How becoming a parent gave me more energy

Prior to having my son in 2008 I kept a pretty busy social schedule in addition to managing my clinic and working full-time as a chiropractor.  I probably had a modest level of energy but there were certainly times where I would hit the wall and be overwhelmed by all my commitments.  

I anticipated that having a newborn would further deplete me and readied myself for a decade of fatigue.  In fact the opposite happened and becoming a mother ended up giving me more energy.

I have discovered that at the heart of it all I am quite an introverted person.  True introverts recharge their battery while being on their own while true extroverts feed off the energy of being with others.  All my socializing pre-motherhood and hands-on work with patients was tiring me out.  

I took 11 weeks maternity leave after my son was born and it was a lovely time to hibernate at home with my baby. Once I started to branch out and leave the house I realized that I didn’t want to be away from him two nights in a row. Even though I was taking care of an infant, I wasn’t completely exhausted since I was home more through my self-imposed restriction.

It was also interesting to discover my natural limit at parties and social gatherings. I would bring my son all bundled up to a party and he’d be happy as a clam for 1.5-2 hours and then begin to fuss. I realized that I actually had had enough of the party at that point as well – it became a perfect time to either head home or grab some quiet in a room to breastfeed. Before having a kid, I would have ignored that tired/depleted feeling and would have stayed longer at the social event.

Now that my son is 10 years old and more independent, I am still trying to be mindful of my energetic limits. Building in free time into my schedule and trying not to over-commit myself is still something I strive for a regular basis.

[originally published September 2018]

Truthful Communication

I have found in the last year some surprising results from having very truthful conversations with people.  In particular there were two different situations at work that required very honest communication and resulted in mutual acknowledgment of ‘the elephant in the room’.  

In preparation for both conversations, I had to strip away emotion and judgement as much as possible and try to communicate my perception of what was happening, without accusing the other person of wrongdoing.  

In both cases, the other person confirmed what I suspected to be the crux of the problem and we then proceeded to have very productive conversations about how to mutually solve the problem and next steps.

Removing my emotional response to the problem did require a lot of lot of work ahead of time: I had to chose my words very carefully. However both situations were a revelation and encouraged me to continue this approach.  Addressing ‘the elephant in the room’ allowed for both parties to begin resolving the problem from a more truthful place.

Is there a situation with someone in your life where speaking about it without an emotional response could result in a better outcome?

[originally published November 2019]

Holiday Survival Guide

November and December are generally challenging months for me: the diminishing sunlight and pre-holiday events can easily drain my energy.  I also notice increasing stress and anxiety mounting in my patients at the clinic which can transfer onto me if I’m not careful.  

Here are my top pre-holiday life hacking tips:

  1. I often find my energy at its lowest the middle of December so I try to keep the middle weekend free of plans. It does require me to decline a holiday party invitation or two but it’s better for my mental health in the long run.
  2. If I have said “no” to an event and I do really want to spend time with that person, I will follow-up with a suggestion for future date when I have more energy.
  3. I will try to avoid daily consumption of sugar and alcohol in November and December, saving those treats for special occasions.
  4. I have found doing a jigsaw puzzle at home, with great music in the background, is a calming and mindful activity. 
  5. If possible, taking a day by day approach to committing to events and gatherings. This can be challenging for events planned far in advance but making game time decisions on whether to say yes/no forces me to check in with how my mind + body are feeling that day.
  6. If an event requires more energy than I am capable of expending, I am diligent about only committing to what I can handle.  For example, every Christmas my husband and son travel for an extended break to Ottawa.  I usually take the train for a 2-3 night visit which allows me to time to celebrate with my extended family but also allows for some quiet solo time the week after.
  7. Sleep, sleep and more sleep – I cannot sleep enough in November + December!

[originally published December 2019]

Year in Review

Happy new year everyone!

It’s a great time of year to reflect on past experiences and work on actionable future goals.  Here is my 2019 in review:

1. Continuing to work with coaching clients on a one-on-one basis.

I especially appreciate being able to hone my ability to listen and to ask open-ended questions which not only helps facilitate a good coaching experience for the client, it also helps me immensely in other aspects of my personal and professional life.

2. Going on a 10 day trip to Turkey in May. I fell in love with mystical Istanbul and had wonderful adventures throughout the country with my G Adventures group and good friend Christine. 

I am ever so grateful to my husband and son for supporting my independent travel and for my clinic partner Kristine for holding down the clinic fort so that I can enjoy this passion without worrying about my work responsibilities. 

3. Hosting my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party at my cottage in early December.  There were 25 people spread over cottages (mine and two other rented ones on the same property) for the 3 day celebration.

I learned that I am less likely to get overwhelmed by large social gatherings if I feel comfortable in my environment and can plan out the itinerary so that it’s in alignment with my energetic needs.  I also learned that I can cook eggs and bacon for 25 people pretty easily! 

4. Seeing the growth of our acting school (of which I am the Administrative Director).  My husband and I added a new teacher in March. Shaun started observing classes in January, which was a great way to introduce him to current students and to get his name out there.  Shaun continued to participate in John’s classes even when he started teaching his own classes in March and in September we created a class where John + Shaun both co-taught.  This allowed for students to get the opportunity to be taught by two teachers, which is a unique experience not usually found in professional acting schools. 

It reinforced the importance of being patient with on-boarding a new team member as well as the importance of team work and collaboration in our business.

5. Learning to accept all the physical changes which come with being a 46 year old woman (soon to be turning 47 next week!).  

I was happy with my ability to carry a 35 lb backpack + physical stamina for a strenuous 3 day hike near Jasper, Alberta this summer. I was less enamoured to discover increased soreness in my feet post-hike compared to previous years.  In December I sprained my back working out with weights and the healing time was more than double the usual (close to 4 weeks). These physical ailments forced me to confront age-related changes to healing  and have made me more empathetic to my patients’ frustrations with pain. I need to remember that the other side of the aging coin is all the amazing wisdom gained through experience and to try to be more compassionate with myself in 2020.

[originally published January 2020]

Bonsai Tree Theory

Lana Lontos and I just finished teaching a 3 week Coaching + Mindfulness workshop – during the 2nd week I introduced a concept which I called my Bonsai Theory of Essential Needs

What if you treated taking care of yourself and all your essential needs (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, financial etc) with the same care and precision that a bonsai tree requires to thrive?  

Applying the same exacting approach to what you need to be happy and healthy is a powerful way to understand how you interact with the world and what support you need to be your best self.

Coaching Exercise: 

Draw a large circle or plant/tree in the middle of a blank piece of paper or on a Bristol board. Write all your essential needs (i.e. cannot commute more than 2 hours per day, needs to live near a body of water, needs 8 hours of sleep etc) in the middle of the circle/plant/tree and see if any words come up in a repeated way. When I did this exercise during the workshop, the word FLOW popped up repeatedly. You can refer to your specific Bonsai Tree needs when making a decision about work or community or relationships.

[originally published February 2020]