Maybe it had to do with going carb and sugar free for two whole weeks, or perhaps I’m already hallucinating two months into this new year. But I had one of those insights that quickly prompted me to write this post.
I know why I get triggered soooooo effing much by my kids when it’s bath time and bedtime hour (in my house, we do them as a combo).
I call it Primetime because the house could be burning down, and I would barely notice as my children’s shrieks, cries, tantrums, fights, and every other crazy antic would be getting all of my undivided attention.
So here’s my insight: Primetime triggers me sooo darn much because of decision fatigue.
There, I said it.
My name is Iva, and I suffer from decision fatigue.
Everyone: Hi, Iva.
It seems that everyone has a daily quota of “best decision-making” pixie dust that eventually runs out. Most of us usually use it all up by the end of the day. At that point, we’re literally drained from the endless amount of decisions we’ve had to make throughout the day.
Sounds familiar, mom? Grab a chair and join me here in the circle.
According to studies the average human being makes approximately 35,000 decisions per day.
But you and I are not your average human beings. We’re mothers. Currently living through a global pandemic. That number easily quadruples when it comes to how many decisions we are required to make daily.
When it comes to parenting in this chaotic world, it’s not only about having to make decisions; it’s about having to make thousands of new choices on the spot and wondering whether those decisions are right or not.
No wonder every mother out there is mentally exhausted! We are navigating ever-changing scenarios regarding every single area of our lives, and we have to do so with lots of conflicting data and very little guidance (How to parent through a Pandemic is not on Amazon yet. I checked)
So, not only are we experiencing decision fatigue, we’re also suffering from pandemic fatigue. How fun.
And to add insult to injury, it always feels like I’m guessing my way through motherhood and feeling like a complete fraud. Who am I kidding?! I don’t know what I’m doing half the time, and the other half I’m winging it.
It seems our motherhood package comes with a dose of insecurity, self-doubt, and negativity regarding our roles as mothers, all wrapped up under the impostor syndrome label.
So there we have it, ladies. The dreaded trifecta of pandemic fatigue, decision fatigue, and impostor syndrome can show up at any time and wreak havoc in our lives.
What are some powerful mindset tactics that we can use to better navigate this perfect storm? I mean, not to sound blasé about it, but we must live until we die.
Yet, it’s up to us to decide: do we want to get to the finish line feeling and looking like a decade-old used mop (FYI: stress = wrinkles)? Or do we want to get there with some shreds of dignity still standing no matter how small (while hopefully setting an example for our children)?
So if you’re with me, and you want to have some actionable steps on how to handle this triple whammy, read on.
Powerful Mindset Tactic One
Let’s start with pandemic fatigue. It seems like it’s the hardest one out of the three.
(Seriously, when will this end?? Where is the fast-forward button on this thing??)
I mean, all three are all soul-crushing tough. So, here’s a two-step method that can hopefully help all mothers better handle this year and help keep pandemic fatigue at bay.
- The first step is to recognize that we are all in the same boat. No one, and I mean, NO ONE has been spared. Presidents, CEOs, movie stars, billionaires, from top to bottom, and across the board….literally, everyone is experiencing this in some way or another.
Knowing this sometimes doesn’t make it less challenging, but it allows for some context. Context gives us perspective, and perspective allows us some space to take stock of our situation. Hopefully, it makes us realize that it could be worse. Or at least, it’s not as bad as others have it.
- The next step is to do a Eulogy Exercise.
Here’s how: write a letter to yourself listing all the things, projects, dreams, expectations, and hopes you had for yourself this year. It can go something like this:
I was really hoping this year had allowed me to do x. I would have liked to be doing y by June. And that I was enjoying z already.
Write it all down. Hold a vigil for the version of you that would be accomplishing certain things and having a specific life this year. Mourn it. Get sad, get angry, get all the rainbow’s emotions, and burn the letter or bury it.
Saying goodbye and releasing the expectations of who we were supposed to be by now allows space_ vast, mental, and emotional space needed to show up differently.
It’s not how we pictured it. It’s not how we wanted it… it’s just, well, different. Allow what may come.
As long as we are focused on what isn’t, we are not allowing what is.
Like Byron Katie says, “When I argue with reality, I lose __ but only 100% of the time”.
Powerful Mindset Tactic Two
As I mentioned earlier, the “best decision-making” pixie dust runs out daily.
Decision fatigue was first coined by social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, who identified it as the emotional and mental strain resulting from a burden of choices.
When your mental energy is depleted, you either start making bad decisions or stop making decisions altogether.
Now I understand why Primetime in my house runs amok most of the time!
I’m just too tired to bother.
As parents, we are still making the thousands of decisions we were already making pre-pandemicPLUS thousands of new ones we are given daily to think about.
Homeschooling. Job stability. Healthcare. The economy. COVID-19.
And that’s just for starters.
Then we have the other laundry list of decisions and outcomes to think about.
The effects of too much screentime. How to juggle Zoom meetings and household chores. Can the kids see their grandparents? Finding ways to entertain the little ones. What’s for dinner.
So this mindset tactic is all about KISS.
- Write down your top decisions and priorities for the day and tackle them at the beginning of the day when your pixie dust basket is filled up. This might require a bit of detective work, but in the end, you will be able to pinpoint what needless decision-making we can cut down on and live without.
- Automation can help too. Besides meal prepping, what other things can you already establish before-hand, so you don’t have to spend time thinking about them? What to wear is a big one for us women. Try out having a uniform of sorts for the week. (Most of my clothes are black, for example. It’s a no-brainer getting dressed). Same for snacks. If I let my kids decide what snack they want every day, it would become an exercise in frustration. So snacks for the week are pre-planned.
- Finally, examine your rules. Especially the ones at home and with regards to your children. What do rules and decision fatigue have to do with one another? Well, living with kids means that sometimes rules are meant to be broken. Or at least to be violently shaken every so often to determine how robust they are. (By the kids, that is). It’s a bit like: “Is this thing still working?” Yank, yank. “Okay, seems like it’s not budging. Let me try this other one.”
Rules mean enforcement. And coming up with ways to enforce rules is tiring! The more rules we have, the more enforcing we need, so more decisions need to be made. And in no time, your pixie dust is gone sometimes before it’s even 9 am.
Understanding that we are all running on a smaller mental and emotional bandwidth allows for prioritizing what’s essential and non-negotiable from what isn’t.
And allowing yourself some grace about where the line is drawn is also crucial. This is where taking a stand about mom guilt comes in.
We are all doing the best we can with what we have and what we know.
Let. It. Go.
If no screen time on weekdays is your non-negotiable rule, and you have to go into a full-on enforcement mode about it, then do it. And let it go.
Because many times, we do it, and then we’re secretly wondering whether we should have been more flexible or if we are being too harsh. Then we go down a rabbit hole chasing a rabbit that we will never catch.
Go over your rules, trim out the fat, and take a stand with your non-negotiable ones. Drop the guilt when you enforce.
Rinse and repeat.
Powerful Mindset Tactic Three
Do you know what you’re doing? says me to myself about a gazillion times a day.
Nope, I don’t, says me to myself in reply.
Does it sometimes feel like everyone seems to have it together, and you’re the only one scotch-taping your way through life? Or using double-sided tape, for that matter? Welcome to the club.
According to studies, the good news is that we’re in good company because 70% of people feel this way. That means seven of your ten best gal pals are also using glue guns to keep their life afloat.
Of course, that doesn’t make these thoughts go away. But it has led me down a path of exploration about how this impostor syndrome works and how as moms, we can find ways to minimize it.
(I mean, if Michelle Obama, Beyonce, JLo, and Maya Angelou all feel this way in the present day, who are we kidding? We’re not going to get rid of it completely!)
So why do we feel we’re phonies?
The easy answer would be that there are norms and rules in society that we all must follow if we want to feel accepted. This social acceptance is not a self-esteem issue as it is a survival mechanism dating back to our ancestors. We had to be part of the tribe to survive back in the cave days. Living by the rules and living up to expectations pretty much kept us alive.
However, this was needed for survival eons ago. Can we all agree that many present-day expectations are unreasonable and unreal???? Especially when it applies to us women and most especially when it applies to us mothers????
Ufff! The laundry list of what we need to do, be, look like, think, achieve, etc is overwhelmingly long. And when it comes to our kids, it all ends up reflected on ourselves, for better or for worse.
Sadly, motherhood has become extremely polarising. Natural birth vs. C-section. Breastfeeding vs. formula. Co-sleeping vs. sleeping separately. Disposable diapers vs. clothes diapers. And that’s just during the first week of being a mom!
Um. Insanity is what this is.
But somehow, we accept it. And then we do the craziest thing_ we try to actually live up to these expectations.
And so, we suffer in silence, sometimes putting on a brave face that all is well, while we’re really feeling lonely and incompetent because, behind closed doors, reality is crumbling all around us.
Here’s a two-step process to send this nasty impostor syndrome packing.
- Recruit a small group of besties that you have on speed dial or even set up a group chat on your phone. You can call them the Myth Busters, the Rescue Angels, or Fearless Boss Moms. The name is not relevant. The point is that you can depend on these friends to have your back in those moments when you feel in the impostor syndrome funk.
Tell them in advance that their mission, if they so accept it, is to immediately jump in to remind you what a great ____ (fill in the blank) you are the moment you feel you’re drowning in a sea of doubt.
You gain two powerful things from this. By verbalizing it, you take away the power.
Has it ever happened to you that it sounds pretty real in your head, but when you say it out loud, it loses its strength? Voicing our fears and concerns helps put them into context.
And also, your besties may reply with tales of their own woes and struggles. Remember, many of them are also using metaphorical glue in their lives.
By uplifting each other, you’re able to better navigate these challenging times. There IS strength in numbers.
Knowing that someone else is going through something similar brings you back into keeping things within context and not going overboard with your thoughts. Knowing that someone has your back helps you feel like you can tackle whatever life is throwing your way.
The added bonus is that you also strengthen the bond with your besties making the friendship and connection that much more cherished.
- Now on to the fun part. Put on a mask. (I know, within the context of 2021, this needs clarification). A fun mask. Take on a new persona. Reach out for a version of yourself that can face and handle the situation you have doubts and insecurities about. This persona allows us to be whomever we want to be.
In other words, get an Alter Ego. Or an Alter Diva.
After all, Beyonce has Sasha Fierce. Stefani Germanotta becomes Lady Gaga. Jennifer Lopez turns into JLo. Mariah Carey gets to be Mimi.
If you feel like you are struggling and incapable of doing certain things, allow your Alter Diva to take over and let her do it.
This is not about playing pretend or being inauthentic. It’s about finding the essence within you that can tackle the mental (and made up) limitations we have about ourselves.
Our Alter Ego or Diva helps us improve whatever aspect of our lives we find challenging to handle.
Ask yourself: “what is the biggest area of frustration for me right now? Who do I most want to become to help me successfully handle this?” Be as specific as possible. What is that state that you can’t seem to access?
And then get specific about how do you most want to be showing up.
We often know how we need to be and what needs to be done, but we encounter inner resistance. This is where your Alter Ego (or Diva) becomes the connection between you in the present moment and the type of person you want to show up as.
Ready to have some fun? Find out your Alter Diva name below and then invoke it like the Bat-signal in the moments where you’re doubting yourself!
Share with me below the name for your inspirational persona, and I will share mine!