Are you overwhemled?

Keeping busy with a long to-do list is normal for Moms today but December can push our holiday cheer into chaos and crazy. Even if our schedule isn’t filled, our brains are busy with voices shouting, “I should be doing more, I should be better, there’s something I’m missing,” or we put it onto others “He should be helping me more, their expectation are too high, this is too much!”

Although I agree society expects Moms to be responsible for too many things, I don’t believe “worshipping busy” is a helpful place to dwell.  Feeling overwhelmed is not fun and just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean we should join in.

Overwhelm usually leads to one of two results:

You run away from the yucky feeling. Thinking about all your to-do’s drains your energy, leaving you mentally and physically exhausted. You feel unmotivated and you find yourself spinning in activities that seem productive but really aren’t (TV, surfing the web, reading, or if you’re like me, really slow housework while complaining). Running away from a negative emotion keeps us stuck. We aren’t getting things done and we aren’t fully resting.

You never stop working. Productivity is your middle name. You take pride in your accomplishments at the end of the day. But there’s a problem, humans aren’t meant to live with constant busy-ness. The little voice in your head that yearns for rest gets ignored. You judge others for their lack of drive while secretly yearning for a break. Physical illness or pain creeps in as your own personal life coach, trying to steer you towards a more balanced life.

Here are 5 ways to break free from overwhelm.

1. Pretend you are 90 years old and looking back on your life. What goals would you like to have accomplished? What will you regret? Use these answers to prioritize your list.

2. Learn to leave things un-done. It is impossible to do everything, let alone do it well. Pick a few things you really don’t care about and do a terrible job. Feed your kids cheetos for dinner. Take no photos this year. Drive your laundry to a dry cleaners. Eat off paper plates.  Post a Christmas Card on Facebook and be done.  Celebrate the freedom that comes with imperfection.

3. Pick 3 things. Trying to hold too many things in our brain leads to overwhelm. Choose 3 things you will be proud you accomplished at the end of the day and every time you hear yourself think, “I have so much to do!” remind yourself, “No, I have three things to do.” Notice how much calmer and focused you feel.

4. Take 5 minutes and fully engage your senses.  Eat or drink something and notice the temperature of it.  Pay attention to the texture, the complexity of taste, the smell, the feel of it.  Let it consume your attention and you’ll notice how it quiets your mind.

5. Give yourself permission to REST. Fully indulge in a movie. Sit over the heater vent and tell your family you are going to ignore them while you read for an hour. Schedule a day to yourself and let the wind carry you wherever you want to go. Banish all the “shoulds” and allow yourself to be YOU without guilt and pressure.

If you want more help managing overwhelm, schedule a free, 45 min. initial call to see if coaching is right for you.  If you live in the Walnut Creek area, join my Life Coaching Group this January where we’ll learn to make friends with time.Are there things you want to do with your life, but can’t figure out how to fit it in?

Do you have a hard time feeling motivated?

Are you too busy with too much to do?

Do you want to feel a sense of purpose and direction in your days?

Are you tired of feeling tired?

Click here to hold your spot in our Tuesday group 10am – 12pm starting January 7th.  $20. suggested donation.

Have you forgotten how to play?

My kiddo: “Mom, will you play a game with us?”

Me: “No thanks, honey, I’m enjoying reading my book.”

My kiddo: “What are you reading?”

Me: “Oh, it’s this great book on the importance of play by Dr. Stuart Brown, I just love it. It’s all about how Play shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul.”

My kiddo: “You’d rather read about play, than play a game with us?”

Me: “Oh, all right, I’ll play a game with you.” (But inside my head, I’m thinking YES! At times, I would rather read about play, than play a game with my kids.  Is something wrong with me?)

Have I forgotten how to play?

Janine is one of those Moms schools couldn’t live without. PTA volunteer, scout leader, car-pool coordinator, and room Mom. Everyone counts on her and she takes a lot of pride in her involvement. But she gets resentful of other Moms who say “no”. Why is she doing all the work? Secretly, she’s jealous of those Moms who put themselves first, but she can’t seem to figure out how.

Don is a good provider and father of two young children, yet he constantly feels like isn’t doing enough. At work, he feels like he should be at home, at home, he feels he should be working. He’s burning the candle at both ends and burning himself out.

Many of my clients fill their calendars and to-do lists, but still feel like they are missing something. We are taught to focus on goals, hard work and productivity, but we aren’t taught about the importance of play. (Or perhaps we spent too much time playing patty-cake and trains, that we’ve forgotten what feels like play to US). Grown ups need to play in order to feel like all our hard work is worth something. It gives us a sense of well-being, connection, and shifts us into a more relaxed brain state (and who doesn’t need that?). But what feels like play to one person, may not to another. If you or your kids need a break from stress, check out these play personalities, from Dr. Stuart Brown’s brilliant book.

Storyteller – Imagination is the key to the kingdom of play. Reading, writing, movies, performances, dance, etc. Storytelling can be brought to any activity. (If your child loves stories, make sure to give them lots of quiet time to be inside their own heads.)

Director – Enjoys planning and executing scenes and events. Born organizers, they love the power of being in charge and creating an experience for others. Center of the social world. (Discovering my daughter’s bossiness was her way of playing helped me accept it and find appropriate outlets for it.)

Kinesthete – Move in order to think. Like to push their bodies and feel the results. (School desks are torture for these kids. These kids need trampolines, chin up bars, balancing boards and roller blades, especially if they are trying to learn something new.)

Joker – A joker’s play revolves around nonsense. Silly jokes, behavior, foolishness, practical jokes, class clown. (Which means these kids need an audience, thank goodness for YouTube.)

Creator/Artist – Joy is found in making things: something beautiful, something functional, and something goofy. Or just to make something work. Take something apart, fix it, clean it, put it back together, and make it new. (Gardening, organizing, decorating, woodworking, blogging, detailing a car, there are many outlets, if this is you or your kids, make sure you have a creative outlet or you’ll never feel completely alive.)

Explorer – Exploration is a way of remaining creative & evoking the imagination. Can be going to new places, searching for new feelings or meanings. Discovering something new by going deeper or researching and discovering something new. (Now I understand why I love life coaching and reading non-fiction, it’s how I play!)

Competitor – Playing to win a game with specific rules. Keeping score and fighting to be number 1. Games may be social or alone, observed or participated in. Competitors like to be known for being on the top. (Who can be the first one to eat their veggies and clean their plate?)

Collector – Wants to have and hold the most, the best, the most interesting collection of objects and experiences. This may be a solitary activity or the focus of intense social connection. (This can apply to multiple activities, you can travel to collect souvenirs, play soccer to collect trophies, or collect subscribers on your YouTube channel).

Can you identify the play personalities of everyone in your family? Remember, the things that feel like play are the things your kids will make a career out of later. What’s your favorite way to play?

Is something bothering you?

Sometimes life sucks.  People are mean, Teachers make dumb mistakes, Bosses are blind, and our family pushes our buttons.  When you or your kids are feeling down in the dumps, it’s important to give yourself permission to feel it.  Take a break from blaming & complaining and LABEL THE FEELING:  mad, sad, embarrassed, frustrated, disappointed, scared.  Finding & labeling the AUTHENTIC EMOTION is powerful.  It honors you and your feelings.  Worry, stress, anxiety are not emotions, they are a mental distraction that only create more worry, stress and anxiety.

Naming an emotion contains it.  Suddenly, what used to feel overwhelming, now feels manageable.  You’ve felt disappointed before, you can handle it.  So you feel ashamed?  That’s ok, we all do from time to time.

This is a hard thing to give our kids.  We don’t like to see them sad, mad, scared or ashamed.  We want to kiss their boo-boo’s and make it better quickly so we don’t have to see our child suffer.  But when we first tell them to “look on the bright side” “don’t feel that way” or “it’s no big deal”, we unknowingly teach them that there is something wrong with them, that the way they feel is flawed.  We do the same thing to ourselves when we deny our own emotions.  “I should be happier”  “I need to just suck it up and get over it.”  “Why can’t I just……be different than I am?”

Naming and owning an emotion doesn’t take long.  In fact, Scientists have timed it.  If we fully allow ourselves to experience an emotion, it lasts about 90 seconds.  Kids are usually better than adults at staying with the feeling, crying, hitting, stomping, and then they’re over it.  Sometimes it’s all you need. But if you’re a Mom like me who can’t help but help, you can ask my most favorite question, “What do you know to be true about you?”

DD -“Ella was so mean to me at school today.  She said I was stupid and fat.”
Mom – “You feel mad.”
DD – “Yeah.  It makes me mad when she’s mean to me.  Why can’t she just be nice?”
Mom – SILENT SITTING (no talking, just let her have her emotion, let her stay frustrated for 90 seconds.)
Mom – “What do YOU know to be true about you?”

Somehow when we ask for TRUTH, it raises the bar:  “I know I’m overweight, but I’m also a good friend.” or “I say dumb things sometimes but I’m not a dumb person.” or “Whenever I’m with Ella I feel worse about myself.”
If your child’s response is “The truth is I’m a loser and nobody likes me”, start over at step one, naming the feeling, “You feel sad.”

Model it for your kids by trying it for yourself.

1-    Find something or someone that is bugging you.

2-    Name your authentic emotion:  (mad, sad, scared, ashamed, etc.)

3-    Bathe in it.  Picture yourself sinking into a bathtub of your emotion.  Let yourself soak in it for 90 seconds. Say to yourself, “I feel scared, and that’s ok.  I allow myself to feel my feelings.”  Notice how it feels in your body and where you feel it.”  BREATHE!  It is super important to keep your breathing slow and deliberate.  If you start to think, talk, blame, argue, bring your attention back into your body and your breath.

4-    After 90 seconds is passed and you are feeling calmer, ask yourself, “What do I know to be true about me?” and see what answers arise.

5-  Congratulate yourself on being authentic.  Celebrate your awesomeness.  (I know you want to avoid this step but your kids are your motivation.)  You want them to have a positive self image so show ’em how it’s done!

There is nothing you have to do right now.

Somehow we Moms have bought into the idea that because we have the opportunity to “do it all”, we should not only “do everything” but do everything well and at the same time!   There is an expectation, perpetuated by the media, but also by ourselves, to contribute to the family finances, keep a tidy home, cook healthy meals, volunteer, keep children clean and healthy, stay fit and active, dress fashionably, look good, have good friendships, healthy family relationships, satisfying sex lives, and raise respectful, bright, athletic, talented children who also do everything well.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to speak at the Mothers of Multiples Conference and we looked back in history and noticed that never before have so many expectations been put on mothers.  I think it’s no coincidence that rates of anxiety and depression have gone up in women and in children in our country at the same time our “Supermom syndrome” has escalated.  Well Supermom is getting tired and it’s time to change the expectations we put on ourselves and other Moms.

Moms love to talk about how busy they are.  “I’ve got to do this.”  “I’ve got to that” but the common denominator all my clients are looking for is PEACE.  Not happiness, not excitement, but peace.  An escape from the mental churning, multi-tasking, ruminating and busy-ness that seems to dominate our days.  Moms today often feel disconnected from their lives because they are disconnected from themselves.

do nothingThe solution?  Do NOTHING.

I know what you’re thinking, “I’ve got stuff to do”  “People need me” or “I hardly get anything done as it is, and now you want me to do nothing?”

Doing nothing gives you access to yourself.  It tunes you back in to WHO YOU ARE , WHAT YOU WANT and WHY YOU ARE HERE.  It’s so easy to lose oneself in motherhood but you cannot find peace around you, if you cannot create it inside you.

The tricky part is GIVING YOURSELF PERMISSION to do nothing and not allowing your brain to start “should-ing” all over your quiet time.  “I really should be doing something else right now.”  “This is a waste of time.”  “This shouldn’t be so hard.” These thoughts can make our quiet time stressful.

To keep your brain occupied, while your body is still, try this, my most favorite mantra, “There is nothing I have to do right now.” This is one of my favorite thoughts because it is always true.  There truly never is something that you HAVE to DO right now.  (I hear my 13-year-old son, in my head, arguing this with me, but it’s true!  You don’t even have to breathe right now.)  When I think “There is nothing I have to do right now” my body immediately relaxes and shifts out of my head and into the present moment.  When I can focus on my own body in the present moment, peace is accessible.  I am accessible.  My senses come alive.  I am awake and fully alive in this moment and that is where joy and contentment become available.

My family and I have started honoring a Sabbath.  Five hours on Sundays with no technology, no distractions, no “shoulds” and no “have-to’s”.  Just the opportunity to become alive in the present moment and do whatever we feel like doing.   It’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever made them do.  (You can imagine, as a life coach, I make them do all sorts of goofy things.)

I’d love for you to join me, on my DO NOTHING movement, and let me know how it goes.  Start with 15 minutes a week, or 5 minutes a day, if that’s all you can spare.   Schedule it on the calendar “from 9-9:15pm I will sit and do nothing.  No reading, no TV, no talking, just being fully available to listen to myself.  Try it now, for 30 seconds, “there is nothing I have to do right now” and breathe in the truth of it.

Join me, this Mother’s day, in supporting other Moms to celebrate NOTHING!  Let’s encourage each other to take pride in the accomplishment of BEING instead of DOING.  It may take courage, but it’s the only way to hear that still, small voice inside.  The quiet voice that tells you “there’s more here for you” and at the same time says “in this moment, all is well”.

Supermom is getting tired

I work with a lot of supermoms. They would never call themselves super, though, they are more likely to call themselves failures. They are measuring their success by how much they accomplish in a day. But we are living in a time where the expectations on what Mom “should” accomplish in a day are very high. We feel the pressure not only to raise our children but to keep a clean home, a happy husband, stay fit, cook healthy meals, bring home income, maintain friendships, and to do all these things WELL. Not only do them WELL but also, because we live in a time of many choices, we feel pressure to ENJOY all the choices we make.

This is a great privilege and I do not want to go back to the old days of fewer choices. But I see a lot of Supermoms getting tired and wondering when they get to rest. They miss having a performance review, a raise, and acknowledgement of their hard work. The old ways of striving for success aren’t working for them anymore. These Moms used to make a list of things to do, cross them off, and feel satisfied. Now that they’re Moms, the list is endless, there is never enough time in the day, and they never get to sit down, relax, and feel content. When Moms are exhausted from working too hard, they take it out on those around them, take it out on themselves, or both. Being in this frustrated, annoyed, blaming state only makes them more tired, less productive, and fuels this belief that there is more work to do.

It’s time to change the way we think of success and time. When you are 80 and you look back on your life, what will you have wished you spent more time on? What activities are important because they give you energy to fuel you throughout the day? I know that I won’t care my house was messy 50 years from now but if I need a clean house in order to energize me through the day, then it becomes a priority.

Because time is intangible if feels infinite. But if we look at in a more finite way, that there are 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week, it helps us prioritize. Take a look at how many hours in a day you are spending and decide if that sounds balanced to you?
3 hours blessing my home and my family (feels better than cleaning)
2 hours shopping & preparing meals for my family
3 hours supporting my relationships (phone calls, planning get-togethers, family dinners, date nights, facebook)
2 hours taking care of my body (exercise, looking nice)
2 hours responding to my kids needs, giving them love and attention.
1.5 hours just for myself (reading, watching TV, etc.)
3 hours creating wealth (paying bills, earning income, investing, taxes)

Your life is your own, to do with it whatever you want. Making choices based on YOUR values and priorities is key to happiness. I know that if I don’t get to sit and dine, at least one meal of the day, I am bitter and unproductive. That becomes my priority as well an hour of relaxation time before bed. That leaves 15 hours. When I’m 80 and I look back at this time of my life, I hope I will have enjoyed the time I spent with my kids. That means about 4-6 hours a day. Too much time with them, I get cranky. Not enough time, I feel I’m missing something. Everyone is different, this is what is true for me, right now, at the ages they are.

It’s time for Supermoms to switch their perspective from doing EVERYTHING well, to doing what is important to them to achieve joy and look back on life with satisfaction. Learning to leave things un-done is a challenge to many over-achievers but it is a must for today’s Moms. What ball can you drop today that will help you feel lighter, more productive and more satisfied? What expectation have you already let go of that you are happy you did?