Keeping Your (Mama)-Cool in the Summer Heat, and All Year Long...

Well, mamas, summer is most certainly upon us. Regular readers of Mother Matters may know that the monthly blog often takes its inspiration from the time of year (though the research-based tips offered are applicable all year round.) The July issue is no exception. Since many of you may be encountering the heat, either where you live or where you are vacationing, this month’s post is all about how to keep your cool—physically, emotionally and spiritually. If you ever find yourself getting hot under the collar, literally or figuratively, (and we all do,) read-on Mamas!
 
Cooling Off: Keeping Your Mama-Body Moving & Hydrated
Just because the thermometor (sorry, I couldn’t resist) is rising outside, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice an outdoor workout. What it does mean, is that you need to be more thoughtful and purposeful in your exercise plan. Here are 3 tips to make sure you keep cool (enough) while you’re sweatin’ it.
•Nursing?! Super-size your drink: Noted pediatrician William Sears MD, recommends that nursing mothers should aim to drink 8 ounces of water with each feeding, usually 8-10 times daily.[i] If you exercising, you’ll want to be sure you have a tall glass of water shortly before beginning your workout, and then another glass to sip slowly and often throughout the duration.
•Get More Bang From Your Water-Bottle: As your baby grows, you may find your muscles need to grow as well, in order to continue lifting up him or her into toddlerhood. Here’s where your water bottles can do double duty. Grab a couple of 500ml to 1l plastic bottles and fill them up before heading out for a walk. Place baby in the carrier so that you have arms free to hold a bottle in each hand. (Or, if you’re stroller-stuck, simply alternate holding one bottle in each hand.) Pump up your upper body by doing a bicep curl, alternating either side. Aim for 10-12 reps on each side, 2-3 sets total. As you drink, obviously, the weight of the bottles will become lighter, which means you have a bonus option to repeat another set of curls on your way back home! Stuck inside but still want to work-out your upper body? Try this upper body press that you can do with (or without) your little one!  
•Get Moving in the Morning (Or Evening): Every mama knows her time is seldom her own. If you have any flexibility in terms of when to exercise, opt for the early morning or after sundown during the summer months. Cooler temperatures will make for a more pleasant workout and a reduced risk of dehydration, not to mention a decrease in potentially harmful sun (over)exposure. Mamas for whom exercise also offers an emotional lift may be interested in this added benefit of a sunrise or sunset stroll (scroll down to the 4th paragraph.)  
 
Cooling Your Jets: Keeping Calm in the Midst of Conflict.  You’ve slept a total of 5 hours in the last two nights, your babysitter canceled, and the air conditioner just made a sound that suggests it's coming to the end of its lifespan. Tonight is the night you and your partner are going to discuss whether the time has come to stop co-sleeping. You’re for it. (S)he’s against. This is not going to be pretty. Before you march into battle, prepared to pulverize your co-parent, consider this: What if you entered into the discussion with a willingness to be proven wrong. Yep. That’s right. What if, instead of committing to making your case come hell or high water, you instead choose to listen wholly to your partner’s point of view, with the idea that perhaps it has some merit? And imagine if he or she enters into the discussion with an agreement to do the same? How might it change the entire tenor of the conversation, if instead of fighting to prove your point, you each focus on listening to the other’s? This is not a new idea. In fact, it’s steeped in over 2000 years of Western philosophy. The concept, a willingness to be proven wrong, was embraced by Plato and his teacher Socrates[ii], and served as a guiding principle in how these iconic masters of wisdom conversed with others and each other.
How might the work of co-parenting be made more manageable if, when conflicts arise, we approach them in this way? In fact, how might this strategy inform the way we move through the office, the school, the supermarket?! Next time you are headed for conflict, try it out for yourself. Invite your partner to do the same. You just may find that doing so keeps the room temperature a whole lot more comfortable.  
 
Cool Head, Cool Heart: Keeping Spiritually Cool: Motherhood is nothing if not humbling. Just when we think we’ve got a handle on how to manage any given challenge, a cosmic shift occurs that throws a wrench into that best laid plan. And that’s often when we reach a boiling point. Moments like these are when a mindfulness technique can be especially useful. Taking a pause to burn off some steam can help keep us from doing or saying something we will likely regret later. Regular readers know that mindfulness comes up often in the Blog, because it works. A growing body of research[iii] highlights the positive health benefits of mindfulness in mothering. So what is “mindfulness” exactly? Broadly defined, mindfulness is the practice of placing focus and awareness on the present moment. While not a religious practice, the ideas are steeped in traditional Buddhist meditation practices that date back more than 2000 years.  There are innumerable ways to begin incorporating mindfulness into your daily mothering. One of the simplest is to begin to observe your anger, and specifically where you experience it in the body.[iv] Does your jaw clench up? Does your breathing become fast and shallow? Do your shoulders rise up to your ears? Next time you feel like you’re going to “lose it,” see if you can catch yourself and shift your focus to your body. Rather than saying or doing something regretful, act to let go of the physical tension. Unclench your jaw, take a deep breath, relax your shoulders. This accomplishes two things; 1.) It gives you the gift of time—a moment to reflect before acting from a place of rage and 2.) It helps your body downshift from “stress” mode to a calmer stance, and the physiological change may in turn help you feel more in control—“cooler” and more collected.

About Dayna:
 
Dayna is a leading authority on the subject of women transitioning to motherhood and serves as Director of the Anna Keefe Women's Center at the Training Institute for Mental Health in Manhattan.  She is a licensed social worker and NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) Certified Personal Trainer with an additional certification in training the pre and postnatal client.  Dayna is the author of the upcoming "Mother Matters: A Practical Guide to Raising a Happy, Healthy Mom" (Familius Press, Spring 2018) and is a contributor to the Doctor's Book of Natural Remedies (Rodale, 2017).  Dayna also serves as a "Real Answers" expert on TheBump.com.  She has written or been consulted on articles for the websites of PopSugar, The Today Show, Pregnancy & Newborn, Big City Moms, Pregnancy Corner, WAGmagazine among others, and writes the "Mother Matters" blog on the Huffington Post.  A sought-after speaker, Dayna regularly presents on the subject of mother-care.
 
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[1] See the Ask Dr. Sears website, “Hydration While Breastfeeding” at http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/breastfeeding/hydration-while-breastfeeding
 
[2] David Kolb, Postmodern Sophistications: Philosophy, Architecture, and Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, November 15, 1992.), 30
 
[3] S. Warriner, M. Dymond, & M. Williams, “Mindfulness in maternity” 21(7), 2013. British Journal of Midwifery, 520-522.
 
[4] David Gelles, “How to Be Mindful When You Are Angry,” The New York Times, April 5th 2017, accessed July 6, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/05/well/mind/how-to-be-mindful-when-you-are-angry.html?mcubz=2&_r=0