By: Michele Timmons
"When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they're finished, I climb out." ~ Erma Bombeck
Welcome to a mom’s world. We love our families and our work (usually) and thrive on being needed. But at times, life gets so overwhelming we just don’t know where to turn or how to get out of life's "hamster wheel".
When I did an online search for stress-reducing strategies, I found ideas like: go for a walk, get a massage, gather some friends for a girls night out, go shopping or take a nap. As a mother of three boys, (ages 9, 14 and 16) I thought these were great ideas--until I started reading the comments posted by other moms. Moms with smaller children, single moms, or any mom with money related stress found these suggestions nice, but unrealistic.
So, I came up with my three, solid tips that I hope will allow all moms' hamster wheels to slow down enough to allow us time to breathe, regroup, and garner enough strength to keep on rolling. It’s critical to take care of ourselves if we want to be great caregivers to our families!
Tip #1: Breathe.
For best results dedicate10-20 minutes daily to relaxation breathing. This can be done at your desk during a break, when the little ones are napping, when you're stuck in a traffic jam, or just about any time you need a sense of calm. My favorite time is lying in bed at night. It helps me relax and fall asleep.
For effective relaxation breathing, it can help to picture yourself somewhere you feel totally relaxed and happy. Here’s how Helpguide describes the process:
• Find a quiet, relaxed place. Beginners sometimes fall asleep during a visualization meditation, so you might try sitting up or standing.
• Close your eyes and let your worries drift away. Imagine your restful place. Picture it as vividly as you can—everything you can see, hear, smell, and feel.
• Visualization works best if you incorporate as many sensory details as possible, using at least three of your senses.
• When visualizing, choose imagery that appeals to you; don’t select images because someone else suggests them, or because you think they should be appealing. Let your own images come up and work for you.
Some people find it helpful to listen to soothing music during deep breathing or visualization. My favorites are Enya and Sade but you can find tons of great music just by searching YouTube and then creating your own relaxation playlist.
Check out this video for help practicing the 4-2-8 method of deep breathing to promote relaxation.
Tip #2: Snack.
WebMD has a terrific slideshow with snack ideas for de-stressing yourself. I’m a stress eater so these are foods I can eat without guilt. My favorites are listed below:
• Complex carbs boost levels of serotonin, a calming brain chemical – try whole grain breads, cereals and pasta or oatmeal.
• Oranges – taste yummy and you get vitamin C and reduced stress hormones!
• Omega 3 fatty acids - found in fish like salmon and tuna, can prevent surges in stress hormones and protect against heart disease, mood disorders like depression, and premenstrual syndrome. If you can’t eat it a couple times a week there are great supplements available.
• Choose hot tea over coffee – I love my coffee, but when I am stressed or sick nothing is better than hot tea. Research suggests black tea can help you recover from stressful situations more quickly.
• DumDum suckers – are simple sugars that digest quickly and give a fast serotonin boost. However, this is the in case of emergency stash and should be limited.
• Get a little nutty – pistachios, walnuts and almonds can help reduce cholesterol and reduce stress.
• Raw veggies – carrots, celery, broccoli, etc. give your jaws a workout and release tension.
See the whole slideshow here.
Tip #3: Find your happy place!
If you find yourself particularly stressed, angry or unable to reason with others – give yourself a timeout. Put away the phone and computer. Send the little ones to their room to play and go hide for 5-10 minutes. Try one of the relaxation techniques or grab a healthy snack while you give yourself and your family a break. Sometimes it is also helpful to just stretch out and think happy thoughts. Think of your favorite vacation spot, how adorable your kids look asleep, what it feels like to snuggle with your partner or a pet. Blow out the bad thoughts and replace them with what is good about your life. I’ve been known to hide in my bathroom with the door locked and to read a chapter in my favorite book. When I return, I can much more easily jump back into my hamster wheel and keep rolling along.
If you want to see some more ideas on how to manage stress check out this ParentFurther e-newsletter.
Moms, we all need to take good care of ourselves if we want to be around long enough to care for our families. These ideas can help jump start our effort to take care of ourselves. However, if your stress is extreme or if you feel depressed or out of control, please contact your doctor.
Tell Me:----> I would love to hear what you do to reduce fatigue and stress so you can keep your hamster wheel happily rolling along.__________________________________________________________________________________________________
1. Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief from Helpguide.org.
2. "Blissing Out", WebMD.com.
3. Diet for Stress Management Slideshow: Stress-Reducing Foods, WebMD.com.
4. ParentFurther.com, e-newsletter:"Parenting Stress".