My family had a mostly quiet and very peaceful winter break. We weren’t running around to a bunch of holiday parties, we didn’t have any major commitments. My husband and I both had time off work and my children weren’t in school or any of their extra-curricular activities. I had no idea how much I needed the break until I got it.
Previously, since about Thanksgiving, I was running off my feet. The children had plenty of activities and I felt like a taxi driver. My brain was mushy from trying to remember every single theme day the school was throwing at us and every little thing that every member of my family needed.
The mental load was exhausting. I wasn’t sleeping. I was awake thinking about meal planning, the next article I needed to write, whether or not I needed to buy diapers, if I paid a bill, or signed my daughter up for the next activity or not.
My heart hurt. Multiple times, I had to stop whatever I was doing and take a breath because my heart wouldn’t stop racing. It often felt like it was going to jump out of my chest.
I called my mom at one point because my chest hurt, who in turn, told me to call my doctor. But it took a while for me to actually make an appointment because I felt silly calling for myself. Had it been one of my children, I would’ve in a heart beat.
But I felt like I didn’t have the time to make an appointment for myself. When I finally got around to talking with my doctor, one of the questions she asked me was if I was stressed. I instantly said no. I didn’t feel it at the time. I was so stressed for so long, I forgot what it felt like not to be overwhelmed with life.
It wasn’t until Christmas when there were no schedules, no tight deadlines, no one needing me to drive them anywhere that I finally realized that I was stressed. It seems so silly now looking back. But I was in too deep. I was drowning and didn’t notice it.
And I also felt that I wasn’t special, everyone is busy, everyone is stressed. There are lots of working parents with children. And there are certainly more people out there doing it all with less help than I have. My heart was telling me to slow down, to ask for help and I wasn’t listening. I was stretched so thin.
Chronic stress is so bad for the heart. According to heart.org ongoing stress not only takes an emotional and psychological toll, it can produce physical symptoms. Those may include headaches, an upset stomach, tense and aching muscles, insomnia and low energy.
Heart disease is another potential stress-related problem because it may lead to high blood pressure, which can pose a risk for heart attack and stroke.
Taking care of your heart is so important.
I felt a calm come over me during Christmas. I’m trying to figure out how I can bottle that zen feeling and bring that energy with me into 2023. We are back to reality now and slowing getting back into the swing of things. But I don’t want to go back to all that stress.
I’m going to learn to say no more and prioritize my own mental health.
Even if that is hard to do— put myself first sometimes, I can remember that I am also doing it for my children and my husband.