We spoke with 3rd Ritual’s Jenn Tardif on mental health in the modern world and its affect on pregnant women
To say you have anxiety in 2018 is almost becoming a cliché. Like declaring depression when your friends are summering in Europe and you’re not (we get it). But, self-diagnosing anxiety is more common because the condition itself is more common. In fact, today, you’re more likely to suffer anxiety than any other mental illness and in the UK the chances of experiencing that double if you’re a woman and the most common (along with depression), if you’re pregnant.
To pile one cliché on top of another, the rise of our reliance on devices and a fast-paced, perma-connected life is rarely the thing that we need but it often gives us something to focus on, a distraction when we want it. Having an Instagram account is not a bad thing. Wanting to post pictures is not a bad thing. But these shouldn’t be the only things we use to seek validation. It’s OK, and even preferable, to take time away from those small extensions of ourselves (especially if you’re expecting) so you can abate the anxiety or maybe even prevent it altogether. To guide us on this ever-ubiquitous subject, we spoke with Jenn Tardif, founder of 3rd Ritual, who, at the time of publishing, is eight months pregnant with her first child, on how exactly to do that and how she sees the link between mental wellness and pregnancy in today’s world.
Based out of New York and sharing her workshops all over the world (the accompanying images to this article were taken in Mykonos on retreat) 3rd Ritual was named for its three-pronged approach to wellness: objects, workshops, and online content. If the latter seems oxymoronic – I implore you to sit on their hypnotic homepage and not feel a wave of calm wash over you.
From a young age Jenn Tardif has discovered that simple rituals can inspire sacred experiences. “Rituals anchor us to the present, making the invisible visible and create new perspectives. After experiencing the healing effects these rituals have on our physical and metal wellbeing, I was motivated to share them.” Starting first with yoga classes and teacher trainings she soon moved on to workshops which, in turn, compelled her to turn these into objects and easily accessible resources on their online home. Jenn is a realist – knowing it isn’t about people turning off entirely but instead marrying ancient philosophy with modern techniques; the result of research, innovation of technique and, of course, practice.
“Whether you seek it out or not, expectant moms are the constant recipients of advice”
When I ask Jenn about the new pressures that women of today face, she expertly taps right in to the core of a tired truth that has updated itself for a modern world. “Women are still susceptible to the pressures of doing – and having – it all. Whether you seek it out or not, expectant moms are the constant recipients of advice. Doctors, family, friends (close or not), and even strangers on the train. Their intentions may be pure, but the influx of information can be overwhelming, and it makes it harder for you to trust and believe in yourself. The information age reinforces this. It’s hard to believe you’re doing your best when all you have to do is open your social media before you start to feel like you’re behind”.
Because our internal narrative is so important to the physical responses we have and the emotions we experience, interrupting it or training it to be helpful and not harmful is a useful first step. Jenn says the key is to start with micro adjustments: “stay focused on a series of small acts in a given day – when we focus on the present we’re less likely to worry about what’s next or what was”. Try to notice the stories you that make you feel small and move on before you start believing them.
Relieving the negative thoughts about oneself is a hard-enough hill to climb on its own, add to the mix the responsibility of another human life and the stress of that can increase exponentially. Women are often expected to be walking “glowing, fertile goddesses” for nine months and it feels that only recently they’ve given permission to themselves to be entities separate of their babies. Women like Kim Kardashian (who experienced life-threatening conditions during both her pregnancies), Anna Faris who was “uncomfortable and bored” and, more recently, Pandora Sykes on her podcast The High Low have called pregnancy, for her, a means to an end. Jenn herself admits to initially feeling overwhelmed by it and then chastised herself for that because she was “in the midst of creating a little nervous system” and then that made her feel guilty and thus begun “the shame spiral”.
It’s important to remember that even if it’s something you wanted and actively sought out (for some women to an exhausting and greatly sacrificial degree) you’re not instantly binary – you’re allowed to access the spectrum of emotion that was available to you before you started sharing your body. Jenn, like a lot of women, experienced extreme nausea, debilitating fatigue, and depression. Instead of the wholesome and glowing transformation she was expecting.
This lead to negative thoughts that she was “already a bad mother” for being more anxious than she was grateful. She confessed this to an Ayurvedic doctor who reminded her that daily gratitude is a muscle you can train and doing so makes the practice easier over time: “take a comfortable seat, close your eyes, and begin listing everything you’re thankful for”. This is what worked for her but she’s the first one to say that “there is no such thing as a one size fits all approach – not in life, not in pregnancy” so chasing another person’s experience isn’t healthy – instead, living by your own internal compass will teach you what works and thinks the sometimes the best medicine is in being kind and helpful to others – “when you do good, you feel good”.
“Remember, you don’t have to be at the top of the mountain to find peace”
Starting small is the advice Jenn keeps coming back to when we discuss the pursuit of calm. “Spiritual journeys aren’t as easy or pretty as the hashtags on Instagram would have you believe. It requires practice and persistence, but it will get easier with time. Start small – with a few mindful breaths a day” you can then work up to finding a guide, “someone who is further down the road you are and who is willing to show you the way”. Remember, you don’t have to be at the top of the mountain to find peace.”
Words by Hannah Finnigan-Walsh
Photography: Lizett Diaz @lizettdiazphotography