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I felt like I was dying.

I should have known better. I mean, every psychology 101 textbook in the world will tell you that’s what a panic attack feels like, but when it happened, I didn’t think I was dying. I knew it. Breathing was a concerted effort. I used to run track, but now even hustling for the bus sent sharp pains through my chest. I rode to the emergency room with my husband in sober silence, fearing the worst.


Scarier still was when I learned that there was nothing physically “wrong” with me. Instead, I was diagnosed with anxiety.

I resisted my anxiety for a long time after that, reasoning that “there’s nothing wrong with me, I just have a lot on my plate.” And that was true. I’ve always worked long hours and feel a little uncomfortable having less than three jobs. I need a backup plan for my backup plans. I did not trust myself to sit still. Nothing I did, no award I won, no achievement felt like enough. All symptoms of anxiety.

Having my daughter was the match that set the haystack ablaze.

My anxiety had largely been contained to worrying about my own sense of inadequacy, and slipped under most people’s radars. Once I gave birth, however, I teetered dangerously close to the edge of my sanity.

Yet, if it hadn’t been for my daughter, I don’t know that I would have begun to take my mental health as seriously as I do now. Teary-eyed and embarrassed, I picked up the phone and began calling every therapist in my network until I found one who could see me.

I wish I could tell you that there was an easy fix to make the anxiety go away. There isn’t. I’ve looked everywhere and talked to everyone.

I still wake up in the middle of the night to make sure that my baby—now a two-year old—is breathing. Good days still sometimes turn into bad ones for little or no reason. I’ll be making breakfast or flipping through Facebook, and almost before I realize it, I’m annoyed. Or irritated. Or maybe just a little sad.

That’s almost always how it starts.

When that happens, the thoughts in my mind begin speeding by like a time-lapse video of cars on the highway. Everything seems to get a little bigger than I can handle, the smallest mistakes become life-threatening, and even getting out of the grocery store becomes too much for me. I wish I was exaggerating, but I have had panic attacks so severe in the canned goods aisle that I’ve needed someone to come and get me.

Things aren’t perfect, but I’ve come a long way in the last two years. Here’s what I learned:

Anxiety is a medical condition.

Just because it can’t be diagnosed with a blood test doesn’t mean that it isn’t real. I resented my anxiety and was embarrassed by it. But if you had some other chronic health issue, like diabetes or MS, would you apologize for caring for yourself? I have a friend with fibromyalgia. She knows that stairs trigger intense pain for her, so she avoids them. I know that running late somewhere triggers intense panic for me, so I avoid that as well.

The right therapist is crucial.

I did not stay with the first therapist I saw, who consistently reinforced that if my husband would pick up more of the slack, I wouldn’t be so stressed all the time. Truth be told, since high school I’ve seen about a dozen mental health specialists. I finally found one who was willing to work with me to develop tools to manage the panic attacks, and never made me feel silly or marginalized for struggling to regain control.

Self-care is an antidote.

When managing panic disorder, it’s important to keep yourself in a positive and empowered place. Structure your day around positive experiences that make you laugh and fill you with peace. For me, that means picking my daughter up from school, taking yoga and fitness classes three times a week, and eating foods that nourish me. It also means not checking my work emails on my day off or skipping meals (because those things trigger negative feelings).

Keep your tools handy.

It may help to create an anxiety emergency kit for yourself. Mine includes cute videos of my daughter on my phone, lavender oil, protein bars, mindfulness podcasts (and headphones), and a notebook with writing prompts for when I need to get something off my chest. I also keep an extra couple vacation hours in the bank at work so I can take a mental health day when needed. And don’t forget the most important tool is always available to you: your breath. Just a couple minutes of breathing deeply can stop anxiety from evolving into a full-on attack.

Go with the flow.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, don’t resist the anxiety. Especially for those of us who are type A, we tend to put a lot of energy into presenting a composed exterior to the world. “I’m fine,” however, takes a lot of energy to muster and and maintain. Give yourself permission to have a bad morning or even a bad day, and realize that it doesn’t define you, your life, or how capable/successful/normal you are. If you’re feeling really bold, find a way to laugh about it.

You may feel like you’re not enough, but trust me—you are and you’re doing great.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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