Tag Archives: self-awareness

5 Empowering Choices for Overwhelmed Moms

empowering-choices

Last month we explored the assumptions that contribute to moms becoming overwhelmed, stressed out, and drained. As a mom you respond to pressures and expectations by trying to meet everyone else’s needs. Meeting your own needs as a mom is often an after thought.

Most don’t recognize they are overwhelmed until they develop emotional, physical, and/or behavioral symptoms. When you become short fused, your stomach is in knots, or you are drinking more glasses of wine, these cues invite you to tune into yourself. And with greater awareness of what keeps you doing whats not working, new choices start to emerge.

In this way, overwhelmed feelings are a gift to invite you to slow down and tune in. But what if you could also stop yourself from becoming overwhelmed before the signals cue you to slow down? What would it take to retain some energy for yourself before you notice you are completely drained and need to let go of something?

An Invitation to Tune Into Yourself

Before I share how to get out of mom burnout, I want to first invite you to tune into your own wisdom. Each of you have personal wisdom, but it often gets clouded by assumptions and expectations. When you are busy and overwhelmed, you don’t realize you have more choices than you can currently see.

Pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and get ready to tune into yourself. Write down 1-3 things that would help you prevent becoming overwhelmed. Identify something you could do (or not do) instead of something you have to get someone else to do.

5 Empowering Choices to Prevent Becoming Overwhelmed

Now let’s explore 5 more choices we have forgotten we have as moms. These choices can be challenging when life is coming at you, but can help you navigate by considering yourself too.

Choice #1: Do Less Even if Others Don’t Do More – If your happiness is tied to getting others to do more so you can slow down, then you will be very frustrated. If you are over-doing it, then invite yourself to do less even though others don’t do more. Your happiness can be freed from what others do or don’t do. If you pick up one more dirty clothing item and become frustrated that you are doing it all, then don’t do it all. Learn to tolerate the undone in order to save your sanity. In doing so, you become more regulated by your own rhythms than your environment.

Choice #2: Decrease Digital Overload – We have so much coming at us in these digitally distracted times. Update the notifications feature on your phone, so you are only notified in the way that doesn’t overload and distract you during the day. Then identify when you will check and respond to messages and notifications, otherwise you will be at the mercy of others timetable.

Choice #3: Define What’s Best for You – Instead of only focusing on what others need, also ask yourself what you need. Many moms don’t consider their own needs until they are resentful and burned out. Stop, tune in, and reflect before you get to that point by considering what’s best for you along the way. Be careful not to compare yourself to your social circle or Facebook network, since that isn’t truly knowing yourself. Trust that you know what’s best for you.

Choice #4: Reserve Open Time in Your Calendar Instead of Filling Up- Set realistic daily goals by keeping open space on your calendar. Just because there’s an open spot on your calendar, doesn’t mean you have to fill it. Stop before saying yes and reflect on the cost and benefit to you in adding one more thing to your calendar. Ultimately, how much energy do you want to give to others and how much do you want to reserve for yourself? If you don’t stop and reflect, you may easily give away any free time in order to get others approval or acceptance.

Choice #5: Let Others Experience Discomfort – It’s hard to sit next to others we care about who are struggling and not be tempted to make it all better. But growth doesn’t come without some pain and discomfort. You will be able to be more present emotionally for your loved ones when they are struggling, if you aren’t adding to your workload of being responsible for one more thing. Let your loved one solve their problem while also caring for them as a person.

I know we want the best for ourselves, our children, and our friends and family. And I also know that you want to be less stressed, resentful and irritable when you are with your family. So it’s time to make some empowering choices that can be both better for you and your loved ones.

Lastly, stop criticizing yourself for being irritable, resentful, or withdrawn. Instead of beating yourself up for having these symptoms, listen to the message they are delivering. Tune into yourself and develop a respect for yourself and your own needs, just as much as you care about others.

Please share in the comments what you wrote down that will help you prevent burnout. Or share which of the 5 choices you want to work on over the next week.

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I love working with moms from all seasons of life! If you tired of being overwhelmed and want to feel less stressed out, set aside an hour to devote to self-care and consult with Marci at her office. Or Missouri residents can also consult with her online via Talkspace.

 

8 Ways to Make the Most of Counseling

“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” ~ Paul Romer

You’ve taken the step to schedule your first appointment with a psychotherapist or a counselor. However, you are nervous and worried you may not know what to do when you get there.

You have all these thoughts running through your head, like”Will they judge me? Will it really help?” You consider cancelling the appointment, but you’re in a crisis or trying to prevent a crisis. In the end, you decide you are going even though you are nervous.

Each counselor has a little different approach and personality. So once you find a counselor that is a good match for you, I know you want to get the most out of your investment in time and money. Here are some ideas on how to make the most of the counseling experience once you get started.

Tip #1: Be Honest

You have nothing to lose by being honest. The counselor works under strict client-therapist confidentiality laws to keep everything you discuss completely private (unless you are a danger to yourself or others). Tell them about yourself and be as open as you can about your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Most therapists aren’t in this business to judge you, but to lend a hand by guiding and coaching you to greater clarity and mastery of your goals.

Tip #2: Identify Counseling Goals

Know what goals you’d like to work on in counseling. While counselors’ specialties vary, your goals can include the following areas: emotional, relational, behavioral, health, career, or work. Identifying your goals will help you focus what you most want to talk about in your sessions, and it will help you talk about progress toward your goals as you move forward.

Tip #3: Keep a Counseling Journal

Often counselors ask questions in session that you may not have the answer to, but you want to reflect on it later. Decide if you want to use a password-protected file on your phone or a paper journal to record your counseling goals, reflections, attempts, and progress. It’s just as important to focus on problems as it is progress. Keeping a personal record of your emotional and relational goals and reflections will help increase your focus, motivation, and self-awareness.

Tip #4: Prepare for Sessions

Get your journal or notebook out before your session and reflect on what you’ve been working on, thinking about, or stuck on. Write down any questions you have or any topics you want to focus on in the next session, so you can start the session focused on what’s most important to you. Thinking space can be challenging to carve out these days with the demands of every day life, but it will help you make the most of your time in session.

Tip #5: Speak Up Before End

Speak up if you are ever thinking about ending counseling, whether it’s due to making progress, financial challenges, or personality clashes. Let the counselor know that you are done for now, so you can have time to summarize and celebrate all your hard work. Or if the counseling isn’t going well for you and you feel stuck, speak up about this too. Even if you are confused or hurt by something that was said in session, it’s good practice for being open about difficult topics. If the counselor-client isn’t a good match, this gives the therapist an opportunity to offer other options.

Tip #6: Own Your Progress

In a crisis, we often want relief as soon as possible and feel like we’ve run out of options. When a person feels really uncomfortable, they may put pressure on a helping or medical professional to fix them. Pressuring the therapist to fix you will leave you feeling more hopeless and frustrated. And getting advice can rob you of the opportunity to find your own solutions and develop more confidence when faced with challenges. Instead of pressuring the therapist, own your problem and your progress, and collaborate with your helping professional.

Tip #7: Keep Counseling Private

Establish boundaries around your therapy sessions. Wait to share what you are working on in counseling until you are starting to make progress. Also resist the urge to use the therapist’s expert opinion to speak up to loved ones. Instead work on defining yourself to your loved ones, not leaning on your therapist to speak for you. It’s very different to say what you are going to do vs what your therapist thinks you should do. Letting the expert prop you up blocks confidence, empowerment, and intimacy from growing.

Tip #8: Try Mental Health Prevention

Lastly, you don’t have to wait until there is a crisis to come to counseling. While a crisis is motivating and a time where patterns are more easily observed, you can also attend counseling before your marriage or emotions are at a crisis point. Many people come to counseling to receive coaching on personal or relationship growth goals. Others continue counseling on an as needed basis to help maintain changes they’ve made. Counselors don’t just offer diagnoses and treatment plans, it’s a place to gather clarity, stay motivated, receive encouragement and a new perspective.

“A crisis is like a low tide at the ocean. When the ocean recedes you can walk far out of the sand and see all manner of debris littering the ocean floor; but you also spot the occasional treasure – a pristine, glimmering shell buried in the sand.” ~Lynn Grodzki

What questions do you have for me about how you can make counseling work for you?

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Marci Payne, MA, LPC offers individual, marriage and family counseling in Independence MO (near Kansas City MO). Schedule a free 15 minute phone consult to determine if she is the best counselor for you and/or your family.

Care for Any Symptom Like a Hopeful Researcher

Under the weather

Have you ever felt hopeless after receiving a physical or mental health diagnosis? When people receive a diagnosis, it is often assumed that the condition is both lifelong and fixed, meaning it can’t change. This assumption creates a dark cloud of hopelessness on top of the diagnosis.

This hopelessness came over Janice, a married woman in her mid-thirties and mother of a 4-year-old son. For the past 6 months, Janice has been struggling with aches, pains, and fatigue. She loves being active but is finding it difficult to keep up with her exercise routine due to the pain she feels almost daily.

Janice decides to consult her physician who runs routine lab tests. When the results come back normal, her doctor diagnoses her with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain syndrome. He recommends daily medication, and Janice leaves the appointment thinking she is too young to have a chronic condition.

Diagnosis Stirs Learning Opportunity

Some people stay in this hopeless place, but Janice uses it to learn more about herself. When Janice thinks about her pain, she realizes it varies from day-to-day. She is motivated to better understand her pain.

While you may not be experiencing pain like Janice, maybe you have been diagnosed with depression, panic disorder, or a different physical syndrome. Or maybe you struggle with stand alone symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, irritability, or overeating. Whatever your symptom, I imagine it varies by day, week, or month too.

Making sense of the variability is the key to managing the symptoms that accompany the diagnosis. In doing so, the diagnosis doesn’t define you, it becomes  a messenger. Most symptoms are trying to tell us something. Instead of feeling hopeless, you can see it as an opportunity to learn something new.

Think Like a Researcher Observing Symptom Variability

How would a researcher look at this diagnosis? Think about the questions a researcher would investigate to get a better understanding of what it’s like to be you living with your diagnosis.

Step 1. Identify the problem/symptoms you want to observe : Pick one symptom, such as pain, fatigue, insomnia, overeating, irritability, etc to rate each day from 1-10. Make sure it’s a problem or symptom that is very important to you.

Step 2. Make a hypothesis : There may be many factors that contribute to symptoms increasing or decreasing in intensity (exercise, nutrition, external stress, loneliness, over-functioning, etc) Make your best guess at the variables you want to observe as possible contributing factors.

Step 3. Record daily observations with no judgement : Use a private mobile app or small notebook to rate your symptom daily for at least 30 days. Also rate at least 2 other variables daily, using descriptions and numbers. Record both good and bad days in your journal with no self-criticism – it just is.

Step 4. Interpret your evidence : After at least 30 days of noting the symptom and variables, read through all your notes at one time. Based on your evidence, did you prove your hypothesis right or wrong? What is your symptom trying to tell you?

Step 5. Determine what helps manage the symptom :Identify what helps improve the symptom as well as what makes it worse. Now you can write your own treatment plan. You have gathered invaluable evidence, so decide what to do with it.

Usefulness of Self-Observation

Wondering what happened to Janice? She is still rating her pain on a daily basis, including before and after exercise. She also records: length of sleep at night, external stress level, and degree of connection/anxiety in relation to others. Janice hypothesized that it was exercise or poor sleep making her feel more pain.

But what Janice observed tells her something different about her pain. She learned that her pain isn’t a marker of how well she sleeps nor whether or not she exercises. Sometimes she feels great after exercising and sometimes she feels moderate muscle tension. In fact her pain level isn’t fixed, it is different every day.

The biggest predictor of a higher pain level was how well Janice did at defining herself when faced with tension, stress, and pressure. When she takes others distance or negativity less personally, she would feel less pain. Or if she held still when others pressured her to be responsible for them, she could actually decrease her pain level. Janice’s pain is literally trying to tell her to keep her relationships, but get better at defining her boundaries.

While she still has occasional hopeless thoughts, Janice is caring for her pain without medication, experiencing more good days than bad, and enjoying being active with her son again. In Janice’s case, her observations were more hopeful than the diagnosis. What about with you?

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Marci offers face-to-face counseling services in the Kansas City, MO area. Schedule an appointment today to explore what your symptoms are trying to tell you.

Note: All names & identifying information have been changed in this article. This post is for educational purposes only, not a case study. (Photo Credit: “Under the Weather” by Shena Tschofen)