Getting Started with Art Journaling

Recently, as part of my healing from betrayal trauma, I have started an art journal. Now I don’t work in it nearly as often as I’d like, but such is life as a mom of young children. It has definitely been a hugely therapeutic thing for me. I’ve shed tears more than once while creating. I also consider a lot of my digital art therapeutic journaling as well. Added bonus no messy supplies to get out and put away! There’s just something about working with actual medium on paper that is just so healing for me though. Maybe it’s because I’m a little less in control and there’s no undo button.

Getting Started with Art Journaling | The Muchness Mama | muchnessmama.com

What is Art Journaling

Art journaling is simply putting words and images together to express yourself. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. There are no grades. There are no rules. Oh wait there is one rule: there are no mistakes, just happy accidents (yes, I love Bob Ross). Simply use whatever speaks to you to give a visual aspect to the thoughts and feelings inside. Put aside any thoughts of what is right in art. Forget about focal points, color harmonies, balance, unity, or any other “rule” you’ve been taught. Just get your feelings out on paper!

Art journaling has been around since the dawn of time. In fact many of the great artists in history kept these visual journals. The British Library has actually digitized one of DaVinci’s journals and made it available to the public. It is quite fascinating!

Therapists have also found the value in using art to unlock suppressed memories and feelings. It can also help to heal trauma as you process through those feelings in a creative way. By processing using your physical body and incorporating both words and images you use your entire brain. The more of your brain that is activated during therapy the more thoroughly traumatic experiences can be processed. You don’t need a therapist to guide you through art journaling. All you need is a willingness to dig deep and be honest with yourself. Sometimes it helps to have a prompt and other times it’s best to jsut start makign a mess and see what happens.

Art Journaling Supplies

All you need to get started is a writing implement of some sort and a piece of paper. Don’t let a lack of art supplies hold you back! It is far better to do a simple pencil sketch than nothing at all. Of course art journaling is a lot more fun with some color, so here are a few of my favorite things to use.

For starters let’s talk about paper. You can use a basic notebook, but you’re going to be a bit restricted on what you can do with the flimsy paper without destroying it. If you just want to use dry media (pencils, crayons, chalk, pastels, etc) you’ll be fine with a simple sketchbook. If you want to use more paints, glues, and other embellishments you’re going to need a heavier duty paper. A mixed media book is a great choice. If you really love to work with watercolors then it’s even better to get a book with watercolor paper pages.

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Colored pencils are my go to for sketching. I really like that they are hard to erase. It forces me to accept imperfections and mistakes, and allows me to just think about creation rather than perfection. Your basic Crayola pencils that you can get at any grocery store will do just fine. I have also recently discovered and am loving Arteza. They’re a bit higher quality and still a very reasonable price. If you really want to splurge then Prismacolor is the way to go. Their pencils are super soft with vibrant colors that get great coverage and blend beautifully. 

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Watercolors are another fun medium to use. When you think watercolor you’re probably remembering those cheap pan sets from grade school that gave you pale washed out paintings on wrinkly paper. Watercolor is so much more amazing when you have good paints on good paper. For a decent starter set The Artist Loft pan sets are a bit better than the grade school stuff and still very budget friendly. If you want to step up your quality a bit then Sakura Koi, Arteza, Prima, or Kuretake are a great choice. Jane Davenport is another middle of the road brand price wise and I am totally in love with them!  The neutrals pallet is perfect if you want to paint a lot of skin and hair tones. If you really want to get the top of the line watercolors Holbein, Sennelier, and Daniel Smith are all highly recommended. If you want to start out with the higher quality, but still on a small budget you can get individual pans or tubes of the three primary colors along with white and black then mix your own colors. For painting on the go water brushes are awesome! If you really want a good brush at a great price I also really like my Winsor & Newton Cotman brushes.

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In addition to the traditional pan or liquid watercolors you can also play around with watercolor crayons, markers, brush pens, or pencils. There are so many fun and creative ways to use these that would be an entire blog post in itself! Some recommendations for pencils are Derwent, Arteza, or Faber-Castell. For crayons check out Neocolor, or Ranger ink. Sakura Koi and Tombow both make a great felt tip watercolor marker, and I LOVE my Arteza real brush pens.

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If you prefer more control and opacity then Acrylic paints are the way to go. For a simple art journal I haven’t seen a need for anything fancier than the bottled craft paints that you can get at any craft store or Walmart. If you want to do a finished piece to hang you may want to get something a bit nicer and more professional because of their light fastness.

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Washi tape is so much fun! It is easy to reposition and you can get so many fun prints. I may have a slight addiction to washi lol. I like to go to Michaels craft store and check out their bin of individual rolls that are around 3 for $1. Here are a few of my favorite patterns on Amazon as well.

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There are so many other paints, pens, markers, etc. that this post would get WAY too long if I listed them all. Instead I’ll just put a few of my favorites in the product carousel below.

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In the future I’m planning to do more detailed posts on each medium that I use as well as some great art journaling prompts. What other products are you interested in learning about? What are your favorite products for art journaling? Come join the Muchness Mamas on Facebook and lets chat about it! I’ve also created a Pinterest board just for Art Journaling if you’d like to see more tips and inspiration.

What is Betrayal Trauma?

In my previous post I told you that I have betrayal trauma induced post traumatic stress (PTSD), adrenal fatigue, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Some of you may have read that and said “huh? What in the world is betrayal trauma!?” I know that’s what I thought the first time I heard the term. Understanding is the first step to healing, so this post is all about understanding betrayal trauma and it’s affects on the individual and the relationship.

What is Betrayal Trauma? | muchnessmama.com | When you are betrayad by a spouse or caregiver it can leave deep wounds. Did you know that the symptoms of betrayal trauma are the same as the symptoms of PTSD?

Betrayal Trauma Definition

The term betrayal trauma was first introduced by Jennifer Freyd in 1991 at a presentation at Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. According to Freyd “Betrayal trauma occurs when the people or institutions on which a person depends for survival significantly violate that person’ s trust or well-being: Childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse perpetrated by a caregiver are examples of betrayal trauma.” (link) So as a wife of a sex addict I experienced trauma when I discovered the ways in which my husband was acting out. When this trauma hit it was a HUGE betrayal because it felt like there was more harm that could come from confronting and standing up to it than there was in putting my head down, walking on eggshells, and trying to maintain the peace. For me personally betrayal trauma has also been sustained by my husband’s anger management problems in our early years as well. Double whammy!

The Affects of Betrayal Trauma

Freyd further tells us that when trauma involves a betrayal we are less likely to be aware of what is occurring or recall the details. Why? Because when we confront the perpetrator it threatens an attachment that we feel is necessary to our survival. Those awesome survival instincts can kick in and literally erase our memory or change it to make the betrayal seem like less of a threat.  I felt like I was all these monkeys combined into one! I refused to hear or see the abuse in my marriage and definitely terrified to say anything about the things I did notice.

What is Betrayal Trauma? | muchnessmama.com | wife of a sex addict | spouse of an addict | PTSD Joao Tzanno

When our conscious mind is protecting us, and our subconscious mind is screaming that everything is not ok it can lead to some pretty severe problems. In a recent study it was shown that ~70% of wives of sex addicts could be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yep, the same thing that military folk come home with is what traumatized wives deal with. Lucky me, I got both! I will say, however, that my trauma from deployment was VERY minimal to the extent that I didn’t even really realize that it existed for a long time. My betrayal trauma due to addiction has been much more in my face and in control of my life. PTSD comes with a lot of really fun symptoms including:

  • Spontaneous or cued recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic events
  • Recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or affect (i.e. feeling) of the dream is related to the events
  • Flashbacks or other dissociative reactions in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic events are recurring
  • Intense or prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic events
  • Physiological reactions to reminders of the traumatic events
  • Persistent avoidance of distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely associated with the traumatic events or of external reminders
  • Inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic events (not due to head injury, alcohol, or drugs)
  • Persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted,” “The world is completely dangerous”).
  • Persistent, distorted blame of self or others about the cause or consequences of the traumatic events
  • Persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame
  • Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • Persistent inability to experience positive emotions
  • Irritable or aggressive behavior
  • Reckless or self-destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Problems with concentration
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep

Yeah, that’s a lot. All of these symptoms can also take their toll physically. Adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems, joint and/or muscle pain, headaches, weight gain, and even more often manifest themselves when a person is suffering from trauma. “The Body Keeps The Score” is a great book to read if you are more interested in this topic. It’s WAY too much to cover here.

How To Heal From Betrayal Trauma

Quite frequently all these symptoms are lumped into one happy little diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression. Here pop a pill and be on your merry way! While I’m all for medication if and when you need it really healing trauma requires far more than that.

4 Steps for Betrayal Trauma Recovery | muchnessmama.com | you can heal from betrayal trauma, but it requires a lot fo work. Here are 4 important steps to get you started.

First and formost you need to get out of your isolation! That is why I have ripped the curtain off my life and decided to start sharing here, thankfully with my husband’s full support and even cheerleading. You need to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! As I said in my previous post 64% of Christina men admit to at least monthly viewing of pornography. I dont’ think there is a single woman in this world who has not been affected by sex addiction in some way. Whether it’s harassment from schoolmates or coworkers or a deep betrayal of a spouse we’ve all been touched. It is not your fault. You don’t deserve it. You are worthy of love and respect. There are a few different groups out there that you can meet with in person. S-Anon is the partner program to Sexaholics Anonymous. They provide pretty good support, but they follow a codependency model which I believe is very unhealthy, so I would not personally recommend them. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints offers a Spouse and Family Support Group. These meetings are based on some beautiful principles. The leaders, however, are missionaries called by the church. They may or may not have any actual education or experience with trauma. Some meetings can be further re-traumatizing. If your local meeting is not a supportive safe place for you there are many phone meetings to choose from as well. Lifestar and Healing Through Christ are two other groups I am aware of. They both lean towards codependency though, so once again not my highest recommendations. I am also a member of a few different groups on Facebook. Due to the sensitive nature of the topics discussed these groups are secret. If you are interested in learning more about these groups please feel free to contact me. Determined to Rise is also a great resource for connection. I am REALLY looking forward to attending the retreat that they are hosting next month in Utah.

Second, and equally important, is counseling with a qualified therapist. Finding the right therapist can be very difficult. While there are all sorts of certifications you can look for ultimately it all comes down to do they know and understand betrayal trauma. It is also really helpful if they are trained in EMDR and/or neural feedback therapy (more on those in a future post). Both of these help to integrate the mind/body connection and speed up the healing process.  Betrayal Trauma Recovery is an excellent resource for finding a good counselor. They are coaches rather than certified therapists, but they have focused their training on betrayal trauma and most are victims as well. One last note on therapy. NEVER EVER EVER do couples therapy with a man who is still in active addiction. It usually does far more harm than good as it provides a platform for the addict to further abuse you through manipulating and gaslighting both you and the therapist. I would recommend that an addict is working a solid recovery program and attending weekly counseling sessions on their own for at least 3-6 months before you even consider couples therapy. When you do start couples therapy look for a therapist who uses Emotionally Focused Therapy techniques. Addiction is at the root a disease of connection. Learning to reconnect to your own emotions and your spouses in healthy ways is far more important than directly working on any specific marriage issues, especially in the early stages of healing a relationship.

Third, become  a learn it all. No one is ever going to care as much about your healing as you do. Knowledge is power and you need all the power you can get to escape the pit that you find yourself in while dealing with these issues. The first book I would start with is “Your Sexually Addicted Spouse“. If you are dealing with verbal abuse or out of control anger as I was then I would also highly recommend “Why Does He Do That“. For dealing with your own insecurities adn regaining your individuality and muchness anything by Brene Brown is pure gold. I’m currently working through “The Gifts of Imperfection” book via the art journaling class.

Fourth is some solid self-care and self-love work. Self-Care is NOT selfish! You matter. You are important. You can not give to others what you don’t have for yourself. Your capacity to love others, including and even especially your own family, is limited by your ability to love yourself. If you struggle with this I would encourage you to find ten minutes every day where you can just do something you love. Take a walk, do some art, sing in the shower, just do whatever makes you happy. Then look in the mirror and say to yourself “I am a beloved child of God with infinite potential. I am worthy of love. I love you Emily!” Please put your own name in there though. While I do enjoy adoring fans this is about you.

What is Betrayal Trauma | muchnessmama.com | Positive Affirmations | you are beloved | Child of God

Are you or a loved one suffering from Betrayal trauma? What more do you wish you knew about it? I’d love to see you over in my Muchness Mamas group on Facebook where you can discuss this and other topics in a group of supportive and understanding women.

 

Military Suicide- It isn’t Just About War

Lately I have been reflecting on my own military service as well as that of my husband. I joined the Marine Corps straight out of high school and served for eight years. My husband waited a little longer to join, he was a few years out of school, and served for 7.5 years. We met while serving and had our first two children together while on active duty. My husband is now currently serving in the National Guard.

We are both proud of our time in the service. We accomplished difficult things. We deployed to Iraq. We were part of something bigger than ourselves. We were willing to die for our country. This is all well and good, but what you don’t hear from today’s veterans, and what you probably don’t want to hear, is that there is a dark side to service.

The military is one of the most emotionally unwell places that I have ever seen. My time in the service was very dark both emotionally and spiritually. The decisions in my life that I most regret were a result of trying to fit in and be a part of the military culture. It was the polar opposite of the values I had been raised with. The incongruity between my actions and what I knew to be right caused me to struggle with depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.

anxiety, depression, military service, military suicide, suicide,

 

Did you know that roughly 22 veterans commit suicide every day? Some articles will try to tell you that this is a trumped-up statistic as the majority of veterans are older. They say these veterans shouldn’t count because their reasons for suicide are the same as any other civilian of that age. Sorry “experts” I don’t buy into that. Military service affects you in a way that never leaves you. It is especially powerful if you have been in active combat. Just because you fight you demons off for years it that doesn’t mean that or that your suicide is now unrelated to those demons.

Why is it that mental issues like depression, anxiety, and even suicide are so common among military members? Well I can’t say it any better than my husband did on a recent Facebook post where he accepted a challenge to do 22 push-ups to raise awareness for veteran suicide:

I wanted to accept this challenge because what I can do to raise awareness is to talk about my experience in the active duty ranks of the military. If we want to see a reduction in suicides, we need to address the culture of the military that pressures service members to be supermen and women without feelings. We need to hold military leaders’ feet to the fire with the claim that they care about families. To the military, caring about families means spending money on them when it should mean creating an environment in which the family member who serves is not destroyed by the pressures of the job. We need to transform the culture that celebrates pornography, promiscuity, and alcoholism into one in which service members can feel it’s normal, okay, and healthy to seek help in overcoming problem behaviors. While service members do have access to chaplains and mental health professionals, they are often called names and counseled that their careers will suffer if they use those resources. Leaders don’t want their people to have problems, be weak, or discuss poor leadership with anyone outside the chain of command.

If you think military suicides are a problem, they are just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is that the American military is the most mentally unhealthy, destructive place on the planet. Going after suicides can and should only lead to the discovery that the problem is much deeper, much bigger than gets reported in the news. If you want to solve this problem, you have to be committed to going all the way. So called “suicide awareness” campaigns are only a last-ditch effort to prevent the consummation of a tragedy that has been building for months and years in the minds of affected service members. Our young people suddenly leave families and friends, endure the pressures of basic training, and enter a world in which power-hungry, ego-tripping maniacal senior leaders bark orders ad nauseam with no (or feigned) regard for the well-being of their subordinates—to say nothing of the horrors of war many of them experience. After work, these young people live in a world where sex and alcohol are easy to find and seemingly limitless. With young people beginning their lives away from home this way—essentially living like college students with the added dangers of a high-stress job, less supervision, more freedom, and more money to spend—it is no wonder so many of them can’t handle it. I’m proud of my military service and what my brothers and sisters in arms have accomplished for this country, but there is much work to be done. Yes, suicides are a problem, but at the root of that problem is the destructive culture. The problem will continue until the root is cut.

About 3 years into my first enlistment I went to see a counselor to address my depression. I had one appointment. When requesting further appointments I was told I had to schedule them during non-work hours. My command would not excuse my absence from work for a 1 hour counseling appointment. The counselors business hours were the same as my work hours. No more counseling for me. When my husband once sought some anger management classes he was advised against it because it could negatively impact his career. It wasn’t until the cops were called and a judge ordered counseling that they helped him get it. When a young Marine I was in charge of took rat poisoning trying to end his life our Staff Sergeant said “If he really meant it he would have succeeded. Don’t worry about him. I’ll straighten him out.” He was then moved to another direct supervisor because they thought I was babying him by showing concern. I spent many hours sitting and talking with those who had nowhere else to turn with their problems. When I left the Corps a few Marines commented that I should be called Mama Smith instead of SSgt Smith. I was an oddity because of the level of true compassion I learned to show towards my Marines. While my junior Marines appreciated me my superiors didn’t like me at all. “They’re tough, they don’t need you treating them like sissies”. When a fellow Marine asked those sharing his changing area to remove a pornographic poster that was on the wall he was ignored and ridiculed for the rest of his time in the unit. I could go on and on.

The fact is that the Military is a dark place full of unhealthy attitudes and behaviors. If you don’t conform to their beliefs then you are an outcast, often ridiculed and unjustly persecuted. Add in the pressures of war and the effects of PTSD and it’s no surprise that so many veterans, especially those who were raised with much higher moral standards, are struggling with mental illness and suicide.

So what can we do about it. Unfortunately I haven’t found a way to influence a culture change. What I can do is support those organizations who try to assist veterans overcome the problems that their service has created. At the top of my list is The Valhalla Project. The Valhalla Project is a 200-acre pilot property in the Ozark mountains with homesteading programs for post-9/11 military veterans. It is a retreat and reintegration facility for post-911 combat veterans and war zone civilian workers transitioning back into the civilian world. They work the land as a form of therapy to help deal with the trauma that they have experienced. One of the best ways to help them is to check out their critical needs wishlist on Amazon and send them a gift. You can also follow them on Facebook to be updated on any needs, and share their message with others. Direct donation via Paypal is also available on their blog.

Here are some other organizations who are fighting the mental health battle against veteran suicide:

Do you know a veteran or are you a veteran with mental health issues related to your service? Do you know of any additional resources for those who want to be part of the solution? Please share your stories and resources in the comments below. 

Blogging Boot Camp

I’ve been blogging off and on since 2010. I’ve read lots of books, talked to lots of people, and joined lots of Facebook groups. There are two things that have helped me more than anythign else. First was personal coaching with Christine Tremoulet. You can read all about her awesomeness on my Smith Squad blog. Second is Blogging Boot Camp with Brenda Ster.

Brenda is the owner of the company “The Sassy Suite” which she started to help direct sellers excel in their business without annoying all their friends with spammy marketing tactics. She has some absolutely amazing classes on using social media to sell. Two of the many I’ve taken that I loved are the Suite Success with Instagram video course and the Winning with Pinterest video course. My absolute FAVORITE course is blogging boot camp. In fact The Muchness Mama wouldn’t exist without Blogging Boot Camp. I was a member of Blogging Boot Camp 5.

The best part of this Blogging Boot camp is that they help you with both the technical and the artistic details of creating and maintaining your blog. They don’t just set it up and leave you high and dry to figure out the rest. This course is completely comprehensive on how to use wordpress, pick and change themes, customize themes, come up with content ideas, create basic graphics, etc. Best of all you get tons of help from the other students and the instructors in a private facebook group as well as assistance and feedback from the community at large in a closed Facebook group. I can’t say enough about how fun and helpful Brenda, Wendy, Hope, and the other instructors are. I’d honestly say this course is worth double what they charge.

If you are ready to revolutionize your business, reach new costumers, become an influencer, share your message, and get found on Google the Blogging Boot Camp is the way to do it. Simply click the image below to get more details and get started.

Sassy Suite Blogging Boot Camp

The 5 Love Languages- Understanding How We Give and Receive Love

Have you ever struggled with feeling like you are loved and appreciated in your marriage, parenthood, friendship, or other relationship? On the flip side have you ever felt like you were showing an overwhelming amount of love only to have someone tell you that they don’t feel appreciated? You might be dealing with a love language barrier. Have you heard of the five love languages before? You can learn all about them in the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman, but here’s a little summary for you.

The Five Love Languages | muchnessmama.com | Quality Time | Words of Affirmation | Gifts | Physical Touch | Acts of Service | Relationship advice | marriage | Couples Therapy

A Summary of the Five Love Languages

The love languages are the ways in which we both give and receive love. They are physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and quality time. You both receive and give love through these languages. Pretty much everyone has 1-2 dominant languages. Some people speak the same language as they hear, while others speak and hear different languages. If you aren’t sure what your language is check out this quiz.

The Five Love Languages | muchnessmama.com | Quality Time | Words of Affirmation | Gifts | Physical Touch | Acts of Service | Relationship advice | marriage | Couples Therapy

Are You Speaking Your Loved Ones’ Language?

While knowing your own love language can be very insightful, it is also important to know what the dominant language is for those you love. Whether it’s a spouse, friend, or child if you really want to show them the most love possible you have to speak their language. What is an amazing gesture for you may fall flat if you do the same for a spouse. By not speaking in their language, or worse by punishing in their language, you can really inhibit their ability to feel loved. For example if you have a child who has the dominant love language of words of affirmation a critical statement can cut them far deeper than it may a different child. If your spouse’s love language is acts of service and you are constantly asking them to serve you without returning the favor then their love bank will go into the negative pretty quickly.

The Five Love Languages | muchnessmama.com | Quality Time | Words of Affirmation | Gifts | Physical Touch | Acts of Service | Relationship advice | marriage | Work Relationships

Can You Hear What Others Are Saying?

Even more important than learning to speak another language is learning to hear the language that they are speaking. As an acts of service person it is sometimes hard to feel love from my kids. I mean come on, how often do small children spontaneously clean the bathroom or fold the laundry? I need to learn to hear in the way that they do say I Love you to me. The hugs and kisses, the weeds (flowers) brought in from outside, the pictures they draw just for me. I have the choice to sit here and feel sorry for myself that no one appreciates me because if they did they’d help out with the housework more, or I can choose to feel loved by all the little things my kids do every day that say I love you to me. It’s easy to do with my kids. It’s harder to do with my husband. He’s a grown-up afterall. I should be able to tell him my love language and have him just give me what I want right? Nope. Just like learning Spanish Chinese, Russian or Arabic it takes work to learn to speak a new language, and some languages are harder for us than others. My husband is a words of affirmation adn physical touch kind of guy. I’ve had to learn to accept those things from him as signs of love as well as communicating to him when I really just need a service done for me.

The Five Love Languages | muchnessmama.com | Quality Time | Words of Affirmation | Gifts | Physical Touch | Acts of Service | Relationship advice | marriage | Friendship

Focus on Giving, Not Getting

As a child I was primarily a physical touch speaker adn receiver. I was constantly wanting to be hugged and cuddled. I always wanted to give my friends hugs. I liked to roughhouse. Hubs and I should make a perfect match then, right? Being as we’re both physical touch people. Nope. While discussing love languages a few days ago I had the realization that physical touch is actually second lowest on my list right now. What changed? I realized that it had dropped lower and lower as I felt like physical touch was taken from me rather than freely given. The touches between my husband and I had become focused on him taking what he needed to feel loved, not giving me what I needed. For example he would try to grab me for a big hug and kiss and let’s just hold each other for a few minutes when I was in the middle of cooking dinner and worried that things were going to burn if I didn’t attend to them immediately. I began to resent his physical touch rather than treasuring it. As we have been researching a lot about bonding behaviors he has started using physical touch as a way to give, not just take. Now he does things like give me a massage when my shoulders hurt from carrying a grumpy baby all day, brush my hair, simply sit close enough to touch shoulders at church. By focusing his physical touch on giving not only is he helping me feel more loved and respected, but he’s finding that I am much more ready and willing to speak his love language and engage in nourishing physical touch with him rather than trying to push him away out of irritation. On the flip side I also find that the more I go out of my way to serve my husband (my primary love language, acts of service) he naturally returns the favor. As we’ve each focused more on giving we’ve allowed the other to do the same and we are both finding our love buckets are much fuller than they were when we were both just trying to get what we needed.

The Five Love Languages | muchnessmama.com | Quality Time | Words of Affirmation | Gifts | Physical Touch | Acts of Service | Relationship advice | marriage | Parenting

Learning More About the Five Love Languages

Gary Chapman has written several books about this topic. Start off with the basic book “The Five Love Languages” which will guide you through each language and teach you how you can both give and receive in each language. After that there are several books that are directed at specific audiences such as military, children, singles, men, and teenagers. Dr. Chapman has also written several other great relationship books which you can view here. Don’t forget to check out the official Five Love Languages website and Dr. Chapman’s Facebook page as well.

Do you know what your love language is? How has knowing yours and loved ones love languages helped you or how do you think it can help you in the future? Come join the Muchness Mamas Facebook Community to join in on the conversation.

Weak Things Become Strong

We all have weaknesses. Character flaws, not yet achieved ambitions, desires to do or be better. We also all have strengths. A big part of self-love and self-care is being able to accept our current state of being while still pushing forward to always be better. With that intent we often quite vigorously hunt for our weaknesses, catalog them, make goals for change, collect accountability partners, then proceed to beat ourselves up over our perceived imperfections and lack of acceptable progress. We all know that God can make weak become strong. He can change and refine us to be more than we ever could on our own.

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What if we changed our perspective a bit? Maybe the things we consider weaknesses can actually be our greatest strengths WITHOUT being changed. Maybe with some things exactly who we are is exactly who God wants us to be.

I was first introduced to this idea when I read the book “Parenting the Ephraims Child” by Jaime Theler and Deborah Talmagde. In this book they talk about traits that are often considered weaknesses in children and challenges parents to reframe them and strengths in need of refinement. For example stubbornness is VERY annoying when your 3-year-old won’t stay in their bed. That same trait, however, can lead them to say no when they’re a teen and their friends offer them drugs or alcohol. A child who is very sensitive and always having hurt feelings can become incredibly compassionate and charitable. 

Weak Things Become Strong | muchnessmama.com | self love | make your weaknesses strengths | weak things of the world | you are unique

Take a moment a jot down a list of your perceived weaknesses. If you’re anything like me things like eating healthy, exercise, yelling at the kids, etc. might be on your list. Some things really are just weaknesses that need to be improved on. What things are on your list that maybe could be strengths if just refined a little? I’ll give you one of mine as an example. I am a very easily distracted person. I have a hard time sitting and completing a task all in one go. I’ve started, stopped, and restarted this blog post three times now! I’ve always thought my lack of singular focus was a weakness. Then I started to really think about why I was so distracted. It was because I was acutely aware of what was going on around me. This awareness leads me to notice things that need to be done, and often allows me to bless others. I am aware of the woman sitting on the edge of the room alone who looks like she may need a friend. I’m aware of the person in a wheelchair coming up behind me who may appreciate having a door opened. I am aware that a child is struggling with a task that they haven’t thought to ask for help with. This awareness allows me to bless others. This awareness also made me a really good intelligence analyst in the Marine Corps. My husband really appreciates it when we are watching movies with complicated story lines and I can point out the small details he missed that pull everything together.

God made each of us unique. We all have different talents and abilities. There is no one else on this earth who has the exact same mix of strengths and weaknesses as you. You aren’t a mistake or an accident. He created each of us quite intentionally. I would challenge you to take some time this week and identify those things that you have perceived as weaknesses that could become your greatest strengths. Celebrate who you are instead of comparing to others and wishing that you had their talents. Now take your newfound strengths out into the world for a test drive and let me know how it goes.

Paparazzi accessories $5 "I am Strong" necklace | muchnessmama.com | self-love | self-care

Come join our Muchness Mamas Facebook community and share what weaknesses turned strengths you’ve identified. We’d love to hear your stories of how you have used them to bless yourself and others.

The Leaky Bucket-Managing Your Daily Energy Reserves

I had always imagined my energy reserves as a big metal bucket full of water. This bucket had holes all over the bottom constantly spitting out water as a small stream ran in. In my little mental cartoon I was manically trying to plug as many holes as I could to make sure my bucket didn’t drain faster than it could fill. As you can imagine that was a rather messy and quite impossible task.

managing your daily energy reserves | mucnessmama.com | introvert | extrovert |energy draining | energy filling | leaky bucket

Then I watched “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life” with Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans on CreativeLive. They had the students make a chart. On the chart they were supposed to list their top 10-15 tasks that they typically did every day. Then they were supposed to use a bar to represent whether that task was energy filling or energy draining. Make sure to really think about this part. Draining doesn’t always mean unpleasant. I LOVE our weekly homeschool coop meetings. Being surrounded by 20-30 noisy kids for ~3 hours is still VERY draining for an introvert mom, no matter how much fun we are having. What they said next surprised me. I thought they were going to talk about how to get rid of or reduce the energy draining activities, AKA plugging the holes in the bucket. Instead they started to brainstorm on how you could manage your overall energy reserves by either changing the draining activity to a filling one, or creating a fill-drain-fill sandwich.

Changing an Energy Drainer to a Filler

So how do we CHANGE that draining activity into a filling activity? One example they gave was the daily board meeting. Instead of having it in the boardroom why not meet at the coffee house around the corner before going in to work and have some drinks and snacks while you talk? For those of us who stay at home why not turn on your favorite dancing music and sing along while doing dishes? By pairing a draining activity with a filling one your total energy balance after the activity will be much higher than before.

The Energy Fill Sandwich

What do you do when you can’t change an activity to make it less draining and more filling? Bill and Dave suggested the fill-drain-fill sandwich. In a work setting maybe you go for a short walk before the awful board meeting then treat yourself to a yummy healthy lunch afterwards. At home you may have hot shower, do the house cleaning, then take a quiet moment to read a book. By sandwiching a draining activity in between two filling activities you make sure your bucket is overflowing before it starts draining and then replenished after it’s drained.

Balancing the Fill and Drain Rates

While getting rid of energy draining activities certainly helps self care isn’t all about getting rid of the things that drain you. Fact is there are certain draining things that just have to be done. Living life drains energy. It’s just impossible to plug every hole in the bucket. When I started to shift my focus from plugging holes to increasing the water flowing in my energy level has gotten and stayed higher throughout the day. Instead of a 2 hour laundry marathon I now write a blog post (energy filling), fold a basket or two (majorly energy draining), then take some time to do a little art. I’ve been able to enjoy my kids more, feel more satisfied with my life at the end of the day and I find that I am getting a LOT more accomplished. Washing dishes doesn’t seem like quite the same torture it was before when I know my calligraphy pen is waiting for me when I’m done. The best part is that when the unexpected drains occur (three year old temper tantrums come to mind) my energy reserves are higher allowing me to better handle stressful situations.

What are your biggest energy drains and fillers? What can you do to restructure your activities or schedule to better regulate the flow of incoming energy adn keep your bucket full? Come join the Muchness Mamas Facebook community to continue the discussion!

Filling Your Bucket with Drops of Awesome

If you are anything like me then most days you go to bed with with a mountain of regrets and a long list of to-do’s that never got done. It’s a little bit too easy to get lost in the negative self-talk of “I’m a failure!” What if instead every night you focused on counting your drops of awesome?

What are drops of awesome? Well they are all the successes, big and small, that you have every day. Stop to think about it and I bet your list gets pretty long, even longer than the failures. Each positive action is a tiny drop of awesome that you get to put in your Super Mom bucket. I bet you’ll find that you need to upgrade to a bigger bucket once you give yourself permission to recognize and celebrate them. Check out the book by Kathryn Thompson on Amazon.

Drops of awesome | MuchnessMama.com | self-care | self-love | you are enough

 

Collect Your Drops of Awesome

Did your kids get fed today? Drop of awesome!

Did you snuggle a sad child? Drop of awesome!

Did you count to 5 and talk calm when you wanted to yell? Drop of awesome!

Helped a child with a school assignment? Drop of awesome!

Pregnant or breastfeeding? Drop of awesome, or maybe ten!

Created something just for yourself? Drop of awesome!

Mopped the floor, that has been dirty for a week or two? Drop of awesome!

Put on real clothes AND brushed your hair? Drop of awesome!

It would be really easy to look at all these moments and say “Suzie homemaker NEVER feeds her kids cereal!” or “Why should I be proud that I procrastinated the dishes until I ran out and had to use paper plates for the third meal in a row?” or “I’m so selfish for ignoring my kids for 5 minutes!” That kind of negative thinking can not only destroy you, but it makes it even harder to succeed tomorrow. YOU ARE ENOUGH!! 

I am enough | muchnessmama.com | self care | self love | drops of awesome | supermom

Focus on the Positive

I have a challenge for you. Get yourself one of those little click counter things. Every day for the next week after you get it carry it around and give yourself a click each time you collect a drop of awesome. At the end of the day write down a few of them in your journal. At the end of one week I bet you will be amazed at how much focusing on your awesome seriously improved your mood and self worth.

YOU ARE AWESOME!!

Why not start here and now collecting your drops? Head on over to our Facebook Community and wave your brag flag by telling us all about today’s drops of awesome.

You Don’t Have to Enjoy Every Minute of Motherhood

“The time will pass so fast. Just enjoy every minute!”

I call big fat BULL$***!!

You Don't Have to Enjoy Every Minute | muchnessmama.com | motherhood is hard | self-care | self love |

Are you seriously telling me that I should enjoy rinsing poop out of my three-year-old’s underpants? I should be whistling a happy tune while scrubbing the make-up off my walls? I should be in the throes of euphoria while repeating “JUST PUT YOUR SHOES ON!!” for the tenth time when we are now ten minutes late getting out the door? Or do you think I should be laughing through every moment my baby screamed and there was nothing I could do to comfort him?

Nope. I don’t buy it. Life is full of all sorts of emotions, and none of them are bad, shameful, or to be avoided. Stop telling moms to stuff their feelings!

Instead let’s tell moms that it’s ok to feel however you feel, this too will pass, and everything will be ok.

Your nipples hurt every time that little chomper needs to eat and it sucks.

Your baby will stop crying eventually and you are not a failure if you feel like ripping your ears off while you wait.

Your hormones are totally out of whack and your emotions may not make sense, get some drugs if you need them!

Lack of sleep is the pits! Being a Mombie is miserable. It’s ok to take a nap instead of washing the dishes and serve dinner on paper plates.

Just don’t bother repainting the walls, they’ll just color on them again. Sorry, you won’t have anything nice that stays that way until you have no more toddlers.

Waiting it out is sometimes the best you can do. You’re still a rockstar.

Toddlers asking the same question for the ninth time are very annoying. It’s ok to be irritated, just try not to be mean when you tell them to please just stop talking!

You don't Have to Enjoy Every Minute | muchnessmama.com | toddler tantrums | motherhood is hard
Mommy took the bag of marshmallows away after she worked so hard to climb up to where mommy thought they were out of reach.

It’s ok not to worry about the dead cockroach on the floor before taking a picture to show your husband (and all of social media too) just how much your day is totally sucking.

Give yourself permission to hate this moment. Cry through it if you need to. Get out for a bit if that’s what it takes. Go ahead and throw that underwear in the trash because you just can’t handle washing one more pair. Eat some chocolate while hiding in your closet. Then pull up your big girl britches and get back to work. Because it is work. It’s rewarding and fulfilling, but it’s still work. It’s going to be ok.

Feeding your child can become a joyful bonding experience, even if it’s because you switched to a bottle.

Your baby will finally smile with tears in their eyes and completely melt your heart.

Hormones will balance and emotions will stabilize.

You will eventually have more time to sleep than you know what to do with.

Some day you can have white walls and carpet if that’s your desire without danger of markers grape juice destroying them.

You’ll make it. You’ll still be a rockstar. You’ll miss those sticky little monsters, but you won’t miss every single moment, and that’s ok.

What are your favorite, and least favorite, parts of being a mom? Come join the Muchness Mamas Facebook community and let’s chat about it! 

 

Stop Stuffing- There are No Bad Emotions

One of the biggest lies that society tells us is that some emotions are not ok.  We need to just get rid of these so-called bad emotions as soon as possible.

“Don’t cry”

“Don’t let him get to you!”

“Don’t waste your time being angry”

“Just get over it!”

“Toughen up!”

“Choose to be happy!”

There are No "Bad" Emotions | muchnessmama.com | negative emotions | controlling your feelings | stuffing emotions | healthy emotions | emotional health

Believing these lies has turned me into a chronic stuffer. The problem is that stuffed feelings don’t fizzle out. They just grow bigger and bigger until they explode in a big, messy, damaging, chaotic way. I’m walking around like an active volcano. Nobody knows precisely when the top will pop, but we all know it’s going to happen at any time!

Stuffed Emotions Lead to Explosions

In marriage it looks something like this. He didn’t fill the car up with gas on the way home, it’s ok I can do it at this ridiculously inconvenient time and be late to my meeting. (smoke starts leaking a bit) He said something very hurtful. It’s ok I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way I won’t say anything. (maybe the ground gives a little tremble) He didn’t call when he was running late AGAIN. It’s ok we all make mistakes. (smoke is getting a bit heavier now) He spent money we didn’t have on something we didn’t need. It’s ok, he earns the money so he should be able to do what he wants. (now the ground is really shaking). “OH MY GOODNESS WHY DO YOU NEED THE MUSIC SO FLIPPING LOUD. DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT MY EARDRUMS MUCH LESS MY SANITY!!! YOU KNOW I HATE LOUD MUSIC. YOU ARE SO BLEEPING INSENSITIVE. I CAN’T BELIEVE I MARRIED SUCH A SELFISH JERKFACE! WHY DO YOU HATE ME SO MUCH. I KNOW YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT ME AT ALL. YOU’RE JUST PRETENDING TO LOVE ME SO I WON’T LEAVE YOU!!”

Ok maybe it’s not always quite that dramatic, but you get the point.

Embrace the Negative Emotions

Well what if we learned to embrace those so-called bad emotions? What if as a society we could give each other permission to just feel what we feel without qualifiers or judgment? Research actually shows that there are a lot of negative consequences for stuffing emotions such as emotional pain and isolation, headaches, heart disease and cancer! There are also positive benefits to embracing our negative emotions. People who are able to recognize, communicate and deal with their negative emotions are more resilient in life, overall more positive people, and tend to live longer.

Now embracing negative emotions doesn’t mean that you wallow in self-pity, shame, doubt or fear. What it does mean is that you acknowledge the truth of how you feel, communicate it to others, then use it to propel you into positive solutions.

There are No "Bad" Emotions | muchnessmama.com | negative emotions | controlling your feelings | stuffing emotions | healthy emotions | emotional health
Feelings are natural. What you do with them is a choice. ~Mel Robbins

Recognizing Emotions

The first step in emotional health is being able to recognize what emotions you are feeling. Anger is probably the most easy to identify, but it is usually only a secondary emotion. Anger is usually a result of fear, shame, guilt, disappointment, etc. Being able to recognize the true underlying emotion is crucial to addressing it. In my example above not only was I feeling pent-up emotions from stressors I hadn’t discussed with my husband I was also feeling a deep sense of disrespect and fear. When my needs have been communicated (I REALLY hate loud noise to the point it feels like someone is pounding nails into my brain) and they are going unmet I feel disrespected. In combination with that I have a fear that disrespect=no love and no love means he is going to leave me. By addressing those real emotions I can sidestep the anger and simply talk to him about my hurt and fear.

Give Yourself Permission to Feel How You Feel

Remind yourself that there is no such thing as a wrong or bad emotion. Everyone has them. They are an essential part of our make-up as human beings. They serve an important function in helping us course correct our lives and protect us from dangerous or unhealthy situations. Give yourself permission to lean into the feelings, explore them, and understand them instead of running from them. Seek to understand the deeper emotions and situations that have led you to where you are. Have a good cry. Punch a pillow. Go do some target practice. Go for a walk. Write in your journal. Take time to allow yourself to just feel what you feel and be ok with it.

Communicating Emotions

Next you have to be able to communicate what you are feeling. This is the hard part for us chronic stuffers. By communicating our feelings we are opening ourselves up to all sorts of scary reactions. We may be judged, rejected, dismissed, etc. It is important to have a safe person or people who you can talk to about how you feel without fear of negative fallout. If the person who caused the hurt isn’t safe then reach out to a friend, family member, or support group for help. Even if a person isn’t currently super safe you can create a safe environment for emotional sharing, even if it’s something you’ve never done before. My husband and I were able to do this with a therapist who was trained in emotionally focused therapy. Of course it takes two to tango and sometimes you just have to accept that the person will never be safe and put up your boundaries.

Reframing Negatives Into Positives

Now it’s time to take those uncomfortable feelings and use them to actually help us feel better! All this takes is a little bit fo reframing and focusing on moving forward. Guilt or shame can become compassion and caring as we try to make restitution for our wrongs. Anger can become courage and determination as you work on correcting the injustice that you see. Fear can bring you focus and alertness in dealing with the problems you face. Boredom can lead to periods of creativity. Frustration can propel you to make a change. Jealousy can be turned into admiration and create feelings of respect and friendly competition.

Allow the Good and Bad to Co-exist

The number one thing I am still working on is allowing my negative feelings to coexist with my positive ones. Have you seen the movie Inside Out? If not go watch it now.  I’ll wait…… OK well at least watch this scene:

The thing that makes the memories beautiful is allowing the sadness (and any other bad emotion) we feel to propel us into greater connection. Ultimately the entire purpose of this life is for us to connect intimately with each other. To be part of a family, biological or one you create. We can’t connect without vulnerability. We can’t be known by others unless we know ourselves. We can’t know ourselves if we aren’t willing to feel the full range of emotions that is present in every day.

I would love to hear your thoughts on stuffing, “bad” emotions, and using negative feelings to propel us into positive directions. Comment below or join the community on Facebook.

The Muchness Mama | Slay the jabberwock | Rediscover wonderland | self care | self love