how do you deal with stress? how do you cope?
for me, i disappear. i used to eat. like most young women, for awhile i turned to wine. that was a sad and scary time, but i somehow managed to turn that around. i think i put other people before myself – something you shouldn’t always do – and i figured it out.
lately, my life has been consumed by stress. i say my cup is full to overflowing and i have nothing left. i have gained weight that i cannot shake, it keeps me from sleeping and because of it i struggle to focus on daily tasks so nothing is getting done. i’m cranky and quick to lash out. i’m tired. i’m short. i’m mean. i’m not myself.
i have come to a stand still, and i feel stagnant.
i know i’m not alone here, and that i’m not just joined by mothers in feeling like you’ve lost some crucial part of yourself.
i’m at a point where i realize i have to retrain my brain. 30 plus years of doing things one way (the wrong way, let’s face it) and i’ve got to get myself into better habits. i am all about instant gratification, so this is a struggle. but to help, to get me back on track i do a few things, and i felt like i wanted to share them with you, because as fantastic as the internet is, the conversations i have had irl have lead me to believe that not enough people are using it for good.
listen to music
music is great at evoking all kinds of feelings from happy to sad. at some point or other we’ve all gotten lost in our favourite soundtrack but something i didn’t even consider doing until recently was listening to music for its restorative effects. they play music at the spa when you’re getting a massage (omg, who could go for a massage right now? this mama for sure), so why not play it when you’re in the middle of a nervous breakdown?
there are tons of youtube songs out there dedicated to relaxing and calming you – mid anxiety attack, before you sleep, even when you just want to concentrate. i can attest to the fact that these songs work. maybe it has something to do with the delta wave frequencies they employ, or maybe it’s that you can use music as a source of distraction. if you’ve ever practiced any kind of mindfulness exercise you’ll know how difficult it is to clear your mind or come back to a “center.” i use this music as my center when my brain starts wandering off in all directions.
you should also consider guided meditations. there are a few great apps, like headspace, but i’ve found a free youtube video that i play when it’s time to go to sleep. the guy has a british (australian?) accent, which is also love. guided meditation is also great for when you don’t know what you’re doing but you want to practice anyway.
cut down on the caffeine
right? who am i to say that? coffee is my bud. i was so happy when i was able to start drinking coffee again, it was like heaven. there’s a ritual surrounding it, i understand. but caffeine is a real bitch on the system and i noticed i was doing a lot worse during the day when i had too much of it. instead of reaching for a second cup right away, i make myself have a glass of water in between. and truthishly, usually by the time i’ve finished the water i don’t even want that second cup of coffee. or i’ll have a tea instead.
forget about the peanut gallery
one of the online arguments that pisses me off most is “women 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago did without so you can too,” etc and so on. you know the one i’m talking about, where other people – often women, who should be our champions – tell you to suck it up and get on with it, diminishing your very valid and very honest feelings, making you feel like some kind of a failure because you just aren’t strong enough.
first of all, you do not have to and should never hold yourself to the unrealistic standards created by someone who doesn’t even know you and your story. they make these sweeping generalizations about the “glory” days of life, when i’m pretty fucking sure if women 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago had the technological advancements that we have today they wouldn’t have struggled. they would have taken advantage. let’s not pretend we want to go back to a time before cell phones and netflix. we move forward for a reason.
who’s to say those women did all that hard work and didn’t complain? we just don’t have record, maybe they didn’t feel free enough to talk about what they were going through or struggling with. they did the best they could with what they had, and that’s what we’re doing, except now everyone is under a microscope. you can’t even let your kids be kids without fear of someone narc-ing on you.
the most salient advice i could ever offer anyone is to do what is best for them, and not what suits others. you cannot please all of the people all of the time, so you have to consider what’s going to please you, and in turn, keep your family and friends happy and healthy.
go to bed
i am completely guilty of not following this, although i try. do you know just how important sleep is? obviously you know what it’s like to feel tired, but did you know that not enough of the right kind of sleep (yes, there are wrong and right kinds of sleep as well. you can fail at everything!) can affect the way you function, your memory, even your ability to lose weight? driving tired is technically driving while impaired.
turn off the computer, the tablet, the smartphone, and the tv – all those technological goodies that you use when you think you can’t sleep – at least a half hour before you’re ready to go to bed. AT LEAST. it’s better if you can aim for 2 hours, but i know how hard that is. all the shows! the light from the screens tricks your brain into thinking it should be awake, which is why it’s so hard to fall asleep when you’re nose first in one. set up a nighttime routine – brush teeth, stretch, turn off lights, turn on soothing music, etc… and eventually it will come naturally.
take a break
i don’t know about everyone else, but i know that most moms don’t take enough time for themselves to do things they love doing. i for sure do not. there are so many little projects that i want to start but i feel guilt when i want to sit down and start knitting something, or even exercise. but if i don’t take breaks, if i don’t get some time to myself when i am not focusing on cleaning the dishes or the house, working, trying to study, or get the laundry list of other things done… i implode. i get sick, i get angry. motherhood can be all consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. we are still people after all, with lives outside and beyond our children. this is a hard one for society, i think, because once you’re mom you’re mom for life.
give yourself a break
you know what? you’re a human. you’re going to have bad days and you’re going to compare yourself to other people. we all do it. but you are also human, and, like my very first psychologist told me, we are “fucked up and fallable.” mistakes are not the end of the world. your past is in your past, leave it there. your future is unwritten, so give it a chance. your feelings are valid – YOU ARE VALID, and it is okay to feel lost or sad or depressed or anxious sometimes. we all do. (we do, we really do.) it’s easy to let yourself be overwhelmed, to say to yourself that you’re the only person ever to feel this way and to think that there is no digging yourself out of the hole that you’re at the bottom of. but that’s not true. your brain is used to slipping into negative self speak and it takes time to remember to remind yourself that it’s okay to feel sad but you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself and move forward. you are in charge of you. no one else. believe that you are strong, try to find the positive – it’s the best way to live this life. and i mean actually live this life. so give yourself a break. if you’re sad, be sad for a bit. or depressed. or mad. but then get on with it.
all of this stuff will take time, but like anything good, it will be worth it. i’ve been doing it for awhile now and while i’m nowhere near perfect i’ve definitely been able to get myself back to some semblance of normal much faster than i used to, which is good news for everyone involved. believe me!