Well-Being for Moms
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On this episode, Chuck Gaidica reunites with Cindy Bjorkquist, director of health and well-being programs for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, plus newcomer Elizabeth Lewis, founder of Detroit Moms Blog, to discuss how moms can better manage their well-being.
“That’s the thing I think people don’t realize is there’s those people struggling so bad, and they’re just waiting for someone to offer them help. Maybe they’re not going to come out and say, “I need it directly”…A lot of times you don’t know what you need when you need help. It’s taking people to recognize that and stepping forward. ” – Elizabeth Lewis
In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:
- Having a sense of purpose outside of motherhood.
- Maintaining relationships and making time for yourself.
- Elizabeth’s journey with postpartum depression.
- The impact of positive affirmations.
- Rewiring your brain to be happier.
- The importance of seeking and accepting help.
Chuck: This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast, episode 27. Coming up, we discuss how moms can maintain their well-being.
Chuck: Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast, the podcast dedicated to navigating how we can all improve our health and well-being through small healthy habits, and we can start implementing those right now. We’re going to give you tips you can use as we head through this episode.
Chuck: I’m your host Chuck Gaidica. Every other week, we sit down with a certified health expert or other experts, as well, from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. We’ll do a dive into topics covering nutrition, fitness. We’ve done well-being in the past, but this has got a little different focus. In this episode, we’re talking about well-being for moms.
Chuck: Today, joining me Cindy Bjorkquist. She’s actually back. Gosh, we had a good run.
Cindy: We had. Yeah, lot of fun.
Chuck: Last year, we were talking about well-being for many episodes. Cindy is currently director of health and well-being programs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the largest insurer in the state of Michigan, with over four and a half million members. We hope they’re all well, and they’re being well today, but that’s Cindy’s thing.
Chuck: She’s got over 33 years of experience in health and wellness in the well-being industry. That’s hard to even believe. She currently is directly in healthcare. She has been for 20 years. Her current position, responsible for strategy, development, operations of health and well-being programs across the enterprise for all market segments.
Chuck: She’s also had all kinds of interesting background positions. We’re talking about physiology, she’s got a degree in that, biology from Spring Arbor. You were also involved with a private enterprise called High Voltage.
Chuck: Now, I know where you get it. It’s not just coffee. You actually named a business after this. This is great.
Cindy: I did.
Chuck: It’s good to see you, and have you back.
Cindy: It’s good to see you again. Thank you.
Chuck: Also in the studio, Elizabeth Lewis. She’s founder of Detroit Moms Blog. This is so interesting.
Chuck: Elizabeth left corporate America about three years ago to follow her dreams, and to run Detroit Moms Blog. She’s a full time work-from-home mom. She’s CEO of her household. She’s a wife. She’s married to an ambitious man. He’s got to love you.
Elizabeth: He’s so ambitious.
Chuck: Is he?
Elizabeth: Yeah. I’m his biggest cheerleader.
Chuck: Is he handsome?
Elizabeth: He’s so handsome.
Chuck: I was just asking.
Chuck: Pretty sure she missed her colleagues, she says, as a party planner. She loves to get together with moms, talk about stuff that’s important to moms. She takes a crazy amount of photographs that she rarely prints off, and she’s got a couple of kids, several. Four?
Chuck: From what, six months to?
Chuck: Oh, come on. This is awesome. We have so much in common short of the fact I’m not a mom. We want to hear a lot more about her story.
Chuck: I just want to start this podcast with, “Hey, girls.”
Chuck: Come on. I’m a dad of five. Those are my credentials. That’s all I’ve got. Having been around the most important people in my life, and my wife is in that list, my grandmother who helped to raise me, my own mom and, thank God, she’s still around, here are these women who I appreciate as a son, as a grandson, and as a husband. I don’t know that I can hold moms in higher esteem, just so you know. I’ll put that on my list of credentials.
Chuck: If we talk about well-being for moms, Cindy, I want to turn to you first because you brought some rocks in your backpack, today.
Cindy: I did.
Chuck: You’ve talked about this, and here it is right here. What is this, again?
Cindy: It was supposed to be a cairn. We talked in previous episodes about cairns and the Indians used them to guide you down the right path. This one particular because I thought it was relevant today because we were talking about well-being and mothers that I have this in my house. It’s in my office, actually. I have two of them in our house, one of my living room, and then this is in my office. It just represents to me what we’re talking about today, which is well-being and mothers, in particular. As a mom, well-being is, in its ultimate definition, “I’m healthy, and I’m happy.”
Chuck: In mind, body, and spirit. Is that the first top three of rocks, in essence?
Cindy: Well, my story goes when I lecture about this using this rock is that, as a mother, it shifts throughout life. When I’m a new mother and I’m in that crisis mode of I have a baby and I’m reading the books on how to give it a bath, remember that, how to give it a bath, how did this, how did that, then my priorities probably shift of taking care of that baby versus my financial well-being or my social well-being, and all that kind of stuff. Throughout life, those represent different things of me, personally, and my well-being, and how I’m kind of prioritizing them down the road of my path of journey of being a mother.
Chuck: Elizabeth, I’ve heard the statistic that being a mom is like two-and-a-half jobs. We were talking about this off air before we came in. Tell me this impression and its actual truth for you, when you’re a mom, you really, in many places, don’t have the time to get away from being everything, CEO, mom, wife, right?
Elizabeth: Yeah. Well, I went from corporate. I was the working mom, worked ungodly hours, and did that whole system. Then I went to working from home which is a whole other beast because, if you work from home and you don’t have childcare, you made the decision to work from home, chances are kids are possibly at home, you’re 24/7. Someone who stays home, you’re never off. You never have the opportunity to just take care of you because somebody is at the door when you go to the bathroom, somebody needs to eat, you need to take someone to school. It’s library day. It’s the book fair. It’s hair, everything. You could go through your whole day, so you have breakfast, lunch, dinner, after school pickup, then there’s after school activities, then dinner and nighttime routine. You’re always on. For me, I’m like, “Whoa.” It’s such a shift from being out with humans all day, like women at a full time job versus being home and talking to a three-year old. It’s a boy, so you can imagine the conversations are much different.
Chuck: Then, God forbid, you get sick.
Chuck: Your home and then you’re still trying to be 24/7-
Elizabeth: It’s true.
Chuck: … because we, men, get a cold and we think we’re pregnant. We’re like, “Oh, my God, could you get me some soup?” You’re juggling all these balls in the air, and you can’t let them fall.
Elizabeth: It’s true. Like we all got the stomach flu. My husband, his stomach flu was much different than mine. I’m in there sick, sick, sick, and out there holding another child’s hair. For women, it’s just so different. We are on all the time, whereas my husband could just like lay on the couch and be semi-off.
Cindy: To that point when we talk about well being, the research says the most important thing about well being is sense of purpose. I think, as a mother, when you go through having a child and the child grows up, and you go through that longevity of that journey, that sense of purpose is so focused on that child, however many children that you do have, that it’s super important for mothers that are all-in. You and I are mothers that are all-in. We love our children, you know, to the end of the Earth. They’re the most important thing in our life. We can’t lose ourself in that.
Cindy: When I say lose ourself in that, there are other things that make you the best mother that you can be. When I see some my friends have a child and go through those stages, they’re all in as a mother, but they lose themselves in all the areas that are very important that we would define under well-being. If you lose yourself physically, and you don’t get the proper amount of exercise … I have two boys two years apart, I would put them in the running stroller, and we would walk or we would run. Then they would get older and they would ride their bikes with me. Then they would get older, we would do different things. But you taking care of yourself as a mother is so important to your mental state and your well-being, so you can be the best person that you can be for those children.
Chuck: Don’t you find that you can get guilty by that notion being 24/7 because “you’re at the 23rd hour, what do you mean you’re going to sit and just rest?”
Elizabeth: Well, I will tell you, I sat in a room with 90 women. The guest speaker that was there, she talked about how she takes one day a week is for her. She goes out. Her husband knows her date. Saturdays is their date night. She said, “What is the one thing that you feel guilty about in your life?” I’m not even kidding, probably five people didn’t raise their hand, and the rest of them, she said, “Is it going out?” It was going out, like leaving their home, being away from their children and putting it on their husbands because their husbands have been at work all day or they’ve been away from the kids. All of these women raise their hands that they’re like, “I feel guilty going out and doing stuff for myself.” “I feel guilty going to work out.” “I feel guilty going out with friends.” “I feel guilty about leaving my kids.”
Chuck: That isn’t always self-imposed guilt. Let’s face it, when you have a spouse, we both have expectations of each other but, sometimes, that’s imparted from a spouse, let me just say-
Elizabeth: For sure.
Chuck: … because the spouse is like, “Hey, I’ve been working all day, really.” I’ve caught myself in that situation.
Elizabeth: It’s hard not to, and I don’t think it’s by fault. Men are problem solvers. I think when men see that, they’re just like, “Oh, well, you could do this differently.” “Oh, you were stressed out today? Well, you should have done this differently,” or “Why didn’t you do this or do this with the kids?” In all reality, we don’t want that. We don’t need you to solve the problem. If we need you to problem-solve, we would have said, “Hey.”
Chuck: You don’t want husband-splaining it, right? Because there is that give and take, though. I do expect my wife to say, “All right, listen, moron, just don’t do it this way.” There is that fun give and take that you do correct each other.
Elizabeth: I agree.
Chuck: Let’s talk about this idea of well-being and connecting with others. Maybe your day out is just for you. Maybe it’s a spa day. Maybe it’s going for a walk in the park, but it can also be connecting. My wife, yearly, gets together with her high school girlfriends. It is the most important thing for her to plan. I can tell you upfront that, for many years, I didn’t understand it, “What do you mean you’re planning that? We haven’t planned our summer vacation. You’re already into October. I’m here,” but that’s very important for her. You connect in different ways as women. I know it.
Cindy: I think there’s also a point when you talk about getting away, going out, and doing that kind of stuff. That gives you that sense of wholeness, and you bring that back to when you’re with your family or when you’re with your kids your present. There’s a lot of talk in the industry about presenteeism at work. I think it translates to the job as well of being a mother. You can go through your life and be in a room with your children, or you can go through your life and be in your room with the children and be present, and they know that.
Cindy: I’ve got this little incident that happened to me that I’ll never forget. I had the chance to go down to a seminar for leadership, and they had your children. At that time, my kids were probably 12 and 14. They got to write what’s called a 360 evaluation on their mother, on me, because I was going down to this executive training. They wrote about me, and I did not get to read it until I was down in Florida.
Cindy: So I’m down in Florida, and I’m reading what my kids said about me. Now, I was a single mother, so I was there all the time. What they wrote about me is, “My mom attends my lacrosse games or attends my basketball games or my baseball games, but she’s not always there because she’s on her Blackberry.” Back then, it was a Blackberry. By me being in the stands, I was present on a Saturday, but I wasn’t there, and they knew it. It gave you the sense of you have to be there for your children, but you have to be present in that whole mindfulness way which is huge in the industry right now.
Cindy: Maybe when you’re talking about going out or spending time with friends or going to a high school reunion, that gives you the ability to connect with others, but then to come back, and so the time that you are with your kids, you’re present with them. That is super important to them feeling secure in their life, and you feeling secure as a mother, and being valued as a mother.
Chuck: Of those 90 women that you were with, you included, and then … what do you have two million people that are following the mom blog?
Elizabeth: Oh, yeah.
Chuck: You’re getting some great research, even if it’s anecdotal. You know what you’re hearing. Connection, is that a critical thing that you’re hearing?
Elizabeth: It’s insane. We host weekly things. We have community groups. We host these events, and maybe a lot of these moms that wanted to get out didn’t show up. We did this thing, we asked them, “What’s your number one reason that you don’t come out?” and they’re like, “The fear of being judged by other women that I do not know.”
Chuck: Being judged about what, that they actually showed up?
Elizabeth: Every parent team, the way they look-
Elizabeth: Everything. That is a woman’s biggest fear. I’m extremely extroverted. I don’t know a group, I will go find you. The power of connection is, to me, one of the biggest things. I love meeting new people. I love hearing their stories. I love true connection for people.
Chuck: You know that is a difference between males and females because you, I’m not kidding, ladies can walk into the women’s bathroom and come out with three new friends. I’ll say to my wife, “Do you know those ladies?” “Oh, no, but we’re good friends. We’re going to talk next week.” Are you kidding? We would never walk into the men’s room and come out with guys go, “Hey, let’s go do some sporting clays on Thursday.” It’s not going to happen. You are wired differently, but to your benefit because, I think, sometimes I don’t get that opportunity because I’m not wired that way.
Elizabeth: With men, you guys can have a very superficial conversation. When I say that, I mean like you guys can talk about the sports. You can talk about all this stuff. What connects all women together is children, but women don’t want to always go out and talk about children, right?
Elizabeth: Men can be in somewhere, talk about sports, beer, food-
Chuck: And then we got to go.
Elizabeth: How many guys do you know that are out like, “Hey, I got four kids. They’re potty training.” Do I you know what I mean?
Chuck: I know.
Elizabeth: Whereas women are like, “How many kids do you have? What do you do for work?” That is the first question. As women, what do we ask? We’re like, “What do you do for a living?” Notoriously, anywhere you go, “What do you do for a living?” When you go out with people you don’t know, you have that conversation and a woman goes, “I stay home with my kids,” and that’s the fear of judgment for women.
Chuck: Even today. You would think that we’re so far past that.
Elizabeth: I know.
Chuck: When it comes to this idea of finding purpose and meaning, I think it’s interesting that when you talk about these rocks … and you did a nice job getting that, that’s like an epoxy from Home Depot. When you talk about this idea that you’ve got well-being, and finding purpose and meaning, I understand how that could shift because there are life events, more kids, right?
Chuck: How your youngest is, what? Six months.
Elizabeth: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chuck: So good events, bad events, child gets an illness, but maybe it’s a happy time. Having a baby is typically a happy time, but those can change your priorities. Maybe your husband loses his job, now, you’ve got financial pressures. How do you go through life and continue to navigate that saying, “I’ve got this purpose but, yet, I’m going to have to adjust.” Some people can’t adjust very well.
Cindy: In some people, leads into this whole area of making an assessment of yourself and your well-being, and then also understanding that there’s a element of rewiring your brain that you can also play into. When we do a lot of well-being research, we look at, if you’re a new mother and you tend to be wired to react very quickly or very negatively, then there’s actual documented research showing that you can change that. You can actually change your brain.
Chuck: We’ve talked about that in a previous episode.
Cindy: Yeah. If your priorities shift, like you said in your example, and you are in a state of flux or in a state of crisis, and you happen to be a person that goes into a negative space because of that, then through the earlier episodes, we talked about, journaling, and focusing on happiness, and all the different things that you can do or techniques that you can do for mindfulness, that will help you get into a healthier space, so you can have the highest state of well-being for yourself and for your family as well because it always trails down.
Cindy: Your kids look at you every single day in how you act, what you do, and how you respond. Do you wake up in the morning and do you hit them with a negative or do you wake up in the morning and hit them with a positive because you’re setting their brains and your wiring their brains, which is a huge responsibility for them going to school and for them going to college or them doing whatever they’re doing the day. Mother’s understanding that they themselves can take an assessment of their well-being and figure out how to have a higher state of health and happiness, but then understanding and that’s sometimes gives, and we talked about this before, a lot of guilt to women that you’re influencing your family unit. You are setting the stage for your children down the road with how their brains are wired. Talking about this with your kids throughout their lifespan and throughout this mothering experience is super important.
Chuck: Elizabeth, I know you’re willing to talk about this but you have the six-month old baby … is a girl?
Chuck: Baby girl. You have now realized that you have postpartum depression. Tell us about this journey for you.
Elizabeth: So last year, I lost both my parents-
Elizabeth: … my mom unexpectedly and then my dad is six months later from cancer. I am a busy person. I notoriously loved to be busy, and so I jumped from one thing right to another. Then my business was full blowing, then I had a baby, and my life slowed down. I was stuck at home, and she wasn’t an easy baby. I had all this time to think and trying to kind of go back to losing my parents, and not having my support system and my parents being a large part of bringing home the other three children that I had. I kind of felt I was a little off. I didn’t know. I think that’s the hardest part for women with postpartum is you don’t know how it feels because, if you’ve never experienced it, you don’t know it. Everybody can talk about it, but it’s so different for so many people.
Elizabeth: I remember my husband and I were heading to DC, and I had this thought, and I knew I needed help. I was like, “That’s not normal to feel that.” Prior to leaving, I had a breakdown on my husband. I was like, “You just don’t understand the stress of everything’s on me. I love that you’re out and you work outside the home and all the stuff but everything, literally, the baby, the oldest,” we’re putting one through college. I asked him, I was like, “Do you know when library day is?”
Elizabeth: Or the house, even though he doesn’t necessarily put the expectation on me, I feel that it needs to be cleaned, I feel like dinner has to be prepared or different things like that. It was that moment that I’d spent all morning cleaning right before we left because anyone who lives on vacation wants to have a clean house. All of a sudden, we’re walking out the door and the house is trash again, but I just spent an hour, hour and a half cleaning. I just sat on the couch, the baby was crying, and I just cried. My husband was like, “What is going on?” I explained it to him. He wanted to understand it. He was very supportive, and he was trying to understand, but I don’t think that he could because he’s never been in that situation. Another woman in that situation would understand how it felt.
Chuck: Even other women who aren’t in that, have never been, could they relate? I don’t know.
Elizabeth: I’m sure. I think a lot of times it goes undiagnosed or they’re ashamed to say because, I will be honest, I thought that I could have had it but I was ashamed because I’d never had it. I knew I didn’t need to be ashamed.
Chuck: Isn’t the pressure greater for you not because you’re both women, but because you’re actually blogging about stuff? We’re talking about self-care. Of all the people in the world that can’t handle the self-care would say, “Well, there’s my expert.” Was there self-imposed pressure as well that you’re doing all these things?
Elizabeth: Yeah. I’m notorious for it. I take on a lot, but I love it. That is who I am. I’m a busy person. I like it. I think that was the hard … I have a great support system. I have an awesome team. I have a huge team. I have a lot of great friends. I know a lot of people, but there was something that was disconnected. I felt like my husband and I were disconnected because the baby was up all night. I just didn’t feel like him and I were connected. Anyone who knows that if you and your husband are not on the same page or your partner and you’re not connected, to support your family and feel good about yourself is so hard because, at the end of the day, who do you have?
Chuck: How are you today, right this second?
Elizabeth: When I realized it, I called my OB. I tried therapists. I was on my six therapist, and I was sick of going to therapists who were like, “So tell me more about that.” I needed coping mechanisms how to deal with the death of my parents, and then I lost a good friend. I was like, “How do I deal with all these things?” My OB referred me to this woman. She has literally changed my life. That 60 minutes that I get to sit with her, she doesn’t know my personal life, she doesn’t know the people in my life, she doesn’t know what’s going on, but from when I talked to her, she can just listen to me. She gives me great advice. The advice she gives, even my marriage-
Chuck: So you want advice.
Elizabeth: Yeah, but from someone from someone that’s been there and can say, like … You know what I mean? I know a man can’t necessarily get it. Is that where you’re going with that?
Elizabeth: You were like giving me the eye. I was like, “Do you-”
Chuck: Don’t be doing any man host hating here.
Elizabeth: No. Oh, my gosh, no.
Chuck: What I’m saying is that this idea that somebody who’s going to explain this to you because you had talked about your husband giving you advice, but you’re relishing advice as long as it’s good advice.
Elizabeth: Oh, my gosh, yeah. For me, that self-care right now is that 60 minutes that I get to sit with her.
Chuck: Is that great?
Elizabeth: She’s talking to me about it. I didn’t want to go on medication. Finally, I talked to her. I was on vacation. She’s like, “You need to call your OB.” I was like, “No, I don’t want. I’m going to be fine,” as I’m crying. She’s like, “Elizabeth, I can hear how anxious you are and how much is it. You need to call.”
Elizabeth: So I’m 12 days in, and we’ll see. I hear it takes about three weeks. They say about three weeks or so to notice the difference. It was hard for me; it’s still hard for me to kind of grasp it because I’m super positive person. I use the positive affirmations. I do all this stuff. I tell you when my dad was really sick, I use positive affirmations to get myself out of bed every single day because going from finding my mom she had a heart attack and to caring for my dad, it was like I couldn’t stop. I needed to go from one extreme to the next. Then we find out we’re pregnant.
Chuck: Super caregiver.
Elizabeth: Yeah. I’m firm believer in these positive affirmations because they do work in training the brain. I even say to my kids … when I dropped them off at school, I’m like, “What is today going to be?” My daughter’s like, “It’s a good day.” My three-year old is so cute, he’s like, “A good day.” But I want them to also think that stuff that you can change those things unless you have something tragic.
Chuck: That’s tough because I’ve gone through that in recent time too, but Cindy dig into this about-
Cindy: The thing I want to make sure people understand is I just 100% applaud what you just did. You just said, “I still use positive affirmations. I’m still doing all that stuff, but I still recognize my emotional health. There was something there, and I reached out for help.” That’s the biggest message of this entire podcast is that being a mother is like the most rewarding thing in the world. That is just, to me, in my heart, but it’s super hard as well.
Cindy: We could just end the podcast now. It was just perfect because I keep talking about positive affirmations and make sure you wake up and be positive every day, tell your kids to be positive. That’s only one small piece of this. The larger piece of emotional health, which is actually one of these rocks, is what you just did is you recognized emotionally there was something there not your physical health, not your financial health. Emotionally, something was disconnected for you, and you took a step to reach out for health. That is all we want people to do.
Cindy: The stigma, back 30 years ago, when I got in this industry, there was still that stigma; 20 years ago, still that stigma. You don’t need help. You don’t need to go to a counselor. You got anxiety. You got depression, whatever. But you bringing this to light and talking about, “I knew something was wrong,” that was so valuable. I just want to reiterate that because it’s so valuable.
Chuck: I think it’s great that we’re leading up to Mother’s Day here because we’re honoring moms, grandma. We’re honoring women in our life who are so important in helping to raise us and we’re raising our kids, and then supporting our own spouse to do that. I think it’s really cool that we’re able to hear these honest evaluations of life because I’m sitting here, and I’m listening to you explain this. I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh, talk about somebody who’s … you’re on fire. There’s a twinkle in your eye. You both have got this drive to help other people and, yet, I wouldn’t have known if you didn’t tell us that there’s something going on that’s critically important in your life.”
Elizabeth: Because I host so many women, I have a team of … we have about 40 writers, and then people who work for me, there’s about 12 to 13 of them. I told our exec team first kind of where I was at. People will reach out, be like, “I haven’t heard from you in a while.” I was like, “Gosh,” so I told our whole team.
Elizabeth: When I tell people, they’re like, “I would never guess that you’re going through that.” But I think, as women, we bury it, we hide it. We want everyone to believe life is okay because we see all this stuff on social media, we see all this stuff out there that we don’t want people to think like … For me, it was hard because I’m like, “I’ve never had depression. I’ve gone 35 years of life. I’ve been through some hard stuff. I had a child really young, I was on my own, I’ve been through hard stuff. How is this right here?” My doctor had to say to me, “You had a really rough year, and then you had a baby. Then your body changed and these chemical imbalances.” It might not be medication I need for forever. He’s like, “You might just need it for three months,” something I get back in. But the therapist for me was the largest part to that. Having somebody there for me that was listening to me and hearing what I was saying.
Chuck: I think it’s good that we all recognize, coming from the old business that I used to be in where you try to outguess God by predicting storm, storms in life come along. Sometimes, they come and they move quickly. Sometimes they come, they sit, they spin and they create debris, but storms in life have to start somewhere. Because we don’t have experience with where they start or we can’t say, “Oh, yeah, that happened to me three years ago,” it got to start somewhere. For you, you’ve admitted it just sort of started in the past six months or so, right?
Elizabeth: Yeah. Well, I had never experienced death before my mom.
Elizabeth: That was my experience with death. I went to an acupuncture and she goes, “I think your positivity does a really good job bearing the pain because you don’t know how to be in pain,” and I don’t. Sadness is one of those things when I feel it, I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, what do I do with this? I don’t like this,” and try to hurry and change it or be busy. That’s how I change it.
Chuck: Or you also hear this phrase, “Let’s lean into happy things,” and I understand that because I love to do even hobbies. I love to do things that make me happy. Is there a downside to leaning into things that make you happy because they could put some kind of frosting on top of other things that are kind of bubbling under the surface? Or should we really just lean into things once a week, once a day, once a month that make us happy?
Cindy: From my perspective, they’re two separate conversations. The generic conversation of lean into things are happy, rewiring your brain, focus on happiness, that’s a generic message for everybody, for every woman, every mother out there. What you’re alluding to is when you get to the point where you can’t be happy for a reason. You’re crying on the couch, you said. When you just knew something was wrong clinically, then you need to turn to a professional to get that handled.
Cindy: The rock here, the generic level of your cairn, if you will, that says, “I’m going to get out of the bed every morning, and I’m going to focus on the things that are happy, that are good in my life,” that will help the most of the population. You can rewire your brain to be happier that will cause you to focus on different things. They actually do CAT scans of brains to show if you focus on happiness that will fire different areas of your brain. I don’t want to take away from that conversation that we just got done saying is that if clinically something is wrong and you can’t be happy every day and you find yourself crying and you’re right at that point, then you do need to reach out to a professional and get that help.
Cindy: As you were talking, I was evaluating that, probably for most people, know you how we talked earlier about getting out and meeting with friends and all that kind of stuff, that’s probably armchair counseling. For me, personally, I’ve got this group of four women. We go out twice a year. We have for 20 years. We’ve all worked together, but we’ve gone different ways and raised our kids. We would come together and just tell the person at the restaurant, “Hey, it’s 6:00, just to let you know, we’re going to be here ’til midnight, don’t try to shove us out. We’ll give you a big tip at the end of the night, so don’t worry about it. We’re four women. We’re going to chatter over here for literally four or five hours about our life.”
Cindy: You talk through childbearing issues, you talk about things in life, and you share stories. That’s at that armchair counselor level that gets you to a point where, “I’m a really good mom.” In my head, I haven’t got it all figured out, and I’m in a crisis but I’m a really good mom at the end of the day. If you can’t get to that, then you go where you went is to say I need to go to someone, a clinical professional and talk about my emotional state to them.
Cindy: I think the message takeaway for the majority of women who aren’t in that situation is that being a mom is full of chaos. Life is awesome because it’s chaotic. I love chaos because chaos brings adventures, and adventures bring stories. You grow with your children. All of that stuff about being a mother, actually looking back on my life with my kids, I would never probably change anything because it made them who they are, and they’re awesome, awesome kids in life and then it made me who I am. All those challenges are wonderful. Handling your well-being through all of that is that happiness and make sure you look at your physical health, your emotional health, and your financial health, all those things. You’re just talking about something deeper and way more important. If you have something emotionally really wrong, don’t be afraid to reach out.
Chuck: I recognize that that men are wired completely differently that way. You’ve seen the poster. Sometimes it’s used for a positive mental attitude statement. It’s the iceberg, and there’s only a tip above the water and here’s this huge piece underwater. It’s not always visible. I know that’s true for men and women, but I don’t think guys want to dive into the water and talk about that part of the iceberg that’s hidden. We don’t really go there often.
Elizabeth: No. I talked to my therapist about this too because my husband and I had this whole conversation. Before our conversation, we went to this thing and, afterwards, we had this long conversation about-
Chuck: About men, did you talk about it?
Elizabeth: No, just about communication and what we learned at the seminar we went to. When I talked to my therapist, she goes, “Elizabeth, but men aren’t wired like us. If you need him to do something, don’t assume he knows what he’s supposed to be doing. Write him a list. Write him a list and put it where it’s visible to him. Maybe he needs to check things off.” Me, hearing that from somebody other than my husband because husbands can tell us stuff , we’re like, “Shhh, whatever,” but hearing it from someone like her, I was like, “All right.”
Elizabeth: So I went home, made my husband a checklist. I’m telling you, it’s changed a lot of things for us because I took the time to understand. I’m more patient now because I’m like, “What do you mean the dishes aren’t in there?” I just didn’t understand if you see the dishes in there, why can you not just do them? Do I have to ask you to do them? You know what I mean? My husband’s great with that stuff but it was like-
Chuck: I shouldn’t say right because, to this day, I’ll have my morning Kashi or something, I put it in the sink, and Susan will be, “The dishwasher is literary right here.” I can’t even explain the science. Intellectually, I know it’s there. I may have helped to empty it. I know it’s ready, and yet it just seems … I think it’s just habit. I don’t know.
Chuck: Well, listen, I am so encouraged by this idea that there are so many different ways that we can help each other. I think that’s one of the things that I’m hearing from you two that we shouldn’t be afraid to look for and accept help. It could be from each other, but it could also be from somebody who’s a professional.
Elizabeth: It took me four kids to realize that because, I think, as women, when everyone asked like, “Hey, do you want me to bring you a meal? Do you need anything?” you’re like, “Oh, no, I got this.” I’m a very independent person, so I was like, “I got this all under control. I’m super woman over here.” Then I had this fourth baby, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, yes, I need help, yes, I’ll take that meal.” When we were sick, normally, I’d be like, “No, we’re okay,” as I’m like, dying.
Elizabeth: My girlfriend’s like, “Let me bring you over dinner. She brought over dinner, and it just means so much when somebody does that … it could be as a small gesture that they’re thinking about you, and they’re taking the time to go out of their way. She took an hour, maybe longer than that, to go get us food and bring it over to my sick household. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. I don’t know why it was such a hard thing for me to do before because, now, I feel like, too, it makes your relationship stronger with other people when you ask for help because then they can ask you for help, and it’s like a two-way street.
Chuck: It feels good to be a giver, too, doesn’t it?
Chuck: It’s not that we’re doing it for that purpose, but it feels good to donate to life, to a dear friend, to whoever it is.
Elizabeth: It does.
Chuck: Maybe a stranger.
Elizabeth: It matters. That’s the thing I think people don’t realize is there’s those people struggling so bad, and they’re just waiting for someone to offer them help. Maybe they’re not going to come out and say, “I need it directly, but then just dropped something off.” I’ve gone as far as just being like, “I didn’t even ask if you needed help. I knew you needed help, so I went and dropped a lasagna at your garage door,” and text to say, “Hey, there’s a lasagna at your garage door. I hope you enjoy it and I will talk to you later. If you need anything, let me know.” Even when my parents died, I didn’t know what to say to anyone or what I needed. A lot of times you don’t know what you need when you need help. It’s taking people to recognize that and stepping forward. Like you said, I love helping people. I live for that, and so I’m always listening to little heart drops, like what is going on in someone’s life that I can reach out and make a difference for them or help them.
Chuck: Being aware of your surrounding is good. As we wrap things up, let’s talk about the self-awareness that you’ve spoken about because there is a piece of this that I find interesting. I’m not quite sure what everyone … and it’s different for everyone what they’re standing on. If they’re not standing on a rock, and sometimes we can’t be and you’re just on shifting sand, how is it that we can drill down to that point of well-being where we really feel whether it’s faith, whether it’s our family situation, but we know, every once in a while, a carpet can be yanked out from under us? How do we find that notion that, “Well, it’s okay if things are a little crazy because the earthquake came, but I’ll be okay?”
Cindy: For me, personally, it shifts. With every stage of life that we go through, that whole idea of these rocks being associated, standing, and balance, and everything, it shifts.
Chuck: But you got to have a foundation, don’t you?
Cindy: Yeah, you do. It might be different for every person.
Cindy: For me, personally, I’m a religious person. So my faith, trust in God, listening to church every Sunday, I post a lot on Facebook. It re-energizes me every week, but some people that don’t have that faith may have a sense of a higher power, whatever, and then everything falls into place for me.
Cindy: Research will tell you that your sense of purpose is the most important. You know, Gallup has all this research about thriving and everything, and we read about that a lot, but they say the most important thing that gets you aligned with all the different areas of well-being is your sense of purpose, why do you get up in the morning every single day? As I think through this episode, motherhood and all the things that we’re talking about, the one thing that always hits me is that my sense of purpose does shift throughout my life. I always have that foundation of God or that foundation of religion or spirituality, but my sense of purpose of getting out of bed in the morning, it was my children. When my kids were young, everything I did was for them.
Chuck: Or your context changes, right?
Cindy: Yeah, it does.
Chuck: As you get older, as kids grow up, right?
Cindy: Yeah. Going back to your question of how do you align yourself, finding your sense of purpose and focusing in on that might be what you need to do. But you have to stay in alignment in all these different areas because you can only be the best mother that you’re capable of being if you’re actually holding yourself up to what you need to do for yourself. You’ve got to look at your emotional, happiness, physical health and all the different things. All of those will vary as well, but you got to be the best person that you can be before you give it to your children. And be present with your children. That’s the biggest gift that anybody can give anybody is to be present and look at their eyes and-
Chuck: Turn your phone off or over so you’re just there, right?
Cindy: Absolutely, yeah.
Chuck: Well, so good to see you and have you here today.
Cindy: Good to see you. Nice meeting you.
Elizabeth: Thank you.
Chuck: Elizabeth Lewis, who’s the founder of Detroit Moms Blog, and we’ve also got Cindy Bjorkquist who’s with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Chuck: Takeaways today, really important points, I’m not sure that everybody wants an evaluation from their kids. That’s brave. That is really brave, but find ways to improve your well-being. Make sure that you’re thinking about things that are making you happy. Lean into them if that’s appropriate. Journal in your life. Practice gratitude. Help that friend who’s got a sick family. That’s a good idea. For goodness’ sakes, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I know it’s tough in this world to this day. It’s tough for some of us to say that, “I need help,” and then be willing to accept it because it’s not just somebody who wants to run your life. They’re looking to offer you some help in some way or another.
Chuck: Well, we’re glad you’ve been with us. Thank you, ladies. Good to have you here.
Cindy: Thank you. Pleasure.
Chuck: “Hey, girls,” I just wanted to say it one more time.
Chuck: Thanks for listening to A Healthier Michigan Podcast brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. If you like the show, you can check it out, ahealthiermichigan.org/podcast. Cindy referenced this idea but we have previous episodes that go back into last year, last season talking about well-being, some really great tips there as well. You can always leave a review or rating on iTunes and Stitcher. Get new episodes on your smartphone or tablet and you can subscribe for free to us on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.
Chuck: Take good care of yourself. Be well.
Chuck: I’m Chuck Gaidica.