I Started Working Out 2 Months Ago – Here’s how it is changing my life!

I will be honest and say, I stumbled upon the idea of working out.

For the longest time, I have not been one to be fascinated by the idea of going to the gym. In spite of this, I have always wanted to maintain some level of physical activity. Part of the reason for this was because, as a Stay/Work At Home Mom, it is very easy to pile up the weight without even noticing it. To counter this, I found a way to incorporate morning jogs into my daily routine, or at least as often as I could.

Working out at home

The morning walks, I would later learn, help a great deal with my mental health. When I had Postpartum Depression, I remember vividly staying indoors for up to two weeks consecutively. The most I would do during this period of time was to go outside to hang baby’s clothes. The abrupt change from going to work and basically running up and about town (before pregnancy) to staying at home all day postpartum would ultimately contribute to my depression.

Read More: STAY-AT-HOME MOTHERHOOD AFFECTED MY SELF-ESTEEM

Later during therapy, the psychologist would emphasize that I always find time to spend time in the outdoors. When I started doing so, it helped alleviate the way I felt staying home all day – like the four walls were crushing in on me and suffocating me. Since then, I have kept up with walking and/or jogging. But what of the idea of a workout that targets different parts of the body? That, I stumbled upon.

When the bug to start working out consistently bit 🙂

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you may have noticed that lately, I have been posting selfies of my sweaty self after my morning workout, aka ‘sweatfies’. A couple of my friends have been getting in touch to encourage me on this journey, and applaud my consistency. And while I appreciate it, it hasn’t always been like this.

One of my friends, former high school mate, is an avid hiker and fitness enthusiast. She shares her journey on her Instagram page (yall go follow her here if you are enthusiastic about home workouts and pushing yourself), and as I have been following her for a while now, I couldn’t help but notice how committed she is to her workouts. She would post her steady progress, fitness goals, meal preps, hiking adventures and everything in between. It was impossible not to feel the zeal with which she shared her journey.

I started to talk to her, asking how when she began, how she has stayed consistent through it all and what motivates her. She was kind enough to answer my endless questions. I loved that she was and still is accessible and open about her personal fitness journey. One of the biggest benefits for her, and which stood out for me, was how exercise had helped manage her cramps.

Read more: 7 IMPORTANT THINGS I DO IN MY MORNING ROUTINE

Getting started on my workout routine every morning

Now, if you know me quite a bit, you would know that I have often gotten such painful cramps. Not once have I had to go to the hospital, skipped exams, even missed work and important functions because of menstrual cramps. The moment she said that, I was sold to this idea. Armed with the hope to reduce my cramps and improve my mental health, I decided I would start working out the very next day.

One fine November morning, must have been the 19th day, I dusted my sports shoes, got my sports bra and track pants and set to work out. Let me tell you guys, the heaving and panting and sitting on the floor I did that day will stay with me for a long time. I couldn’t keep up with the workout pace then. In that moment, I realized how unfit I was.

Instead of letting that discourage me, I committed myself to doing a workout daily, for 5 days a week. On either Saturday or Sunday, I would get my morning jog done and one day would be a rest day.  The weekday workouts are only 25 minutes long; I can afford to gift myself 25 minutes daily (which I would typically spend scrolling mindlessly on Social Media). I allowed myself to get going at my pace, and not to get discouraged for not keeping up.

I committed myself to this one thing for the rest of November and December (Yes, I put in a good 25 minutes even on Christmas Day J ), and keep going in 2019. Every day I would wake up, ease into the day by making my bed first and re-hydrating, then changing into my workout clothes and getting started.

How working out is changing my life!

Initially, it didn’t feel like there was much happening, but I noted, with great delight, how much the workouts improved my moods. In December, something interesting happened. My menses just began. I did not experience any cramping at all! For anyone who’s had painful cramps (save for those with medical conditions such as endometriosis for which treatment is required), you would understand what a relief this is! That only fuelled my gusto to continue working out.

In January, I started to feel my pants get a little loose around the waist area. Granted, the changes may not be noticeable to others, but these are the changes that keep me going! I remember sharing with my sister about how amazing it felt not to have my trouser button pop open!

I still have some way to go with my fitness goals for 2019, but I am certainly not where I was when I began. Working out daily has given me some level of discipline I did not have. I encourage myself to get up and get the work done even on days when I would rather sleep in. It continues to help my mental health too. I cannot wait to see how this journey unfolds all of this year – and yes, I will be sure to post an update, with before and after pictures!

Do you work out? How has your journey been? What would you say are some of the benefits of doing so? Let’s talk in the comment box below.

8 Things I Am Learning From Being Unemployed

Workstation

One of the things I decided this year, was to blog a lot more often and to share from a place of authenticity and empathy. The Goal is to do 52 posts this year – quick math, that is a post a week for the rest of 2019. I am still on track so far, with these posts for the month of January.

  1. The 30-day Mental Wellness Challenge 
  2.  7 Lessons I Learned in 7 years of Motherhood
  3. This is What I Did Not Post on Instagram
  4. 7 Important Things I do During My Morning Routine

In today’s post, I am sharing lessons I have learned on been unemployed since late December last year. Admittedly, I cannot compare my experience with anyone who’s been unemployed for years, because I cannot imagine how much harder it is. On the flip side, I cannot downplay the fact that the past few weeks have not been the easiest of days for me.

Stay At Home Motherhood

So, I have shared before on the blog, that I have been a stay/work at home mom. After my son was born, I couldn’t go back to work and, for the first nine months of his life I stayed at home – literally. During this time, I was also battling severe Postpartum Depression (but didn’t know it for a while) and staying at home made the symptoms more intense.

Read More: My Postpartum Depression Experience

Towards the end of the year, a friend introduced me to online writing. By then, my son had settled into a pattern of sorts, and I could juggle motherhood and getting some work done. I kept at it, and would later grow into it through the different seasons and years. This past December holidays, however, two of my contracts came to an end, perhaps a little unexpectedly. It threw me off balance quite a bit, as it would anyone. Towards the end of the year, and for most of January, I have been applying for jobs as a freelance writer, sending cold pitches and generally keeping hope alive.

Today though, I broke down. There is something about seeing the calendar page flip to mark a new month when you don’t have a job. It is a subtle-not-so-subtle reminder that bills are due – rent, groceries, electricity, school fees, transport, insurance… name it. Today that reality just kinda smacked me in the face. It took all of the energy in me not to have a total breakdown. Part of what it took was to journal – my all-time go-to coping mechanism. I write and write and write and write, and as I did, I thought to share some of the lessons I am learning from been unemployed.

Lessons I Am Learning From Been Unemployed

Lessons From Unemployment

  1. There is no shame in being unemployed

Of course this is easier said than done. It is easy to feel embarrassed about a conversation that ends up with, “So, how’s work?” or “So, what do you do?” But I am realizing that this is nothing to be ashamed of. That many people will, at one point or another, go through unemployment for a period of time. If anything, you are encouraged to speak out and network because you never know what opportunities abound with the persons you interact with.

  1. Work does not define me, but it is intricately tied to a sense of self-worth

Knowing and reminding myself that I am worthy is one of my key affirmations. But even that, in the face of unemployment, gets shaken to the core. Having a job to go to or to do, every day is closely related to one’s self-worth and self-esteem. Part of the reason for this is that, subconsciously, going to work makes you feel as though you are making a contribution to the society. In the absence of this contribution, there is a sense in which one lacks purpose.

Add to this the existence of mental illness and it is easy to see how unemployment, lack of self-worth and depression create a vicious cycle. This study done by Gallup-Healthways in 2014 showed that depression rates are significantly higher for those who have been unemployed for six months or more. It underpins the link between work and self-worth and makes it easier for me to understand why, these past few days have caught me questioning my worth and contribution, even with PPDKenya.

Read More: Stay-at-Home Motherhood affected my self-esteem

  1. Having a support system makes a big difference!

The truth of how I have survived this past month, and especially with kiddo going to a new school, is the anchor that my family is. I have a super supportive family, and my sister has been incredibly gracious to me. My close circle of friends has also been incredibly resourceful in checking in and offering encouragement. This is something I cannot be blind to. I recognize it somewhat cushions me from the very jagged edges. I am also cognizant of the fact that not everyone has such a support system. For this, I am very grateful.

  1. Do not quit everything

Granted, life does slow down to a certain extent when you are unemployed. After the frenetic pace of school hunting, my days slowed down noticeably. The mundaneness set in after my sis went to work, and my son was off to school. I would find myself asking, “Then what?”

With this, it is easy to quit everything – quit eating right, quit exercising, quit sleeping well… and plunge into job hunting. But the truth is, this will easily cause burnout. What I have learned to do these past few weeks, is to keep a basic routine of sorts. Part of this has been in form of my morning routine that includes a daily 30-minute intense workout (for those who have been wondering where the zeal comes from!). The morning workouts give me something to look forward to, space to process my thoughts and a toned body at the end of it all.

  1. It is okay to have good and bad days

Someone recently Whatsapped me and said that they envy my lifestyle (having followed my daily workout selfies) – and I wanted to cringe. Because what she didn’t know, was that for the most part, those workouts keep me sane and grounded. On some days though, I will drag myself out of bed, workout and then watch the hours go by with barely any strength to look for a job or make connections. I realized that those bad days are okay too – I just don’t want to linger there too long.

Read More: 17 things in 2017

  1. Having an emergency fund is KEY

Yes, I did have some cash somewhere that helped changed schools for my son, but in retrospect, it should have been bigger. I am reminding myself why it is important in this season. Closely related to this, is that it is wise not to put all of one’s eggs in one basket. Ever since I started freelance writing, I would work with at most, two clients at a go. But I am now realizing how detrimental that is to my financial well-being – and I am taking it for a lesson.

  1. Do the things you have always wished you had more time for

It is easy for the days to waste away when there is no work to go to, but time is valuable, even in such a hard season. This past month, I have tried to make good of this time by

  • Working out a lot more consistently
  • Reading more books (onto my third read for the year)
  • Blogging a lot more
  • Sharing content consistently on the PPDKEnya platforms
  • Brainstorming and writing down ideas
  • Networking, making cold pitches and generally putting myself out there.
  1. Do not give up

I could as well be telling myself this every day. Do not give up. Continue to put in the work. I keep reminding myself that the worst anyone can say no when job hunting/ looking for opportunities, is a NO. The best that can happen, well, there is no limit to that. I will keep putting myself out there. Something will work out, and when it does, I will add an update to this post.

For the record: I am a freelance writer and have been published before on Standard Digital’s Ureport Platform, and you can read the articles here and here. My main niches are Parenting, Wellness, Productivity, and Maternal Mental Health, but I can cover just about any topic on request. Additionally, I have built and continue to run this, and the PPDKenya website which you can visit here. Please get in touch with me if you need services to be provided by a freelance writer. Here’s my LinkedIn profile too. 

 

 

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?

 

This is what I did not post on Instagram

Black Girl On Vacation

“Do not compare your behind the scenes with someone else’s highlight reel because of what you see on social media”

This has, for a long time, been a personal mantra. It is something I have been embracing, and a reminder for myself. You might be very familiar with the sinking feeling that you experience when, after scrolling endlessly on social media, starts to creep at the back of your mind. For a while, I opted to deal with it by keeping offline for extended periods of time. Of course that would work for some time, and then I would get back online and experience that sinking feeling.

Scouring the web the other day, I came across this article. The author of the post admits to signing up for a yoga retreat to cope with anxiety. One of the author’s friends made a comment about ‘how she was always on vacation’. For someone struggling with anxiety, that could not be further from the truth. It did, however, cause the author to reflect on how often it is that things look so glamorous from the outside looking in.

#WhatIDidn’tPostOnInstagram

What I Did Not Post On Instagram

This is so profoundly true for many of us. I know fully well that it is stressful to compare my day-to-day life with everyone’s highlights (because few of us will rarely post the hard days, and that is okay), but sometimes there is that lingering feeling that I could be the only one who hasn’t found their footing. Reading through her post made me realize that those feelings are normal for the most part, and we do get through them (Unless it is a mental illness for which you would need professional treatment).

Looking back, I could not help but realize how it is possible to unintentionally create a façade. In this post, I will be sharing the backstory for some of my Instagram photos. Follow me on Instagram here.

A Mother’s Day Tribute while I was struggling with PPD

Backstory: I was smiling here, grateful to have my mom, but struggling in my own motherhood. I was probably at my heaviest here too, because one of my (negative) coping techniques was eating comfort food. It made me add lots of weight, I was criticizing myself harshly and living with Postpartum Depression. On many days around when this photo was taken, I would cry myself to sleep as he was nursing by my side.

Some parenting days are hard.

Backstory: He was 4 then, I cannot even remember how this meltdown began, but it ended up with him taking my mom’s plates and smashing them to ground. In a moment of utter frustration, I beat him so badly that he slumped and slept on the floor. The all-consuming guilt after he slept meant I cried myself to sleep, because of the frustrations and mostly, because I felt I was never a good mom to start with. PS: This is not something I am proud of, certainly. Therapy has helped me manage my anger better now.

Grief is hard – it is not a destination, it is a journey that changes you forever

I am laughing here, we are. But these are my cousins and we were hanging out the day after grandpa was buried. I am wearing a pink cap to hide my swollen eyes.

Vacationing – but still feeling lost

View this post on Instagram

🌴🌴

A post shared by Sassy'Samoina Rembo Qui (@samoina.k) on

This photo was taken in Nyali, during our annual family vacation. It was an amazing getaway, and full of memories. What it doesn’t capture is the fact that I was feeling lost – jobless and with bills to pay. I contemplated shutting down PPDKenya altogether and going to a far far place where no one knows me.

Glamorous dinner wear and a dose of anxiety

I am smiling in this picture, with my fierce ladies. But what I did not post on IG is that I had a panic attack on that evening. My anxiety was spiralling out of control and I was struggling with intrusive thoughts (what if the car crashes? what if I get kidnapped? What if I never see my family again?) Forever grateful for Christine who came to pick me up from the house that day. <3

 

Birthday cupcakes and a meltdown

My aunt delivered these cupcakes for my son’s 7th birthday. What I did not post is that he had the mother of all meltdowns on this day, and we only got to blow his candles two days after. He was frustrated and angry (he is transitioning to a new school), and I was because I felt like the meltdown was an attack on my capacity as ‘good mom’.

The #WhatIDidn’tPostOnInstagram means a lot to me, because it is always a reminder that the camera does not capture everything. That we all love to show the strong kickass side, but this does not take away from the fact that we all have hard days.

Do you relate to this post? Check out #WhatIDidn’tPostOnInstagram on Social Media too.

Featured Image: Photo by Ogo from Pexels

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 lessons I learned in 7 years of Motherhood

Mother and son

On this day, 7 years ago, at this time, I was celebrating the birth of my son. He came in at 7:34, head full of hair and with the sweetest eyes I have ever seen. I will never forget the emotions that I felt when he was placed on my chest for skin-to-skin care. I was grateful that the delivery process went well, albeit with a couple of stitches. Hello episiotomy! His birth made me feel a sense of relief because it was finally over – where it is the experience of labour and delivery.

But I will also admit I felt somewhat unprepared for my new role as a mom. Here’s this tiny babe who would be looking up to me for literally EVERYTHING. The uncertainty of life and parenting alone cast a dark shadow on what was a beautiful series of moments with his arrival. As I was wheeled to the maternity wing to get him to nurse, I did not imagine the journey as it would unfold, and my experience with Postpartum Depression.

7 lessons in 7 years of motherhood

7 lessons in 7 years

Today as I journaled and reflected on this past 7 years, my heart is filled with awe and pride, mostly awe. Here are 7 lessons learned in 7 years of my motherhood journey. They are by no means exhaustive, but they represent some of my most defining moments.

  1. There is no shame ought not be shame with the process of child birth

I will be honest and say that childbirth is downright raw, and messy, and beautiful. Before becoming a mom, I was mostly acquainted with the beautiful  – photos of the newborn snuggled in a cozy blanket and mommy tired but smiling, sometimes with makeup. Not that there is a problem with this, but the truth is that it doesn’t represent all that there is to the birth process. There is fluids and blood, lots of it. And poop, and sore tissues, and stitches and salt baths just to name a few.

It is raw, it is messy and it is beautiful.

Read More: 8 things no one tells you about pregnancy

  1. I learned that I did not have control over everything

One of my earliest motherhood lessons was that I did not have control over everything. Right from how my birth experience would look like to adjusting to breastfeeding and taking care of myself. I quickly learnt that whilst I could not control these aspects of my life’s new chapter, my response to them mattered a great deal. And the most important part of my response was directly related to how I was doing mentally. Which brings me to my third lesson.

  1. Postpartum Depression (PPD) is real and can affect anyone.

I remember vividly the expectations I had of motherhood. The thought that it would be a magical and blissful experience, buoyed by the beautiful pictures I had seen from some of my friends. But as it turns out, I was the 1 out of 7 new moms who got Postpartum Depression.

A number of risk factors accelerated my depression. Looking back however, what stood out the most was that I had pregnancy depression. Pregnancy depression, also known as antenatal depression, is a maternal mental illness that affects expectant women. If it is not diagnosed early, it typically leads to PPD, as was the case for me.

Mental illness does not care, and can affect any mom regardless of their social status, religion, education level or marital status. You could be married or in a stable relationship and still get PPD. You could be Christian, Muslim , Hindu or atheist and still get PPD. We have also had celebrities sharing openly about their experiences. So if you are a new mom with PPD, please remember you are not alone.

Read More: 5 Celebrities who have opened up about their struggles with Postpartum Depression

  1. Motherhood is a lifetime journey.

A friend recently asked me if, looking back, there was anything I would tell the 21-year old I was before becoming a mom. I thought about it, and what stood out was the need to go into motherhood whilst prepared. And that’s because it is a lifetime journey. Unless you would love to give up the baby for adoption, motherhood is a life journey. There is no trial period, there is no opting out – you are simply in it. And while you cannot be 100% prepared, it helps a great deal when one is in a good place mentally, emotionally and financially.

  1. Every child is unique

Right from the onset, it was clear that my son would be a loud, lively and energetic kid. It was evident, at least to me and those around me, where he got these traits from. It was easy to notice his unique personality. He was, and still is growing to be his own person. He easily articulates his thoughts, he is firm with what he wants (or doesn’t want) and has his own opinion. As a mom, it is easy to want to change certain aspects of his personality to meet my unspoken expectations, but I am learning to let him be his own person. This video explains it best in ways I never could.

  1. Selfcare is important

I cannot overemphasize the importance of selfcare. I got around to learn this, albeit the hard way as a Stay-At-Home Mom (SAHM). In his early days, I poured all of me into taking care of his needs round the clock – making sure he was fed, changed, vaccinated, bathed and getting him to sleep. Over the days, doing that without taking care of myself only led to burnout and I started to resent the whole idea of motherhood. It made bonding with him difficult, and my Postpartum Depression did not help. Going for therapy, however, helped me find selfcare tools that I could use to ensure my mental wellness, and ultimately improve my ability to care for him.

Selfcare is NOT selfish. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup.

Read More: Here’s what is in my selfcare toolbox

  1. Motherhood is an evolving journey

As he grows up, I am also realizing I am changing. As I enter my thirties this year, I realize I have grown in tremendous ways in the past 7 years. I am not the mom I was in 2012. It has been an amazing journey, one that has had its own challenges. But today, I sit here, grateful. For these seven years, for my son and for the opportunity to help other moms with PPD through PPDKenya.

What would you say are the most defining lessons of your motherhood journey? Share in the comment box below and let us encourage each other. 

Featured Photo by nappy from Pexels

 

30 Day Mental Wellness Challenge

Mental Wellness matters

January is Mental Wellness Month. Mental wellness refers to a state in which one’s psychological well-being allows them to function well using their cognitive and emotional capabilities. Contrary to popular belief, mental wellness is more than the absence of mental illness.

By marking January as the mental wellness month globally, more people are encouraged to be proactive in taking care of their mental health. To help with you with this, I created a 30-day mental wellness challenge for this month. There are many options to get through with. The most important thing to remember is that these options are not a replacement for medication and therapy.

The challenge helps build your mental strength. Just like any other muscle in the body, the mind benefits from daily workouts to help improve your wellness. You can start the Mental Wellness challenge at any time of the year. Most people prefer to start the challenge at the beginning of the month. Whatever you prefer, just ensure that you take note of where you started and track your progress.

Please Note: This challenge is largely rooted in selfcare and social structure to improve your mental health.

The 30-day Mental Wellness Challenge

30-day Mental Wellness Challenge

Day 1 – Journal about how you feel.

Take time to get in touch with your inner self, as well as to find out how you would like to feel after the challenge. Below are some wonderful prompts you can use to help with your jourmalling.

  • Today I learned…
  • My ideal day would look like…
  • I am grateful for…
  • I would like to accomplish the following three things…
  • This is how I am feeling right now…

Read More: My Selfcare Routine

Day 2 – Spend at least 20 minutes in the outdoors

Whether that means taking a nature walk, going for a light jog or walking around the block, take time outside.

Day 3 – De-Clutter

Clearing out your space has a tremendous effect on your mental health. It is particularly helpful for those who experience anxiety. Getting rid of clutter helps your mind.

Day one of the Mental Wellness Challenge includes journalling as a tool. Write about how you feel and how you would like this challenge to improve you.
Mental Wellness Challenge

Mental Wellness Challenge

Mental Wellness Challenge Day 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4 – Unplug for 24 hours

Technology has become an indispensable part of our lives. For many people, however, this has led to an over-reliance on our gadgets. On Day 4 of the 30-day mental wellness challenge, go off the internet for 24 hours. Do whatever works for you. Some people prefer to log out of all apps while others opt to delete all their apps.

Day 5 – Call someone that you love

It is easy to get caught up in life’s daily routines. This is why it is important to pause and get in touch with our loved ones. Pick up the phone and call someone that you love.

Day 6 – Slow down, be present

Our fast-paced lives mean we hardly get time to truly be present in the moment. Today, take time to slow down. Be present. I have found that taking time to note my surroundings helps anchor me in the present. Take note of five things that you can do with each of the following senses: see, hear, feel, smell and touch.

Mental Wellness Mental Wellness Mental Wellness

Day 7 – Make a list of next week’s goals

What would you like to achieve? What are your short term and long term goals?

Day 8 – Do one thing that you have been putting off for a long time.

What’s the one thing you have been postponing for a while but would love to do? Today provides that chance.

Day 9 – Read something that will assist your mental wellness

Read your favorite book, fun facts, listicles, or even an informative blogpost. Here is a good place to start on this blog.

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Day 10 – Extend kindness to a stranger

Read More: What I am learning about grief

Day 11 – Practise positive selftalk

Choose an affirmation that resonates with you. Repeat it throughout the day.

Day 12 – Find ways to improve your morning routine.

What does your morning routine look like? How can you improve it?

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Day 13 – Create a sacred space for yourself

This creates a safe space for you to retreat to after a hard day. Fill it with all your favourite things – sweet photographs, special letters, scented candles or even your favourite rug.

Day 14 – Do not be afraid to ask for help

Day 15 – Make a list of 10 things that you are grateful for today

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Day 16 – Go through today without complaining.

Day 17 – Go to bed half an hour earlier today

Getting adequate rest is an important part of mental wellness. This not only allows the body to recuperate, it is also a wonderful opportunity to recharge.

Day 18 – Make time to enjoy the sunrise/sunset today.

Sit and soak in the splendid beauty of that moment.

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Day 19 – Write a letter to the 10-year old that you were

If you could go back in time, what would you tell the 10-year old that you were?

Day 20 – Make time to watch something that encourages you or makes you laugh.

Day 21 – Be intentional about how you speak today.

Try as much as you can to make sure that it is stuff that builds and not destroys.

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Day 22 – Do something that takes you out of your comfort zone

Say hi to that neighbour you have never talked to. Write an audacious plan for your year. Take yourself on a date. Venture out to a new part of town. Learn how to crochet.

Choose something that takes you out of your comfort zone, but one that benefits you.

Day 23 – Practice deep breathing for five minutes today.

Deep breathing has been shown to ease anxiety. Read more about that here.

Day 24 – Say NO to the things that you do not want to do.

One of the greatest pillars for mental wellness is learning to say No and to set boundaries. This gives you space to chase after only the things that set your heart on fire.

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Day 25 – List 10 things that you love about yourself.

Day 26 – Spend time alone today. If possible, plan a date night for yourself.

Day 27 – Make time for a healthy hearty breakfast today

Read More: Taking a minute can save a life

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Day 28 – Clear out your email inbox.

This is the time to get rid of all those emails that keep piling in your inbox. Hit unsubscribe for emails that you no longer read/ find useful.

Day 29 – Take photos of 3 things that make you happy today.

Day 30 – Evaluate the progress you have made during this mental wellness challenge.

What would you like to keep doing? Is there anything that worked for you? What was your best day? Do you have a list of things you can commit to do in the coming months to improve your mental health?

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Featured Image credits

STILL A MUM 2018 CONFERENCE & AWARDS GALA

PPDKenya at the StillAMum 2018 Conference

Every year, October 15th marks the World Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) day. The goal of this day is to, first and foremost, recognize the loss that so many parents have experienced, as well as to create awareness on pregnancy and infant loss.

This year, Still A Mum organized a two-day conference that included two events and an awards gala. PPDKenya partnered with Still A Mum for the conference, and we were able to share some of the information that PPDKenya does at our stand.

It was amazing to speak to the expecting couples and new parents on Postpartum depression and what places moms at risk in the period after birth. A number of the dads-to-be and dads asked about PPD. One of the common questions from them was, “If PPD mainly affects moms, how does it affect dads yet they have not physically given birth?”

This was a great point for discussion because not only are these dads the first point of contact for a new mom (usually), their been aware may help a mom who’s developing the symptoms of PPD and who may not be aware of the changes they are going through. To answer the question on why dads sometimes get PPD:

Paternal Postpartum Depression (or its abbreviation PPPD) affects at least 5% of new dads globally. Why then does it happen if, in women, it is thought to be triggered by hormonal fluctuations after pregnancy, and yet men cannot possibly have it as a result of this? Studies show that, for reasons that are still been researched, a man’s hormonal levels also change, albeit not as significantly as in moms.

Read More: Postpartum Depression affects dads too!

Add to this the psychological, social and financial changes that come with a new baby and it is easy to see why new dads are at risk of PPPD too. Unfortunately, men (generally speaking) will not often readily share what they are experiencing, which poses a challenge even in PPDKenya’s efforts to reach out to the dads. For this reason, the opportunity to speak to the men at our stand was very significant.

The first day of the conference targeted medical professionals, particularly those working in the maternity and pediatric departments. It incorporated training on different aspects during pregnancy, child birth and after as well as Respectful Bereavement Care. Day Two of the conference was dubbed ‘Healthy Baby, Healthy Mum’, and targeted expecting women and their partners as well as new parents. Some of the topics that were covered included healthy habits during pregnancy, labor, delivery, breastfeeding, immunization and Postpartum Depression. I was honored to host the talk on Postpartum depression (with most of it in Swahili! – did you know Postpartum Depression is known as ‘mfadhaiko baada ya kujifungua? You are welcome!), share a bit of my story, what symptoms to look out for, the work that PPDKenya does, and most importantly, that there is hope for the mom and dad with PPD. After the talk, a number of moms did visit our stand, and of them, a few had a free counseling session. PPDKenya was honored to have Brenda Sharp volunteer her services as a psychologist to help the moms at the event.

 

The awards gala had to be postponed from the 13th to the 20th because Wanjiru Kihusa, founder of StillAMum, was out for her Facebook Community Fellowship (Glad to know such fierce kick-ass women!). The gala was organized to celebrate the wonderful work that StillAMum has done in the past three years of operation and to honor persons and companies improving the lives of Kenyan parents. All photos courtesy of Tek Photography.

Dresscode was black-tie, and boy oh boy, people caught the memo. The ambience, the setup, the dinner, the live band and the MC (one and only DJ Soxxy) put together a stellar awards ceremony! It was a beautiful event and I was honored to have joined efforts with the StillAMum team. Let’s do this again in 2019!

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

I am talking to my 6 year old son about Postpartum Depression. Here’s why

I have been talking to my son about Postpartum Depression (and mental health generally) lately, and there is a reason why. As a Postpartum Depression Survivor, I keep wondering, what if I had learnt about mental health way before I became a mom? What if this was part of our conversations? Wouldn’t it go a long way in reducing the stigma associated with mental health? Wouldn’t help my son learn about self care and help him comprehend some of the changes in mood he has seen in me? in himself? in the family?

Having gone public with my Postpartum Depression story (see this link), I realized that withholding accurate information on mental health from my son does no good. He might not understand it now, but in this day and age of the internet, he will learn about it sooner than later. And instead of leaving him to his own devices to figure it out, I am beginning the lessons early enough. If anything, I am hopeful this information helps him feel more secure and less fearful about mental illness.

Here’s how the conversation began: He asked what I have been doing ‘talking on TV’ and why ‘those TV people have not come back this year yet he has been waiting’. And so I figured this would be a wonderful note to start the topic. So, I told him when he was born, I was not able to handle a small baby well and my mind got a little sick. That made me sad and I used to cry sometimes. But I saw a doctor who helps treat the mind, and I got better. So, after that I started a ‘company’ (organization really) that helps moms whose minds are sick. He asked what company that was, and I said PPDKenya, even showing him some of the official documents.

Read More: PPDKenya provides psychosocial support for moms with Postpartum Depression (PPD)

He was quite inquisitive. He asked how and why the mind gets sick, what the doctor does and whether I would get sick again. To which I answered, the mind is a part of the body, like the leg, hand or head. And just like these other parts get sick, so can the mind. The doctor may give medicine to a mom to help her get better. Would my mind get sick again? (This had me undone to be honest, because it is a fear that lingers at the back of my mind.) I answered honestly, and at a level a 6 year old would understand: I could get sick again, anyone’s mind can get sick, but I am taking care of myself and doing what the doctor told me (during therapy). I assured him that talking about what worries our minds is one of the ways to take care of ourselves, and if he ever had any issues he could share them with me. He agreed (and has since admitted he doesn’t like it when I do XYZ, his heart feels sad when someone dies like my cucu did this past week, and that he feels like crying when the phone games hang..) It is encouraging to see him learn how to describe his emotions an put words to his feelings – it reminds me we are making progress.

Hopefully we can keep up this momentum as the days go by.

Sidenote: Ever since he saw the PPDKenya documents, he has been so enthusiastic to ‘help’ me run the organization, complete with writing posts on his ‘PPDKenya Notebook’. This warms my heart, that this tiny human believes in me to help other mommies, in his words ‘for their minds not to get sick’ 🙂

OUT OF THIS LIFE – A photo exhibition on suicide in Kenya

“OUT OF THIS LIFE – Let’s talk suicide. This is an invitation to a necessary dialogue in any society that condemns suicide because of cultural, religious, or social reasons.”

My friend Patricia Esteve is holding an exhibition aptly titled ‘Out of This Life’ to shed light and have conversation on a taboo subject in our community – suicide. According to Patricia, “This is a documentary project, which gathers the experiences of people in Kenya who have tried to commit suicide or who have lost a loved one to suicide. Using photography I collect their testimonies throughout the country, on the stigma surrounding suicide as well as the social and legal injustice they face.”

Did you know that according to the Kenyan Law, anyone who attempts to commit suicide is guilty of a crime? What’s more, the sentence for such a crime is two years in prison, a fine, or both. This appalling, and need I add archaic, decriminalization of an act that results from mental health disorders only does more to stigmatize and shame the people struggling. Often times, a suicide attempt is a cry for help, which is precisely why this exhibition is well timed if the increase in suicide cases lately is anything to go. (See this link). As someone who struggled with suicide ideation when I had Postpartum Depression, this project is dear to my heart.

Read More: On suicide ideation – The hardest post I ever had to write

The exhibition, which opened on 19th April 2018, tells the story of suicide, from the eyes of those who have flirted with the idea, attempted and survived, and the caregivers of those who have died by suicide (Please note, I wrote died by suicide – not committed suicide. It is part of the language of mental health. When we say committed suicide, there is the implication of doing so willingly, yet we are all aware suicide is one of the symptoms of a wide range of mental health conditions. Saying died by suicide therefore, is the very same way we would say someone died from any other health condition. Whew, I feel like I need to do a blogpost on this).

I walked in late (thanks Nairobi traffic), to find the credits rolling to the video Patricia had put together, after which she gave a small speech and thanked everyone for showing up. I took a moment to breathe in and out before going round the exhibition. The very first photo I saw was of this lady, face covered with a black shawl, a red dress and black stockings. I know this lady inside and outside, because that was me, deep in the throes of PPD, back in 2015.

Suicide. Open Spaces. depresión post parto .
Samaine´s story.

Patricia reached out and asked whether I would get on board with her project, which I did and share my story on living with PPD. Seeing those photos (they were two, one where I was with my then 3-year old son) tugged at my heart in a way I cannot quite explain. There was a sense of amazement – at how far we have come with J, and there was a lingering sense of relief. Relief because PPD had pushed me to the very edge of suicide ideation – but we survived because we got help, and can now offer psychosocial support for moms through PPDKenya support groups. The silent tears came and I requested a friend to let me have a moment to myself.

There are a few other photos that really stood out, which I will share below.

Photo Credits: Patricia Esteve

Go check out the exhibition guys! Patricia has done an amazing job with this exhibition. Check out her website here.

It runs up to the 27th of April 2018, between 10am and 6pm at the Kenya Cultural Centre (Kenya National Theatre) on Harry Thuku Road. entry is free!

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