You’re tired of starting each day filled with dread, feeling behind the 8-ball. There is so much on your to do list (and probably more to come). Sure, it’d be nice to have less on the list but more than that, you wish you could get through the day feeling solid instead of buried in stress. Everyone else seems to have it together — why can’t you?
Add to it anxiety and crankiness, which are showing up more and more with your kids in sass, back talk, and fighting. It bites to admit but it’s like they can feel your stress. And you hate that it’s impacting them. Major meltdowns and snapping: This isn’t what you want, this isn’t thriving. You want to start (and end) the day feeling solid and keeping your cool. You also want to teach your kids how to handle the stress and mess of life effectively, but you’re feeling stuck on what else to try besides just trying harder, which clearly isn’t working.
Hey, I’ve been there, too, more times than I can count.
Hi, I’m Robin Massey.
I work with parents who feel stressed out more often than not and wonder if they’re failing because everyone else seems to have it together. (It looks like that from Facebook and Instagram, doesn’t it?)
They feel anxious and hate seeing how it affects their kids, but they’ve got to keep on, just hoping the other shoe doesn’t drop, because there’s always more to do.
I help them get clear on what brings them back from the ledge of “oh shit!” overwhelm, so they can ditch the daily worry, get on with life, and be a positive role model to help their kids thrive.
My Stress Mess
Oh boy, do I know the feelings of stress and that “oh shit!” overwhelm.
Growing up, “try harder!” was my unofficial motto: I tried hard to be a good friend, I did what had to be done to get As in school (no matter how much sleep I lost!), and worked until I was exhausted to succeed in athletics (gymnastics was my world). I tried hard (and then harder and harder) to do everything “right” — and found myself floundering: stressed out and anxious, falling into depression, and struggling with eating disorders by college. I secretly wondered if I was failing because everyone else seemed to have it together.
After four miserable years at Stanford, I graduated with a degree in psychology, hoping my life would finally start coming together and I’d ditch the depression, anxiety, and stress and figure out how to handle life. But things went from bad to worse over the next few years out in the adulting world. If it was even possible, I felt like an even bigger failure, on a hamster wheel I wondered if I’d ever get off. I dreaded each morning and just hoped to make it to the end of the day in one piece (and hate to say it but wine became a go-to to help me forget the stress, at least for a little while, each evening). I couldn’t stop wondering: What’d I do wrong?
Fast forward another five years: I’d now become a stepmom and mom. I led HR teams in the tech world. From my Facebook feed, things looked good. But inside? Nothing had changed — and I felt wound so tightly that I wondered if I was going to snap. Yet now it was worse, way worse, because there were kids in the picture. I hated the idea that my stress, anxiety, and unhappiness might impact them. And I could see that it was starting to.
I’ll never forget the evening I sat down to work yet again (after working a full day at the office). In a daze, I thought about the future — and I couldn’t even picture a future, just a gaping black hole of nothingness. That was scarier than anything I’d encountered before (including deep depression and an attempted suicide in college). I knew something had to change because it couldn’t not, if I wanted something different for myself and my kids, though I had no idea what to do, how to do it, or what it’d take (or look like) to get off the hamster wheel of stress.
I wish I could say that that evening was the aha! moment and I woke up the next morning feeling different, ready to try something different, but that wasn’t the case. The next morning, I woke up the same as always: dreading the to do list for the day — work, home, childcare responsibilities, general existence — and feeling like I was already back on the hamster wheel. However, a crack had been made in my “must try harder!!” approach to life, though I couldn’t yet see a difference.
Around this time I came across the work of Glennon Doyle. As I read her words, I began to feel like maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t quite the failure I’d become convinced I was. That maybe, just maybe, life WAS messy — for everyone — and that I was doing okay in the biggest scheme of things. And that maybe, just maybe, the way to get off the hamster wheel of stress wasn’t some class I’d missed in school or some “there” I needed to work even harder to get to in life. Rather, there were tools (starting with how I was handling the thoughts swirling in my head) that I could learn. No, it might not be easy, but getting off the wheel was doable, learnable, possible.
These ideas, especially that life was messy for everyone, became my go to reminders. I started to feel a little space and hopefulness inside — and things began to (slowly!!) change.
Getting Off the Wheel
As I began to consider that life was messy and I wasn’t a failure, I began to get clear that HR wasn’t what I wanted to do. While I wasn’t totally sure what I did want to do, I could feel the courage to try something different emerge. So, I made the change to quit HR and start my own business.
I started off in the food world: During recovery from my eating disorders, my prior love of making and sharing food (and my closet dream of becoming a chef) had come back into focus. After three years as a personal chef, I transitioned into health coaching. From finding new recipes to make for my clients and trying a ton of new things myself, to discovering one of my kids had severe food allergies and the intense-label reading that followed to ensure his safety, to my own disordered experiences with food and subsequent healing and learning, I’d begun to wonder about food, how we approach it, and how our life choices can hurt OR heal. I learned a lot and realized how much I enjoyed supporting others.
In the meantime, I was learning A TON about myself through parenthood. Because good grief — children were turning out to be the most exacting (and yet useful) teachers I’d ever had. It was like I had these little mirrors following me around, reflecting all of the good — and not so good. When I’d get stressed out? I began to notice how their behavior changed: crying or whining or tantruming. When I’d pick apart how I looked (because part of me still thought I was never good enough) or get into a failure spiral? I couldn’t help but wonder if they’d noticed — and how incredibly sad I’d be if they did the same thing to themselves.
I knew I knew that life was messy — and I hoped they’d never forget this. I also hoped they’d always give themselves a bit of grace and cut themselves some slack. And in this hope, I realized a huge way to help them learn to do so — was to do so myself. So I started trying (in a different way!) to create a more solid and calm foundation for myself. And I began to realize that I no longer dreaded waking up each morning — and hadn’t for a while. Whoa.
A few years later, I took the parental learnings and everything I’d been learning about stress, calm, and health — physical, mental, and emotional — and began to incorporate these ideas into talks, books, and workshops for parents and teens. I hoped to share the useful pieces I’d learned and tools that actually worked.
As I shared more, I began to hear that the stories, ideas, and tools were helping these parents and teens start getting off (or consider the possibility of getting off!) the hamster wheel of stress. I was so happy to hear this. Because I know what it’s like to live on that wheel. And I know the relief that comes in getting off.
Which leads us to…
Today, I get to help parents figure out how to head into their day feeling solid and in control of their cool. And when stress comes up (because life is messy and stress happens)? They are confident about what to do to come back from the ledge of “oh shit!” overwhelm and regain their calm. Even better, their kids are learning how to manage their own stress more effectively and healthfully. And that feels good.
Could you use less stress hamster wheel and more calm and cool?
I’d love that, too. More calm and cool definitely feels better (for everyone!) than more of the stress wheel. Please join us in the weekly calm and cool building love by subscribing to the free weekly newsletter:
About Robin: Trained coach, author, and speaker Robin Massey works with parents (and their kids) to help them get off the hamster wheel of stress. Prior to founding Skip the Box LLC, Robin was an elite athlete (member of the USA Women’s Gymnastics Team), scholar-athlete at Stanford University, and headed up HR programs in tech land. She’s especially proud of her journey through and beyond depression, eating disorders, and related struggles in her later teens and twenties. Life went in directions she’d never have thought — and Robin ultimately made it out the other side in one piece, discovering the power of baby steps and that she was doing okay as a human being (and so was everyone else).
Thank you for telling your story – with courage and vulnerability and wisdom. I ran into a parent, and she told me how much your story meant to her son…to hear a story of someone’s challenges and suffering and recovering and renewal.T