Updated: Mar 18, 2021
I started a couch to 10k running program last week. Yay me. What this also means is that I am braving the neighborhood three times a week with five kids (three of which are on wheels). During our workout yesterday, and after our second kid-on-kid collision, which happened because my instructions were not heeded, I almost lost it on a cul-de-sac. I looked around to see if anyone was watching my outburst. I took a breath, lowered my voice, and explained ONE MORE TIME why we cannot race when we have a new rider who cannot handle steering in a side-by side situation. I realized in that moment that the stress of this activity (and the awareness of all of the safety concerns) made me feel (and look) like a cat on a hot tin roof. Sometimes we don't realize the level of stress we are carrying until we have a cul-de-sac moment.
As moms and dads, we are constantly running a mental movie of all the things that could go wrong in a given situation. That is part of our innate, protective instinct. We want to keep our kids safe physically, we want to guard them emotionally, we want to protect them from bad influences, (and the list goes on). This equals stress.
Add to this mental movie, the constant requests coming at us on a minute-by minute basis. From the time I wake up until the time I go to bed, I probably hear the word "Mom" several hundred times. "Mom, where is this thing?" "Mom, where is that thing?" "Mom, look at this." "Mom, I am hungry." "Mom, watch me." "Mom, watch." and the beat goes on.
Listen to me, I love being this important person to my children. All of my kids are under the age of 10, and as mamma, I am still an important part of the way they experience the world. They want me to be excited when they are excited. They need my approval as they are learning the make decisions. And I love that gift. That is my job and calling that I am thankful for it. I want my children to feel encouraged and loved and empowered by me. That is the essence of being a mom. (And it also equals stress.)
Imagine this same minute-by minute request scenario, but set in the office of a company CEO. "Mrs Jones, where is this thing?" Mrs. Jones, where is that thing?" Mrs. Jones, look at this." "Mrs. Jones, watch me." It is almost funny to think of this. This is why the CEO has a front office staff. Maybe moms need that. In the podcast last week, Michael Morris beautifully described how important it is to guard our emotional health as leaders. Im my opinion, Moms and Dads are at the top of this leadership list.
FOUR THINGS PARENTS CAN DO TODAY TO GUARD EMOTIONAL HEALTH
CREATE A TIME-OUT SPACE for yourself. If you are a nursing mom, you may already have this. Go out on the porch and sit on the step. Find a quiet place to rest your brain for a second.
GO OUTSIDE. People are like plants. We need the outside elements. (sunshine, fresh air, even rain!) Spend as much time as you can outside each day.
BE AWARE OF WHAT YOU ARE FEEDING YOUR BODY. It is hard to combat stress when you are filling your body with foods that are creating inflammation in the body. Listen to this podcast with Health Coach Amy Parker Lawson for more information.
BE AWARE OF INPUTS. What are you looking at? What are you reading? Is social media determining what is being inputted into your brain? Or are you? We need to THINK ABOUT WHAT WE ARE THINKING ABOUT. There is a great article from Psychology Today about implicit biases that relates to this thought. I have become so aware of how addicted I am to my phone. I grab it whenever I have a second to "relax" (need to go nurse - where is my phone? bathroom break - where is my phone? lounge on the couch - where is my phone?) THIS IS NOT TRUE MENTAL REST.
* Take some time to breathe instead
* Keep a prayer or meditation book in your time-out space.
I want to leave you with this comment. One of the gifts of parenthood is the beautiful way that it strips us of selfishness. For moms, his begins from the time we are find out we are pregnant and have to make a choice to give up our levels of coffee and wine intake. I honestly believe that we will never get to a place of being completely stress-free as a mom or dad. There is to much responsibility. And to use a sports analogy, we want to be in the game participating, not sitting on the side. So being completely stress-free should never be the goal. The goal is to be better skilled to field the stress as it comes so that we can fulfill our role on our family team (sorry, another sports analogy.) As a mom or dad, we are not the coach, we are in the game with our kids, helping them to be better players - this takes stamina, patience, and leadership. (I apparently cant stop with the sports) If the stress level ever arrives and seems to stick at a level that inhibits a person's ability to thrive in their role on the team, that is when a trained counselor can help.
Some Great Books to check out on this topic...
The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter Scazzero
Get Your Life Back by John Eldredge
Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton