Tools In My Box or Embrace the Woo: An Introduction

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Tools In My Box or Embrace the Woo: An Introduction

We all have tools in our box. What I mean is each of us has certain things we do to help us cope when we feel stress. Some of us grab a glass of wine or drink beer in the shower. Others shop or watch endless hours of tv. I know people who hit the gym to let off steam and others who say that spending an hour in a yoga class makes all the difference in the world.

None of these things are necessarily good or bad in and of themselves. It’s only when the thing we are doing begins to prevent us from accomplishing our dreams or negatively effects our health and finances or starts to harm our relationships with family and friends that we have to step back and decide if it’s a behavior we want to continue.

Many years ago, as the mother of three small children living in Knoxville, Tennessee, I developed a shopping problem. Knoxville’s weather pretty much sucks year round. Summer’s are fraught with humidity and thunderstorms and winter’s are dank and gray. Spring brings some of the the coldest weather of the year and fall’s rotting leaves set off my mold allergies. Did I mention the mosquitos? Yep, we had those too.

Many of my days were tedious at best. To break the monotony of changing diapers, wiping noses, and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I would load the kids up in the mini van and head to West Town Mall or Target. In that climate controlled, bug free environment, the kids were entertained and distracted and I got a temporary reprieve from my domestic duties.

While we pushed up and down the aisles, I’d spot a dress that was perfect for my daughter, see dish clothes to replace the ones with holes, or pick up new socks for my husband. I’d grab some laundry detergent and a pair of shoes for myself and $50 or $75 or $100 later, I was on my way home.

I always had coupons and I always shopped sales. I always bought things we really, really needed. It was all good.

Except that by doing this once or twice weekly over a period of months, I found that I had run up some considerable credit card debt. Honestly, I was stunned. How could my forays to “gather” the things we needed have caused this problem?

For weeks, I went through bank and credit card statements. I started monitoring my spending carefully. I started asking myself the question, “what is enough?” I changed my shopping behavior and I paid down the debt.

Most important, I recognized that the shopping was my way of escaping from the stress of being mom for a bit. In a store, I could distract myself. Buying stuff was fun. I got a little rush from that new set of note cards. I could dream about the family home I was going to decorate, how cute the kids would look in their new clothes, and how happy they’d be reading the book I just bought.

As I combed through the statements, I realized what I really needed was a break from being mom. So, I enrolled my kids in a great mother’s day out program where they could safely play for a few hours each week. I found an amazing sitter with a flexible schedule who could help out from time to time. Finally, I started doing production work for television commercials where I could spend a couple of days each week earning money and hanging with people who didn’t want to talk about children’s bowl movements, Barney, or teething.

Now when I shop, I do it because I need something. I have my target items firmly in mind and a set budget in place. I hit the store, look for what I need, and leave as soon as I find or don’t find it. There is no more wiling the hours away as I distract myself from the stress of my days.

I wish I could say that this was the only negative coping pattern which I’ve fallen into. I wish I could say from this point forward I found lots of positive ways to hadle my stress. Sadly, that’s not the case. While I extinguished this one particular negative habit, there have been others like this one and this one.

We absolutely should do everything we can to limit the drama and stress in our day to day lives. Even doing this, there will still be stressful situations that crop up from time to time. Good, happy, positive situations cause stress too. Starting a new job or business is a happy, stressful time. Being creative, while yielding amazing results, pushes our stress buttons. Birthdays, weddings, and celebrations of all kinds add stress to our lives.

I realized I needed tools to help me deal with stress be it positive or negative as it cropped up. I needed techniques to keep me in a happy and relaxed state of mind all the time. I needed methods to keep me on track so I could handle whatever was thrown my way good or bad.

So, I started looking for tools I could put in my box. Things I could go back to over and over and over again that wouldn’t make me fat or run up the balance on my credit card or harm my relationships. I’ve delved deep and tried many different things. Some worked wonders and others were just meh.

To be honest, many of the things I tried felt weird and seemed freaky and kind of woo-woo. I have no clear cut understanding of why the woo works, I just know that it does. My scientific brain wants clear cut schematics, but in the end, I decided to just embrace the woo. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some of my favorite tools here. Among them are prayer, affirmations, forgiveness, gratitude, tapping, physical activity, and meditation, to name a few.

These are the things that I use daily to keep myself at peace and employ anytime I feel that little stress bubble forming in my belly. I hope you’ll stick around for the ride. Feel free to jump in with comments and questions. If you like what you read, please share it with your friends. Thanks for being here. It means a lot to me.


  1. Love this, Denise! I’m working on eliminating some negative behaviors/finding some woo-woo of my own this summer. It’s a great ride!

  2. Denise, I felt those same stirrings when I was a young Mom engaging regularly in “retail therapy.” (I’ve long since stopped that.) You’re right, there’s stress no matter what age and your suggestions to identify the source and build a customized tool box are excellent. I haven’t completely filled my tool box yet, but I’m leaning towards woo, too. Beats breaking out the Diet Pepsi (your rival…) and emotional eating!

    • You’re so right, Kim. We have to replace the things that hinder us with things that help.

  3. As a mom I always need some ME time so I don’t get overly-stressed. If I didn’t, I’d probably turn to baking sugary treats, which I generally keep to a minimum. I am looking forward to hearing what’s in the woo woo tool box!

  4. Can’t wait to hear more about your “woo woo” tools! 🙂

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