No tricks here, only treats.
Building from World Mental Health Day, we’ve spent this month focused on mental health and wellness, particularly for new parents who are wrestling with the demands from the many roles we play in our lives. To close-out October, I’ve partnered with Josie Mental Health Coach Celina Ticoll-Ramirez to describe a framework that ties a lot of themes together – and is foundational to our work here at Josie.
To start – nice things tend to come in 3’s. Whether it’s the Sanderson sisters, number of feet in a yard, or making up a story to tell your kid (beginning, middle, end), a trifecta seems to give things the right foundation on which to stand. So naturally, our preferred framework for holistically building mental readiness for big life transitions comes in 3 parts:
- Emotional and Mental Management
- Developing skills to manage thoughts, feelings, and emotions during the transition phase (e.g., dealing with sleep deprivation)
- Expectation Level-Setting
- Examining and setting realistic expectations of both self and others in the new context of being a working parent (e.g., setting boundaries, shifting priorities)
- Proactive Planning
- Getting out ahead of anticipated challenges and stressors during the return-to-work phase (e.g., finding back-up childcare, meal planning)
Together, addressing these 3 components help to make any transition easier. Let’s play this out in the context of a parent who is preparing to return to work from parental leave:
Thought: “I am sad to be leaving my baby with the day care and worried about how I will feel that first week back to work. Will my baby be okay? Will I be okay?”
Application of framework:
- Emotional and mental management
- Develop an easy-to-remember toolkit for those moments when thoughts creep in – we at Josie like “If / then” statements, e.g., “If I have this thought, then I will practice boxed breathing,” or, “If I have this thought, then I will remind myself that these thoughts are completely normal or valid.” Having a few go-to practices will help to prevent your mind from spiraling into unhelpful territory.
- Expectation level-setting
- This one is key! Oftentimes, especially for new parents, we hold ourselves (and others) to unrealistic standards and goals that are anchored in our pre-baby lives. It’s not that your expectations should be lowered – just different. For example, when you return-to-work, your expectation of yourself may be that you can work the same hours and times of day as you did pre-baby. After all, this is what you’re used to, your team is used to, and it worked. It’s hard to challenge conventional wisdom as to what work is “supposed” to look like. But the reality is, there will be days when a sick child needs to be picked up from day care or when the sleep deprivation hits you a little harder. For these moments, level-set your expectations to be more realistic, and challenge yourself to question how much of an impact it will really have on your desired outcomes. As hard as it can be, practice giving yourself grace! When in doubt, ask yourself: am I doing the best I can?
- Proactive planning
- Finally, a little proactive planning can go a long way. For this scenario, perhaps doing a trial-run with the day care a week prior to returning to work may give you more peace of mind. It will give you a chance to get to know the caregivers, think through how you want to communicate with them, and even prepare for how drop off and pick up will look and feel like. This allows you to be more present – both at home and at work – once the transition happens.
While the scenario above is specific to the transition back from parental leave, this framework can be applied to a host of scenarios – big moves, kid milestones, relationship changes, the list goes on. Recently, one of our team members applied this framework while coping with next steps for their aging parents, whose current living situation is no longer feasible.
We hope this framework is a helpful one, and would love your thoughts! As always, reply to this email or message [email protected] with questions or to learn more.
Wishing you all a very Happy Halloween filled with lots of treats!