This is my story about how information overload caused me to doubt my abilities as a parent and avoid trusting my own intuition, read on for how things were and how they changed when I minimized information overload in my life.
How information overload affected my life and mental health as a new mother
The first time I went to therapy I couldn’t really even articulate why I was there.
All I knew is that I didn’t really recognize myself anymore, and despite not feeling particularly anxious or depressed, I did know that I wanted to find myself again and I figured trying it out couldn’t hurt.
The first day went pretty much as expected. It felt mostly like a normal conversation about my life, except somehow my therapist managed to cut past all of the facades and masks that I usually held up and get me to share how I *actually* was feeling.
Originally when I went to therapy, I wasn’t going for me. Sure, I had some struggles, but really I was there because of my kids. I just needed someone to teach me how to get them to behave the way I wanted and expected them to. That shouldn’t be so hard, right?
So I’d be in and out in a couple of sessions and with the tips from my all-knowing therapists my kids would be transformed into perfectly behaved little angels.
I still remember the look on my therapist’s face when I told her I was pretty sure my 3-year old was going to end up in jail. I had failed him as a parent, and given his behavior there really was no alternative.
She looked at me and asked, do you *actually* believe that?
I wanted to say no or that I was exaggerating or being sarcastic, and maybe on some level I was, but in all honesty I really believed that to be true.
So my therapist started asking about what my son could possibly doing that would consign him to a life in prison at the age of 3.
So I started telling her all about my child’s behavior. Things like he never listens, or he seems to have a death wish with all of the dangerous things he tries, or a multitude of other complaints that I honestly can’t even remember right now.
I expected her to agree with me. To express shock and horror at my admissions of how my toddler actually behaved, but instead she said. That sounds like pretty normal toddler behavior to me.
Then she asked me why I expected his behavior to be different.
I answered, well I read this book about parenting, and the book said that if I did “xyz” then my child would respond in this way. I did it exactly the way the book said and my child didn’t respond the way he was supposed to. He must be broken.
The ridiculousness of this conversation is very clear to me now. We are (thankfully) humans with agency, and the expectation that I could manipulate my child into complying with the behavior I wanted from him every single time because of something I learned in one book is laughable, but to a mom desperate for solutions and a little more peace, I was clinging to hope that the answers I sought had to be out there somewhere (preferably in this one book I read so I could give up the search and enjoy the ease of parenting now that I had all of the answers).
How information overload can affect us in everyday life
This experience with my therapist was fairly transformative, and honestly had me looking at a number of different areas of my life and noticing the very same thinking patterns.
Some of these things we’ve talked about on the podcast before.
If I tried a new recipe or meal plan for kids and they rejected it, my kids were broken. Or I must have done something wrong.
If I watched webinar promising to triple my instagram followers by taking with 5 steps, and my instagram following stayed the same, then once again I was a failure as an entrepreneur and there must have been something I just wasn’t getting.
The crazy thing, is that often I was seeking out the very information that was making me feel miserable.
I remember countless hours spent rocking a fussy baby at night while simultaneously googling “how to get my newborn on a sleep schedule” or “why does my baby wake up after 15 minutes EVERY nap.”
I would scour the web for every available answer to my question. I’d get tons of conflicting advice and I’d try it all, throw it all at my baby desperate for just a little bit of rest myself.
…and when it didn’t work I would be back to square one wondering WHY I was a failure as a mother and why my kids always seemed to be the different, broken ones.
Obviously this mentality didn’t bode well for my relationship with my children. Feeling like your kid is broken anddoesn’t follow the supposed rules that someone on the internet made up doesn’t exactly create warm and fuzzy feelings towards them. Instead I felt a lot of anger and resentment towards them.
This was completely devastating to me because I had wanted nothing more than to be a mother, and I think like many (most? all?) women I was completely blindsided by what the reality of that was (mostly because of my own expectations) and I also wanted desperately to be at peace with what being a mother was and to find joy in the wonderful gifts that were my children.
So what’s the big problem?
Taking the advice of others constantly, over trusting our own intuition causes us to lose confidence in our abilities as moms to know how to parent our children best
I am obviously pro using good information to make positive changes in our lives. That’s the whole reason I put out this podcast every week. Because growth and change and learning are some of the things I value most in this life.
But the problem is that in this age of information overload (which is definitely a HUGE thing that’s affecting our mental health in a big way, google it for dozens of thoughts on it) I forgot to trust myself first when it came to parenting my children. I forgot that God gave ME these children, not that author that wrote the awesome parenting book. Me. He trusted me with these spirits, but I didn’t trust myself.
I knew that things needed to change, and I’ve been on a several year long journey figuring out what information belongs in my life, and in what quantities.
During the pandemic I really started to notice my phone and the availability of information 24/7 as a major hindrance to progress in this area.
Our phones can be such a wonderful tool to numb out and avoid feeling emotions that we’re struggling with dealing with, but the problem is it’s also introducing new thoughts and emotions for us to deal with at the same time creating a vicious cycle.
I hope I’m not the only mom guilty of feeling that pit in my stomach while reading about something that I should be doing as a mom that I’m not, or even as a member or society, a church member, a community member. There’s always some sort of expectation of us and those expectations seem to be highlighted on social media or on the internet.
Sadly I realized my problem went beyond just social media. I was the queen of surfing the web for the same kind of content, the kind that gave me something to try in my life that made me feel in control only to have it fail and continue solidifying the message that I’d created for myself that I was a failure.
In the last year I was introduced to a few books that validated the thoughts and feelings I’d been having about too much information and ultimately gave me the courage to take a step back and learn to trust myself.
Resources to help conquer Information overload
I highly recommend both of these books, the first is called Digital Minimalism which helps you essentially create boundaries around all digital products in your life.
The second is essentialism which helps you focus on what’s essential in YOUR life instead of just following the norms.
Both books were incredible and I highly recommend both of them.
As far as what that means for my digital life, I set some serious boundaries.
I let go of instagram altogether (I haven’t yet addressed this on the podcast so if you’re a follower and haven’t noticed any new content for awhile, this is why). I deleted all social media from my phone, and even deleted amazon and put a 10 minute timer on the internet browser for a time. I did lots of other things, but how I did it isn’t really important or the purpose of this episode, I really wanted to express to you WHY it’s important for moms that desire more peace to minimize information overload.
So when I started to intentionally filter and minimize how much information came into my life, amazing things started happening.
The most important is that I stopped having expectations of my children (and I let go of a lot of expectations of myself).
When they struggled, I became a sleuth. Instead of thinking of some canned scenario from a book and a less than authentic response I could provide to manipulate my children into behaving a certain way, I started to notice my kid’s struggles. I got to know them better. I wanted to help them behave better for their sake, not just my own.
I noticed the areas where they were missing skills and started to teach them those skills.
At first, their behavior really wasn’t any better, but my feelings about their behavior were better which made a world of difference in my happiness in the home. Eventually, their behavior improved as well because mom wasn’t putting insane pressure on them to succeed and was instead (trying) to listen and trust my instincts as their mother to help them solve their problems.
Things improved in other areas as well. Instead of spending all of my time scrolling (or my time doing things that someone else told me I should be doing) I started to find hobbies again. I realized I absolutely do have time to do simple things that make me happy like play the piano, or bake just for fun, or paint my nails every week.
I stopped feeling the need to fill my life with material things because that’s what some influencer or blogger told me was the best thing.
Ultimately, managing information overload has brought more peace into my life than any other step towards personal growth and development that I can think of.
Are things perfect?
No…there’s still a bunch of questions. How do I continue my business and show up on social media and the internet authentically but also with strict boundaries?
How do I encourage my audience to take the break they need, while also continuing to show up as a leader for them?
How do I entertain myself and feel included with a crowd when I don’t engage in the same activities they do?
There’s a lot to figure out.
Sharing this episode has been a much different format and approach than I usually take, and it honestly has me feeling a little bit vulnerable.
As I share I find myself asking why anyone would care about my personal life or my story. A voice in my head tells me to stay in my lane and to share more recipes or meal prep tips or something.
But I’m sharing this because if I truly want to provide more peace for moms (which I do through meal planning and meal prep) I have to be honest and open about ALL of the things that lead to peace as a mom, and the truth is, while wonderful and helpful meal planning and meal prep are not the WHOLE answer.
I also am sharing in hopes that this message resonates with at least one of you. That it will make one person consider reading one less article or one less book, or one less inspirational but overwhelming instagram post and instead choose to trust your own intuition.
Moms, I know what it feels like to feel like you’re drowning in motherhood. I want to say that I’ve reached the other side and that I’m now a perpetually peaceful mom, but the truth is that I still flounder somewhere between the scattered, uncentered mom and the balanced and peaceful mom on a regular basis.
But this is important. Trust yourselves. Intentionally let some of the well-intentioned but overwhelming advice go and practice trusting yourself and your own intuition in motherhood, and in life.
I know it will make a massive difference and that you will be shocked at the peace that you feel.
I hope you can make this decision before you find yourself in a therapist’s office having completely lost your identity like me. There is wonderful information out there, but you have so much knowledge and intuition in you. Trust that intuition and intentionally avoid information overload
Let some of the information go, and watch yourself shine!
I’d love to hear any insights you have if you do choose to do so!
Next week I want to chat about meal prep and weight loss (and no, I’m not going to give you all the secrets to using meal prep to lose weight. #sorrynotsorry
Instead, I want to talk about why Meal prep for moms is for mental health (not weight loss).
I hope you’ll listen in and see if I can help you change some pre-conceived ideas about what meal prep is all about and learn to use it to improve your mental health!