Since first-time moms have so much to figure out on their own, anxieties, fears and doubts come into play. While it seems other mothers have it all figured out, you may worry that you are not ready to raise a human being. Without a doubt, preparing for a baby requires more than pampers and paint. Readiness is a state of mind, and worry just comes with the territory. One way to alleviate the fear of impending motherhood is to organize and improve certain aspects of your life.
Parenthood is an adventure that requires your emotional, financial, and physical environments to be in harmony. It requires a lot of giving, but we can only offer if we’re equipped to give. Self-improvement is about making small positive changes to help you find peace of mind, extra money, and more quality time with your family. Within 40 weeks, you can dramatically organize and improve your life. Give yourself the gift of parental preparation with these 7 steps.
You just may become a happier person, and eventually, a better parent.
7 Quit One Bad Habit
Nearly all of us have at least one bad habit. Maybe you’re a nail biter. Perhaps you have a penchant for profanity. Or could it be a fixation on fast food? Whichever your vice, bad habits disturb your life, and compromise your physical and mental health.
Here’s the difference between an addiction and a habit: with an addiction, you have no willpower. With a habit, a detrimental behavior is repeated, but it can be controlled. From overspending to incessant complaining to biting your nails, habits can be provoked by stress or boredom. Other habits, such as eating junk food or smoking, compensate for an emotional, or biological deficiency. In short, bad habits are a coping mechanism.
Whether good or bad, we engage in habits without thinking. Looking both ways before we cross the street is an automatic good habit. Self-destructive habits, also known as knee-jerk responses, are reflexes performed without conscious thought. Some routines can take time to erase, but if you really want to overcome your habits, they can be broken.
You can break a bad habit with a little determination
Breaking patterns are challenging because our habits provide a benefit. Checking Facebook or procrastinating immediately provides us with what we need. They become problems when they start hindering your life. Since there are no vaccines for bad habits, we have to recognize and overpower our own tendencies. The first step to change is to be honest with yourself when identifying your impulses. The next step is to be mindful about your habits, so you’re not automatically triggered into the same old behaviors.
While working to stop a negative habit, begin a positive one. For instance, unsightly fingernails can lead to embarrassment which can lead to more nail biting. Force yourself not to bite your nails. At the same time, improve their appearance by applying a clear nail polish with a bitter taste. Every time you put your finger in your mouth, you will be reminded to stop. Wash and manicure your nails a little every day, and within a week, your nails will be a source of pride.
Psychologist Dr. Patricia Farrell suggests wearing a rubber band around your wrist while you curb bad behavior. When you realize you’re engaging in a bad habit, snap the rubber band on your wrist. The discomfort is likely to snap you back into reality, or at least associate pain with the unwanted behavior.
It doesn't take too long to overcome a bad habit
Whichever method you try, be creative with your pro-health campaign. Research shows it takes an average of 66 days for a new habit to become automatic. Start with one, and devote all of your energy to commit not to do it. Too much too soon can put pressure on you. Soon enough, the replaced good habit will be flying on autopilot.
Want to raise children who have good habits? Learn those habits, and be a good role model. Cleaning up your own act lets nothing stand between you and parental greatness.
6 Reconsider a Toxic Friendship
If the Bill Withers’ classic “Lean on Me” accurately defined every relationship you’ve ever had, it would be a perfect world. Sadly, negative influences are among us. You know the ones: crude, gossipy, negative, etc. No one wants to be in the company of cheapskates, know-it-alls, and liars, and yet we often tolerate these unlike-able traits of friends. Diagnose your relationships to determine if these people are good enough to keep in the company of you and your child.
Users and Takers
Helping a fellow human being is noble, but some friends are demanding. It’s natural to feel used when the support is not reciprocated. Constantly asking for favors, overwhelming you with their melodrama – these friends are draining. When an acquaintance constantly uses and abuses, and the favors don’t go both ways, there is no positive reason for you to keep in touch.
At first they seem charismatic and intoxicating, but they turn out to be self-destructive daredevils. Unstable, sometimes violent, their idea of fun is getting drunk every night. And when you try to save them, you get mixed up in the drama, too. Being with someone who continually commits poor life choices makes you feel more like a babysitter than a friend. Toxic friendships can wreak havoc in your life. They are harmful to your health, and should be considered more as a friendly enemy than a friend. If you can’t say bye now, you may sink with the wreck later.
An envious friend may be going through a hard time, finding it difficult to feel happiness for anyone. At times, a little jealousy is understandable. It becomes a real problem when they are trying to make you feel bad so they can feel better. Jealousy can manifest itself as criticism, and disrespect. There is only so much sympathy you can have. If the relationship doesn’t feel good, it probably isn’t.
It’s sad but true, the world is full of lies. Let’s be honest, most people lie at least once or twice a day. A harmless lie such as “I’ll call you” is not grounds to dismiss a friendship, because not all lies are equal. Pathological liars are regular deceivers. Their intent is to manipulate, and they can be extremely dangerous. Avoid them at all costs.
“How was your day?” This is a basic question from a caring friend would ask. As simple as it sounds, it can be overlooked by super self-absorbed people. It can be difficult to be in the presence of someone who constantly talks about him or herself. Psychologist Roya Rad advises not to give them carte blanche to talk about themselves because it feeds their ego. Break free from selfish friends because they do more harm than good.
Ultimately, not all friendships can be salvaged. If your patience is wearing thin, then you’re already aware that something is not right. If the liabilities outweigh the assets, release these burdens of friendship so nothing interferes with the happiness of family life.
5 Organize Your Finances
There are many reasons for having amassed a substantial debt. A life changing situation can certainly do it. Losing your job, or getting sick can quickly deplete your savings. Spending money with reckless abandon can also put you in the poor house. And the birth of a baby will certainly stretch your budget, adding to financial strains.
Ideally, you want to be in the black or financially sound before your newborn’s arrival. This is an impossible task if you are ignoring the problem. Facing your financial woes may be tough, but overdue bills, and calls from creditors are worse. Pregnancy can be your time to tackle financial issues on the head. You will need a pen and paper.
Pay down your debt
- Stop borrowing money. You cannot free yourself from debt with more debt. Funding your lifestyle with borrowed money will only dig a deeper hole. Do not apply for credit cards, finance furniture, or buy anything if you don’t have the extra cash.
- If your credit card payment is a minimum of $100 a month, don’t pay the minimum at the end of the month. Instead, pay $60 every two weeks as soon as you get paid. This allows you to pay down your debt faster, without taking a significant chunk out of your paycheck.
- Except for your mortgage, make a list of the money you owe, from the $200 you borrowed from your parents to your $5,000 credit card balance. Pay a little more than the minimum on all of them, except pay more on the debt that is the lowest. When the lowest debt has been paid off, use the amount of the lowest debt to then pay off the next lowest debt, and so on.
Avoid expensive mistakes
- Withdrawing cash from an out-of-network ATM is simply pouring money down the drain. At $3.00 per transaction, an out-of-network bank machine will incur $6.00 in fees. One easy way to save on surcharges is to always use your bank. While you are at it, withdraw money for one or two weeks at a time to save repeated trips to the ATM.
- Rotten fruit, spoiled milk, bad meat, and uneaten leftovers are amounting to $500 – $2,000 of food waste a year. Fruits and vegetables are most often the biggest culprits. This is a burden on our landfills, and our pockets. Before shopping, use what’s in your refrigerator. Leftovers are economical options for lunch and dinner, further saving your wallet from outrageously expensive fast food.
By trimming your expenses while paying down your debt, your financial game plan can begin. Using these strategies, you may be able to pay off thousands of dollars before the baby arrives.
4 Write To-do Lists and Finish Them
With parenthood on the horizon, you’re probably excited as much as you are nervous. Expecting a new baby is thrilling, yet the fear of the unknown can be incredibly stressful. This can be an overwhelming time, particularly for first time moms. The health of the baby, weight gain, and financial constraints are on a never-ending list of concerns. And the real test begins when the baby arrives.
When you have a million things on the go, to-do lists organize your workload into manageable tasks. Although they seem pretty clear-cut, there are things to keep in mind when creating a to-do list:
- Write down all the tasks you need to accomplish.
- Start with the most important tasks at the top of the list. If necessary, re-write the list so it falls in order of priority.
- Each task should take about an hour to complete. If your written task will take longer, break in the task down into smaller tasks.
- Cross off items when they are complete.
- Keep lists short, so you can complete all of the tasks by the end of the day.
Completion of a task becomes a progress game. Instead of stagnating because you feel overwhelmed, to-do lists propel you forward on to the next task. Being a motivational tool is just the beginning of their benefits:
- Nothing is forgotten when it is written down.
- Priority tasks will be accomplished first.
- Your mind will focus on the task at hand, leaving little room for distraction.
- Productivity increases.
- A list written the night before provides clarity to the day ahead.
Focusing your energy is as simple as writing a daily to-do list. Not only do they allow you to make better choices, your day becomes as efficient as possible, allowing more quality time with your family.
3 Play Games that Sharpen Your Brain Power
Babies are a blessing, but they will challenge you in every way possible. A busier life, filled with multitasking, and less sleep may plunge your brain into a haze. Consider playing a brain game to help with mental clarity.
Routinely challenging your brain keeps your mind in tip top shape. Just like working out the muscles of your body, you can build up your brain power to keep your brain in shape. Research shows playing games improves cognitive capability. They require you to use mental energy which arouses your brain. In short, you can teach your old brain new tricks with various games:
- If you are forgetful remembering names, phone numbers, or passwords, play Concentration to strengthen your memory. You will need a deck of playing cards. Simply shuffle the deck, then place each card face down in a different spot. Select two cards at a time. If they match, remove them. If they don’t match, put them back, and try to find another pair.
- You can improve your quantitative reasoning by playing problem solving games. Studies show Sudoku stimulates the brain because it requires logic, and pattern recognition. Each 3 X 3 box, column, and row should contain the numbers 1 to 9 only once. The objective is to fill in the empty spaces with numbers. Free apps are available for both iOS and Android.
Do you find it hard to concentrate on one task at a time? Try Boggle to improve your focus. Games like these demand careful attention. Over time, strengthening your concentration can keep you on track, and help you stick to goals. Two 15 minute sessions a day is all you need.
Games that work with a countdown help more. They force you to hustle, stay focused, and approach the problem in different ways. Whenever you feel the need for mental fitness, use these brain exercises to master your mind.
When your newborn baby arrives, you’ll have to say goodbye to a good night’s sleep for at least a few weeks. This can be a big adjustment for new parents. To ensure that you don’t feel overwhelmed by sleep deprivation, you will need to take time for yourself. Maintaining mental health means nurturing ourselves before caring for others.
Meditation just might be your saving grace now and after the baby is born. It is a quiet and serene state of mindfulness. Think of it as a reset button for your emotions. This practice stills the body, and cleanses the mind. To practice, pay attention to your breathing while observing your surroundings. Especially when dealing with stress, meditation has tremendous value. Instead of internalizing stress, meditation uses deep breathing to exhale the anxieties out of your body. Studies show meditation has the power to increase your attention span.
Meditation doesn’t have to occur in complete, alone in a room. You can be in the moment when you sit down for a meal. You can be mindful when you brush your teeth, or drive a car. By integrating mindfulness often, you can thwart restlessness.
How to meditate
- Make sure that you are comfortable. It doesn’t matter if you are walking, standing, sitting, or lying down.
- Inhale and exhale deeply. Focus your attention on your breath. After a few repetitions, allow your breathing to return to normal, but still focus on your breath.
- If your mind deviates, bring your thoughts back to your breath. The point is to create a connection between the mind and the body.
- Begin with five minutes a day.
Whenever you need to calm the chaos, take a deep, and slow down. Awareness of self instantly allows you to feel calmer, and happier. The central nervous system relaxes when you reconnect with yourself. As you make mindfulness a priority for yourself, the flow of serenity can benefit your entire family.
1 Let Go of the Past
Letting go of a painful past can be tough, but clinging to anger and resentment only hurts you. Feelings of bitterness do not make you healthier or happier. No matter how you think your past story should have been told, let go of the story. Holding on to it will only stand in your own way of advancement.
Frist, resolve to stop reliving the past. Second, focus on your happiness in this moment. When negative feelings infiltrate your thoughts, there’s less space for positive messages. Third, forgive the other person and yourself. Pain shouldn’t define your life.
If you’re having a hard time letting go, focus on doing something nice for someone else. Random acts of kindness that brightens someone’s day will also brighten your day. There are several ways to make strangers smile:
- Hold doors open for people.
- Let someone with less groceries go ahead of you in the supermarket line.
- Leave your restaurant server a generous tip. Leave a note praising the service when they really deserve it.
- Write a rave review about a business you appreciate.
- Pay the bill for the next person in line at the drive-thru.
- Be a considerate driver. Let drivers merge in front of you with ease.
- Smile as much as possible.
Devote your time and energy to the well-being of others. It is the perfect way to connect with your true self. Leaving the baggage of the past behind will help you embrace the future wholeheartedly.
Whether it’s a bad habit, a toxic friendship, or mismanaged finances, forging ahead helps open the door to a better future. These 7 steps to self-improvement can teach you to be the parent your child deserves.