The debut book, From Overwhelmed to In Control, from military spouse, Jesse R. McDonald, helps you break the cycle of constant stress and take back control of your life. Have you ever felt so overwhelmed and exhausted that you asked yourself, “How did my life get like this?” Jesse’s book gives you practical tools to help you navigate what you want your life to look like so you can improve your health, be happier and more productive, and get rid of the “mom guilt!”
You’re in for a real treat because Jesse is Daily Mom Military’s very own Director of Photography and was generous enough to share her time to answer some burning questions I had for her. Like, How the heck did you manage to write a book while being a mom and military spouse?
Daily Mom Military (DMM): You were in the military, right? How did you become a military spouse?
Jesse R. McDonald (JRM): My time with the Navy was unfortunately very short, though ironically, where my journey in writing this book started. After completing OCS in 2009, I headed to Pensacola, FL for flight school. I was in training to be a flight officer when I realized my body does not enjoy riding along as a passenger in an aircraft. Flying, yes — riding, not so much. On top of that, I was also in class with my now husband who is a Marine. We were faced with the inevitable situation where we would spend the first five years of our marriage stationed in different locations. That wasn’t what we wanted, so someone needed to change careers.
DMM: Was it a tough decision for you to leave active-duty life?
JRM: Yes. [I felt like] now, I’m just a spouse. There are still days when I miss the Navy — the structure, the environment, the job, the people. But if I were to go back in time, I would make the same decision again.
DMM: What jobs have you had in the past?
JRM: My life has been a grand adventure so far. I look back and realize just how many opportunities I had. In college, I worked at Disneyland as an “animator” at Disney’s California Adventure. During and after college, I traveled to over 20 different countries around the world and even sailed on tall ships for a summer.
DMM: What is your current occupation?
JRM: Now, my life is much quieter, but just as fulfilling. I’m a photographer in Jacksonville, North Carolina [where I photograph] weddings, families, and businesses. But my side jobs include writing and freelancing on awesome projects like Daily Mom Military! Why do one thing when you can do all the things, right? Needless to say, I get to practice the exercises in my book on a daily basis.
DMM: Did you always know you wanted to write a book?
JRM: Writing a book was one of those bucket list items. I knew someday I wanted to do it, but didn’t have a timeline or plan for actually doing so. I’ve always been good at writing, but I never thought I had anything interesting enough to write about. I thought, “Who would want to read my story?” The bottom line is, I don’t need everyone to read it. I want the people who need it most to read it.
DMM: How did the topic of constant stress and overwhelm come to you?
JRM: The concept arose out of too many options actually. I wanted to write something that mattered and something that would help people. As I wrote down all the different topics I could write about, I started getting overwhelmed. So I avoided it, even though I’d made the decision to do it. Everything was more pressing, even doing the dishes (which I will avoid at all costs)! That’s when it clicked. I’ve spent years talking to women who are completely overwhelmed with their lives. Listening to them talk about how exhausted they were, how much they hated what their lives had become, how they couldn’t seem to just get it together. They seemed like they were falling forward through their lives and hated it. What’s worse was they were showing their children that this is how you should live, and their children were burnt out too! That used to be me, but that’s not me now. So I started to look at how I went from where I was seven years ago to where I am today.
Love Your Life
DMM: What is the purpose of From Overwhelmed to in Control?
JRM: There is a lot of great advice out there about how to regain control of your life, but most of it just offers one piece of the puzzle. My goal was to bring many of those ideas and tools together into an actionable, easily implementable book for people who are really ready to make the changes they need. The book isn’t about telling you how to live, it’s about giving you the tools to create a life you love living. One woman told me the very first exercise in the book changed her life, and that’s just in the introduction! It gave her permission to create a space in her schedule, her life, her environment where she could just be at peace. No obligations, no one needing anything from her; just her, doing something she loves for no reason other than that it brings her joy.
DMM: What has been your most memorable feedback after releasing the book?
JRM: [One] woman told me she quit graduate school because of my book! Almost immediately, her physical health improved and her constant stress level plummeted. She now had the time to focus on the things she loved the most instead of splitting that time more than she really wanted. I gasped when I heard she quit school. I thought, Oh, dear God, what have I made this woman do? But then I stopped. It reminded me that in order to truly create a life we love, sometimes we have to let go of some things and make radical, lasting changes that will improve our own lives and the lives of our families as well.
Stop the Constant Stress
DMM: Can you share a highlight from the book?
JRM: The hallmark of the book is the Cycle of Stress I created. My bachelor’s degree is in psychology, so I draw from and expand on that knowledge. So far, every person who sees [the Cycle of Stress] immediately knows which point they struggle with most. Being able to recognize which phase of the cycle we’re in helps us utilize the appropriate tools to regain balance when we need it.
You Can Do It
DMM: How long did it take for you to write the book?
JRM: The content itself [took] only about two months, but I’ve been working on the process and ideas for about seven years — I just didn’t realize it. It took sitting down and just pouring out a bunch of words to really see how it all came together. My first draft was definitely not something anyone would want to read. It was just an elaborate list of things to do to make life better, but no one needs another to-do list. After I read through the draft, I realized I’d identified this new cycle of stress that brought all the pieces together. I’d been practicing the tools in the book for several years, and it was working. Once I figured that out, I was pretty motivated to get it done and share it with everyone I could.
DMM: Other moms who dream of writing a book one day, or pursue a side hustle, will want to know how you found time to fit writing into your life?
JRM: I had a six-month-old at the time, and I was running my photography business with weddings and military balls and family sessions before the holidays. So it was busy! Fortunately, I found a really good system of what is essentially outlining that worked well for me. When it came time for me to write the narrative, I tried to utilize nap times, independent play time, and after the little one’s bedtime. Thirty minutes here and there really adds up!
DMM: How did you balance being a mom, but also manage writing a book?
JRM: The most important part for me was segmenting my time clearly. I hate feeling distracted when I’m with my daughter and I feel like I should be working. That’s not fair to her. I want to be present. So when it was play time, she had my full attention, and when it was writing time, I got to work. It’s amazing what we moms can do with an uninterrupted hour! Ultimately, we make time for what we believe is a priority, and this was something I knew I had to finish. There are too many moms out there who need the tools in this book, and too many kids who need to learn these things from their parents. It was too important a work to just quit.
Time for a Change
If you’re ready to give up the feeling of constant stress and overwhelm, and start living the life you always dreamed of, then this is the book for you. Jesse gives you practical tools to help you create the life you want, fueling you with strength along the way.
Thank you, Jesse, for changing lives and doing it with grace and open arms.
Daily Mom Military is giving away a copy of Jesse’s book, From Overwhelmed to in Control, to one lucky DMM reader. Enter below to win!
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Photo Credits: Eastern Sky Photography, NC | Pixabay