5 Things That Kept Me Sane While Mothering 3 Toddlers

Written by Susie Orman Schnall

“I don’t know if I’m living life right.” As I uttered these words to myself repeatedly, I began to realize that I had turned into one of those women they do reality show life makeovers on — except no one was knocking on my door with a video camera. I was officially pathetic.

Basically, my life was living me instead of the other way around. I was an overwhelmed mother of three toddlers, which you’d think would be enough. But there was so much more setting me on the path to disaster. I ate unhealthily, scavenging a rogue chicken nugget or bright orange noodle from my boys’ plates (occasionally I threw a waffle in the toaster when I wanted a real meal). I had overextended myself in my volunteer “job.” I was trying to do it all and be it all. I lived in the kingdom of "Supposed To," and I was its exalted Queen.

Plus, because of all the parenting information infiltrating my brain from books, magazines, and websites, I relentlessly questioned how I was raising my kids. Little Person #1 Inside Brain would say, “Sit on the floor with them and play cars,” while Little Person #2 Inside Brain would shout, “No, you helicopter mom, let them be. Go clean the toilet.” It was constant, and it was making me crazy.

Don’t get me wrong, I do realize, and am thankful, that my life was clearly not going to win any awards for worst life ever. My kids, husband, and I were all healthy. I was fortunate to not have to work outside the home while raising the little ankle biters. And, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. A shiny, bright light named Nancy.

A friend had been urging me for some time to call Nancy Weiser, a Certified Holistic Health Counselor she had been seeing. I resisted. Why should I pay someone to tell me to eat more healthfully, practice yoga, write down my goals, and all that other hoo ha? I knew that stuff already. But knowing it and doing it were two different things, and the doing part was clearly eluding me. I resisted a while longer, until one morning, after I agreed to yet another volunteer commitment that I knew would put me over the edge, I called.

At our first meeting, as I sat on Nancy’s couch drinking agave nectar-sweetened tea, I told her about the living-life-right problem. And over the next 15 months, while I was Nancy’s client, we examined every facet of my life until, finally, I got it right. Amazingly, beautifully right.

First, I significantly changed the way I approached food and eating which made me feel healthier and cleaner both physically and emotionally. I quickly mastered the golden troika: eat a big breakfast, substitute whole grains for white carbs to provide long-lasting energy without the crashes, and go green by adding dark leafy vegetables wherever I could (kale shakes quickly became a favorite). Plus, I reduced my refined sugar intake, increased my water intake, ate a smaller dinner, and much more. But what I loved most about my sessions with Nancy were the “emotional nuggets.”

Nancy helped me identify what I truly wanted out of my life and she gave me the strength, tools, and permission I needed to make substantial changes. My anxiety disappeared as I became more in control of the aspects of my life that were causing me to feel stressed, overwhelmed and unhappy. I eliminated responsibilities that were no longer good for my wellbeing. I adopted new routines that, to this day, contribute deeply to my feelings of wellness, peacefulness, and happiness. I truly believe I would still be in my emotional and physical ruts if I hadn’t gone through a program like this. Nancy allowed me to make my life extraordinary – the life I deserve.

There were so many lessons I learned during my sessions, and the five tips I share below really struck chords in me. While they may sound like things you’ve heard a million times before, by gradually incorporating them into your daily routine, you will be on your way toward a happier and more balanced life.

1. Stop being who you think you’re supposed to be.

I grew up as the “good girl” in the family – the one who never disappointed anyone, who exceeded every expectation, who never got into trouble (well, I never got caught, but that’s a different article!). With Nancy’s help, I realized that I was still trying to be that person, and it wasn’t doing me any favors. I learned how to be content being good enough and to have more realistic expectations for myself. Leave old identities in the past, and stay focused on what makes you a happy and complete person now.

2. It’s okay to say no.

Many women, yours truly included, have the tendency to say yes to everything asked of them. Would you mind staying late at work tonight to help with tomorrow’s presentation? Yes. Can you bring two dozen cupcakes to school tomorrow? Yes. Can you collect my mail while I’m on vacation next week? Yes. We wouldn’t want to disappoint anyone now, would we? Well, yes, actually, we would. Because if we don’t “disappoint” others, we’ll certainly be disappointing ourselves by taking on more than we can or want to handle. Practice saying no, and, pretty soon, it’ll become effortless and liberating.

3. Do a time-allocation analysis.

Make sure you’re spending your valuable time on the right things. First make a list of all you do during your waking hours. Categories can include work, housekeeping, carpool, exercise, family time, recreation, etc. Then note what percentage of your week you’re spending on each category. Next, write down what percentage of your week you’d like to spend on each category. Figure out how you can get list A closer to list B and make appointments in your planner for more of your “want-tos” to keep yourself on track. Give yourself permission to rearrange your priorities and then don’t give anyone else the power to make those choices for you.

4. Do what lights you up.

While it’s impossible to avoid certain responsibilities in our lives – laundry, overtime, root canal – whenever possible, it’s vital to do things that make your heart sing. Figure out what those things are – for me, they’re hiking and writing – and then try to make them an integral part of your life. Experiencing joy on a regular basis will enhance your wellbeing and, frankly, makes you a more pleasant person to be around.

5. Being uncomfortable makes you grow.

It’s always scary to try something new, to journey beyond your comfort zone. But it’s these exact experiences that allow you to evolve. It’s helpful to realize that not only do you have the ability to expand your horizons, you have the obligation as it makes life richer, more satisfying, and exquisitely more exciting.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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