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How moms can reduce anxiety

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

When life goes haywire

Every family seems to have one or two stretches a year when everything seems to go haywire. Serial illnesses, pet problems, house repairs, deadlines at work, and more. You're pulled in twenty different directions, and what would be no-brainer decisions at any other time of the year suddenly seem to have much greater consequences and are fraught with guilt. You can't seem to make anyone happy.

Stressed Mother

We've recently had a stretch like that. Actually, we're still in it. One child after another is getting something, passing it on to the parents, our respective work places are making demands, there are other schedule challenges on the near horizon, and I am feeling very watched and judged by many people on many fronts.

Yes, it's all out of your control

We operate most days on an illusion of control. We think we have control over aspects of our life, and though we can reasonably control some bits, or at least manage situations to minimize risk, in reality we have little to no control. We can't control when our kids get sick, or the exactly when the water heater breaks, or the client moves up the deadline, or when it rains or hails. Unfortunately, sometimes things seem to happen all at once.

However you have structured your household to deal with such issues - which parent, when, how, and so on - these are the times when all that gets blown to bits. Your family plan may be that you always deal with issues that occur on Thursdays, but when the last three crises have happened on sequential Thursdays, and you've missed how many meetings, that might not fly anymore, or you and your girlfriends were finally going to have some grownup time and it definitely doesn't feel fair. It's not that you don't want to be there taking care of whatever crises (maybe you do, and maybe you don't), but you have to try to balance the other demands, too. Your kids need you, absolutely, but the job pays bills, and you still need some adult time. Why is it always you to make the accommodations?

Take a deep breath and accept the lack of control. It's not you, it's not personal, and there may not be all that much you can do about it. It's a confluence of screwy events and to get through it is to take everything hour by hour, day by day until you can regain some semblance of normalcy. You may feel a little - or a lot - of guilt along the way, guilt that you can't be everything for everybody. It's true that you can't be everything to everybody; what you can do is to do your best, and that's all.

Damage Control

At times like these, I tend to focus on what I can't do. A better approach likely would be to focus on what I can do. I can't make my child feel better with a snap of the fingers (much as I might like to), but I can make sure we have what we need to help soften the feelings of misery, whether that's favorite smoothies, a DVD or whatever. Maybe I can't make that meeting in the office, but I can be clear with my coworkers about my priorities, my understanding of work that still needs to happen, and that I am making a plan to achieve that. Besides, everyone whether a parent or not, has times like these. Everyone.

I've also found that I need to take great care during these times not to let my children sense that they are any sort of a burden. I don't mind the office feeling that now and again, but not my kids. Any frustration or anxiety needs to be expressed out of their view and/or ear shot.

Ask for help

If at all possible, now is the time to ask for help. If you have family or friends nearby that can help, call them. Don't hesitate. If you would do the same for them if they called you, then you can call them. True, the answer may be no for other very valid reasons, but you will never know unless you ask. Everyone goes through these times. Everyone.

Plan for a little fallout

Recovering from these haywire times often takes longer that the haywire times themselves. As soon as you think you see the light at the end of the tunnel, start thinking about ways to make up what you might have missed or delayed. You might also want to talk within the family about what worked and what didn't during this crazy time. Are there adjustments or agreements you can come to with your partner that might make it easier next time? Yes, there will be a next time.

No matter what the series of events or what the fallout, everyone goes through times like these. You will get through it. You will.

Get more tips for dealing with stress:

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