On a typical day, you could find me whipping up a dinner while replying to a business email while helping my preschool daughter spell the word "house" while on the phone with my mom while letting the dog outside while my keeping an eye on my toddler who is playing in the living room while peeking outside to make sure my tween is safe while skateboarding with his friends. I was a multitasking queen. I had to be. I am a mom who had to keep my household and small business going. This is no easy feat. There is an enormous amount of pressure to get everything done and not enough hours in a day to do it all. So I did multiple things at once. That's all I knew. I used to pride myself in my efficiency until one day I realized something.
I am missing out on the present and burning myself out.
One day, I was doing my normal multi-tasking thing. I was trying to formulate my response to a client who had asked me an aromatherapy question. It was a pressing matter so I was replying via text while trying to play Barbies with my daughters. There I was, head bent down, typing on my phone, when my middle child started tugging on me and pulled my head up.
"Mom, get off the phone and play," she said.
"I will in just a minute honey," I replied.
Well a minute passed and of course, I wasn't done replying yet.
"Mom, you said you'd be off in just a minute."
"Hold on, honey."
"MOOOOOOOM, please play with me!"
"MOOOOOOOOOOOOM, come on!"
That's when I started to lose my patience and yelled, "Can you just give me a minute and leave me alone?"
The look on my daughter's face is forever etched into my mind. Her face was a combination of shock and sadness as her eyes welled up and a single teardrop fell from her right eye. She turned her back to me. Sadly, this was not the first time I had said this. In fact, I probably said it more times than I wanted to admit. I was also constantly rushing my kids out the door so we wouldn't be late to a game or school or an appointment. Or asking them to wait a minute so I could get something done. Or writing one of my articles while they were watching a movie. And it wasn't just with my kids. While working, I had several tabs open at once on my computer while talking on the phone and reviewing my to do list.
I was inadvertently glorifying being busy.
I had to stop this cycle. I was constantly doing, doing, doing; going, going, going. My stress levels were high. My anxiety rose with the emergence of my packed schedule. I lost my patience often. I felt angry when I didn't succeed at completing my to do list. I felt like I wasn't enjoying my life. I was just doing what needed to be done.
So I made a change. Here's how my training in aromatherapy, flower essences, Reiki, and holistic health changed my mindset and my life.
1. Meditation. I started waking up before my kids and did 10 minutes of meditation in the morning. What they don't mention about meditation is that it is HARD to do when you first start. Learning to breathe from your belly rather than your chest can be physically uncomfortable. Trying to get your mind to focus on your breathing rather than your to-do list is no easy task. Letting your mind wander can be annoying when you feel like you could be doing something "productive".
I felt like that at first, I was constantly redirecting myself. But you can't let these initial set backs stop you. Daily meditation is extremely beneficial to your body, mind, and soul. It is essential to my daily routine. I crave my meditation time now.
The benefits of meditation are:
- It reduces feelings of stress and the release of stress hormones.
- It reduces anxiety levels.
- It decreases feelings of depression.
- It increases gray matter in the brain.
- It improves your focus, attention, and ability to work under pressure.
- It can reduce pain.
- It improves your memory.
- It can make you more self aware and able to manage your emotions.
- It supports your immune system.
- It reduces blood pressure.
- It affects your genes.
- It has a natural anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
- It stops monkey mind.
2. Aromatherapy. It is easy to get caught up in the stress of the moment. Taking a deep inhale of an essential oil can be a quick and easy way of signaling your limbic system in your brain to have a desired response. The effects are almost immediate. Using essential oils is one of the best ways to calm yourself when feeling overwhelmed in any capacity.
When it comes to aromatherapy, you want to choose essential oils that resonate with you. If you don't find the aroma pleasant or it brings out negative emotions, then don't use that particular one. Even if an essential oil is known to help with emotional balancing, doesn't necessarily mean that it'll work for you. It is very individualized and custom blending usually produces the most successful outcome.
With that being said, here are some essential oils known to help with feelings of stress:
- Clary Sage
- Ylang Ylang
3. Flower Essences- The most underutilized tool in your holistic tool box. Once you start flower essences, you'll wonder how you ever lived without them. They are gentle in nature and can show us what we need to heal on an emotional level. Which in turn promotes positive change on our physical bodies. You can read more about flower essences (or sometimes referred to as flower remedies) here. These are also best custom blended depending on the source of your stress and how you deal with it. Some general suggestions are:
- Rescue Remedy- good for acute times of extreme stress
- Cherry Plum
- Rock Rose
- Startwort Mouse-Ear
4. Reiki- Reiki is an ancient Japanese technique that is energetic and hands-on in nature. Imagine a massage without the rubbing. It is deeply relaxing and therapeutic. I'll be the first to admit that when I first heard of this art, I was skeptical and thought it was a little too "New Age" for me. But once I started training in it and experiencing it fully with an open mind, I found it very useful in calming my mind, body, and soul. When performing Reiki on myself or others, I find my stress levels go down and my mind is more focused and less worried. I am less fatigued and feel Iess pain in my physical body.
In fact, Reiki is an approved therapy by the American Cancer Society. It is a technique used to support cancer patients.
5. Mindfulness- This, my friends, is the hardest for me. Mindfulness is about being fully engaged in the moment. You take a sensory approach and focus on the present time. I had to start out by setting an alarm on my phone at random times. When my alarm went off, I made a conscious effort to take in my surroundings and really live in the moment. I soaked in everything I could experience in that moment. Sometimes this would mean focusing on My Little Pony with my daughters and making sure it was an engaging and fun experience for all of us. Sometimes it was stopping in the middle of my hike and sitting on the trail and just taking in all of nature. Feeling the wind on my face, smelling the earth, hearing the crunch of the fallen leaves, and seeing the majestic tress in all of their beauty. There is a feeling of peace that comes with living in the now that is deeply inspiring and calming.
I am still not 100% stress free and still multitask upon occasion. But the more I do these holistic modalities, the more value I find in my life. The more I feel like I am not missing out because of everyday stressors. The more I make my own mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health a priority, the better mom I am. The better wife I am. The better person I am. That's my goal. To be a better person that I was yesterday. It really is a personal journey to deal with stress. But it's one worth taking.
(P.S. There will be a part 2 coming where I reveal how getting back to the basics is a mandatory way to relieve stress. Stay tuned.)