Regulate & Rewire: An Anxiety & Depression Podcast

How to Decrease Load & Increase Capacity - Parenting Edition

October 03, 2023 Amanda Armstrong Season 1 Episode 33
Regulate & Rewire: An Anxiety & Depression Podcast
How to Decrease Load & Increase Capacity - Parenting Edition
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 33

It can feel important and go undone if your capacity isn’t there. For me right now sitting on the porch with my kid is more important than a lot of the house projects I’d like to get done. And getting to bed by 9:30pm is more important to me than any shows I want to watch or DM’s I want to get caught up on. Ask yourself, what takes care of me so that I can better take care of my kids? Choose that. 

If you’re a parent to young kids, the most important thing you can do is model for them the way you want their life to FEEL. If you don’t want you daughters or sons to endlessly self sacrifice and run themselves into the ground, stop modeling that. Start prioritizing the basics you prioritize for them, bedtime and breakfast. Want to create capacity that changes your life - go to be by 10pm, eat a quality high protein breakfast, and stay off your phone from 9pm - 9am. Don’t think it’s that simply? Try me and report back in 2 weeks.

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Welcome to regulate, and rewire and anxiety and depression podcast where we discuss the things I wish someone would have taught me earlier in my healing journey. I'm your host, Amanda Armstrong. And I'll be sharing my steps, my missteps, client experiences and tangible research based tools to help you regulate your nervous system, rewire your mind and reclaim your life. Thanks for being here. Now let's dive in. 

Welcome back friends, one of the things that we talked about last week was the most of parental burnout or any burnout really, is a result of an imbalance in load, and capacity. Every single day, so many of you are stepping up to a 300 pound life. When all you have the capacity for right now is to lift 50 pounds. And again, we understand this in context of physical strength of the gym, we're not going to walk up to a 300 pound barbell, if we only know how to deadlift 50 pounds. Or maybe we don't even know how to deadlift because nobody's trained us, nobody has taught us.

Today I want to talk about the how how to decrease load and increase capacity through a parenting lens. And again, like so many of our conversations before, if you yourself are not a parent, then filter this through your own unique life lens. There are many of the things I'm going to share today that are universally applicable whether you are a parent or not. What I'm going to talk about today are steps you can take in navigating a life that feels like too much sometimes. This is the how how to decrease load and increase capacity. And I'm going to be repetitive in what this looked like for me. I know I talked to you about this in the productivity based self worth I talked to you about this just last week. But these five or so days where I walked through my life and just followed up every single thing that I do with those two words of says who it changed. So, so much for me, right? making dinner for my family says who I have to do this folding laundry says who answering calls for my sisters says who feeding the dog wiping down the counters, answering my work emails, even showing up for sessions with my clients like says who says who says who. And again, you heard this last week. But what this did and what this can do for you is it builds in a sense of choice. For each one of these tasks. It gave me a moment to entertain the option of not doing these things, or to see how I might be able to do them differently. 

Could my husband do dinner one or two nights a week? Could we budget takeout? Maybe it's okay that my emails don't get replied to right away or that so my DMs go on reply to for even a week or two at a time. Maybe it's okay that my walls are dirty, or I only wipe down my counters twice a week, like maybe it's okay. And it not only did these five days of says who drastically helped me to sort for why I was doing the things that I was doing what I wanted to opt into versus what I didn't. But it also embedded this little filter in my brain. That still helps me day in and day out to this day. For example, a friend just a couple weeks ago who has a kid about the same age as mine, mentioned that she has put her kid in soccer. And I immediately felt my body tense. And I thought like, oh crap, like, are we already supposed to be doing that with our kids? I had this filter ready to go the minute I felt my body brace and I was like, Oh my gosh, am I falling short, etc? Is that something I shouldn't be doing? My brain offered up, says who? And I was able to decide that adding one more thing to our schedule is simply not something that I am willing to do for myself right now or my family. 

So this exercise that again, I've repeated many times now is such a powerful mindfulness, intention based exercise of just going through your life. Why am I doing what I'm doing? What can I delegate? What can I simplify? What can I let go of, at least for now and how I live my life is not necessarily how some of you want to live your life the things that I deem not as important in my life you might think are still very important for yours. My life circumstances are very, very different than many of yours. But the bottom line here is that if you are feeling overwhelmed, and I know this episode feels really repetitive to the conversation we had last week, but so many of you are hitting play on a podcast like mine because our life is full of too much too much stuff too much scheduling too much stress. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed by parenthood, or work or life, something's got to give. And I have been able to decrease the load of parenthood, homeownership, entrepreneurship, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, all the different hats that I wear and the roles that I juggle by mindfully and consistently giving myself permission to do less or to do different than I think I quote unquote, should. Because anything that follows the word should is somebody else's narrative for your life. I currently have a neighbor who's annoyed at how overgrown my vegetable garden has gotten. And the truth is, I actually would love, love, love, love love to spend a few hours on a Saturday taking care of that. But I simply haven't made that a priority for the last six to eight weeks. And again, echoing what I said last week, oftentimes, we are going to have to make a trade off of two things, we want to prioritize the thing that we want more. Last Saturday, I had a few hours, I probably could have muscled through some gardening, but I was desperate need of a nap, I was exhausted. And so I chose what felt more important to me, even though my old hardwiring of productivity, they self worth would have said, go do the thing, sleep when you're dead. But for now, bless them, my neighbors are just gonna have to go right on managing their own annoyance. And for at least the near future, I am going to have to manage saying no to something that I actually really want to do for the sake of doing other things that feel more important. And taking a moment to reflect on your life. And what might be that thing that you choose, I don't say you want to let go of or you you choose, you actively choose to let go of to create more space. 

So that's the conversation I really want to have around decreasing load this, again, can look a million ways for a million different people. And well, and this is where our coaching is so powerful for certain people is they have a really hard time auditing their own life. They have a really hard time sorting between the things that they really want to be in their stress bucket the things that they really want to be part of their life, versus the things that they are just doing. Because they think that they should they've lived by somebody else's should narrative for so long that they actually have a hard time sorting for Well, what's my voice? And what's their voice? What do I really want my life to look like and to be a part of? And like I said, dinner does not bring me joy cooking dinner for my family? It does not. So I've simplified that process. It's not just I do it, or I don't. Also how can I do it differently. And when we are stuck in a chronic fight or flight state chronic shutdown, it's hard for us to access the part of our brain that allows us to be creative. This is another way that community or coaching can be so so beneficial, because you're in this CO regulated space. So creativity, you have a felt somatic sense of safety that's a little bit higher, that can allow your own creative brain to come back online to think of more creative solutions. And or you're in a space where you can crowdsource with your practitioner, or with people in your community like inside my Rise community. There's many times that somebody brings something to the table in that space and says, Well, what are you all doing? I'm open for advice for suggestions, how might I be able to do this differently in a way that I can't see yet. 

So when it comes to decreasing your load, you have to do less. And when it comes to parenting, most of you don't want to kick your kid to the curb. You love your kid, you love your kids, and you're overwhelmed by the job that is parenthood. And that's okay. That's okay. That doesn't make you a bad mom, dad, parent. It's a really hard job. And it's incredibly rewarding. But it takes some tough decisions. And sometimes those decisions might be taking some things off your kids schedule, so that it also takes it off of your schedule. They might be annoyed with that. Do you have the emotional regulation skills to manage it being okay that they're annoyed but still knowing you're in alignment with what's better for your family? Or even what's better for you? Because you are an integral part of your family. And it's not selfish to pull up a seat at the table and consider your needs, in sorting out your family's routines and schedules and so on. 

So the other half of this is how do we increase capacity, and this is going to feel redundant, but we increase our capacity first, by decreasing load to meet your current capacity. That's why we started there, because I know there are some of you who are like, okay, okay, okay, I'm a go getter, I can do it, maybe I can, like skip the decreasing capacity part and just jump right into increasing capacity. Because if I can just do more, if I can increase my capacity, that I don't have to change anything about my life, I don't have to do less. And I also understand that there are many of you carrying around really heavy pieces of your life that you cannot put down. But that's where it takes even more creativity and even more diligence to figure out where you can, especially parents of children with special needs, like the load is just heavier there. And so are sometimes beautiful moments and the blessings. But it's hard, it's hard. 

I was having a conversation with a dear, dear friend of mine, who is having some struggles in her parenting journey. And she has a mom who is basically a child and she's been the parent to her mom for a really long time. And she was so upset and angry. She's like, I am struggling in motherhood right now. And I wish I had a mom that I could turn to. But I've basically been my mom's mom since I was 13. And I'm mad about that. I'm mad about that, because I don't know who to turn to for the support or the help that I need. So sometimes there are just really heavy parts of this. And there are always pieces that you can let go of to create capacity for the things that you can't. 

So back to what I was saying with the first step to increasing capacity is by decreasing your load. But any weightlifter can tell you it does you absolutely no good to walk up to a 300 pound barbell that you cannot lift. I know I have trained competitive athletes, we first have to set up the load to be something that your current capacity can carry. And then one rep at a time, one pound at a time. Over time, we can increase that load until we've increased our carrying capacity to where we want it to be, or to where our system allows it to get to. 

Now I also want to share something that came up in another coaching call within my rise membership. And a stay at home mom came in and shared with us this mindset of like, okay, okay, okay, for the first time in years, all of my kids are in school. So now it's me time and now it's time to fix me, I need to watch all of the videos in the membership, do all of the things. And if I am not fixed by the time they get out for school, I am wasting my time. I've wasted my time. And I pivoted the conversation to ask her what she had for breakfast this morning. And she kind of looked at me like that was a stark. That was a redirect. But then she told me she's like I had a leftover pancake with the chocolate chips picked out that I grabbed off my daughter's plate and I ate in the car on the way to drop her off. And I chuckled. And then she chuckled. And I think she was kind of figuring out where I was taking this. Because the phase of motherhood that she's been in for the last nine or whatever years, she has felt like a race car going round and round and round and round and round at top speed. And I use this analogy with her and I said a race card does not end a race and just move on to the next one. Nope. It spends a long, long time in the shop being cared for, looked after pulled apart and put back together piece by piece by piece. When we push ourselves to the limits when the racecar pushes itself to the limits, if it wants to get through that next race eventually, what it needs to do right now is to repair and replenish. And what I was helping her to see is that the very basic things that we prioritize and understand our biological imperative for our tiny humans. Things like consistently getting enough sleep, eating enough nutritious food moving their bodies. As parents we are often consistently denying ourselves. 

So for this particular mom, I invited her to instead of rushing into that next race, right that next race for her is healing her anxiety. And I said in order or to prepare yourself for some of the deeper work some of that some of that event. instead of rushing into fixing, what would it look like to take the next month or two, or however long your system needs to rest and replenish, to focus on building a habit of bed and breakfast is what we decided for herself. And just to see how she feels to see if she feels some capacity increase. 

If you take nothing else away from today's conversation, regardless the season of life that you're in, if you want your capacity to increase, eat a high protein breakfast, and stay off your phone from 9pm to 9am. I dare you, I dare you to try it for a month and just see what happens. Because if you are off your phone from 9pm to 9am, you are going to get to bed earlier, you are going to wake up and move through your morning a little slower, a little more intentionally, more tuned in. And if you are replenishing your body first thing in the morning with the nutrients and the fuel that it needs. Well, it's not going to go into an automatic chronic stress state because it's starving. If you want to increase your capacity, high protein breakfast, stay off your phone from 9pm to 9am. And just to see what happens, parenthood is hard life is challenging, especially with this modern pace. This job of raising tiny humans, it often feels like 300 pounds. And it's a load that we can't really and truly don't want to step away from. I know I don't. I think that I do sometimes in those hard moments or when I feel unsupported. I promise you if you do the awareness and audit exercise that I talked about last week, and take to heart things that I've talked about today, there are things in your life that you can step away to create more capacity. It is first that letting go acknowledging compassionately and curiously where you are immediate yourself in that you've got to make space before you can do more. And making yourself a nourishing breakfast instead of just eating your kids leftovers is doing more. But it's the kind of more that supports your system that supports your capacity over time. And when it comes to going into more detail about what does it look like to increase my capacity, Amanda, because I know some of you are wanting to jump right there. 

I am going to give you that in the future, there are going to be a lot of future conversations around practices that you can do things like move specific movement practices, cold plunges, etc, that increase our body's physiological capacity for stress before we become dysregulated. But if you want to have an increased capacity to carry, it starts here, by decreasing your load and learning how to manage the discomfort that comes with decreasing your load. Okay, I want to move on and finish off our conversation today in response to this person who submitted to the AMA the Ask Me Anything form. And they wrote in and said, Hey, Amanda, I just want to tell you how grateful I am to have found your podcast. It has helped me so much. And it has given me hope. I had lost hope until I found you. That being said, I have been in a shutdown mode for years. And my husband seems to not support me in any way, especially emotionally. I keep trying to keep things together. But I'm so exhausted. What can I do to get out of shutdown? I have two kids that I need to be a mom too. And last year, they were out of school for half the year due to my depression. And I want things to be different this year. But I don't know how to pull myself out of this mode. 

First, I want to say how incredibly proud I am of you for being here for listening to this podcast for taking that extra step to reach out and ask for help. That is scary. That is hard. And you've shared really vulnerably with us. And so I want to start by saying, of course you're shutting down. Of course you're exhausted. You have been struggling so long that you'd given up hope. Because trying to keep everything together with two kids is hard. feeling unsupported in all of the ways but especially emotionally unsupportive, it sucks. And it's really hard to so to answer your question of what can I do to get out of shutdown?

What does it look like to ruthlessly decrease your load. And it sounds like some of that might have already happened. Pulling your kids out of school I'm sure was not an easy decision or an easy thing to happen. And right now, I don't want to make a bunch of idealic suggestions that I know you likely won't have the capacity to do, because getting into action taking when you're shutdown is really hard. But I would love for you to start with the basics. And these, the suggestion may seem too simple. But start here, write me back and tell me how you're doing in a few weeks. I want to invite you into the same space that I did, that member inside rises we to focus on bed and breakfast. Make sure you are providing the same basic needs for yourself that you are for your kids. Can you get off your phone from nine to nine? Can you get yourself in bed a little earlier? Can you make yourself a quality breakfast? Starting with rest, and fuel for our body is one of the most important and biologically imperative things that we can do. And workshopping exactly what this might look like for you is something that I do often with people inside my rise membership. And the reality is, once we reach shut down 90% of the time, we need support, usually professional support, especially if that personal support is missing from your home. You need and deserve a safe space to feel emotionally supported. You need somebody else to help you strategize how to cut down on the mental load, the actual load of figuring out all of this for yourself, you need a predictably regulated other person to co regulate to these are some of the most valuable roles that we play as practitioners, therapists, coaches, etc. And you won't get from exhausted to thriving and parenthood overnight. But you can get there. And it is so so so so valuable to allow your children to see you walking through the messiness that it takes to get there. It is so so so valuable for them to see you owning your own needs, seeking out the support that you need. 

And to every single parent listening, you were not meant to do at all. Many of you had hard childhoods. And not only was the way that you want to parent not modeled for you. Because you grew up in unpredictable circumstances or with emotionally immature parents, maybe there were sickness, whatever. Your nervous system was constantly in a state of fight, flight freeze, fun shut down. And those patterns are still playing out today, even though your circumstances have changed. So of course, parenting feels hard, it is hard, and it's wonderful. We were not meant to raise our babies, like many of us do in towns away from our family or friends barely knowing or neighbors trying to work full time while parenting etc. It all feels like too much because it is too much. And it is still the reality. And when that is the reality, we need to get ruthless about the ways that we audit our lives and the beliefs around what is right or wrong, good or bad. And start to figure out some rules and different situations that feel better for us. 

Healing anxiety and depression is not just about mitigating the heart, but it is also about focusing on and cultivating the good. And it's the same thing with parenting. Parenting shouldn't just be about managing the mess and the chaos barely surviving. But by also taking the time to notice the small wins the time when we support our children to emotionally resolve the times when we wanted to yell but didn't or the times when we yelled but then regulated ourselves enough to come back and repair. Or for me right now in this season of toddlers. It's the perfectly timed fart during a toddler meltdown that has us both laughing to close today. 

Our three tangible takeaways. Number one, something can simultaneously feel important and go undone if your capacity isn't there. And that's okay. For me right now sitting on the porch with my kid is more important than a lot of the house projects I'd like to get done. And for me right now getting to bed by 930 is more important to me than any shows that I want to watch Are DMS that I need to get caught up on? Ask yourself, What takes care of me or my kids most right now? And choose that. And make sure that you're not always choosing the second half of that question. Sometimes what takes care of your kids most right now has to be what takes care of you most right now. 

Number two, we need each other. We need that quote, village. And I don't know what that's going to look like for you. It has taken a lot of intentionality for me to discover and to build mine, both professionally and personally. What does it look like to expand your village to get creative about that maybe that's working with a practitioner. Maybe that's giving a woman that you see in the grocery store, also, wrangling her children, I like to call it moms in the wild, your phone number that says, hey, it looks like your kids are about the same age. I know this might seem weird, but I'm really looking to source for friends and you have to risk are not calling you. My best friend here in DC is a woman that I gave my number to in the parking lot after our kids swim lesson. I didn't say a word turn swim lesson, I just watched her and her kid. And I said, I need a friend. I don't have mom friends. So I'm gonna have to go out on a limb be the weird person who writes my number on a napkin. And it worked out for me. We meet each other, what does it look like in your life, to build more of that support system, especially if you're not finding that in your partner. 

And number three, if you're a parent to young kids, the most important thing that you can do is model for them the way you want their life to feel. If you don't want your daughters or sons to endlessly self sacrifice and run themselves into the ground, stop modeling that. start prioritizing the basics that you prioritize for them bedtime and breakfast. 

Like I said, and I'll repeat it again, if you want to create capacity that changes your life, go to bed by 10pm. Eat a high protein breakfast and stay off your phone from nine to nine. And if you don't think it's that simple. Like I said, prove me wrong. Try me honestly and wholeheartedly and report back in a month. Let me know if life doesn't feel a little bit different, a little bit more spacious. And I obviously understand there are unique circumstances to every single one of your lives. 

And to some of you this may seem like an oversimplified suggestion or coming from a place of privilege. And to those statements will say to some extent, I agree. But I do think that it is a simplified approach that is going to be what works not some overly complicated one you already don't have the capacity for. And from a point of privilege. Absolutely. Absolutely. My life has privileged that many of yours don't. Some of you may be single parents working two jobs just to keep a roof over your head and food on the table. And there may be more pieces of your load that you don't have a choice point in than maybe my life. But I do believe that every single one of you tuning into this episode can seek for ways to decrease your load, either in the things that are on your schedule, or the emotional and mental load that you're carrying around the shame, the guilt, the shoulds about what your life looks like, or how it should look different. I cannot possibly share on a podcast what would be universally and perfectly applicable to every single person listening. But I know that the majority of you listening have something that you can let go of whether that is something on your schedule something in your home or away you're showing up for somebody else before yourself. 

And as always, if you feel like you have unique circumstances that you don't feel like I've spoken to here, please please please write me on that ama form that's in the show notes. This is a place where each of you have an opportunity to get some more personalized feedback or suggestions to the unique circumstances that you find yourself in in your life. All right, friends, that is all we have time for today. Thank you for being here. And until next time, I am sending you limitless amounts of hope and healing. 

Thanks for listening to another episode of The regulate and rewire podcast. If you enjoyed what you heard today, please subscribe and leave a five star review to help us get these powerful tools out to even more people who need them. And if you yourself are looking for more personalized support and applying what you've learned today, consider joining me inside Rhys, my monthly mental health membership and nervous system healing space or apply for our one on one anxiety and depression coaching program restore. I've shared a link for more information to both in the show notes. Again, thanks so much for being here, and I'll see you next time.

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