“They said that they were losing themselves. Losing who they were. And didn’t know if they would be able to resolve it until their kids went off to college and I wasn’t okay with that idea. I wanted to find a solution to that problem,” said Melissa Mueller-Douglas, Founder of MYRetreat and Licensed Social Worker.
We spin ourselves in blurry, hyper-productive circles while our families rest. If we get a chance to sit down, guilt shows up to steal our joy. If you’ve fantasized about a retreat, someplace sacred to regroup, you are not alone. Personal space in lockdown is rare. Before Covid, there was growing acceptance that we need breaks, from doing everything for everyone else. Momcations were on the rise. But the idea that caring for our wellbeing needs to be extravagant or even ‘secluded’ is dangerous. It’s true, most Moms crave self-care alone, but that desire can be self-destructive when conditions make time ‘alone’ infrequent or impossible. Like in a global pandemic.
Bliss is the 90 Minute Reset
Melissa has elevated the concept of retreat to something that works in real-life. When she realized people can get into that zone of emotional care, for even small bits of time, she wanted to make it possible for more people. She started with a physical space. Her clients would come in to spend 90-minutes engaged in fabulous sessions like ‘chocolate mindfulness.’ She said, “90 minutes it’s not brief but it’s also not long. They can still have their day. But they have this one blocked off time that is solely focused on them and it may be the only time they get (to themselves) that month.” Of course, she’s had to pivot to virtual sessions for Covid-19. “I’m still paying rent for my brick and mortar space although nobody can meet in person now.” It’s challenging but she takes a long view, “I have committed to my business for 10 years and it really helps me right now that I’m only at year three.” Ingenious way to avoid the short-term thinking that can derail progress. How does she maintain that positive energy?
Mindfulness Can be Found in Unconventional Places
Long before studying mindfulness in her Master’s program, Melissa experienced the power of presence to reset. “When I was playing volleyball in high school our coach would say, ‘…I understand that you have an exam coming up tomorrow and I understand that life is happening. But when you come into our gym you set all of that on one side of the door. I promise, it will be there when practice is over.’ During that time you focus.” Love it! She added, “There was the repetition of it. The sounds of the balls and all of the different senses happening for 2 hours every day. It’s guaranteed you’re not thinking about the past or future when a ball is coming at your face really fast!” So true. Sports and movement are amazing. Can we find other ways to pause?
Even Mindful Moments Help Manage Stress
Melissa admitted, “I bring chocolate in my purse to work, as a reminder in my day about that practice. At work, I wear a face shield and a face mask and gloves. I’m meeting with individuals some of whom test positive for Covid-19. I’m keeping my distance and doing everything that I need to do but it could be anxiety provoking.” Hospital workers face a lot of pressure. Melissa has found even short breaks of a few minutes can improve one’s outlook. She explained, “I only offer the gratitude journaling and other mindfulness practices for my business because I practice them myself. Seeing it work in a crisis situation signals to me that I’m on the right path to support many women in different levels of crisis.” Yes! Does she make space for other types of self-care?
Self-Care Includes Saying ‘No’
When asked, about her self-care routines Melissa said, “As a Muslim, I pray 5 times a day. And as part of it, we use water to do a cleanse before and that in itself is a mindful experience. Also, I say ‘no’ to anything that does not fit my personal or business mission. Because it is healthy to intentionally say no to something that will not serve you at least once per day.” Bravo! Setting and keeping boundaries it critical to reduce the strain of overcommitment. She added, “I also get 8 hours of sleep every night, I don’t drink coffee and I listen to what my body is telling me. If I feel physical pain then I listen and I don’t cover it up.” Wise.
Intention, Intention, Intention
Melissa is brilliant about using intention in her personal interactions. She said, “Before Covid, I would tell my kids that when we go to children’s birthday parties, I’m using it as an opportunity to network. ‘If you’re going to come over to me and say, ‘mom look’ know in advance that I’m going to let you know that I’m talking to another Mama right now. When we’re at home, when we’re at the park, when we’re doing all of these other things, you have 100% of me. But if I’m at a kids birthday party, you have the gifts and you can do your socializing while I network.” A clever way to address limited time to network. She’s also shared that she’s part of an interfaith group for Muslim and Jewish women that meets once a month. She said, “I came into that with the intention that I would not be there for a purpose. It would be solely to practice listening more than I speak and to build authentic relationships. It’s about building a bridge between us and really connecting with one another as our authentic selves.” Beautiful!
Find Positive Energy From the Inside
Melissa also supports patients mental health in her full-time job. Yet she remains positive even with limited time to work on her business, “I have to remind myself what a mentor shared, that business is easy. I spent a lot of time on a grant I applied for. A couple of weeks later, I got a response that said, ‘we are so pleased to be able to offer you financial assistance through this program.’ I was on cloud nine! Then on a call weeks later they said, ‘as more grants come down the pipe we will definitely keep you in mind.’ It was an error. But that one sentence, that signified they were going to support me, was enough for me to feel elation and pride. And that is something that I can foster internally with small wins.” It created a seismic shift in how she viewed the potential for herself and the business.
Share your pandemic experiences! How are the latest changes affecting your life? It’s quick and the results from this study are used to advocate better support for parents.
Employers, let us help you transform your workplace into an environment where caregivers thrive. Learn about Allies @ Work.
Thank you to the talented Melissa Mueller-Douglas!
Melissa Mueller-Douglas, LMSW is the Founder of MYRetreat, the 90-minute women’s retreat where mindfulness and gratitude meet. Melissa strives for a lifestyle balanced in good nutrition, meaningful connections and creativity. On Melissa’s 30th Birthday she gathered with her girlfriends for a retreat and grew the experience into a business to celebrate the innate wisdom within every woman.
Tags: mental health for moms, mental wellbeing for Moms, Mindfulness for Moms, Moms Personal Growth, Moms Self care, moms stress management, work/life balance for parents