Heads Up, Mama!
On Monday morning, while walking around my kitchen, taking in the scene and thinking about preparing breakfast, I began to feel myself start to panic.
The state of the kitchen wasn’t a disaster, but it also wasn’t how I prefer it to look, so my mind started listing out all the things I needed to do in order to restore balance to my kitchen. Cue the sudden sense of panic.
But rather than continue the internal dialogue of my mind, rather than agree with it and feed her flames, I was able to quickly put out the panic with a simple mindset shift – a thought: “It’s okay. I’ll take care of it later.”
And just like that, it was like I’d turned off some mental light switch and my mind shut up and my body instantly calmed down.
It honestly surprised me that it worked.
I’ll explain in the next post of this summer series why my kitchen wasn’t up to my usual standards, but today, I’d like to focus on the importance of using our thoughts to help us shift our mindset as a way to reset and calm ourselves down.
Because, for me, this single tool (mindset) has helped me immensely. Mindfully catching myself when I’m starting to go down the rabbit hole of anxious or negative thoughts has allowed me to stop them in their tracks before they can do long-term damage to my mental health.
And today, I’d like to guide you through the three-step process that I take to shift my mindset so that you can start practicing it in your own life and witness the same calming results.
Step 1: Monitor your thoughts.
Yes, it sounds exhausting to monitor your thoughts, but here’s what you’re looking for: You’re trying to learn how you mentally navigate your day.
- What are you thinking in the morning while you brush your teeth?
- What about while you wash dishes?
- When you come home from a grocery run, what do you think about as soon as you walk inside with all those bags of food?
By mindfully paying attention to your thoughts, you’ll help identify clues and patterns that you may not have noticed before.
Are your thoughts helping you feel calm or are they contributing to your feelings of stress? Remember this: what we think about determines what signals our body receives.
If you’re thinking about how messy the house is and how nobody cleans up around here except you (guilty), your brain interpreted those thoughts to mean you’re in trouble. Hence, since it thinks you’re in danger, it will flood your body with stress hormones to prepare for battle: fight or flight. The only problem is that your brain doesn’t realize it’s just a mental battle and not a physical one.
Therefore, it’s important to be aware of what you are thinking because it will help you make the connection between your thoughts and how your body responds. The next two steps will help you with how to navigate your thoughts now that you’re aware of them.
Step 2: Don’t judge your thoughts.
If you find that you’re constantly saying negative things in your mind, you’ll only add to the issue by then thinking about how you should know better and blah, blah, blah. Yes, positive thinking is better than negative thinking, but criticizing yourself for having negative thoughts isn’t helpful. Besides, it’s unrealistic to expect yourself to always think positively. In my opinion, it’s counterproductive to try and always think positive.
Instead of judging your thoughts as good or bad, positive or negative, simply accept them as just thoughts and move on. We all think crazy things sometimes and that doesn’t mean we are bad moms. The main point of monitoring our thoughts is to become aware of what we’re thinking so that we can learn how our body responds.
Yes, limiting our negative and anxious thoughts will help us feel less stressed because our brain won’t flood us with stress hormones. However, guilt, shame, and fear about our negative thoughts won’t move us in the direction we need to go in order to feel calm.
Once you’ve gotten into the habit of monitoring your thoughts and avoiding judgment, you’re ready to move on to the next step – redirecting them.
Step 3: Don’t change your thoughts, redirect them.
Most of the thoughts I have are true. For instance, if I walk into my living room and see toys everywhere, the thought, “the kids made a huge mess,” is accurate. They did make a mess. So then, why does the mess annoy me?
Maybe because I’m also thinking, “I just cleaned up” or “why can’t the house stay clean.” Those thoughts are also true. I live in a house with four kids and my home will always need to be cleaned up because messes happen.
Rather than trying to change my thoughts to something like, “I enjoy cleaning up messes” (so, so untrue) or forcing myself to try and just be grateful that I have kids because some woman can’t (a form of guilt-tripping), it’s better to shift my perspective to something like, “it only takes a few minutes to clean up.” Or, if I can’t clean up at that moment because something else needs my attention (like making dinner), then I could think, “the mess isn’t important right now.”
This redirection is a way to tell my brain, “look, I know visual clutter is a trigger for you, but I’m going to deal with it LATER so don’t stress me out about it NOW.”
The idea with redirecting my thoughts versus changing them is to always try to figure out what can I tell my brain at this moment so that it doesn’t freak my body out, so it won’t send me into fight or flight.
In other words, how can I tell myself I’m safe and not in any danger?
Summer Specific Redirects
Thinking about summer as a whole, it can be easy to feel anxious and stressed about the length of time and all the days of noise and messes ahead (is it hot in here or is it just me?).
For me, I’ve redirected my thoughts from “summer break is so long” to “summer break isn’t long-term and will come to an end – when school starts.”
This summer is NOT like last summer when there was so much uncertainty about whether my kids would return to school or not. Getting clear about the actual timeframe helps my brain (and body) prepare for short-term stress versus stress that has no clear end date.
For more tips on how to be smart about how you approach the summer break, I highly recommend listening to this podcast episode from Kendra Adachi, host of The Lazy Genius Podcast, about how to plan a summer day. One tip she shares in this episode is to break down summer into manageable chunks of time (several days or a few weeks) and set intentions for each timeframe. Such great advice!
Also, if you enjoy her podcast and are looking for summer reading material, I recommend her book, “The Lazy Genius Way*.” I wrote a review about it recently where I listed out three of her Lazy Genius Principles that I feel are most relevant for stressed-out moms. You can read that post here:
*This link is an Amazon affiliate link. If you make a purchase using one of my links, I’ll earn a small commission for referring you. Thanks for your support!
So, there you have it, mama! That is the three-step process I use to help myself calm down. I shift my mindset through monitoring, not judging, and redirecting my thoughts. It’s my own process that I developed over time without even realizing it. I think the more I learned about how feelings of stress and the brain are connected, the more I started to notice how certain thoughts helped me calm down more than others.
And I just ran with it.
I hope that explaining the steps my brain goes through during stressful moments has been helpful to you in your journey of keeping calm. The more you practice these steps, the sooner you’ll find yourself redirecting your anxious/negative thoughts sooner. Catching them sooner is key to reducing how much stress hormone gets pumped into our systems.
Okay, I know this post was a very simplified way of explaining what is a very complicated topic (remember, I’m not an expert on mindset), so if you have any questions or if you want tips for specific scenarios, send me a DM on Instagram and I’ll be happy to help you as best I can.
No matter what you’ve got going on this summer, I hope that this post will help you keep your cool, mama. Feel free to share your mind shift moments with me! I’d love to hear how these steps help you stay calm in your day-to-day life at home with the kids this summer.
Love & light,
PS The next post in this summer series will be on June 22 about self-care. Also, the next issue of The Calm Download (my monthly email) will go out on June 15. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss either (**smile face**).