I put out an SOS yesterday…
It was just one of those days with screaming and hitting and managing every little thing. And that was just me! HA!
Not really, but it wasn’t my most stellar day. While the kids climbed the walls (and screamed and hit and bickered and irritated one another), I felt like pulling out all my hairs one by one would be a pleasant idea. My own skin constricted me and I clamored to break free of all the anxiety.
Oh dear God, make it stop!
This was also my mind’s constant refrain during our last few weeks of school, the weeks during which my anxious 5th grade tweenager sassed and tormented his sister incessantly and refused to get out of bed and did all the typically bothersome things tweenagers do.
How am I ever going to get through this summer???
I’m an anxious person by nature. I feel safer surrounded by all things slower and methodical. Preschoolers don’t lend themselves well to this lifestyle, but I’ve found ways to carve a path that is mostly accepting of their chaos and my own drive for calm…namely daily naps for the three of us and a good dose of reading, especially when it involves me reading grown-up books to myself. The idea of adding a volatile preteen to our every moment…well, that thought terrified me.
I love my kids, for sure. They’re (mostly) fun to have around. But I know I’m not alone in the experience of worrying about getting through summer vacation with my sanity at least somewhat intact.
The end of our school year was particularly chaotic (hello there, vomiting/traveling husband/principal’s office/etc.), and I knew that given my own struggle with anxiety, I needed a game plan to get me through, a path to protect my soul from the impending onslaught of busyness, bickering, and boredom that was about to define my daily existence.
We’re a month in now…are you making it? I’m in a Facebook group in which a fellow mom recently asked how many of us were over summer break, and the answers reminded me that I’m not alone feeling like the next month or two is stretching into interminable chaos. I thought I’d share the few things I’ve been trying to implement in order to keep my anxiety in check. Hopefully one or two of these ideas will help you feel like you can survive, thrive, and enjoy your kids during these next few months.
Here you go…
It’s Okay To Have Needs
It took me all the way through Gabe’s early years and well into Isla’s before I finally decided it was okay to admit to myself that I have needs. I need physical activity. I need time by myself. I need quiet. I neeeeeeeeed sleep. Somehow, I’d convinced myself that the fact that I’m a mom means I can’t have needs anymore.
The needs? They’re still there. They never went away. The fact that I’m a mom does mean I can’t always meet my needs the way I might want to, but the answer isn’t in denying the needs exist. Pretending always produces anxiety. I’m much less anxious if I at least acknowledge them and either meet them or make the decision to shelve them a conscious one.
Connect With Each One
Who doesn’t need a good game of dress-up?
If I find a particular child to be getting overly yangy, I think back on how recently we’ve connected one-on-one. Often, it has been a while. That’s a good clue to me that we need to slow things down and find ways to connect individually with each child. It staves off so many problems, and a small investment of my time goes a long way to keeping the peace around here, something I desperately covet for my home environment.
Having a crappy morning? Hole up with a few good books! This was my most favorite way to get through tough days when it was just me and Gabe. I don’t do it as much with the littles, but I should probably be doing it more, not less. We recently started a family read-aloud chapter book (Danny, Champion of the World). I wasn’t sure how it would go given our wide age spread and varying attention spans. However, it is almost always a hit. Gabe likes it and the littles sit still through it. Actually, the same is true even with picture books. If I start a few with the littles, I often find Gabe meandering in to join us.
A few other titles I’d like to get to soon…Mary Poppins, The BFG, and Half Magic. Maybe some Charlotte’s Web and Little House on the Prairie, too. And Ramona, for sure!
Along similar lines, when I’m super anxious, I tend to “hide,” disconnecting from the outside world and getting lost in my head. I’ve been trying to adjust my hiding a bit so I do it with a book. I want my kids to see reading modeled, and I want them to know it’s something I value, even as an adult. I figure it’s a good way to use a stinky situation (my anxiety) to model a desired behavior, at least some of the time.
Take Time Alone
About two years ago, I realized I needed a few hours alone once a week, and Tahd and I arranged that I’d get out of the house solo on Wednesday nights. I quickly realized I was like a very arid sponge, and the alone-time was like a gentle mist of water I sucked up as fast as I could get it. We had a good thing going through the school year, but when summer hit and our schedules changed, I stopped going.
That summer was terrible! I felt like I was constantly on the brink of crazy and was operating from zero. When school started in the fall and I resumed my Wednesday evening solo excursions, my head felt much clearer again, and I resolved that I wouldn’t make the same mistake the next summer. I haven’t, and it helps so much! Just a few hours away and I come back feeling like an actual human being again–not exclusively a mom. That investment of those hours alone are good for my soul, and they also help me be a better wife and mom through the rest of the week. It’s totally worth it, in my opinion.
I’m not super extroverted, but I can see that someone who is might especially benefit from doing this with a friend or even a group of girlfriends. If that’s more up your alley, do that. I think the key is to just do something!
Change the Scenery (Especially If It Involves Going Outside)
I’m not an outdoorsy person, but I can’t deny the power of getting outside to change the mood of the day. Often, I have to force the issue, telling them it’s not an option so much as an order. Or, rather, telling myself it’s not an option so much as an order. Gabe would rather loll on the couch and Isla gets irrationally overwhelmed by breezes and bugs, but a forced 20 minutes of outdoor time often expands into an hour or more of outdoor play, and by the time we’re done, everyone’s happy again.
To a lesser degree, the same thing is true even if we change the scenery in smaller ways. Maybe we get out of the house to the library or even a store. Or maybe we’ve been hanging around downstairs for a while so we all trek upstairs to fold laundry or make beds or something inane like that. Whatever it is, the change in scenery seems to help us reset when we’re entrenched in our crankypants moods.
Make Your Beds
Or whatever “your thing” is…For me, days with unmade beds feel lazy and haphazard. If I go upstairs and see bedrooms full of chaos, I just want to crawl back in and pull the covers over my head! Having the beds made somehow helps me stay motivated and focus.
See? Laundry and general room chaos? No bueno. But the bed is made, even though a child is sleeping. Boom.
For you, maybe it’s not beds. Truthfully, that’s not my only trigger button. (Can anyone else hear Tahd laughing???) Another trigger for me is not putting on makeup/getting dressed/fixing my hair. I always think I’ll get so much accomplished on days when we stay lazy in our PJs, but that never works out. On those days, I’m constantly fighting a magnetic urge to sit on the couch or lounge on the bed. Go figure!
Maybe your trigger button is making time to take a shower or having your counters cleared or drinking one cup of coffee in silence or going for a run or texting a friend or…I don’t know…a primal scream? We all have our things. I won’t judge. 😉 Figure out what yours is and move it to the top of the list to make sure it gets done early every day.
Focus On Enjoying the Right Now
The right now – sunshine, warm temperatures and blue skies, time to drink coffee in savored sips rather than quick gulps, blowing bubbles, dirty feet, pushing babies on swings, sand squishing between my toes, line-dried laundry, lazy mornings with nowhere to go, vacation, peony blooms, juicy tomatoes…when I’m anxious, I miss these things. Quieting my mind to take inventory of my immediate surroundings always produces slivers of welcome joy.
Find Soul Space
I need introspective soul work to be well, but I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking there’s just no time and that it’s a luxury that can be eliminated. Nothing sparks anxiety like not taking care of yourself and lying to yourself about what you really need! I realized, though, that my kids are no longer babies. They might still be little, but even little people can learn the value of a few minutes of soul care. “Mom is going to take a few minutes to write in her journal,” I’ve started telling them. And then I get them their own writing utensils and sheets of paper. Or when they start in on a craft project, I pull out one of my own–currently a wood slice wreath I started out of the trunk of our old Christmas trees. It’s been a novel realization to me that we can all take care of our creative souls together. Sure, I don’t have hours to get lost in drafting an essay or my own painting project, but soul care is not an all-or-nothing endeavor. Bits and pieces are better than nothing.
Case in point…I’ve been working on this post for 2 weeks now. Something written is better than nothing written at all, right? lol
How about you? Is summer an anxious time for you? How do you keep your anxiety at bay and enjoy this season?