How To Reduce Stress as a Mom
I will always remember the day I hit rock bottom. My third child was three months old. My spouse had a new job, and our maternity leave was limited to one week.
Instead of resting and nourishing my postpartum body, I started weight lifting and dieting. I put enormous pressure on myself to keep a perfect home. To top it all off, my dad had been diagnosed with cancer just before my baby was born.
All of these elements created the perfect stress storm. During my first real anxiety attack I breathed into a brown paper bag as we flew down the freeway to an event I should have politely declined.
These anxiety attacks quickly spiraled into severe adrenal fatigue and depression. This was all new, scary and concerning for me. I was convinced I had a mysterious illness such as Lyme disease or cancer, but what I really had was way too much stress.
What I needed at this time were tools to reduce my stress as a mom. Up to that point in my motherhood and homemaking journey I had thought very little about stress and its effects on the body. I thought I could handle it all and never break.
The good news is, I learned. God provided the right tools for me to heal, and I learned strategies to prevent my body from spiraling into the stress cycle.
Supermom Does Not Exist
As moms, we are faced with so many daily pressures. Our tasks include routine chores, nourishing our little ones’ heart and minds and thriving in our marriages. On top of that many of us need to work outside of the home.
We feel endless pressure from social media to have the perfect home (or homestead), body, marriage, children, etc.
Somehow my 7-year-old daughter didn’t believe in Santa, but I still believed that supermom was real.
It took me five years to realize… supermom does. not. exist!
And trying to be perfect will only lead to intense burn out as a mom. Each of us have a unique stress threshold, and its important to learn tools for handling life as our stresses increase.
Instead of trying to be supermom, I have learned to be preventative in reducing stress.
Today I am sharing with you five stress reducing tips that changed my life. It is my hope that these tips will also help you to reduce your stress as a mom.
Let go of control
The first step to reducing stress as mom is letting go of control? If you are anything like me, you might think this is a joke. Control is what we do and who we are!
But God’s Word says differently:
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34
As mothers we are responsible for cleaning, taking care of children, cooking, grocery shopping, and the list goes on! But trying to juggle it all and do it perfectly is a recipe for disaster. There will be messes, imperfect people, and personal failure. Accepting what you can and cannot do or control is a huge step in reducing stress. From a personal standpoint, that meant I had to stop worrying so much about messes and clutter, especially right after having a baby.
I felt myself going into this control grasping again recently. My midwife offered this sage advice:
You have to learn to bend with the wind or you will break.
This was so true for me. I have had to learn to let go of things that I usually tried to control.
The house will be messy sometimes. My children are human and will not be perfect. My body will never be the same as it was before having children.
And (deep breath here) that’s all ok.
Being imperfect does not make you any less of a human. It makes you human.
I have learned that instead of trying to be perfect, I should pray. I have noticed I feel the most stress when I’m not surrendering my day to God!
When I give my worries over to God, I am better able to accept the chaos of having children and the lack of time that exists in motherhood. “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
When we let go of perfection and control, we can relax. Our relationships improve and we find more joy in our lives.
Practice Deep Breathing to Reduce Mom Stress Quickly
I never understood the power of deep breathing until I started doing yoga. Daily yoga sessions uplifted my mood and calmed my mind.
Even with 3 little ones climbing in between my legs during down dog, I felt exponentially calmer after practicing. The stretching is wonderful, but much of the benefit of yoga is in the deep breathing.
I stayed up late devouring the short book Shifting Gears, A Brain Based Approach to Engaging Your Best Self.
The author explains how belly breathing sends oxygen to nerve receptors into the lower regions of our lungs. These nerve receptors send our body the message that everything is okay.
When we breathe slowly and deeply, our brain receives more calming messages. Conversely, when we are stressed, our shallow breathing engages only the upper lung receptors, which sends our brain fight or flight messages.
Isn’t the body fascinating!
The “all is well” messages that come from deep breathing stop the production of stress chemicals.
The wonderful thing about deep breathing is that you can do it anytime and anywhere. I try to intentionally engage in deep breathing when I wake up and fall asleep.
It’s also a great strategy to use anytime that I feel my stress response rising… like getting everyone ready for church on Sunday mornings, which always seems dis-proportionally stressful! Searching for missing car keys, dealing with a temper tantrum, or having a tough conversation with your spouse are great opportunities for deep breathing.
Just take a deep breath, and maybe offer to make your husband a coffee.
Quick tips for deep breathing:
Breathe in and out through your nose
Slowly inhale, feeling your belly fill with air
Slowly release your breath
Pause for a moment
I love that we have a built in mechanism to combat mom stress. It’s all about the breathing. This is a wonderful tool to teach your children as well.
Diffuse Essential Oils
Citrus uplifts the spirits. Lavender calms. Need I say more? But truly, the science of essential oils is fascinating. When inhaled, essential oil molecules travel through the olfactory nerves directly to the emotional center of your brain. You can communicate peace and happiness to your brain just be getting your diffuser going!
A few oils that are especially good for reducing stress:
Find Time to Rest Each Day
One of the best things I did to reduce stress was adding a quiet time into our routine. This can be tricky to start, but is well worth all the effort! I have found that my kids start to crave the time alone to rest and reset.
In our home, we do quiet time right after lunch. My kids go to their rooms and play with blocks, read, or color.
I can use this time however I like, but I usually try to lay down for at least 30 minutes. Our quiet time usually lasts around 60 minutes, but I know of moms who set the timer for 2 hours!
Having this space to rest has been life giving to me. It gives me renewed patience and energy for my kids. My body gets a break from the constant demands of motherhood, and my ability to cope with stress increases exponentially.
If you are new to quiet time, start small. Set the timer for 15 or 20 minutes, and have some new activity or book for your child to interact with on their own. You can slowly increase the time. Just be sure to stay consistent!
Practice Gentle Exercise
Before having children I absolutely loved intense exercise. Cardio, HIIT workouts and jogging were some of my favorite activities. But these activities can actually increase your stress load if your body is already taxed.
Some of the most restorative exercises are yoga, walking, and swimming.
While it can be a challenge to find time to exercise as a busy mom, its well worth the effort. Over the years I have determined that exercise is a non negotiable. Sometimes that means I just squeeze in 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night.
Learning to be Gentle with Yourself Will Reduce Your Mom Stress
Lastly, be gentle with yourself mama.
I know first hand how loud that inner critic can be.
Chances are you are doing an amazing job. Give yourself time to rest. Nourish your soul with good books, naps, and nourishing food. Laugh with your children and enjoy them. Know that this is a fleeting season, and the more you can rest into it the more you will reduce your mom stress and improve your overall health.
I’ll see you after quiet time!