By Victoria Smith
Stress is on the rise, particularly with women. But, I don’t need to tell you that, do I? Intuitively, we feel overwhelmed. From acting as a perpetual chauffeur to coordinating play dates, or from healthy meal planning to juggling sick days and attempting to work from home, motherhood is stressful. Here’s the deal, though, it can be less stressful when you have the right tools, strategies and mindset in place.
Before we get into five strategies that you can implement immediately, we need to start with mindset. If you think your day is going to be stressful, it will, because that’s how you’ve primed your brain. You’ve given it the signal to find evidence of stress wherever you look. To counter this, what I want you to do is start every day by setting an intention. Believe me, I know that if you wake with the kids, it can be hard to find a moment for that, so a fall back can be to write out your intention and set it next to your alarm clock. What should that intention be? I put it back to you – how would you like your day to go? For example, my daily intention is to show up as an engaged parent, wife and friend, and a Rockstar entrepreneur. Yours could be to a search for gratitude. Or to be mindful. The intention is personal to your needs and desires, but set one and start each day reminding yourself of it. Only then will the following strategies take real effect.
1. Stop comparing yourself to other moms
It is so easy to get into a shame-spiral of how you are performing as a mother when your friends or Insta-community are throwing Pinterest-perfect parties for a two year-old. Or maybe you pick
up your child from daycare only to find out that they’ve bitten another child – of course it would be the most well-behaved child of the seemingly put together momma. We are all on our own motherhood journeys. We all have our own past, our own challenges, and our own beliefs to grapple with. Just because you do things differently doesn’t mean you’re doing them worse. First step if you find yourself in this comparison black hole? Take a social media break. If the comparison is coming from in-person interactions, before each encounter remind yourself that you are doing the best with what you have, and your kids are well-loved. Because at the end of the day, your child won’t care about the perfect party or baked goods or that they were potty trained a year before all the other kids. They’ll remember time spent one-on-one with you, the cuddles and bedtime stories. Presence and love matter most.
2. Take Ten Box Breaths
Picture this – a tantruming toddler that fights any attempt of yours to calm them down, the baby starts screaming as well, the oven timer goes off and the phone rings. You’re ready to snap… or cry. Turn the oven off (nobody needs a fire), make sure the kids are physically safe, then remove yourself for ten box breaths. A box breath is where you inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for four, exhale for four, and hold for four. Picture an actual box being formed: up, across, down, across. Repeat ten times. Why does this work? Because you’re helping your brain switch from fight or flight mode into a more rational, logical mindset. We cannot help others when we’re in this high anxiety state, and while the actual scenario may not have changed when you reenter the room, you’ll have signaled to your body and your brain that it’s not an emergency, sending blood and oxygen to the areas that will help you calm yourself and problem-solve. Fun fact – this is a strategy you can and should try with your kids. Model for them how to self-regulate. My son and I do this all the time now. I make him blow on me when he exhales like a game, and after ten deep breaths we’re both able to come together and move forward.
3. Plan, plan, plan
I know… you hate me. As a parent, planning is your best friend. When we know what to expect, we are less stressed than the unexpected. Not knowing what is for dinner at 4 p.m.? Stressful.
Simple meal planning (by which I mean deciding what you’ll eat each day, even if you haven’t prepped the food) will lead to less tension. Hate getting the kids dressed every morning? Plan their outfits for the week so it’s a quick grab in the morning – you can do this for yourself as well! If you have a partner, sit down each week to plan out who is doing which pick up or drop off,
who is cooking what meal, and what errands will be run by whom. It makes life less stressful, and requires less work than last minute decision making.
4. It’s a season. Focus on what you can control.
Colic? A season. Terrible twos? A season. Sticking their hands into their diapers and coming out with poop? An unsanitary season. You know what else is a season? Baby snuggles, tiny clothes, taking their first steps, learning the alphabet, their first group sport. Every fun phase with your child and every bad phase is just that – a phase. So when it’s feeling overwhelming, focus on what you can actually control. You can control making your own bed every day – studies show that making your bed helps you feel less overwhelmed each day! You can control buying and eating healthy snacks. You can control getting outdoors almost every day for fresh air, which will help boost serotonin – the happy hormones. You can control whether or not you practice gratitude each day. When the going gets tough, take stock of what is in your control.
5. Make time for what YOU love.
One of the hardest adjustments to motherhood is feeling like you belong to everyone else before you belong to yourself. Between work, caring for our kids and running our households, there often feels like there isn’t a moment left for ourselves. But there is, if you choose to make the time. Find at least 15 minutes a day for something that fills you up, be it exercise, a hobby, time talking to a friend, connecting with your partner, or simply sitting in silence! If you don’t prioritize at least 15 minutes a day for yourself, nobody else will. And that 15 minutes? It can be a lifesaver and help you realize you are still the person you were before having kids.
Life isn’t stressless, but you can stress less.
Motherhood is no joke, but you have much more control over your stress and how you react to situations than you might first realize. These strategies won’t be the be all end all, but my intention is that they give you a little more energy and breathing room, and when you feel up to it, that you invest that energy into creating lasting stress reduction strategies.
Author: Victoria Smith, Stress Reduction Coach
Victoria Smith is on a mission to help women significantly reduce their stress, so that they can better enjoy their daily lives. Through her company, Stress Less Ladies, Victoria works with women in groups, one-on-one, and through her podcast called Girl Tries Life, to give women tangible strategies to improve their lives. Find her on: Instagram , Facebook , & her Podcast
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