As my 5-year-old’s hearing progressively declines, and his ability for listening, learning, and understanding therefore declines with it, mommy’s stress level progressively inclines! It has also meant mommy is back in college to learn sign language – another place I never dreamed I’d be again! None of this can be planned for, nor can knowing what more the future will bring. Scary, but no other choice but to accept, cope, and chug on!
Life is full of unknowns. We could spend all day, every day trying to worry about and plan for potential stressors and complications that may arise in life, but all we will really be doing is reducing the quality of life we have right now. Not much in life is predictable, so no matter how much we worry and plan, the unexpected will arise. When stressors come up, it is necessary to try as hard as possible to take a deep breath, calm those emotions, and rationally plan for how you will handle it. Because when the complicated and unexpected come, no matter how much we don’t want to handle them, they must be handled.
After 13 years in college, I really never expected I’d be a student again. Now I find myself working fulltime, taking 6 college credits, 5 kids with activities and each their own needs, and fitting in exercise, meal prep, date nights, personal time, quality time with the kids, and teaching the family ASL so we can all communicate with the youngest. My afterschool sitter helps with homework, something I just do not have time for – it is a lifesaver. She is also learning and helping to teach sign. She does laundry for the kids – mine suffers until I find the time – and I hire my cleaning done, so home time can focus on kids, learning, relaxing, and health. My point is, as these things come up, we try to get rational, calm down, and readjust! It absolutely helps now having a husband, he is a tremendous support, but for many years it was just me trying to get through the muck.
I am not immune to stress, out-of-control emotion, excessive tears, depressed mood, anxiety, and feeling self-pity more than I would like to admit. But, at some point I know I have to pick myself up and move on, because being a parent there is really no other choice. I am also not immune to getting off track. When my youngest was hospitalized as a child it took me some time to master the hospital weight loss routine – eating the donuts and sitting and moping is much easier, I perfected that with my first!! But, the last few months of 2016 I wasn’t used to that routine, my stress was high, I was caught in some self-pity again, and I gained 7 pounds before the start of the new year – actually back in my overweight BMI range (something I vowed not to let happen again after my years of hard work). I am proud to say that following the same advice I am giving here every day has me at a 5 pound loss since the beginning of the year. I am being patient, making mostly healthy choices, being kind to myself, and keeping at it even when I get off track.
Things that work for me…
- Take it one day at a time. Each evening I try to plan for the next day. Meal prepping on the weekend helps, but when I forget I have go-tos that are easy or restaurant/fast food options I can live with. I skip workouts when I truly just don’t have the time or the energy, but I strive like crazy to get in at least 3 workouts a week, even on a bad week (more on good weeks). I am up at 5 am for this, also when I find my alone time, but some days I sleep in until I have to be up for the morning pre-work/school routine.
- I learned long ago not to let yesterday impact my today. You will never hear me say, “I had a bad day yesterday, or the past couple days, so I might as well just have a bad week and get back on track Monday.” Every day is a new day to start fresh. And Monday’s are far from magic. Weekends can be the best time to be healthy.
- Remember why you do all of this. No matter what I will never give up, because my kids are so important, and I want them to have the best chance at life. That does not mean I cater to them constantly – far from it – it means they can play or even have electronics while I get in a workout or cook a healthy meal. Or they have time with the sitter while I go to a movie. My physical and mental health is just as important to their health!
- Self-compassion. Weight loss and ever being happy at any size will never happen without self-compassion. I know I am going to get off track, I know the unexpected will keep me down periodically, I know I will have bad days and weeks – none of this means the goal cannot be met or the journey is over. Pick yourself up and keep going, progress will come eventually.
- Make down time no matter what. I let work wait, charts undone, laundry undone, dishes left, books unread with the kids, nights of sign language not done, bath time left for the next night, and on and on and on. So that periodically I can have a night to just sit after work, outside of the mandatory childcare duties – we must have downtime. Sometimes I literally know my brain will not work without it. Listen to your mind and body. My husband and I also rotate giving each other nights off!
- Sleep. You will rarely not find me in bed by 9 PM. I may read for a bit, have time with my husband, or even watch TV on certain nights (though this is not good advice), but I am in bed, relaxing, and asleep by 10 at the latest – despite the amount I have going on in life. This is too important for me to miss. My sleep suffers when I am anxious, but I am aware of this, know I need to further readjust, and remind myself a full night of sleep will come again soon.
- My routine is my most important personal tool for mental health.
- Personal reminders. With much on my plate each day I am way too good at forgetting. I keep sticky notes on the door frame to my garage, and again in my car to remind me to bring things you’d think you can’t forget – like the kids’ oxygen supplies and the hearing aids! Not that easy with everything else that must get out the door, I am willing to admit! The little things we need each day for any of us adds up, keep yourself reminders, pre-plan, keep extras in the car, whatever it takes to ease the stress.
- I also use reminders on my phone. Calendar appointments to remember to-dos and phone calls to be made. Calendar reminders to be positive and happy! It all makes a difference in my anxiety and not having to constantly remember everything in my head because I am cued to it throughout the day.
Hopefully some of the tips I find helpful in my own life will help you problem solve ways to better manage your own daily stressors and those unforeseen complications that will come up!
Keep positive and carry on!