By Kathryn Trudeau
Between the upcoming holidays and the uncertainties of the pandemic, it’s no surprise that moms are overly stressed. A columnist for the New York Times went as far as to say that the pandemic was causing a mental health crisis for parents.
Thankfully, you don’t have to face Thanksgiving, or e-learning, or another Zoom meeting without some stress-busting tools up your sleeve.
1. Learn to Read Your Body
Step one: awareness. It’s important to recognize when you start to feel stressed so you can take action before the little stressors snowball into a big problem.
Your body gives you lots of clues that you’re stressed. These clues include:
- Rapid or high heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Yelling or speaking loudly
- Increased impatience
- Lapses in judgment; making rash decisions
- Feeling overwhelmed or frazzled
- Increased feelings of worry
- Muscle tension
The second you notice that your body is demonstrating signs of stress, it’s time to take a break.
2. Take a 10-Minute Break
Taking a break doesn’t mean that you sweep a problem under the proverbial rug or that you just run away from your problems. Taking a break means that you recharge yourself so that you can face your obstacles and overcome them.
Taking a break doesn’t have to take all day. Even a 10-minute break away from the stress can help improve your mental well-being.
Here are a few ideas:
- Take a Mom time-out and lay quietly on your bed
- Read a fun book for 10 minutes to “escape”
- Listen to relaxing music
But what can a mom do if you’re trying to manage a cranky baby and hangry toddler? You might not always be able to leave the room if you’re watching small babies, but do what you can until you can take a better break (such as during a nap or when a partner comes home). “Mini” breaks might include popping in headphones to listen to music while your toddler plays.
Why taking breaks is so important: Walking away to calm down teaches your children that you don’t need to engage in a conversation when emotions are high. It’s okay to walk away for 10 minutes to calm down.
3. Hydrotherapy in Your Own Home
Once the kids are in the pajamas and snoozing in their beds, you can fill your evening with more de-stressing activities. One of my favorite stress busters is a hot bath. Hydrotherapy has been used for thousands of years. Even the Ancient Romans found a way to heat the water in their bathing pools.
A warm bath can:
- Relax your nervous system
- Soothe achy or tense muscles
- Give you peace and quiet to think or meditate
You can add bath oils to your bath for a little extra TLC for your hair and skin.
4. Anticipate the “Hot Mess” Hour
Many parents experience stress during predictable times. Usually, the morning rush and dinner time are the most chaotic. Everyone is rushing around, everyone is hungry, and everyone is getting irritable.
Anticipate your “hot mess” hour and create solutions for your everyday, recurring problems.
For example, if the mornings are hard because no one can decide what to eat for breakfast, start making overnight oats (or something just as easy) the night before. If choosing clothes is hard, lay out your children’s clothes the night before. If dinner is hard because everyone is hangry, lay out a light snack (like a piece of fruit) for kids to grab while they wait for dinner.
Creating solutions, even if they are small, for everyday problems can make the most stressful parts of your day run smoother.
5. Learn Deep Breathing
Fun fact: deep breathing calms you down because it shifts your body out of flight or fight mode. As a result, you feel less stressed and your body starts to relax. The next time you start to feel stress, practice deep breathing. You can also teach your children to do this too. When they are frustrated or angry, remind them to take a deep breath too.
6. Use a Schedule
Whether you are planning your homeschool day or Thanksgiving dinner, sticking with your schedule can help reduce stress. Keep these tips in mind:
- Write down your schedule on a paper planner or phone app -- don’t try to keep your schedule in your head
- Include even small transition activities in your schedule (little activities can add up over time and clog up your schedule if you don’t account for them)
- Post a family schedule where everyone can see it
Most importantly, schedule in time for YOU!
7. Don’t Skip Your Workout
Exercise is good for staying in shape -- but the benefits for your mind are priceless. Researchers are in agreement: exercise reduces your stress, lifts your mood, and helps you stay resilient.
I know what you’re thinking: it’s hard to get a workout in when you’re already busy. Exercise doesn’t have to be a solo jog through the park though. Exercise comes in many forms, and you can include your kids in many of these activities.
Here are a few stress-busting exercises to try:
- Crank the radio and dance. If you like structured workouts, you can find dance workouts on YouTube, but remember you’ll burn the same amount of calories if you’re dancing to ColdPlay or nursery rhyme remixes.
- Walk around the block with your kids
- Load your kids in a bike trailer and ride around the neighborhood. A ride in the fresh air always calms my kids down when they’re cranky.
- Play tag in your backyard.
- Yoga. You can find yoga for kids on YouTube too… you can each watch your own yoga video side by side.
8. Find the Funny Moments
The Irish have a saying: “There’s nothing a good laugh and a good sleep can’t fix.” And there’s good truth in that. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), people really do hold a lot of tension and stress in their faces in the form of furrowed eyebrows and pursed lips.
The solution? Find something that makes you giggle or smile. Laughing and smiling can help release some of the tension you hold on your face.
Here are some funny ideas to get you smiling:
- Be goofy. Bake your dog a dog-safe birthday cake and watch you kids get a chuckle from it.
- Read jokes out loud. Chances are that once your little ones start giggling, you will do.
- Watch America’s Funniest Videos or other light-hearted shows.
- Make ice cream sundaes for dinner… just this once. Watch your kids’ faces light up with delight!
9. Get Help If You Need
As relaxing as a bubble bath or a good book can be, sometimes moms need more help. Asking for help when you need isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength. Help comes in many forms, including:
- Support groups
- Online moms groups -- camaraderie goes a long way in helping you feel better
- Friends and family
- Outsourced help -- grocery delivery services, cleaning services, etc.
- Professional mental health support, including telehealth, therapy, etc.
Take care of yourself, mama! As mothers, we devote so much time to our families, we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves. Self-care includes your mental needs, your physical needs, and your emotional needs too. Don’t feel selfish if you need a phone call with a girlfriend or a long soak in the tub with a good book.
What is your favorite way to de-stress?
Kathryn is a self-proclaimed book nerd who has a passion for natural parenting and writing. As a homeschooling mother of two, Kathryn understands the dynamics of busy family life. She is the founder of the Cor Domum movement, a mission that guides families through life so that they can parent with joy. Read more at www.katietrudeau.com
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