According to the Oxford American Dictionaries, stress is a state of mental or emotional strain resulting from demanding situations. What mother does not experience pressure from parental responsibility? Stress management is a practice that all individuals – but especially mothers – should become familiar with. Identifying sources of stress and creating management techniques will decrease tension and increase resiliency, thereby making the experiences of motherhood much more pleasant and manageable. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Have patience with your Self.
There are moments when I step back to look at my mothering and say, “What am I doing!?!” It is easy to become lost in our strivings for perfection, self-criticism, and over analysis of “bad mommy moments”. It is vital and of utmost importance to – first -practice patience with yourself. Recognize that you are doing your best, that there is always room for improvement, and that it takes time to make change.
Ask for help.
Most of us feel this sub-conscious pressure to be super moms. The more that’s piled on to our plates, the stronger we feel. But, the higher the pile, the more likely it is to topple over. When we swallow our pride and begin to ask friends for help – asking them to take our child for an afternoon or pick something up at the store – we will discover that our friendships are strengthened. Asking for help does not take away from mommy pride, it strengthens it.
Define what calms you.
In order to alleviate stress, you first need to know what is causing it. Identifying the pressures in your life will probably come easy to you. After that, it’s important to determine what modes of stress management work for you. For some of us, a mere phone conversation can alleviate the tension. It may be a cup of tea, a five-minute mediation, or swinging at a punching bag. Some situations call for more, and you may need a girls’ night out, a monthly book club, or daily workout time. Having these tools in the back of your mind will help you get through overwhelming stress that can pop up at any moment but will also allow you to maintain an even keeled composure throughout any day.
Change your routine.
After weeks of stressful nights with difficult bed times for all four of our children, I realized we were stuck in a rut. We had all come to anticipate the chaos and stress that accompanied our nighttime rituals. I could not keep expecting (and hoping) that things would change and then become frustrated when they didn’t. So, we changed the nighttime routine. While it made sense to bathe the children after dinner, it was not working for us. I started bathing my children, who were all very young at the time, in the late afternoon, before dinner. They were relaxed and happy at dinner and enjoyed a little playtime before book reading and bedtime. This little change made a huge difference in the late afternoon energy in our home. Sometimes, going outside of the norm – or creating a new norm – can rejuvenate a stale routine and decrease the amount of stress experienced by all family members.
Creative outlets are extremely advantageous for stress reduction. Whether you journal, find joy in painting, or like to express yourself in song – having a creative outlet creates soothing, physiological responses in your body. A calm body is connected to a calm mind. Even if you do not consider yourself an artist, spend some time discovering a creative activity that speaks to you. Think about gardening, household projects, or volunteering for a local charity.
Motherhood and stress come hand in hand. Some stress is good and healthy – too much, is not. Being aware of how the stress in your life impacts you is the key to stress management. Having tools to alleviate that stress is the key to your well-being.