And I don’t mean in the sense that you forego makeup and wear pajamas all day. What I mean is do you ever really just let loose, totally engross yourself in the moment, or forget about your stressors or to-do list?
I have been thinking about this a lot recently. I find that I am habitually tense. Without even realizing it, I hold my breath for extended periods of time. I sleep tucked in a protective ball and many nights I wake up sore from clenching my teeth and my fists. My mind is so cluttered that it takes constant effort to tune out my own mental soundtrack when someone else is talking to me. I mean, I try to catch the most important details, but I am often focused on what I have to do next. Most of the time I am not even aware that I am doing it.
I am constantly evaluating what I should be doing: How can I multitask to get more done? How can I effectively fit all the pieces of my life together in the most optimized way?
The problem is I am never fully relaxed. Even when I’ve chosen to take the time to do something fun, I feel the pressures weighing me down, occupying my mental space. Stealing from the moment in present time.
It’s so easy for me to get into a mode of feeling like taking a break is a waste of time. My default setting is to just assume that I am machine-like, going and going and never needing a break because there is always just one more thing to do. And somehow if I just push harder, I can get it all done.
But I am not a machine. My mind and body get worn down from the constant pressure I heap on myself. And even though I do sit down to play a game with my family or watch a movie at the end of the night, I worry that I’m not fully letting myself enjoy the moment.
This topic was on my mind before we left for our babymoon, but being on vacation definitely highlighted the difference. It was so much easier to “let myself go” when I was not in my house surrounded by the visual to-do list and I didn’t have the constant work of minding the kids. I think that my personality has a lot to do with my tendency for seriousness and tension, but adding the responsibility of caring for my young children has definitely made it worse. It’s a combination of the constancy of paying attention to the kids as well as the endless tasks associated with their upkeep.
And then at my worst moments, I wonder what is it that I am so stressed about anyways? I lived a pretty charmed life. I am a stay at home mom. We have decent finances so I don’t feel pressured to go back to work. I get help with the kids for several hours per week (hired because we don’t have a support network). Our family life is going well (we get along and the kids are pretty well behaved). So, what’s with all the stress? I keep going back to the idea that it seems to be just my default reaction to all of the tasks I have to do. Even things that are not that big of a deal in the scheme of life (nobody would die if I didn’t do them) just feel stressful.
And holding onto this great big cloud of stress at all times is preventing me from truly relaxing when I do get the opportunity. Which in turn, feeds the stress monster, making it harder for me to ever let it go.
I wonder how many other people feel the same way? Have you found that parenthood has heaped a sizable amount of stress onto you? Are you able to compartmentalize your to-do list and really let yourself go when the opportunity arises?
Just being aware of it has helped a ton. Realizing my daily stressors aren’t that big in the scheme of things. And remembering that when I’m “off-duty,” everything else can wait.