Our summer started off with a bang: family vacation, summer camp, Father’s Day, swim lessons. And this was only June. July was filled with travel, way too many hours in the car, birthdays, play dates, more travel and back-to-school shopping. Today was just a regular day of dentist appointments for 4, doctor appointments for 2, lunch on the go, dropping off prescriptions, picking up prescriptions, waiting at the pharmacy (because our new insurance decided not to put all of our kids in the system), and grocery shopping. We left the house at 9 a.m. and just got home at 4:30 p.m.
We live in a small to average size home with only one common living space, open floor plan, one T.V. and three school-aged children. Our sofa fits all five of us if we sit shoulder to shoulder or lay across each other. If I try to retreat to my bedroom or bathroom, I can still hear the TV or the arguing or the rumble tumble life with three kids. Not that I would get privacy if I attempted to have a minute to myself because they can sense when I am not within a 5-foot radius. And the mess … oh, the mess.
I’m overstimulated. Some may call it “sensory overload.” I’m touched-out, a phrase that fellow contributor Laurel introduced me to. But also, I just need silence right now. I need my brain to just turn off for a bit – or maybe just a minute to complete a thought – to not have to hear fighting, or screeching, or anything about Fortnite for all of 10 minutes. I lost count on how many times I heard “Mom…” come out of their mouths within a 30 minute period. I feel this brick sitting on my chest, tears fighting to break through my ducts and I struggle to suppress the scream-heard-round-the-world.
I have reached my limit. I need a break.
When I’m feeling this way, there are a few things that help ease my anxiety and stress.
- Turn the electronics off. TV, video games, radio, battery-operated toys – everything off. Sometimes part of my over-stimulation is all of the extra noise in the house. It’s amazing how much peace I feel when all of that additional noise is taken away.
- Have quiet time. This takes some time for the kids to understand what quiet time is all about. Maybe it’s just because my kids are older, or maybe it’s because I’ve forced quiet time upon them so many times, but I can send them to their rooms to read or play quietly so I can sit in our communal living space alone and take care of my own reading, writing, drawing, praying or Bible study. Sometimes I just stare at the wall, and that works too. This is harder in the baby years, but they are perfectly safe in their crib for a few minutes for you to take a breather.
- Break out a dance party. Ok, this might seem like I’m adding to the stimulation, but sometimes turning on the noises that I enjoy hearing (KLOVE is my jam) and taking a break to dance and shake off all of the anxiety makes me feel a little less overwhelmed. Getting up and moving around relieves so much stress. I used to do this as a teacher when I could sense that my kids were getting antsy and when the dance party is over, everyone is a little more calm and relaxed.
- Go outside for a breath of fresh air. And then right back inside because it’s so dang hot. But seriously, fresh air is good for the soul (and the sweat glands). Some days I check the mail multiple times a day just to give myself a reason to walk outside.
- Take a bath. A hot bath is my absolute favorite thing in the world. Sometimes when the hubby calls on his way home from work I will say, “I need a bath tonight.” I may not hop in right away when he gets home (let the man have his wind-down time, too), but he will let me know when it’s ok for me to steal away for a bit. Maybe as the kids wind down for bed time and then he takes over from there. It’s important for me to let my husband know ahead of time when I need a breather lest I take it all out on him. Sorry, love.
Also, there’s no shame in my chocolate game. Most, if not all, of these moments that I steal for myself involve chocolate. Don’t judge me.
The thing is, I know my limits. I get overstimulated easily when there is too much noise or too much chaos. I know that if I don’t have a few minutes to myself, or if I don’t shut the noise off for a bit, I’ll break. I have learned to recognize when I am reaching my limit and know how to prevent me from crossing over to crazy mom status. Find what works for you and take action when you are nearing your limit. You’ll be a much healthier you when you take time for yourself and your kids will appreciate a refreshed mom!