3 Tips to Living a Less Anxious Motherhood

I’m not great at being present. I used to think I was, but I am not really a moment liver in a sense I hadn’t discovered yet.

I’m speaking in relation to my kids mostly, but I guess in my marriage and all relationships too really; I think I could pinpoint my anxiety massively to the fact that I am worried about what will happen “when”.

When I said to my husband that thing in the moment, will he be mad? Focus and worry about it for hours, ask 100x if he’s mad at me. Apologize for random nothingness out of feeling bad for the wrong I did that I’m not even sure if he’s mad at, even though he’s said no 100x.

When I talked that way to my kiddo as he grabbed the jello packet, will he remember his mom as someone who never trusted him to do things? Let this thought sit in my head all day.

When I got mad at my youngest, newly nicknamed Bam Bam, will he grow up remembering his mom giving the oldest brother more attention than him and that mom gets angry when he needs something? Spend too much time with youngest so make up for it, totally alienating oldest, feeling guilty about both, cry later.

When I spend the day cleaning and still am left with a dirty kitchen at the end of the day, we’ve forgotten to do our school work and my kids are clearly deeply needing connection with me but it’s bedtime and I’ve got nothing left, are they going to grow up thinking I never prioritized them and that mom was always busy getting nothing done and ignoring them?

When I get angry and retreat to my cell phone, will they remember a mom who was never really there and that her phone was more important than them?

These are the thoughts that plague my daily existence. There are millions more, all future focused. None here, none now.

And I realized tonight that a future with teenage boys is not a guarantee. What if I lose one? What if they lose me?

Anxiety exists in the future, it doesn’t exist in the now.

It can’t, because there’s nothing to be anxious about if it’s already happened, right?

I told my husband the other day that everything I do as a parent revolves around my relationship with each of them, and what that will evolve to as we grow as a family.

Will they come to me if they want to have sex with a girl but don’t know if they should because they aren’t really sure about the whole God thing and waiting?

Will they come to me if they tried drugs? Will they call me in a bad situation to get them out of it because they trust me?

And if they don’t, it’s because I failed them as a mom right now, in this moment. High stress right?

You see, anxiety is ignorant of people’s ability to make their own choices and the fact that they will struggle with their own things regardless of me.

Anxiety believes everything is the fault of the one feeling it.

Anxiety constantly asks me to relive every conversation, every fight, every moment, every post on social media or blog post because someone out there might be mad at something I’ve said and maybe that’s why no one I love has talked to me in a bit.

I don’t see anxiety often, it can honestly be really difficult to pinpoint and identify. I was not aware of my constant worry of someone being mad at me until recently, yet I recall a situation where the boy I liked in grade 8 and how sick I felt because I thought he was mad at me.

I see depression less. It’s even trickier for me to see. I mean … so I’m sleepy a lot, right? So what if some days I just want to cry. Isn’t that just motherhood? That’s what people tell me. PS you’re not helping.

Maybe that’s why anxiety and depression are so hard for people without them to understand, because those of us who have it often don’t see it either. It takes a lot of work to become aware, stay aware and make the necessary changes on our own.

And really, how can you share something in a way that is understood, when it hides from your own awareness? How do you ask for help with something like that?

And so I find myself in these situations where I’m upset, crying on the kitchen floor at 11:48 PM on  Monday night *ahem current sitch* because it pounces on me every now and again and suddenly I see how it’s been there all along.

If depression were a dark cloud in your heart leaving you sad and heavy, anxiety would be the bug in your ear whispering “what if…” with the worst possible scenario tied to it.

So when I realized that I’m not as present as I thought I was as a parent, or even a partner, this rocked my senses a bit. Parenting is my single greatest joy and challenge; Marriage is hard and beautiful and ever changing. And here I am faced with this reality that the two things I hold dearest in my life, I’m not even really here for.

Part of my morning routine is that I write down my intentions of how I want to show up for my family that day. How can I serve each soul at their highest level by showing up in mine? I am re training my brain to be present focused. Because when we take care of the present, the future comes into focus on it’s own.

The whispers of anxiety are truths, shown as they really happened, but they’re tainted with regret. With guilt. With shame. With snapshots of my future with kids who hate me for the awful things I said / did / made them feel, so my intentions take those truths and align them properly again.

I know rationally speaking, I’m doing great. My kids are well loved. I’m attentive and when I think of it from the standpoint of all I do, I’m a damn good mother and I know I should be proud.  I mean the average parent spends 20 minutes a day playing with their kids and I thought 4 hours of my undivided attention was not enough. So yea, I’m doing ok.

But anxiety doesn’t give a damn about truth.

And anxiety tells me every day that I will never be enough.

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Any other mommas out there feel this way?

No wonder I’m so tired all the time! I’m exhausted thinking about what I just wrote!

And for my lovely friends and followers who will come in and encourage me or their friends feeling this way, know that no amount of kind words, encouragements or incredibly kind words of truth will make this go away. They will be received warmly, probably with tears and immense gratitude, but you cannot compliment away anxiety.

What we have to understand is that if these are not rational thoughts, normal rational advice will never be good enough.

So after all that has been said, here’s my 3 best tips that have nothing to do with encouraging you, for living with mom guilt from anxiety and how to rise above water sometimes just enough, because when you’re having a bad day sometimes that’s all we want. Is a breath. I hope I can offer you that, but in a proactive way. There’s enough out there telling you how to get through the moment, I’m here to help you create a lifestyle around it.

**Please note that I always recommend you speak to your Dr, naturopath, shaman, healer, BFF or the gal doing your hair, WHOEVER, about your struggles. It doesn’t serve you to stay silent. The more you speak up, the stronger you will feel in order to conquer it and the better help you will get**

3 STEPS TO CREATING A LIFESTYLE THAT MINIMIZES ANXIETY

  1. Thank you Jesus can I get an amen for some gratitude! Every morning I sit down and write out at least three thing I am grateful for. I keep going as long as I am moved to and I get my kids on it too. Sometimes they are simple, sometimes they are not, and with the kids we usually end up laughing. I never spend too much time thinking about it and it is the bestway to start the day. If you sit there for 20 minutes just trying to find something to be grateful for, you’re trying to hard. Start with being grateful for the pen to write with and go from there.  This will start to retrain your brain to start looking for the positive things in your day and it might sound small, but the reaction deep within the cells of your body that shift when you start to think positively I swear have the power to cure diseases. Gratitude is medicine. Stop reading and think of 3 things you’re grateful for. Go. Faster.
  2. Get outside and spend some quiet time in your own mind. This is kind of two birds one stone. Every morning I get up and go for a walk with my giant, dog aggressive on leash German Shepherd. I can only walk her in the morning before my husband goes to work, I cannot take her out with the kids, and she must be walked and worked daily. This is a giant time suck of my day, and yet something I have become deeply grateful for. This time alone time is the best dang part of my day. I pop in a podcast for some ofit but I make sure to spend at least 15 minutes listening to just nature. The snow crunching beneath my feet. The leaves crackling with each step. You may not have a dog, you may not have a husband or wife to give you that free time outside alone, but you can find time. I swear your kids will be OK if you step outside your front door by yourself (yes in winter too) in all your jammie glory and just take 3 slow, deep intentional breaths by yourself. Jump up and down a few times and smile. You’d never believe changing your life and mindset was so simple. And trust me, 10 minutes is all I used to get too. It’s been a year and a half of determination to get this sorted for myself, so be patient. It will come.
  3. To do lists. Maybe this won’t help you, but dang it helps me. It gives me clarity on what I need to do in a day and also helps me feel hella accomplished. I put do one load of dishes, start one load of laundry, fold one load of laundry, get groceries, things I have to do and know will get done because it feels so good to cross things off the list because with kids you just don’t know what the day will really turn out like. I also put on my to do list read with kids, uninterrupted for 45 minutes, yoga and go outside along side toilets, scrub bathtub and book dental appointments . I don’t know about you, but mental illness makes me damn forgetful. I used to write brush teeth on my list at the start of this journey. Ask me how my teeth are right now *hint, not awesome*
    I’m not a big fan of putting a lot on my list that I know will be difficult to accomplish in a day. I’m like a 4 task max kinda gal. But I use my lists as a way to take the jumbled mess in my mind and settle it down. It’s like the words are pricked from floating around in my mind and flow out of my pencil onto paper, and there they rest for the rest of the day. If you’re just starting out and you’re like me, go ahead and put everything down on the list that is just self care.My sample list from a year ago was something like shower, brush teeth, put on nice clothes, listen to music I like not just kids music, eat breakfast sitting down. True story. I had to remind myself to do all those things in one morning because it was all just too damn much. So it’s ok if your list starts off that way, it’s a great place to being.

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WOW. So, I could go on obviously because it’s me, but I think that’s enough for now.

I hope if you don’t understand anxiety or depression that you have a deeper grasp on it and that if you have anxiety, I pray my tips help you, because they’ve sure helped me.

Feel free to repeat each step throughout the day as you learn to cope and manage these feelings, and it’s taken me over a year and a half to sit down and write this blog post as I feel freer than ever before. Panic attack free, clean home, having sex again with my husband *we’ll talk more about that later* and doing things I love every day like singing, learning to play guitar and blogging. What is my life that I have so much time to do all these things as a mom who could barely clean a toilet before? My life is damn good. Damn good.

A while ago I started a hashtag on instagram called #unlearninganxiety, because anxiety is learned; we weren’t born this way. Yes, it can run in families, but that is through learned behaviours, not genetics. Genetics are not destiny.

Maybe you’ve had it since you were little, but I promise youit’s not how you have to live for the rest of your life. There is help for you. Medication helps, yes, but I truly believe we should be prescribed the things I’ve listed above as well when talking about anxiety. There are so many more things I could add here but I’ll end with this;

An anxious free life is not only possible, but available to you.

And even though I know words won’t cure it, momma, you’re doing great. And the kids will be OK.IMG-7696

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On Sharing the Real Pictures…

 

These two photos were taken the same week. Guess which one I didn’t share on the world wide web?

Yep. The left. The one that shows my squishy tummy. The one that made me cringe, and cry, because it’s been 7 years since I looked any different from the picture on the right, and I placed my value on it.

At this point in my mom journey, I was 6 months post partum and diagnosed with Post Partum Depression, which I had refused treatment for. I was and am scared of medications, but I was mostly scared of admitting I needed them, and couldn’t fight it on my own.

My fitness and how I look has been huge to me, for a very, very long time. I’ve struggled with my weight a little bit, but mostly I’ve struggled with accepting myself as I am, and just enjoying working out and eating well for the sole purpose of just that, being healthy. Being strong. I have a definition in my mind for how I should look, and I beat myself up if I don’t look that way.

And I didn’t.

And here I am, 3 weeks out with baby number 2 and have become a health and fitness coach, have been sharing my fitness journey this pregnancy on social media like crazy, and am now faced with the sudden reality that soon I will be sharing my post partum fitness journey.

No more pretty belly selfies.

No more “wow, you have like, the perfect pregnant body!” comments …

It’s about to get real.

Our culture LOVES pregnant women. Honestly I get stopped all the time. Talked to all the time. And I hate being pregnant so imagine how fun that is 😉

But what about post partum? Have I been basing my worth on how I look this pregnancy? Maybe. Probably. Sometimes. Not always. I work on it. I am doing my best to embrace the love handles, the cellulite and the thickness that weighs me down and frustrates me. I can’t say I fully embrace it because I am afraid of the after.

In fitness, it seems the truest successes are the ones that have flat tummy’s post partum and say “see, if I can you can.” which is sort of ridiculous because … every single body is different. Where we started is different. Where we are going is different … so how does that equate to us all being able to achieve the same goal?

It doesn’t make sense.

And yet here I am, with my post baby goals being things like, walk across the stage in Nashville at the Beachbody classic, and in my head I have the perfect body. And that’s the only reason I’m brave enough to consider it. Because I’m fairly certain I’ll get to where I want.

But what if I don’t?

What if I don’t look how I think I should? Will I still compete? I say yes…but this is going to be a very challenging period of learning to love the new me. Because our bodies are just different after babies, and I never accepted that. I tried to cheat it by sharing only the photos I wanted to.

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I shared this photo last summer, but I didn’t share that I undid the top button most of the day and sucked in my baby ponch most of the day because I couldn’t stand how my own body felt.

I was, in short, a fraud.

And maybe I still am. I’m able to accept my body right now because this is the way it’s supposed to look.

Will I be able to share with you all, when it gets really real, and I’m on the other end of this pregnancy?

I know I will force myself to, because it will force me to grow. And I want to grow. I want to be real.

But know that I’m just as real a person as you, I have feelings, fears and I struggle with my own set of issues. And if you say things like, I have no reason to feel those fears because I look great, you’re missing the bigger picture.

The point is that no woman seems to be able to love themselves fully. Regardless of how fit we are, I guarantee you, ask the fittest woman on the planet, I bet she hates her nose or something.

If you think because I have this body I have that I should have no reason to not love myself, then you’re struggling to. Because you have an idea in your head of what perfect looks like, and unfortunately, none of us stack up.

So here’s to not stacking up.

Here’s to being ourselves, and having fit goals but still enjoying life and love all the while.

Here’s to eating a piece of pizza because we have plans that have held us up and we can fall back into the next day.

Here’s to balance, here’s to healthy babies,

and here’s to the next 3 weeks of being as healthy and fit as possible as an act of love to myself, and respecting the results whatever they may be.

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On Asking for Help

I hired a cleaning lady yesterday. I can’t believe I paid someone to clean my house. But only because it adds to the judgments I feel on mothers … on me.

I should be able to do this myself. 

During my post partum depression, I did not know how to clean. I didn’t have the energy or mental ability to think about emptying the dishwasher. It was too daunting. I couldn’t fathom what it would take to pick up the dirty laundry and put it in the wash…it was all utterly overwhelming and the tasks consumed me every day; taunting me. Mocking me. 

I didn’t even know how to put my son down and have a shower. I can’t tell you how many times I wound up sobbing on the bathroom floor, naked and wet, holding my son while the hot shower filled the room with a heavy blanket of steam and depression. 

My house was not just messy, it was dirty, and I was completely ashamed. I hated when people visited. 

I was overwrought with the thought, “I should be able to do this.” 

My mom, my amazing mom, would come over and clean my entire house from top to bottom. She would scrub walls, toilets and bathtubs…and I would sit and talk. Incapable of knowing how to even begin helping. Feeling guilty as ashamed to not be helping … and she just cleaned. Never asking for anything in return, she just wanted to help. Words will never be enough to thank her for her help. She knew. She just knew. She gave me a space to feel relaxed in. A few days peace before it was all headed for ruin again. And she didn’t ask. She just did. I pray I will be that same kind of mother, of person, for my kids, that she is to us. 

But since joining a challenge group, becoming an online personal health and fitness coach, taking my fitness and ultimately my life back, I’ve been able to tidy. I’ve been able to start building habits that lead to a cleaner, healthier home environment. 

But I can’t catch up. 

I didn’t ask my mom for as much help as I should have, because truth be told I was ashamed in front of her as well. She raised me. And I failed at an area she excelled in. She kept a clean home. Raised two kids. And I couldn’t. So I didn’t ask for help from someone who would always give it without judgment. 

Because of this, there’s still layers of grime around my home that need attention. A home deserves to be taken care of. Not perfect, but it’s my home. And I now can take pride in caring for the place we raise our kids. Not in perfection, but not in filth. 

So I hired help. And it was weird. 

I still passed judgment on myself … should this be where I spend this money? Is it worth sacrificing other things? Am I that person now? 

And just who is that person that I had such a hard time becoming? The mom who’s home so much and still doesn’t get her house clean. What does she do all day anyways? The mom who can go get her nails done but can’t seem to get the walls and windows washed? Must be nice to afford such a luxury

And then I realize, who am I to judge others, but most importantly, who am I to judge myself? I think mommy wars are waged inside…not just out. 

I think they start with us. 

I think they start with a lack of honesty. 

Well, here’s me being honest.

I can’t do it all. I haven’t figured it out yet. I was depressed, and I needed help. I asked for help. 

I prefer to cook all our meals, and buy very little pre-made food. I’ve even begun experimenting with granola bars. Hello, my name is Michelle and I am a crunchy mom.

I prefer to workout before I scrub the toilets. I put eating well and fitness above other things. Hello, my name is Michelle and I am a fit mom. 

I like to spend time outside with my son, I like to have coffee and read books while he naps instead of folding laundry, I like to catch up with friends and arrange play dates and set up fitness groups for pregnant moms because my passion is to help.

Hello. My name is Michelle, and I am a real person. I am a real mom.

And sometimes, I need help.

The Wagon – Getting on and Falling Off

It is so easy to be fit and healthy when it’s new and exciting, but what happens when life happens?

Right now, I’m falling off the wagon. Life has gotten busy, and I’m struggling to find the motivation hit play on those workouts every day.

What are we supposed to do, to find that motivation? I’m a mom … I work part time out of my home and also am building my fitness coaching business at home. I feel so incredibly busy sometimes.

I have a house to clean; one that has been neglected through 17 months of post partum depression and the clutter and mess get into my brain and cause frustration and anger.

Baseboards are visibly dirty. There’s dirt on the walls that you can easily see when walking through the house. There’s milk on my sons floor that dried and I didn’t clean it up, only for me to see a few days ago. Yes, I have left things on the floor for a long time. Yes, it’s disgusting. Yes, I just cleaned our toilets for the first time in a long time a week ago. Yes, our backyard is COVERED in dog poop. It’s embarrassing, and it’s disgusting, but it’s real.

It’s also a reminder to me of the hell I went through, and the hell I’m picking up the pieces from, as I trudge my way through this messy thing called healing. And I choose to share this, and not be embarrassed, because I KNOW other women are going through this, and I want to talk about getting back on the wagon, over and over and over again, and how I’m doing it, because I know it will help others too.

So what do I do?

Firstly, and yes, this is apart of my job, is I make fitness and nutrition a priority in my own life. Working out brought me out of depression and into a life I recognized; a person I recognized. It hasn’t been easy, but I believe firmly, even if you don’t want to be skinny, or buff, or whatever, that fitness is an absolute must in life. Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy. It decreases your chances of diseases, lifting weights decreases your risk of osteoporosis, and it aids you against aging yourself into assisted living when you’re old, because you can’t lift yourself off the toilet. My job is to workout up to 5x a week, and to constantly learn about food, portions and supplements, to ensure I am first and foremost making myself better each and every day.

Secondly, I point people towards the programs and supplements I have used to get me to where I am. I help my friends, family and strangers, who turn into friends, pick a program and I help them use it. I hold them accountable to it. I encourage them on hard days, I am a phone call, email, text or FB message away when someone needs help, has a question, or just needs a word of encouragement. I’m here to make your goals my goals. I’m here to help change peoples lives by helping them get the nutrition and fitness into their lives, in simple ways, that create lifelong changes for the better.

Lastly, and this is the one I’m always scared to share, but the one that has genuinely impacted my life the most, is I’m here to run a business that is setting my family on the path to financial freedom, and I’m here to give that same opportunity to others.

My fears in sharing this are numerous. Why? Because I’m not certified in anything. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a personal trainer. I’m a mom and a hairstylist with a passion for fitness and a passion for bringing others on the journey.

But that’s kind of the exciting part…you don’t need to be in shape to coach people. You don’t need to know it all, to encourage others to start making healthy changes in their life. You don’t need to have a personal training degree. All you need, is the passion to share your story, the commitment to daily changing your life, and the courage to invite others to join you.

All this circles back to me getting back on the wagon. The big thing that has changed my life is coaching because I am accountable to others to stay on track. I can’t just stop. I have to find a way to keep going. I have to have a strong why, which I wrote about in my previous post, in order to get my butt in gear when I’m losing steam. And I have to revisit that why daily, sometimes hourly. Because if I lose it, I lose credibility, I lose my business, but most of all, I lose myself. And I will not go down that road again.

This is not a get rich quick scheme. This isn’t a diet. This is a way of life. This is choosing to have a new side hobby, which lets you pursue your full time career and still stay healthy and in love with yourself and getting paid to do it.

This is choosing to fire your boss, and start building something on purpose, for you and by you, that you can look proudly on and say “I did that.”

This is choosing to be apart of a team, just to keep you accountable if nothing else, that will lift you up and encourage you every step of the way.

I don’t have all the answers. In fact I have very few of them. But I commit to learning more about what I do every day. I commit to my challengers, I commit to my coaches, to be on the journey together.

This is what is getting me back on the wagon.

This is what’s keeping me accountable to myself.

This is what’s changing my families life.

This is what I want to do, every day, for the rest of my life.

So here’s to #kickingmybrass and getting over how sorry I feel for myself, getting over my excuses, and getting to the core of the thing.

I’m putting on my running shoes, and I’m going the distance.

I want as many people running behind me, with me, and passing me as possible; we rise by lifting others.

Don’t let these opportunities pass you by.

Wherever you are at in your journey, this is for you, just as much as it is for me.

Being a woman isn’t about having the perfect body, clothes and hair.

It’s about being strong of heart when everything is crumbling around us.

It’s about being strong of body to lift our kids, to go for that hike, to backpack through Europe, to have adventures and life abundantly, not in how the world views us, but how we view ourselves.

It’s about being strong of soul. To be grounded in who you are, in what you believe, and in what you’re headed for in life.

I want to do this together. Because together we will sweat. Together we will fall and get back up again.

Together, we will rise.

Send me an email at michrgross@gmail.com if you’re interested; I’d love to connect and discover your goals, your story and your passion.