What is this!? Three posts in one week? It's almost like I'm a blogger again or something. Remember when I used to post something new every day? Ugh. Who was that girl? I am not about that hustle anymore, but I'm back, baby.
I have a lot of things I want to write and talk about. It feels like I've been in a pressure cooker for the past 18 months and I think I can finally start sharing some of the things I've been learning.
When my panic attacks started happening regularly, I withdrew from life. I basically went into hiding for several months because I didn't know what was causing them. I thought the best solution would be to shut everyone and everything out until I figured out the cause, but that just made them worse. So I started therapy. I fought seeing a therapist for as long as I could, but eventually I got so desperate that I needed to try something new.
I am so serious when I say this : I should have started going to a therapist 10 years ago. I LOVE THERAPY. I am officially done with my anxiety therapy (HOLLA!) but I have no reservations about going back to process life, marriage, ministry, and whatever else comes my way. If you're toying with the idea of going to see a counselor, but you're maybe kind of ashamed about it, don't be. It was the best decision I've ever made with as much hesitation as I had about the whole thing. It's so good. If you're nervous about going because you don't know what to expect, please email me! I'll try my best to answer any questions you have. Anyway.
I want to share with you three changes that I made in my life that have been crucial to healing my anxiety, stress levels, and mental health. These aren't things that I picked up from any one place, but a combination of counseling, books, wise friends, and just my gut feeling. I hope they help you as much as they've helped me!
ONE : Cut out all unnecessary stressors
Write down every single thing in your life that causes you any amount of stress. Serious to not so serious, severe to trivial. Every. Single. Thing. Your list could be a few lines long or a few pages long. It doesn't matter. Get as detailed as possible. Don't let your guilt dictate what you write, either. If it stresses you out when your kids wake up hungry every day, write it down. You have to be honest with yourself.
When your list is done, read it and then start crossing stuff out. I found several things right away that I could stop doing that would decrease my stress level. Just to give you one example, one thing that stressed me out beyond words was fighting with my kids about what they were going to eat. Without telling you my whole life story, I've been determined for years that my kids will eat well balanced, organic, healthy meals three times a day. At worse, two times a day. When I realized how much stress that was causing me, I decided to throw my principles out and give them food that I knew they would eat. Hot dogs. Macaroni and Cheese. Peanut butter and jelly. Buttered noodles. Whatever. I don't care. All that I care about now is that their stomachs are full and that we're not fighting and crying at lunch and dinner every day. Do. Not. Care. Anymore.
Can I just tell you how LIBERATING that has been in my life? In one day, that decision lifted an incredible, almost embarrassing, amount of stress off my shoulders. Deciding to let go of that one thing has trickled down into several areas of my life and the tightness in my chest at meal times is gone. GONE. I realized that the reason I cared so much wasn't that I was so worried about their health, or them getting cancer, or anything else at all. It was that I had insane expectations for myself as a mother. For me, them refusing to eat the food I gave them was a reflection of how horrible I was as a mom. Which brings me to number two.
TWO : Lower your expectations for yourself
There is no one I hold to a higher standard than myself. I have always had this idea in my head of what kind of mother I wanted, no, needed to be and I have never measured up. Not once. I have never been crafty enough, patient enough, fun enough, clean enough, organized enough, loving enough, funny enough. I have strived and strived for five years to measure up and now I know that the reason I don't measure up is not because I'm a failure. It's because that version of motherhood isn't real. That mom does not exist. There is NO WAY she exists. If she exists, she's lying about something because there's just no way. Lower your expectations.
I had this lightbulb moment a few months ago when I was thinking about a person in my life that makes me feel like I will never be good enough. I have been trying to prove myself to this person for years and then I thought, "If I'm never going to be good enough, why do I keep trying to be? If nothing I can do will prove that I'm enough, why do I keep pushing myself and stressing myself out about it?" And then I took a deep breath and said, "I'm done." And I was. I stopped trying to be good enough for that person and then I stopped trying to be good enough for myself.
You are good enough. You are enough. The best mom that you can be is the mom that you already are. The more you try and strive and fail your own expectations, the more you become that version of yourself that you don't want to be. Take a deep breath, lower your expectations, and just be the mom that you are and nothing else.
THREE : Stop worrying about what other people think of you
Keep reading. If you are like me, you're going to skip over this part because you think it doesn't apply to you because you don't care what other people think of you, but you probably do. So at least just hear me out.
This concept first came to me when I read The Emotionally Healthy Woman (Which I HIGHLY recommend. a thousand times. Buy this book.). All I did was read the chapter title on this subject and was like, "Nope. That's not me. I can skip this. I don't care what people think of me." But I'd already committed to read the entire book, so I figured I'd just trudge through that chapter like I trudge through the book of Lamentations when I've committed to reading the whole Bible. Two paragraphs in and I was eyes wide open, jaw on the floor, SHOCKED at what I was reading.
When I accepted that I care deeply what other people think of me, it changed my entire life. It's changed the way I interact with people, it's changed the way I carry myself, the things I commit myself to, the places that I go, the things that I say, the way I am around my children and my husband. I've spent so many years convincing myself that I don't care what people think of me. But now that I know that I do, and that I care greatly, I've started caring less. There are moments I've found myself holding back from saying something or doing something and then I think, "You're doing this because you're afraid of what they'll think of you." and then I buck up and say to myself, "NO. I'm not going to let fear hold me back this time."
You probably care a lot what people think of you. That's why you don't like going to moms groups, or bible study at church, or even going to the park because there are other people there. That's why you don't lift your hands at church, or submit that article to that magazine, or go to that work event with your husband. Fear is a controlling force, but it's not unstoppable. All fear is rooted in lies and the only way to stop lies is with truth.
Admit that you care what people think. That may go against every fiber of your being, but if you can admit that you care, you'll start caring less. Maybe not right away, but you'll start to retrain your brain to not care and you'll learn to participate in life in spite of the fear of what people think.
If you've struggled with anxiety or depression to any degree, these three things could be beneficial to you. I'm not saying this is a cure all. It's not. But it's something. For me, these have been transformational. If nothing else, I hope I can encourage you to take your mental health into your own hands and be intentional about finding solutions that will help you find wholeness. We are generation that is saturated by fear, depression, and mental illness, and I have to believe that we can overcome it, rather than letting it destroy us. I am in your corner. I hope you're encouraged.