One Thing to do the Next Time You Feel Overwhelmed (and it’s not self-care! ;) )

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I’m over here getting kind of vulnerable tonight about a lesson God taught me quite sometime ago, one that took me ‘ugly crying on the kitchen floor’ to really ‘get’, and one that radically changed the way I view overwhelm.

Overwhelmed.

I think we’ve all been there.

It’s that feeling of “I really can’t stand one more second of this noise, or this mess, “ and then someone spills a cup of milk all over the kitchen floor.

It’s that feeling of “ I really don’t know if I can handle all the things I have planned for this week,” and then someone calls and reminds you of the meal you signed up to take to that family with the new baby,  and you’d forgotten to add it to your list.

It’s that feeling of being on the way to the grocery store, your mind is foggy from lack of sleep and full from all the pressures of the day, and you realize you forgotten your list, and you live 45 minutes from town. You know you are going to forget something very important you were suppose to do while in town,… you start to feel panicky, because you might not be able to do what you need to accomplish.

It’s that feeling of juggling your time between all of these dear little ones, and all their needs and their cries of “Mommy” all day long, and it’s 5 pm, and your husband calls and says he’s running late, and you feel like you just hope you can hold off the tsunami until he get home.

It’s that feeling of crawling out of bed after a tough night, only to be met by many little people who need you, and want to talk to you, touch you, sit on your lap, all before you had your first cup of coffee.

Ya, I know you get it… situations might vary. But we’ve all felt this feeling of ‘overwhelm’ and his sister ‘overload’ before. Some of us more than others, but we all know that uncomfortable feeling of wondering how many more straws that camel is going to be able to handle, before his back breaks.

It doesn’t even have to be big things, sometimes it’s just an accumulation of so many little things, sensory, emotional, physical etc. that push us to the brink of ‘I’ve just about had it’.

There are many different levels to this feeling, sometimes we just feel snappy, unmotivated, and grumpy and sometimes we totally ugly cry on the floor of the kitchen.

It’s not a fun feeling, but I’ve come to the place where I am so grateful for the lesson God has been showing me so plainly as I feel that crushing weight of ‘overwhelm’, that I have to say I’m ok with an overwhelmed moment every now and then.

Sometimes I wonder if He has allowed me to feel these moments more often and deeply just to drive His point home. 😮

It was quite awhile ago,after one of those, “Yikes, Mommy, just lost it moments”,  (You know that ending where you weren’t able to hold off the tsunami, yeah,… if I remember right that was an ugly cry on the floor of the kitchen! ;P  ) when God spoke very plainly to me, about something…

It started off slow like he so gently does, with a question about how I would want those around me to respond when I feel like that sort of stuff.

Oh, my, I totally knew what I  would want… compassion, understanding, empathy, quiet reassurances, hugs, and kleenexes.

But then God said, “That’s what your kids want when they are having a rough time too.”

Oh my goodness.

It really hit me.

Somehow I could justify my overwhelmed times, or my “meltdowns”- they seem more reasonable to me. I mean I’m crying because of legitiment reasons, right? At least Im not crying because I didn’t get the green cup at the dinner table, or because my sisters birthday gift was something I wanted, or because I think I lost my kindle.

In that moment it because so clear to me. Here I was justifying my moments of weakness and overwhelm and judging my kids, just because mine seemed more reasonable to my adult mind.

(Ya, I’m so glad for wake up calls.)

So with that awful mindset when it came to my kids melting down or having a difficult time accepting something, I was using that time to try to tell them this behaviour wasn’t  going to help anything, or pressuring them to continue on with my agenda, or telling them they were just going to lose a privilege if they couldn’t handle things better, or walked away from them, or sadly even in the past I’ve told them that they can go to their room and come back when they have a better attitude because they weren’t going to ruin dinner for everyone else.

God’s gentle teaching to me, as I sat their repaying my meltdown and the way I wanted to be treated versus how I had treated my own kids (and been told and instructed by many others in my life to treat my kids this way) when they were overwhelmed with big feelings, hit me like a knife to my heart.

How would I have like Kenton to say to me,

“Wow. Sweetie. You know this isn’t acceptable behaviour. I guess you can’t have coffee tomorrow if this is how you are going to act.”

“Oh, shush, you have lots to be thankful for, you have an amazing life, quit feeling sorry for yourself.”

“Come on! You are making a mountain out of a molehill. It’s not that bad.”

“Darling, you have a voice either you get a cheerful attitude now or you lose your phone for the day.”

“ Hey, go to your room and come back when you can be happy. We aren’t going to be controlled by your emotions.”

I would absolutely HATE to be treated like that, it would been dismissive of my feelings, disrespectful, critical, shaming and most of all it would not have felt like love one. Single. Bit.

It would totally have driven a wedge between his heart and mine. Sure, I may have got up and left and not come back until I was calm, but I would have felt I was pretty alone and very misunderstood.

I knew what I wanted in those tough moments was what I needed to be giving me kids in their tough moments.

I need a strong arm around my shoulders.

I need a calm presence around me letting me know they’ve got me, and that they care I’m sad, overwhelmed, scared etc.

I need to know I’m not alone when I just can’t handle life properly.

I need to know I’m LOVED. I need to feel that LOVE regardless of how I’m behaving in the moment.

And then I want someone to support me in problem solving.

I’m just so grateful for God letting me experience overwhelm, big feelings, less than perfect reactions, and overload, because it’s in those moments I can reflect on what really helps me calm down, and be able to think rationally. I’m able to see how it’s really something I can’t control not something I’m willfully trying to do, just to ‘get my way’ or to ‘be in control’.

And I’m able to better understand my kids and give them what they need, without judging.

I realized my kids just need me to give them in their less than perfect moments, the love and empathy I so badly want and need when I have my less than perfect moments.

It’s been quite some time now since God showed me this, and I’m happy to say it has really been an incredibly helpful thing to remember in loving on my little ones.

Sometimes I just have to pause and ask myself what I would want someone to do if I was in their shoes.

If I had woken up grouchy, would I appreciate a sermon on cheerfulness, a threat of having to go to bed earlier tonight or would I just want someone to wrap their arms around me and tell me that they notice I’m having a tough time and that they are here if I need any extra love today, that they understand because we all have tough days sometimes?

And you know what the really cool thing is, when our kids feel loved, heard, seen and accepted by us, and they know we are on their side, they do well. They want to be co-operative. They want to engage. They want to make wise choices. They are open to our advice and guidance. We are able to touch their hearts with truth.

Just like when I feel loved, understood, respected, seen and heard by someone, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that person has my back, I want to listen to them, to let them help me figure out the difficulties, and to take advice from them.

And when I really stop and think about it, how do I want my kids to respond to someone who is having a tough time handling his emotions and life? Do I want them telling that person to come back after they get it together, do I want them walking away from the pain of another person, do I want them to think they have a right to criticize and shame someone for not handling something right, do I want them to judge someone who is having a hard time just because in their own eyes it doesn’t look hard, do I want them to be scared of emotions?

Or do I want them to be able to sit down next to someone, and empathize with them, caring, striving to understand and accepting, knowing we all have big feelings and need extra love sometimes, and that ‘negative’ emotions aren’t scary, and just expressions of needs?

If I want them to be kind, compassionate, and empathetic even when they don’t understand, or when someone isn’t being perfect than I need to model it for them.

I want to be able to speak truth into their little hearts not just curb behaviour. I want them to trust me and know I’m on their side and we will figure this out together. We can handle the tough stuff.

Oh, the beauty of connection. And empathy, love and compassion during our tough times builds that.

That pathway between hearts.

Trust.

And I’m so thankful God gave me a front row seat to this lesson, because it’s one that has totally changed me… there isn’t always going to be a parenting formula for everything, and for every situation, but this truth is one I can take with me into anything I face with my kids, every day. Like Cameron would say, “It’s a “do unto others” (golden rule) sort of thing. 🙂

So maybe the next time you are feeling overwhelmed, pause and reflect on how often your child feels just like you feel right now, (and maybe even worse)  and ponder if the reactions you have to his overwhelmed, or imperfect behaviours would be helpful to you as you are feeling overwhelmed? Would they feel loving to you? Would you feel precious, heard, and accepted if someone responded to you in those ways?

And then maybe the next time your kids has a melt down or maybe just a bad attitude, a bit of sass, or doesn’t feel like participating in something, you can pause with me, as we step back from our agendas, our preconceived ideas, and ask ourselves, “What would I want if I was in those shoes? What would I need someone to do for me? What would make me feel understood, and supported? What would make me feel loved?”

And then do that for our kids.

Empathy, noun, The ability to step into the shoes of another person aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives and to use that understanding to guide our actions.

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