Stress is part of life, and it’s DEFINITELY part of motherhood!
Stress in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. We need some level of stress to keep us moving and completing things that have to get done. However, when stress gets to be too much, or is overwhelming or disruptive, taking away from enjoying our lives and family and what’s meaningful to you, well, then that’s when stress is problematic.
Here are five things to do when you’re feeling stressed:
Rate your level of stress
Ask yourself: on a scale of one to ten, ten being the highest amount of stress, one being the lowest, what is your level of stress? And using this same scale, ask yourself: how long has this number been at this level? A few hours, a few days, weeks, months, or it’s been so long you can’t remember? Here’s the reason, stress levels go up and down during the day or even week. And what’s important is taking care of yourself and using healthy coping skills to manage your levels of stress. Stress that’s too high, unmanaged and disrupting your life for long needs to be taken care of, and you need some more support. Find out what your baseline of stress is. Then reflect on when your number gets too high, let’s say for you it’s a 7. Then when you experience number 7 stress, that can be your cue to make a plan to take care of yourself to bring the number down.
Talk Kindly to yourself
When stress gets high and overwhelm sets in, critical self-talk or judgemental thoughts can creep in, making you feel worse and more stressed. When you’re experiencing stress, monitor your self-talk. If you find yourself saying things like, “I can’t do anything right,” or,” I’m a disorganized mess,’ or any name-calling or put-downs, change these thoughts to more compassionate and kind thoughts. For example, instead of saying:
I can’t do anything right!
say: Right now I’m feeling stressed, and things aren’t going as planned. I’ll get through this….and somethings may not be perfect, but they’ll get done.
I’m a disorganized mess.
say: There’s so much to do, and I can’t keep track of it all. When I feel this way, I need to take a minute and regroup and come up with a plan.
I’m such a sh*** mom.
say: Putting myself down right now isn’t going to help me. It’s been a tough time for sure, and while I don’t feel great, I’m a good mom having a tough time.
Focus on Regulating Your Breathing
Breathe. Here’s an obvious statement: breathing is so important (did you laugh on that one? Laughing is a good stress reliever too!) especially when stressed. Seriously though, here’s a fact: People who are stressed and/or anxious, don’t take in full breathes and hold their breath. When this happens, the body responds with stress and makes you feel worse. A great way to take care of yourself when stressed is to focus on your breathing. Make sure you’re breathing and not holding your breath. Check-in with yourself and notice your breathing patterns during the day. And what I encourage clients to do is to take a few minutes every hour, take a few minutes and practice intentional breathing. Which is: inhale counting to five, hold your breath counting to three, exhale counting to five. Do this for a few minutes every hour and notice how this small exercise can really help with your stress.
Manage Your Stress
Come up with a plan and ask yourself: what would help reduce my stress? When stress is overwhelming, it can be hard to problem solve in creative ways. Think of it this way, have you ever noticed when you share with a friend or supportive person something you’re going through, and they offer a solution or advice and your response-now why didn’t I think of that? Often the reason is being overwhelmed and too stressed! When stress levels get too high, slipping into auto-mode-going through the motions being reactive, trying to respond and react to getting things done or taking care of what has to be done. The mental overload of stress can block creative problem-solving. When you’re feeling stressed, ask yourself what is the one thing I can do to reduce my stress? Perhaps it’s saying no in the short term to doing anything extra. Or it may be letting go of what you just can’t do right now or delegating and asking for support.
Too much stress can disrupt sleeping, eating, staying hydrated, and taking care of your physical well-being. Pay attention to how you physically feel when stressed. Do you lose sleep? Forget to eat? Comfort eat? Experience headaches or neck pain or feel exhausted? Pay attention to how stress impacts your physical health. And look for what may be missing that you need to add back into your routine. And a great way to manage stress is through exercise. Set a goal to move for fifteen minutes. Go for a quick walk. Get up and dance or get outside and get some fresh air, just get moving. Exercise releases endorphins help to manage and reduce stress. And part of self-care when stressed is to connect with supportive people in your life. Reach out and spending time talking to supportive friends, and family is a great way to manage stress.
You can’t ever control stress, but what you can do is manage it.
© Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2019