepare in a huff, skip breakfast and get to work. This often left me feeling exhausted. The worst feeling, perhaps, was playing catch up with the rest of my day. My transition to motherhood wasn’t any easier. Sleep deprivation, coupled with my Postpartum depression (PPD) made it harder for me to settle into a routine.

Why creating a morning routine could change your life

My Morning Routine

Fast forward, and a few years later I can gladly say I wake up before 6AM on most days, even on weekends. So, what changed?

Part of it could be attributed to the fact that my son is older now, of course. But a big chunk of it revolves around the fact that I discovered the power of a morning routine in recent years. A morning routine is important because it sets the stage for the rest of the day. If you can get your morning routine right, you can get most aspects of your life right.

Your first ritual that you do during the day is the highest leveraged ritual, by far, because it has the effect of setting your mind, and setting the context, for the rest of your day. – Eben Pagan

One of my New Year Resolutions two years ago was to create a good morning routine. I came across Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning and Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. These two tools revolutionized my life, and changed my mornings for the best!

There are a number of reasons why morning routines are encouraged for anyone who wants to improve their productivity. First, a morning routine sets the pace for the rest of the day. You will avoid feeling like you are catching up with the one hour you lost in the morning. Secondly, getting this routine in place avoids mental fatigue.

Mental fatigue affects ALL of us. Why does this happen? It happens because we all have a finite amount of willpower at the beginning of each day. When we use it to make ‘small’ and inconsequential decisions in the morning, it means there is less energy to make sound decisions later in the day. If you would love to know, it is for this reason that Obama and Zuckerberg wear/wore the same thing from day to day (Link).

Read More: 7 Lessons I have Learned in 7 years of Motherhood

Knowing what to expect every morning reduces mental fatigue. To do this, try and make sure that your morning routine does not very much. Here are 7 things I do in my morning routine after I wake up at around 5:30 AM.

  1. Light stretching

I typically wake up and lie in bed for a few minutes. I breathe in deeply, tell myself it is a new day and it will be ah-mazing! Let me also confess that because I used to get sleep paralysis, I don’t sleep face downwards – ever. So after a night of sleeping on the side, I like to do a few stretches to get my body to wake up well.

  1. Get a glass of warm water

After more than 6 hours of sleep, I wake up feeling dehydrated. Warm water feels like just about the right thing to do, so I will take a glass of warm water to get my metabolism going before taking anything else.

  1. Morning pages (20-30 minutes)

My morning pages were inspired after reading about Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. This practice involves writing about 3 pages of whatever comes to mind. This is not content that you will ever publish or share with anyone. Think of it like a place to dump your thoughts and get your creativity flowing. Since journaling has always been my go-to selfcare tool, it was only natural that I fell in love with morning pages.

Read More: Self-care: Here’s what I like to do for my mental wellness

  1. Prepare my son for school (40 – 50 minutes)

He is usually up by 6 AM, and is picked about 45 minutes later. After he wakes up, we chat and bond for a few minutes then say our prayers. He will then make his bed, fold his pajamas and dress up ready for school. By then, I have prepared his breakfast and he is good to go. I see him off downstairs with a hug because you can never give your child enough hugs.

  1. Workout (30 minutes)

Once I am back home, I will then change into my workout clothes and do half a minute of HIIT. I am currently following the Focus T25 workouts by Shaun T. This is one of the best parts of my days! I break a good sweat with these workouts and add a morning jog on the weekends. Plus, the workouts are only 25 minutes, so there is literally no excuse for not putting in the work.

  1. Cold Shower (20 minutes)

After cooling down, I jump in to take a cold shower. There are many health benefits of taking a cold shower which you can read here. I feel so rejuvenated and energized after that, and as often as I can, I want to take a cold shower.

  1. Breakfast (20 minutes)

On most weekdays I will have breakfast alone and prefer to enjoy it unrushed. Since I started my workouts, I have found myself gravitating towards healthier choices. It doesn’t make sense to get all sweaty then eat all the wrong foods. My breakfast typically includes sweet potatoes/ arrow roots and tea, oats, cereal and eggs. As I am having breakfast, I like to speak positive affirmations.

“It is going to be an amazing day”

“I am a phenomenal woman”

“I am doing the best I can for my son, and that matters”

“Things will work out, eventually”

After breakfast, I then brush my teeth ready to start my day. I work from home and have a dedicated space to do that from. This routine has been incredibly helpful for me! I must also add that I prefer not to log onto my social media pages before getting the most important task of the day done. To do this, I schedule posts going out on Postpartum Depression Kenya (PPDKenya) pages using Hootsuite, and this allows me to get so much more done.

How does your morning routine look like? What is your favorite part of the routine?

 

Stay-at-Home Motherhood affected my self-esteem

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, and disclosed how, I was a little anxious about setting up my LinkedIn account. Yes, I am the one in a zillion who had never bothered to create a Linkedin account until the point I decided to get PPDKenya registered legally. And partly because I subconsciously didn’t think there was anything worth writing about myself in the professional circles. Walk with me, I am going somewhere with this.

See, I have been a stay (and work) at home mom since my son was born – in January 2012. Even typing this makes me pause for a few seconds. It’s going to seven years since I last set foot in a regular 8-to-5 job, which amazes and shocks me in equal measure. It hasn’t been easy – it cannot be easy to make the switch from a travel junkie whose work involved lots of travel, to staying and raising a child round the clock.

Becoming a SAHM was not something I sought out to be. In the second trimester of my pregnancy, I realized I was going to be raising my son alone. Shortly after, I lost my job. So jobless and with no partner support, I ended up going back home to my parents and figure out life from that point. My son was born with no health complications, thankfully. My parents were very supportive, and I am thankful for that to-date. I knew however, I needed to find something to do to help me raise my child and get the basics (diapers, clinic money, clothes etc) because at the time, I wasn’t paying any rent or utility bills.

Read More: This is Why I kept my Postpartum Depression a secret

That’s how I stumbled onto online writing. A friend suggested the possibility of working from home and I embraced the idea because it would keep us afloat. Years later, it has provided a lifeline for my son and I, but it was not without its own challenges.

At the onset, it gave me a profound sense of self to be able to stay home and cherish whatever memories I could of raising him before Postpartum Depression stole the precious moments. But as the years went by, I realized I was starting to feel overwhelmed by it all. SAHMoms find themselves alone, quite literally, for long hours every day. I found this aspect of SAHMotherhood particularly challenging. I am an extrovert by nature, and love to be around people. Here I was, spending up to 10 hours indoors, alone, with nothing but baby talk, bibs and nappies to fill my days.

The lack of adult interaction for most days made it difficult to articulate the emptiness I felt. Caring for my son almost 100% of the time made it very easy to forget about myself. Add to this the monotonous routine of daily life and it started to feel like my sense of self was slowly but surely slipping away.

My PPD didn’t make it any easier. I remember asking myself, ‘What’s the point of dressing up anyway, if I wouldn’t be going anywhere? Why make my nails if I will spend half the day cleaning up mustard-coloured nappies?” Let’s not talk about the matted nest that was my hair. I let go of myself. I just did not see the point of making it… and over time, how I looked on the outside began to seep into how I viewed myself.

Read More: Changes

It started to feel like I had lost my sense of identity, I had lost the person I was before motherhood, so much so that on several days when I got someone to watch over him, I’d spend the whole day trying to remember what it was I loved doing – what it was I enjoyed most. I couldn’t find myself in the haze of motherhood. I didn’t feel attractive anymore, and struggled to look at myself in the mirror. Under the layers of baggy tees with several milk patches and saggy track pants, I felt completely lost.

The intrusive thoughts I had with PPD worsened how I viewed myself. My mind kept telling me I was frumpy and ugly (frugly if you like), and it didn’t matter because everyone seemed so put together on IG but I was struggling with my sense of identity and self-esteem.

I did go for therapy, and that helped quite a bit. I recovered from PPD, but the scars on my sense of identity linger on many days, particularly on those days when there’s an impending change or I am embarking on a new project as is the case with the organization. I second guess myself so many times, I doubt my abilities, I hear the subtle voices in my mind telling me I am not good enough.

But,

But I am learning to look into the mirror and tell myself I am doing an amazing job raising my son. To say out loud positive affirmations, and to remind myself of the wonderful work PPDKenya does to help moms with PPD. I am learning to create boundaries to practise self-care. I am learning to say NO. I am learning that this is part of my journey. And it is helping me find myself, and teaching me to let go.

 

 

 

 

 

Letting go

I haven’t been here in a while, and it feels like dusting that sultry dress you were itching to buy, got it on offer… and never wore it for months on end. Before finally deciding to dress up, show up and strut in that dress.

I have been away from this space, and I will be honest and admit – it has been a mix of neglect, despair and questioning, lots of questioning. The past few months have been a rollercoaster of emotions. I am not quite sure exactly when the rain started beating, but when the year started out, I was hopeful, optimistic and enthusiastic. I’d just confirmed that at PPDKenya, we would be running our first support group therapy sessions in January. In the months leading up to the end of 2017, a few moms had gotten in touch and registered for the support group meetings. It was encouraging really, because this is something I had been wanting to do all of 2017 (but was holding back because of fear). And so the year began, with hope, enthusiasm and lots of gusto.

We had our first meeting on Saturday 13th January 2018, and it marked the beginning of a whole new chapter for PPDKenya. It was encouraging to hear the moms’ stories, see the passion and hope to get better and make a full recovery. Our meetings were bimonthly, so we met every other Saturday for a total of five sessions up until the second weekend of March 2018. Never before have I been so certain of what my purpose is, what I am meant to be doing and my small thing as far as touching lives is concerned.

Away from PPDKenya however, I was struggling to get work done. I have worked online as a freelance writer since late 2012, a few months after the birth of my son. This wasn’t part of the plan to be honest. I have a BSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and had just began my career’s trajectory when I found out I was pregnant. Unprepared for this new role, wondering how I’d raise this child alone and having to move back to my family’s home meant my career took a backseat.

Part of the reason for this was I lost my job at about 7/8 months pregnant, and that threw me off balance. It was one of the factors that contributed to my Postpartum Depression (PPD). It is well known that financial constraints, unplanned pregnancies and raising a child single-handedly (whether due to the death of a spouse or a partner taking off when responsibility knocks) are all risk factors for PPD, as was the case for me.

Read more: Celebrating with PPDKenya support group 01

Without any source of income, I found it pretty hard to get a nanny so I could go job hunting. That is how I found myself looking online after a dear friend mentioned online jobs in passing. Initially, it was hard because having to meet deadlines when still learning how to wean, sleep train and just take care of my son is not a walk in the park. At the time too, I was struggling with PPD, found it incredibly hard to bond with my son, and would, from time to time, imagine a world without us both. I did experience suicide ideation too, and every other day it would feel too overwhelming… I have shared that in this post.

I eventually got help after attending therapy sessions with a counselling psychologist (who has since walked the journey with me) and made a full recovery. I continued to work from home, while managing this website. It certainly wasn’t what I studied for, but it paid the bills and so I kept going. As at the time of writing this post, it has been six years of working from home – pretty much all of my son’s life.

And it was great, until it wasn’t. My social life is well, non-existent. I was struggling to accept that my life as it is/was, revolves around my son – prepare him for school, drop him off at school, work until 3PM, pick him from school, prepare his snacks and dinner, spend time with him, put him to sleep, lay out his uniform… rinse, repeat, rewind. Add to this the mundaneness of daily house chores and I started to feel like I was losing myself in motherhood. Now, please get me right: I love my son, so much, I am grateful he came into my life and I appreciate these moments for they are fleeting. But at the back of my mind I asked myself, why do I feel like I lost myself in motherhood? Like I became a mom and everything I loved to do faded into the background? What happens when my son is out of the nest and I am left alone? Will I be struggling to pick up the pieces? To relearn who I am, not as a mom or daughter – but as an individual? Will I be struggling to fill my days because I know not who I am anymore and have no idea what I love to do?

Read More: Change

After six years of working from home I started to feel closed in, lost, flustered. The demands of the online job meant often, I couldn’t work on PPDKenya, which is where my heart truly is. I am passionate about raising awareness about PPD and walking with moms who are struggling. It fires me up, it makes me come alive, and it is so fulfilling. But I continually found myself typing the days away, letting go of my dreams. I can’t explain how frustrating it is, and slowly, I started to inch closer to the edge.

I’d wake up on some days and feel there was nothing to live for. I felt lost, overwhelmed and frustrated. I knew everything wasn’t okay when, for more than two weeks in recent months, I’d drop my son off to school and come back home to cry it out – till 3PM when I’d do a facial to try hide my swollen eyes from him. I’d write for hours on end, filling up my journal pages and emptying my thoughts. My mind was constantly racing and I couldn’t seem to catch a breath, ever. It was exhausting, physically, mentally and emotionally. I remember how, in despair, I admitted to a friend how I was tired of living, yet not wanting to die because I had so much to do with PPDKenya. I will add too, that I was not suicidal/ wasn’t having thoughts of harming myself or my child, and that’s hard to articulate. I felt like all I wanted to do was exist in a vacuum. Not live, not die – just exist. I am not sure that makes sense, but that’s the best way to explain it..

During this time, many thoughts crossed my mind. The racing thoughts:

  • Does PPDKenya even matter? Is anyone even reading what we do/ follow what we do online? We could simply close shop because it feels like it doesn’t matter, isn’t helping anyone.
  • My family supports me the best way they can, but I am letting them down.
  • I am not caring for my son like good moms ought to (regardless of the fact that it felt like my life revolved around him)
  • So many contacts on phone, so few people I feel I could talk to. (Also, some of my closest friends at the time were also fighting their own battles, and I was cognizant of the fact that they may not be available, and that is okay. But it didn’t take away from the loneliness.)
  • I feel suffocated; i feel like I am drowning and there is no way out.
  • I feel grossly inadequate, insignificant and unworthy – a failure really.

And the list goes on and on. I know that these thoughts are not the truth, but in a moment of utter overwhelm, there is no mental fortitude to fight back. And so, for a couple of months now I have been in that place, that dark place. A few days ago, I hit rock bottom and knew I had to get help. I had to ask for help, and I did. It brought hard truths to the surface. It made radical change a necessity if I was to get out of this mental space. It made me realize that nothing is worth it if it affects my mental health negatively – not a job, not a relationship, not manipulative relatives, not a toxic work environment. The mental fog is beginning to clear. Starting to feel a lot more like myself – it is hard, it is scary, it is beautiful.

 

 

#postpartumdepression: The conversation on Victoria’s Lounge

“I believe we need to get to a place where maternal mental health will not be stigmatized, and struggling moms can know that they are not alone, that help is available for them”

In my darkest days when I struggled with postpartum depression, this is the one thing I really wanted to hear, the one thing I really needed to hear: that I was not alone, that I could get help, that I was not a bad mother for my inability to bond with my son. Sometimes I wonder, what if I had heard about #postpartumdepression before? What if, by chance I saw someone tweet about it, or vent about their struggles on Facebook? Would that have made me better placed to handle it? I will never know. What I do know is that I would never want any other mom to go through PPD, yet the sad glaring truth is that 1 in 9 moms will experience PPD [source]

This is the reason I am glad to have been part of a panel on Victoria’s Lounge hosted by the ever graceful Victoria Rubadiri. Alongside these phenomenal ladies, the conversation centered on PPD. What are the risk factors associated with this form of depression? What are the symptoms you need to look out for? What treatment options are available? What does it feel like to be depressed when you just had a new baby?

The show airs on Thursday (22nd June 2017) on NTV at 8:00pm. Tune in and tell a friend to tell a friend.

 

Update: The wonderful team at Victoria’s Lounge put up the link on YouTube, so you might want to check that here