Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What I Learned about Stress, Mommy's "Me Time" & Talking to My Kids

Photo from iStock.com
In February, I made some major lifestyle changes. I had been feeling like garbage - eating food that was convenient and easy (instead of healthy), not getting enough sleep, snacking late at night, and of course - drinking wine more nights than not. I'd also forgotten to go to the gym for the past 11 months or so. So I did something drastic. It's called the Whole 30 - and I cut out dairy, sugar, wheat, legumes, alcohol, almost everything I enjoy putting in my mouth for 30 days. My body needed this radical change.

What it really needed, though, was for me to pay more attention to it.

Life has been stressful in my house since the holidays. We all have those stretches of time when life can get really... lifey. When it's all difficult and complicated and we have to be tougher than we want to be and deal with things. I knew we'd get through it, but I knew it would be hard. I managed by being 100% focused on being productive and calm during the day and rewarding myself with "me time" each night.

That time primarily took the form of sitting on my cozy sofa after the kids went to bed, with a glass of wine, and the TV on, and maybe also my iPhone in my hand. Those three things helped my stressed-out ferret brain relax. I was able to distract and numb myself each night with Downton Abbey and Trivia Crack and Pinot Noir and some lovely cheese and crackers. And it was very nice and it helped a lot.

Until 6:45am when my alarm clock went off. I regretted every sip of wine and every bite of Jarlsburg I'd eaten after the kids' bedtime. Every episode of House Hunters International I'd stayed up too late to watch would come back to taunt me. I would wake up knowing how stressful my day would be, feeling bad about about the choices I'd made the night before. The inner monologue that my ferret-brain spews at me before 7am is not helpful. But it speaks the truth:
  • You ate 1,500 calories all day and got 10,000 steps and then BLEW IT after 9pm because there was a Property Brothers marathon on. You're an idiot.
  • You've been so exhausted and you're going to get sick if you don't get rest and how do you respond to this? By staying up until 1:00 am watching The Mummy Returns on cable for the 4,000th time. Good job, jack ass.
  • Great! Overslept again! And you feel like garbage and now everyone has to rush to get out the door and the whole family's day will be off to a crappy start! But hey, you won 5 games of Trivia Crack in the middle of the night so it's all worth it. 
Prior to doing the Whole 30, taking care of myself meant prioritizing "me time" to manage stress. I don't think I realized how unconscious it had become - reaching for that glass of wine after I put the children to sleep. Turning on the TV. Fixing a snack at 10:30pm when I didn't even feel that hungry.

That "me time" was keeping me heavy and making me feel physically yucky. It wasn't actually helping me manage stress either. It was actively making each day more difficult. I learned that if I drink in the evenings, I will snack. I can't help it. That's who I am. But if I don't drink, I won't snack. I also learned that I can stay up 'til midnight watching dumb TV and not feel bad the next day if I don't eat things that give me heartburn and drink things that give me a headache. The specific things I was drinking and snacking on (red wine and salted almonds, or cheese and crackers) are pretty much the last things that my body can metabolize in any quantity without feeling sick.*

*You can read my Whole 30 posts about this but the sulfates in red wine, the dairy/gluten combo of cheese and crackers, and most tree nuts (especially my beloved almonds) just don't work for my body. I honestly did not know that. And I was consuming them maybe 4 nights a week and wondering why I woke up feeling like crap.

My kids feel stress just like I do, in fact they feel my stress just as I feel theirs. They watch how I cope with it. This seems to be the year of us having difficult conversations and lately we've been talking about nutrition and making better choices about what we eat. Those conversations have focused on the following: what you put in your body profoundly affects how you feel, physically and emotionally. It affects how much energy you have, it affects your moods, what you feel like doing, and sometimes even your ability to control yourself.

They know exactly how they feel after eating too much sugar. They know that if they drink something with caffeine, they get hyper and then they crash. If they drink a Coke too late in the day - sleeping is not happening. I told them how drinking wine seems to affect me - it makes me feel relaxed and happy, but I usually eat snacks I shouldn't and stay up too late, and then later wish I hadn't. Just like when they eat too much sugar, they get rowdy, make too much noise, and get yelled at for acting like Howler monkeys.

From Jonathan's Twitter account. He is SO funny.
It doesn't mean they should never eat sugar again - just like it doesn't mean I should never drink wine again. It just means we're all so much better off knowing how our bodies are going to respond. The best way we can all make responsible choices is by knowing that there are consequences when we eat or drink certain things. My specific consequences include Drew and Jonathan and too much sharp cheddar.

I want my kids to have a healthy relationship with their bodies and with all the stuff they put into them. I want them to do better than I have in this regard. That's why I'm trying so hard right now to make better choices and talk them through why I'm doing it all. Whether it's candy and soda in elementary school, staying out past curfew in high school, or Pinot Noir and Property Brothers in adulthood - we're going to talk about all of it openly and with a sense of humor.

April is Alcohol Responsibility Month. This post is sponsored by Responsibility.org as part of their #TalkEarly campaign, encouraging families to talk early, talk often, and be healthy. All the opinions are my own because no one is the boss of me. I'm very proud to be part of the #TalkEarly blogger team this year. 

(c) Mommyland Blogs 2013-2014

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  1. Day 7 of my Whole30. I hope that this will help my family the way it seems to have made a difference with yours. I have already notified a difference in my energy level and blood sugars (humongous steps forward in that regard). Hopefully it's not too late to help my texture-sensitive monkey learn better eating habits.

  2. It's so good when we can take a look at our patterns. I hear you on the House Hunters International, too!

  3. I hate when life gets so lifey. But I love that you'd "forgotten to go to the gym for the past 11 months." I also stay up past my bedtime b/c I HAVE to see which apartment in Paris they picked! Good for you for making the changes & taking to your kids about it.

  4. This is actually my husband. Every night. Except substitute "Property Brothers" for "Whatever's on the Science Channel, sweet tea for wine, and pop-tarts for cheese and crackers.

  5. I am really interested in hearing the results of your blood work. Are you going to share? Thanks!

  6. I hear you on the "me time" For some reason for me, it isn't "me time" unless it is after my kids are in bed. When they don't go to bed when there suppose to, then my "me time" is even later. And I also would snack, and feel like crap the next day. I'm in the middle of my second week on the whole 30. I have to thank you Julie, because you doing the whole 30 and being successful, I thought maybe I could do it and be successful too. So far I have been able to keep to the whole 30 rules. My energy is up (although, I had really low iron and needed transfusions), and I think I'm even more patient with my kids. I also have been more excited to be cooking again. Many evenings, I would cook whatever was easiest and what I knew my kids would eat. I have one highly picky eater, and the other could be compared to a garbage disposal. Okay…'rant' over. Truly Julie, you inspired me to make a change, and I'm doing it Thank you!




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