The Missing Peace in A Self-Care World

Self-care is about physical and mental health and well-being. It’s about taking care of our bodies, minds, and souls so we may become the-best-version-of-ourselves. We’ve been fed with the message that we need to put ourselves first, in order to recharge and refuel so that we may take better care of others. While I agree with the basis and importance of self-care, I think a great number of people are missing the most important piece in self-care: God.

What’s Missing?

We can never truly obtain self-care without God’s love. We can practice self-care all we want, but eventually, we will hit a dead end. We may feel like we have obtained true peace–maybe for months or years–but at some point we will find ourselves feeling like it’s not enough, like something is missing. What’s “missing” is God. Who gives us the tools to provide self-care? God. Jesus said, “I am the Way; I am Truth and Life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NIV). The Bible teaches us that we are not the center of our own lives, nor are we in charge–God is.

Where to Find Rest

Are we tired and weary, and know it’s important to take care of ourselves? Yes. It’s necessary to practice gratitude, mindfulness, and awareness, but it’s not enough to just do those things. It’s not enough to turn towards ourselves and our “self-care rituals” to find rest and relief from stress. Jesus, The Prince of Peace, said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” He didn’t say that just to be polite. He said it because it’s the Truth. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves ” (Matthew 11:28-29).

Remember when He told Martha not to be anxious about the housework, but to come and relax with Him (Luke 10: 38-42)? Caring for ourselves is worshiping God. We can do both simultaneously. We can care for ourselves, while also putting God first. But if we do not put God first, we are missing the importance of self-care. The return rate on putting God first is invaluable.

The Truth Will Set Us Free

We’re like a tennis ball being tossed back and forth between two rackets. One racket is the worldview’s version of self-care and the other racket is God’s version of self-care. We’re being fed both sides, but are constantly up in the air between the two, not sure which is the winner. God is always the winner. And by choosing God’s true version of self-care, we too, are winning.

Is it important to pick a self-care ritual that fits our personality and lifestyle? Yes. But to truly benefit from that particular moment or activity we must focus on something bigger than ourselves. If our self-care practice includes going for a walk, don’t just go for a walk; rather, let’s be mindful of how God created the big picture around us–from the dirt to the trees, to the birds. God is in Everything. You can find Him in every self-care ritual. It’s only through seeking and noticing God in our self-care practices that we will truly obtain peace, joy, healing, and health.

What do you like to do for self-care and how can you put God in your practice?

I pray you find your best rest within God, my friend.

Loyally,
Katie

What I Learned This Summer

I was dreading the summer. I love my children, but the thought of being home with them 24/7 did not sound appealing. In fact, if I’m being completely honest, it sounded like straight-up torture. Weeks leading up to school getting out, I took some time to ponder “A Plan”. I thought, The only way I’m going to get through the summer is if I get these kids to behave better.

Just a few months ago, I felt out of control as a parent. I was yelling at my kids way more than I wanted to and I felt completely and utterly depleted by the end of every day. I was losing my ever-loving mind and I could barely hold a conversation with my husband when he got home from work because I was D O N E. I knew I showered my kids with an exorbitant (and sometimes embarrassing) amount of love, and I knew I was saying at least some of the “right” things, but I was constantly nagging and yelling at them to get their act together. I felt like a failure of a mom because I couldn’t get them to do what I wanted them to do without yelling. While I was consistent about following through with consequences, I was left feeling exhausted by all the back-and-forth banter and arguing:

Me: “That’s it! Time out. Go to your room.”

Kid: “But, I’ll be good now. I promise.”

Me: “It’s too late. If you would have made a better choice the first time, you wouldn’t have a Time Out.”

Kid: But! *whines, throws something against the wall, cries, whines, screams, cries*

Me: Stop whining and go to your room. Go!”

Kid: *more whining*

Me: I SAID NOW!! NOW GO!!!” *carries Kid upstairs*

Kid: *slams door, screams*

Me: *cries tears of exhaustion and disappointment*

Repeat everyday, multiple times a day. Does this sound familiar to anyone else?

One day I had enough! I vowed to use the summer to change my Big Kids’ behavior. I thought that if they learned to behave better then I wouldn’t have to yell so much.

I confided in (and cried to) a friend about my struggles. She shared with me she just finished reading a book and was implementing a new discipline technique. It was supposed to lead to calmer parenting. Through a lot of prayer and realizing what I was doing wasn’t working for our family, I figured I’d give the book a try. Reading the reviews made me excited and hopeful for the future: “I highly recommend this book to any parent who is spending more time yelling at or nagging… It’s such a relief to not feel like I’m constantly yelling at someone!” Yes! Ugh! The nagging!

After devouring the book in two days, I sat the kids down and explained things were going to be different and here’s what’s going to happen. They seemed receptive and accepting. The first few days went off without a hitch. A couple tantrums and Time Outs from The Mid Kid, but zero yelling or nagging on my part. Then a week passed and I thought, Wow–I haven’t yelled OR nagged at my kids in a week! Then two weeks passed, then a month. I can’t believe it, I told my husband.

When people would ask me how my summer was going, I surprised myself by saying, “Actually, it’s been quite pleasant! The girls have only had one week of camp each–so I thought we’d be going crazy by now–but they’ve been so well-behaved!”

I was shocked. I actually have enough energy at the end of the day to read an entire chapter of Harry Potter with them, enough energy to have a substantial conversation with my husband, and enough “space” in my heart to just breathe and be.

For six out of the eight weeks of summer thus far, I have not yelled at my kids ONE TIME. Yes, you read that correctly.

Flash forward to Week 7 and…. Yes, in all honesty, there’s been some yelling (but no nagging). I chalk it up to the fact that my husband has been working 15-hour days, six days a week and we are melting away because we have NO air conditioning in our Southern California home. Then the baby got Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease so that was absolute madness. Oh, and he ate dog shit. Literally. That was fun… There has been more TV-watching these last two weeks than there was the entire summer put together. But that’s The End of Summer, right? It’s eating me up alive. (Who hasn’t It eaten up?!) I don’t think there’s any book that could save a parent from The End of Summer…

My point is, I was dreading summer because I thought I wasn’t going to be able to handle the chaos. I didn’t want to spend the entire summer yelling at my kids; I wanted to actually enjoy them and have fun being their mom. But I was looking at it all the wrong way. I was focused on changing their behavior. I set out trying to transform my kids, but instead it was me who was transformed.

I learned to regulate my behavior and reactions; because yelling and nagging my children doesn’t work. It doesn’t leave anyone feeling good. Being controlled, quiet and calm is way more effective. I learned that I set the tone in our household; if I yell, my kids are going to yell, too. Our summer wasn’t a happy one because we went on extravagant excursions and getaways (we didn’t); it was happy because I was a calmer and more patient parent.

Loyally,

Katie

#CampKindfulness Ideas

As promised, here’s a list of “Acts of Kindness.” I could create a whole list, but I love this one from “Coffee Cups and Crayons” so I am sharing it instead. This one is *geared* towards kids, but really it’s for to anyone, young or old!

Remember, #CampKindfulness is not about doing E V E R Y T H I N G on the list, or doing it perfectly… or even every single day. It’s about finding moments to be intentional with your kindness, thinking about how you (and your kids) can serve and do kind things for others throughout your day.

100 Acts of Kindness for Kids

New to #CampKindfulness and wondering what it is? Start here.

What are some ideas you’re excited to try this summer?

 

I’m Afraid to Write

I’m Afraid to Write.

Afraid of rejection.

Criticism.

Mockery.

Making a mistake.

 

Fear is holding me back.

Fear of failure.

Fear of not being good enough.

The best.

Original.

Perfect.

Ready.

 

But most of all, I’m afraid that if I don’t write it down and don’t say what I want to say, and no one reads it or sees me then that’s the biggest mistake of all.

So I will write. And it may not be perfect, but it will be raw and real and honest and that’s what makes me ready.

Camp Kindfulness

My goal for the summer is to worry less about academics, and focus more on making this world a better place—starting with the little people in my home! I hope to create simple, but meaningful activities to teach my children the importance of intentionally being kind and serving others.

The idea is to make the activities as low-key and stress-free as possible (i.e., bring soup to a sick neighbor, donate old dish towels to the Humane Society, bring sunscreen to the lifeguards at the pool…)

The point is to teach my kids that small acts of being purposefully kind can make a big difference!

What’s “kindfulness” you ask? It’s “a daily practice using volunteering, intentional acts of kindness, and gratitude to bring awareness to the impact you make on others and the positive mental state created by serving others.” (created by Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm)

The Five Pillars of Kindfulness are: volunteering, intentional acts of kindness, connection, reflection and inspiration.

1. No stress. This is not meant to be “one more thing” you *have* to mark off your checklist this summer. Do as much or as little as you can and what works for your family. It’s not meant to be “perfect”. We’re all learning  & growing here! Even one day of consciously being kind is better than no days at all.

2. Make it age appropriate. But there’s no limit on age. You can teach a one year-old to give a hug or clean up blocks. A 100 year-old can spread wisdom to others. Try to incorporate mindfulness and self-awareness activities whenever you see opportunities throughout your day.

3. Do your best to casually instill mindful habits. For instance, for my family that may look like reading one page in the book “Breathe Like a Bear,” teaching my kids to notice their breath and calm their bodies when they feel frustrated. Again, the point is to make it simple and doable, and not become overwhelmed with doing it Perfectly.

4. Spread the good! Tag me on Instagram @katievanbrunt with the hashtag: #CampKindfulness so I can see the progress (not perfection!) you’re creating.

 

Next post… Ideas to do for Camp Kindfulness

 

Loyally, Katie

 

Resources:

“Kindfulness” by Ajahn Brahm

“It’s Not Mindfulness Without Kindness”

“Breathe Like a Bear” book

“The Conscious Parent” book

“Sitting Still Like a Frog” book

Morning Routine for the Modern Mom

Recently I posted a little tidbit about how I fit in “Me” time with three small children, and a husband that works (mostly insane) hours. As promised, here is a more detailed version of how I map out my mornings.

(Dark pic because the sun isn’t even up yet!)

5:15am – Alarm goes off. Hit (gasp!) Snooze. But I thought the key to having a successful morning routine is NOT hitting Snooze? Well, I use it as a timer (and also as a safety net so I don’t fall back asleep because that honestly sometimes happens.) During my nine minutes of snooze, I meditate by I placing one hand over my heart and my other hand over my belly. I clear away all the mind-chatter and feel my heartbeat and breath. I say a Hail Mary and The Our Father. Then, I review my day like a movie reel. I don’t set expectations, but rather imagine myself going through the motions of what I want to accomplish, and with the attitude I wish to have throughout the day. For example, I imagine speaking calmly to my children when (I can guarantee) they will be as slow as sloths getting into the car. I also imagine myself doing tasks I hope not to forget like laying the class snack by the front door. (It helps!)

 

5:24am – Alarm goes off again. (And I contemplate hitting snooze again.) I get out of bed, take my medicine, wash my face, and get dressed. Getting dressed has been one of the hardest things to train myself to do… and I’m still working on it! It’s hard because I don’t think my brain is awake enough to decide what to wear. But deciding to put *something* on (like workout clothes, 99% of the time) is better than staying in my pajamas.

 

5:35am – I throw in a load of laundry (“A load a day keeps the mountain away”). This little life hack has helped tremendously.

I also take this quiet time to practice mindfulness. I’m learning to be aware of the sounds and noises and other senses around me… the sound of the water hitting the washing machine, the rush of cold air when I open the windows, the sound of the cars’ tires rolling on the pavement, the sounds (and sometimes smells) of the sea lions, the feeling of my fingers touching knobs and handles, the sound of the cricket stuck under our refrigerator (how is he still alive?!)

Next, I start a pot of coffee. (I love my French press.) But before that, I always drink warm lemon water with local honey. It’s a gentle way to wake up my body, and the local honey helps with my allergies. Then, I sit down and get busy with my Bible. I read one chapter a day (sometimes two if I’m having an exceptionally smooth morning.) Right now I am reading Proverbs, mainly because I personally feel like it needs less brain power in the morning to navigate (as compared to other chapters in the Bible).

Then, I “Prayer Journal”. (I wrote about my prayer process here.) I like to write down my prayers because it holds me more accountable to be truthful, as well as navigate my weaknesses and come up with a plan on how to be a better version of myself. I also imagine my kids one day reading through my prayer journal and apologizing for driving me crazy. Kidding. Kinda. But I do imagine them reminiscing over some lovely memories and realizing that whatever they go through in life, their feelings are normal.

After that, I “mind dump”. I quickly jot down whatever comes to mind that I need or want to do. (i.e., “diapers at Costco”, “dog food”, “send thank-you note”, “phone bill”, “babysitter for Friday”, etc.) If I wake up with too much *stuff* in my brain, I’ll mind dump first-thing in the morning to prevent it from becoming too much of a distraction. I also take this opportunity to review my agenda for the day, and 1. Make sure I know the correct date, and 2. Know exactly what I’m suppose to be doing for the day.

 

6 or 6:15am – I cook and eat breakfast. Usually I eat some sort of egg dish (I love my egg sandwich maker) or avocado toast, with fruit, and drink my HOT coffee. I used to cook these elaborate Whole30 and paleo meals, but it got to be too time consuming–with a lot of cleanup.

(Side note: If anyone has quick and easy paleo breakfasts, send them my way!)

 

6:30am – Switch over the laundry and wake up the kids.

(Another side note: Lately, Alexander has been waking up around the six o’clock hour so he usually gets to share a yummy breakfast with me.)

* * *

So there you have it! My morning course of action.

Am I tired of waking up at 5:15am? Do I wish I could sleep in? Yes and Yes. I almost always dread waking up that early, but historically speaking, my day is awful if I don’t.

One day, while staring at the darkened ceiling, I asked myself, “How did you feel when you hit Snooze yesterday?” Terrible. Short-fused and flustered.

Then I asked myself, “How did you feel when you used to wake up early?” Accomplished. Refreshed. Patient.

Sooo… Self, “Which do you want to feel?!” Obviously the latter!

Even when I try to “cheat” on the weekends and claim an extra forty-five minutes or hour of sleep (because, y’know, it’s the freakin’ weekend!), it throws everything off. So for now, this is the path I’m taking.

Do my kids sometimes wake up before 6:30am? Yes. Do I always get to do every single thing in my routine? No. If that happens, I just write, “To be continued…” in my prayer journal and get back to it later in the day when I can.

Is my routine a surefire way to have a perfect morning? Heck no! But it definitely makes for a BETTER morning. The important thing is that I’m trying my best and doing something to help me be the best version of myself.

* * *

How do you feel about morning routines? What is yours like?

Loyally, Katie

P.S. This morning routine was not created over night. I prayed for a long time for God to help me stop yelling at my kids in the morning, and taking them to school in house slippers because I was so flustered and flighty. I hope this post inspires you to make your own changes (that best fit you and your family) to make your mornings more peaceful.

 

How I Thrived While My Husband Worked Nights

My husband’s job of being a physician in Residency is very demanding. This month, he had to work two weeks of “nights”. He would go in for his shift around 5pm and get home around 7am. He has worked nights numerous times and each time I felt like I was going to lose my dang mind! Therefore, when I saw “Nights” listed in his future schedule, I thought, What can I do to not just SURVIVE, but actually THRIVE?

Based on personal experience (both good and bad) I constructed the following tips, tricks, and habits:

Wake up early for “me” time

I set my alarm for 5:15am. I mediated for nine minutes (that’s the length of my snooze button) then got dressed. I went downstairs and drank warm lemon water with honey to gently wake my body, and started a pot of coffee. Meanwhile, I read a chapter in the Bible and prayed/journaled. Next I cooked and ate breakfast with… get this–HOT coffee. Like, actual HOT coffee. I didn’t even know that existed in real life?! All of this took about an hour–just in time for my kids to wake up at 6:30. By getting myself entirely ready before my kids woke up, I felt armored to conquer the day.

{I plan on writing a post on this topic more thoroughly because it really has been life changing.}

Pre-made meals

Cooking for someone who wasn’t living my same “normal” hours was really difficult. By purchasing pre-made meals (from Costco), my husband could eat what he felt like when he felt like it, and I didn’t feel obligated to constantly have something prepared for him.

Paper plates

You may be saying, But this is such a waste! Yes, I know. I struggle with this tip, because while it’s super helpful and easy, it’s also bad for the environment. However! Did you know you can compost paper products? By eliminating the chore of constant dishes for the past two weeks, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders.

Do laundry every day

I had the kids put their dirty clothes in the washing machine the night before (I actually do this all the time as our normal routine) and in the morning I added mine and started the wash. As They say, “A load a day keeps the mountain away.” I switched the load from the washer to the dryer before I took the kids to school and by the time I got back… Ta Da!… I had clean clothes! During our nighttime routine I helped the kids put their clothes away.

Stick to a predictable/tight schedule (that includes doing nothing)

At the start of the week I wrote things down in my calendar that were absolute MUSTS (i.e. school pick-up/drop-off, after school activities, appointments, etc.). Then I looked at our “free time”. It was important to me that I had no obligations to other people. It just seemed too stressful to try and make commitments when I wasn’t sure what my state of sanity was going to be. I’m glad I left free time for my children to play outside in the afternoons and burn some energy. It made for a *smoother* bed time.

Breakfast for dinner

Trying to keep my normal cooking routine was too much pressure in the past, especially since my husband wasn’t eating dinner with us. I didn’t want the stress of trying to get my kids to eat things they weren’t thrilled to eat; and since my husband doesn’t particularly care for breakfast for dinner, I figured these past two weeks were the perfect time to do it.

Get a babysitter

Handing over parental responsibilities to another qualified human being for a few hours a week allowed me to take a break and recharge.

Have a Fun Day!

My husband had one day in between his two-week night rotation so we took advantage of our time together and went away to the beach for one night/day. It was a last-minute decision and I’m glad we did it because it gave us all the much needed quality time we were yearning for as a family.

“Season of Sacrifice”

There were times where even though I was doing all of the above, I still felt overwhelmed. (Obviously completely normal!) If I felt those feelings rising, I stopped, took a deep breath, and remembered that it was just a “Season of Sacrifice” and “This Too Shall Pass”. I thought, It’ll be over before I know it and will be a distant memory.

I DID IT!

* * *

If your spouse is going to be away for a period of time, or is working an opposite schedule, I hope these tips will help ease that exhausting time. You can do it!

 

Loyally,

Katie

My Dearest Alexander Blake, On Your First Birthday

I know I’m suppose to be grateful you’ve been blessed a year older–and I am–but I can’t help but cling on to this fleeting time with you as an infant.

I want to remember… 
How your brown eyes greet mine every morning when there’s not yet light peering through the curtain… 
How you scrunch your little nose because you know it will make me laugh… 
How your sweet little voice sounds, right before you fall asleep…
How your tiny fingers grasp my thumb as you nurse and stare at me with wonder… 
At first I thought you were looking at me for guidance, but now I believe it is me that is finding answers through you. 
You have taught me… 
That, despite my best efforts, time doesn’t slow down so I need to live in the moment… 
That snuggling on the sofa is more important than making sure dinner is on the table on time… 
That listening to birds chirp is more important than waiting for a phone to chime… 
That reading “one more book” is more important than folding “one more basket” of laundry.

Son, I will be there for you with a bandage when you fall off your skateboard, and I will be there with an emotional bandage when you go through your first break-up. I’ll be waiting by the door to pick you up from your first day of school, and I’ll be waiting by the door when you come home late for curfew. I’ll stand by you when you embarrass me with an epic meltdown in the middle of the store, and I’ll stand by you to embarrass you with hugs and kisses in public until the day I die.
Although I wish I could keep you little forever, I look forward to the memories we will make in the years to come. I vow never to take my time with you for granted, and to be grateful for each and every moment I share with you.
Time is fleeting, but my love for you never will be.
I love you, Bubbe! 
Forever, 
Your Mommy 
Photo Cred: Salina B. Photography
Never Grow Up Shirt: Lainey Kay Creations

Give This Up For Lent


This year for Lent, give up…

1. Busyness

     Our society wears Busyness as a badge of honor, but that was never God’s intent. When you find yourself feeling like you have to “keep up,” STOP and slow down. Release any distractions (i.e., television, social media, comparison, etc.) and Be Present. Take a bath, meditate for five minutes, journal, or sit outside and let the sun shine on your face. Be mindful of ways to rest and recharge, and “Be still and know”.
2. Selfishness
   Treat others the way you want to be treated. Stay away from gossip and slander, and find compassion and empathy. Jesus laid down His life for us. Think about how you can put others before yourself.
3. Worry
     Let go of fear, anxiety, and self-doubt. Give them up to the Lord. He will take care of you. Pour gratitude and thankfulness into your soul, for you were fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. 
4. Negativity
     Look for ways to turn negative thoughts into positive and hopeful ones. When you’re having a bad day, think, “What is going right–right NOW?” Instead of discouraging and polluting words, find hope and positivity. 
5. Soul-Suckers
     Acknowledge draining emotions such as comparison, anger, judgement, bitterness, and resentment, but then release them and replace them with forgiveness. Forgive yourself and others. Your heart and soul will thank you.
Dear Lord, for this Lenten season, help me let go of my old habits and embrace a new life so that I may go out into the world and speak Your truth. 

loyally,
katie

PPD: 7 Years Later


It has been seven years since I was hospitalized for Postpartum Depression. There are so many thoughts swirling in my head about that time in my life. It still boggles my mind that I was ever admitted to a psychiatric inpatient hospital. I said it then, and it has stayed true seven years later: Postpartum Depression was paradoxically the best and worst thing to ever happen to me. It was certainly the scariest time in my life, but it has also taught me more Truths about myself than I ever dared to know. Going through PPD has opened doors to my soul I never deemed possible.


Postpartum depression taught me how to manage my stress and anxiety. I wasn’t even aware I had childhood anxiety until I dove into numerous hours of therapy. I sometimes imagine what my life would be like now had I not gone through what I did, and I cringe at the thought. I cringe because I envision myself utterly uptight. I know I would still be sweating the small stuff and suffering from panic attacks. But mostly, I know I would be missing out on LIFE. I would be stuck in “playing it safe” and always reaching for the Easy Button. Now, let me not be mistaken… it’s not that I don’t experience insecurities and difficulties like everyone else, but I’m not paralyzed or plagued by them anymore. 


Postpartum depression has guided me towards a more grateful heart. It has helped me see the gratitude in any situation. Is it hard to do this all the time? Yes, of course; I’m only human (with three kids!) But the amount of therapy I’ve experienced has helped me implement this practice into my daily life. I believe this will always be a work in progress, but “practice makes progress” not perfection. 

Most importantly, PPD led me to Catholicism. I haven’t shared with many people the story of my “Awakening”, but it happened during my stay in the hospital. The priest who married my husband and me, visited and performed the sacrament of “Anointing of the Sick” (something most people receive on their death bed). It was in that moment that I felt The Holy Spirit envelop me with His love and say, “It’s okay. I am here. I will never leave you.” It is bringing me to tears just writing these words and revisiting that precious moment. I used to repeatedly ask myself, “Why me?” Why did I *get* PPD? But going through what I did was suppose to happen to me. It was GOD’S WILL, and I believe that with my whole heart.

Even though life is seriously crazy, demanding, messy, and chaotic with an elementary school-aged child, preschooler, and infant at home, I’m much happier and confident with who I am NOW, than I ever was before. 

And I have Postpartum Depression to thank for that.

loyally (& always learning),
katie