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  • Apr 30 2014

    Why Being Flexible in Mind and Body can save you as a New Parent

    What comes to mind when you think of the word flexible?  Probably either a stretchy body…or of staying open-minded and available to every possibility.  It turns out both are key to during your life as a parent, keeping you steady and strong both in spirit and body.

    As a fresh-faced parent you are probably trying to find creative ways to combine your old life with your new one.  This task can prove quite difficult at times, especially for moms and dads who are unwilling to change the way they do things.  Remaining steadfast about certain morals and concepts is expected; but holding on to things for no good reason can be detrimental to the well-being and progress of your family.  That is why being flexible in mind and body can save you as a new parent.

    The Joys of New Parenthood

    Modern parents have requirements that the previous generation simply cannot understand.  On the same token, parenting problems are pretty universal in that most moms and dads deal with common issues worldwide.  The joys of new parenthood are the ups and downs you will face as you try to form a family from the flames of a romance.  Indeed this means that you will have to maintain some sane level of flexibility when it comes to how you think, act, and feel about certain things.

    Physically Flexibility and Family

    Even if you’ve always been fit and active, pregnancy definitely changed the game. And while pregnancy brings greater physical flexibility, this can sometimes work against you, making you vulnerable to injuries if you stretch too much or in unfamiliar ways. Now that the baby’s here, it’s time to get back into a flex-and-stretch routine – and you’ll feel great because of it.

    And you’ll need your flexibility now more than ever! Lifting up your baby, picking toys up off the floor, and reaching high up to keep delicate or dangerous items out of harm’s way are all going to be a big part of your life now.

    Perhaps you haven’t focused on your range of motion before — we take our bodies for granted, pre-baby. But flexibility is one of the first things to go as we get older. Building up flexibility can reduce your chances of being injured when lifting things and even during a workout or when playing sports (or with baby in the playground)!

    Most likely you are somewhat of a superhero in the eyes of your little one.  You can reach those hidden places in the house, you can heal wounds with magic medicines doled out from forbidden cabinets, you are a master at hide-and-seek, and you can fix just about anything.  None of this would be true, however, if you were not physically able to bend, stretch, crouch, and play.  Stretching actually plays a huge role in your child’s quality of life: if your range of motion is limited, so is your ability to move about with baby/toddler/child.

    Making stretches a part of your workout

    Look for a variety of stretching exercises – not always sitting in one position, but using dynamic stretches that give you a complete range of motion.  Focus on as many muscle groups as you can, starting with easy exercises and working your way up to more of a challenge.

    Do you stretch before or after a workout?  Either is fine, though the best to stretch is after the more cardio-intensive part of your workout, where it can be a relaxing part of your cool-down.

    Do you forget to breathe when you stretch?  Exhaling as the muscle lengthens helps it relax.  In fact, there are lots of ways to combine an after-workout relaxation routine with flexibility exercises… and don’t we all need a little relaxation in our lives?  Bring in elements of yoga, meditation, Pilates, tai chi, or visualization and breathing exercises for a whole-body stretch that leaves you feeling great.

    …but don’t forget your mind!

    Being Mentally and Emotionally Flexible

    While you’re making your body more flexible, building mental flexibility will go a long way in this exciting new world of mommy-hood, where very little goes according to plan.

    The ideal time to start working on this is during pregnancy. As most of us discover, even the birth experience itself can often spin out of control, leading to disappointment and even longer-term depression. Emotional resilience can help us get through painful situations more quickly.

    There is no debate that being a new parent will make you involuntarily re-revaluate what you find to be important in your life.  You will most likely find that having a child makes you feel a sort of love that you have never experienced before.  Be careful that you do not allow this surge of emotion to tempt you into selfish acts such as sheltering your baby or attempting to keep the child young forever.  Being mentally and emotionally flexible about the inevitable changes that come along with raising a growing child will help everyone build a more stable foundation.

    Figuring out Flexible Finances

    Parenthood is fraught with unpredictable messes and unexpected joys; and most of those events are going to cost you money.  Living on a budget is always a wise decision, but relying too heavily on things going on planned can cause you and your family undue stress.  You have to be willing to fight through times of economic strain while keeping your head held high for the sake of your children.  Because of this, it never hurts to start building an emergency fund just in case something serious goes down.  You can even get the kids involved when they get older as a fun, hand-on lesson on fiscal responsibility.

    Finding the Balance

    Understanding that the way you think about something has a direct effect on its ability to mess up your future plans is an essential skill for survival as a new, modern parent.  The world can be a scary place, especially when you are responsible for raising another person.  However, having some flexibility about yourself will ensure that your family remains happy in times of trouble.

    So how can you build this kind of flexibility?

    Mindfulness and resilience

    One way is through mindfulness, a Buddhist practice that’s evolved into the mainstream as its positive effects have become better understood.  Mindfulness can help improve your memory, reduce stress and give you the emotional and intellectual flexibility to switch tasks more easily and “roll with the punches” that life dishes out.

    Meditation is one popular route to mindfulness, but it’s not the only one.  Other disciplines, like tai chi and qigong, can also help you get there.

    How can we learn to bounce back more easily from stressful situations?  One key is self-awareness.  Just like with our physical stretches, we have to know our own limits, but be willing to push a little beyond our comfort zone.

    Feel like you’ll never have time to build your flexibility both physically and mentally?  Don’t worry:  a great way to build emotional resilience and flexibility is by working out physically.

    “Engaging our physical strength can allow us to feel stronger emotionally,” says psychologist Karen Horneffer-Ginter.

    Think about a tree in the wind.  If it bends and sways a little with the passing breeze, it’ll stand strong.  But the minute it stops bending, it snaps.  Finding the tools to help yourself bend with the breezes of life will keep your mind and body strong for years to come.

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