Stress Management for Moms (part 3–It’s All in Your Head)

So if you’ve read the first 2 installments of this series, you may think that I’ve got this all figured out and that I spend my days sipping Paleo-friendly lattes while my kids behave perfectly and my house cleans itself. Read on, my friend.

In the Fall of last year, I was feeling really good about all of the Actions I had taken to get everyone’s needs met. Charlotte was finally in therapy 2 days per week. Activities like swimming and ballet for both girls were in place, and I could still help in Dana’s classroom, walk, practice yoga, attend Pilates, and make a delicious Paleo meal every night. See where I’m going with this? Remember when I talked about slipping back into my old ways? (I’m a recovering type A mom who did everything right)

I was doing a good job, but I nearly stopped dead in my tracks while I was taking a walk and listening to one of my Paleo podcasts on my ipod. The words of wisdom came from naturopathic doctor Bryan P. Walsh. He was talking to Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness about Adrenal Fatigue. Dr. Walsh’s message was….it’s not your adrenal glands that are broken. It’s the messages you send to them that overwork them.

He went on to explain that the adrenal glands are like factories that send out stress hormones based on the thoughts that I produce. Lots of negative and anxious thoughts (I’m really good at making those) make cortisol and adrenaline, which are the enemies to the serotonin and melotonin I desperately need. You mean I am in control of my adrenal secretions? I stood stunned on the sidewalk for a moment and let this sink in.

I thought back to my schedule, my routine, and my tight grip on keeping everything just right. No wonder my recovery felt so slow and laborious. I was pushing a big rock up hill, and I was the one determining the size of the rock.

A few weeks later, as if the my-thoughts-to-God’s-ears-back-to-my-ears thing was somehow in place, I listened to my favorite Paleo nutritionists, Liz and Diane, talk about Adrenal Fatigue while I was doing a monster sink full of dishes. Diane referenced the Dr. Walsh podcast that I had listened to and talked extensively (to make sure I was listening) about stress management and adrenals.

Okay, so I took Action…again. I was at the bookstore just last week, and I picked up a this book on meditation from the clearance rack. I’m warning you now that this is going to get a little mindful and kooky, so bear with me. I recognize that in order to get my mind in a place where it doesn’t send negative thoughts to my adrenal glands, I need to get mindful of my thoughts and rid myself of the ones that I really don’t need. Consider it like the purging of the playroom…something you put off for ages because you really don’t want to do it, you eventually cave, in order to keep your sanity.

The Backpack

The book said that I would have clarity of thought and more creative energy if I followed the steps, and I thought it sounded a little too good to be true…until…..I had some beautiful imagery enter my mind that when I spoke it out loud, it sounded like someone else’s idea (and it might be, so don’t tell anybody if you read this somewhere else, too).

Here we go…I warned you….

Imagine that life is a journey and you are walking along a path with many other people. These are people you love and trust and want to help you life a better life. If you are spiritual or religious, your higher power is with you as well. Everyone on the journey is wearing a backpack, and everyone’s backpack is full of rocks. The rocks represent all of our issues, problems, and ultimately our negative or harmful thoughts. Just like real life, if you have a lot on your plate, your backpack feels very heavy. So heavy, that you may need to take a rock out and ask someone on your journey to help you carry it.

The carrying of the rocks may be a healthy exercise for you or others, or you may be carrying too many rocks that don’t belong to you. This was the old me…a backpack full of rocks and every limb, finger, and toe weighed down by rocks. The biggest and heaviest rock in my backpack was guilt. But, in my imagery, the new me walked with a backpack full of light things like Hope and Love and Faith. I was strong and powerful because I wasn’t weighed down by the issues of others, and I was good at carrying (managing) the rocks (problems) that did come into my backpack.

When I shared this imagery with Chad, he explained that there’s yet another skill that can be learned on our journey (I’m sure he loves my mindfulness). He explained that you can show others your rock, and they can look at it and tell you what you need to hear about it, but they don’t have to carry it. And if they do, you get to tell them how long and far you can manage it. I love his wisdom when it dovetails with mine.

Okay, back to reality. I love this imagery because it encompasses so many practices I learned in therapy…boundaries, letting go of guilt, and finding a voice.

Just this week, I’ve visualized heaving rocks out of my backpack like one of those massively strong Olympic shot-putter. In just a few days, I do feel lighter, less stressed, and I have found more energy to regulate myself and my kids.

So, next time, you are regulating yourself with exercise/reading/talking on the phone, don’t let guilt or any negative thoughts pull you back to the laundry, your kids’ homework, or a tantrum. Throw the guilt out of the backpack, tend to the problem, and be mindful of how much lighter you feel, knowing you are regulated.

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One thought on “Stress Management for Moms (part 3–It’s All in Your Head)

  1. Love this post. As a recovering stress maniac I can attest to the power of self talk. Whenever my anxiety starts to set in I pay very close attention to what I am saying to myself. Love the imagery too!

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