8 Things I Did to Transform my Life

8 Things I Did to Transform my Life

This morning, talking with a very overwhelmed young mother, tears came to my eyes as I remembered when I was in her shoes. The paroxysms of rage at my children, the crippling anxiety, the paralyzing overwhelm which overshadowed my mothering life when my big kids were little.

So what changed?

To be clear, I still get overwhelmed, and have a hard time, and lose it with my kids from time to time. But my current struggles are scratching kittens compared to the hungry lions that used to prowl around my home and mind a decade and a half ago.

Here’s some things that helped me, and if you are struggling, I hope some of these ideas can help you too…

1. Diet- 12 years ago, when I was pregnant with my 4th daughter, I decided I had to make some really drastic changes to feel calmer. I went from being a person who could not wake up without a strong cup of coffee with two heaping tablespoons of sugar (“Ma’am, would you like some coffee with your sugar?”) to going cold turkey. No caffeine. No sugar. And also, no white flour (though I’m more lenient about the white flour on Shabbat). If you are addicted to these things, it might sound impossible. But I’ll tell you, as someone who has been going strong for 12 years, once you break the addiction (it takes around a month) the craving disappears. And avoiding these foods really helps me to feel more calm and emotionally stable.

2. Exercise- At least 20 minutes a day, get your heart rate up and your endorphins flowing. I like brisk walking. Makes a major impact on my mood and my ability to handle whatever my mothering life throws my way.

3. Classical Homeopathy- At the beginning of my path, a good homeopath really helped me break out of the anxiety/anger cycle. Also, depending on your situation, I would highly suggest looking into finding an excellent psychologist or psychiatrist (who might recommend medication to help you cope). Hashem has given us amazing new tools to be healthier and happier mothers in the modern era, b”H! Let’s use them!

4. Omega 3 – I have been taking omega 3 capsules for the last year and a half, and they help me to feel much calmer and to quiet my mind when I start feeling anxious or angry. I take one every morning, and take two if I am about to do something stressful.

5. Naps – Rabbi Nivin taught us that 90% of emotional issues come about because our gas tanks are nearing empty. We haven’t eaten. We haven’t exercised. We haven’t gotten enough sleep. I am really sensitive to sleep, so I rest twice a day– half an hour in the morning after the morning rush, and half an hour in the afternoon before my school kids come home from school.

6. Positive thinking – By nature, I am a big worrier, who is always bracing for the worst case scenario. So Chaya Hinda Allen’s phone course “Jewish Positive Thinking” was a game changer for me. Since taking that course several years ago, every day (during my morning rest) I do some positive thinking exercises– I think of 10 good things that will happen that day, I think of a time that I felt Hashem watching over my family and 5 details of that event, I think of 10 things I am thankful for. Then I daven and think of the main things I want to accomplish that day. It really helps to set my day off on the right foot.

7. Inspirational classes – Certain incredible teachers have provided the soundtrack that has helped to rewire my brain over the last 15 years, making me into a more inspired mother and healthy and positive person. Rabbi Aryeh Nivin and Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi. Parenting courses from Dina Friedman and Rabbanit Talia Helfer.

8. JewishMOM.com – I have been writing every day, pretty much, for the past 16 years. That corner of my life to do something that I love and find fulfilling is so energizing. I am not recommending that all of you become Mommy bloggers, but I do recommend that each one of you finds something that you love to do, and DO it!


  1. Also, don’t forget that it’s easier to raise small children when you have older children to help. As a young mother, what I found hardest was having to deal with small children all on my own a good part of the day and feeling isolated a lot. Now, my children have gotten older and I find it to be a lot easier to deal with the younger ones because I have extra helpers. A few extra pairs of hands go a long way towards saving your sanity when you need to give your toddler a bath, hold a screaming baby and help a third one with their homework.

  2. I amo on my way out of that early motherhood difficult stage with 4 kids 7 and under. Mothers with little ones, it CAN and Will Get better! Yes its effort and yes you have to make some good choices and changes, like Chana Jenny did. And probably lots of mistakes along the way. But it’s so equalizing and comforting to know that “even Chana Jenny” went through hard times. Motherhood, actually, all of life, is seriously under appreciated. It’s hard and takes lots of time and effort to figure things out- practically, emotionally. Spiritually. Educationally. Etc. etc. etc. Hatzalah rabba and appreciate your accomplishments, mommas. And , take a break.

  3. You just inspired me to make my own list of 8 things that changed the game for me (and, like Jenny, not including the factors that weren’t up to me such as the kids growing up and maturing)

    • JewishMom

      I am looking forward to reading your list, noga, as well as your BOOK!

  4. Im just curious, as a young mother of small children who currently experiences the feelings you described having when your older children were little- do your older children remember you as a rageful anxious mother and have anything to say about it? have they noticed a change in you?

    • JewishMom

      I don’t think my older kids are any different because of how I was with them when they were little

  5. Thank you Chana Jenny! I am in that really overwhelming stage with lots of little kids needing me the whole day. I do a lot of the things on your list but feel guilty that I need all that just to keep me going. But now that I read that you do that stuff too I feel better about it. I want to enjoy this time with my little kids and not just wish they would grow up already. So thank you for your very inspiring blog that keeps me going!

  6. 1) Noga, what book? Do tell…

    2) Chana Jenny, you don’t think your older children are any different because of the way you were with them when they were younger? But how can you know that now? They’re all still so young. Of course our own mindsets when our kids are small affects them. Not necessarily in a negative way but it does affect. When they’re adults you’ll have the most interesting conversations with them about what they remember… now that my “children” are all in their 20s and 30s I see how very MUCH whatever I was going through affected them when they were small.

    3) I love your list CJ! They’re all so very CJW. I have one comment, though. Psychiatric drugs (which ALL have serious side effects0 are on the rise and have become almost normal for many people as a coping tool through everyday bumps in the road. And then people have to get off them. It is often difficult and sometimes impossible. I would not so cavalierly recommend them as a coping tool. Because doctors WILL prescribe them very easily. And then YOU are left holding the bag — side effects, withdrawal, etc. These are often worse than the problem you took them for in the first place. Go ahead, everyone, jump on me. I had to say it. if I kept one person from taking those drugs for everyday anxieties, it was worth it.

    • JewishMom

      thanks rishe, regarding comment 2, I am not looking forward those conversations! Hope they were so young they don’t remember what I used to be like… re our third comment, I’ve personally seen situations of anxiety where meds have been extremely helpful, but I’m sure you’ve seen more cases than I have, and I appreciate the warning!

    • Hi Rishe! DRINK YOUR TEA WHILE IT’S HOT: How to Experience Freedom & Live True to Your Values Through Your Parenting Challenges , that’s the working title of my forthcoming book b”H! It’s based on my belief that as mothers we have the power to lead our family into the changes we would like to see when we learn how to access and experience inner change, and on my motto, that your parenting workshop is here and now, wherever you are.

  7. Obviously, for serious mental illness, they are a G-dsend.

  8. I think if a mom loses it but doesn’t direct her yelling at her kids personally but kind of says I cant deal with the situation but doesn’t blame the kids for it, then the kids don’t suffer. They just learn that in order to cope as a mom you’ve got to take better care of yourself. Chana Jenny is always honest about herself not pretending to be perfect so her kids are ok.

  9. Was it really hard to change your diet? The idea sounds great, but sounds so overwhelming to me. I’d like to hear more about how that first month went and how you remained strong. I feel like a change in my eating habits would help tremendously, but I’m not even sure I want to start because it sounds so hard. Thanks so much for this inspiring post!

    • JewishMom

      maybe offer yourself incentives– like sugar-free chocolate or something else you enjoy. The first month is hard, but then the craving, in my experience, disappeared.

      • I also love the idea of going off white flour and sugar, and have been dreaming about doing this for a while, but find myself overwhelmingly lost as to how to do this. The diet that I eat and serve my family is so bread oriented. We usually have bread or pasta for lunch, and I would not know what to replace that with. No sugar? How will I survive all my ice cream and chocolate cravings that I have now during my pregnancy?

        • JewishMom

          it’s not easy, but I don’t think it would be as hard as you think. There is whole wheat pasta and whole grain bread. Nowadays there are tons of desserts made without sugar– with stevia or honey or sucralose. Also, your kids don’t have to eat what you eat. I make food for my kids and different food for me and my husband (and any kids willing to eat my healthy stuff)

  10. Not long ago, you offered another tip in one of your blogs that I think about ALL the time when I am pressured. It was remembering that of all the balls we are juggling, some are rubber and some are glass. That has become an inner mantra for me, as I prioritize my day. Thank you for all your helpful tips!

  11. and you wrote in your book about changing ten things in your life… that’s a lifesaver too

    • JewishMom

      right. the most helpful thing to me would be if I actually REMEMBERED all the good advice I’ve given in the past

      • As long as WE remember them;) That’s who you wrote it all for anyway…

  12. Thank you, thank you, thank you! 🙂

  13. Rishie my thoughts exactly on the drug issue. We have to be there for each other. Also nutrition helps as well as some natural remedies. LADIES BREATHE ITS GOOD FOR YOU!!!

  14. I find it so interesting that all of these tips to help not be as overwhelmed with young children are things to do for yourself as the mother and not things in terms of effective cooperation techniques with your kids. I am a mother of young children and when things are not going as ideal as I’d like in terms of the kids being hard to watch I usually try to think of ways to use different techniques to help my kids to listen better and help more instead of thinking of things like this to change things I do for myself… does it somehow make your kids act differently, or just keeps you calmer and able to handle things better? Definitely plan to try some of them.. Thank you CJ for this blog – I check it daily and love it!

    • JewishMom

      thanks leah– I think that if we are calmer and happier our kids are much calmer and happier! I’m sure I also use various parenting techniques to get kids to cooperate, but the most important way to improve the atmosphere of the house, I think, is to remember that the akeret habayit (the woman of the home) is the Ikar of the bayit (essence ofthe home)!

  15. Great tips, and it sounds like many readers could come up with many additional contributions! But I think that often one of the challenges mothers of young children face is finding the TIME to implement these things (and in some cases, also financial constraints can come into play. Unfortunately a lot of health foods and supplements are quite costly!) When running around in a whirlwind from the crack of dawn right through till kids bedtime, and then turning around and having the responsibilities of a wife and a home to manage, it can be very challenging to carve out time for the kind of self care you describe. It’s not always possible to fit inspirational classes, naps, and meaningful hobbies into such a hectic schedule, and have the energy to do them. Something that I am trying to implement in my life that I do find helps, is to try to carve out even 5 minutes a day of “me time”. It’s not necessarily drastic or far-reaching, but it does help in these fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, little-kid-parenting years. And I’m told that it gets really fun, and a whole lot easier, when the bigger ones are old enough to help with the littler ones 🙂

    • JewishMom

      5 minutes sounds like a great start…and YES it does get a lot easier and more fun when your babies get big. Rebbetzin heller says the turning point is when your oldest daughter turns 8

  16. Chaim Bochner

    Is it OK with you to take unproven substances likr psychitropics if they help?

    Would a better idea be, yes, if it’s CERTAIN that there are no other choices?

    There are choices and these meds have ruined my life over 23 years r”l. I have nothing to show for it an the physicians are now retired in Hawaii!

    Mental illness does not exist. We’re the Rabbis to really know this, they would outlaw it…

    There is no proof, but hope there is. Please don’t fall in desperation. As Jews we always work against temptation but with doctors, everything goes?

    I’m stumped and upset at my community where rabbis have the gal to tell members to take meds or stop them.

    You need good psychoanalysis (no CBT/DBT junk) with a specialist that debunks psych drugs. Also, you need professional help how to get off those monsters.

    Ironic, where a drug thst does so little therapeutically, is a hellish fire when you titrate, even slowly.

    I did the research.

    • For anyone reading the above comment, be aware that although it is true that alternatives to psychotropic medications do exist, they require a far higher level of dedication and follow-through than taking a pill.

      And for someone who is weak and faltering, that pill can be a lifesaver.

      And even if you are on that pill FOREVER, it can still be a lifesaver.

      Yes, it has risks, side effects, and downsides.

      But better a LIFE with some effects than the opposite chas veshalom…

      And I disagree that it should be the final option. Try it FIRST. If it works, you will have the energy to look for alternatives, if that is the path you choose to follow (be aware that it requires significant lifestyle changes, and is expensive, but that may be worthwhile for you).

      But don’t resist taking something that will give you a fighting chance to CHOOSE!

      (Spoken as a VERY grateful wife to a husband who takes psychotropic medication.)

  17. בס”ד
    I would recommend the things that really help me every day:
    classes by Rabanit Hava Shmilovitz,
    books by Rabbi Lazer Brody and Shalom Arush are the best, even a few lines each day
    Spirulina, one or two pills a day, it does make me feel more energetic, calm and balanced.
    Also, i knit or crochet for a few minutes almost every day, i love it and it’s so importt to have some hobby for yourself, the feeling of creating sthg is satisfying.
    Good luck every one

  18. I finally stopped eating sugar after years of knowing I needed to, I am a real sugar addict. BH just before Rosh Hashana this year, after a Shabbos where I ate too many cinnamon rolls ☺ I went cold turkey. Since then, I feel so much better in my body and my mind that I now don’t want to eat sugar – the bad way I will feel afterwards isn’t worth it. Whereas in the past the good feeling while I ate it would win, now I feel like I’m nurturing myself when I avoid it. This last Yom Kippur was the easiest fast I’ve ever had as well, my body seems to be on a more even keel.

    • I feel the same way– 12 years without sugar now, and I feel so much better that I’m not even tempted to eat sugar again (though wouldn’t have minded a sufgania this chanukah:)

  19. I am the same way . . . once I completely stopped, I no longer craved it. I don’t want to go back, so I just do not have it in anything at all. Also, same goes for what we call “junk food”. Stop eating it altogether, and you will find you do not crave it. If you actually feed your body with completely wholesome food, you will not crave the junk any more.

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