Proven Strategies to Shift From Chaos to Calm


Written by: Where Parents Talk Staff

Published: Sep 12, 2023

by Katherine Johnson Martinko

At first blush, the comparison may seem slightly peculiar. But Jenna Hermans speaks from experience.

“The mind of a parent is a lot like the mind someone with ADHD,” says the certified high-performance coach, entrepreneur, and mother of four from the San Francisco Bay area. Hermans knows all about ADHD, having been diagnosed with it herself as a teenager.

Click for video transcription

Welcome to where parents talk. My name is Lianne Castelino. Our guest today is a certified high performance coach and entrepreneur and an author. Jenna Herman’s is also experienced in organizational management and human resources. She’s also a mother of four as part of a blended family. Her first book is called from chaos to calm, five ways busy parents can break free from overwhelm. Jenna joins us today from the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Thank you so much for taking the time.

Thank you so much for having me.

And time really is at the essence and heart of what we’re going to be talking about today. Let’s start though Jenna by having you define calm as it relates to parents, how do you see that?

The way that I define calm specifically for parenting is how we can own our nervous systems, how we can as parents make sure that our nervous systems are taken care of so that we are showing up as our best selves for our children and our partners and our greater community.

Take us through how you came to that realization in your own life.

So this began when after our fourth child was born, who was the only child that I created in our family, and found myself in this scenario of now a mother of four children with a traveling husband. And then we had started a business, the my husband and I together. And we had moved from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area. And so with all of this change, and all these shifts, I had a bit of identity whiplash. And my nervous system took the biggest hit in that where I started having anxiety attacks, and having these panic attacks pretty regularly, and realize that my nervous system was so overloaded, that it needed to be calmer. And that’s when I began the process for myself to calm my nervous system, and create an infrastructure of calm in our home.

That sounds like a lot of factors that came together seemingly, one after the other as you describe, you know, your husband traveling and moving and all of those things. At what point though, along that journey, and after you had, I guess, you know, the physical sort of reaction to it. Did you say to yourself, I really need to make a change.

There was a moment that it just all happened at once that it hit me. And it was while I was breast pumping, breast milk pumping my young, our youngest he wouldn’t latch and that I was having yet another panic attack before the kids were about to come home from school. They were all in elementary school in the time, and they were going to need snacks and attention and homework help. And in that moment, that’s where I realized coming out of that last panic attack. Wait a minute, I have so many tools in so many tactics from my formal and informal education, from my professional adventures from running HR teams and managing cultures as well as I ran a preschool for five plus years, and have a psychology degree and like you said organizational management degree in that I have all of this experience, and all of these tools that I could implement into my life to make it run that much more smoothly.

And so with all that knowledge with all that expertise and experience, where did you turn to next? What was your starting point to really affect change in your own life?

I pinpointed one of my biggest stressors and started there and that biggest stressor stressor at the time, which continues to be one of the biggest pressures of my parenting existence is around the concept of food and food preparation, meal preparation, making sure that we have the groceries in the house and how do you get the groceries and meal planning and everything like being a family, especially one of however many people right now when you’re not just feeding yourself? So the first thing I did was implement a meal plan for our family and in that figuring out everyday, what are we going to be having for the week and doing that every Sunday? What are our meals going to be? And listing all the groceries needed against that one day of grocery shopping and having that be one less thing on my plate, because come 430 Every day, it was like this big surprise Oh, no dinner again.

You know, I’m laughing, but I completely empathize and I’ve been there and I totally get it. And there are going to be parents, mothers and fathers watching this, and maybe haven’t even identified that as being a stressor in their life. So one of the things that you talk about, though, Jenna that I think is really interesting, as you say, you know, each of us should own our own calm. So that might not be a familiar term to many people who watch and listen to this interview. What do you mean by owning your own calm as a parent.

So when I say owning your calm, it means that you as a parent, are responsible for your calm, that it is yours and yours alone to understand and have the self awareness and to reflect upon your history and to project into your experience about what is going to help you be your calmest self.

And it’s an important point, right? Because oftentimes, it’s like that oxygen mask on the plane, we tend to look at everybody else that we need to take care of first before we put that oxygen mask on, and they tell you to do the exact opposite. If you’re, if you’re flying, of course. So you identified food, then what was your next step, once you kind of sort sorted through that?

After sorting through food, I found what I did not quite at the time, but now for myself as the brilliant basics. And that covers getting ample sleep, which is hard as it especially as a new parent, when you have a newborn or infant or through toddler and right, it takes a long time, as most parents know, for kids to sleep through the night, but doing your best to get as much sleep as possible. The second brilliant basic is nutrition is getting in nutrition to your body sustenance, eating, making sure that you’re getting regular meals, and snacks as much as we feed our children, we oftentimes forget to feed ourselves and to be prepared for our own sustenance, right. I know that as a new mom, I would throw all the snacks in my bag all the time, my kids are going to be hungry, they need snacks, but I would never prepare anything for myself. So getting my nutrition on track was a big part of owning might calm. And then the third is hydration, along with nutrition, making sure that being properly hydrated, so that you can think better. You can sleep better on nutrient nutrition, hydration going together just influence the body in the mind so much. And then the fourth is exercise, making sure that you’re moving, that you are getting your blood flowing and releasing those natural you know, activators of serotonin, and of dopamine, as well. And then the fifth, which of course, this is one of my own things, and I’m losing it right now. Sleep exercise, oh, connection, thank you I needed I need my own connective source to remember that one. So connection is the fifth, really in basic and that is connecting with people outside of your home. Remembering that you belong to a community that there is this bigger world outside, and connecting to nature to Mother Earth to looking at the sky and feeling the sun breathing in fresh air seeing trees. So connecting to the bigger picture of where we exist on this planet.

Now you describe going from chaos to calm as a shift. You know, you look at those words, you look at those states, and they’re polar opposites. It seems like much more than a shift. How do you propose that people try to make that shift as you describe it.

So there’s a lot of noticing. It’s a lot of the mentality when it goes when when going from chaos to calm as a mental model. And it’s really like if you can envision this in your mind right now that there is a storm happening. There’s a hurricane of stuff. It’s chaotic stuff is flying everywhere. But as we’ve learned, there’s the eye in the center of the storm that is calm, that there is nothing happening, it is still and it is it is possible to be that calm, pillar of strength in the middle while everything is swirling all around. And so when I say going from chaos to calm, being able to move into that I have the storm is by putting in these bricks of infrastructure, whereas you’ve now have a system of calm that you can lean on. And notice the chaos is happening all around but I have my infrastructure in that system of calm for myself.

Let’s dig into that infrastructure a little bit. As you describe it, what would you say are some of the pillars that you have used and perhaps talk about in the book as well, that form that infrastructure?

So just like the brilliant basics, there is another, another number of five, five pillars of calm, the first being efficiency, how do we get the things done that we have to do with less time and less energy so that you have more space and time and energy for the things that you want to do. And so being able to take care of chores and tasks, and so many things that are responsibilities in our lives, whether at home or at work, and getting them done in a way that is the most efficient, will make one feel the most calm, right of knowing I have so much more thinking energy in the morning versus at night. So I’m going to plan to struction, you know, to do some thinking about this project that I have coming up, I’m going to do that in the morning, right after I drop off the kids from school, or I’m going to wake up before they’re the houses, you know, abuzz with everyone doing their morning routines. So it’s noticing how you can use your time and utilizing your natural energy flows to create that infrastructure of efficiency for yourself. And that’s pillar number one. And then pillar number two is habits. So how to create healthy habits that support your calm, and then ditch habits that don’t serve you. Because it’s so easy as a parent and as not to fall into habits that don’t serve us and or they have a secondary game, right? That it’s so easy to turn on your phone in a moment of feeling overwhelmed or flustered or lonely and start scrolling on social media. And, but it may be that your reason for doing that is because you’re seeking connection, not begin or you’re seeking just to escape from your reality. But that’s not actually benefiting you, it’s not giving you what you’re looking for. So how to ditch those old habits that don’t serve your calm, and rather how to put in ones that do. And so that second pillar is really about the the noticing, of what is missing, and what you can add and how you can properly do that. So that you are set up for success. The third pillar is community. And that is, is about how do you create or edit the community of people around you to support your calm, so that you have humans around you that you feel like you can talk to you can connect with that understand what you’re going through who can support your family and you support theirs, and that you feel like you have a sense of belonging with. And I’m not talking about within the family unit, I’m talking outside of the family, because we are in a society and the culture that we live in right now is very isolated, that everyone is kind of in their own microcosm of their homes. And we experienced this to the nth right, where everyone was stuck at home and wasn’t able to be a part of the bigger communities for a significant amount of time. And we know the effects of that mental health went through the roof mental health issues skyrocketed during that time. So being able to connect with others outside of your home and have people around you who enhance your calm is greatly beneficial as a parent when owning owning your calm.

Gonna go ahead, go ahead.

Oh, no, please.

I was just gonna say I think it’s such an important point that a lot of people may quickly overlook, and that is your friendship circle your network, and the people within that network that might be energy depleting to you. And you feel that you need to still be connected to them for whatever reason, but you don’t really realize how much they are taking away from you in terms of your own energy and strength. So it’s a really important point. You are going to take us through numbers four and five.

I was yes. But I would also like to build on that Lianne to say that I there’s actually a portion in the community chapter that helps you to assess your current community and to edit the community from there if there are people that you feel like you need to release because they are depleting of your energy and adding to your chaos. So that is built into the chapter of the book as well because that is such It’s a kind of taboo topic on releasing friendships or, you know, cutting toxic relationships from your life.

Thank you. Thank you for that. The fourth is communication. So you have the people in your world you have this edited down community, you have the people who cannot edit, who live with you, and your in laws, or whatever it is, how do you most effectively communicate with those around you to get the support that you need and to feel like you are getting heard? And that is it a key pillar of calm because we have to interact with with others, it is the nature of our human existence, and especially as parents, so how do we connect best with our kids and with our partner and with our community to gain their support, so that we are not so isolated and alone, and so low in our parenting journey. And then the fifth and final pillar is self care. And that is how do you take care of the most important person in your life, which is you because no one can do that, for you, knowing can take care of you. No one can do your brilliant basics, no one can sleep for you eat for you, etc. So it’s building in these micro moments of self care into the day into the week into the month that fill your cups, you’re not always pouring from an empty one. But they can keep refilling within the hour, throughout the day, etc.

Well, and you know, those are all such important points, especially in a time, like today, where being busy, especially as a parent seems to be like a badge of honor for many people. So too, is not getting enough sleep. I mean, there’s certain people who actually think it’s a great thing that they only sleep three hours or night or whatever it is, but everything you’ve listed there really speaks to self awareness. And, you know, just kind of stepping out of yourself for a second and really assessing with an objective eye, you know, what’s working, what’s not working? And how how can I affect change? In I asked you, Jenna, along with the pillars that you’ve just outlined, go the tools. So could you take us through some of the tools that worked for you. And on that note, I understand from reading about your background, that you were diagnosed with ADHD as a child. And I wonder, were there any tools that you adopted as a result of that, that also has helped you since?

Yes. So as a child, I didn’t know I was neurodivergent until I actually was teenager, when I was diagnosed. And before being diagnosed in noticing that my mind worked differently. I wanted to be I didn’t want to be that way. I wanted to be able to behave like everyone else to be able to think like everyone else, which is impossible, as we know, to think like anyone other than ourselves, but to be as productive as others work because that was where it showed up the most was in the classroom. And so I built tools in the school setting for myself, that helped with me staying on track on being able to take care of my responsibilities, and my assignments. And even at home, I would add chores and tasks I needed to do personally as well. And so I started with a journal, and I took one of those weekly and daily journals and would write in what was what was important every day, the priorities of what I needed to do the things that were non negotiables like going to class and then other priorities outside of school that I knew I needed to do or like class assignments, projects coming up, etc. So I started using this journal before journals became popular by creating a effectively created my own journal, or daily and daily journals. So that’s where I began in my tool with my tools before getting diagnosed, and then brought that with me after diagnosis as well because it was working. It’s what got the job done. I was able to graduate high school with great grades and go to a good college and then eventually got my master’s degrees well and all because I had organized myself and my time so that I could be more more of a straight line. And then like this, even though my life has been like this anyway, right? But so how can I use this more like a superpower. So scratching the straight line moving, and more being able to utilize this and understanding my brain works this way. So I’m going to make that work for me. And realizing, as I became a parent, that the mind of a parent is a lot like my mind isn’t someone with ADHD, that it is going like this all the time, it is so non linear. And, you know, I, it happens to me often where I’ll start a load of laundry, and then I get distracted by like, oh, well, I was supposed to go take someone to an orthodontist appointment. And then while I’m there, there’s the ping on my phone, oh, my gosh, there’s this bill that needs to be paid. And, you know, then then you go down the spiral of all the different things. And later, much later, the laundry has been sitting there forever, and smells disgusting. So, you know, it’s the How to was how to make these tools that I built for myself, to be productive and efficient in my professional life, and bring them into my personal life as a mom as well. And they serve they have served me very well, thankfully. And yes, like you mentioned, they are a lot of them are listed in the book, and one of the biggest ones is owning the calendar. And knowing that my that I’m, I use my calendar as a tool versus my calendar owning me that I can control it.

It’s a very important point, I think there are very few people who are not slaves to their calendar these days. Right. And to your point about getting notifications on your smartphone about this thing and that thing, let’s talk about that piece in terms of technology, which has been central to, you know, to your success and sort of navigating this, can you give us some examples of technology that you feel has really worked for you and that you’d like to share with other parents?

Sure, thank you. So you know, I use the Google Suite to its fullest capacity on with emails and tasks and calendars and Google Keep and all of I mean, they have a bazillion different apps and thing was to use. But with that, I love that their purpose is to organize the world’s information. And I have used that in my own world as using Google to organize my information, and my life. And so using the calendar, and being able to share with my husband, we share calendars with each other. And I have a family calendar as well that my kids can see, most recently, I made a summer 2023 calendar, and I taught all my kids how to use Google Calendar on their phones so that they can see at any given time, what are we doing this weekend up? Just look in the calendar, and you’ll see it and you’ll know the timing or if there’s any other notes, I put it in there. So as a parent, I’m not getting bombarded all the time. When did we go to this place? When’s my dentist appointment? Can I go to this? Can I go to the movies with my friend on Thursday night, you know, it’s like look in the calendar. It’s all right there, search function, look next week, etc. So that is one of the tools that I use.

That’s wonderful. And you know, when you’re describing that what comes to my mind is what an important life skill you are also teaching your children not just to, you know, read a calendar, but how to manage their time, how to take responsibility for their time, and the time that other people in the family as well. You’ve got four kids from ages six to 16. And I wonder, you know, once you sort of made these adjustments in your own life, how would you characterize the impact that had on how you parented

so having this age range, I want to make sure I heard you correctly, cuz my ADD was just took me through a loop. Could you please ask the question again? Sure,

no problem. So you’ve got four kids between six and 16 years old. I wonder once you started making changes in your own life to embrace and sustain calm for yourself? How did that impact how you parented?


one of the biggest impacts was the element of curiosity was me asking them questions and, and taking a beat, right. So when I started on my process of calm, I decided I’m going to respond versus react to my kids. And in doing so, my one One of my first items of business was when they would come to me with something they’ve done or with a question, I would ask questions for clarity, I would show up with curiosity versus assuming I knew why they did what they had done, or why they were asking for what they were asking for. And so coming with curiosity and saying, Hmm, so you want to get this game on your phone? What’s that about? You know, and someone and one of my son said, One time he goes, my friend, you know, I have this friend who’s playing this game, and I really enjoy hanging out with him. But so often, you know, because we play different things. We don’t have as much to talk about, I’d love to be able for us to talk about this game together, can I? Can I have that game? For that reason? I’m like, Heck, yeah, you can have the game for that reason about connecting with your friend. It’s not just another form of escapism, Oh, I heard about a cool game, let me just play it. So showing up with curiosity helped me to be that much more calm, because I’m now in a place of understanding versus assuming from them.

It’s really, really important point when you talk about responding versus reacting, because most of us would probably admit to reacting because we are stressed out. We don’t have time, we have to cut to the chase, the clock is ticking. But responding sounds like a more measured, mindful approach, because you’re not perhaps as stressed out or as under the gun for time.

Absolutely. And I think that, you know, that respect, responding versus reacting, also is a is role modeling for our children as well. And so that they then in their interactions with their peers, with their teachers, as they leave the home, that they then also sat back for a moment. And instead of, again, having that gut reaction, no, that doesn’t make me feel good. I don’t want to do that. can sit back, assess their internal state, assess what’s going on in the outside and then appropriately, respond better as well. So the more they see us do it, the better they become at that as well. Because that that’s their learning, right? They’re learning by watching what we do.

Absolutely. Now, in the long list of things that you do on a daily basis, and that you’re part of is taking on the task of writing your first book. Jenna, why did you want to write from chaos to calm?

You know, what’s so funny, Lianne is that when I started writing this book, I didn’t know that I was writing a book. I was just writing, I was reflecting. And I began writing these things down, right, the beginnings of this book that I didn’t know were a book, after I’d got asked the question, often, how are you managing the four kids? Traveling husband, running a business with no family around? No built in infrastructure? No hired help. No long term friendships, you’re starting, you know, from scratch, having moved from Los Angeles up to San Francisco and still building ourselves here. And I got asked that question so often, how are you managing all of this and not losing your marbles all the time? And while I start off with saying, Yes, I did lose my marbles for a period of time. But here’s how I got out of it. And how we have and we have these building blocks set up now. Right, that infrastructure of calm now. And after having been asked the question so much, I thought, huh, I should probably write these things down and reflect on them. And as they showed up, as more and more these ideas, concepts, tools, techniques showed up in my mind, I just kept writing them down. And after about a year of reflecting and journaling and just putting, you know the words on a page, because that’s how I process I process through writing. I realized while I have a lot of content here, and there had been a seed planted in my mind at one point with amongst all the questions and people asking, how, how are you doing this? And me saying, Well, I started with meal planning. And then I worked on my sleep and worked through those things. They said, Whoa, you should write a book. So I would totally read that book. And lo and behold, that seed had grown into a sprout and after about a year of all that writing, I thought, hmm, maybe that’s what this should become. And I had put it out there to some people, which is this something that you would be interested in and thankfully, and humbly, the response was always yes. And here we are now a few years later with chaos to calm.

That’s a great story. Can I ask you Jenna, what do you want readers of the book to leave with?

I want them to leave with the knowing that if there is something that they want to accomplish, that they can, and that the current state that they’re living in of overwhelm and chaos is not permanent, and that there is something that can be done about it. And yes, the overwhelming the cows show up from time to time, right? Even still, for myself, I find myself in those moments that I need to use my own tools to get out of it. And that’s okay. But 98% of the time, I’m owning my calm, I’m right there and I’m able to get back there whenever, you know, the earth shifts and it and it got a little too much. So it is possible to get out of that overwhelming and to find that calm.

Jenna Herman’s certified high performance coach and author of from chaos to calm mother of four as well, we so appreciate your time and your perspective today. Thank you.

Thank you so much for having me.

“It happens to me often where I’ll start a load of laundry, and then I get distracted by [needing] to take someone to an orthodontist appointment. And then while I’m there, there’s the ping on my phone [and] there’s this bill that needs to be paid… You go down the spiral of all the different things. And later, much later, the laundry has been sitting there forever, and smells disgusting.”

Hermans spoke to Lianne Castelino, host of Where Parents Talk, about her new book, “From Chaos to Calm: 5 Ways Busy Parents Can Break Free From Overwhelm.” There was a time when Hermans was feeling very overwhelmed. She’d just had a baby, was raising four kids in a blended family, had moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco with no family support, and was running a business—all while her husband traveled for work. She felt overwhelmed, panicky, and anxiety-ridden, experiencing a sort of “identity whiplash.”

The book was a result of people asking how she coped, and what specific tools helped her to achieve calm amid so much upheaval and chaos. The book’s goal is to elevate feelings of serenity and to help parents anchor themselves in the centre of a busy family life, improving their quality of life, their enjoyment of this fleeting stage, and their connections to their kids.

In the video and podcast interview, Hermans describes two lists that parents should focus on to regain mental and emotional control. One is the “Brilliant Basics.” These include getting adequate sleep, eating properly, hydrating sufficiently, exercising, and connecting to people outside the home and to nature.


Another is the “5 Pillars of Calm,” which are efficiency, establishing healthy habits, building community (and releasing negative relationships), communicating, and engaging in self-care. By putting in these “bricks of infrastructure,” Hermans says, “you now have a system of calm that you can lean on.” And this sets an example for kids: “They’re learning by watching what we do [and] the more they see us [embracing calm], the better they become at that as well.”

In her conversation with Where Parents Talk, Hermans also discusses:

From Chaos to Calm.Book Cover.Hermans, Jenna

  • How technology has helped her to stay organized
  • How shifting from chaos to calm has affected her own family
  • What inspired her to write the book
  • Where overwhelmed parents can start with “owning their calm”

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