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IF I COULD JUST TURN IT OFF

That swirl of thoughts in my head, that is.

That swirl of thoughts in my head, that is. You know, the one that seems to be picking up speed by the minute with no sign of slowing down.

I’ve always been someone who thinks a few steps ahead. Problem solving is my most valuable skill at work. You can teach financial models and debits and credits, but that mental map that’s running several steps ahead is my jam.

And I love it.

I may even be addicted to it.

I can get pretty into things. Even before kids, I was someone who would get the occasional feedback to JUST RELAX.

But after kids – talk about OVERDRIVE.

What was previously a TALENT – working hard executing all week and coming up with great ideas “off the clock” – while putting on makeup, during a run, after sharing a bottle of wine with girlfriends – is becoming DEBILITATING.

This “always on,” “wheels spinning” mental state works well (or at least I convinced myself of this) when there’s only one or two BIG things to think about.

Perhaps one home project like sprucing up a particular room or one big open item at work (not every project – the one project that would make the most difference but no one knows how to approach).

NOT SO MUCH when

you have a WHOLE HOUSE to unpack and set-up

AND several organizational and systems changes going on at work

AND doctors’ appointments for the kids,

let alone the added extra mundane, yet critical, responsibilities of MORE bottles to make AND the pumping sessions that go with them AND the food prepping, extra laundry, nanny instructions…

…all while trying to figure things out, how to not only SURVIVE, but to THRIVE in this new UNCHARTERED TERRITORY called MOTHERHOOD. It’s more like MOTHER-OVERLOAD.

How am I supposed to know when it’s time to switch from crib shoes to real shoes, when it’s time to move up to the next diaper size, or how to teach my children how to share?

Or at least not touch the stove when it’s on?

Sometimes my head feels like it’s going to EXPLODE.

And sure, there are other posts on this topic.

Comics, explanations about mental load, frustrated rants, pieces about society teaching us to leave all home responsibilities to the woman and the occasional advice to talk about or to let it go.

But what can I do about it?

Sure, talking about it sometimes helps. Writing this post feels pretty good, but I really do WANT to RELAX.

If only I could turn off my thoughts…just for a little bit.

Letting it go…also sounds good (not going to jump into Frozen references here), but easier said than done. This is NOT a skill I have mastered.

Even my doc can tell I’m worn down. At my last checkup, she recommended a mindfulness app.

Mindfulness huh? This may be the trendiest buzzword out there right now.

While I acknowledge that woo-woo is often accurate, I prefer facts.

Turns out in this case there are many. There are several research studies supporting the stress reducing effects along with a copious list of other health benefits.

UMass even has a center dedicated to this topic that’s been around since 1979, long before mindfulness was a buzzword and before it was, shall I say, commercialized.

The Mindfulness App (not to be named)

Great – the voice on the app – super soothing. But my mind is still running. Focusing on just my toes? Not doing it for me.

Oh my toes…I need a pedicure before Casey’s wedding this weekend. Oh the wedding, I need a gift, a babysitter…the list goes on. And this was just the toes.

By the time I get to focusing on my stomach, ugh. Instead of calmly “listening to my body” I’m thinking about diastasis recti and those abdominal exercises I was supposed to be doing.

PAUSE…time to watch all of those little app icons dance around gleefully saying, “Pick me, pick me,” only to realize that…DELETE.

The mindfulness app is a goner.

So what now?

After this brief experience with the mindfulness app I know that I NEED mindfulness in my life; I didn’t even make if 2 minutes.

And the stakes are high.

I want to show my boys a good example of being present, mindful and calm.

And instead I’m at my worst in this department right now.

I need someone to actually show me, to teach me how to be mindful.

I don’t know why this doesn’t come naturally for me. But I’m accepting of that.

So I spent some time sorting through the mindfulness noise and ended up back at UMass.

This fall I’m going back to school.

I’ll be taking an 8-week mindfulness-based course and carving out time for “homework” so that I can practice mindfulness.

The word PRACTICE is fitting. I need to learn how to be more mindful, present and relaxed. What better way than making space to practice doing this every day.

I’m looking forward to the first day of school.

What are you going to do about that swirl of thoughts in your head? You know, the one that seems to be picking up speed by the minute with no sign of slowing down.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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