How do you handle a stressful job, demanding school work, family life, parenthood or the challenges of life in general? There is no one-size-fits-all solution but there are some strategies that can help us cope with the day-to-day demands we face. Based on my personal experiences, I have found that there are 4 things that consistently give me energy, stamina, improve my mood and attitude:
Regular exercise: It can be tough to find time to exercise 3 or more times per week. There are so many other things that need to get done! But, physical activity is as beneficial to our bodies as healthy food is. In fact, when it comes to cardiovascular health, physical activity is just as important as healthy food. It can take some time to find a regimen that works for you but setting realistic goals and easing into it could help set the tone for a more consistent exercise routine. Why not start with just 10 minutes every other day? Establishing the habit is the hardest part but you can do it!
A good night’s sleep: This means different things to different people. Some can get by on 5 hours while others (like me) need at least 8 hours a night to feel fully rested. I have personally found that my mood, attention span, ability to learn and handle stress are much better when I have been sleeping well. If you are feeling stressed, consider whether the amount of sleep you are getting is sufficient for your daily needs.
Social ties: Sharing our struggles with those we trust can take some of the burden off our own shoulders and help us cope. There is no shame in feeling overwhelmed or tired. Reach out to someone if you can!
Reflection: Taking time for reflection, prayer or meditation is a fantastic way to make sense of your thoughts and slow down the rhythm of our fast-paced lives. It can also help us bring to the forefront unresolved feelings, hurts or other difficult emotions. Why not set aside 10 to 15 minutes a day for this personal reflection time?
Whatever stresses you may be going through, consider the above basic strategies to help you cope. Simple but effective!
My recommended workout of the week. This is a great 30-minute cardio workout with light weights (5 to 10 pounds) that also targets chest, abs, glutes, obliques, shoulders and legs. For those with problematic knees (like me!), there is a modified version of the exercise displayed. In general, aim for exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once to get more bang for your buck!
As I type this, the setting sun is gleaming off the ice and snow that covers the grass in our backyard. I love to write at our dining table because of the beautiful view that I get to experience. My daughter is sitting to my right, testing out a box of markers to make sure each pen is still working well and up to her standards. Every so often, she proudly points to her artwork which at this point mostly consists of multi-colored doodles.
This week was an intense exam week consisting of Anatomy lab exam, Digestion/ Metabolism Final exam and the Reflective exam (which covers clinical material since the beginning of medical school). I found this block to be one of the most intense so far. Despite the challenging exams, the week ended on a great note with a fun patient simulation activity and then dinner with the Dean of Medicine. I was really impressed that the Faculty made time to meet with us in groups over the past few months and that the Dean talked to each of us individually to find out more about us. When asked what he considers to be the features of a good doctor, his words stuck with me….”listen, be kind and be humble”.
Now that this set of exams are over and we are on Spring break, I got to spend a beautiful simple day with my daughter. We did silly things like dancing around the dining room to her favorite music. I love how she would look at me with her big brown eyes and giggle as she tried to copy my dance moves. My son spent the week with his grandmother in the Laurentians since his school was on Spring break and I was having exams. It was the first time he has ever been away from us overnight and it went very well. He had a blast with his granny. I really missed him though and look forward to seeing him when we drive up to the Laurentians for the weekend.
Today, I had the chance to reflect on the wonderful blessings in my life, especially my husband and children. My husband came home early from work today and surprised me with beautiful flowers. A few weeks ago my son presented me with some of his artwork depicting our family and it really moved my heart to see his perception of us. Sometimes in the busyness of life, we can forget how much we as parents mean to our children and how important we are to them. I love being a mother and wife, and despite the demands of medical school, I am so happy to be learning so much and that I have been given the incredible opportunity to do this. I look forward to the next block after the Spring break!
The year 2016 started off as a difficult year but turned into one of the best years of my life. I am still blown away by the fact that I was accepted to medical school after a previous failed attempt and numerous rejections. In hindsight, it made the acceptance all the more sweet and increases my motivation to give my studies my best effort.
It was also a beautiful summer spending time with my husband and kids, watching the kids grow and develop their personalities. I feel incredibly blessed to be a mother and to have friends and family that love and support me in so many ways. I am grateful to God for his grace, love and compassion towards me even when I fail Him.
As we move into 2017, I have one simple goal…to not lose sight of my top priorities which are quality time with God and with my family. I am very excited to be starting my next semester of medical school and all that I will learn over the next few months!
My dear precious daughter, I can’t believe that you are 2 years old already. We can see so much of your personality and interests showing. You have an excellent command of language. You love books, music, dancing and coloring. You love to run and climb.
You are a bit shy of strangers but you love to take care of people and keep everything organized. You are the first one to bring us our coats, hats and gloves while you “order” us to get dressed. If anything is out of place, you point it out and want it fixed or corrected. You are very independent, trying to do things yourself. You make us laugh with your funny antics and dance moves!
You also have a sensitive side. It bothers you if you see your big brother crying or if our cat is “meowing” because she’s hungry. You are very conscious of how others are feeling, “Mummy, tired?”
You absolutely love your stuffed animals and you have an elaborate bedtime routine for them. The top 2 animals that go almost everywhere with you are two giraffes (better known as “Raf one” and “Other raf”)
All-in-all, you have been such a welcome addition to our family. You are so calm, gentle, sweet and thoughtful, Naomi. You have your challenging moments like any child does but you continue to teach us so much about ourselves and have brought so much joy into our household. Happy 2nd birthday Naomi! We love you!
Despite runny noses and some difficult nights with sick kids this week, it was a wonderful week! I had the chance to spend a day with each of the kids alone and it was just so lovely to spend time with each child. Our time together was simple. Long walks to the park or in the woods. While my son was frolicking in the sand at the park, I exercised on the grass, my son laughing at some of my funny poses. As he giggled and played, I couldn’t help joining him on the slides and monkey bars. We even managed to see-saw as I figured out how to balance my weight against his. I felt like a kid again and it was so refreshing!
My walk in the woods with my daughter was met with the most magnificent array of autumn colors. The tall trees that had been so lush and green just a few weeks ago were now shedding their fiery red, orange leaves, creating a crunchy multi-colored path under our feet. The colossal clear blue sky provided a beautiful contrast to the autumn leaves and it was so nice to just clear my thoughts and pray. As my daughter turned around in her stroller every so often to face me with a beaming smile, I thought to myself, “This is my little girl, MY little girl. I don’t feel like I deserve you but yet here you are, a precious part of our family“.
As we climbed the stairs back up to the house, our little chatterbox Naomi turned to me and said “Mummy, I love ooo“. It just melted my heart. My son Caleb further encouraged my soul when he spontaneously said to me, “Mummy, I want you to be my doctor because when I’m sick, I just want you.”
My kids make me feel so loved and cherished. It’s moments like these that erase all the strife of teething, tantrums, time-outs, leaky diapers or melt-downs. It’s all a part of parenthood and those special moments with the kids make it all worth it!
Today was a simple but enjoyable day with the children. We actually made it through the day with only one fight under our belts and no meltdowns to speak of! I decided in the morning not to focus too much on chores. Sometimes I get so caught up with all that needs to get done around the house!
I spent a good part of the day sitting down on the carpet just watching the kids play. Every so often I became a character in one of their plays. I loved the moment when Caleb was pretending to barbecue on the couch. He assembled a bunch of mega blocks on pillows and announced that they were multicolored potatoes. As he busily flipped the “food” with a spatula, cautiously watching the progress of the food “cooking”, Naomi ambled over to the couch, taking an interest in what Caleb was up to. Caleb promptly stated in a firm voice, “No Namz! It’s hot! Don’t touch! I’m big like a daddy so I’m allowed to do this. But you’re too little!”
I love it when Caleb gets into “big brother” mode! As they continued to putter and wade through the sea of toys that had gradually built up on the living room floor, I continued to watch them. I felt a bit emotional that these two creatures who often drive us nuts, also elicit so much love and joy from my heart!
The day got even better when Caleb burst into Naomi’s room while I was putting her down for her nap, proudly showing me his attempt at writing letters with a big red marker. I was so proud of him when he showed me the sheet of paper with his letters! He had a big smile on his face!
How did our kids grow up so fast? I can’t believe Caleb will be starting school next year! I still fondly remember bringing newborn Caleb home from the hospital on a hot summer day in 2011, the start of this challenging but beautiful journey called motherhood!
As Naomi slept peacefully upstairs during her nap today and I asked Caleb what he wanted to do for the rest of the afternoon, he wrapped his arms around me and said, “I just want you, mummy!”
My children never cease to amaze me in how much they pick up from people around them in word and behavior. Moments like Caleb kissing and hugging his little sister because he has observed us doing this. Or Naomi busily putting away toys as she tries to mimic mummy’s “tidy up” song. Being a mother has caused me to assess my behavior in many circumstances because of what it might be teaching my children. I am realizing more and more that although it’s important to express things verbally, my children are very much guided by what they see.
My daily prayer, without putting too much pressure on myself, is that my husband and I can be good examples for our children. Some days it feels like an enormous responsibility too great to bear. I feel simultaneously privileged yet sometimes uneasy that we are ultimately in charge of raising these two precious children. They learn so much from other people too, of course, but the fact that we are their primary caregivers, teaching them about life sometimes stops me short as I contemplate the great importance of this task.
Earlier this week, I was reading a passage in the Bible that describes the scene where Jesus is washing his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). He gingerly removes his outer clothing, wraps a towel around his waist like a servant would, and starts to wash the disciples’ feet. I have read this passage before but this simple act of humility never ceases to amaze me. Jesus could have simply told his disciples he loved them but he went beyond this and performed an act that demonstrated how much he valued them and set an example for them to follow as they encountered others. This story really reminds me of how much I want to teach my children and to do it by example. It’s not easy. There are days I get impatient with the children and wish I could have been more understanding. But I remind myself that I am only human and I cannot expect perfection. In fact, parenting has shown me just how imperfect I am.
But when all is said and done, even after a challenging evening with the children, when I put my son to bed, I always ask him “you know that I love you, right?” He lets out a big, beaming smile, nodding vigorously, seemingly unaware that we had a difficult evening, and I am struck by how quick he is to forgive, his arms draped securely around my neck.