PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Larrichia from Livingjoyfully.ca. And today, I’m here with Erika Ellis. Hi, Erika.
PAM: Now, Erika was on the podcast earlier this year with Tracy and they were talking about their unschooling book club (EU158) and we had a lot of fun. She’s also dug deeply into the topic of self care, which is a valuable tool on the unschooling journey. So, I’m really excited to chat with her about her experience.
ERIKA: I’m super excited too.
PAM: Yeah, I think this is going to be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to it.
To get started, Erika, can you share with us a bit about you and your family?
ERIKA: Sure. So, I live in Miami with my husband, Josh, and we have two kids. Oliver is 10 and Maya is 8. And I consider them to have been always unschooled.
Though I, myself, as an unschooling parent, went through a long process of deschooling. So, my kids, I think we’re always unschoolers. I was kind of a gradual unschooler, but we got there before school age. My husband is a college professor. We met in film school and so he teaches filmmaking now. I’ve had lots of different jobs in the past. The most recent, before Oliver was born, I was teaching high school science and now I just spend time with my kids. I sometimes am arranging homeschooling activities, sometimes just going to things other moms have planned. I also do some transcription work on the side, which I really love and it’s a lot of fun. As a family, we really like video games, board games, watching movies, especially really funny stuff, comedies. We really enjoy swimming and travelling too.
Lately the kids have been really into creating stories about the Five Nights at Freddy’s characters, which honestly, I can’t really see what they see in these characters. But it’s been super creative and really fun to see how they’ve developed beyond what it’s just in the game.
And I’ve been doing a lot of recipe exploration. Oliver has asked me to make a couple of crazy things he found on the Internet. So, last week I made the ultimate breakfast corn dog, complete with deep frying. What am I doing? (laughing) But he was so happy that we tried that. For me, it’s usually more plant-based recipes but for him we’ll go with breakfast corn dogs.
We just got a new computer recently and that was so that Maya would be able to play Sims 4, which has a cats and dogs expansion. And so, she’s been making so many pets. There’s a limit for each family to only have seven pets. So, she’s like “Why?! Why only seven dogs?!” And I’m like, “That’s a lot of dogs though!” So, that’s been really fun. It’s fun exploring a new game with her. And then we love having playdates with our friends also.
PAM: That’s awesome. I love hearing that little snapshot of all the things because, you know, when you think of it over a week or two, it seems pretty consistent, right? All this food and dogs on Sims and stuff like that. But after a few months, when you take a moment to look back, it’s really fun to see all the different places they go, isn’t it?
ERIKA: Right. And it has changed. I mean, it really does just go from one thing to the next. And whenever I feel like they’re going to be interested in this forever, this is our life forever, the next week it changes a little. And so, it is fun to see and to look back on what they used to like and what we do now.
PAM: Very cool. So, let’s dive right into the topic of self care. It does come up regularly in unschooling discussions. And even through that lens, it can be quite different than the conventional self care advice. It takes a while to get to that point. You mentioned earlier, how long our journey is because we’ve absorbed so much of the conventional view of things. And it’s not about, for me anyway, the journey isn’t about tossing out the convention. It’s not like like, “Oh, that’s conventional, that’s what everybody else does. So, I’m not going to do that.” That’s not the point at all when we talk about that. But it is about questioning it. It’s about thinking about it and saying, hey, does that work for me? Does that make sense? How is it for us, for my kids, et cetera, et cetera?
So, I thought we could start with how you define self care and why you feel it’s an important thing to consider.
The way I think of self care is it’s a routine or some actions that you could take to promote the functioning of your body. Promoting a feeling of well-being in your body, but also in your mind and in your spirit or your heart or your emotions. So, there’s a lot of different layers to it. It’s all about developing a relationship with yourself, which really reminds me of the same way that you would create a loving relationship with your child and putting that relationship first. It’s about listening deeply to your body’s messages and learning about what your own needs are so that you’re able to be there for yourself and not get to a point of chronic stress and overwhelm.
But I really think it’s important for our self care plans to fit into your daily life. And it can include a wide range of actions that could lead to a feeling of health and calm energy. And the reason I say calm energy is because you don’t want to be in chronic stress. So, you want to feel calm. But at the same time, you don’t want to be so calm that you don’t have energy to feel alive and motivated, to do the things that you want to do throughout your day. So, it’s a combination of calm and energy that I’m looking for. I want my body to feel strong and relaxed and comfortable. I want my mind to feel in the present moment and focused and calm. I’m not racing with thoughts and I want to feel a connection to the world, a connection to my family. So, that kind of bigger picture feeling, more like a zoomed-out perspective of life. So, self care, to me, is whatever leads me toward those feelings in my body and in my mind and in my spirit.
PAM: I love the way you describe that. And I really like that distinction between energy and calm. Because I kind of think I just started reading a book last night called “Stillness is the Key” Ryan Holiday’s new book. And it’s about that that stillness, that calm, that ability to see a little bit bigger picture in the moment. But yeah, that doesn’t mean a step towards disconnection. It doesn’t mean lower energy.
The word that came to mind when you were talking was responsive, engaged in the moment. I don’t need to have crazy racing thoughts, but I want to have the energy to be able to engage and respond to the people that are with me, that’s really important, too.
Does that make sense?
ERIKA: Yeah, totally. Being able to respond instead of just having so much going on inside that you just react in a way that doesn’t help anybody. So, I think staying calm helps you have that grounding to be able to just do your life in a way that feels good.
PAM: Yeah, and that leads nicely to the next thing we want to talk about, which was mindset. Right? I think it’s a really essential part of self care. So, a lot of the self care work day to day that I do as well is really in that mindset piece.
Was there a shift that you found valuable as you tried to weave your unschooling lives and self care together?
ERIKA: Yeah, definitely. I think my mindset has evolved in so many different ways through unschooling and deschooling. One really big shift was against the cultural message that we get of needing to escape from our children in order to take care of ourselves.
I think it can be a really hard mindset to change because a lot of our culture is giving us that message of mommy needs a break or mommy needs a vacation. Even the little things of like a mini version of like coffee. I have to escape with my coffee or like, you know, “Is it wine o’clock yet?” These ideas of needing something in order to escape from our life with our kids.
But if you’re choosing a life of unschooling and really choosing to spend so much time with your kids, then self care really has to be a part of that too. It needs to be a part of daily life with your children. Otherwise, there will be no way for it to have enough of an impact just to get away every once in a while. I would say there is nothing wrong with a mom’s night out or with getaways or you know, if someone offers you a spa day, take that.
The work in developing a pattern and a routine of self care that is embedded in your days is so worth it, because that’s where you start to notice that every day feels manageable and every day feels better and you don’t have that same desperate craving for escape. Like I’ve got to get out of here.
Another mindset shift that I loved was stopping from seeing things as I have to do this to, I’m choosing to do this, which I know you’ve talked about this a lot but even as far as I get to do this, it’s like having to do dishes vs. choosing to do the dishes, because I know that the feeling of having a clean kitchen is going to be so great for me and help me feel less overwhelmed. I’m preparing foods for different people in my family. That’s a lot of work. But I can look at preparing something for myself that is really nourishing and makes me feel good. And so, I can choose to see that as a choice that I make in order to take care of myself. And I feel like that mindset is huge.
PAM: The escape piece, I think is a really great clue that we can use for ourselves to notice when something’s getting away, when things tumble. When we get into it into our day or things are feeling a little bit off kilter, that’s often because go do this and this and this and this and this. And it’s hard sometimes to grab yourself for a moment just to become aware of how you’re feeling when you feel like you’re getting pulled all over the place. So, yeah, I think that feeling of needing to escape is a great clue to just to take a moment to check in with yourself. And see what’s see what’s going on.
But again, that is one of the big pieces of conventional wisdom around self care. Is that it needs to be done alone. You need to go off to be able to do that. And that was one of the big mindset shifts for me too, a number of years ago now. But still, it was huge. When I realized I could do little things like prepare the food that I like or, whatever, whatever it is.
It was a big shift once I realized that I didn’t have to be by myself to take care of myself that way. All of a sudden, I could start looking for things that would make me smile. I realized there were so many things I could do that I didn’t have to escape to accomplish. I could find things that made me smile in my day and could feel a little boost of energy. It was amazing how I could get that with other people around. But that’s a big surprise at first, isn’t it?
ERIKA: I think so. Everybody’s always like, “I need a day off.” or “Mommies never got a day off.” And I mean, it’s true. And if you think about it like that, it could be really depressing and make you feel super stuck. But if you just think of it the way you are suggesting, at some point, that it’s all your life. You know, all these parts of yourself, are you? And so, you can take care of you with all of this going on.
PAM: Yeah. And like you said, if you’ve got a spa day or an opportunity, do that, if it feels good. This is in no way meant to make anybody feel guilty about doing that stuff. Those are choices too.
But you don’t have to wait. The wait is like, “Oh, I need one. I need one. I need one.” That’s the hard part. That’s what makes us miss the moment. You know, I’m looking forward to something three weeks from now. So, I just keep wishing for that thing to come. And I kind of lose those three weeks in anticipation, right?
PAM: Yeah. So, you don’t have to get stuck in that. The other thing I like and I love that you brought up that “have to/choose to” kind of thing because once you’ve released that pressure of ‘I need to be by myself for this.’ Then when you think about going out to have coffee or wine or a mom’s night out or whatever, you want it for itself. I always feel like you can explain it better. You’re not explaining it to your spouse, your partner, your kids that you need to get away from them because you spend so much time with them. No, you can just share the fun of it. I’m really looking forward to seeing my friends for a while. You know, like you look forward to seeing your friends and etc.
You can come at it not from that negative place, but you can share your excitement in being able to do it. It’s like night and day, even though it’s the same thing. You’re going out for coffee or whatever, but it’s coming from such a nicer and more real space, is that a good way to put it? You’ve gotten to the point where you understand why you’re choosing that. So, that you can share your excitement with other people versus just “I need some space. I need time to myself.” It’s just a whole different kind of conversation with your family, isn’t it?
ERIKA: Yeah. Yeah. And the connection that you have with your family then is more protected as well. Where if you keep sending the message that you need to escape in order to feel good, then your family will get that message and they’ll be like, “Oh, what’s something special we can do for mommy? Leave.”
That is not really the message I would want to give. It’s happened in the past, in moments when I felt really overwhelmed and just wanted peace and quiet. It has happened. But then I realized, that’s not the relationship that I want to have, where the best thing they can give me is to go away from me.
PAM: Oh, that’s great. I’ve never heard it put in those terms. That really brings it home, doesn’t it? And there’s nothing wrong with finding yourself in a moment where you need a little bit of quiet. It’s like, “Hey, guys, you know, I’m feeling overwhelmed right now. I need a little bit of quiet.” It’s something to problem solve with your kids in the moment when you’re feeling it, right? Not taking this and being martyrlike about it for the next two weeks until you finally get that chance.
ERIKA: Yeah. It won’t be enough.
PAM: That’s right. That’s right. So, let’s dig in a little bit deeper.
Can you share some self care activities or tools that we could find helpful, that you found helpful for releasing that stress or that overwhelm in the moment and or maybe just re- energizing so you can re-engage in the moment?
ERIKA: Sure. I was thinking maybe I would start by talking about the stress response and how that happens. The chronic stress situation that’s so common these days.
So, basically our bodies have two different aspects of our nervous system that helps us with survival and it’s really amazing. We have one mode that’s called sympathetic nervous system, which is meant to respond to a threat in the environment. So, it’s that feeling of fight or flight or some people say fight, flight, freeze or submit. There’s various ways people describe it. But basically, it’s your body and mind gearing up to face a threat which in the distant past would have probably been a physical threat, something like a predator. Something wants to kill us so very smartly, we automatically turn on this system, the sympathetic mode that increases our heart rate and increases our breathing rate. We stop digestion because that would just be a waste of energy at this time. We contract our muscles so that we’re ready to run. It makes so much sense, if you’re being chased by a tiger, you can escape.
Once you’ve escaped, your breathing rate can slow down, your heart can slow down, your thinking brain can turn back on, your digestion can come back on, your muscles can relax. That’s called the parasympathetic nervous system. Everything calms down, the body and the mind can recover. It’s kind of a perfect system.
But in the modern world, we’re not talking about physical dangers coming at us. It’s just all these little stresses, just little things like we had to wait in line or people were bothering us, there’s too much noise or we’re thinking about something that could happen in the future or the news is telling us about all the problems all over the world. There are so many different things that could trigger that fight or flight system to kick in, but it just doesn’t ever stop. It’s not like the tiger chases us and then it’s gone. It’s this constant thing.
So, the unfortunate thing is that if your body is in that sympathetic state, it’s not in the parasympathetic state. It can’t do both. So, you can’t be fighting and flighting and calming yourself or digesting at the same time. You just can’t do it.
So, if you’re stuck in that, that’s what people would call chronic stress. It’s being stuck in that fight or flight mode for more time than your body can really handle. And you get that fatigue or nervousness or problems with digestion, body aches and pains from your muscles being tense so much of the time. And then having your brain, overactive or buzzing and not able to think clearly, all that kind of stuff. So, the good thing is that there are a lot of tools that work for most people to trigger yourself back into a calm parasympathetic response, to turn off the stress, turn on the calm response. And I’ve really taken a lot of time to try to figure this out over the last few years. Because it’s been a huge interest of mine. I found that going outside is really huge. Just being in nature, seeing the sky.
I think I really noticed that first when my kids were babies, I felt like it really helped the babies to calm down when they were having, that upset feeling. That is still a really big one.
The breath is an amazing tool for calm because it sends a message to your brain that things are OK. If you’re able to breathe slow you are OK, because you can’t run away from a tiger and breathe slowly at the same time.
So, it’s just a message. If you can inhale and then exhale very slowly, maybe double the length of the inhale. That is a signal right away to the brain that things must be safe, if you’re able to control your breath that well. Another one I’ve seen people do is alternate nostril breathing where you cover one nostril breath in, switch breathe out with the other nostril. So, you kind of creating this cycle of your breathing. Breathe in through the left, out through the right, in the right, out through the left. And you kind of block the other nostril with your finger or thumb.
I’m not sure why that works so well, but it really is huge for anxiety. It’s more conspicuous than just doing the slow exhale. But in moments at home, it’s totally doable. And even out in public, it’s probably doable. A lot of people have heard of it. So, it’s not too weird. So those have been really big. In yoga all of these are called Pranayamas. If you look that up, you can find other breathing techniques.
I’ve also found a lot of success in increasing my well-being through my food choices. That’s another thing you’re going to do anyway, like breathing, eating. So, I might as well make choices that are helping my body feel better. So, like that feel good chemical, serotonin, you need the precursors in order to even be able to make it. If your diet is not including enough of the precursors to make the feel-good neurotransmitters, you literally can’t feel good. And so, for me, increasing leafy greens has really been a helpful one. Plenty of fruits and veggies, making sure to stay well hydrated. I’ve also checked a couple of my vitamins like vitamin B and magnesium to make sure that those levels are good.
So, that has been really big. Let’s see what else. Oh, essential oils. So, for some reason, I’m not sure why these works, but lavender and other calming oils, they really do immediately make your brain go, oh, I could be calm, this is all right. I’m not quite sure about why that works, but it really does. And citrus smells can be super uplifting. Makes me feel joyful. Lavender is very relaxing. Mint is a really kind of awakening or invigorating smell. So, that would be something really easy to include in a daily routine, with kids around. Because all you have to do is smell it. And then, that sends a little message of, ‘Alright, we can come down.’
And then moving, I have to mention moving around, because everybody knows exercise is good for you. On days when I have been in a routine of moving throughout the day or taking walks every day, there is this clarity of mind and this calmness that can happen.
That doesn’t happen if I spend most of my time sitting around and I found that I have a Fitbit watch, but I know some other watches will do it to where it will be buzz you if haven’t moved enough in the hour. So that throughout the whole day you’re getting up and moving because it’s not about just one little episode of movement throughout your whole day, that won’t be enough to get the effects of moving throughout the day.
When I move throughout the day, I do have more energy throughout the day and feel much better. Digestive issues really are helped by that. Anxiety is really helped by that too.
Plus, movement is something that most kids are pretty into. So, you can usually include kids and things like dance parties or going outside for a walk or run. Even if they don’t want to dance with me, I think it’s worth doing the random dance parties. It’s a little bit entertaining for everyone. So, either they’re doing it too or they’re just looking at me like I’m crazy. But this may be an entertainment for them, for me to do that.
PAM: That was a great point that I just wanted to emphasize, it’s not it’s not that we need our kids to do these things with us. It’s not that, “Oh, this is good for me. Therefore, it’s good for everybody. Therefore, they need to come out on a walk with me every day.” We don’t need to approach it that way. When we bring our unschooling lens to it, everybody’s choosing what’s feeling good for them in the moment. There’s no reason you can’t mentioned it to them unless they feel like you’re trying to pressure them. It depends on where your trust and connection is in that moment.
But, offering it up. I love the dance party idea. Because we can get our movement needs met. While still literally being in the room with them if they would like us to be around. You’ve got your headphones on. You can put headphones on, put music on and dance around and move or stand up and march in place while you’re watching them play or do whatever it is they’re doing. That’s the creative piece.
It’s not the martyr like piece. Well, I can’t leave them because they want me to, do X, Y, Z or whatever. Sometimes without even realizing that we can be using that as a bit of an excuse. And I think we don’t even realize it because, we want to support our kids. We want to do those things. But also, this self care piece is about also considering our needs as well.
And truly, truly in the end, I can’t remember a time when I haven’t managed to figure out a way where we can all get our needs met. If not in that literal moment, within the next couple hours, within the next day, we can figure out a path forward.
So, it’s okay to bring our needs. I was going to say bring them up. I mean, it all depends on on your kids. And your relationship and how, if they like to talk a lot or if they don’t or whatever, if you just start marching in the spot or some jumping jacks or whatever, just gets the blood flowing, maybe they’ll ask. It doesn’t matter. It’s you meeting your needs, right?
ERIKA: Right. And it doesn’t really matter what the response is. And I love that point that you are not expecting them to be doing the same thing as you. And that’s huge. But just seeing me do it. It kind of opens up an idea for them of, well, what do I feel like doing also?
I only have two more. But before I forget them. One that I added pretty recently, is a daily meditation practice. And I know I’ve heard other moms talk about using this as well, but I find it so helpful in becoming less reactive like we were talking about earlier. And to be able to experience all the things that happen during the day in a mindful way. And so, this is something I’ve experimented with over the last few years. There’s a bunch of apps that I’ve tried. And I would say that I’ve learned something from everything I’ve tried. I feel like it’s worth just going out there and trying it out. But right now, I feel like that’s one of the most exciting parts of my self care because I just feel like I’m learning so much. And the more that I learn, the more that I love it and the more that I look forward to doing that every day.
The last one I have to mention is sleeping. Because that’s one that a lot of moms, I feel like, tend to give up on the possibility of getting good sleep or getting enough sleep. It’s just kind of a thing like when you have kids, you know you are never going to get enough sleep. But I don’t think it’s something that you should give up on because even a slight improvement could make a huge difference. The average person probably could use eight hours of sleep a night. Maybe you’re only getting six hours of sleep a night and you could use a little bit more. But then at night, it’s like nice and cozy and quiet and I think maybe I’ll just watch some more shows or maybe I’ll play my Connect 3 game a little bit more or maybe scroll through Instagram and the time can just go away while you were making a choice to do that. This is me, too. I’m talking to myself here. I’ve done this as well. But figuring out how much sleep really does make me feel good. Which for me is probably about nine hours and then trying to figure out, well, what would I need to do to make that happen? And putting my best effort towards that, making that a priority rather than just figuring it’s too hard to do better and giving up on it.
PAM: Mm hmm. I focused on this sleep thing as in I’ve been getting up early so I worked backwards to see when I needed to go to bed. For the last year or so, I’ve been going to bed a good hour, hour and a half before I used to. Even when I had younger kids. I would go lie down with them and I would go to sleep. For a few years, it didn’t matter where I slept. We were playing musical beds, whether they were in with us or wherever it was, if it was a couch, I would get my sleep that way. So, yeah, I really like that.
Just playing with sleep, I guess playing is the word because, that’s another thing that I’m not so good at, is trying to give myself rules because then it takes the choice out of my hand in the moment.
OK, I know, I chose to say I want to be in bed by such and such a time, but I almost resist my own rules that way. But I can have a little reminder that says, hey, you know, do you want to start getting ready for it? Maybe a little alarm that goes off and that’s the same one a year from now or whatever.
Because then I remember it’s my choice and I remember why I’m wanting to make that choice. It’s like, oh, I get to. Earlier you talked about going beyond have to/choose to and arrived at “I get to.” Look, I can do that now.
So, it really changes over time. But it’s fun to play with. See how can I make this work for me. And this goes for all of the tools. How might I be able to make this work for me now?
I love that you mentioned breathing because I mentioned to you before the call, too, that I had been taking some big breaths, slow because today has been a busy day. And I was starting to feel overwhelmed in a some moments. So, that deep breath and that explanation that your body can’t be in that fight or flight response and breathing slowly, that made so much sense to me. I really love that. And the essential oils thing, so many pieces, because a few months ago, I picked up like a bracelet that has like the little beads to put essential oils in. You can just grab a quick breath. Lissy was home over Christmas, she was going through a bit of a challenging time, too, and I picked her up bracelet and bought her, a little essential oil mix. And she loved it.
In the moment, if you can notice for a second, you can take that deep breath, you can take a little sniff, because then it doesn’t feel like, you have to go get the diffuser and go do all the different things. If we can make it as easy as we can for ourselves in the moment.
When we have some time, think about it and set ourselves up, because when you’re in a stressful moment, you don’t have that time to do the setup. You’re up here and you want to quickly get down. So, if you have to do a bunch of things to set yourself up for it, it’s so much more challenging in the moment. But the more you can organize, go searching through some meditation app so that when you want it, you know what to press or you know where you might want to go sit or any of those things to have all that prepared for yourself.
For me, a big part of the self care is in a calm time. We talked about that with our kids, to talk through things in a calm time and make a plan for the stressful time. It’s the same thing for me with that self care piece is in a relaxed moment when I’ve got an opportunity to do that, to think about what might I like to try? What might I like to play with next time I’m hitting a wall? And to have that all set up for myself. When I recognize a chance, then I can go right to whatever it was, whether it’s trying that essential oil or trying that two minutes of meditation, because it doesn’t need to be a long piece of time, does it? That’s one of the points that you were making is that these can be as simple as a few deep breaths. I’m going to try that nostril alternate nostril breathing!
ERIKA: Yeah, you’ve got to try it. Unless you have nasal congestion, then it’s not so great. (Laughing). As you were talking, all these little other ideas were popping in my mind. And you’re right, having the attitude of play, that’s what it’s all about with all of these because it’s all about experimenting and trying different things.
I was reading a book that mentioned if you’re feeling angry and overwhelmed to look up and I tried that. I was like, “Whoa!”, that’s an easy one that really works quickly, too. Because there’s something about when you’re getting too focused on something, you get overwhelmed, you just look up and your brain goes, oh, there’s more than just what’s going on right here. Something like that. But that one was really huge.
Splashing cold water on your face or washing your face with warm water depending on how you’re feeling. That’s something to play around with. Drinking a glass of water. That’s something that my kids mentioned to me when I seem to be overwhelmed that maybe I might need a glass of water. That could help a lot, too. So, yeah, these things could be tiny and just regular things that you could do any time.
PAM: And actually we dove right into the next question, didn’t we?
Which was finding ways to fit self care activities into our unschooling days. And yes, that’s been a big piece. And when you mentioned your kids have been saying, you know, maybe you want a glass of water. Well, that’s our next question which was:
Have your kids been absorbing some ideas of us?
Oh, yeah. I love when our conversations just naturally flow through the conversation.
I loved that piece because, that’s us taking care of ourselves while our kids are around. It’s not that we need to go off like we were talking before. I don’t need to go hide to do these things. You can still meditate with your kids playing there in the room. That is a great part of it, too. It’s not that you need total silence to do things like that. To sit and take a deep breath for a couple of minutes. Any of those things. And when they see you doing them, they’re curious, what are you doing? And quick explanation, maybe asking if they want to participate in certain situations. You know your kids and the moment. So, you’ll get a feel for when it might be something helpful to mention or not. Or something to bring up later on. But it becomes part of living, right? It becomes part of our self-awareness, part of seeing ourselves and as an example for our kids as well and helping them talk through their moments and just tools and ideas we can suggest for them. Right?
ERIKA: Right. Totally. My kids are used to seeing me do what I have started calling my morning routine now, which is I try to start when I wake up. I drink water. And then after that I drink a veggie juice that I make, like a green juice. Then I try to do my meditation after that and I try to do some kind of stretching after that.
But the funny thing is that sometimes I’ll tell my husband, I’m doing my morning routine now and it’s like 4:00 or 5:00 p.m., but it’s just because I didn’t get to it yet. I have to be super flexible about when it happens, because if we’re going out or if I need to make them breakfast or whatever, maybe I didn’t get to it. But it’s still important to me. And so, I still will do the meditation at some point. I still am calling it my morning routine because everyone knows what I mean. But since they see me doing that on a regular basis, they know that it doesn’t take that long. They know what to expect. They know that they could interrupt me if they really need something or sometimes they ask me to take a break and, help them and come back to it.
Either way, it’s fine with me because I can always press pause. I can always come back to it. I can go back and forth between the two.
The more consistent I am about doing it, the more it makes sense to them. It doesn’t surprise them. So, I’m not thinking about my self care activities as being more important than the things that they need in that moment. But I also am not thinking of it as being less important. We’re just all choosing things to meet our needs. And I feel like maybe it was Anna Brown who said “There’s plenty of time.”, that was one of her mantras to calm herself down. There’s always time, enough time, plenty of time. I don’t have to worry about that. So, that’s something I think about a lot. I know when I feel like you’re not letting me meditate, we have the whole day. I could get to it later and it’s OK. There’s plenty of time.
PAM: Yeah. And then it flows. It flows through your day, right?
I also wanted to mention that the way that I’m making different food for all of us, because that can definitely be a triggering. But I am trying to think of it, and most of the time I am able to think of it as it’s OK or even better than OK, that we’re all making different food choices because we all have different bodies and we all are different ages and we all have different levels of activity. And so, of course, it would make sense that we’re all eating different things.
So, cooking things for me, I just am thinking of it as a wonderful way to take care of myself. And on days when it feels like a lot, I could keep it simple. Or maybe if Josh is home and we have more time together, we could cook something more elaborate then. Maybe even cook something over the weekend that I could keep in the fridge to have during the week, something that really makes me feel good. So, the past couple of years, Josh and I have been experimenting with eating more whole food, plant-based type eating, which feels really good to me. But that has also opened up a lot of really cool discussions with the kids about food and about listening to your body and making decisions about what to eat based on how your body feels. And I’ve noticed that the way that they’re talking now about food is aligned with that, saying that it feels really good when they eat this. For them might be some candy, but, they are listening to their bodies and saying that this makes me feel great when I eat it and I want to have it again for next week. And so, then I’ve also talked about I’ve made sure to talk about how tastes and preferences change over time. And that just because this is what they like now doesn’t mean they always will, because, you know, as a kid, I loved those same foods that they like now. And now I’m feeling like my body really craves veggies. And so, they won’t be surprised if later on they start to crave things that they thought they didn’t like.
PAM: I love that. It’s funny. I mentioned that a couple of days ago, maybe I was talking to Joseph. I was making a nice, big plate of brussel sprouts. Those sauteed brussel sprouts. And I was just laughing. And I mentioned that I could not stand these growing up. No matter how many times, my mom made them or tried to get me to try them and see if I liked them. But I just love them so much now and I couldn’t stand them for 30 years. But that’s it. And that’s just the pieces of sharing our lives with our kids, it’s sharing those little observations about ourselves. And then he just laughed. And sometimes they’ll pop in with things that they used to really dislike this and now they like this. Or it’s just noticing these pieces about ourselves and sharing them with each other. It’s just another point of connection, isn’t it, with them? Even if they just laugh, even if they don’t seem to take it in at that moment. Sometimes you think your kids don’t even notice the things that you’re saying. And you can pay attention to see whether or not they would prefer you not to. I know sometimes there have been times when it’s been valuable for me to not say much. But that’s the thing with unschooling, you really have to kind of preface everything that you say, because it’s all about the moment. It’s all about the individuals.
So, yes, it’s been very connecting to point these bits out about life, about the food, about how we feel, sharing those titbits about ourselves. And then it’s also OK not to because I don’t want anybody to think, ‘Oh, my kid hates when I mentioned those things. They don’t want them.’ Well, then don’t. It’s OK. Because again, there’s always time. And we don’t even need to talk about there’s 18 years because we’re in a relationship for life with our kids. And if they’re 30 years old, when they discover they like brussel sprouts, that’s OK. That’s perfectly OK. I mean, that’s the lovely thing, too, I call them seasons. Lissy used to not like if I use the word phase, like “You’re going through a phase.” And I really agreed with her because she’s felt if people say it’s a phase that I’m going through then it diminishes my passion for that because it presupposes that it’s going to end. And I thought, ‘Wow, that is a really good point!’ You may love that forever. It may not end.
ERIKA: It’s also usually if they say phases. It’s kind of hoping that it will end, which is really kind of rude to the child going through it. I was noticing with Maya. She has started having her own morning routine. So, she likes to get dressed straight away and have her hair fixed and then she likes to wash her face. She said because it feels really good. And then I noticed in the last week Oliver also said that he had a morning routine, though he didn’t have much details about it. But they’re not doing it because I told them to, because I mean, they would never do it because I tell them to, but they did it because it just seemed like a good idea to them.
I also love that Oliver will ask me really deep questions, a lot. He will ask me, “Do you have to do yoga or do you want to?” And I’m like, hmm, I like that, because now you’re thinking about that. That’s what it’s all about. To want to do it, to be choosing the things that make you feel good. And so, I say “I want to.” And he says, “Why?” Because to him it makes no sense. And I’m like, “To me, it makes my body feel really good. After I’m done. And it also makes me feel relaxed.” And he’s like, “Oh.” He just takes that idea with him and I love that. Then I’ll notice, like we were at the park one day and he was running as fast as he could and coming back and saying, “I’m out of breath now and I really like how that feels. I’m going to do it again.” So, then he did it again, just to get that feeling. And so, then we were talking about, well maybe we should do that more often. Just kind of trying to include the things that make us feel great.
PAM: Yeah. I love that. Those conversations!
I guess that really is the whole point of self care is to take the time to figure out for yourself. And live it. That’s what we’re talking about. Learning is a lifelong thing. Self care is a lifelong thing. Becoming aware of how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking and all that is part of life, part of living, engaged rather than all the expectations.
They’re both E’s, engaged versus expectations. Just doing what you like because we can even put those expectations like that’s what you’re saying. ‘Why are you doing that? Do you want to do it or do you have to do it?’ That’s the whole expectation versus choice thing. I love that he’s just seeing it right there in the yoga, because that happens to be something that at this moment, anyway, sounds like he feels he wouldn’t choose to do. And so, it’s curious to him that you’re choosing it. And I think that’s just amazing. What a fun conversation to have. And there’s no expectation of the things that we’re choosing that they should be choosing something or an equivalent or whatever. It’s that we’re thinking about things and making choices. End of story. And playing with them. And to see that it can change over time.
ERIKA: Right. And they do change over time and sometimes in the past I’ve been embarrassed about how I go from one thing to another thing to another thing.
But what it has in common is me following what feels good to me and trying to figure out what works for me. And so, it really shouldn’t be an embarrassing thing to go from program to program. As long as I’m continuing to find ways I like to move, find ways I like to eat, find things that make my brain feel great or whatever it is.
PAM: You know, I love just the way you phrase that. I’ve been playing with yoga as well. And then there’s the I don’t know if you’ve come across the Yoga with Adriene Channel on YouTube?
ERIKA: She’s my favourite.
PAM: I know. Me, too. But her phrase, her catchphrase, tag phrase is “Find what feels good.”
ERIKA: That’s perfect.
PAM: That’s exactly it. And that exploration can just keep going. And that’s the exciting thing, too. Get past the embarrassment of it. And I think that’s a great lesson even for ourselves, like you were saying, that I keep changing, that I keep moving on to something different and something different. It’s like, oh, can’t ever figure myself out? But no, we are always growing and changing. And that’s just a whole part of it. That’s going to happen. Even if we’re kind of doing the same things, we’re still exploring it more deeply, when it becomes rote or routine, that’s when it becomes kind of boring. And our mind wants to move on, whether we’re going to dive deeper or we’re going to expand into something else. We’re not going to stagnate. I think it’s probably the word. If we’re paying attention to ourselves enough or else it’s an expectation that we’re meeting. That really throws it all off. It’s not as fulfilling anymore is it?
Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Erika. I really appreciate all the thought and information that you put into it because I really love this topic and I think it’s going to really connect with a lot of people. So, thank you so much.
ERIKA: It’s the combination of basically my two favourite things. So, I was really excited to get to do this.
PAM: I love it. I love it. Before we go, if people would like to connect with you online, how can they do that?
I can also maybe give you a list of books or resources that have helped me. [SEE BELOW] If you want to put them in the show notes to share, maybe that will be helpful to listeners who want to expand their practices.
PAM: That’s awesome. Yes, I’ll definitely put those in the show notes.
Thank you very much and have a great day. Have you done your morning routine yet today?
ERIKA: Of course not, Pam. I was getting ready for this call. To be honest, I’ve had my water and my juice, but it ended there so far. I will continue.
PAM: Well, enjoy and continue with the flow of your day.
ERIKA: Thank you very much, you too!
ERIKA’S GO TO RESOURCE LIST:
~ Meditation ~
10% Happier app
Insight Timer app
The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
~ Mind Expanding ~
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Rich Roll Podcast
How to Live a Good Life by Jonathan Fields
Choose the Life You Want by Tal Ben-Shahar
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte
~ Overall Wellness ~
Replenish by Lisa Grace Byrne
Replenish 365 online program by Well Grounded Life
Lighten Up online program by Clean Food Dirty Girl
The Alzheimer’s Solution by Dean and Ayesha Sherzai
The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet by Rip Esselstyn