Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Expectations as a Root of Anxiety

Today I want to discuss the roots of anxiety, and how mothers can naturally combat it by changing their expectations.

After trying Celexa (anti-anxiety med) for one day and feeling an overwhelming nausea, I left a message to have the doctor call in an alternative antidepressant. The office never responded and I was too busy to call back.

It was God's will. I don't need a medication; I need a shift in focus.

Yesterday the Lord revealed a better way to combat stress and anxiety--specifically my brand of stress. As a perfectionist there's always more I'd like to accomplish in a day than there are hours to do it. Thus, I'm never completely satisfied and when interruptions and curve balls are thrown at me, the stress piles on.

Here are my present problem areas and what the Lord is teaching me:

1. Stress About Homeschooling 

Most other homeschoolers have started school and I feel left behind in the dust, which is pretty silly because when most homeschoolers stop for the summer, we're still going. The benefit of homeschooling is that you can fit education into your life seamlessly, in ways that uniquely fit your family. You can teach children how to live a one-piece life with God as the center, with all other priorities centered around honoring and serving Him.

My mistake 

I was rushing my preparations for school, and stressing about the fall clothing switch and the delay it's causing, and stressing about my son's concussion brain rest and the delays it's causing...all because I felt I wasn't measuring up to other homeschoolers. The desire to return to routine was part of my stress, but when I was honest with myself, it was more the feeling of not being able to measure up.

So what if we start school in October instead of September? We have 12 months to complete a school year, and I aim to please God only, in gratitude for entrusting me with these precious children.

2. Stress About The House

The house is rarely tidy because I still have a five year old who actively plays with toys in imaginative ways--and not just in one room. Her things scatter about and of course she doesn't put away one thing before moving to another, or before going outside.

Both the boys' room and the girls' room get cluttered with clothes they've taken off or tried on, and that drives me batty. As I walk around the house, not a single room is in order and I feel like a failure, especially right now. Without the routine of school I don't remember the 5-minute pick-ups, which are so central to a tidy house. I spend all day tidying up, in addition to the laundry, cooking and dishes. All the other things I have to accomplish, like school planning, bills, paperwork, etc. get pushed back to late nights or not at all, and there is never time to rest and always the feeling of being behind.

My mistake

I resent my family because I'm overworked and stressed, and so I raise my voice and try to guilt them into doing more--such as, "Don't you see that I already have enough to do? Why is it so hard for you to pick up after yourselves?" As a result of my crankiness, they don't understand the depth of my love for them, or the depth of my satisfaction in being their mommy and their teacher. I have to change so that my love shows.

And of course, lecturing them about responsibility doesn't make them behave more responsibly. I have to give them responsibilities and hold them accountable. When routine is lax, I can expect them to irritate me. It's the very occasional child who is a neat freak. Most others will be sloppy if they can get away with it. I must either have a chore system and 5-minute pick-ups in place all the time, or I shut my mouth about a messy house and try to serve my family in love. There's really no other choice.

And am I really a failure for having a messy house? I have four children with whom I stay home, and we use our house all the time. We prepare and eat three meals a day plus snacks; the kids play outside and get dirty, generating a lot of laundry--even bringing in their dirt often. They use their art things, their toys and their books, and they don't always put them away promptly. It's no wonder our walls and our floors and our carpets are nothing to look at, and why they don't stay nice for long, even after I clean them. It's no wonder I feel embarrassed when someone comes to the door, unless I've invited them and I've thoroughly cleaned the house.

We are all gifted in different ways, and we all have a choice in what we spend the bulk of our time on. A messy house rattles nerves so trying to be a good manager is important, but measuring my worth by the look of my house is not a healthy thing, and will continually contribute to my anxiety if I let it. Other moms can certainly do better than me, either because they have fewer children, a larger house with better storage, they're away from home more, or their children are away at school and don't interrupt their cleaning efforts. Or because they're just better at organization.

3. Stress About Interruptions

It isn't unusual for me to experience four interruptions while doing the dishes or hanging clothes from the dryer. I get irritated that my agenda has to be put on the back burner--the tyranny of the present, so to speak. Most every day my goal is to have a nice looking home by the end of the day, but rarely do interruptions allow that to happen.

Medical appointments further interrupt us and get to me as well, but I'm getting better at accepting that God has a purpose for us to be out visiting doctors frequently, instead of signing up for other things. We didn't do anything to cause juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, or asthma, or excessive ear wax, or OCD, or poor vision, or ADHD, or speech articulation issues.

My mistake

The reason I stay at home with my children is to nurture them and disciple them and to cherish these years with them. So then, why am I stressing when they interrupt me for a band-aid or a drink or help with their shoes or the snap on their pants--or to read them a book? Aren't I missing the boat when I look upon all these things as interruptions? Instead, aren't they the point?

Who cares if I go to bed with a house still messy? Some stranger who came to the door and got a peek--how long will that stranger even remember my house? Where will that stranger be ten years from now when my children are remembering not a loving mother who always had time for them, but a stressed-out one who complained about all she had to do?

The Big Fix

1. Know Your Core Values - What are your goals? What are you living for? What is worth spending the bulk of your time on? List these things and review them whenever anxiety plagues you. Chances are, you aren't being true to them, and that is the root of your anxiety.

2. Stay in the Word - We please an audience of one. Truly, this is key to our peace. The Word keeps us centered on what is important to God. Without the powerful exhortation of the Word, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, we will continue to follow our own agenda and experience stress and failure.

2. Pray for yourself - We remember to pray for many people, but so often we forget to pray for ourselves. As we pray for ourselves, the Holy Spirit will bring our weaknesses to our mind. As we bring them before the Lord, we humble ourselves in the process. A humble heart moves toward Christlikeness.

And Christlikeness = Peace


Vicki said...

I really needed to read this tonight. You are so right about perspective and expectations. I am really struggling right now with dealing with my son and adjusting to school and increased homework and adhd and it just all seems like so much. You've given me much to think and pray about. It's giving me so much stress and anxiety. So thankful we have such a wonderful Father we can turn to for an attitude adjustment! :) Bless you!

Christine said...

Vicki, it's been so long! It's great to hear from you. Sorry to hear you are dealing with adhd also. It can be so hard and it does require much prayer. Our heavenly Father is indeed faithful. Love to you as you lean on Him!

Beth said...

Thank you for sharing this. It sounds you like this has been helpful for you. I have been learning that understanding the root for behaviour is so critical to changing the behaviour.