PPSM Baby Brain; Emotional Wellness in Pregnancy, Postpartum and Parenting

Jessie Everts PhD LMFT talks about Mindfulness and her Brave New Mom book as a guide to practicing.

June 17, 2022 Season 2 Episode 4
PPSM Baby Brain; Emotional Wellness in Pregnancy, Postpartum and Parenting
Jessie Everts PhD LMFT talks about Mindfulness and her Brave New Mom book as a guide to practicing.
Show Notes Transcript



Jessie Everts, PhD LMFT is a therapist, mom, yoga/mindfulness teacher, author, and mental health consultant. She is the author of two books, Brave New Mom: A survival guide for mindfully navigating postpartum motherhood and Connecting with Loneliness: A Guided Journal. She uses mindfulness practices along with cognitive and acceptance therapies to work with women and LGBTQ+ individuals who might be struggling with anxiety, parenting, perinatal mental health, work-life balance, trauma, and life transitions. She is passionate about bringing mental health knowledge and skills to people outside of the therapy office, and helping moms feel great about the amazing hard work they do.

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Speaker 1:

Welcome listeners to baby brain PSMs podcast. I'm Samantha, Huga your host. And with me today is Jessie Everetts. She is a PhD L M F clinical therapist and author of the brave new mom. Welcome Jesse.

Speaker 2:

Hi, thanks for having me.

Speaker 1:

Would you share with us a little bit about your connection to PSM and PSI?

Speaker 2:

I am a therapist and I work primarily with the perinatal mental health population. And I have for a few years now been trained with PSI and a member of P PSM, the local chapter. I've also done lots of tabling for P P SM and some trainings. I really love in my, in my therapy work. I do a clinical group for new moms focusing on mindfulness, and I really love working with that population. My children are a little bit older, they're six and nine now, but I wish that postpartum perinatal mood disorders were talked about more at the time that I had my children. And I just feel like it could have been so useful and helpful, feel passionate about letting new moms know new moms and new parents know how, how well they're they're doing and that they, that they can feel better about how they're doing.

Speaker 1:

What's your connection to perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

Speaker 2:

When I had my children, I wasn't working in the perinatal field. I was working in a substance use treatment center, uh, with moms, with their children in, in recovery. So I was seeing a lot of moms struggling with mood disorders, as well as substance use disorders had no idea how affected I would be after having my children. I, I just felt like this very competent person in so many areas of my life and felt very incompetent in the area of motherhood and parenting just felt underwater for a really long time. And so at that time, after I had my second child, I found mindfulness as a practice and felt that it was so helpful for my own mental health and wished that I had found it a little bit sooner, or maybe after my first child that I, I really think that it can be so helpful for what, what we call the kind of survival mode that we go through after having a baby, no matter how kind of prepared or competent you might feel. It's, it's a hard time.

Speaker 1:

Can you say more about the desire or purpose in writing your

Speaker 2:

Book? As I had, was exploring mindfulness and thinking about how it applies to new parents, especially, I really think I felt like I wanted a guide that was a little bit different from the kind of what to expect when you're expecting the sort of the stages of pregnancy and, and the medical kind of information and more about the emotional transition to parenthood that I think is hard to prepare for, um, and hard to be kind of mindful and compassionate toward yourself through. So I had the idea to write sort of a, an emotional or, um, mindfulness guide to a postpartum motherhood. And that's a brave new mom is it's survival guide for mindfully navigating post partum. Motherhood involves a lot of mindfulness practices that you can do while you're reading and some journaling exercises and reflection pieces. And also just some information about kind of the emotional transition that you might go through, whatever your experience is and whether it's your first baby or fourth or fifth baby. Um, some of the practices that can be helpful.

Speaker 1:

Can you give us some thoughts on why mindfulness is so important with new parents?

Speaker 2:

My experience was, I felt very much overwhelmed by all the, all the details of taking care of a new baby, kind of the feeding schedule, and just trying to get some sleep and trying to figure out what I should be doing with my baby and when, and all of the milestones that were kind of, you know, expected. And when, so I, I felt like a lot of that struggle in the early days of having a baby is pulling you out of mindfulness is pulling you out of the present moment and taking care of, and tuning into yourself. And what's going on with you, including your thoughts, feelings, and sensations as a parent. And I think that that's really helpful and important as well as a practice of kind of self-compassion self care and looking for support. And those are the three kind of, kind of pillars of a brave new mom are how to mindfully, um, take care of yourself, give yourself compassion, and also get the support that you need. So, yeah, I think that the, the, the period of caregiving, whether that's new to somebody or not, when they have a baby, is it it's difficult to remain mindful unless you're really practicing and, and have some guidance in that.

Speaker 1:

Could you maybe also help our listeners understanding not only the comments about mindfulness and what it is so far, but what mindfulness is not, because I often hear that term misused. And, um, just wondering if you wanna shed some light on that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I do. I also do. I think that, like I said, mindfulness is kind of a buzzword right now, and it's been sort of, you know, sort of stated as a cure all for, for all of the stress and, and, um, mental health concerns that we might have. And I, and I do think it's helpful for a lot of things and it's, it's different from meditation. I think it's, it's different from, um, a meditation practice where you're sitting quietly with your thoughts and feelings for long periods of time. I think that that can be a really overwhelming thing to think about for a lot of people. Mindfulness is about touching into the present moment whatever's going on, and even for an instant, or even for a moment to sort of tune in to, and be present with whatever's happening. And so that can be an external practice of when you're with your child. And maybe you're thinking about many, many different things, your work tasks and your, you know, all the, the errands that you need to do are running through your mind. And you decide to set that aside and say, I'm gonna be present and just focus on what's going on with right now, with my child and how I'm feeling about it. That's a mindfulness practice right there. Right? And so I think that it's also sort of clearing up kind of what are the preconceptions that we have about mindfulness and, and people think that it's something that you're either good or bad at. I hear that a lot and not good at mindfulness. Well, it's a practice. That's why we call it mindfulness practice is that it, it's something that takes time and, and effort and, and gets easier the more time you put into it. And that it's not somebody can't do. If they have a very busy mind, we all, we all have busy minds, but it's sort of about training your attention and putting your attention purposefully on something that's happening in the present moment, which is something that everybody can do with a little bit of practice and effort. So, and what I think is so helpful about it is that very often, if we're not being mindful, we're, we're consumed by all of those racing thoughts and all of those competing kind of tasks and things that are running through our mind. And we might not be in the present moment, often leaves us feeling unsatisfied or unable to kind of be grounded or know what's important to us because we're, we're sort of living in the everywhere, but right now, and right in the present moment,

Speaker 1:

Sounds like it could be useful for people across the lifespan.

Speaker 2:

Yes, I know. I, yes, I hope so because I plan to practice it throughout the lifespan too.

Speaker 1:

You're running a group. Tell me, or tell us what some of the common themes and struggles you hear with new parents.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yes. The group I run is a mindfulness for, for postpartum, um, group. So people coming into that group are in the postpartum phase, whether that's, you know, brand new baby or second or third baby and up to a year or two after having a baby. And I think the things that are most commonly talked about in that group, one are comparison is one of the struggles that I hear so many new parents talk about is kind of thinking somebody else is doing it better, or seeing examples of someone who seems like they've really got it together, or have a, have a good experience and are, are doing better than we are in some way. And I think social media has certainly played into this idea of, you know, seeing pictures of someone else's family and someone else's parenting that that seems to make you feel like you don't have it, don't have it together. Aren't doing very well. Um, so a lot of new parents, I think, are relying on social media for support and needing that kind of support, but also taking in this idea that everybody else has got is doing it better and has got it together. So I think that, that something that we talk a lot about and practicing mindfulness is sort of the, the recognition that comparison isn't realistic, isn't helpful in a lot of ways and often takes away our feeling of, of self-compasion. If we're comparing ourselves to someone else and comparing ourselves to a very carefully curated version of someone else's parenting, maybe an instance in which something was going well, but that's not the whole story. And I think other struggles I hear a lot about that are maybe related to that are guilt. A lot of parents with, with guilt, about how much, or how little time they get to spend with their child, how they have competing priorities like work or other children, or, um, um, things like that. And so I think that we talk a lot about guilt as a, just a feeling to be aware of and to tune into, but that it's a feeling just like anything else, happiness, sadness, um, anger, things like that, that aren't to be avoided or rushed through, but tell you something, give you some information about in, in the case of guilt, I think guilt shows you something that's important to you and rather than taking the message of that guilt wants you to hear, which is you should be able to spend a hundred percent of your time truly devoted to your child, or, um, without any distractions with your child, that, that we might have some ideas that, um, of some, some unrealistic expectations that guilt puts on us. And rather than believing that direct message or that expectation of guilt, but just sort of seeing it as well. That's telling me that it's important for me to spend time with my child and I can make that happen in ways that are realistic.

Speaker 1:

I like to comment about social media because I think never before in our history, have we been so close yet? So far away, social media gives us this sense of transparency, but it's totally inauthentic. And that is quite the opposite of being mindful.<laugh> right. Yeah. So people do rely on that as their support is how they communicate. And it is just put so much pressure on people without understanding the truth behind the scene or scenario.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And I think we talk often in the group too, about how we sort of have substituted that, that in, for quiet time or reflection that instead of sitting in, just reflecting on how am I feeling I'm scrolling or I'm getting input about somebody else's life instead of sort of tuning into what feels good and right to me. So just awareness of your social media usage. I don't know that not everybody needs to cut it out completely, but to be aware of kind of, how does it make you feel to see what, what kind of input do you get hooked on and, and get, you know, raises feelings of comparison or feelings of guilt, um, and how to monitor that for yourself, and also how to fill that time with other things, if you want to, and things that are really self care instead of kind mindless activities.

Speaker 1:

I think with the pandemic, a lot of people replaced their social interaction with social media and have a difficult time separating the two.

Speaker 2:

Yes, absolutely. And we needed it for, you know, to feel connected during the pandemic in some ways. And I think there are some ways that it was helpful to make us feel like, oh, other people are in this with us or understanding, or having the same struggles that we are, which is important. And I think you also have to take the other side of it of, and our lives might be very different. And that what I'm doing in my life is, is just as valuable as something that I'm seeing from someone else.

Speaker 1:

The brave new mom is a book, but it also is a workbook. So how would we use that or implement it in our own work?

Speaker 2:

So yes, it's meant to be sort of a practical guide. So there's sort of some information about mindfulness from definitions to how to, how it applies in postpartum with, um, like I said, self-compasion self care and support being three important pieces. Um, so some information, and then there's almost always a practice that goes with each sort of piece of education. That's how do you apply this to your own life? And that might be reflecting on what kinds of support do you feel you have in your life and how do you practice great gratitude for that, for the people that are support people in your life. And also, are there some areas of support that you, you would like more of and how do you focus on opening to that kind of support that you need or reaching out for that kind of support or accepting, um, that kind of support. That's another struggle I hear a lot about from new parents is accepting help, even though it may be available to them, this idea that maybe we have some ideas of that makes us weak, or we should be able to do it all by ourselves, that we don't need help. So talking about kind of how to be mindful of those reactions that we might have to opening up to help or seeking out the help that we need, um, and allowing it into your life. There's always a practice. Um, and then sort of a reflection at the end of each chapter and the chapters are kind of based on some of the, the common struggles and thoughts that I hear mom, um, having, which are like, I can't do this it's too much. And how to sort of move to a place of feeling competence and feeling like you can access some different feelings through the practice.

Speaker 1:

How many chapters are in the book?

Speaker 2:

I think there are eight chapters.

Speaker 1:

It sounds like it both can be used as a standalone guide for somebody to pick up and start a mindful practice. And in addition to therapy work that they're already doing.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think so. I, I have had clients who have, have sort of done both needed sort of a mindfulness practice that was separate from, um, therapy and maybe was something that they started before they started therapy. And then also sort of how does this maybe mindfulness that I understand is helpful and I've heard a lot about, and it's kind of a buzzword right now, but how do I apply it to my own life and my own struggles for new parents, that being this kind of feeling of survival mode and needing to be focused on taking care of this, this baby, um, that can pull you out of mindfulness. So often

Speaker 1:

If somebody was looking to get a hold of the book, where would you send them to purchase it?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, it's available on Amazon and other places you buy books, but it's also available on brave new mom.org, um, which is also a place where we hope to create a community of, of new moms that are maybe working through the book or working through a mindfulness practice, um, that can share, share some of their experiences there,

Speaker 1:

The group that you're running for new moms, are you using the book as a guide

Speaker 2:

Loosely? I don't sell the book or, or reference the book necessarily in the group, but it, it is certainly based on the same principles of, of the book. And I've kind of created it out of, out of the experience of writing the book.

Speaker 1:

And if somebody were interested in getting connected to you as part of, or for work in the support group, how would they go about doing that?

Speaker 2:

My therapy practice is through wild tree psychotherapy. And so they are searchable on the web. I believe the website is wild tree wellness.com and that's where we run the group kind of on a, a cycle basis. So we will start it again, probably in the fall. Um, but it kind of runs once a season for six weeks. And that could be found on the website,

Speaker 1:

Jesse, any last comments on how you would either get somebody connected to you for therapy, what your practice is about, or even somebody who might be listening and just considering starting a mindfulness practice?

Speaker 2:

Well, one just message to new parents in general is that therapy can be so helpful. And whether that's through me or through any of the providers that are on the PSI directory website, that has a directory for Minnesota, but any, any of the states. Um, and those are therapists and other birth professionals that are specifically trained in perinatal mental health. And I think that that's such a helpful network of people who, who kind of might know what you need, even if you're not sure what you need. And that was the feeling that I had when I was post partum, the serve. I don't know what help I need. Um, and I think an encouragement that a therapist can really help, um, especially when he's been trained in perinatal, uh, adjustment and transition to, to help you figure out, um, how to, how to manage the feelings that you're having. And I think that starts for me, that starts with mindfulness of understanding the feelings and recognizing them without judgment, um, practicing some acceptance toward whatever you're feeling. Um, and knowing that that's gonna be a range of things, not just happy and content and, and excited about new parenthood, but that there's, there's lots of feelings that come with that. And I think for me, mindfulness starts just with that is sort of an ability to tune in to what's going on for someone in, on the inside, even despite maybe chaos or overwhelmed on the outside. Um, and to recognize we have some judgments probably about some of the feelings that we have. And, and if we can look at those with curiosity rather than judgment, or maybe a harsh self talk that says, I shouldn't feel this way, or I there's something wrong with me because I feel this way that it, it opens up an ability to accept and, and feel a range of feelings, which I think I wish for everybody, not just new parents, but everybody that we just recognize, we're complex people. And we, we are everything that we feel is okay.

Speaker 1:

And I think that's the distinguishing thing that some people maybe trip up on is that mindfulness is about an internal awareness and it gets misused as an external, like being mindful of where you're walking or what you're touching. And, uh, so I just kinda help people to gravitate back towards it's something that is within you, not external

Speaker 2:

Mm-hmm<affirmative>. Yes, absolutely. And, and yeah, that feeling of practicing non-judgment and acceptance of whatever is going on with you in the moment that that's, you know, I think that many people could be mindful, but still be harsh with themselves and, and, or be judgemental toward themselves. And that also is, is not the point and not the helpful piece. The helpful piece is just recognizing that whatever's happening is happening. Um, and that there are reasons for it. And that there, there we have patterns and, and things that are going on all the time that we can either be aware of or not be aware of and being aware of opens the door to lots of different types of reactions or responses.

Speaker 1:

Thank you very much for joining us today, Jesse, for more information regarding Jesse's practice and how to find the book, the brave new mom, please see the description of the podcast below

Speaker 2:

For having.