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Managing Stress

By Heather Michelle Williams on November 21, 2023

Here is a topic in which I think I have something to give. Obviously with having eight kids, everything does not go according to my idea of how it should. I have to be flexible. I have to be patient. And I have to be sure of myself. I also have to let go of a lot—choose your battles, as they say. If I did not, I probably would not have much sanity left. People jokingly ask me how I still have any hair. Well, I don’t have to pull my own hair out. If you ever had a baby, you know very well that they will do that for you! Some ladies cut their hair off short until the baby gets older. I never did. I always cherished my long hair. And plus, I'm stubborn.

This is a big subject to dive into. I give you a guarantee that my spiritual life has so much to do with my ability to have peace. I believe that the Good Lord does give wisdom to those who ask. And I believe that understanding who you are comes from knowing your Creator. When you understand who you are, you stop having that constant, stressful tension from worry that you either won’t live up to some standard or hurt that someone didn’t treat you as what you truly are deep down. What we all are is royalty if we are in Christ Jesus. We are hidden royalty in a corrupt world. We are hidden in plain sight. But we were meant to shine! The bible says that the earth is groaning in expectation for us, who are children of God, to be revealed!

I could go on about this more. As I stated, I see that my perspective on spiritual things is what brings me more peace than anything else I can mention. And I will go on about this eventually in other mediums, probably. But what I want to do here, is give practical coping techniques for those difficult moments. I’m talking about the moments when you feel stessors overwhelming you to where it seems like you don’t know how to get to the next peaceful moment.

I will put another disclaimer out before I get to the practical tips. I do believe that there can be deep soulish things that remain in an unresolved state. For as long as this goes on, even the regular stressors will stress you to a more intense level because your soul (mind, will, emotions) are subconsciously distracted by what is bothering you down deeper, whereas, you might be more snappy at the surface problems, or you might feel drained already before you even swing your feet out of the bed onto the floor in the morning. That feeling may cause you to think that you can’t function past the normal everyday stressors. In this case, I take a point of view much like the Prayer of Serenity: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I would suggest finding a way to resolve the deeper issues of the soul. I believe in counseling and finding supportive friends to talk with. Just as with spiritual matters, I could also continue on the subject of helping the soul find resolve. However, I will not just now.

I want to give a few strategies that have helped me in times of intense stress. Many times, I have blown up in anger or shut down in unbelief that I could tackle the task ahead. In that way, you could say that I have fallen many times, but I got back up. And I learned some things. Having at least two toddlers at a time for eleven years straight will do that for a person!

Tip Number One: Mindset

If you have at least two kids, and you have had to referee their ridiculous arguments, then you can imagine that I have had many of these moments, also. It’s hard. Or surviving the mind-boggling things that toddlers scream about. I saw a meme awhile back that said, “I never knew I could ruin someone’s day by giving him the wrong color cup until I had a toddler.” My smallest guy currently does this to me: He takes it upon himself to go to the fridge, open it, decide what he wants, and tell me what that is by pointing and calling it by name—or what name he wants to call it. I proceed to give him the type of drink or food he picked out and receive the reward of him hollering and throwing himself on the floor. I think he is testing me. I am unsure. It seems I can’t get anything right suddenly. (What toxic individuals toddlers can be!)

I have to have this mindset that takes me on further than that very moment. Afterall, there is no quitting in motherhood. Well, you can quit at night when they’re in bed, but in the morning they’re going to wake you up hungry again! I know that this very moment IS GOING TO PASS! The little toddler fits ARE NOT GOING TO LAST FOREVER! Thank God, right? Even when my toddler makes me so irritated, I still love that little guy. It’s not like I am going to make any lasting decision based off of his momentary tantrum. So, I can try to fix it, but if I can’t, I might as well sit back with my hands behind my head and wait for it to pass because I know very well, no matter how hard I try to please the little growly bear, he has decided to be mad. He will not accept pretty much anything in that moment. Even if he would, it is probably not teaching him a good lesson to reward that behavior. So, two or three options are good, but appeasing a raging fit is not. Therefore, the object lesson here is to get through the moment. Not EVERY moment of anything is going to be enjoyable but worth it, yes. So, just get through that difficult moment however you need to, knowing that it will pass, so that you can get back to the moments that are enjoyable. There can be many many of those! Do NOT let your good day be defined by the moments that you just need to let pass.

Remember to remember the good moments. DO let your day be defined by those! Mindset is very important in the discipline of anything. If something is worth doing, then there will be a necessity of perseverance in that thing. Take care of your thoughts. Do not count yourself out for having a difficult moment. We would have no people left if we all did that!

Tip Number Two: Breathe, Prioritize

I find myself taking big breaths often, and I blow them out slowly. I do this without even thinking about it. One of my sons has asked me why I do that. I had to think what to say because I didn’t realize at the time that I was even stressed about something in particular. Evidently, there had been an established habit of breathing deeper, getting more oxygen to my brain, when things are crowding in on my thinking and when I need to keep my mind clear. You may have to think about doing this for long enough to create the habit. Once you have, then your brain will thank you for the extra oxygen needed to fire up that critical thinking energy.

Now, focus on the next thing that needs to happen. By prioritizing time periods, you can help yourself not throw away the goals by being unable to function under the stress. For kids, you may need to shift the focus. If they are very upset about something, you probably cannot move on too quickly until after you have acknowledged their feelings sincerely. This doesn’t always have to be a drawn-out process, depending on the reason for the upset feelings. You must lead the situation. You have to be the one who is looking on to the next thing without overlooking where they are now. Take them from this focus on to the next.

I tend to focus in tasks. Do the thing! I do realize, however, that causing my young ones to feel loved and secure many times is the task! It is important to have good moments with them—what is called “quality time.” I can’t be so goal-oriented that I always put them off thinking what the next thing to do is. Prioritizing, in definition, is determining the order of things according to their level of importance. Pretty high on that list should be the people in your home! Sometimes it is the right time to take care of a menial task. Sometimes it is important to sit in a negative feeling for a few minutes with a person, taking him or her under your wing, helping them to feel cared for. Sometimes it is important to take the person on into the more positive thoughts. Prioritize in right timing. What’s the next thing that needs to happen? Make the determination.

Tip Number Three: Don’t Spiral

In the hard moments is when we are tested. Pass this test. Don’t make things worse for yourself and those around you. Overwhelming moments can make or break you. Once you learn how to do this, nothing can defeat you!

Having a right view of yourself can help you tremendously. This goes back to the deeper things I spoke of first in the article. I can’t do this for you. Not here and not now. But I implore you to take that exploration.

Do not bash yourself for being overwhelmed. Do not take yourself during a vulnerable minute and cause self-destruction. No matter who you are, you are important and should be treated as such—even by YOU.

Encourage yourself to do your best. Look for practical ways to improve. And accept your best for the you that you are right NOW as good enough!

I used to have many more overwhelming moments than I do now. I think it was due to lack of peace in the deeper things and in life situations. Moreover, the surface problems got me more scrambled! I did this many times, the strategy that I am about to tell you. But I distinctly remember a time being in the passenger seat of the vehicle. I was waiting on my husband who went into the store for something. Like young ones do, the kids began to complain, argue, and screech. I don’t mean just scream; I mean screech. That is the high-pitch, unbearable scream. What was I to do? It was a tough moment. There was no sense in taking the bunch of kids in for the ten or fewer minutes that their daddy was to be in the store. Spanking would not have accomplished anything at that time, besides there wasn’t a clear-cut rule that had been broken that would merit a clear-cut consequence. The screeching is brain scrambling to me, anyway. I just have to get through the moment and correct it after I survive it. Also, my sense of self was low. I thought if there was complaining of any sort, my experience of life thus far had taught me that something was lacking IN ME—that I was not good enough in some way. Apparently, I had the wrong thought pattern established within me that if someone was having an unpleasant feeling, my duty was to fix their feelings. Now I know better. I am not an emotions manager. I do not “fix feelings.” I do teach thought patterns to my children. But that is a longer process, not a reactive strategy. Although, I did not have my thinking exactly right just yet, I was on the verge of getting it right! I had to apply some truths that I was en route to establishing! Here is what I did: I said, OUT LOUD, where I could at least hear myself over the screams, even if no one else probably could hear, as if they cared what I was saying, “I am good enough, and everything I do is good enough. I am good enough, and everything I do is good enough. I am good enough, and everything I do is good enough.” I said it over and over again until I believed it and the temptation to spiral would subside. I could breathe calmly. I could get past it. I would use this strategy in different hot moments when I really needed to know it and get it down deep. Now I know it to be a truth. When I am doing my best, everything I do is good enough. Afterall, my best is THE MOST I CAN DO. That is all there is to me, so that is all that I have ability to give. Sidenote: learning my limits would be another whole lesson on its own.

Spiraling can happen in your own head. But it can also happen coming from you and having a negative impact on those around you. In the hot moments, as much as you may want to say what comes to mind, refrain from insults. You cannot unsay something after it is said. The intensity of the situation is putting a pressure on you that you would like to take off and place on someone else if that will ease the burden. Do not succumb to that. Rather than insults or damaging words that devalue another person, try alternatively, phrases such as, “I feel _________. I don’t like _________. I want _________.” Nobody may listen. Nobody may actually care in that very moment, just to be brutally transparent! However, saying it OUT LOUD does something for your brain. You are finding a solution. You are finding coping skills that do not damage yourself but, instead, honor yourself. Maybe you may even have an influence on those around you! They may see your example of honoring your feelings and limits, and hey, what if that example caused them to know how to honor you, also? Insulting will teach insulting. Honoring will teach honoring. Think higher than primal reactions, wink. We can do this.

Fourth and Final Tip: Do Things That You Enjoy!

Everyone needs something to look forward to. This is what hope is made of! When you do an activity that you enjoy, your brain gives your body a little reward chemical! It’s nice, actually. You cannot live like an addict to this and become self-serving or make an idol in your life to doing things that you like all of the time. But take notice when you like something. Give thanks for it. I learned this during the time I was coming out of postpartum depression months after having my fifth baby, my first baby girl. I remember either reading or hearing the advice to eat a cheeseburger if you like cheeseburgers. Smile about it. Chase your kids around on the floor and listen to those wonderful giggles. I think it is strange that our body has chemical reactions to things, kind of like doing drugs. I have never done any drugs, but I think it is oddly interesting that our Creator decided to make our bodies this way with a reward system already in place! Doing drugs would be manipulating and corrupting that which is already there. It is the counterfeit of the good thing that is created in us. So, feel great about using the good that is naturally there and enjoying the rewards! Do things you like! Let those things make a mark on your brain, a stamp that says, “This is good.” Where have I heard that phrase? In Genesis 1 after God did something, each time, He would take notice and say, “This is good.” There must be something to it!

I have heard testimonies on healed cancer patients claiming one of their key factors in healing being benevolence! The good feeling that you get from doing something good for someone ELSE can impact your body in a such a way! Do not underestimate the power of those good feelings. We were made to enjoy life. Look up and enjoy the sunshine or the breeze. Enjoy that a storm is not currently blowing your house down. Look around and find something that you are glad about! Determine a simple thing that you will do tomorrow or later in the day that you will like, even if it is something like eating a cheeseburger.

I do not see that I am any spectacular type of human species. I have only learned some things. I did not learn them of myself. I learned from others’ advice, from observing, and from praying for wisdom from heaven. So often in public, people look astonished at me and my eight children. They say stuff such as, “Are they all yours? You seem so calm…” It confuses me how they are so flabbergasted because I am just used to it. It is my normal. But one day, I was driving and had to slow to a stop as I watched cross the road a mom carrying a baby and eight kids of various ages gaggled around her, some ahead, some beside and some behind. They were headed to a small church building that I was driving past. I was elated to see this as it must have been such a precious family and also because it was so fascinating to see that this is how I look with my kids when we go places!

Hopefully what I have shared is helpful. I hear the comment all the time, “I don’t know how you do it.” And people imply that they couldn’t manage eight kids or they would be insane if they tried and what not. So now that my oldest kids are eleven years old, I am able to write down a few little practical tips that have done wonders for me. If you are going to control something, then control the narrative on your mindset. When things get intense, breathe and prioritize. Don't spiral. Always remember to find things to be thankful for. It really does go a long way. It helps you not get bogged down in the swampy negative. Think about it in retrospect to some of the tough moments you have faced. How important is it really that things play out exactly the way you planned it out in your head? Things probably went differently innumerable times. And yet, here we are, still alive. We can all do ourselves a favor and not put so much emphasis on things going exactly as we think, building the thing up so much that we go into a situation with worry and anxiety and come out of it with disappointment and even grievances! You lose all of the benefits that way! It’s like frying up the most nutritious plant in batter and unhealthy oil! You take the nutrition out, and so, what was the point of trying to eat a vegetable anyway! I say this with humor because here in the southeast of America, this is our thing!

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