July was a hard month for me. My child was kicked out of preschool for three weeks with Hand Foot and Mouth Disease, and meanwhile I was working from home with him during that time. I was working from home during a time where my job itself was very stressful. It felt like people were launching grenades into my project plan and every possible risk I had identified came to fruition….
So I’m dealing with THAT and a five year old who has a serious case of cabin fever and boredom. At one point, I was doing a video call with a co-worker, and my son stood at the top of the stairs yelling because he couldn’t get his underwear on for some reason.
I lost my sh!t. Multiple times.
I literally felt like I was on the verge of a breakdown. At no time in my whole career as a Mom does the Mommy Guilt get more intense than right after I have a meltdown. At one point, I had a flash back to my teen years, when my own Mother lost her sh!t and I remember thinking wow, she really is crazy. Ah, but how karma comes back to teach us. I know in retrospect that it was ME that was making her crazy, and now I have two little darlings of my own that push my buttons every day.
The thing is — when you’re stressed and tired and strung out — when those little darlings DO push your buttons, you are much more likely to blow up. At one point recently, I did a self inventory. I decided I was taking out my frustrations and my stress on those that I love the most — my husband and my kids — and I was starting to see the negative effects of stress in my health. I was getting headaches every afternoon. I had a tight feeling in my chest. I got the dreaded summer cold. I literally felt like my head might come spinning off of my body and I would become Poltergeist Mom at any second.I made a decision that something had to change, and it had to change FAST. If it didn’t, I was likely to end up on a gurney in the hospital with a heart attack, and I’d be all alone because I would have alienated all of those that love me. I didn’t want to turn to wine (as tempting as that is) or anti-anxiety drugs. Instead, I decided to get serious about finding the Zen in parenthood.
Here is my 10 Step Mommy Zen Plan that I implemented all within a week (this is in no particular order, by the way). Desperate times call for desperate measures, my friends!
1. Girl time, stat. We always say that a good girlfriend is cheaper than therapy. Within minutes of deciding I was near my breaking point, I texted my closest friend in Reno. The exchange went something like this:
Her: God, yes!
Me: Kids driving me nuts. How soon can you be there?
Her: Kids driving me nuts, too. 20 minutes!
I dropped everything, and showed up at the pool with tears welling behind my sunglasses and shaking hands. Within minutes of being in her presence, I could feel the stress dissipating. We didn’t even talk about my impending midlife crisis. We just talked LIFE, and that was exactly what I needed.There were also numerous calls to my best friend from high school, who is more like a sister now. It is so important to have girlfriends you can call to vent or just for company.
2. Morning walks. Around this time, I got an email newsletter suggesting that mornings would be easier if you set your alarm early and go for a walk in the morning. The purpose of the walk isn’t exercise — it is to just wake up gradually and enjoy nature. The first morning I did this, it was a drizzly morning, and I literally walked around the neighborhood in my pajamas. I noticed every drop of moisture on the plants. I turned my head up and felt the rain. It was transcendent. I truly felt Zen. Of course, two days later, my dog became aware of my new morning walks, and she soon insisted on coming. It’s not as Zen when you have a really energetic 60 pound dog lunging to chase after bunnies and every car that passes, but still — it’s better than kids hitting you with a tantrum within minutes of you stumbling out of bed.
3. Exercise. I admit that my exercise habit had fallen by the wayside. I also admit that I know that exercise is the best way to alleviate stress and counteract depression for me personally. I mandated my exercise again. It is the one hour a day that I can just be with myself and my own thoughts without someone wanting something from me. Once my son was back in school and I was back at work, I resumed my daily treks to the gym at lunch. I would show up with my chest feeling tight and could just feel the tightness loosen through the course of the workout. On the weekends, I decided not to ASK my husband for time to exercise, but just to TAKE the time. I’ve been leaving home soon after breakfast and heading to the pool. Swimming is one of my ultimate forms of meditation. There is NOTHING that can calm my nerves more than this:
4. Yoga. Some would put this into the category of exercise. I’m one of those that has resisted Yoga for years. It doesn’t feel like it burns calories, and when I only have an hour a day, I didn’t want to waste it! But on my Zen plan, I decided perhaps I needed to give Yoga another try. I looked into the studios, but the only time I could fit into my schedule was 5:45am. I decided sleep was more important on my Zen plan than Yoga. But, I found that my gym offers Yoga every Monday at lunch. So, this past Monday, I walked into the Yoga room with a headache, and found myself dozing off during the final meditation. I relaxed so much that I actually think I woke myself with a snore at the end of class. Huh. Maybe there is something to this Yoga thing. Maybe there is a reason that stereotypically Moms in their 30s and 40s do Yoga. I’m keeping this on my plan.
5. Sleep. I know deep down that when I’m tired I’m more likely to have a Mommy Meltdown, so I got serious about my bedtime. I’d put those kids to bed and go right to bed myself, indulging in a bit of chick lit before I dozed off to sleep.
6. Massage. I dusted off that old Groupon I had where I bought 3 massages for $30 each. I decided to skip a lunchtime workout on a Friday in lieu of a massage. Bingo. My Zen plan is TOTALLY working by this point!
7. Emergency Date Night. I admit — my husband and I had been fighting like caged dogs. I knew that connecting with him would potentially ease the fighting and combat stress, so I texted the babysitter and told my husband we were having an Emergency Date. We went up to Nevada Beach, enjoyed a nice Chardonnay over sunset, and then went out to dinner in South Lake at Cabo Wabo. Since it was a late dinner, we then got to watch the entertaining antics of the countless bachelor and bachelorette parties and we danced to an 80s cover band. As we swayed and sang to Journey together, I knew we had found that connection again, and that, my friends, is very Zen.
8. Hydrate. Did you know that dehydration can cause anxiety? This came to mind at the beginning of my Zen Plan, so hydrate I did. I carry around a 32 ounce Nalgene with me at all times, and took full advantage of the infused waters offered at my office.
9. I called my Mom. A lot. I’ve heard that there have been studies proving that a person’s blood pressure usually goes down when they’re talking to their Mom. My Mom gets me, and it totally lowers stress to connect with someone who can really connect with you and understand what you’re going through.
10. I connected with my kids. After getting back from my morning walks, the kids would usually be awake, and we’d cuddle. In the evening after dinner, we’d go for a walk and hold hands and just talk about the day or the sunset. I think I proved to them that I’m not a crazy lady, and I proved to myself that I really am a good Mom.
So, what is the verdict after my week-long quest to become more Zen? It worked. It’s a tad exhausting to fit all of this into one week, but the headaches are gone, that tight feeling in my chest is gone, and the Mommy Meltdowns have significantly reduced. (In all transparency, my kids know my buttons, and if those are pushed too many times, I don’t care how Zen I am, I’m going to lose my sh!t. Children, be warned!)Most of the things in my plan I can fit into my weekly schedule, and I realized how important making ME a priority is in my role of parenting my two little darlings. If Mommy’s not happy, then no one is happy. I want everyone that I love to be happy, so I pledge to continue making my Mommy Zen Plan a part of my life. Date Nights and massages will probably only happen monthly, but I experienced the immediate benefit of those, so I was reminded to make those a priority. The rest of this stuff just requires a bit of practice and diligence.
What do you do to achieve Mommy Zen? What is your oasis in motherhood? Please share in the comments!