Mom Guilt is Real: Let that Shit Go…

Being a parent is beautiful, exquisite, and painful. It challenges you and fills your cup and sucks the life right out of you again. It is a journey full of ups and downs, unconditional love, growth, pressure, and joy. A huge amount of that pressure, we place on our own shoulders. We establish unrealistic standards of perfection surrounding our ability to parent and believe that everything we do must be a manifestation of the fact that we love our kids more than anything in the world!

The cleverest parties, stylish clothes, perfect pictures, well thought out lunches, fresh spring water that I collected myself infused with organic cucumbers that they drink on the way to their private lessons for their select league. The standards that exist today are impossibly exhausting. My kiddos will be plugged in to activities they love.  I will encourage them to drink water. And…they will most likely have lunchables or crustables in their lunch box. Not for every meal, but for packing lunch on a Monday morning, damn straight. Many of you reading this might cringe at the reality of sending processed foods in my kids lunches, I ask you to understand that I choose the battles that I face. I know where I succeed as a Mother and I know what standards will set me up for failure. I seek health and fulfillment for my babies: physically, nutritionally, emotionally, spiritually, socially, etc. etc. etc.  I also seek this fulfillment for myself and my husband.  As a result, there are some areas where I simply cannot pretend to seek perfection. Choosing my battles and firmly prioritizing my parenting values leads to me existing as a more fulfilled mother. I must remind myself daily to approach motherhood with my intuition and my experiential wisdom, meaning I know my heart and I know my babies, and (because of this)  I will make choices that I feel will best serve my family. This looks different for each parent and each child. We are all incredibly unique — hand crafted with our own gifts and flaws and passions.  I challenge you to use those gifts and passions in your parenting style.

Now…let me pause for a moment, as a social worker I have had the unfortunate opportunity to witness the reality of neglect and abuse. There are children that are not cared for adequately and who are put in dangerous situations at the hands of their parents or caregivers.  This is NOT wisdom or intuition. This is more often mental health, addiction, brokenness, or just evil. I am never condoning neglecting your babies.

Which leads me to a topic that I refer to often in my practice…guilt vs. shame.  And a bit further than that, helpful guilt versus unhelpful guilt.  Let me use some examples to help make the differences between helpful guilt, unhelpful guilt, and shame easy to wrap our minds around.  I am going to use my own life experiences with these feelings because improving myself has been wrapped up in distinguishing between thesefeelings and living a less shame filled existence.

Helpful Guilt:

Yelling. Man I can yell. I have a sharp tongue and a temper. The further out of touch I am with my inner self, the less I pray and meditate, the less I sleep, the less I take care of myself…the more I have a tendency to yell. Some mornings are rough.  I can be short with my spouse and super irritable with my babies. If I sense a level of helpful guilt in the moments, it can help me turn the morning around. When I yell at Rad for saying “Momma I need to tell you something” for the 2700th time in the last 15 minutes and his response is, “I just wanted to give you a hug.”  I feel the ache of immediate guilt. I need to slow down, take a breath, and hear my babies.  They need to listen, demonstrate respect, have manners, etc. but I can also take pause and let them have a voice even though I may have pressed snooze 7 times and am in a frantic rush.  I believe in the power of sincere apologies as a Mom. I am flawed…TRUTH. I do not want to project my struggle with perfectionism onto my children, so when I make a mistake I want to own it with grace. I take a moment to speak rationally and calmly. Then, ideally, we can all move forward in a better manner.

Unhelpful Guilt:

Ok…this morning has come and gone. I yelled. I apologized. We loved on each other and had a good rest of the morning. However, I cannot shake seeing the disappointment on Rad’s face when I yelled. I am allowing myself to believe that he is still sad, just sitting there thinking about how Mommy yelled. He probably thinks I am a terrible Mom. I robbed him of a fun and relaxed day, because every 3 year old boy just sits around over-analyzing his interaction with his Mom from 7:00 AM right?!? WRONG. He has moved far beyond that moment. He knows he is loved. He loves Mommy endlessly. His day is awesome. I need to let my irrational thought process and over-analyzation go. It is just masochism to be that unrealistic about the impact of a brief moment.

Shame:

Now this is where it gets real. Rather than feeling guilt over a mistake or irrationally dwelling on a decision I made, shame is about questioning my worthiness. Shame leads us to question who we are, what we bring to the table, and can impact our core identity and values. Guilt is about what we did. Shame is about who we are. If I allow myself to believe that I am a terrible person. If I journey down a path of self-loathing and genuinely questioning my capacity to mother my babies, I am entering into a shame storm. I talked about my latest shame storm in my blog on struggling with authenticity. Shame is heavy and hard hitting. It gets you in the gut, heart, and soul. It can rob you of confidence and passion. We must not allow the comparison trap of parenthood turn into something that makes us question our worthiness.  We have flaws, but we are and always will be worthy of love and belonging. We are tethered into the fabric of this world and we have purpose.  The National Institute for Clinical Application of Behavioral Health has a chart that perfectly separates guilt, unhelpful guilt, and shame:

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I talk about self-kindness often. I believe, as parents, we must be kind to ourselves and live in a space where grace pours out freely.  There is not one thread of my being that believes that we were called to judge one another or to make other people fighting their own battles feel like they are less than because their unique experiences and values make their rhythm look a little different. What I know about my journey in mindfulness, self-care, authenticity, self-kindness, and as a mother is that when I learn to see each human as someone who is carrying their own torch, winning their own war, or overcoming their circumstances RATHER than someone who is doing life better than me…I have way more compassion and grace. Compassion and grace not only for them, but for myself.  Let’s cheer each other on people! I do not want to be the exact same kind of mother or parent as you…I like being unique. I want my kids to be proud of dancing to the beat of their own drums. With standardized testing, strict routines at school, and the comparison traps that kids face with social media…let’s challenge ourselves to not put our own baggage on their already overloaded shoulders. I want my kids to feel more of my joy and less of my need to be a visually perfect parent.

Social media will not be my standardized test for success in parenting.  Fostering kindness, compassion, empathy, bravery, and confidence in my babies will be my standard for success.  You are all doing an incredible job!!! Your babies feel loved and cared for…do you? If the answer is no, I encourage you to give yourself some grace and let your unrealistic standards for yourself go. Let that shit go. The world is crazy enough, you need to be nice to yourself.

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Peace, Love, and Laughter,

Megan

Monday, Monday…

Let’s chat about this morning for a moment shall we? I have been up since 4:00 AM because that is when Maya decided she wanted to greet this Monday morning! Happy and hungry (she continues to nurse at night, but is a sucker for routine and seeks a warm bottle within moments of opening her sweet, blue eyes,) her feet hit the floor early this morning! I woke up pretty easily, I prefer laughing and happy to whining and resistant any day…so out of bed I hopped.

Bottle. Check.

Dry diaper. Check.

Back to bed we go? Not so much!

Here comes Rad Man with Kion in his arms, “Mommy will you watch a movie and ‘nuggle me.” Of course, I am happy to oblige. Precious boy. So we watch a little “Boss Baby” and snuggle in the living room. I am not giving in and making my coffee yet, because it is only 4:40…there is still the opportunity for maybe a few moments of closing my eyes. After some extended snuggle time, I get up take my vitamins, drink my coffee, and get ready for the day. Maya is snoozing again at this point but Rad is going strong.

Then I realize…we are out of formula and I did not turn in my defensive driving when it was due Friday. YIKES. Ok, I am still ok. Both of these things are manageable. I will make a quick run to the store and make a phone call when I get to the office. We are still going to conquer this week.

Finish getting ready for the day. Tell Cody I need to run to the store. He is doubtful of my generously packed list of to do’s this morning but bids me safe travels as I load up Rad in his adorable CatBoy “kajamas” (that is what he calls them) and off to the store we go.

I advise him on the way that this is a fast trip. No toy section. Just formula and out. As we approach the only – open – register behind a lady (no judgement, all LOVE) with 57 cans of cat food…I realize that I am not making the impossible happen. Rad ends up with a sponge bob ice cream and we are 7 minutes behind schedule as we walk out.

Call Cody. “Sorry I am making you late babes. Tell them it is my fault.” This is when the box breathing comes in. I can feel the physical reaction to the stress of this morning building up. My heart rate is a bit increased, my cheeks are a little flushed, and I feel the jitters in my stomach as I get onto the highway headed back home.

Inahle. 1…2…3…4.

Hold. 1…2…3…4.

Exhale 1…2…3…4.

Hold 1…2…3…4.

Repeat multiple times on the drive home.

Rad is tickled with his ice cream, I am rationalizing the fact that he is eating ice cream at 7:10 in the morning by telling myself that he has been up for almost 3 hours and already ate 2 bites of a somewhat nutritional breakfast so we are good. It is all good.

On our way home we acknowledge the stunning sunrise. The sky is full of bright orange and yellow greetings on this crisp morning.

Get home. Wake Lennon up. She not only looks like me, she sleeps like me. (Anywhere and for as long as you will let her.)  She gets up and ready with little resistance in comparison to other Monday mornings. Hallelujah!!!

Out the door.

Drop Maya off.

En route to school, we say our daily mantra “I am brave. I am strong. I am kind. I am important.” Hugs, kisses…Lennon is off to have a great Monday, kindergarten style. Her pony tail is appropriate for Monday. Held together by a string…ba dum tss. #cheesyjoke #laugh #youknowyouwantto

Take Rad to Mimi and PaPa’s. Where he spends his days calling the shots and being covered in love.

Finally, after what feels like a full day’s work I am off to my other full time job.  I have the pleasure of serving as the Employee Assistance Provider for a hospital system. I get to serve the many employees of our organization and help them through crisis, struggle, or just simply helping them be the best and truest version of themselves. Each day is an honor and a refining challenge. I can genuinely say, I love my job.

I walk into work and make the trek to my office from employee parking. Part of me thinks it’s laughable to be the girl who didn’t remember to turn in her defensive driving for a ticket that she got in February and made a 6:45AM run to the store for formula because I forgot it on each of my 3 shopping trips over the weekend AND ALSO be the one who people come to for guidance, advice, and therapy. But a much larger and kinder part of me thinks that crazy mornings like today and the mishaps that come along with life in general are strengthening my ability AND willingness to demonstrate empathy.

Practicing mindfulness has not changed the reality that my life jam-packed to the brim with hilarity, excitement, chaos, and messes…but it has transformed how I experience these moments.

Breathing in Maya’s 4:00 AM joy for life.

Squeezing in the ‘nuggle time with my little man.

Appreciating the patience and kindness of my husband.

Extending kindness to the woman with cat food and the cashier despite my realization of being late.

Being truly present and Lennon and I say our mantra for the day.

And practicing SELF-KINDNESS.  Laughing rather than taking myself too seriously, and rolling with the flow of what this day happens to bring.

Sure, I still have moments of stress but breathing through them and checking the tone of my self-talk has been a game changer.  I have also learned to redirect the thought processes that lead to unrealistic expectations about me and those I live and work alongside. In Rising Strong, Brene Brown talks about the unfortunate reality of expectations and the resentment they lead to.  She says, “Disappointment is unmet expectations and the more significant the expectations, the more significant the disappointment.” I am choosing to not set myself up for repeated disappointment. That does not remove the potential I see in myself and those I live and work alongside…it is simply a manner of reframing that promotes increased emotional health.

On most Monday mornings, the wisdom or absence of grace is defining. Should I choose to walk in unmet expectations rather than grace, my ability to receive moments of mishap with ease will falter. Should I choose recognize the humanity and humor in the hurdles as they pass (in the countless forms that they are revealed) I can survive and hold tight to my enthusiasm for life. Life has never been a gentle breeze, but that does not mean that I cannot appreciate the gentle breezes as they pass…and they will.

 

 

I know I have said it before, but thank you for visiting and honoring my moments of reflection. This continues to be a refreshing journey for me. Taking the break from my daily routine to share these thoughts with you is helping to fill my cup.

Peace, Love, and Laughter,

 

Megan Adams

Being a Mindful Mom: The Total Truth

I have not written as much this past week, my life has been jam packed. Saturday in particular was crazy busy. Softball, birthday parties, wedding. Each event too far from the previous for any level of convenience. Early to the softball game, late to literally everything else. Food on the run. Changing clothes on the run. Making plans for childcare on the run. We hustled through almost every step of the day. We forgot to get a gift ahead of time and thanks to the late ball game…I had my kid hand the newly 4 year old cash for his present, nope not even a card. I had to make the struggle filled choice of being an additional 10 minutes late or settling for no card, no gift, and a mere 35 minutes late. Yup, not my finest moment. My kids made it to the super cute zoo party and got to feed the goats and eat the monster cupcakes. Half of Maya’s cupcake landed right above my left boob, and it was black icing so you could barely see it right?! Between the cash, the icing, and the half hour late arrival…I am pretty sure people are envious of how much our family of five has it together. Like who wouldn’t want to be us? But…we laughed, we explored, and we made memories. We may have seemed like a mess but we showed up to enjoy the moments and we showed up for the sweet family that invited us.

I have zero doubt that as the kiddos get older, our lives will become increasingly insane. More games, more parties, more jam-packed weekends. More moments that may or may not make people question my competency or ability to plan ahead or just my overall presentation. My daughter will not always have a bow on her head; my son may WILLINGLY and with my consent wear 2 un-matched shoes; my house will not always be pristine; and there will be some weeks where fast food or cheesy tortillas happen more than once, or twice, or however many times is necessary for us to survive that particular moment of life. I may not be the most organized and I may continue to pile up things in the garage waiting for a free weekend with the right weather to have a garage sale. My kids may get to school right before the bell rings 90% of the time. But I will show up for them, love them deeply, and try my best to teach them about joy in the present moment which is hard to do in the current world of distraction and constant stimulation.

Becoming a parent brought a great deal of self-criticism to the surface. Sometimes I add more to my plate than I should. Sometimes our schedules seem ridiculous, but I want to show up.  I want to create fun memories with my babies and teach them how to show up for people. I have this fear that writing a blog focused on mindfulness will send the false image that I am always at peace, always in control, and that I have mastered the art of being a mindful mommy 24-7. This is so stinking far from my reality. I may or may not drop the F bomb in front of my children and I lose all the chill from time to time. I have a temper and I get overwhelmed and I get tired and I do not take care of everything I need to each day. I think my husband may have courageously uttered the words, “Where is your mindfulness now?” the other day.  These are all the reasons why mindfulness has been so necessary for me, why self-care has been so meaningful for me, and why the willingness to be authentic has been so refreshing and freeing for me. I do not want to feel shame for the many ways in which I fall short on a day to day basis. I want to pour into my children and husband, but also been incredibly honest about MY needs. I want to walk alongside other mothers, fathers, women, and men that recognize the need for more truth in our lives and less judgment. I want to empower my children to love themselves and release the need for perfectionism. I want to achieve the balance between building meaningful connections and people pleasing. Seeking joy, experiencing moments of peace, spreading love and kindness, and honoring the worth that each and every one of us bring to the table has encouraged me to share my thoughts in this forum.

Being a Mindful Mommy is, perhaps, the opposite of achieving perfection. It is about recognizing your limits, being authentic and speaking truth about your needs and desires, and taking moments to dive into self-care. To adequately achieve these things, we must be in connection with ourselves. We must quiet the noise and check in with our bodies, hearts, and minds.  We need to risk being 5 minutes late to let our kids LITERALLY smell the roses and we should totally join them. We need to breathe in our surroundings and stop missing out on the beauty of each passing moment. The gluttony of busyness can be all consuming and I am so personally guilty of this sin, but I have recognized that missing out on the beauty of BEING PRESENT is not worth being 100% consumed with tasks, duties, and distractions. It is necessary to collide with the reality of the numbing nature of busyness. Perhaps we are running from shame, fears of inadequacy, lack of intimacy in our relationships, depression, etc. Filling our days with to do lists provides distraction from the battles we genuinely need to face and conquer. Brené Brown says “When you numb your pain, you also numb your joy.” This is a tough truth to face, but the healing that can emerge from confronting the dark parts of your story that you insist on running from can lead to exquisite joy and refreshing peace.

I am not sure that I will ever have a moment in which my plate is completely empty…but that is exactly what makes my ability to seek out the quiet moments to allow myself to be still even for just a few moments each day so valuable. I have challenged myself to breathe in my surroundings, relish in joy as it happens, and call a time out when I feel myself becoming overwhelmed. Each of these challenges looks different for each of our unique lives, but I ask you to join me. Be present. Be mindful. Be authentic. Confront your fears. Release the expectations of perfectionism, release the desire to people please, release the belief that you need to be all things to all people…be present and enjoy what is immediately around you before this moment is gone.

Peace, Love, and Laughter,

Megan 🙂

The Essence of Enthusiasm

Not one time in my life experience have I completed an interview that my enthusiasm was not mentioned.  As a baby social worker, I loved this! This meant I brought a fresh perspective and excitement to the table; I saw it as strength. Recently, when someone refers to my enthusiasm it has made me curious about how seriously they take me. It is often mentioned with a coy smile or giggle, like the word enthusiasm could be replaced with naivety as if what they truly wanted to say is “just wait until you actually have a glimpse into the real world.” Regardless of my actual level of exposure to the harsh realities of the world, people will continue to draw assumptions and develop their personal opinions.

I recently attended a meeting where the lack of enthusiasm in the room was palpable and painted on (almost) every face at the table. What a bummer of an hour? Trying to put myself in their shoes, I thought well perhaps they are confused, distracted, stressed, or feeling like this hour is a waste of their time. But I could not help but continue to think about the reality that their inability to engage with eagerness would guarantee that they would continue to be confused, distracted, and certainly make meetings like this a waste of their time. This also had me curious about what it would take for someone to serve as a catalyst for change in meetings like this or in the broader spectrum of culture shifts or organizational change. My brain was rapidly firing with….enthusiasm about enthusiasm.

But prior to developing a plan to harness and spread enthusiasm like wildfire the world over, I wanted to learn more about the word enthusiasm. What are the roots of this word and how does the word make people feel?  How do people respond to enthusiasm? What makes people enthusiastic? Does enthusiasm fade?

First…I found connection between children and enthusiasm. Enthusiasm and innocent positivity seemed synonymous to people. In searching “enthusiastic characters in fiction” the first result read “characters who are overly optimistic.”  From the get go, my search demonstrated that enthusiasm is linked to silliness or irrationality.  I found reference to Tigger from Winnie the Pooh who is as annoying to other characters in the Hundred Acre Wood as he is enthusiastic. Goofy was also deemed enthusiastic.  I love these characters, but I am not sure that I find them to be inspiring.

So then I began to dig into the history of the word. Earl Nightingale says, ““The word “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek word “entheos” which means the God within. And the happiest, most interesting people are those who have found the secret of maintaining their enthusiasm, that God within.” Ok, this is more what I was trying to find. Passion, faith, excitement; perhaps unexplained at times, but not silly. God within is certainly more inspiring.

The definition of enthusiasm is intense and eager enjoyment, interest, or approval. Synonyms for enthusiasm include eagerness, warmth, fervor, zeal, ardor, passion, and devotion. The antonym for enthusiasm: indifference.

When I think about fictional characters that I believe depict enthusiasm, I think of Bunga from The Lion Guard. He is small in stature, but brave, confident, fierce, and funny. He is enthusiastic about life and about protecting his land. What he lacks in size he makes up for with grit and enthusiasm.  But he also can crack a joke, sing a song, and make sure everyone is having fun.

So why is enthusiasm in a professional setting so “refreshing.” Why isn’t it the norm? Why aren’t more folks enthusiastic about the work that keeps them away from their families all day every day? Why do you need a third cup of coffee before you can tolerate someone who is passionate or comes to work with fervor?  Why do you dread Monday morning? Why is enthusiasm linked to a childlike mindset?  Why is enthusiasm linked to innocence?

Maybe it is because we have become habitually out of touch with our true, inner selves. Have we gotten so caught up in the ideas of success and status that we take ourselves too seriously? We are focused on titles, recognition, money, tasks, and material possessions that we have lost sight of what it means to be truly fulfilled. I know the days that seem hard to muster the energy and focus to get through are days when I feel distracted by fears of failure or preoccupied with financial stress. When I feel genuinely excited about an opportunity for connection or to make an impact…I get a rush of energy. I am filled with passion and purpose. I am enthusiastic.  Enthusiasm is light, airy, and energizing. It feels good to be fueled by the essence of enthusiasm.

Back to the original question: How can we harness enthusiasm or create culture shifts where enthusiasm is the norm rather than an outlier state of mind? Now let’s be honest, folks have to buy into the process of creating an enthusiastic culture. But assuming there is buy in, I believe these concepts could create some positive change.

  1. Mindfulness – Without being in touch with your true, inner self, how can you know what will fuel your spirit? What is your calling? What ignites passion in you? What is your soul hungry for? Implementing a mindfulness practice into your day to day life can help you achieve increased enlightenment. Personally, my practice has become very spiritual. My prayer time and mindfulness practice are intertwined. Mindfulness helps to remove the distractions of expectations, insecurity, and stress from my mind and allows me to be still and more in touch with what I value. My ability to be enthusiastic is dependent on my values being protected and engaged in the work I do and the activities I involve myself in. For ideas on how to begin to implement a mindfulness practice, check out my Daily Dose of Mindfulness post.
  2. Trust – Taking ourselves too seriously is a defense mechanism. For people to have the comfort and faith to allow their inner selves to be shown there must be a level of trust. If you have been vulnerable in the past and have regretted this vulnerability either due to disappointment, betrayal, or being made fun of it might be a struggle to allow your true self to be shown. Because I believe enthusiasm is wrapped up in our values, passions, and dreams…I believe that it is vulnerable to wear your enthusiasm on your sleeve. If your excitement is not well received you may develop the need to be guarded. Creating organizational change based on the concept of building trust can be quite the undertaking, a great read to give some ideas about how to make this happen is The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.  However, that doesn’t mean that individuals cannot do their part to serve as a catalyst for change in day to day activities.  Trust yourself and your instincts. If you have enthusiasm about a meeting, connection, or opportunity share it! Enthusiasm is contagious and your willingness to be vulnerable may be the inspiration for others to peel back their protective layers of status and power. This may not always be true, but the right people will be lit up by your passion…be on the lookout for people who perk up when you are enthusiastic rather than shy away or roll their eyes. Their hesitations say more about their insecurities than your potential.  A brief thought on encouraging enthusiasm in your children…LISTEN. When they are tugging on your shirt tail with excitement to tell you something, try your best to pause for a moment and HEAR them. You can be the catalyst that encourages your kids to listen to their inner voice and act on their passions. I know this can be a challenge when you have limited time and limitless responsibilities, but model being still for them.
  3. Turn Towards the Light – I use this phrase often in my counseling practice in many different contexts. I use it to explain cognitive behavioral therapy and changing your negative thought processes. Turn away from the negative thoughts that weigh you down, make a choice to engage in positive and rational thought processes. I also use this phrase when I talk about toxic relationships. What relationships feel heavy, dark, and foreboding? Choose to surround yourself with people who inspire you and reinforce a positive self-image. I try to focus on the concept of choice in the way we feel, think, and behave. We can actively create scenarios that are more uplifting, positive, healthier, etc. Or we can actively choose or passively exist in situations that drag us down, deplete us, or leave us feeling empty. The idea that enthusiasm is something we can actively choose makes perfect sense to me. We can make the choice to implement practices and activities that light us up. We can engage in experiences that keep us excited about life, work, and our families. We can decide to honor our true selves, our set of values, and our dreams. An article from the Technical University of Munich discusses the concept of phototropism:

The growth of plants toward light is particularly important at the beginning of their lifecycle. Many seeds germinate in the soil and get their nutrition in the dark from their limited reserves of starch and lipids. Reaching for the surface, the seedlings rapidly grow upwards against the gravitational pull, which provides an initial clue for orientation. With the help of highly sensitive light-sensing proteins, they find the shortest route to the sunlight – and are even able to bend in the direction of the light source.  “Even mature plants bend toward the strongest light. They do this by elongating the cells of the stem on the side that is farthest from the light. This type of light-oriented growth is called phototropism,” explains Prof. Claus Schwechheimer from the Chair of Plant Systems Biology at the Technische Universität München (TUM).

Plants actively grow in a manner that increased access to life-giving sunlight! If we find the moments that provide that life-giving light, we should actively create increased access to these opportunities. Maybe children are more commonly associated with enthusiasm because they haven’t been tempered by disappointment and expectations. Children are still in tune with their inner selves and naturally turn towards the light.  I hope that each day I have at least one moment that ignites childlike excitement, passion, and enthusiasm in my soul. We should all be so lucky.

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Peace, love, and laughter,

Megan

Taking Control of Stress

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!! St. Paddy’s Day always makes me happy! Green is my favorite color and this day brings to mind fun, family, and faith! All of which I highly value. I love that shamrocks are used to commemorate Saint Patrick’s evangelism in Ireland. (He utilized the shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity, fun little fact for you.)  I also love drinking green beer to celebrate Irish heritage. I have been known to dye the noodles of a spaghetti dish green so my kiddos to join in the consumption of green and yummy things! It looked like worms and really has no relevance from a historical standpoint, but they loved it! But today, I cannot help but look for my 4 leaf clover. I have not had a green beer and, to be honest, I am in a bit of a lousy mood.

Which made we want to talk about the reality of self-care, mindfulness, etc. Not every single day is full of joy and exquisite recognition of the beauty in life. Sometimes your dryer goes out, your phone won’t charge, and your gloriously-cyclical, womanly gift of the month joins you in your already stressed existence. Oh and you picked up a Saturday shift to bring in some extra dollars. So St. Paddy’s Day 2018 is not going down in the history books as an awesome day, well not so far anyhow.

So why am I sharing the details of my less than stellar Saturday with you? Because it’s real life. My threshold for whining children, my husband, and cold coffee were not up to par today. Not. Even. Close. But why is that, what is going on in my body that creates a heightened level of irritability, less focus, and leads to poor communication?

If you have time, check out this 14 minute TED Talk by Kelly McGonigal

She briefly discusses the realities of stress and how chronic stress can be harmful. She presents incredible research about the idea that perception of stress can be the key to changing the way our bodies responds to said stress. Fascinating right? Essentially, we decide the power that we give stress. Stress will absolutely create a physical response in your body. The chemical dump that is created from moments of stress prepare us to be faster, stronger, provides increased endurance, makes us more social beings, etc. Viewing this response as preparation to move mountains, overcome, and succeed can change the way our bodies react to stress.

Stress is, unfortunately, inevitable and stress is not always the result of negative moments in life. Moving, new jobs, traveling, growing your family, and other touchstone moments of life create stress reactions in our bodies. And then, of course, there are the stressful moments that are simply frustrating and exhausting.  But how cool is it that we can control the manner and degree in which stress impacts our systems? We have a say in whether chronic stress will lead to heart disease, premature death, migraines, gastrointestinal issues, so on and so forth. Stress can be to blame for many of the physical, emotional, reproductive, and really any category of ailments that we are plagued with, but what if we can have a preventative relationship with stress that helps us overcome the potential of being brought down by our exposure to seemingly constant stress?

In case you were curious about the answers to my rhetorical questions…It is SO cool and we totally can! Here’s how…

Adjust the lenses that you use to view stressful situations. Rather than seeing each difficult moment or hurdle as your potential downfall, be rational.  First, remember that your body is built to have a chemical reaction to stress, if you are experiencing an aroused or heightened state, this is your body preparing to conquer and overcome this situation. Then ask yourself: Can I overcome this moment? What are the steps and timeline involved in overcoming this moment? How have I coped with something like this before? The answers to these questions are not always easy, but sometimes these types of questions can help sort out the flat tire moments from the facing foreclosure moments. These questions can help you prevent a broken dryer and cold cup of coffee from taking over your emotions. It helps you put your stress into perspective and avoid allowing unnecessary reactions to commence.

Practice relaxation techniques. Coping skills are key: practicing mindfulness and increased self-awareness aides in my ability to have a healthy relationship with stress. Because I have been able to get to know myself, my triggers, and my signals of dysfunction, I am better able to utilize my coping skills before I allow stress to take control.  Now, let’s be clear, that does not mean that I do not make mistakes and react poorly to stress from time to time. What it does mean is that I can (ideally) change the course I am traveling down in my reaction to stress. The STOP Method, box breathing, yoga are all go to coping skills that allow me to take control of my physical and emotional reactions to stress. Mindfulness can also create symbiosis between your mind, heart, and body! Rather than working against your body or being angry at yourself for reacting to stress, get in tune with your body and develop a level of understanding about how your particular system reacts to stress. These steps put you in the driver seat; you decide the course created by stress. You can decide to be empowered rather than defeated.

Take care of your body. When you are experiencing stress you can benefit from increased water intake. Drinking more water helps your body to flush out the chemicals released when your brain senses stress. Activity or movement also serves as a stress reliever. I mentioned yoga, some people prefer running or boxing. Allowing your body an outlet for the physical reaction to stress can encourage a more healthy relationship with stress.

Don’t take yourself too seriously in the passing moments.  Ok… sometimes we just need to take a deep breath, release our unrealistic expectations, and take a moment to relish in the lighter side of life. Let me give you an example, mornings can be rough. Trying to get the kiddos out of the house and to work on time may sound simple, but that is not always the case. There are a LOT of moving parts that have to fall into place. As the clock ticks closer to 8:00, stress heightens and begins to impact everyone’s mood …the moving parts fall everywhere but into place.  Rather than allow the tension of a failed morning bleed into the rest of our day, we will often have a dance party on the drive to school and we say our daily mantra “I am brave, I am strong, I am kind, I am important” to hit reset. We hug, kiss, and say I love you. We acknowledge that being in a hurry led to a stressful morning and we are not going to let it ruin our day. This same reaction can apply to conflicts at work, missed due dates, speeding tickets, broken appliances, and other moments that are definitely stressful but do not deserve to take over your mindset.

Let me place a disclaimer here…if you have consistent physical symptoms that concern you, please see a physician to rule out any underlying diagnoses. Also, if you think you may be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder or depression, changing your relationship with stress can certainly help mitigate your symptoms, but talking to your physician or pursuing counseling may be necessary.  There are also critically stressful moments that may require additional intervention. However, no matter what your circumstance is utilizing positive coping skills, taking care of your body, and checking your perspective are all beneficial steps to take to aide in stress management.

So cheers to ☘️St. Paddy’s Day☘️ and driving the snakes out of your mind. Don’t allow negative thought processes to take over and control your relationship with stress. You are equipped to overcome the moments that seem overwhelming.

Peace, Love, and Laughter,

Megan 😊