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Pass the Prozac Please

As I look over this week's schedule, I see it isn’t a particular busy one.

Of course there are three, two-and-a-half-hour practices to get Rachel to and from (add another half-hour commute to this time-slot) as well as the preparation that goes into it: practice sports bra, shorts and t-shirt-check; bow-check; two-hair elastics- check; cheer shoes- check; healthy snack-check; two water bottles-check. Just one item missing and the carefully timed procedure collapses into a panic-laden, voice raising, rush of hide-and-seek throughout the house.

The research, interviews and writing related to CheerMAD.

The coordination of meals and household duties (laundry! I hate laundry!) around the schedule of my 24-year old daughter, who moved back home and is treating her old bedroom like a studio apartment, kitchen, laundry-room and utilities all included.

Pictured is a random note from several years ago scribbled to help me remember where I needed to go.

Fundraising for (obviously we have more than one child in the household to support): cheer, school, scouts, other sports.

Appointments, errands, procedures scheduled and completed. Shopping for groceries and other necessities to keep us going…easy, breezy, a typical week.

There’s close scrutiny of household finances (and other times of the year, of financial aid for my sophomore son in college. For those who have not had the pleasure of applying for financial aid, it's akin to doing your taxes only there's more documentation required). The occasional urgent call from my son to add money into his school account for sundries.

Ah, the phone calls.

The business calls to keep the dream moving.

The ones made to RSVP, to keep connected with friends, to confirm appointments, to cancel appointments and check-ins with my parents made in the carpool line at school or when “waiting” to pick-up Rachel from one of a dozen places she needs to be, at any time, apparently.

After raising three children, the youngest, the aforementioned Rachel, now a Freshman in high school, I’m now on the down-hill side of child rearing. But boy I wish I had a cell phone 15 years ago when I was home-room parent, team mom, assistant brownie leader, CCD (church) teacher, assistant den mother, PTA committee member and head of the annual end-of-year spree day…with a full-time job outside of the house and a less-than helpful husband (now-ex, but that's for another blog). Come to think of it, during an appointment for one of the kids, my answer to the kind doctor's question "and how is Mom doing?" resulted in him writing and I gladly accepting a prescription for prozac.

It was the rare moment that I strayed from my patent answer. Usually when asked "How are you?" my honest reply: “It’s a busy time of life” or my other favorite: "Sleep is highly overrated."

CheerMADs* know this time of year is our “down” time. Even for those with athletes currently in high school cheer, there's nothing as time-consuming as the comp season which will be upon us in a couple of months. We will be home barely long enough to unpack suitcases, wash uniforms, practice gear and our own gym-colored wardrobe and repack suitcases in between travels to (for us, this year) Dallas, Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Providence, Hartford and hopefully, like the last five-years, Disney.

Not only does our schedule get crazier in comp season (last minute extra practices anyone?), we effectively loose two days a week (Friday and Monday) to travel, and are completing all of this olus additional household and business tasks in five days, in the time that the average mom does in seven.

So I can’t imagine life without multi-tasking. My life is one big multi-task.

But today, Tim Elmore, founder of one of my favorite newsletters “Growing Leaders” recommends we all become mono-taskers (DISCLAIMER: Growing Leaders is a newsletter that promotes a "for pay" program called Habitudes. CheerMAD doesn't recommend this program nor does it not recommend it. It's a blog, like many others, that I read for inspiration and ideas). You can read the blog in its entirety here:

And he has data to back it up:

  • MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller reveals that our brains are “not wired to multitask well . . . when people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.”

  • A study at the University of London demonstrated that people who multi-task while performing cognitive tasks experience measurable IQ drops. Believe it or not, the IQ drops were akin to what you see in those who skip a night of sleep or who use marijuana.

  • According to the American Psychological Association 34 percent of Americans say their stress has shot up in the last year, and multi-tasking is the common denominator.

"Most of all, doctors tell us that multi-tasking causes an increase in the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. When our brain consistently shifts gears, it creates stress and tires us out, leaving us feeling mentally fatigued. In addition, the barrage of information is overwhelming. Figuring out what you need to pay attention to and what you don’t can be down right exhausting."

Hmmm, that describes the last decade and a half of my life…

What’s more it’s effecting our children in ways that are harmful to their growing minds and lives:

“Multi-tasking plays a significant role in the anxiety and depression of our youth,” Elmore writes. “A squirt of dopamine is released when we accomplish one of the items on our multi-tasking list. It makes us feel good. We tend to pursue more short-term tasks that give us this dopamine shot, and soon we’re caught up in quantity over quality. We actually work harder, not smarter. And we don’t really focus. We assume we’re doing more and better, but in reality we trade in value for speed and volume."

Many times I find this kind of research validates what I’ve already been experiencing for years. That's because it takes time to research and do studies that the science community can absorb and publish. Before the "experts" verify, I’m always looking for ways to improve my life.

As the main mission of CheerMAD: to support those who support the sport, I offer some options if you are in the midst of the hurriedness of life and the upcoming CheerMADness of the season. Maybe by comp time you will have integrated some of these things, and like our athletes who are practicing for a zero deduction routine, we can be our strongest in mind and spirit to make sure we are at our best to deal with whatever is thrown our way (airplane delays and last-minute cancelations; lost hotel booking, theme practice-wear not communicated, extra practices!, etc).

  • Exercise, rest and healthy diet: not my best practice in life, but I try.

  • Meditation, affirmations, prayer, alone-time. If you don't do it, no one else will for you.

  • Gratitude: The daily practice of “gratitude” has changed my life. It’s a mindset: instead of looking at the pile of dishes in the sink and feeling resentment that no one else has taken the initiative or completed a chore, and “damn it, why am I the only one who does anything around here?!?” It’s looking at that same pile of dishes and thinking “I am grateful that my family has enough to eat today. That I am able to provide for their basic needs. That we have a home to eat in and dishes that need to be washed.”

Ok, that might not be the best example but, honestly, recognizing and consciously being grateful for the good and bad in my life has made a difference. There are lots of groups on Facebook you can join to further accountability, and motivate you to consistently post and I’m fortunate to belong to one whose members are supportive and offer encouragement.

It turns out that the act of gratitude is considered one of the ways to combat "multi-task" overload with “mindfulness” a buzzword these days.

According to Growing Leaders, “mindfulness is clearing one’s mind of the clutter of multi-tasking and focusing on the here and now. It can go as far as deep breathing and meditation, but it can begin by simply pushing 'pause' on the noise and activity of a stressful day." Neuroscientist Moshe Bar, at Harvard Medical School, tells us our brains switch back and forth from activity to recovery mode. Our brains need periods of recovery, but rarely get them. Mindfulness is about consistently choosing to stop our relentless “juggling acts” (multi-tasking) for a specified amount of time—in order for our brains to recover. The benefits are tangible. “The American Psychological Association cites it as a hopeful strategy for alleviating depression, anxiety and pain.” It’s a step to combat the:

  • over-stimulated,

  • over-taxed,

  • over-connected,

  • over-committed,

  • overwhelmed

Over the years, I’ve tried some things that have helped, others not so much. Whether joining a Facebook group, trying yoga, daily meditations, prayer or affirmations- all things that I have incorporated into my life (and I'm no longer on Prozac but there's no shame in taking medicine) I hope something in this article resonates with you and you find relief in this busy, over-scheduled, crazy, multi-tasking, wonderful CheerMAD world!

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