Recent studies show that chronic stress can lead to serious physical conditions such as stroke, hypertension and heart failure. That’s why it’s more important than ever to learn how to manage stress levels to live a healthier and longer life.
However, when it comes to household and family-related stress, it can seem like there is no end in sight. For moms who run the household, are a loving and nurturing partner, take care of the children, help with the budget, etc. often experience a lot of daily stress that if not handled properly can become enormous and difficult to escape.
There are multiple problems with stress. One of the main problems with mom-stress is that studies show that children can sense when their moms (and dads) are stressed out. While 70% of parents in this study believed that their stress does not affect the lives of their children, their children disagreed. The reality was/is that children are extremely sensitive and can tell when their parents are experiencing stress. This stress can cause children to develop digestive problems as well as depression and anxiety.
That’s why it’s so important as a mom to learn how to reduce stress levels. By learning how to manage stress, you will be protecting your own health and the health of your family. I’ve compiled 15 different ways in which I effectively deal with stress. Although I do some of the following steps each day, some I do less frequently. That said, they do all work to effectively relieve stress. Of the 15 ways to deal with stress I am confident that at least a few will be a fit for you and your family.
1. Practice Self-Awareness
Because we now know that our children will feel anxious when we are stressed out, it’s important to be extremely self-aware when feeling stressed. Be conscious of the way that you talk and behave as this will affect the moods of your children. I wrote a post about How to Break Through the Smog of Daily Routines and Drink In Life’s Beauty when I am stressed or in a rut. Hopefully it helps you to become self-aware or present and engaged too.
2. Set a Positive Example
Your children will follow your lead. If you yell or throw things when you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, your children will believe that this is the appropriate response to negative feelings.
However, if your children see that you engage in healthy activities such as the ones mentioned below, and that these positive activities can relieve their parents’ stress, they will begin to turn to these activities themselves when they are feeling anxious. As Albert Einstein said: “Example isn’t another way to teach, it is the only way to teach.” Be cognizant of your example and try to remain calm despite stress.
3. Listen to Good Music
I LOVE music. And when I turn it on in the house everyone seems to be happier and less stressed. Here is list of some of my favorite Pandora stations (free online streaming) for ‘chilling-out’ or de-stressing.
4. Take a Break
If your workflow seems to never end, take a break. Studies show a significant link between over working and stress. As a busy mom, you deserve some time off so that you don’t burn out. Taking some time off doesn’t make you a bad mother. Rather, it is a form of self-preservation that allows you to be the best and healthiest version of yourself for your family. There is a break room in most workplaces for this reason. If you are a stay-at-home mom your hours are longer than most 8-10 hour shifts. Make sure you are taking breaks.
For example, today I felt swamped and stressed by work and it was unusually warm for a February day, so my kids and I went and played in the back yard. Although I was only out there 30 minutes the fresh air, exercise, and sunlight set the stage for a more productive day.
Then, during nap time I had been at the computer for a few hours and started to feel very swamped and stressed again. My son called out from the other room, “Mom do you want to come play cars with me?”. I decided I really did want to play with him. So I took a break. We had a great time playing cars for 15-20 minutes and when I got back to work I felt better.
You can use break time to plan out the remainder of your day, create a digital workflow or gameplan, take a walk, take a hot bath (if you are a bath-lover like me you will love this overflow contraption!), or even just read a good book.
5. Engage in Physical Activities
Exercise has been proven to dramatically lower stress levels. I love taking my kids to the park or the beach. In the winter we often go to indoor play areas or do workout videos in our home. I swear that by installing an DIY inground trampoline we use it 10x’s more frequently. We jump everyday in the spring, summer, and fall!
Lately, I’ve been going snowboarding once or twice a week using the night 2 for 1 coupons or discounted passes at Brighton Ski Resort. This has been such a delight and a major stress reliever for me!
6. Set Boundaries
Being a busy mom means juggling the demands of your spouse/significant other, your children, your household responsibilities, and often a job. As women, it can be hard to say “no” when asked to take on another.
That’s why it’s so important to set clear boundaries. Don’t allow yourself to take on more work than you can handle. I’ve written a few posts about this topic of when and how to say no here and why you can’t do it all here.
Also, don’t spend unnecessary time with people who stress you out. I LOVE Brene Brown’s video on boundaries and why the most compassionate, empathetic people set boundaries below.
The age-old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine” has a lot of truth to it. I remember reading in The Secret about a person who said they cured their cancer by watching funny shows daily. While that is an extreme example, studies have shown a link between laughter and stress relief.
So next time you feel really stressed try some of these clean comedies: Austenland, Pure Luck, and Nacho Libre. Some television series that make me laugh a lot are: Arrested Development, The Flight of the Concords, and The Office. Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan and other clean comedians are also super funny!
Meditation has many physical, emotional, and mental benefits. When I was going to university I was taking the maximum amount of credits and working two jobs. I was also active in church duties and snowboarding somewhat competitively. I was busy and often stressed.
When I was registering for school I felt very blessed get into a mediation class at the University of Utah. I needed a course requirement and only had one block of time to fill it. The meditation class fit both. At first I was skeptical and thought that we would be doing some weird stuff, but I was pleasantly surprised at how natural and easy mantra/breathing meditation is. It was very beneficial for me and continues to be!
I was so stressed that at the beginning of the semester when I first learned to meditate I got chronic headaches for the first two weeks. My professor said it is normal when highly-stressed individuals begin to meditate and encouraged me to keep at it. After a week or so of daily meditation 15 minutes 2x a day they went away completely—never to return again.
Meditating regularly brought me so many positive results. I scored better on tests, I did better at my snowboarding competitions (I would meditate right before them), and when I was particularly stressed about life and the busy-ness I would meditate to calm down and felt like the chillest person. I have never smoked pot but some of my snowboarding friends who did saw similar effects when I meditated. I told them it was even a more natural (and much less expensive) way to get super chilled and focused simultaneously.
9. Hold Daily Devotionals
When I went through a rocky time this past year, I made sure to have a daily devotional with myself. That sounds weird haha but it is what I called it, “kids mommy is having her devotional time”. During this time I would read my scriptures, listen to talks from leaders of my church given at general conference, and/or listen to good music. I would also write in my journal and pray.
The uplifting effect that divine faith and truth has had in my life through these daily devotionals is amazing! Many people asked how I was doing so well amidst so much trial and hardship (a divorce). Friends would often ask, how are you doing so well? How are you so happy? I would always respond that my faith was getting me through it. Even though things have gotten easier, I still have devotional time each day and it is a major source of peace and calmness in my life.
10. Focus on What Really Matters
Often we are stressed about things that really don’t matter. I like a clean house and its taken some time to learn to keep it clean without stressing about it. I like things not to be cluttered but sometimes the junk drawer becomes the junk counter and the laundry bin becomes a laundry closet! Just keep it real and do your best knowing that although we are all striving to be the best parents and homemakers we can be, try to focus on things that are lasting…which leads me to the next tip.
11. Prioritize Your Husband
When husband and wife are in peace with each other the household is so much happier and stress levels overall are down. I love the book by Dr. Laura, Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. It’s a Must-Read for every wife. When the husband is the priority of the wife, and the wife of the husband, the family functions more seamlessly and much more happily. Kids thrive in this environment as well.
Set up a weekly date night so that you both get a break from stressors and can bond. If money is tight, do a child exchange with other trusted parents so they can have a free date-night each week too. Here are 21 inexpensive date ideas you can do. And although I’m divorced I did do these things and they helped with the stress level in our home.
12. Take Care of Yourself
Self-care is a form of therapy in which you take some time alone to do things that make you happy. Taking a long, relaxing bubble bath (I love to use this deep water bath stopper) is a form of self-care that does not require much effort. Diffuse calming essential oils: such as Bergamot, Basil, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Lavender, Marjoram, Palmarosa and Ylang Ylang have been shown quite helpful. Indulging in a massage is also a form of self-care that has been proven to lower stress levels.
There is a misconception that mothers are obligated to fulfill the needs of everyone around them and not themselves. This is wrong. As a busy mom, you deserve some “me time” in order to stay healthy.
13. Create Structure for Your Children and Have Them Help You
Having a routine and structure can help children behave so much better! Telling them what is going on for the day helps them anticipate and feel more in the know and in control. I usually tell my son before he goes to bed what will be happening the next day (as far as I know). I’m pretty spontaneous so I’m not perfect at this, but I wrote about how I create an organized schedule despite not liking rigid routines here.
Disciplining your kids so they are more well-behaved makes the day much easier as well. Find what works for you and your kids and stick with it. I use this crying-stair technique to help me with what stresses me out the most—loud meaningless crying. It has been priceless. I also count to 3 to elicit a response, use time-outs, incentives, etc. to help my kids and I get through the day with less stress. It works.
Too many parents allow their kids to sit and play as they clean the house. My grandparents and parents would say the millennial generation has it backwards. The kids should be doing the majority of household cores. After all the parents have a ton of other grown-up things to do.
My mom commented that she missed having all 5 of us home because she has 5x’s the work to do with us gone. She set the system up right! We did our own laundry once we turned 8 years old—she never did a load for us after. We had 2 main regular chores each day which we rotated through weekly including vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, washing and folding towels, sweeping and moping the kitchen and entryway floors, etc. Then each of us had a night that we cleaned the kitchen (as the kids moved out we had 2 nights a week). Often we helped her make dinner. We always brought in the groceries and put them away. Then on Saturdays we had a list of 50+ chores and each of us had to initial our name by 10 or so of them before we could go play. These were the deep cleaning chores washing the tub and shower, washing windows, scrubbing baseboards, etc. Our house was always pretty clean and we learned a ton from it. Delegate whatever you can to your kids, the work ethic they will develop will be a blessing throughout their life and once they are taught to do it it means less stress for you!
14. Plan PlayDates and Get-Togethers with Friends
Friends are so important to have—especially as a woman. My mom told me when I got married to not lose my girlfriends! She said females need each other to socialize with, spend time with, and for support.
I listened. I have so many wonderful friends who I just adore and love to be around. I try to plan a friend get-together with one at least once a week. My kids and I love the playdates. It is something I look forward to each week.
If you don’t have many friends with kids your children ages, try making them. I made a friend who just moved to Utah at a park. Our son’s were the same age and she said she was new. I gave her my number and told her to text me next time she was planning to go to the park. We’ve met up 4 times now and she is just awesome. Be proactive about making and keeping friends and setting up get togethers.
15. Eat Healthy
Our bodies don’t function optimally without proper nutrition, hydration, and vitamins/minerals. Sometimes when I’m thirsty I’m more prone to stress. Staying hydrated makes everything better. When I don’t have enough protein to tide me over to the next meal I become more anxious. It is important to eat a good mixture of proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats. Getting vitamins and minerals from fruits, veggies, and supplements is also another important step to ward off stress. This liquid Vitamin D does wonders for my mood!
Eating unhealthy can cause anxiety all on its own! I have to be careful to not eat too much sugar at one time because I’ve been on a limited-sugar-diet for a few years now and when I eat too much I get physically ill, sweat, and can’t function. I’m amazed that a small amount of sugar can do that to me, when before I limited my sugar I could eat 5X’s the sugar without the same rush. I’m not going to cut sugar out entirely (I’ve done that before and found it to not be sustainable) but I do try to keep a good balance and eat mostly healthy so my body is functioning optimally.
Although being a busy mom may sometimes seem like an endless stream of stress, there are many ways to effectively deal with mom stress which are healthy and which will benefit both you and your family.