Sometimes being a mom is just plain overwhelming. There are lots of things you feel you should do, or do better, but you just aren't sure how to put them into practice. For example, maybe you want to make family meals a regular part of family life, or maybe you want to finally get on top of the number of toys in your home; you want the end result, but the process is overwhelming--it feels like too much.
is where I often found myself when my children were young. I knew I had to change the way I handled many things, but there were so many things! Every time I thought about them my chest felt tight and I could feel tears spring to my eyes. My inner critic quickly made me feel like a failure by reminding me just how messy my house was, how angry I sometimes got at my kids, and how frustrated and ineffective I felt.
Then I remembered something from elementary school that drastically changed my parenting.
When I was in fourth grade, during recess, a bunch of us kids used to play a form of touch football that we called "scrimmage". It was one of my favorite things! Well, during the pastoral prayer at church, which seemed to go on forever, I'd visualize playing that game--catching the ball and running routes to the goal line.
You're more likely to be able to respond appropriately to your toddler, or speak firmly and confidently to your teen, if you first visualize the whole process.
The funny thing about it was that it really improved my playing! I could picture the ball (a miniature football) in the air, slowly spiraling right into my hands; then I'd imagine myself dodging and juking around all the other players, speeding past them and outrunning everyone to the goal line. I've since learned that professional athletes use exactly the same technique to help improve their performance!
There is a strong connection between being able to visualize a physical process in detail, step by step, and being able to actually perform it. What that means for overwhelmed mothers is that you're more likely to be able to respond appropriately to your toddler, or speak firmly and confidently to your teen, if you first visualize the whole process.
Imagine a common situation with your toddler--maybe he throws down his plate and refuses to eat lunch; picture yourself calmly picking up his plate and helping him down from the chair as you cheerfully say, "I can see you'd rather not eat your lunch. We'll just wait until dinner!" No threats, no nagging or begging him to eat--just let him go play. Then, imagine him begging for food later, and you very calmly saying, "Sweetie, I'm so sorry! We don't eat snacks when we don't eat our lunch. Dinner will be ready in an hour or so!" Then picture yourself turning around and going on with your work.
As you visualize this, you already know what's going to happen--he's probably going to whine or cry-- but you also know that he's not going to die. Think this all the way through; stay committed to holding off until dinner. If you visualize it, you'll be better prepared to do it.
Visualization gets your brain past anxiety into very deliberate thinking. It helps you simplify things that seem, on the surface, to be overwhelming.
Or, take the idea of sorting through toys: Picture yourself having just put your kids in quiet time, walking to the kitchen to get a plastic trash bag, walking to the play area, then putting at least 5-10 toys in the bag. Imagine doing this every day for a week, and storing the bags in the garage or another room. Next, imagine looking up the Salvation Army website, filling out the request for pickup, and scheduling the time for them to come. Now, imagine your play room minus 50 toys the kids rarely played with, and how amazing you feel at having accomplished this!
That is how you do it. I began to use visualization for all kinds of overwhelming things--the process of getting all the kids in the car, being more firm at bedtime, refusing to argue with my teenager, and even dreaded things like calling AT&T!
Visualization gets your brain past anxiety into very deliberate thinking. It helps you simplify things that seem, on the surface, to be overwhelming. You can visualize breaking a process into smaller segments that can be done at different times or on different days, rather than trying to do a task or process all at once; that's the way I tackle things like writing thank-you notes.
Moms, this tool can change your life. It's easy, it's known to be effective, even in athletic training, and it can work for you! Try it. Let me know how it goes. And if you need help, with visualization or any parenting concern, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or click the button to schedule a