What Are Your Essential Needs?

Since we’ve started sheltering in place I’ve been going on an early morning walk almost daily. Two to four miles, rain or shine. No music, no podcasts. Just me, the rising sun, the waking birds, and a few neighbors from afar.

The solitude and peace have been quite glorious, honestly.

Then, a couple of days ago, I slept in later than usual. When I woke up I just wanted to get the day started. I missed my walk and jumped right into “homeschooling” and housekeeping and work-from-homing.

It wasn’t pretty.

I was grumpy. A little mean even.

My attitude and energy affected my kids and they were whiny and resistant and clingy.

There were tears (from all of us). We were all off.

That’s when I realized, these morning walks are one of my essentials. A non-negotiable. Mommy’s self-care.

They don’t make everything perfect but they certainly help get my attitude and energy in a better place so I’m equipped to handle the hard stuff.

As we face the many levels of uncertainty and fear of the coronavirus pandemic, we all have different experiences and needs.

One thing is highly likely. Our needs are becoming more basic. More essential.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which says we first need to have our basic physiological needs met — food, shelter, rest, movement. Then there is the need for safety and security. When those needs are met, then we can more easily move up to the needs of belonging, relationships, and love. After that, self-esteem and accomplishment. Self-actualization is the icing on the needs cake.

So is it any wonder that if you’re not sleeping well you feel more anxious and just about everything feels off. If you’re feeling scared and stressed then your relationships are probably more strained. Or, if you’re feeling disconnected and lonely, it’s tough to feel motivated or creative.

All of that is totally normal at a time that’s anything but normal.

The question becomes, what is essential to my well being, right now?

The answer likely looks totally different than two months ago, so I invite you to let go of self-judgment or comparison and be a curious explorer instead.

Here are some questions to think about and journal on to help you uncover your essentials. Many of these prompts from my dear mentor conscious-parenthood expert, Carrie Contey

What energizes me? What fills my cup? What brings me a sense of well-being?Think about the different realms of well-being, physical, emotional, spiritual and relational.<

Think about a recent time (or start noticing) when things were flowing well. What were the elements of that experience? What made it feel good? What led up to that? What needs were being met?

Conversely, when things felt stressed and difficult, what were the elements of that experience? What was happening around you? What were the ingredients that made it challenging? What needs were not being met?

As you look over your answers, what stands out to you?

List three to five of your most essential needs.

Now that you have an awareness of your needs, think about how you can make sure those needs get met. How can you make them non-negotiable and help your people support you?

How can you meet those needs on a regular basis? What are the different things you can do in small moments, daily and weekly to meet your needs?

What might get in the way of doing those things? How can you plan for that?

What does support look like?

Why is this important to you?

In the spirit of sharing and connection, here are four of my essentials at the moment:

  1. Sleep
  2. Movement in nature
  3. Connection to my family through play and fun
  4. Being fully present in an activity

What’s surprising to me is that besides sleep, these would probably look pretty different if we were not sheltering in place. As I’m now aware of these new essentials I can make choices about how I want to spend my time and what’s nourishing to me and my family. I can see continuing to cultivate these experiences even after quarantine.

At the best of times, when our cups are full and our own needs are met we feel more satisfied and able to give energy and support to those around us.

Now with our normal life turned topsy-turvy, it’s so easy to skip over our own self-care but now is when we need it the most.

I’ve been clinging to my essential self-care like a lifeline.

I encourage you to start being curious and noticing what feels good then get intentional with how you care for yourself. Go back to the basics and know that by meeting your most essential needs you will be able to show up for your people and to this challenging time.

And just think, you will have those essential elements in place in your life as we move forward.

What is feeling essential to you right now? How has that changed (or not) since the pandemic? What will you keep as we move forward? Share in the comments below.

If you want support figuring out your essential needs and how to meet them, schedule a coaching discovery session and we’ll talk.

It is possible to meet this challenging time feeling a bit more aligned, a bit more resourced, and that helps everybody.

A Simple Way to Make a Big Impact on Your Relationships

 

I want to share two very powerful communication skills with you.

They go hand in hand and using them together will deepen and strengthen your relationships. They’ll help your people feel accepted and understood. They can support someone in sadness and lift them in their joy.

These skills are acknowledging and validating.

Big words for concepts that are actually really simple. No fancy degree required.

But putting them into practice is not always easy. They’re skills not many of us have been taught or have even experienced much in our lives.

In fact, when you first start doing this it can feel a little awkward, but trust me, it’s so worth it

When you can acknowledge and validate the people in your lives, especially our partners and children, and even ourselves, it is magical in transforming our relationships.

Acknowledging: We All Want to Feel Heard

When we acknowledge what someone says it shows them that we are deeply listening, and that we care. We are paying attention. And to us humans, especially the little ones, attention is love.

It supports that deep, primal longing that we all have to feel heard and witnessed.

Doing this when things are going well can amplify the good feelings. But acknowledging someone in challenging times can be when it’s most powerful.

We all see the world through our own objective realities and when we pause to listen and acknowledge the experience of someone else it helps us to understand where they are coming from.

We don’t have to agree but we are communicating that we understand their point of view and experience.

Here’s how to do it…

As much as possible, release judgments and approach listening from a place of curiosity. Let go of your own agenda and ideas and truly listen. Then mirror back or paraphrase what was said.

Some approaches to acknowledging are:

  • “What you’re saying is…”
  • “What I’m hearing you say is…”
  • “In other words…”
  • “Let me repeat that so I make sure I got it.”

At the end, you can even ask, “Did I get that right?” so they can clarify if needed.

Validating: We All Want to Feel Accepted.

After acknowledging, the next step is to validate the emotion and experience. Validating normalizes emotions.

Often, we have a lot of judgment about emotions, especially difficult emotions like anger or sadness. We can get defensive when others have those feelings around us, we often want to “fix” them and move past them quickly because it makes us uncomfortable. We may even feel guilty for having those feelings ourselves.

The thing is the more we resist emotions the more they persist.

Instead, if we hold space for emotions and validate the truth of them, those emotions can be released and they lose power.

Here’s how to do it…

With sincerity and without judgment of right or wrong, agreeing or disagreeing, you let the other person know you can see things from their perspective and that their feelings are valid.

You can use phrases like…

  • “It is understandable that you feel that way because…”
  • “You have every right to feel [name the emotion] because…”
  • “It’s totally normal (or natural) to feel that way.”
  • “It makes sense that you would feel that way.”

One important piece is to keep “I” out of it. Try not to say, “I know how you feel,” or “I understand” because that shifts the energy from them to us and we really can’t truly know how others are feeling.

Understand to be Understood

Why is any of this important? Because people will not look at things differently unless they first feel heard.

As in the well known Stephen Covey adage, “Seek first to understand before being understood,” If you want others to see your point of view, then you need to be willing to see theirs.

Naming and normalizing emotions help us make sense of them and builds emotional intelligence, in ourselves and in our children. The healthy expression of our emotions has a positive impact on so many areas of our lives.

In the first episode of her new podcast, Understanding Us, Brene Brown and researcher Marc Brackett have a fascinating discussion about the importance of emotional intelligence and giving ourselves and our loved ones, “permission to feel.”

The Concepts in Action

With a Partner

Your Partner: “I feel like I’m losing my mind trying to juggle work with the kids at home bouncing off the walls!”

You: “There’s a lot of pressure on you to get work done and the kids are really distracting and making it difficult. Of course you feel overwhelmed and frustrated. That’s so normal in this situation.”

Acknowledging your partner’s emotion without hearing it as a criticism and getting defensive opens the door to problem-solving rather than blame.

With a Child

Your child is upset that they have to turn off their screens.

You (getting down to child’s eye level): “You love this show and wish you could watch it all night, it’s no wonder you feel mad when it’s time to turn it off.”

Taking a moment to let your child know their feelings are valid and you can hear them without taking them on for yourself and still keeping your boundaries, can ease the resistance around a transition.

With Yourself

You can even give yourself a little love and tenderness by putting a hand on your heart and acknowledging your emotions and experience without judgment or spinning a story.

“I feel really sad right now and that’s okay. It’s perfectly natural to feel this way because I’m worried about my family, my community, and the state of the world.”

Naming and acknowledging your feelings allows them to move through you and release so you can consciously respond, rather than unconsciously holding on to them and reacting.

It’s Your Turn

Acknowledging and validating takes some practice and might even feel a little awkward at first but it has the power to shift conflict to connection, hurt to healing.

It’s are a powerful way to create a culture of love and acceptance in our families and within ourselves. We all need more of that!

What questions do you have about acknowledging and validating? For the next week give it a try with your people and with yourself, and tell me about your experience. What shifted? Share in the comments.

xo, Allison


I’m excited to have this article featured in the Poppy Collective app. Poppy Collective is a digital and in-person, co-working community space for working parents. Learn more, growatpoppy.com.

Are You Ready to Create a Year You Love?

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” – Goethe

Happy New Year!

Here’s a fun little game to play at this time of year.

What’s something wonderful in your life now that a year ago (or longer, you make the rules) was just a dream?

For many of you, that might be that baby you’re snuggling with. For some of my clients, it’s a completed first draft of their long-dreamed-of book.

It could be a big goal you’ve worked hard on and finally achieved. Or maybe it’s something small, but important, that you’ve consistently done with little or no fanfare.

It could even be a way of being that’s different – maybe you’re less quick to criticize or you’re more compassionate to your partner…or yourself.

Now, take a moment to celebrate and appreciate!

Remember, what we appreciate appreciates. When we recognize our accomplishments with pride and gratitude we cultivate more of that good, motivating energy. Yahoo!!!

A couple of biggies that stand out for me were running a 5K without stopping or walking, something at the start of the year I couldn’t even imagine was possible; and getting my professional coaching certification and welcoming new clients, a career dream I’ve had for a while that I finally took action on and accomplished.

Most people use the start of the year as a marker for reflecting and dreaming, and so do I.

For me, it’s not about resolutions, those habits to start or stop, that we often drop after a few weeks and then feel bad about for the rest of the year.

Instead, it’s about setting intentions for how I’d like to show up to my life and what goals I’d like to work toward. What’s important to me? What do I want to make a reality in my life? How will I grow as I open myself up to what’s possible?

I’m not sure this is for you, but if you also like to use the start of the year to get clear on what you’d like to create for yourself please join me for my upcoming Create a Year You Love! Workshop where I’ll share the New Year goal-setting practice I’ve used for the past five years.

Create a Year You Love! Workshop + Coaching
Wednesday, January 15th or Saturday, January 18th
9:30 am – 12:30 pm
Registration and Workshop Details

What’s cool about this process is it goes deeper than just goal setting. In this 3-hour workshop, I’ll guide you through reflecting on lessons of the last year, connecting with what’s important right now and envisioning where you’re headed.

You’ll leave with clarity on what you’d like to do and, maybe even more importantly, who you’d like to be in 2020. When you put those intentions out there (and down on paper) then the magic happens!

In addition to the in-person workshop, your registration includes a private, 60-minute coaching session so you can get personalized support on what most resonated in the workshop.

That may be tapping into what’s most important to you, you’re “why”; or it might be loosening up those limiting beliefs holding you back so they get out of your way; or maybe it’s developing a really clear plan of action to achieve those big goals.

(We’ll schedule the coaching session for at a later date, after the workshop.)

Just imagine how different your year could be if you started it with aligned intentions, clear focus and positive energy.

Join me and Create a Year You Love!

I’m curious, a year from now what wonderful thing will be a reality in your life that is just a dream now? Share with me in the comments.

With Light and Love,

Allison

The One Thing We All Need

“To love someone is to learn the song in their heart and sing it to them when they have forgotten.” — Arne Garborg

A few mornings a week I wake up early, and while the rest of my family is cozy in bed, I join a dear mama friend to run around our neighborhood.

Here’s the thing. I’m not a runner. At least that’s what I’ve told myself for more than twenty years.

Running is hard for me. Really, really hard. And if it wasn’t for my patient, encouraging, take-no-excuses friend waiting for me by her mailbox every morning and running with me, I would still be telling myself the story that I’m not a runner. And my actions (or lack of action) would validate that.

But with her support, I am doing it. Consistently. And now I’m very close to running a 5K without stopping. (No laughing. That has been a big, impossible goal for me.)

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard. Really, really hard. But the story I’m telling myself now is very different.

I am going for it. I can do hard things. I actually kind of like it. I’m running!

Here’s the key: I have support.

I have someone who believes in me, even when I don’t believe in myself. Who encourages me to keep running. Someone who is waiting for me to show up. Someone who reminds me of why I’m doing it.

We All Need Support

Five years ago, at a New Year’s goal-setting workshop, the idea that I needed support smacked me upside the head.

Maybe it’s because I grew up as an only child, but I’ve always thought of myself as independent, able to get things done on my own. I rarely asked for help. I was embarrassed to receive it. I didn’t want to put anyone out.

Yet, as I did the workshop exercise and reflected on my accomplishments over the past year, every one of them happened because I had the support of someone else – my husband, my Crossfit coach, my mom, my coworkers, on and on.

It was with this realization still reverberating, that I met my soon-to-be life coach in the lunch line at the workshop and decided I wanted her support as I navigated some big, scary decisions about my career.

I didn’t have to do it alone.

We Aren’t Made to Do Life Alone

Your beautiful dream needs someone believing in you.

That big, scary decision needs someone who says, “you got this.”

Every mile or rep or lap needs someone cheering you on.

You need someone to remind you of that song in your heart when you forget it.

So I ask you. Do you have the support you need? Who is on your team? Are you asking for help? And are you open to receiving it?

Saying you need support is not a weakness. In fact, it’s one of the bravest (and smartest!) things you can do.

But here’s an even bigger question.

Who Are You Supporting?

What are you doing to support the dreams of the people most important to you? Do you even know what they are?

Are you able to put aside your own fears, your own agenda and deeply listen to what they need? And then give it to them?

When we help people see themselves and what they are capable of in a new way, we help them shift their perspective and create new beliefs about themselves.

Dr. John Gottman says honoring your partner’s dreams is one thing you can start doing right now to improve your relationship. He shares this funny story of a man who heard this advice for the first time.

 

How Can I Support You?

Now here I am, a life and relationship success coach, because people believed in me and supported me.

I went from feeling stuck, burnt out and overwhelmed, to doing the most fulfilling work I can imagine. All because five years ago I got brave and asked for help.

Now I get to be that support for others.

I help people who are ready to step out of their fear and their negative stories about what is possible and go after what they truly want out of life. I get to coach women and men who want to show up as their best selves so they can, in turn, support their partners and their families.

Inspired by the Arne Garborg quote at the top of the page and based on my personal experience I’ve developed my coaching philosophy…

I help you see what’s possible for yourself and remind you of it when you forget.

I believe in you. I whole-heartedly, unconditionally believe in you.

If you are open and ready for that kind of support so you can make your big goals real (even if it’s just to start getting clear on what those goals are!) schedule a complimentary discovery call and we can explore the possibilities.

Hey, if I can become a runner anything is possible!

TAKE ACTION

Ask someone you love about their big dream. Then think about what you can begin doing now to show your support.

What’s an impossible dream you’re working on? How will you get the support you need to make it happen?

Share with us in the comments.

xo, Allison

Be In Awe Of Yourself

“In your light I learn how to love.” — Rumi

My baby turns 9 years old today.

When he stands next to me and holds my hand (he still does that!) his head comes up to my shoulder. His gangly legs never stop moving and he usually sports a huge smile, unselfconsciously showing off that awkward mixture of big, baby and missing teeth.

He’s an exuberant soul who makes friends wherever he goes, is brave in unfamiliar situations and doesn’t sweat the small stuff. All things his mama here still has to work on and so admires in him.

I’m just in awe of how my sweet, pudgy baby has grown into a full-on boy and I look forward to seeing who he becomes!

But he isn’t the only one who has grown over these nine years. I’ve been doing my fair share as well.

I like to say that becoming a parent cracks you wide open. I’m not even exactly sure what I mean by that, but that’s how it feels to me.

I guess it’s losing the facade of having it all together, of being in control.

It’s the paradox of feeling heart-exploding love and overwhelming frustration, sometimes at the same time.

It’s going deep to notice the wounds you’ve been hiding and then doing the work to heal them — or at least trying to — so that you can show up for your family.

It’s finding the compassion for your little one, for your partner and most importantly for yourself. And doing it again and again and again.

My little teacher turns nine on Friday and he continues to hold my hand and guide me through the beautiful messiness of motherhood. I look forward to seeing who I become!

I encourage you to marvel at your growth, just as often as you gaze in awe and love at your child. How is parenthood shaping you? What lessons are you (still) learning? What is easy now that once seemed impossible? Who are you becoming?

Take a moment and write your answers down, it’s powerful to see this on paper. Share them in the comments if you would like.

Now pat yourself on the back or give yourself a squeeze. You’re doing great. Keep on shining your light!

10 Ways Busy Parents Can Reconnect, Right Now

“Many people think the secret to reconnecting with their partner is a candlelit dinner or a by-the-sea vacation. The real secret is to turn toward each other in little ways every day.” — Dr. John Gottman

I once heard a marriage counselor being interviewed and he talked about walking in the door after work, seeing his family and thinking, “You’re the reason I come home.”

I LOVE that perspective and totally admit it’s a bit idealized.

I mean, c’mon — in the midst of the most difficult days of having a newborn (and sometimes beyond that!) home can be the last place that feels welcoming.

Melting-down baby.
So-over-it mom.
Why-is-everyone-yelling-at-me-I-just-got-home? partner.

On a particularly hairy evening during my first maternity leave, my husband actually told me sometimes he wished he could just stay at work. Ouch! That did not go over well.

After I was over being angry, I saw his point of view. Where was the connection? Where was the joy?

A sweet lingering kiss.
A long hug.
An uninterrupted conversation. Heck, a “hello, glad you’re home” would do.

It’s these small things that you do on the regular that bring you back to each other. That reminds you why you like each other. That says to your partner “you matter to me.” That you take for granted before kids.

For new parents, even the simplest moments of reconnection can seem daunting.

Which is why I’ve pulled together some of my favorite ways to connect that don’t take a ton of effort but make you look forward to coming home.

1. Prepare them

A check-in text helps your partner know what they are coming home to — good or bad — so they can prepare themselves instead of feeling blindsided. They may even get a moment of self-care in during their commute — deep breathing, good music, small snack — to help them shift from work mode to family time.

Emojis or gifs are a great way to do this, they get the point across with a touch of humor and lightness.

2. Hug it out

Get eye to eye, heart to heart, belly to belly and hug long enough for your breathing to sync up and for you to melt into each other. Feel the tension release from your body as you lean into your partner.

While hugging, you’re actually reducing your stress hormones (cortisol) and increasing your love hormone (oxytocin).

What about the baby? Put him in a safe place, a mat on the floor, a bouncy chair, the crib. Give that good hug and tune out the world for a moment. You’re coming back to your team, to your special someone.

After your deep hug, you can always do a big group hug with the family!

3. Walk and talk

Put baby in a stroller and go for an evening walk after dinner. It’s a new parent date night! And the perfect time for a daily stress-reducing conversation or you could hold hands and just enjoy the quiet together.

4. Set boundaries and expectations

My husband usually comes home around 6 and that’s right at the peak point in dinner prep when all the pots are boiling and everyone’s hangry. It was right at that moment that he’d come in for a hug. I’d try to avoid it by ignoring him or mean mommy would flare up. Either way, I’d feel so guilty.

When I realized the dynamic that was going on, I changed it by being clear: that moment is not a good time to connect with me. I’m too frazzled.

He got it. So now when he comes home he doesn’t take it personally that I’m busy and instead plays with the kids or starts setting the table. When things are settled in the kitchen, I can be the one to turn to him and say, “I’m ready for my hug now.” (See tip #2.) That way we both get what we need.

5. Start a conversation

Get the free Gottman Card Decks app and give the Love Maps or Open-Ended Questions a try when you’re having dinner and your sleep-deprived brain can’t think of anything to talk about or when you’re on a date and want to talk about something other than baby.

6. Kiss like you mean it

Six seconds, twice a day, is all it takes! Do it in the morning when you say your good-byes and in the evening when you return to each other.

Dr. Gottman calls a six-second kiss “a kiss with promise.” It’s long enough to feel romantic but not too long to make the kids late for soccer practice.

7. Put on some mood music

Play your favorite feel-good music and dance around the house while you go about your evening. A little shimmy with your sweetie makes loading the dishwasher go a lot faster.

If you need to tone it down for baby’s bedtime routine, some slow jams can help quiet things down and maybe set the mood for later. *wink wink*

8. Unplug together

Feeling disconnected? Reach for your husband or wife instead of reaching for your phone. If you have a difficult time unplugging, agree to phone-free times or spaces, like certain evenings or not during dinner or not in bed.

9. Try a virtual connection

Let your partner know you’re thinking of them with a text. If you’re at home with the baby and they’re at work, send a video or picture of a new or funny or everyday thing baby is doing to help them feel part of the action.

10. Play together

Spend some time (it doesn’t have to be long) playing with baby together. On busy weeknights, you can make it part of the evening routine — play during bath time, sit together with baby and read a bedtime book, or sing lullabies together. It can be really special to share that time with your partner and the kids LOVE having both of you there!

Gottman’s research has shown that happy couples play cooperatively with baby instead of competing for baby’s attention. Here’s a video of actual research footage from the Gottman Institute.

The ways you connect with each other may look a little different after having a baby. But these small gestures and meaningful moments can make a big difference to your relationship and how you feel about each other.

Even in the messiness of day-to-day life as new parents, your partner and your family will be the reason you are happy to be home.

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear ways you’ve figured out to regularly connect with your partner as busy parents. Please share them in the comments. We all could use a little inspiration in this area!


Want to amp up your connection even more? Sign up for a Bringing Baby Home workshop. This weekend workshop is like a mini-retreat where you will explore ways to create a relationship and family life you love. Join me!