I think most moms are qualified to write on the topics of stress and tension. Scratch that. Most HUMANS are qualified to write on the topics of stress and tension. I consider myself to be expertly qualified to share my muddy, in-the-trenches view…and I am really curious to hear about how YOU deal with stress and tension in the thick of it.
“Good moms let you lick the beaters. Great moms turn them off first.” I think I ran into that quote when I first entered the world of Pinterest. We had two boys at the time, ages 1 and 2. We were living in South Korea, where my husband was stationed. It seemed to sum up how I felt about life at the moment and my fly-by-the-seat-of-pants parenting style. I was pretty sure that I was simultaneously doing the best that I could and screwing everything up all at the same time, which is discouraging, because you can’t get much better than your best, can you now?
Just this past weekend, I took those same two boys to the pool (and Amelie stayed home with my husband and napped). This summer, with two swimmers, I didn’t have to get into the pool. I got to lay in a lounge chair and read a book. (Real life? The lifeguard in me couldn’t read and the dumb kid in me got sunburned.) I got to jump in the cool, refreshing water when I wanted to. And climb out when I wanted to. And I realized that if you had talked to me a few short years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to wrap my brain around that luxury.
That’s the thing about stress and tension – it winds you up so tightly, that you can’t REALLY see the big picture.
As I was thinking about this all, I realized that I still have stress and tension. I still get lost in the nitty-gritty. I still get wound so tight that I catch myself literally holding my breath and figuratively waiting for the other shoe to drop. When you live that way for an extended period of time, it has an effect on your outlook. I am in recovery from living in times of stress. What I am sharing with you today is not a be-all, end-all list of cures for stress and tension. Let’s call it a reflection on what I can see right-here, right-now. And an encouragement to you to work on your own list!
// give with intention/schedule your breaks
This one is the most difficult for me. I’m not talking tithing (that’s difficult for me, too). I’m not talking volunteering. I’m talking giving of self and love. To your family. The ones you live with. I know. I know. All those self-help articles tell you to “take time for yourself”, “put on your own oxygen mask”…I get it. I get it. Yes. Important. But you KNOW that already. If I am ABLE to go and put my feet up while somebody else paints my toes, me personally, you don’t have to tell me twice. I skedaddle. The hardest thing for me, though, is putting down what I am doing. The THING that is SO important…to ME…to serve when I don’t want to, when I am not enthused about it. It’s a brain switch, you see.
On a day when I am feeling exhausted…from not getting a full night’s sleep (mythical)…from having to be awake and answering questions at the crack of early (“Hey Mom!!”)…from trying to do all the things that life has piled on and I have piled on…it feels terribly, terribly tempting to “just take a little break” and see what’s happening…anywhere else but here. Inevitably, when I am in this frame of mind, someone needs a drink of milk (can I take a moment to express my frustration at the design of Costco milk jugs?). I get interrupted from MY break to get YOU a drink of milk. Giving drink to the thirsty…whaaaaa???
There is “taking care of self” and then there is “taking care of self(ish)”. When I have set times that I am taking a break, I can take my (well-deserved) moment of rest to look at your pretty Instagram pictures and “take care of self”, knowing that the child who is “dyyyyyyying of thirst, Moooooom” actually had a drink of milk 5 minutes ago, has all his mental, emotional, physical needs taking care of and will be ok for 10 more minutes. When I live “taking care of self(ish)” mode, I spend every moment wishing for just five minutes of peace and get really snappy when I get interrupted.
// plug in AND plug out
I am constantly searching for a healthy balance on this one. I just loved Nell’s article on finding your village. Gosh, that just touched a chord, and it refreshed my gratitude for bloggers. I remark, sometimes, to my husband that blogging (writing one and reading them) saved my life. He rolls his eyes, but I don’t even think I am being dramatic. I have my in-real-life tribe (plural, actually, unless you count all our duty stations as one big military tribe), but I needed the strength and wisdom and love and friendship that flowed through the keyboards of my fellow bloggers. I am an introvert (albeit an outgoing one), but even so I have to plug into community, which, these days, doesn’t get confined to a zip code.
That said, when I was pregnant with Amelie, I took a year off Facebook and really didn’t blog. I can’t remember if I announced and deactivated or just stepped away for a while (doesn’t matter to me which it was + mom brain). It was stressful for me. We were going through very stressful season that I was not interested in sharing or sugar-coating. And all I could see were other people’s…my friends’…happy-dappy lives, and I didn’t want to feel green envy sprouting up. I wouldn’t describe it as depression, but I think if I hadn’t listened to my internal voice of how social media was affecting me, I might have become so. I have my family. I had a strong local group. I was connected and supported. I had to step back from certain areas of network.
Does it sound contradictory to say “always plug in and always plug out”? It totally makes sense to me.
// pray. exercise. eat. breathe.
You know this. I know this. Crap in = crap out. I ebb and flow / wax and wane / surge and recede on this in my life, but the fact of the matter is if I put just a little bit of intention towards each of these four I can process the things in life that normally tie my shoulders in knots. ‘Nuff said.
// find your rhythm//find your fun
What are your “resets”? Schedule in the things that bring peace and order to your day. I can’t believe that I have used the suggestion “schedule” twice in this post…hello, Calendar, my name is Maia…I don’t think we have met…
Again, I use this word loosely. I have to get my crew out on the daily, in the afternoon, when we are finished with work and school. Anywhere but in our small apartment space. I do it for them. I do it for me. I do it for our neighbors. We don’t go anywhere fancy. We walk to the park. We walk on “our secret adventure walk” trail. I keep a “park bag” by the door (I keep a swimming bag, too, in the summer. It sometimes feels like THEEEE one smart, organized Mom thing that I do.) and we grab it and go. Well…you know…after I yell a few times to PUTDOWNYOURLIGHTSABERSANDGETYOURSHOESONFORTHELOVEOFGODANDALLTHATISHOLY!!!!
There are many many people who do this better than I do. You are probably one of them. But after 7 years of this thing called “Who are these little people and why are they calling me Mom?”, I have found that being outside for hours at a time (for us) is never, never a waste of time. Our rhythm follows the sun and our fun is simple.
// one day at a time
It is easy to forget, sometimes, when you have some significant space between yourself (myself) and traumatic events that you don’t, actually, “have this”. I don’t got this (despite my hip, encouraging Dutch Bros. cup telling me otherwise.) God has this. I’ve been practicing one-day-at-a-time living for a fair chunk of time, now, but I get off track. Constantly. I get stuck in the awful nitty-gritty, knot-tying place of trying to reconcile the multitudinous details with the insurmountable mountain of a big picture. This past week, while spending some intention on prayer and breath, exercise and eating, I realized how much I was expecting my own efforts to carry me. It is the most humbling and freeing thing to be walking along in the most mundane moment in the world to realize that you don’t, actually, have to carry the weight of tomorrow on your shoulders.
There are so many many sources that add stress and tension to life.
There are ones we can reduce. I can say no to trying to do everything. To trying to be everything. I have to not watch some kinds of movies that I never realized bothered me when I was younger. I can turn off notifications. I can not procrastinate things that WILL need to get done.
And there are ones that are built into the fabric of our lives Ask me about my day, any day, and I will be able to point to things that made me flush with stress and forget to breathe. There are certain things about my life that come with the territory, and I have to work out my stress-reducing techniques around those things.
We can’t ignore the stress and tension in our lives. It is there whether we acknowledge it or not. The question is how do we – how do YOU – thrive?