Rishona Hyman – Making a Splash in Winnipeg

 

What would you say if your son or daughter wanted to make a career out of teaching swimming lessons?
Would you be excited or disappointed? Now what would you say if your son or daughter wanted to be an entrepreneur, and be a leader and role model to hundreds of staff and students? What if he or she wanted to teach people how to save lives? What about teaching people a life-skill? Well, Rishona Hyman is that daughter and she’s doing it all and killing it!

Rishona Hyman has always loved teaching swimming lessons. It is her passion. She started teaching swimming lessons twenty-one years ago and started Aqua Essence Swim Academy fifteen years ago. This was during a time when “private swimming lessons” were really few and far between and were really flying under the radar. Rishona has changed the way people view private lessons and swimming. Rishona prides herself on providing positive and quality programs to her students. She has small teacher/student ratios and tailors to individual learning styles so that each student is “seen” and given the attention they deserve.

“I truly believe that swimming lessons should be a priority. It is a life skill and more than that there is so much goodness that can come from a swimming lesson. I am motivated to change the way we, as a society, view swimming and first aid/CPR. The benefits on poverty, injury prevention, fitness and overall health are incredible.”

Aqua Essence Swim Academy has evolved from swimming lessons to now include triathlon training, a swim club, CPR, first aid and even babysitting courses. This is a far cry from the start of Rishona’s business – her self-created part-time job. Becoming an entrepreneur and making a business out of her passion was a bit of a “learn as you go” process. She is a self-taught entrepreneur who has had to figure it along the way. “I am a leap of faith person” – she believed in herself and her goals and just knew it would have a way of working itself out.

As a female entrepreneur, Rishona admits that sometimes people don’t take her seriously – maybe because she’s a woman, maybe it’s because of her business’s industry – maybe a bit of both. She says that people tend to think that this is just a “hobby” for her. That is so far from the truth. Although she loves it, it’s beyond a full-time gig. Imagine running swimming lessons, CPR, first aid and babysitting courses (planning, programming, hiring, registration, finances, website maintenance, marketing) for hundreds of students across ten City of Winnipeg swimming pools, multiple private pools and even a hotel! Not to mention managing and inspiring a staff of 40 plus (many of whom are students!!). They run courses seven days a week and twelve hours a day! This doesn’t sound like a very relaxing “hobby!”

With a mostly young staff, Rishona has proven to be a great employer by taking time to know each individual and motivate each one. “I really try to have an open-door policy and really want to get to know them as people. I feel that once you know someone and know what makes them tick and share stories you can then motivate them. It is definitely getting harder to motivate but I just keep trying. I also believe that motivation comes from within and that we can try to motivate people but you need to know what does it for them. One way, I try to motivate them is by continuously adding a growing what we do and giving them opportunities to try new things and have a new experience. For example, we teach babysitting courses, so anyone that wants to do this needs to take some additional training adding to their skills and abilities, they also get a compensation increase for having more certifications. Teaching courses like babysitting, first aid or CPR gives my staff a great opportunity to go out into the community, teach out of the water and share their leadership skills while passing on valuable knowledge.”

On top of it all, Rishona is a wife and mother of 2 young children. So how does she do it? She admits to being very fortunate to have a great husband. Like every working mother, Rishona struggles to find balance. With her family, she has made a pact to not be on her phone in the evening until her children are in bed. She wants to be present with her kids and “devote my attention to them.” This isn’t always the easiest especially when she is potentially “on call” until lessons end at 9pm. In addition to making quality time for her family, she also sees the benefit to taking time for herself. She realizes that is a role model to her children, staff and students. As a result, she does much to stay in shape and live a healthy lifestyle. In addition to swimming (not shocking!), Rishona also goes to 9-Round boxing and kickboxing five times a week, “Saikels” and rides her bike often. Like most female entrepreneurs with families, the question is when does she sleep?

With such a busy schedule why does she do it ALL? “I am inspired by my staff and our families and students. I love the connections and relationships to people throughout the city. I love peoples’ stories. I still get excited knowing we have made a difference in someone’s life. I love hearing how happy people are. These stories and the people inspire me to keep growing and adapting. Swimming has so many lifelong benefits that I just get excited when I see it working and benefiting someone.”

“I love what I do so much! I love that I have been able to continue to do what I love the most, teaching people to swim and be safe in and around water including first aid.”

So what are Rishona’s words of wisdom for female entrepreneurs? “”I can do hard things!” I would tell someone to make sure that they really passionate about what they want to do. You don’t have to think of everything right away but you need to be an excellent problem solver as inevitably problems will arise. And to always like to treat people as you would like be treated.”

If you are interested in learning more about Aqua Essence Swim Academy and the terrific programming they offer, please visit them online at https://www.aquaessence.ca.

 

 

The Big “C” – What to Do When Your Friend or Family Member has Cancer

I’m fortunate enough to write this blog as someone who has not been diagnosed with “the Big C” so far in my life. I do, however, know too many people that I love who have been diagnosed. From my experiences with them and from what they have spoken to me about, I have come up with my own “do’s and don’ts list” when it comes dealing with someone that has cancer.

Do – know your relationship level with the person and act accordingly. If this person is a colleague at work and you are not very close, don’t sob on her lap about how awful this is and how bad you feel. Judge your relationship and act accordingly – even if it’s to just say how sorry you are to hear.

Don’t – just offer. DO! Don’t leave it up in the air or dependant on your friend to call if they want to talk. Call her. Text her. Email her – whatever. Just check in. And don’t offer to make a meal. Instead tell her you will make X and just to let her know when is a good night to drop it off. When you do drop it off, don’t stay. The reason most people turn down a meal is because they are in no mood to see people. Chances are they aren’t feeling well and the house is a mess. Don’t come in – even for a short visit. You could even just leave it on the front step with a note and leave after you ring the doorbell.

Don’t – take it personally. If she wants to open up and talk, great. If not, don’t get upset or hurt. You have no idea what she’s going through – even though you could imagine, you don’t know really know. Remember, this isn’t about you.

DO – Let her be sad, mad, angry, frustrated, regretful, blaming etc… This is her life. Getting this news changes everything. She’s allowed to feel all of these feelings.

Don’t – tell her it’s going to be fine. You have no grounds to say something like this. You don’t know. Hell, even the doctors sometimes don’t know.

Don’t – be a selfish asshole. A friend of mine told me about a time, when she had breast cancer, that her friend was over for dinner and kept whining about having to go on blood pressure or thyroid pills! She wouldn’t stop complaining about the fact that she would have to be on them for the rest of her life. OMG! It’s a PILL! My friend didn’t even know what her treatment or odds were like to live, and this twit is talking about her thyroid issue? Get a clue!

DO – be there. Whether it’s a phone call or to go for a spa day or to listen to her cry for 3 hours, just be there.

DO – learn about the disease. Each type of cancer is different and so are treatments. Take time to learn about the type of cancer so that you can be educated if and when you speak to her about it.

DO – share information. If you hear about a new treatment, drug, research or vitamins etc… let her know. Although it’s likely she knows all there is to know from googling the hell out of cancer, she may not have heard of your information. At the very least, she knows you care and are thinking of her.

DO – offer to help. Again depending on the relationship, offer to help drive to treatments or pick up kids from school, or make a meal or clean her bathroom. I find that offering this help to the spouse (if applicable) is most useful. This person is having to pick up the slack on top of having to deal with the illness as well. This person would be more likely to accept help than your friend – or at least that has been my experience.

DO – be positive and supportive. Don’t go overboard and be annoyingly positive – like everything is sunshine and lollipops. But do try to be a source of positivity and support. It has been proven that thinking positive and sending positive energy to injured body parts speeds healing. So try to encourage that.

DO – continue your normal relationship. Continue to celebrate birthdays, have girls’ night, watch The Bachelor, gossip about celebrities and more. Although having cancer has changed her life, it hasn’t ended it! She will likely want or need some sense of normalcy and distraction and a chance to just laugh and smile.

I know that some people may read this and agree or disagree. This is just what I, personally think is appropriate from my own experiences with family and friends. I’m hoping that you will never have to use this list because no one you know will ever get cancer. But if you do, this could be a good starting point on what to do next for your loved one.

Ladies – Are We Hurting Our Girls?

Ladies. We have a problem. A BIG problem. We are unhappy with our bodies. And not just a little bit. And not just a few of us. 91% of women have an ‘I hate my body’ moment every single day. And if we hate our bodies that much, how dare we tell the little girls in our lives to love their bodies if we can’t do it ourselves. And could you imagine hearing an eight year old say ‘I hate my body’? Neither can I. But it’s happening. Every day. In every city. In almost every home.

Let’s be honest. Are you dieting right now? Have you put yourself on a ‘diet’ at all in 2017? If you are trying to lose weight to be a healthier version of you, good for you. That’s awesome. But the reality of it is that most women are dieting to achieve their ‘ideal body shape’. However unfortunately, only 5% of women naturally possess the body types we see in the media. So if that’s your goal, let’s start over.

You’re eating healthy and exercising often as part of a healthy lifestyle, NOT a diet. Now here’s my next question. Who knows that you’re on this kick? If you phrase it in ways such as ‘I’m eating healthier for more energy’ or ‘I’m heading to the gym for my heart health’, you’re doing terrific. But if you’re using phrases like ‘no cake for me…it’s bathing suit season!’ or ‘I’m taking my fat ass to the gym so I can fit into my clothes again’, then you are not only doing it for the wrong reasons, but you are bound to fail. The number one reason you should be living a healthy lifestyle over being on a diet is because you LOVE your body not because you HATE it.

So who’s hearing you? I have three little nieces who I would walk on fire for just for a hug. I feel I play a very important role in all of their lives for a host of different reasons. Do I think my body is perfect? Nope. But I sure wouldn’t dare talk about my imperfections or my desire to change anything about my body around them. They look up to me. If they hear me say ‘I feel fat’ or ‘I wish I could have a more toned ______’ they would then start to look at their own bodies as anything but perfect. They mirror what they see and what they hear. I would die if I heard any of them say they feel fat.

Here’s the thing about body image. It’s all in your head. It’s the way we perceive our own bodies and the way we ASSUME others perceive us. It has to do with our emotions, perception, imagination, and it is ever-changing. Where you are in your menstrual cycle, what you have been eating, what your mood is like, are all factors that relate to our body image.

Have you ever woken up in the morning and looked in the mirror and thought, ‘UGH!’? But then two days later you look in the mirror and think you look super good? Well your body didn’t body swap in 48 hours. One day you love it, one day you don’t. Unfortunately you’re not alone in this thinking. Almost ALL of us do it. And I bet that there is someone out there that thinks your body is a ten out of ten. Or there’s a woman out there that would give her left arm for a butt like yours.

How do we make it better?

I think the first step is being conscious of the fact that body image is not the reality of how your body looks. We need to start to love our bodies – the rolls, the scars, the stretch marks, the short legs, the small boobs – all of it. And really love it. Know that what makes your body unique is sexy AF. It’s not about perfection. There’s no such thing. I bet you Victoria Secret models have days that they wake up and wish they didn’t have the thighs they do too and as crazy as that sounds, it’s true.

Second, know the signs of having an eating disorder. “Eating disorders are not just about food. They are often a way to cope with difficult problems or regain a sense of control. They are complicated illnesses that affect a person’s sense of identity, worth, and self-esteem.” (Source: Canadian Mental Health Association).

This is a SERIOUS problem for women in our country. We need to help each other and support one another when it comes to eating disorders. When you see a woman who is obsessively working out or dieting to an unhealthy level, or simply not having a positive relationship with food, exercise and her body, don’t shame her. ‘She’s sooo skinny’ isn’t a helpful statement. It’s body shaming. Instead, reach out and provide assistance. The Canadian Mental Health Association is a great starting point for more information here.

Next, and a bit lighter…find that picture that you look amazing in. Put it in your bathroom, on your fridge, as your screen saver or on your mirror. Remember every time you look at it that THAT is how you look all the time! Even on the days you haven’t had time to have a shower, get out of your sweats or even brush your hair, that woman is still the same woman! And don’t be ashamed to say ‘Daaaaaaamn I look good’ way more often! It’s infectious. There will be haters out there who say you are cocky or full of yourself or whatever else they can come up with. But who cares? Let them think that you loving yourself is cocky. In fact, give it a little giggle. Because YOU need to be with YOU every single second of every single day.

If you enjoyed this article, please sign up for our newsletter here!

Sources: www.DoSomething.org and www.about-face.org

 

Marketing to Women

It’s been four years since we started Fit Communications. After working our tails off for other people for decades and we were finally both living in the same city, we decided to create something that we loved. We’re health nuts. We go to the gym religiously, we eat healthy all the time, we sleep as much as we can and we laugh more than any two humans possible. As we both were formerly high performance athletes, we thought why not combine our marketing and communications experience and education with sport and health to create Fit Communications. So that’s what we did…and loved it.

In our third year of business, we really started honing in on this whole ‘girls and women in sport’ thing. I got the privilege to blog for the Female Coaching Network out of the UK representing female coaches heading to the 2016 Olympics. We created the Fitness Journal for Girls. We started creating events for girls to participate in sport in Winnipeg. We started inspiring women across the country to strive to make each day a little bit more positive and healthy. All of this was so inspiring and rewarding.

In 2017, we decided to expand our reach. We LOVE sport and health, and we are not ditching on it one bit, but we are wanting to reach more women with our knowledge and positive messaging. We both have degrees in psychology and sociology, we both love inspiring girls and women, and we both love marketing and business. So, we decided to expand our reach to really help businesses market to women. Marketing to women. For women. By women.

Let me share a few quick stats with you:

  • 85% of all consumer purchases are made by women
  • Women purchase over 50% of traditional male products, including automobiles, home improvement products and consumer electronics
  • Women influence up to 80% of all car purchases
  • Moms represent a $2.4 trillion market
  • 35% of mothers feel ‘pigeonholed’ by brands
  • 38% of women ages 20-40 don’t have children by choice or by chance
  • 59% of women feel misunderstood by food marketers
  • Roughly 75% of women identified themselves as the primary shoppers for their households
  • Women make 70% of all travel decisions
  • 91% of women said that advertisers don’t understand them

With such a huge amount of consumer power, we want to help businesses speak to women in a way that they feel understood. Women – when was the last time you saw a commercial for a vehicle that made you feel like they were speaking to you? How often do you go to a website and they bombard you with ads to the point that you shut it down? And why is it that if we’re the ones doing over half the buying of men’s products, that they don’t ever speak to us? We’re confused too. So, we want to help businesses get through the clutter. Advertise and market to women in a way that makes them connect to their business’s brand and increase the bottom line.

So as much as we love sport and health, you will start to see new stuff from us. We’ll still give you great info to make you and the people in your life achieve their healthiest self. But now we will also start inspiring you more with women in business, women that are “killing it” and brands that are “getting it”. We hope you love this new side of us as much as we do.

If you are a woman who owns her own business and wants to be featured in our Fit Communications blog, email us at info@fitcommunications.ca. If there is a business that you think is either knocking it out of the park or totally clueless on how to market to women, let us know! We’d love to help them or sing their praises.

Valerie Champagne – Inspiring CrossFit Athletes In & Out of the Box

Valerie Champagne exemplifies why I love sport. Her own personal history and experiences, views as a coach and motivating attitude are nothing short of inspiring. Interviewing her is like asking for a list of amazing mantras. I really feel like everyone should carry around Valerie in their back pocket!

Valerie is the coach and owner of Top Notch CrossFit located at 81 Plymouth Street in Winnipeg. Having started as a CrossFit athlete herself seven years ago, she began coaching the sport three years ago. For someone that has such a short coaching career, she is extremely knowledgeable and has a true talent for motivating her athletes.

Valerie herself did not grow up in a sports driven household. She was “the kid on the sidelines with the low confidence to even try out”. This personal experience growing up is why she loves working with kids – especially the kids who themselves, are on those sidelines hoping to be brought in. She knows first-hand how intimidating it is to start when you aren’t an “athlete”. She started CrossFit without a sports background, and became an exceptional athlete.

Coaching those like her – having never equated themselves to being athletes – is what she loves. “What excites me most about coaching is watching an adult or child walk into our box feeling a little overwhelmed and a little bit nervous. They are often doubtful of their abilities and hesitant. What transforms weeks and months later is a confidence. They are doing things they never thought possible. They feel better, they move better, and they hesitate a lot less. All they have to do is just start! Just start!! No matter where you are at…..just start. Believe in yourself…you are capable of so many things you never thought possible. Embrace the journey… it will have its highs and lows but it will be all worth it,” says Valerie.

Valerie is quite unique in that she coaches everyone from kids to adults. She is able to tailor training and motivation to each person, regardless of age or fitness ability. “We have people who are happy to come in and get a good sweat going, and hang out with some great people. There are others who want to take it to another level and test themselves in a competition environment. We support them and prepare them to do so,” says Champagne.

She knows that success is measured differently by each individual – whether someone has been able to stop certain medications, finally get into their favorite pair of shorts or a reach a specific fitness goal. She develops personal relationships and friendships with each individual and respects each of their own personal journeys and takes time to celebrate their successes.

Valerie recognizes that sometimes people have bad days and can get down on themselves and may want to give up. “As a coach you do what it takes to keep them there. It may take some adjustments of the workout itself, revaluating goals, or just a reminder of how far they have come,” Valerie says.

CrossFit is a community. As such, she has been fortunate to have many coaching mentors. It is no surprise that the ones that stand out most to her are “the ones that are able to make a personal connection, root you on every step of the way, challenge you and who keep you interested in the sport.” It is no surprise as this is what Valerie does with her own athletes.

Unlike most sports, CrossFit is a unique sport in that there are quite a large number of female coaches. Valerie equates these numbers to the fact that the sport itself respects women as equals. Even at the last CrossFit Games, the prizes for podium winners were the same for men and women – something relatively unheard of in sport. Valerie trains females and males in the exact same movements and progressions and they are all treated as equals.

She is confident in her own coaching and feels that because this has been proven, she has gained the deserved respect. She believes however, that sport in general needs to recognize the expertise that women bring to the table and recognize it and respect it equally.

Valerie’s desire for her athletes goes beyond how many deadlifts, pullups or squats they can do. She wants them to be happy in their own skin and have the best quality of life for a long time… no matter how old or young. This is also her personal view on life and her hope for her two girls. She also stresses that all bodies come in all sizes and shapes but that the most important thing is that it is a healthy and strong body. Our bodies are capable of different things and we must embrace that.

Her biggest successes as a coach are the moments when a member has thanked her for supporting them. “It may have been a little tip I gave them to reach a goal or encouraging word to get them through the process. As a CrossFit kids’ coach the moments that stand out are when they come to me in class and tell me how they did their own workout at home or had family members do one with them. I know I have had an impact,” says Champagne.

It is obvious that Valerie gets out just as much as she gives from coaching. “I do this to give back what this sport has done for me. The level of confidence I have, the way I feel, the role model I am for my girls. I want to inspire those 9 year old girls sitting on the side lines and those 30 year old ladies that never played a sport in their life and now can call themselves athletes. Everyone has it in them, they just need someone to grab their hand and take them for the ride. It is quite the ride!”

Want to read about more inspiring sport women who are killing it? Click here.

Sharon Delbridge – My 2017 Inspiration

In January of 2017 I was lucky enough to head to the Mayan Riviera to work with LATravel Group on their 6th annual Health and Wellness retreat, lead by fitness fanatic and all around incredible human, Sharon Delbridge. It may have honestly been one of the very best ways I have ever started out a new year. Sharon was accompanied by Heather Sanderewich (owner of The Yoga Barre – one of the BEST new fitness spots in Winnipeg located at 6640 Roblin Blvd) for the week that I was there. In addition, the LATravel Fitness Hero Contest winner from 2016, Jody McIntyre, came down to teach piloxing on the beach. There was Zumba, Aqua Zumba, Cycling classes, piloxing and sunset yoga on the beach every day. You could do as many or as few classes as you wish. There was a group of approximately 40 all-star women who came down, all of different ages, fitness levels and life experience. I truly felt surrounded by positive vibes and great energy. I sat down with Sharon to chat with her about fitness, food and life for our Fit Communications blog.

Sharon is so inspiring. Spending five minutes with her you will feel amazing – she is so full of energy I seriously have no idea how she does it. I guess when you’re living your true dream life, the energy comes easy. “I get to live half a year in Winnipeg spring and summer and teach at my fave studios and inspire people everyday and see how their lives change through fitness. As well, since my husband retired, we are now living in Puerto Vallarta for half the year and continue to do this going forward. I get to teach here daily my favorite classes at the best studio in PV and meet another phenomenal group of people that are loving my classes. This is truly living the dream.”

Sharon started teaching aerobics in the 80’s and after taking a few years off for family and business, returned to the scene in 2005. She constantly keeps things new and fresh because this isn’t just a job to her, it’s a lifestyle. At Fit Communications we often talk about this concept – it’s not a diet or a fad rather health and fitness are a way of life. Sharon beyond ‘get’s it’. And she comes by it honestly. Both her parents, at age 90 and 92, still work out every single day. If that’s not inspirational, I don’t know what is.

Sharon finds such a thrill in seeing the people who take her classes reach their goals. Be it to lose weight, recover from illness, get stronger, or increase their confidence, Sharon is by their side every step of the way. So when LATravel Group owner Chris Lucas approached her to do a Zumba trip in Mexico, she jumped at the chance. This was totally up her alley – fun and fitness combined. Again…she’s living the dream.

In 2018, Sharon will be coming into her 8th year doing this retreat. The awesome thing about it is the repeat attendees. You know an event is good when it’s sold out and it has the same people coming back for more. When chatting with the women you feel the admiration they have for the entire situation – for Sharon, for the trip, and for the chance to connect with their friends, old and new, for the week. I honestly can’t begin to describe how inspiring it is to surround yourself with women for the first week of a new year who are on a mission to make themselves the best version of themselves they can be.

“In 2018, we are switching to a new city and taking the trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (previously in the Mayan Riviera). This is where I have been living with my husband for the winter and it has become our home. This city has a passion and a pulse like no other. In 2018 the resort is right in the town. You can walk out of the resort and be in the most beautiful city with ocean and mountains and the most incredible weather. It’s the safest area and has the best sunsets in the world. We will be taking people on walking tours and showing everyone around. As well, we’ll be having a get together in our home for everyone to come and see where we live,” says Delbridge.

Sharon will be back in Winnipeg teaching her energizing classes around the city in April. Until then, Sharon has a few words of advice on how we can all find a little more balance in life:

  1. Find a way to disconnect from your everyday crazy life: find quiet time, where you recharge your batteries. Spending quality quiet time with family and watching a movie or a show. Disconnect from your phone, computer and social media. Quiet time is the best!
  2. Take care of your health. No matter what is going on in your life, find the time to do something for yourself that is active. Walking, cycling, dancing whatever it is. When you have crisis in your life or even if you don’t, we all need to get the blood flowing and moving to feel better.
  3. Avoid toxic people. We all need to remove the negative people in our lives that bring us under. Surround yourself with people that make you feel good.
  4. Treat yourself to a treat – spa and yummy lunch, mani or pedi!
  5. Laugh everyday. Life is about attitude. No matter what, try and see the humor in everything that goes on in life.
  6. Positive attitude. Life has a way of pulling us under. We can’t let it. We must fight it and move forward. It’s all about moving forward and looking ahead. Send out positive vibes and you will get it all back.

Follow Sharon on Instagram @FreshSoulFitness or on Facebook Fresh Soul Fitness with Sharon for added inspiration, health and fitness tips. She is truly one of a kind and I feel honored to call her my friend. Or for more information about the 2018 Health and Wellness Retreat, contact LATravel Group at 204.988.8441

Do you know a woman who should be featured in our Fit Communications blog? Email us at Info@FitCommunications.ca today!

Let’s Talk About Menopause!

They say there are two things you can be sure of in life – death and taxes. However as women, we get a bonus third thing we can be sure of – menopause. Yay! Lucky us! Menopause is defined as “occurring 12 months after your last menstrual period and marks the end of menstrual cycles.”

Such a simple definition obviously doesn’t capture the scope of this “change” women endure. Menopause can happen in your 40s or 50s and even into your 60s and beyond.

Some women are thrilled about the idea of no more monthly periods including cramping, headaches and inconvenience. They can also have copious amounts of sex without having to worry about pregnancy. It is a time where we have earned our womanly stripes and are more proud, confident and sure of ourselves than ever before. However some women are saddened by the idea of going through menopause because they feel like they may no longer be vital, fertile and sexual. I would argue this with the fact that Christie Brinkley is 61, Elle Macpherson is 51, Sofia Vergara is 44 and Jennifer Lopez is 48 this year! This is a sexy group of potentially menopausal women!

Besides having to come to grips with the idea of menopause, there is also the “in your face” physical symptoms that can sometimes be nearly unbearable. The physical symptoms include the infamous hot flashes, irregular periods, vaginal dryness, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, mood changes, weight gain and slowed metabolism, thinning hair, dry skin and loss of breast fullness. Sounds fun right?! OMG!

Here are some symptoms (listed below) that you may experience in the thick of menopause and some ideas for relief. The reliefs listed are ones outside of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). MHT is an option that may alieve many symptoms of menopause. Be sure to discuss any of these options with your doctor prior to implementing them.

Hot flashes – Be cognizant of what trigger these – spicy food, alcohol, caffeine or stress – and avoid them if possible. Also do whatever else you would do in the middle of a heat wave of summer – fans, relaxing and “breathing”, dressing in layers etc… Consider taking black cohosh. It is said to be beneficial in easing feelings of depression as well as regulating body temperature.

Vaginal dryness – As mentioned above, just because you are menopausal, doesn’t mean you can’t or don’t want to get it on! So if you do experience dryness, there are lots of great lubes out there. I would suggest buying one at a sex toy store rather than the pharmacy – they have way more options there for you to use. Using a water based one is also where it’s at. If the over the counter variety don’t do the trick, talk to your doctor.

Problems sleeping – Everything’s better with a good night’s sleep. One of the best ways to get a good night’s sleep is to be physically active. But don’t do this close to bedtime as it might make you more awake. Also, avoid working or “screen time” right before bedtime, caffeine after noon, and avoid alcohol close to bedtime.

Mood swings – Great! So as if we weren’t hormonal enough before menopause!?! If you are experiencing mood swings, getting enough sleep, reducing your stress and staying physically active will help ease your stress. Depression is another common side effect of menopause. If this is a new condition for you or is exasperated by menopause, talk to your doctor.

Here are a few other ideas that could help…

Healthy lifestyle – Menopause is another instance when proper nutrition and exercise are paramount in achieving benefits to your body and relief of symptoms.

Support – Consider joining an “in person” or online support group for women who are going through the same things as you.

Yoga – Continual evidence supports the notion that yoga can help relieve irritability and depression brought on by menopause. Women report that yoga relaxation and stretching techniques help stabilize their moods while improving their overall well-being.

Mindful Breathing – Another great idea to incorporate into your life is meditation (menopausal or not!). Meditation and “mindful breathing” can help calm your mind and any anxiety you feel including during times of hot flashes. It will also allow you time to decompress, destress and relax.

Acupuncture – Some women swear by acupuncture as a great treatment and alternative to hormone therapy for menopausal depression and hot flashes.

Supplements and Herbs – In addition to Black Cohosh, you may want to incorporate St. John’s Wort and Ginseng into your regimen. St. John’s wort is said to be an effective treatment for menopausal mood swings, improved sleep, relaxation, and reducing mild depression and anxiety. Ask your doctor before you begin taking St. John’s wort, as it might interact with other medications. Ginseng may be used to treat menopausal symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, and stress.

Luckily we are in the best time in history to go through menopause. We know more about menopause now than ever – including best ways to relieve symptoms!

Everyone’s journey through the “change” (for the better) is different. For some, it’s hell and for others it’s a cake walk. Hopefully yours is the latter. If not, hopefully this blog will help you find some relief or at least have some solid options to consider and talk about – with your circle of “people” and with your doctor. I also hope you to consider the notion that menopause isn’t a curse, but rather it’s an end to cramps, bloating, tampons and headaches! That it is a path to freedom! Let’s all see this as a graduation – you made it through the trenches and now you can soar.

Mommy Shaming

I am a perfect Mom. I have developed the most ideal way to raise children to be brilliant, talented, athletic and well-adjusted. These are two sentences that no Mom will ever speak.  Many Moms think that they are fabulous and actually are quite incredible. However, no Mom in her right mind would ever claim to be perfect, know it all, or have all the answers.

So the question becomes, why do Moms so harshly criticize other Moms? If we are being truthful, we are all guilty of this.  I have found myself thinking that Mom A should be more affectionate or Mom B should have her kids eat more healthy foods or Mom C should have more discipline. But why do I do this? Why do any of us?

I know that I have been the subject of “mom shaming” and it’s ridiculously annoying! A few months after my son was born, a little girl saw my son with a soother in his mouth. She quickly notified her Mom about the soother and pointed it out to her. This girl’s Mom said “oh yes, that is a soother. We don’t believe in those for XX (her son).” Are you kidding me!?  I was so pissed off that I wanted to slug her! Who did she think she was passing judgement on me and my decision to give my son a soother? Just because you don’t give your kids a soother, doesn’t mean that I’m a bad Mom for giving one to mine!

I am sure every mother has been a victim of, and guilty of, Mommy shaming. Perhaps not as openly or vocal as this example, but still shaming, none the less.

As Moms we make decisions each and every day about how to raise our kids. Unless we are doing physical or emotional harm to our children, it is really only our decision as to how to raise them. There are so many things that come into each and every decision regarding how to raise our kids. Some of which include how we were raised ourselves, our social circle, our religious beliefs and our morals.

The great thing about the world though is that there are so many different ways to do things and we are free to make decisions as we see fit. My hope is that we are all doing our best with the hand we’ve been given. That said, here are a few topics that I think we need to be more open-minded about when it comes to our children:

  • To breastfeed or not to breastfeed.  – News flash!! Not every woman is ABLE to breastfeed so don’t be so quick to judge someone that doesn’t. There is a reason why there used to be “wet nurses” – this is not because someone today doesn’t want to do it.
  • “We don’t believe in TV” – This is another gem statement. I’m thrilled for you if you don’t have your children watch TV. But don’t judge me because mine do.
  • Stay at Home vs. Working Moms. – This one’s a doozy! I see the benefits to kids on both sides. But regardless, chances are if moms are working or if they are staying home, it is a choice based on their family’s needs or beliefs and what is best for everyone involved.
  • Disciplining in public – we have all seen that kid that is losing her mind in the middle of the aisle in the grocery store. Chances are you may have thought – what a spoiled brat! Or…why are you taking your kid out if she’s tired and cranky? Or… judging based on what discipline method is used or if none is being done by the parent. However, next time, take a minute to think about it – you have no clue what this situation is. Perhaps the child is throwing a tantrum because her Mom won’t get her a new toy. But what if it is a behavioral condition or problem? What if this is the only time this Mom can go shopping because she works two jobs and has to drag her tired kid with her? No matter what the reason, it sucks. Having a child have a tantrum in public is the WORST! No matter what you do, chances are you’ll look like a brutal mid-evil demon witch lady or you’ll look like a lackadaisical nit wit. Either way, take pity on this poor mother. Because even if she brought this on herself, she’s dying of embarrassment so cut her some slack.

The list of topics to debate is endless. Unfortunately, so is the list of people willing to criticize – from older generations that did things differently to young kids that think they know it all and everyone in between. We only have control over our own individual reality. Hopefully we all make choices and parent or plan to parent based on what we think is best for our children. Let’s all recognize this and stop shaming and celebrate our right to choose to do things our own special way.