Posts Tagged ‘stress’

I’m Not Going to Stress-Eat the Holidays This Year

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

holiday health

I make a mean chocolate chip pumpkin bread. Totally tooting my own horn, I know, but it’s fine. It’s worth it. Because that bread is amazing. And because I grind the flour myself, and it has pumpkin in it, I convince myself that it’s practically a vitamin.

Vitamins are good for you, right? So it’s okay to eat it for every meal of the day.

It’s a lot easier to convince myself of this misguided truth when I am feeling the stress of the holidays. It seems that the shortened days filled with grayness and bitter cold are never ending, and yet there is no time to do all the things that need to happen between Halloween and Christmas. So while I’m engaging into the fourth hour of a 30-minute craft that we both know won’t turn out, desperately trying to give the perfect neighbor/teacher present, those baked goods scream that they will offer validation and comfort in my distress. So I eat, and I numb, and I eat, and I numb, and then I wonder why I don’t have any energy to get the things done that I need to.

This holiday season, it will be different. We will be different! Because we are going to health-up the crap out of this season. Here is my plan.

  1. Drink all the water. If part of your winter routine means putting on a Costco sized bottle of lotion each day, chances are pretty good that you aren’t drinking enough water. Shoot for half an ounce for every pound of body weight. You may pee every three seconds, but eventually, your body becomes accustomed to the increased water volume, and you return to your normal peeing patterns.
  2. Do an emotional inventory to identify what you feel like when you’re stressed. Sometimes during the holidays, we go into panic autopilot, where we just do things to get them done because we know we have to, and then we end up crashing and burning once our checklist is complete (or even when it isn’t). If you aren’t sure what your stress cues are, ask someone who knows you well what they notice about you when you’re stressed. Figure out what those are, and take a time-out when those cues pop up.
  3. Give yourself the gift of physical activity before the holidays start. Been eyeballing that Zumba class that meets at the rec down the street? Sign yourself up. Perhaps yoga is more your speed, or you’ve been wanting to try weightlifting. Find out what’s available in your area, and do what you can to treat yourself to this. Getting out and seeing other people who are taking care of themselves can be therapeutic in itself, and it will also give you the endorphins to make the stress more manageable. If nothing is available nearby, get a new DVD to work out with.
  4. Give yourself permission to say “no.” If someone asks you to do something and you don’t immediately want to respond with a resounding “yes!”, opt to take a beat to think it over. Practice saying no in the mirror until it feels comfortable. Decide that pleasing yourself is at least as important as pleasing others.
  5. Go ahead. Eat the pumpkin bread. Ask yourself first, though, if you’re eating to feel the joy inherent in delicious pumpkin bread, or if you’re eating to numb the stress and despair that can come with the season. Because when we eat treats to enjoy the treat, we are more likely to enjoy them, and we are satisfied a lot sooner. But if we eat them to stop feeling the difficult feelings, we tend to keep eating, and eating some more, and our poor emotional health starts to impact our physical health.

Enjoy the good things about this holiday season, because you deserve to experience joy. Seek out those things in your every day. And when it starts to feel like it’s getting difficult to find the joy, take a break. Watch some garbage television. Go to a spin class. Put the “me” back into “merry.”

Treat yo’self.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

The Week the TV Died

Monday, September 19th, 2016

The day the TV diedWe just returned from a two-month venture away from home, one of the perks of being a stay-at-home-mom with a teacher hubby. We drove several thousand miles over that time. The children were ready to be home. I was ready for a break, ready to not be “on” all the time. We came home to a power-surged television and Blu-ray player. Our only television and Blu-ray player. Did I mention I stay at home with three children and my husband is a school teacher? Going out and dropping a load of cash was not in the cards after the summer we just had (ever?). But fortunately, the TV was under warranty and could be fixed for free. In 19 days.

The official mom in me said, “We don’t need TV anyway; the AAP discourages prolonged screen time; play with your toys; use your imagination.” We don’t have cable anyway. I painted a picture of simpler times and the importance of creativity in child development. I glamorized our lives to that of a natural family magazine cover shoot. Oh, the opportunity! Oh the solitude! Unofficially I was a little rattled. I often sat up late at night with the 4-month-old, nursing. With hubby going out of town for a week, I needed the occasional assistance of a television for very basic needs—like mama’s gotta shower and momma needs to fix dinner!

We don’t own smart phones, but we have more than one screen. Our laptop and tablet ended up getting a little heavier-than-usual use by the end of the 19 days. We survived. Did we learn anything?

TV is overrated. Our kids woke up and played quietly without bother. They didn’t ask much at all that first week about the television or when it would make its return. We spent more time with books and playing with toys. I often use television as a tool when I need to get something done (like call customer service, etc.) or just need to take a deep breath because, you know, I have a young infant, toddler, and preschool-aged kid. Turns out toys did a pretty similar job as television with the whole “keeping them occupied” concern. In fact, they seemed to play together a little more with less distraction because the TV wasn’t there.

TV is underrated. Like I said, mama needs a quick shower with the assurance that something has her children’s attention. Few things are as mesmerizing as a new episode of Super Why! Mama needs a few minutes of peace sometimes, especially if she (or daddy) is a single parent or sick or has other additional, situational challenges. Also I can’t juggle a screen while nursing. We don’t have a smartphone and the laptop distracted the babe. I tried. More than once. I certainly got my minutes of peace! They occurred late in the night for the most part while baby nursed. Peace turned into a little aimless boredom because nursing a young babe is very time and energy consuming. You sit a lot. And, turns out, without a television late in the night when your mind is beyond tired, you stare at the wall, a lot.

There was not newfound solitude or deep satisfaction with life. I’ve heard the terms float around—the “no TV kid” or “low media kid.” I suppose we are already low media, and we do that rather purposefully though not as fervently as possible. I don’t think removing the television made all that much difference. Perhaps this is because I’m already mindful of limiting screen time and “cultivating intrinsically motivated, independent exploration” or because this venture lasted less than three weeks. Life was pretty much the same for us, and no life-changing development occurred so far as I could see.

There was newfound solitude and deep satisfaction with life. Sitting in the quiet at the end of a long day while I nursed my babe would previously include an episode of some old show on Netflix. Turns out the quiet was nice for me more than the children in that I spent those evening hours reading or processing the day. I spend time with my daughter all day but not being distracted by television allowed me to spend that last hour more aware and appreciative of her presence in my life as she settled into sleep. You know, all that “cherish every moment” stuff older parents mention? I did. Perhaps if anyone benefited from the lack of television in our home it was me. Turns out instead of going a little crazier I found a little peace.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 4 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Oh Yeah, I’m a Mombie

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

mombieI do math every night. It’s a word problem that starts something like this: How many hours of sleep will I get if I go to sleep at X time? I’m tired, so tired. The little ones have colds this week with a cough that keeps them up. And there’s that whole infant, toddler, and preschooler thing happening. Right now, at 9pm on a Wednesday night I should go to sleep. Just one more hour, I say. And then another. The house is quiet. Oh, glorious silence, how this introvert misses you. I know my 5 month old will wake at 5am to eat. And then the other children will be up by the time I could fall back asleep. So 5am is the latest time when my day life kicks off.

But my nightlife is all mine. It’s a rockin’ good time with dim house lights and a roarin’ good show on the stage of my TV stand. Sometimes a documentary, other times a Netflix rerun because at the end of a day with a zombie mind the highest I can process is some Parks and Recreation. Sometimes I’m actually getting “things” done, like bills, blogs, diapers and other laundry, or the little stuff that makes up life. Often I’m getting very necessary things done like “me time,” and that’s why it’s hard to give up.

There’s even a term floating around the Internet: I’m a mombie, part zombie and part mom. I lurk in the night because for 16 or more hours of the day I am drained of my life energy. Like many parents I don’t get many moments to myself. It is amplified by the stay-at-home-with-young-ones aspects of life.  I do not mean to say others who work and have kids of varying ages don’t also suffer from mombie (or dadbie?) inclinations, but the whole “mom, mom, mom, hold me mom, let me sit on top of you, mom, mom, mom, lunch mom, snack mom, I had an accident, mom, mom, mom” all day long wears on this introverted mama. I also recognize there are those who would love to stay home if they could. I’m not complaining about my life so much as just claiming what I need— time to myself.

So every night I start the math problem. How many hours of sleep will I get if I stay up until X? I feel disheartened when I realize if I want 8 hours of sleep I must go to sleep shortly after the kids, immediately after my husband. And that equation only works if I don’t factor in the likelihood of my children waking in the night. So I stay up instead. I crave alone time all of the time. It isn’t a slight against all the wonderful people and things in my life. It’s that I want some one-on-one time with myself just as much as I want that time together with my family.

Great joy exists in uninterrupted silence, or uninterrupted anything for that matter. It’s also critical as so much of my day is filled with meeting everyone else’s needs. It is entirely possible to “lose myself” in being mom, daughter, spouse, neighbor, friend, etc. So it’s at night those parts of me that I’ve put on hold—the book lover, academic, fashionista, theologian, sociologist, animal-lover, health conscious, organizer, game player, baker, and more—come to life again. I’m not so keen on calling myself a mombie but I fit the bill. I like to think of it more as I tend to my roots after dark so in the day I can flourish.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 5 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Babies and Big Groups

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Babies and Big GroupsWe visit family often. By family, I mean a moderately-sized group of twenty or so people. The trick is we often stay in my parent’s or my in-law’s home where all of these twenty people are also around for prolonged periods of time. Sometimes they are also staying at my parents, or in the case of my in-laws grandma babysits many of the kids and we spend the weekends doing things together. Our visits are from a few days to as much as six weeks sometimes during summer and winter school breaks.

With our first child, our first long visit at five and again at twelve months, I really tried to stay rigid. We napped when we were “supposed” to nap; when a little taste of icing was offered I refused it on his behalf though; I apologized for his grumpiness at times. By now with the three kiddos in tow I’ve settled into a little confidence and competence on managing my babies in these big group situations.

Most important for us was to know our children’s individual needs. One child gets overwhelmed more quickly with sensory overload and crying fits occur more often. He needs a quiet room. For another we look for cues of needing more cuddles or neediness though he is not as acutely aware of noise. He needs more hugs. Knowing your child’s needs allows you to best advocate for them. Advocacy does not require shouting out defensively so much as just providing, as the adult, for your child’s needs and giving space for their voice in the context of uncertainty and unfamiliarity. We visit for weeks at a time, and I recognize that being far from home—away from bed, toys, the grocery store and church, even the streets and all the other familiar things—can be taxing.

Be ok with standing up for what your children need. We love our families very much and enjoy their company. I recall one day when additional family arrived unexpectedly to visit just as my children were waking from their naps (possibly having woken one of them from his nap). As we see them regularly during our long visits, I didn’t feel any pressure to “make every moment count.” In fact, ensuring my children’s emotional stability for the day allowed for the remaining moments to be most enjoyed. I politely and quietly ushered my kids into our bedroom and closed the door. There was no big explanation or curiosity about it. I could tell my children needed a few minutes to transition from nap to unexpected socialization. Those twenty minutes secured my children’s ability to cope and enjoy the remainder of the day with family.

Advocating also means finding trust within you. I make mistakes but generally believe I take the time to balance what everyone needs with what my children need. Just because we are far from home doesn’t mean they always get their way or even always get their needs met. Sometimes we don’t get our needs met. But I try to find a little grace for them and me when I don’t read a situation most accurately or my expectations (of myself or others) aren’t met. Though rare, any comment someone makes about their behavior I try not to engage it as a criticism. That comment doesn’t matter as a judgment on my parenting, but it is insightful in how I might be a better house guest or how someone else is experiencing their time with us. Again, it’s a constant negotiation of being present for everyone I can and not just my children.

I try to balance time with the larger family and friends with just my little family of five. For some of that time we are a family of four while hubby works. I build in days of just down time or little adventures (to the donut shop or park) where it is only us even though they have many cousins who would love to join us. We spend much time with the cousins and I find it grounding and rejuvenating for my kids (and me) to just be together alone. This means extra cuddle time and quiet time together, which I usually build in early in the morning before others wake up or arrive.

Last, I let things slide. I find it important to keep structure but my kids usually eat a little less healthy on any of our vacations. They take in a little more technology, sometimes stay up a little later, and their nap schedule becomes a little less concrete. After trekking 1,600 miles each way in a mini-van with three little ones you learn to bend a little to adapt and make the time as enjoyable as possible.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 3 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

My Pregnancy: Week 22

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

 

pregnancy week 22

I know people—you know the people—who one-up you in all situations. Let’s just start out by establishing that is helpful for no one. It’s especially not helpful for this mama who is on three weeks of sick children, spouse, and/or self in the midst of a more-stressful-than-usual month. The holidays dance around us; my mother just had surgery; our babysitter moved away. Oh, yeah. Then there is that whole pregnancy thing. Although it’s hard to tell which of these things is most responsible for the sheer exhaustion I feel this week.

 

I’m a chipper gal, one not quick to complain. I try to be thoughtful about my frustrations, process my emotions, and I’m not big on making things worse than they “really” are. But boy howdy, telling me “suck it up, it’ll be harder when you have three” is not helpful to anyone at any time. Sure, go ahead and recount how you have four children and one nearly had the plague while you yourself suffered from “something one symptom away from Ebola.” I’ll empathize. But right now I’m so tired. I’m sooo tired. Can you, please stranger lady, please just stop talking and turn away your judging glances? I’m running a low-grade fever and am exhausted, my sons are not able to contain their bodily fluids, and we are stuck here in the pharmacy that has “lost” our prescription for the second time.

 

It’s been a rough few weeks but this was the climax. Take deep breaths, I remind myself. Recall that yoga training on presence, patience, and perseverance. Oh wait. No. My son just threw up. As someone who prefers the sunny side of the street, I see the bright side of this as the stranger lady who survived the plague moves away a few seats. A moment of golden silence comes as a courteous store manager arrives and our scripts fill immediately, seemingly effortlessly. If only he’d thrown up a thirty minutes ago!

 

Home again, I take a deep breath. We all cuddle up on mommy and daddy’s bed, currently covered in waterproof pads with towels on the ground. Hello sweet sleep. I’ve missed you. Daddy gets home before we wake, and the house is cleaned up and some semblance of sanity comes over our safe haven of a home.

 

Week 22, with assistance from prior weeks, officially kicked my pregnant butt. I’m more thankful for hubby who’s been picking up my slack. I must give a shout-out to my parents who are usually my second line of defense. With my mom being down these last few weeks I have new appreciation for how much she does for us by taking the kiddos for a night here or an afternoon there.

 

Ah yes, I’m chipper again. Week 23, you’ve met your match!

 

Annie is a mom of two toddlers who is still alive and well despite coming in contact with what was one symptom away from being the plague.