Give Me A Break

It’s Spring Break and I’m spending time with my family in San Diego, a place I absolutely LOVE.

Like many people, especially Jana, I find peace in the ocean. I could sit on the beach and watch the waves for hours.  When I do this, my baseline level of calm realigns and I’m able to truly find bliss in holding hands with my husband and watching our children play in the surf and sand.

As I’ve rediscovered this pool of calm inside my soul, I recognize that I’ve been wound a little too tightly for the last few weeks (months?). The past few days have been particularly difficult as I find myself trying to control people around me, seeing my children as obstacles on my path, and being downright mean to the people I love for insignificant reasons. Two nights ago I timed myself out while making dinner becuase I really need to think about how Jesus would treat people. (Yes, I did chastise Mark for putting too much cheese on the pizza).

At first glance, my life is not terribly stressful. I am a mostly SAHM of 3 children, 2 of whom are in school all day. But I do find myself in stress a lot of the time. My mother has been living with our family for the last 8 months, I’m taking 2 science classes at a community college, I teach Zumba a few times a week, am active in about 5 community/online organizations, I  exercise, love to cook, hate to clean, love to travel, and have to maintain all of the details of life associated with a household of six.  Add to that my complicated relationship with the LDS church and my difficulty finding God, I’m often a bit of a mess.

Admittedly, I have first-world problems. There is not doubt that I could use some suggestions for either developing better coping mechanisms to deal with my stress, or ways to destress my life.

As I was talking to my best friend (the one I’ve had since age 5, who constantly validates me), I mentioned that Mark said I create a lot of my own stress. Expecting her to disagree with him and agree with me, I was surpised to hear her laugh. “Yes, you do create a lot of your own stress.”

Well, yes, I guess I do.

And while I’d like to think that my hands are tied with the things I don’t want to do and I can’t possibly take the things I love to do off my list, I know better.

I’m sacrificing my calm, even my happiness, for these things.

As I’m writing this post, it’s sounding awfully familiar and I realize that 3 years ago (almost to the day) I wrote about being spread too thin, where I had been so busy I had had left my toddler on the soccer practice field.

I wish I could say that I’ve improved dramatically since then, but I haven’t. (Also, I should recognize that March is a busy time of year for me, or maybe I’m less patient with life during allergy season).

Now that I see this is a cycle and recognize that I’m affecting people around me with my lack of calm, what am I going to do? I’m going to list all of my commitments and get rid of 25% of them. I already have a few on the chopping block.

Next, I’m going to get myself some therapy and try to find out the root of my feelings of stress and how to handle what I imagine will be a life of unsettled feelings about God and the church (Heaven help me).

What about you? Do you have issues in your life that pop up regularly and you just haven’t made dealing with them head-on a priority?

How do you balance the important things in your life with the things you love to do? Where do you take your breaks (if you ever get them?)



Jessawhy is a wife, mother, community volunteer, activist and student. She is currently working towards a Physician Assistant degree.

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11 Responses

  1. I just gave a talk about using the gospel to deal with stress, and I was surprised to come up with no less than 45 tips. I’m proud to say I got through every one of them before the meeting ended. But working on not letting myself be so stressed is obviously a work in progress . . .

    Anyway, see it here:

  2. EmilyCC says:

    I realized a few years ago that I kept busy to avoid dealing with my emotions and that for me, not being busy meant that I wasn’t valuable. I still struggle with it, but I’m better than when my therapist prescribed that I listen to music for a half hour every day. When I started, I was so tense and anxious by the end of the half hour (if I made it the whole half hour) that I’d usually be in tears.

    I haven’t taken on any new obligations since that time, which is sad. There are some things that I long to to do, but ultimately, it’s been better for me to force myself to live at a slower pace.

    And, I do blame March in AZ for much of this. It’s like we know we’ll be stuck inside for the next 8 months, so we’re cramming in so much!

    • Jessawhy says:

      I like the suggestion of listening to music for 30 min. What kind of music did your therapist recommend? Do you still do that?

      Thanks for your comment!

    • Kmillecam says:

      That’s some great advice. I tend to be tightly wound, so I find it a “chore” sometimes to go and sit down to play the piano, or walk with my kids to the park, or put my freaking computer away and read a book. But I am always glad I do. I hope that’s a good sign (and that it will get easier as I balance out.)

  3. BDerrick says:

    This article hits so close home too. I have recently hired a “business consultant” (shrink) to help me with my business and we discussed this very topic last week. He mentioned it’s important to have a healthy sense of selfishness. To not deny one’s self. But my Mormon experience is that selflessness is venerated and the ideal, when in fact it can be unhealthy.

    On my chopping block are things that are for others. Some of us sacrifice too much of ourselves for others. Put yourself 1st right now, (at least that’s what I’m trying to do). Imagine yourself locked up in a cabin with no internet, no running shoes, no TV, no pile of books to read, no journal to write in. What would you do? Who would you be? How would you treat yourself? I personally have just been running from my real issues, by burying it in service and meaningless activities.

    • Jessawhy says:

      Imagining myself in a cabin with nothing to do sounds like hell. If it was the beach, though. . .
      For me, I would dance. That’s where I feel most alive and in the moment. It’s one of the reasons I’m not chopping Zumba off my list, even though it would be easy to do so.

      Your cabin example reminds me of the book “The Shack.” In the book, God appears as a home-cooking black woman to a man in despair. I love the idea of God appearing to us in the way that we most need Him/Her. That’s what I know I need right now, and I’m still working on how to find it.

  4. spunky says:

    I want to be at the beach with you!

    Like you and others, I think that I over-busy myself so I don’t have to deal with emotions or things that I don’t want to admit are a part of my life. A few things I have chosen lately is to make a priority list every day; I tick off the big and necessary things first, even including housework (fold laundry, clean kitchen). Striking that off the list when it is done helps me feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, whereas before I used to just cry at day’s end — wondering why I was exhausted when I “did nothing” all day… I did lots of things, but things I didn’t want to give myself credit for.

    I also chose to outsource things. I can’t do that for a lot of things, but for example, rather than spending hours researching the trip that I *might* take next year, I just gave it to a travel agent. It cost me nothing for a summary and suggestions, and I can email her with questions rather than waste my time trying to find information that might not exist. This isn’t a huge thing, but when I have resources outside of hours on Google, I take them. That has saved me a degree of time that I didn’t realise I was wasting before. So– basically, outsource when possible.

    It is not a perfect system, and I am still missing out on things that I would like to do, but I have less anxiety about feeling like I was “getting nothing done” on days when I really effectively ran the household and accomplished things that were time-consuming, though simple enough that I didn’t see them as accomplishments (I see them as accomplishments now, ’cause let’s face it– dishes are a mountainous achievement in any home).

    • Jessawhy says:

      What great ideas. I think outsourcing is a smart idea.
      In fact, there are a few things I can outsource that I haven’t thought of doing. I’m probably going to try to make that work.

      My husband told me last week that he thinks I have anxiety. I’ve never thought about it before because I always imagine it as being nervous or scared, but when I have anxiety I get mean. It’s probably just a different coping mechanism for the same trigger.

  5. Erin says:

    Ahh, the beach, one of the best temples! And it seems that you received many lessons and instructions at this temple, too.

    To answer your question, an issue that I ignore but keeps popping up is sexual abuse and/or really weird boundary violations from my parents when I was young, and a history of social anxiety, and problems, well, with being stressed. It is so easy (and, really, necessary) to focus on the day-to-day mini-stressors than the biggies. I find that the biggies only get my attention when they bubble up through the daily mini-stressors.

    Maybe that will be heaven, when I don’t have to worry about the dishes or earning a living or raking leaves–no daily stressors, just freedom to work on my stressors with a kind and patient Savior-as-therapist.

    • Jessawhy says:

      That sounds really difficult, dealing with childhood sexual abuse. I have several friends and family members who have dealt with similar problems. I’m not sure how people get past them entirely. Many seem to have issues pop up in different circumstances and have to re-examine their life in a new light each time.

      I wish you the best as you work through your daily and large stresses. Sometimes I wonder if there really is rest in the next life, or if it’s a continuation of what we’re doing here: working, growing, changing.

      Thanks so much for the comment.

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