We all know how bad chronic stress is for our physical health (err weight gain, stroke, hypertension and heart failure to rattle off a few scary outcomes), but it also takes a big toll on our emotional and mental wellbeing.
And this is the part which most often impacts how we parent, and what type of Mother we’re being to our children, not to mention the toll it takes on our happiness.
Mothers often carry the heaviest load when it comes to running a household, taking care of children, making meals, meeting the needs of their partner and everything in between. When the stress from all these responsibilities piles on top of each other, it changes how you feel and act, and piles on big emotions.
When it comes to parenting-related and household caused stress, it might not feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But the thing is, stress isn’t something which will resolve on its own. It’s diminished by your own actions – what we tolerate in our lives and how much we let ourselves carry (not to mention let those throw onto your shoulders.
Sure, stress is difficult to eliminate, but it’s necessary to reduce the levels of stress you operate under if you want create a positive home for your children and live as a happy mama, not an unhappy one.
Studies have proven that children can sense when their parents are stressed, but the key finding is while 70% of parents didn’t believe their stress affected the lives of their children, in fact, children intimately picked up on the stress and behavior changes in these circumstances.
Children are extremely sensitive to their parent’s moods, language and mental state. They are in tune with you and while you may think you’re the only one bearing the payload of stress, it’s proven that children pick up on it and can be negatively affected as well.
Children whose parents are stressed or live in a stressful environment may develop mood disorders such as anxiety or depression, addiction and digestive issues – even altering a child’s DNA.
David Code who wrote the book Kids Pick Up on Everything: How Parenting Stress is Toxic to Kids suggests the most critical thing that we can transmit to our kids is not our ever-present, undying love – it’s actually to provide them with a sense of calm and the absence of stress, which he says may be more powerful than declarations of love. This is what will ultimately help their growing brains wire normally, without having to accommodate for some vague sense of impending danger as they develop, which may or may not exist.
Your mindset may be “I can get through this” or “I will only have to soldier through this stressful time a little while longer,” but your health and your family’s wellbeing are in jeopardy the longer it takes to relieve the pressure.
These key ways to stop the stress (or at least cut it in half) and live more peacefully will help you and family live stress-free. Focus on one step at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed trying to tackle everything at once. The point is to reduce stress, not add to it.
You can live joyfully and positively connect with your kids and partner each day when you aren’t burdened with stress.
1) SAYING NO GIVES YOU POWER
Learn the power of saying no and setting healthy boundaries – for your work, for your personal life, and for your family.
Setting healthy boundaries is necessary to increasing your happiness and living as a less stressed parent. Boundaries are important for those things that make you uncomfortable, you feel obligated to do like volunteering on another school committee or making a work commitment you really didn’t think you should throw on your already overloaded plate right now.
Obligations which are begrudgingly done without passion turn into burdens and cause the stress monster to rear its ugly head.
Cancel some plans and spend your time doing something fun you really want to do, not things you feel obligated to do.
Gracefully bow out of a committee you currently serve on and eliminate swimming lessons your daughter cries about every week because she doesn’t want to go anyways.
Stop feeling guilty about saying No to obligations and time stealers which take you away from the things you really want to be doing whether that’s spending time with your family or taking care of yourself. Saying no is saying yes to healthy boundaries.
One easy mantra to remember is unless it’s a Hell Yes, it’s a Hell No!
2) ELIMINATE CLUTTER
Nothing screams extra work and chaos like a messy, disorganized house.
When you walk through the door after being gone, do you want to walk into a house that’s neatly organized and you can sit down on the couch and relax… or see a pile of dishes, laundry stacked on the dryer and toys spilled over the floors that require your immediate attention?
Clutter is a tremendous factor to the stress that builds up inside of you.
What you see in your home will manifest in your psyche. If you live in a chaotic home, you will feel chaotic. If you live in a peaceful home kept decluttered, you will feel calm.
What are you willing to give up to relieve some of the pressure at home?
This doesn’t mean you must keep your house sparkling clean, but if you eliminate half of everything you have in your house, you’ll have far less to pick up and regularly wash down. Most of the time, no one will even notice half of your closet, blankets, kitchenware, toys and other items are gone, but you sure will.
3) PINPOINT YOUR STRESS TRIGGERS & THEN CRUSH ‘EM
What is it that makes you feel completely stressed out? Is it the chaos of making dinner and trying to keep the kids in order at the same time, maintaining a clean house, handling the homework routine or shuttling your kids to multiple activities after school?
Pinpoint what it is that makes you feel the most stressed in order to find a solution.
When you try to nail these items down, know that if it creates stress, it’s a problem and a change is necessary.
If making dinner is stressful, try MyFreeze Easy Monthly Freezer Meal Planner or crockpot meals to cut down on on-the-spot meal making or put a few extra dollars in your budget to order out once or twice a week. (This is a genius time and sanity saver for Moms and busy families by the way!)
Do you need a housecleaner? Babysitter? Gym membership to exercise with childcare for your kids? To cut back on activities during the week? Pre-made meals?
One by one nail down your stress triggers and think about what it would take to eliminate the stress it spurs. Begin to put your solutions into action so your entire family functions in a stress- free environment.
4) MOVE IT TO LOSE IT
Getting daily physical activity is proven to dramatically lower stress levels. The endorphins you receive when you are moving create good feelings which combat the bad stress you feel saddled with.
You don’t have to run a marathon, but getting outdoors in the fresh air and walking around your neighborhood, playing with your kids in the pool or jumping on the trampoline gets your blood pumping enough to counteract stress hormones.
The next time you want to pull out your hair, turn on your music and your dance moves for an impromptu dance party with your kids.
5) FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
If your mind is tuned to find the positive, your body and action will follow along. Remember, the mind sets the tone for everything about you – how you feel, how you act, the mood you have that day, how you respond to stress triggers like your kids arguing with one another or a spilled bowl of cereal before 8am.
Find little ways to shift your mindset from negative to positive.
When you feel frustrated going to the store with rambunctious kids, instead of complaining about how hard this task is, think about feeling grateful to be able to provide your family with healthy, fresh food.
If you are annoyed with the mess your kids made in the living room while you changed your baby’s diaper, tell yourself that they played quietly by themselves for 5 minutes and you didn’t need to referee any fights over wanting the same toy car.
Trust me, I know, it’s easy to get caught up in complaining about everything that makes you feel stressed – the messes, when things don’t go as planned, fussy children, your partner coming home late, etc.
Take a deep breath and pause. Bend your mind to look at the situation from a new angle.
Leave sticky notes around your house with things you’re grateful for. Set reminders in your phone with positive phrases or save pictures with inspiring messages you scroll through as a reminder to think positively.
6) QUIT MULTITASKING
Women multitask because it’s become second nature, however when you become a parent, multitasking often comes at the expense of your child.
Multitasking causes you to lose sight of the time and attention being taken away from the people who matter the most.
Take a deep breath and close your computer. The email that just pinged is not that important.
The load of laundry can wait until your kids go to bed.
When your daughter is talking to you, stop and look her in the eyes.
Take a mental break from work and the stress that takes you away from giving them your undivided attention whether it’s for the moment they need you or the next 30 minutes
The world will pass us by while we worry about all we have left to do.
Slow down and experience life with your family, not with your phone, or computer or all the dishes in your kitchen sink.
There will always be time for those things later because your kids can’t wait.
7) PICK ONE BIG & THREE SMALL THINGS EACH DAY
It’s no wonder when we rush from one obligation to next in the pursuit of whittling down our (endless) to do list, we feel stressed and anxious trying to squeeze in time for everything and everyone.
I used to wake up every morning staring at a to do list I had written the night before that filled an entire piece of paper. I would immediately be overwhelmed with everything I needed to take care of so much so that I would be paralyzed deciding where to begin.
I read an article once that said the most successful people tackle the hardest item on the list first. So I began to do this too.
I looked at my list and while making a couple phone calls might be easy, they weren’t the hardest. They weren’t the tasks I had been putting off and dreading. I picked the hardest item on my list and did it right away.
After I began this practice, I started feeling immediate satisfaction at taking care of the big business first, most of the time before the kids were even up in the morning.
And guess what? Those successful people were right. When I knock the biggest item off my list it lifts a weight off my shoulders for the rest of the day.
Next, I circle three things on the list to tackle and when the kids are napping, playing quietly together or after they’ve gone to bed. These are the small things that take me 10 or 15 minutes each like folding a load of laundry or paying bills.
If I can get one thing done in the morning, one at naptime and one after their bedtime by spreading them out during the day, the focus remains on my kids and being a fun and playful Mom.
My children and my partner are my priority, and they are always number one on my list because of the one big, three small rule I have in place.
Stress.. it eats at your happiness, at the way you treat yourself, your body and others because it’s toxic. When we have people in our lives who are toxic, we don’t keep them as friends and we don’t let them pull us down. When our food turns bad, we don’t eat it. But yet, we live with stress and accept that we just have to get through because it is inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be, reduce the stress in your life and get rid of it just like you would a toxic person.
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