Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

How anxiety and faith can co-exist

Plus 10 faith-based strategies to manage anxiety

I recently had a conversation with a loved one about anxiety and faith. We talked about whether Christians can struggle with anxiety. What does that look like? What does that say about our faith? We weren’t the first people to discuss this, and I know we surely won’t be the last. But, it did get me thinking about a message many Christians need to hear: You aren’t alone in your anxiety. Being anxious doesn’t mean you love God any less.

If you’ve been in church for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve heard sermons and lessons on how worrying is a sin. Being anxious is a sin. Anxiety means we aren’t trusting God fully. I know what the Bible says about anxiety, but I also know that it remains a struggle for so many of us.

So, can you be a Christian and have anxiety at the same time? The short answer is absolutely! But I think we need to go a bit deeper. I don’t have all the answers or any sort of theological degree. I can only share my experiences, struggles and feelings.

The physical component of anxiety

Having some anxiety is normal and helpful. It’s helped keep humans alive for so many years because we respond to danger and take less risk. However, some of us get stuck in that mode even when no threat is apparent. That’s when we shift to an anxiety disorder.

Like other mental health conditions, anxiety often needs more intervention than just trite advice. And anxiety disorders are rampant. Statistically speaking, about 30% of adults are dealing with an anxiety disorder at any given time. That’s up nearly 10% from 20 years ago.

Statistics on how the Christian population compares to the general population in regards to anxiety disorders isn’t available. But, let’s say the Christian population does have less anxiety, we’re still talking about a minimum of 20% of adults. Meaning if you are at a church with 300 attendees on a Sunday morning, then 60 people around you are dealing with an anxiety disorder. So, quite literally, all congregations have members dealing with anxiety disorders.

However, we also must remember the physical component to anxiety. Certain health conditions can cause anxiety, including diabetes, chronic pain, heart disease and thyroid problems. Outside of other health conditions, anxiety can come from a chemical imbalance in our brains, a traumatic experience, ongoing stress or being genetically predisposed. None of those things can be controlled.

I also want to acknowledge the healing power of God here. I have seen Him do miraculous things and heal people. My firm belief is we can pray for and receive healing from anxiety. However, I also know God’s will isn’t always healing on earth. God isn’t any less faithful for not healing someone of anxiety. And it doesn’t reflect his or her faith in any way. Through my years of dealing with various chronic health conditions, I’ve learned these lessons the hard way.

What anxiety and faith look like together

A few years ago, my husband and I were discussing a difficult situation that worried us. My husband is incredibly great at compartmentalizing. He also does well with leaving his worries with God. We were talking about how we handled our worry differently. He mentioned that he trusted God would take care of the situation. I realized I didn’t completely believe that.

Let me explain. I prayed about the same situation and knew that God would work in and through it. However, I didn’t believe it would necessarily work out positively. My husband’s faith was in God’s work to resolve the problem. My faith was that no matter what happened with the outcome, God would be with me. Neither of us were wrong, but my approach certainly leaves room for anxiety.

I like to think I was just being realistic. But, I think more than anything, my perspective came from my anxiety struggles. While my husband could list off all the things that could go wrong, he was able to not fret about them because they hadn’t happened (and might never happen). On the other hand, my mind can get an a runaway anxiety train thinking of all the possible outcomes while still trusting God won’t leave me.

Logically, I know God is in control, but anxiety isn’t logical. One of my worst times of anxiety was right around when my oldest daughter was born. We went on vacation and took her with us onto a large dock with a floating restaurant. I was nearly paralyzed with anxiety because I could just see her stroller going off the dock and into the lake. In my head, that’d just be it. She’d drown. In reality, we had her nowhere near the edge. And had the stroller somehow gone in, my husband or I would have been in the water right afterward to get her to safety. But reality doesn’t often factor into anxiety.

Moving forward in faith with anxiety

Since anxiety disorders are like any other health issue, if we aren’t healed of them, then we need to figure out how to manage them and move forward in spite of them. We can move forward in both practical and spiritual ways.

1. Pray.

Everything should start with prayer, even managing anxiety and faith. You can definitely pray for healing (and I encourage you to), but you can also pray for help handling your anxiety. I do this quite often. I ask God to help me stop thinking about something I’m dwelling on. Or I pray that He helps me to know if a worry is something I need to act on or just have peace about. For example, when it’s the middle of the night and I hear a slight noise that gets my mind reeling with all the bad things it could be.

We have Biblical instruction for doing this very thing, and what I love most is that God promises us peace. While I’ve had my fair share of anxious moments that get my heart racing, I have also felt the peace of God come over and still me in the midst of it.

Related Bible verse: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

2. Find a Bible verse to comfort you.

The Bible has so many verses about the peace and comfort of God. It reminds us of His presence in our lives. Find a verse that speaks to and calms your heart. (If you don’t have one, ask God to help you find one.) Memorize it and repeat it as often as needed.

For me, that verse is Isaiah 41:10 (see below). I learned the first part of it in third grade and it has stuck with me. I’ve repeated it to myself so many times through the years in different situations and at different times. I’ve used the second part of the verse as a breath prayer. God’s Word is powerful. It truly can cast out fear!

Related Bible verse: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

3. Listen to encouraging music.

Music can minister to us in so many ways. God has spoken to me so many times through songs, even songs I’ve heard and sung for years. Christian music is a part of my life. While it can encourage and uplift me, it also stays in my head. Sometimes a song stuck in my head is just what I need to hear at just the right moment. My anxiety and faith battle in song lyrics!

Recently, I was having a difficult time and kept thinking, “I’ve never felt more alone than I do right now.” Every single time I thought that, “Jireh” from Elevation Worship and Maverick City popped into my head with, “I’ve never been more loved than I am right now.” It helped me turn my focus around to God and the truth, which I definitely needed to do.

Related Bible verse: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” – Colossians 3:16 (NIV)

4. Monitor what you watch.

I’ve learned to be careful what I watch. Watching TV news only increases my anxiety. It’s so negative and so dismal. It can add a variety of thoughts to my head that I don’t need. But so can fictional television shows and movies. I’m a sensitive person and always have been. I remember watching a scary movie in fourth grade at a slumber party and can still recall scenes from that movie to this day.

I am not into the murder shows, police shows, medical dramas and so many other things because they only increase my anxiety. And it turns out that God knew this way before I was born. His Word admonishes us to be careful what we watch for a reason!

Related Bible verse: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

5. Think through worst-case scenarios.

This one totally sounds counterintuitive. I sometimes get easily sidetracked and anxious thinking of all the worst-case scenarios. But, years ago my husband challenged me to think of the worst-case scenario of my worries. Then, he said, come up with the solution. Often that helps ease my anxiety because I have a plan. And I love having a plan!

If I come up with the worst-case scenario (and my brain is good at that), I think of what would happen if that scenario came to pass. This works also because it makes me start thinking more practically and realistically the opposite of how anxiety makes me think.

Related Bible verse: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” – Luke 14:28 (NIV)

6. Talk about it.

Anxiety is good at lying to us. It can make problems seem so much bigger than they are. When I have trouble dealing with something or moving on from it, it helps to talk about it with someone I trust. For me, that’s my husband. Often just saying the words out loud help my anxiety and faith meet as I realize what I’m worried about isn’t such a big deal.

We weren’t made to bear our burdens alone. Along with being able to go to God, we also need to have people who we can turn to and trust when our burdens weigh us down. Saying a worry out loud removes at least some of its power.

Related Bible verse: “If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” – Ecclesiastes 4:10a (NIV)

7. Distract yourself.

I’m not advocating for denial here, but distracting yourself from your thoughts is a good way to help manage your anxiety. Find healthy ways to distract yourself or ground yourself in the moment. I have a coloring app on my phone that I find soothing and often use to unwind and relax.

I’ve also tried some mindfulness and grounding techniques when my anxiety starts to get away from me. For me, this is just stopping my thoughts and shifting my focus to what I can see, feel and hear. It’s beyond just acknowledging those things but really paying attention to them. (Find more relaxation tips and strategies in this article I wrote for the IC Network.) Sometimes what we need most is just a break from our anxious thoughts.

Related Bible verse: “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God.” – Ecclesiastes 2:24 (NIV)

8. Believe you CAN improve.

A major lie anxiety likes to tell us is that we will always feel this way. We don’t have hope for the future and have no reason to try and do better. I’ve been down that path both with anxiety and my other health issues; I get it. I still have days where I think this is the best it gets. But I am continuing to learn that a bad day, week or even month doesn’t mean it will always be bad.

The first step toward making progress is allowing yourself to believe truly believe that you can improve. And then you must remind yourself that you are worth the work. I’ve learned that I need to embrace these two concepts when I get stuck and need to move forward. I’m thankful for my husband who also gently pushes me to not just accept “this is how things are.” Even if your anxiety isn’t healed or isn’t just a phase, you can always learn new ways to help manage it. Try new things. Seek professional help. Take medication. Don’t stop trying.

Let me reassure you that God made you. You are worthwhile. He doesn’t make junk, my friend. You are worth the effort needed to improve. Tiny baby steps forward are still steps forward. God has plans to give you a future and a hope!

Related Bible verse: “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

9. Get professional help.

A negative way anxiety and faith can overlap is by trying to convince you that since you have faith you don’t need help. Go back and read the section about the physical component of anxiety. You can try helping yourself. Sometimes that works! But, sometimes it doesn’t because you need more help than you can give yourself.

Think of it like treating yourself when you’re sick. When you first start feeling a scratchy throat, you might drink more liquids and go to bed early. However, if you wake up the next day with a swollen throat and a fever, you know you need to see your doctor and be checked for strep throat. Treat your anxiety the same way. Try things to help yourself, but if it stays the same or gets worse, seek help. There is no shame in seeking help from a medical professional or counselor. God has given us knowledge and resources. We should not be ashamed to use those resources!

Related Bible verse: “Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance.” – Proverbs 20:18 (NIV)
(Additional note: I left in this entire verse, because we are waging a war on anxiety. It applies!)

10. Focus on who God Is.

When we’re dealing with anxiety, we can feel like everything is shifting. Everything is murky, and nothing makes sense. That’s all the more reason to focus on who God is. He is unchanging, faithful and true. That’s incredibly comforting with or without anxiety.

I remember distinctly a Sunday morning during a really bad time in my life. I’m not sure what the sermon was about that morning. I was too distracted first by my worries but then by the cross at the front of the sanctuary. God spoke into my heart and reminded me the He loves me and sent His Son to die for me. When you aren’t able to cling to anything else, you can cling to God’s love. Shift your focus onto who He is and allow His presence and comfort to flow into you.

Related Bible verses: “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” – Psalms 18:30 (NIV)

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” – 1 John 4:9 (NIV)

Learning to stop being hard on yourself

What if you saw yourself like your loved ones see you?

I was putting my son to bed recently, and he was having a difficult time. His 8-year-old self was upset with a mistake he had made. It was a very small mistake. He didn’t get in trouble for it. Nobody was upset, hurt or angry. But he was treating himself as if he had physically harmed someone else. He looked at me and asked whether I think he’s too hard on himself.

I know he knows the answer, because we’ve told him this many times. However, maybe he needed to hear it again. So I said yes, I do think he is too hard on himself. Then he asked where he gets it from. He knows the answer to this as well. Both my husband and I have shared with him a few times that I am the same way with myself. Yet, again I answered.

In all sincerity, he looked at me and asked incredulously, “Why are you hard on yourself?”

He said it in a way that he truly didn’t understand why I’d be hard on myself. He is my son, my baby boy, who adores me. From the beginning of his life, he’s been my sidekick. He has quite literally chosen to be with me instead of friends quite a few times during his life thus far.

My son sees me in a different light than I see myself. He sees good things. I’m thankful for that. It left me wondering, though, why am I so hard on myself? More importantly, how can I start being kinder to me and teach my son to do the same?

What being hard on yourself looks like

I can’t speak for everyone; I can only tell you what being hard on yourself looks like for me. Unfortunately I see my son doing some of these same things, and it breaks my heart. He is a chip off the old block, so to speak.

Being hard on myself means that when I make a small mistake, I chastise myself as if I have committed a grave error that will affect the rest of humanity for the rest of known time. I ruminate on the mistake. My inner voice says really mean things to myself about me. While I consider myself an encourager to others, I am far from encouraging to myself. In fact, I think I often speak words of encouragement to others because I so constantly need them. Yet when someone does compliment or encourage me, I struggle to believe them.

For me, being hard on yourself means that no matter what you do, it’s never enough. I always find myself wanting. I struggle to acknowledge the good things I’ve done and focus instead on the negative things. While I might accomplish many things in a day, I focus instead on where I failed and the tasks I didn’t get to.

Another way I’m hard on myself is in taking responsibility for when things go wrong or others are upset — even when there is no possible way I’m the cause. I remember doing this even as a child. When I came home from school and my mom had had a bad day at work, I felt like I was responsible. (And I have an incredibly sweet mother who has always been a positive influence in my life. She didn’t take her bad days out on me in any way. I could just sense her feelings and somehow felt I was at fault.)

The truth behind being hard on yourself

I won’t pretend to know the truth on why all people are hard on themselves. I don’t even fully understand why for myself. Instead, I suspect a lot of it (for me, at least) stems from two things: being a people pleaser and a perfectionist.

While I think I’m not a people pleaser so much these days, the truth is I am. I don’t like conflict. As someone who is sensitive to others, I don’t like negative emotions. (Who does?! But, I often quite literally feel what those near me are feeling.) I don’t care what people think about things like what I’m wearing or doing. I’m comfortable in my own skin. However, I really don’t want to upset people around me. I avoid conflict like the plague. So, I guess you could say that I am a people pleaser, even though I don’t want to admit that.

Then there’s the perfectionist side of me, which goes along with people pleasing. I want things to be just so. More than anything, I want to be the person I expect me to be. Sometimes that person conflicts with who I actually am. I’m a quiet introvert. Sometimes I’d love to be gregarious extrovert who confidently walks into a room and chats kindly with everyone they see. Even though I know that isn’t me, I’m often hard on myself when I do just the opposite. As I slump into a room, hope nobody notices me, find a friend I can latch on to and then count the time until I can escape, I am simultaneously mad at myself for not being different.

My perfectionism usually has way less to do with physical attributes and things as much as it does with myself. I want to be perfect, but I am not. I fail and come up short. So then I’m hard on myself.

Learning to be kinder to yourself

I am a work in progress. I certainly haven’t conquered being hard on myself. But I am working on it. I noticed how I was being hard on myself even more after having children. Then I really paid attention when I saw my kiddos being the same way. My daughter has been hard on herself for sure, but my son amps up to my level of being hard on himself.

Like so many things, my desire to improve myself stems from seeing the same struggle in my child and wanting to be better for him. So, I’m working on it.

Doing the best that I can

A few things have helped me give old Stacey a break and not be so stinking hard on her all the time. The first is reminding myself that I’m doing the best that I can. Overall, I really am doing the best that I can at any given time. Yes, there are times I could probably put in more effort, but most of the time I have given my all and that has to be enough. Because it’s all that I have to give. Often I repeat to myself when I start getting mean inside my head: “I’m doing the best that I can.”

I tell my son the same thing. As a dyslexic, he can be very hard on himself about reading and spelling. He wants to always have perfect scores on assignments and tests. I can only begin to imagine how frustrating it is when words are everywhere and everyone else reads them with ease while you struggle. I remind him often that his dad, teachers and I only expect him to do his best. His best is good enough. He is doing his best, and that’s all that matters.

Letting go of perfection

The other thing that I strive to remind myself is that I’m not perfect. While I know I’m not perfect, I often behave and treat myself in the opposite fashion. I need to cut myself some slack.

I’ve also realized the good that comes from not being perfect and shared that with my son the other night. I told him that he isn’t perfect. And neither am I. None of us are. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need Jesus. He hadn’t thought of it that way before.

I don’t want to go through this life without Jesus. He has seen me through so many things and loves me in ways I don’t understand. If I were perfect, I wouldn’t need Him. I don’t want to imagine what that would be like. Truly, I don’t. So not being perfect really is OK. His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Seeing you as others do

Finally, I’ve been thinking about what if I saw myself the way my son does. What if he saw himself the way I do? How would that change our opinions of ourselves? I don’t think I’d be as hard on myself; neither would he.

When I look at my baby boy, I saw a young man who is persistent, kind, empathetic, caring, sweet, hilarious, thoughtful and so much more. He can solve problems and come up with solutions better than anyone I know. He thinks outside of the box. I often refer to him as “my little man with a plan,” because of how his mind works. There is no way I’d trade him for any other son. He is just right!

I can’t tell you exactly how he sees me. But, I hope my family sees that I love them and am trying every single day to do my best for them. I want to be their support system and soft place to fall. My desire is to encourage them and uplift them. Hopefully, they see my sensitivity, my empathy and my love for Jesus. Perhaps they see the strength I’ve used to overcome various challenges. I have good qualities. I need to do is focus on those more often.

Can you imagine how much my attitude would change if I allowed myself to peak at the good things God sees in me? He truly knows me. Even in my relationship with Him, I can imagine Him shaking His head at my faults. But He knows we aren’t perfect. He sent His Son to die because of how much He knows this! He is a loving Father who sees us as a whole person. Just like I see the struggles and faults my kids have, I also see much more the goodness and strengths they have.

Next time you are being hard on yourself, remember that you are doing the best you can and you aren’t perfect. Then take a moment to step back and look at yourself the way those who love you — including your heavenly Father — do. I’m going to do the same thing!

How to look back at a hard year

Learning to move on from the challenges

This year has brought challenges that most of us didn’t expect when we rang in the new year on January 1. My blog post published on January 2 talked about how I wanted to make sure I kept focused on the things that really matter in life like making memories with my family. I had no idea those memories would include months and months of being at home and helping my kids virtual school full-time.

Of course 2020 has been collectively a difficult and challenging year. Its challenges aren’t going to go away any time soon either. But, like all of us, I’ve had other difficult years. I’ve lived through years I thought really, truly might break me.

I recently went back and read something I wrote at the end of 2013. Even now seven years later, my husband and I still say the only good thing that came out of that year was the birth of our son — and that happened at the end of January.

The rest of the year included all sorts of difficult struggles. It was a year during which we survived. We certainly didn’t thrive. We dragged ourselves to Dec. 31, 2013 with hopes 2014 would be better.

Some years are like that. This year has been like that for many folks. We’ve survived the year, but we haven’t done a lot of thriving. I don’t think anyone is going to hate seeing 2020 finally come to an end.

Finding the good in the midst of bad

However, 2020 wasn’t only bad. Whenever I have a bad year, that’s what I’ve learned I must remember. Each year has both good and bad parts. For the years with more bad than good, we struggle to remember the good stuff sometimes.

Back at the end of 2013, I remember sitting down to write about it and deleting half of what I first typed. I didn’t want to focus on the negative. I wasn’t sure the positive would take many words. But I surprised myself with how many good memories I had from the year.

That’s the challenge for 2020. I know you have good memories from this year. I do. As we close out this year and say good riddance to it, what have been some of your best moments of the year? What are you thankful for?

I can’t speak collectively for all of us. Some moments this year were good for some and not for others. But I can speak for myself.

Good moments of 2020

My children have an early spring break, so we were able to have a spring break trip this year before things went completely sideways. We spent a couple of days at an indoor water park and then they went on a short trip with my parents. Those water park memories were good, but they are even better when viewed with the perspective of the rest of the year!

Being at home more, we did more fun things like playing games together.

We got creative in celebrating Easter this year and ate tacos for Easter dinner.

At the end of June, we spent a week at the lake with my parents and a few days with my brother and his family. My son caught his first fish. I delighted in watching my kids go tubing for their first time. My daughter and I pretended to be otters floating in the lake, completely relaxed. It was a restorative time and a bit of a break from reality. (We still only got food as take-out and made bathroom trips incredibly fast and masked up on the way there and back.)

My husband and I got to be a bigger part of our kids’ first day of school than usual, because we set up for school at home from the start of this school year.

We watched lots of movies and shows together at home.

Our family has laughed and come up with more inside jokes than usual.

We’ve had some great conversations as a family around the table and anywhere we are.

The puppy got in on the action with even more snuggles than usual, which has made all of us happy.

We’ve read through numerous books as a family and not only had more time to read them but also to talk about them.

We got creative for Halloween and hosted a party and Halloween hunt for our parents in lieu of trick-or-treating. We had such fun coming up with snacks and making decorations and games.

I played hostess for Thanksgiving this year with my parents and in-laws. We all contributed food and enjoyed each other’s company. Being together was a blessing!

The list could continue on of the good memories from this year!

Thankfulness in 2020

Along with good memories, the year has many things for which to be thankful. The first thing that pops into my head is that I’m thankful to end this year with a healthy family. My loved ones whom I have most been concerned for have had some other health issues not related to the pandemic, but we are all healthy overall.

I am also thankful for the strength God has given me to get through the year. We started out the pandemic with my husband completely incapacitated after having rotator cuff repair surgery. The first few weeks of quarantine and virtual school were quite intense.

This year I’ve become even more thankful for our new home and the space we have now to spread out for things like virtual schooling.

I’m thankful for our puppy as well. We celebrated his first birthday in May. He brought us lots of love, laughter and cuddles throughout everything this year has held.

I am very grateful for pick-up at stores. While I appreciated grocery pick-up before, I REALLY appreciate it now. I haven’t been inside a store to shop in months. I completed all my Christmas shopping online and had items delivered to me or picked them up without getting out of my car.

Above all, I am thankful for God. He has been faithful, as always, through every moment of this year. God wasn’t surprised or caught off-guard by anything in 2020. He remains faithful and good through every single moment.

Acknowledge the challenge

Looking back at a difficult year to find the positive doesn’t mean that we aren’t acknowledging the negative. This year has also held heart-wrenching moments. We do have to acknowledge those.

As we are doing so, though, we must also take note of what we learned and how we grew through those difficulties. I’ve learned some of the most important lessons of my life through hard times and difficulties. I’m thankful for those lessons, because they serve me well the next time a hard time comes around.

This year may also require mourning for what we lost. I am not even speaking of the loss of life. That is a whole other level of mourning and grief that doesn’t even compare to anything else. I know that. I pray for those who have lost loved ones this year whether because of COVID or because of other reasons.

What I mean by mourning in this instance is acknowledging what we missed out on this year. I think of family events that were canceled. Graduations that were different. Proms that weren’t held. I think of fun at recess that’s been missed. And school programs that were canceled. There were church services held online instead of in person.

So many things were challenging about this year. We had to change our way of life — and that doesn’t come without growing pains.

What I’ve learned, though, is that while we must acknowledge the hard times, we don’t want to get stuck there. Getting stuck in the hard stuff for too long is the problem. And that’s when we go back around to remember the good parts of the year. That’s when we start going through what we’re grateful for.

So let’s process what we went through in 2020 and look forward to what another year will bring.

How major world events have shaped Xennials

One Xennial’s look at lessons from 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis and the pandemic

Xennials: a micro-generation between Generation X and Millenialls. The general consensus is people born between 1977 and 1985. This generation had an analog childhood and digital adulthood.

A few weeks ago, I came across the following meme on social media about how major world events have shaped Xennials. As someone born in 1979, I’m fully in the Xennial range and was struck by the post.

I’ve thought about it off and on since I first read it. I have had these experiences at these times in my life, and they have impacted me.

Remembering 9/11

Like most everyone who is old enough to remember 9/11, I know exactly where I was and what I was doing that day. I was in the Department of Journalism at my university working as a graduate assistant. Mornings were my favorite because they were peaceful.

I remember the professor who told me what happened when I was going to the copy room. Later, I met my mom and grandma for lunch and talked about it. While a feeling of unease consumed the country, we also came together in grief.

Previous to 9/11, there were other major events that I knew about. The first major news story I remember, for example, is the explosion of the Challenger. I was in high school during the Oklahoma City bombing and a freshman in college during the Columbine shooting.

But, as a graduate student and relative newlywed in September of 2001, I was starting to think about my future even more. I was that much closer to becoming a full-fledged adult.

While I can’t say for sure that 9/11 completely impacted my career path after graduation in December of 2002, I also can’t say it didn’t. However, I know it impacted my personal life.

Life lessons from 9/11

For Xennials like me, the terrorist attacks were our first real-life experience of knowing that the world as we knew it could change collectively in the blink of an eye. It was the first world event I’d lived through that truly impacted everyone I knew in some way. We talked about it with friends, teachers, classmates, family members and complete strangers. We were all processing the information and dealing with it.

Some things changed after 9/11 and haven’t gone back to how they were previously. Now going through airport security is different than it was before September of 2001. Metal detectors and bag searches at large events have become the norm.

In my personal life, though, I also experienced change after 9/11. I kept thinking about the people who said good-bye (or didn’t) to their loved ones that morning not knowing it would be the last time they’d speak.

I made it more priority to tell my husband good-bye and that I loved him when we were parting ways. Nowadays that happens much less because we both work from home most of the time, but I still continue with that habit any time he has to be gone for a while.

Sure, I might have developed such a habit without living through 9/11. But I think I developed it sooner since the event really struck home to me how saying good-bye to someone could end up being good-bye forever. And if that’s the case, I want to make sure it’s a positive one.

Remembering the 2008 financial crisis

As life continued forward from 9/11, we had our share of personal ups and downs. A chronic health issue I thought had gone away came screaming back into my life. My mother-in-law had a heart attack, my dad a major accident and my grandma passed away.

But then 2007 came. It was the year before the financial crisis officially hit worldwide, but it hit for us personally. Having been married for eight years at that point, my husband and I lived primarily on his income. His job in IT was better paying and steadier than my work as a freelance journalist. He also had full benefits; I had none.

Then he lost his job, and we entered our own financial crisis. It took a year for him to find another job. A year. It was difficult. I struggled with anxiety during that time in a whole new level than ever before.

He hired on with a new employer just a couple of months before the 2008 financial crisis hit. So many others were now starting to go through what we were just starting to claw our way back from.

Learning from the 2008 financial crisis

While our crisis was a year early, I’d say by far the biggest lesson yet again was how fast everything can change. I remember the day my husband came home and told me he’d lost his job as clearly as I remember 9/11.

But I also learned a few things throughout the crisis. I learned that somehow God always provided. I look back even now and still don’t know how we made it through. We used credit cards. We drained our savings and even dipped into my husband’s 401(k), but we never missed a mortgage payment. Our house wasn’t foreclosed or our cars repossessed. God met our needs.

My husband’s unemployment check, which we got for a few months, came through right when we ran out of resources for paying our mortgage. Our needs were met. There wasn’t any wiggle room, but we survived.

During this time my husband and I developed the attitude of: “I’d rather go through hard times with you than good times without you.”

My takeaway from 9/11 of saying good-bye to my husband came into play again when he got his new job. I’d say good-bye and then my anxiety would tell me I wouldn’t see him alive again. I learned also how to rebuild and find my way through such anxiety with God’s help. It was hard, but we were stronger in so many ways for having gotten through the financial crisis.

Remembering the beginning of the pandemic

Clearly I can’t look back and tell you how exactly the pandemic has changed things, because we are still in the midst of it. But I can tell you the so far. Just like with the 2008 financial crisis, we had our own problems going on when the pandemic began.

COVID-19 was a bit on our radar, but we were distracted by life with two school-aged kids and by planning for my husband to have rotator cuff repair surgery on March 11. His surgery went well. However, that evening, the university my children’s school is part of announced it was going to remote learning the next Monday. The next day my children’s school followed suit.

My level of overwhelm was high! My husband needed so much help. I still had my own work to figure out along with managing his post-op care and teaching our kids. Oh, and I learned we needed to get supplies because the shelves were bare. My dad made a couple of grocery trips for us then I was finally able to go myself. Grocery pick-up was too overwhelmed for me to utilize it as I had been anyway.

Shocked cannot truly describe how I felt when I went into a regional superstore and saw so many empty shelves and freezer cases. I bought everything I could think of that we’d need and that they had from food to toiletries. I hoped it was enough.

Learning from the pandemic

I’d wager a guess that I still have lessons to learn from the pandemic. Even now six months into dealing with it, the end isn’t in sight. There will be more to come.

But the pandemic has continued to shape me thus far. Now I have enough living under my belt to know that I have survived and made it through much more difficult times personally. I have learned that I can work, care for my husband and keep my kids going with remote learning.

I can get creative with my supplies as well. I’m not shopping in-person, so if we run out of something before I do a re-order then I figure out ways around it. I make sure our supplies stay stocked so that I always have a back-up of most toiletries and paper goods.

Dining out is something I took for granted in the past and will enjoy again one of these days, but for now I will be OK with cooking at home all the time and getting takeout as a treat.

Mostly, I’ve learned that I love the simple stuff most. I love being able to just hang out with my husband and children. Visits with my in-laws and parents — who are all continuing to isolate as much as possible — are that much sweeter than they were before. We can have good summer evenings on the front porch.

I have also reaffirmed that I will do whatever it takes to keep my family safe and protected, even if that means sacrificing even more of myself to do so. Making decisions throughout this pandemic has been challenging since information can be fluid as researchers learn new things. But for a variety of reasons, we are choosing to err very much on the side of caution. Even though it isn’t always easy, it is right for us.

A big picture look

As a Xennial, some of my big picture moments have been accompanied by major world events. I won’t say it’s any harder for my generation than others before us. Each generation has its own struggles.

I just know that these historic events have impacted me at pivotal stages. Sept. 11 came right as I was becoming a full-fledged adult. The financial crisis came after my husband and I had settled into our professional lives. And the pandemic arrived in the middle of our child-rearing years.

These historic events, however, are just like major events in my personal life. They shape me. They may tweak my views a bit, but I learn to adapt and move on. How I react to them is up to me.

I can complain and grouse. I can focus on what was lost or changed. Or I can focus on what is good in the midst of the struggle. I can take a moment to just appreciate something as “simple” as a beautiful sunset. Overall, life is short. One struggle will usually be replaced by another (at least at some point). You’ve just got to roll with it.

It’s OK to let go and ask for help!

Asking for help is hard. It goes against our human pride and desire to be independent and strong. We don’t want to ever admit that we can’t do it all or are weak. We like to take the weight of the world on our shoulders and plaster on a smile as we stumble around under its crushing load.

There is definitely a spiritual lesson in this about how God didn’t design us to carry that weight but to let Him. And another one about how admitting we are weak makes Him all that much stronger. But there is also a literal lesson. Sometimes we just plain need help.

Asking for help in the past

About six years ago, my mom and mother-in-law came to my house daily while I was recovering from surgery. I had a 3-year-old and 8-month-old. I couldn’t lift the baby for six weeks post-op. That same baby caused me to be on modified bedrest for my final trimester. And the months in between his birth and my surgery were so incredibly hard physically that I spent 3 months “sleeping” in a recliner, got shingles, had two bouts of the stomach flu and strep throat.

Cleaning my house during all of that was impossible. Sure once the baby was born, I was able to do a few things, but my head was barely above water. While my mom and mother-in-law came to help with the kids on different days after my surgery, they also saw my drowning need for help at my house.

I remember them each doing tasks like scrubbing my bathroom and my kitchen. I remember the great amount of relief and gratitude I felt that such seemingly simple tasks were getting done for me, in spite of the reality that I couldn’t do them myself. While my body wasn’t cooperating, my eyes were still able to see all that was undone.

I mentioned this to a group of mom friends online. One of the first comments I got was one saying she could never imagine letting someone else clean her bathroom. Ouch! That hurt my feelings. She didn’t seem to understand that I literally had no other choice. I couldn’t do it. My husband was struggling to keep all of us going plus work full-time in another city. He couldn’t do it. My preschooler and baby certainly couldn’t do it.

This wasn’t my first time feeling shame over housework. I realized very early on in our marriage that I felt the most responsible for housework and how our home appeared to others. I saw it as a personal failure when things were in disarray — and they were more often than not! Adding in my health issues and later two kids didn’t help a bit.

I had to learn to let go of my pride and ask for help. Many, many times I asked my husband for help with a task I wasn’t able to do. Other times, my parents or in-laws helped us with large tasks.

Asking for help in the present

That brings us to the present. This month marks our one-year anniversary in our new home. We had the house built and moved in to a clean, sparkling new everything. While I’ve kept up better on housework in this home than in any other I’ve ever had before thanks to some cleaning lessons I’ve learned along the way combined with better health, I also still have physical limitations. I saw all the deep cleaning work needed around here from scrubbing the bathtubs to mopping the floors to cleaning the windows to wiping down baseboards and knew I couldn’t do it.

With fibromyalgia, my back, hands and arms (and everything else!) have limited use each day. I have to work in small spurts to avoid sending myself into a total flare. I knew that I could start all the spring cleaning tasks and take until fall to complete them, even with help from my husband and kiddos. So, I asked for help.

As I’m typing this, I can hear the vacuum cleaning going upstairs. I can smell the cleaning products used in my kitchen. And I’ve done none of that. Yes, I decluttered. I cleared out spaces, but I hired help to do the actual deep cleaning.

I have been hesitant to share this information with anyone for a few reasons. First, the day I called and had someone come give me an estimate for cleaning is the same day I had such a bad day at physical therapy I cried the whole way home. Adding insult to injury was realizing that while I was thankful to have funds to pay someone to help me clean I didn’t have a choice in the matter. I couldn’t do it otherwise. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Second, I still am not a fan of judgment about who is cleaning my house. Third, I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I have lots of disposable income to hire out regular household tasks. That most certainly isn’t the case.

Fourth, I don’t want anyone to think that this is my norm. The tips I share on here are my everyday cleaning tips that I do all the time! I definitely don’t have a regular housekeeper or assistant in any way. It’s the hard-core scrubbing that is a physical challenge for me.

While having my house cleaned is a complete relief to me on one level mentally, it’s also a bit shameful on another level. I don’t want to ask for help — whether it’s free or paid help. I want to be able to do it all. But, the reality is I can’t.

I have shared a few posts about cleaning and maintaining my home. I want to also make sure that I am being transparent to tell you that deep cleaning isn’t something I can do right now. Maybe one day I’ll be able to do that again. And maybe I won’t. Chronic pain and illness is so unpredictable.

Yes, I work hard to stay on top of tasks at my home on a regular basis. I keep up with small tasks as I go. I follow the ABC rule to Always Be Cleaning so it doesn’t build up too much or else I wouldn’t be able to ever get on top of it. Those things I will continue to do, especially because right now I can. I do have days where I can’t keep up, but right now those days are rare, and I’m thankful because that hasn’t always been the case.

Continuing to learn to accept help

However, I also still need help. I cannot do everything. I feel weird to have someone cleaning my house. Of course, I would rather be able to do it myself. It’s hard on my pride to have to have help. But I’ve learned that I can either ask for help, hurt myself trying to do it all or just leave it undone and be upset about it.

I choose to be proactive. I choose to ask for help so things don’t get to be more than I can handle. I choose to not be ashamed because I can’t do it all. I choose to let go the things I can’t do and be thankful for the things I can do.

You may not be in the same situation as me. You may be able to clean your house and enjoy cleaning your house. That’s fine, but I’d bet there is something somewhere in your life that you could use help with for whatever reason. That’s OK. You don’t have to do it all. It’s OK to ask for help sometimes. You don’t have to be ashamed. Anyone who makes you feel otherwise is just plain wrong (and I’d daresay not a good friend to you anyway!).

Sometimes you just have to let go and ask for help. It doesn’t mean you are weak; it just means you are human. And that is not only OK but beautiful. What do you need to ask for help with? Do it today!

Anxiety, depression and spring break

A recent spring break trip sent me home with a souvenir of lessons about my anxiety and depression

A few months ago, I made my first video for my Facebook page about my struggle with anxiety and depression. I recorded it multiple times because making a video gave me anxiety (it still does!). The irony wasn’t lost on me. But that video got a decent response from folks who were glad I shared. That was my first indication that I’m not alone and sharing about my anxiety and depression may make me anxious and vulnerable, but it can help other people.

Since then, I’ve shared a few posts about anxiety and fear here on the blog like what a dog taught me about anxiety. I have a guest post about anxiety coming soon on The Mindful Mom Blographer. The proverbial cat is clearly out of the bag about my struggles with anxiety and depression.

Honestly, for years I just thought this is how I’m wired. I figured it was normal to have these thoughts and concerns or, at the very least, normal for me. I didn’t realize until more recently that the stuff going on in my head has a name: anxiety disorder. Knowing it’s an actual issue doesn’t really change anything, but does give me perspective. I can stop beating myself up so much for struggling with these thoughts. I can stop feeling like a huge failure when they win.

And all of this struck me yet again during our spring break trip last week to Florida for a visit to Disney World and Universal Florida. But it didn’t strike me in the way you might expect. Yes, I had some worries about the trip. That was to be expected. Yes, I thought a few times about how sad the story would be if on my kids’ first flight on the way to Disney World of all places our plane crashed and we all died. I pushed that from my head and didn’t voice those concerns to anyone else. Yes, I worried about losing track of the kids in the crowd just like any other parent. But, I probably focused on it a bit more than I needed to. Yes, I fretted about my son falling down the long staircase we were waiting on to board the Hogwarts Express, even though I was right behind him to catch him — or at least break his fall.

However, those things weren’t what I learned most about my anxiety. Those were normal-for-me things that I expected. And I’ve told you before how I don’t want to live life in fear of getting more hurt while doing something out of my comfort zone. My health issues of fibromyalgia and interstitial cystitis have caused me to be paranoid to do anything out of the ordinary and make my pain worse. But I knew that going into the trip. I did my best to be practical and realistic yet also not miss out on making memories with my kids.

What I learned, though, was how much anxiety’s good friend, depression, was hanging out with me. This past year or so, I would have told you that my struggle with depression was in a good place and I’m doing well. It turns out that may not be completely true. And this is where I’m going to get incredibly honest and vulnerable. I learned on my trip that I’ve been living life like I don’t have hope of the future. I’ve been living like maybe I’ll live another 10 years or so at most.

I don’t consciously think that way. In fact, having children who are 6 and 9, I am terrified I won’t live long enough to see them grown, which I desperately want. But, I haven’t necessarily been living like that is my desire. I’ve been beaten down and focusing more on getting through the present than thinking about what I want for my future.

Maybe it was the timing of the trip combined with a visit the week before to a new fibromyalgia doctor who has given me a sliver of hope that maybe I don’t have to feel like this all the time and can be proactive. (I literally got choked up in her office when she told me she thinks she can get me feeling better with tweaking my medicine and having me start physical therapy.) Maybe it was combined also with her talking to me about my weight. Maybe it was combined with realizing that my current weight is the highest it’s ever been aside from when I was pregnant. And maybe it was seeing myself — ALL of myself — in so many photos and reflections throughout the theme parks.

But for the first time in a few years, I felt like I got a good look at myself. I saw a woman about to turn 40 who stopped caring about herself. You might not know it from looking at me and seeing my face with makeup, my hair styled and my clothes halfway decent. But if you looked on the inside, you’d see a woman who didn’t think it mattered what she ate or whether she exercised, because everything was always going to hurt and there was no hope of it feeling better. On my inside, you’d see someone who had not pushed herself or tried to do better for herself because she really didn’t think she was worth it. You’d see someone who was so mad at her body and the multiple ways it has betrayed her these past few years that she didn’t really care what happened to it.

By the end of the trip, all of these things were churning through my head. When I put on my swimsuit to go swimming with the kids on our final full day in Florida, I knew it was time to live differently. My kids are now old enough that we can go and do things like theme parks and travel. I don’t have a grand desire to travel all the time; I’m a homebody. But this trip gave me hope that we can travel sometimes. It gave me hope and joy to watch my kids as they saw and experienced new things. I want to offer that to them. I want to find a way for us to take a big trip every couple of years.

I can’t guarantee that I will always be physically up to walking around in a theme park all day. I managed it this time, but barely. By the end of each day, I was hobbling out to the car with aching hips. But, I’ve realized I can actually do my best to feel well. I can try. And that is how I know that my good friend depression is being pushed away. Because now I feel more hopeful and purposeful moving forward. I’ve realize that turning 40 in May isn’t all that old. I realize that maybe I don’t have to just accept that I’m old and everything hurts. Maybe there is something I can do.

Don’t get me wrong. I am also realistic. I know that I have these chronic pain issues, and they aren’t going to go away. My body will never be pain free. But, maybe it can be better. At the very least, I can make an effort to be in the best health I can be in so that I can have adventures with my kids. I want to be able to do more than just take care of them, which was my goal and desire for a few years when that was a struggle. Now that I’ve attained that goal, it’s time to get to work. It’s time to stop listening to the voice in my head that tells me I’m not worth it and I will never get better no matter what I do. It’s time to try. Just try. Maybe my quality of life can be even better. And maybe it won’t get better, but I’ll at least know I’ve done everything I can.

That hope of maybe feeling better is what gets to me most. It’s why I choked up in my new doctor’s office. The doctor viewed me as a woman who was struggling with pain and being out of shape. I viewed me as a woman who is feeling the best she has in a couple of years. Both pictures are accurate, though. While I am feeling the best I have in a couple of years, I am now seeing there is hope that it could be better.

I wish I could say that having hope and joy always win over anxiety and depression. They don’t. I trust God. I cling to Him. I fall at His feet. And I have to do it over and over again, because the struggle is very real. I take medicine to help me manage. I’ve learned tricks and techniques to help myself with my anxiety and depression. But they are always lurking in the background. They are waiting to get me down. Many times I let them. But after last week, I feel a renewed desire to fight back. I feel a renewed desire to be proactive and not settle.

I want to do it for myself, but I want to do it for my children even more. They deserve a mom who can fearlessly adventure with them. I won’t always be that mom, but for their sake and mine, I need to move forward and really try.

Affirmations from kindergarten that we all need to hear

Three simple sentences can be life changing

Last week I was in my son’s kindergarten classroom at the end of the day to bring in cookies to celebrate his birthday with his classmates. He’s my second kiddo in this kindergarten class, so I’ve been in and out of it quite a few times.

But last week I heard something I hadn’t heard before. It was the end of the day and the teacher was having all the students gather their belongings. As they were settled in and waiting for dismissal, she asked them to use sign language to say a few things. Sign language isn’t new. Both of my kids have learned it in kindergarten, and I love that it’s part of their curriculum. The sign language wasn’t what got me, though. It was what she had them say.

I am important.

I am special.

I am smart.

Then, in true kindergarten teacher fashion, she said to them, “Boys and girls, remember that you are important, special and smart.”

I found myself overwhelmed in that moment. What a wonderful moment! (And what a wonderful reminder of how much I love their school!) Can you imagine what the world would be like if each of us not only heard but believed those affirmations every day?

I don’t know if all the kindergarteners go home to hear those kind of things. I know that we try to speak positively in our house, but I doubt I say those things so clearly to my children as often as I should.

The wonderful thing about 5- and 6-year-olds is that they believe these words without feeling embarrassed. They don’t feel a need to explain themselves. They accept them without downplaying them. They listen to them without hearing an inner voice saying that they aren’t these things.

Can you imagine if every day of your life you heard those words and believed them? What if boys in upper elementary struggling with their aggression heard these words every day? What if girls in middle school struggling with body image heard these words every day? What if teenagers facing peer pressure heard these words every day? What if college students struggling to make their way in the world heard these words every day? What if young mamas doubting their momming skills heard these words every day? What if husbands and fathers stressing over providing for their families heard these words every day? What if retirees working to redefine themselves heard these words every day? What if YOU heard these words every day?

You are important.

You are special.

You are smart.

What a difference we would see in our world. I can imagine the change starting in each of us. Having a reminder that we are important, special and smart shifts our attitudes just enough to make a difference. Suddenly we have enough confidence to try new things and not shy away from challenges. Suddenly we understand we are worth taking care of and start living more healthy lifestyles. Suddenly we are free to love others more fully and stop beating ourselves up.

We can easily look at our children and see these truths, but we often miss them when we look in the mirror. I can tell my children they are important, special and smart and believe it 100 percent.

However, when I think of saying them to or about myself I start to fade. It’s hard to believe them about ourselves. But God created us. He made us important, special and smart. As I tell my kids, God doesn’t make junk. If our Father thinks these things about us, then who am I to question the Creator of the universe?!

I have to believe that I’m not the only person who needs to hear these words. And I have to believe my son’s class aren’t the only ones who need to hear them either. Maybe what we need to do is learn a lesson from kindergarten and tell ourselves these things every single day. Isn’t it at least worth a try? I sure think so!

What a dog taught me about anxiety

Last weekend, my husband went out of town with his parents for a funeral. Since the kiddos and I were staying home, we kept my in-laws’ dog while they were away. Their dog was a littermate of our beloved dog who passed away from cancer in 2016. I always love having a furry friend around.

Shadow is incredibly cute. As he’s gotten a bit older (he’s 13), he’s gotten a little more anxious. This was his first time staying with us at our new house. It was definitely out of his comfort zone for multiple reasons, including that we don’t have carpet anywhere in our house except the stairs and that we have two stories. Oh, yeah. And we also have little kids!

While he knows us and does well with us, we aren’t his usual people. As we learned last year when Shadow stayed with us while my father-in-law had open heart surgery, Shadow gets anxious and sometimes will pace and whine. Above all, he wants to be with us and near us at all times.

For that reason, both nights he stayed with us, I carried him upstairs, closed my bedroom door and let him sleep in my bedroom. I knew he was safe. He felt contained but not confined and that helped him. However, both nights he was here, he woke up in the middle of the night and had a bit of a panic. I could hear him pacing around the room and whining. I sat up, shone my flashlight around to find him and talked to him. As soon as he heard me, saw the light and saw me, he was able to calm down and go back to sleep. I would have thought it was a fluke, but it happened a couple of times. He just got anxious and needed reassurance.

Here’s the thing. I can’t make fun of or criticize Shadow one bit even though I knew a few facts. First, he was safe. Second, he wasn’t alone. Third, his people would come back for him. Shadow, however, didn’t know these facts. He just knew he was in a different place with different smells, sights, sounds and people and wasn’t sure he’d ever see his people again. It made him anxious. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have acted that same exact way. Many times I can know facts and still act that way.

Anxiety is tough like that. It can make you want to pace and whine in the dark even when you are safe and sound. It can leave you feeling like all is wrong with the world when it’s not such a big deal. It can leave you in a public bathroom, texting your husband asking how to get out of an event that has sent you into an anxiety spiral.

But, just like Shadow, I can be calmed by the light and a Voice. There have been times when I was struggling and suddenly felt God’s presence as a reminder that He was with me, He was in charge and I had no reason to fear. How silly I must seem to Him as I pace around and whine! Through the years, I have learned to look for His light and listen for His voice sooner than before. It is an ongoing battle. I don’t always get it right. But I am thankful to have Someone shining a light for me always through the darkness. I am thankful to have Someone who is patient with me when I wander around feeling distressed for no good reason.

Mom brain overload

I’ve heard of pregnancy brain and how sometimes your brain fails while you’re pregnant. And it’s true. It happened to me a couple of times. I’ve also heard of mommy brain and how sometimes your brain fails while you have babies and are sleep-deprived (and on into, well, forever!). But, there’s also what I call mom brain overload. 

I have no idea if MBO has a real psychological term, but I know it most definitely exists and I’m guessing you’ve experienced it, too. I’m talking about all the stuff that moms keep in their heads and have to constantly be aware of. We can’t turn off our brains. We can’t lessen our overload. On top of all the other things we manage and deal with on a daily basis, like working, feeding our children, getting them to school on time or changing diapers, it’s the other thoughts that overload. It’s the constant processing of knowing when the kids had checkups and when they need them again. It’s remembering to call the school and report them sick. It’s knowing how many pairs of clean jeans are in your son’s drawer so you know when laundry HAS to be done again. It’s remembering to get out water bottles for gymnastics class or track down mittens on a cold morning. It’s remembering where you last saw their shoes on a hectic school morning. And let’s not even get started on clothes. Keeping track of who has outgrown what and needs replaced, cleaning out things that are too small, organizing what is there and keeping it all clean when needed is a constant struggle It. Is. All. Non-stop!

I’ve tried to explain this to my husband before. This MBO that is, quite frankly, exhausting. But, he doesn’t really understand it, and he is a hands-on dad. I can’t just turn it off. Right now I can tell you the level of trash in each trash can in our house, how much fresh fruit is in the kitchen, how much milk we have, what doctor’s appointments are coming up for the kids, how many more showers/baths we can take before I have to wash towels, how much children’s Tylenol we have in its two locations, which kid has school library day when, where we stand on lunchbox cleaning and prep, who has clothes for upcoming holiday performances, what spelling words need to be reviewed, what calls need to be made for appointments, who needs gifts for upcoming birthday parties or holidays and on the list goes. My husband and children don’t know these things. I don’t necessarily HAVE to know some of these things, but I do. I do, because I’m the one who deals with them. 

I’m the one who makes sure we have fresh fruit and milk for the kids, clean towels, the right clothes, gifts bought and wrapped in time and Tylenol at the ready. I’m the one who makes calls or sends emails to schedule meetings and appointments based on the calendar I have for our whole family. I’m the one who reminds us to go over spelling words. I know my husband would do these things I weren’t able. I know the children wouldn’t fall into ill health without fresh fruits or milk for a couple of days. But it’s in my head. And that’s just the kids’ stuff. It doesn’t count all the stuff that I also maintain for myself and my husband as well like prescriptions, doctors’ appointments, bills, work deadlines and more. (That’s even with having automated all the things that I can.)

And then there’s all the other stuff, too. The worries that contribute to MBO like whether my son will pay attention walking on the icy sidewalk or fall and hurt himself or whether my daughter’s strep throat germs are going to spread to everyone else or whether I’m being too easy or too hard on the kids or whether I spend enough quality time with them or whether I let them eat too many sweets or whether I’m making them do enough or too many chores. The list goes on and on. Yes, I deal with anxiety and OCD a bit, but I think most of this is just mom stuff. 

Our brains are constantly going and we are constantly thinking of pretty much everyone else. Our lives revolve around everyone else. I have lost track the number of times I’ve gotten interrupted just writing this one post! Along with MBO, we have to constantly multi-task. We have to be able to stop what we’re doing and brush someone’s hair or answer questions and then shift right back to what we’re doing then remember there’s a load of laundry that needs to go into the dryer and (oh, shoot!) it’s almost the end of the day and our to-do list has only gotten a third of the way completed. It’s constant, and it’s exhausting.

I wish I had some awesome advice on how to make it better and how to cope with it, but I don’t really. I’m in the midst of it. I have to think it will get better once I’m no longer responsible for so much for my children. One day they will be able to deal with their own clothes, food and laundry — both shopping and caring for them. But, I know there’s another part of my mom brain that will never turn off as long as I am breathing because you can’t just stop being someone’s mom when they turn into an adult. I know this from my own mom and mother-in-law!

I do think, though, that we need to acknowledge it. We need to realize the MBO is a thing; it’s hard and it’s contributing to our exhaustion level. We need to find ways to unplug when we get a chance whether it’s sneaking off to a movie alone, with your husband or with friends or taking one night each week after the kids go to bed and doing nothing else except reading or watching television or somehow relaxing. It’s being good to ourselves when we get a chance. It’s intentionally thinking of ourselves and what we need sometimes.

The thing with MBO is that if it’s left unchecked too long, it can lead to burn-out, anger and resentment. It can lead us to saying things we don’t mean and hurting those we love most. It can steal our joy. It can distract us from our spiritual walk. MBO is going to exist. We can’t stop our mom brains from being overloaded with so much information all the time, but we can do our best to be intentional about taking breaks, even for a short time. I’ve had moments where I say to my husband, “I don’t care what you decide, but dinner is up to you. I cannot manage another decision right now.” I’ve had other moments when I’ve left him in charge and escaped behind a closed bedroom door for an hour (especially when our kiddos were smaller). 

Mom brain overload is just as real as pregnancy brain and mommy brain. While we may laugh and joke about it or complain about it with our mom friends, we need to also remember to take care of ourselves whenever we get a chance. Take a break soon, mama. I know you need it!

Content © Written Creations, LLC 2023