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Stress. The mere mention of the word makes me tense up and shudder. I think I tend to lead a little bit of a high-stress life. Part of that is my own doing, and part of that is simply because I have kids. 😀
But the part about ‘my own doing’ is mainly that I have never really learned how to properly deal with stress. In my college years, I thrived on stressful situations. I could always perform my responsibilities better when under pressure versus if I didn’t have a care in the world and a ton of time to get something accomplished. However, since becoming a mom, I’ve discovered that not all stress is the same and we handle different kinds of stresses differently. The stresses I deal with on a daily basis now do anything but help me to perform my responsibilities better and I often do anything but handle them well.
I used to picture myself as a totally fun, collected, brilliant mom who always had fun, crafty things to do with the kids, and every day was a fun, new adventure. This fairy tale life I had envisioned back when I was a single, naive young woman kept me from preparing myself mentally for the reality that lay ahead. Now that real life has hit, every day is an adventure alright… but my goal is simply to last long enough to put the kiddos to bed each night without doing permanent damage to any of us through the course of the day. 😀 And I have finally reached a point in life where I have begun to realize that life would probably be a whole lot easier (not to mention more enjoyable!) if I learned how to actually deal with the stress instead of just trying to live with it.
So as I’ve started studying how to handle stress better, here are some things I’ve learned:
1. Breathe. This is for immediate help in a stressful situation and has been one of the biggest helps for me. I always thought it sounded corny to just take deep breaths… like that was somehow going to magically take away all my problems. Well, it doesn’t take away the problems. But it does help your body respond to the problems better. Try this: as soon as you feel your body tensing up in a stressful situation (i.e. your child is screaming again for the 30th time in a day), stop whatever you are doing, close your eyes, and start taking deep, meaningful breaths. Focus on filling up your lungs and then letting all the air out. Repeat this several times. Open your eyes and then address the situation. I’m not kidding that this helps! I’ll often be doing dishes or something and will just have to stop (water running and all) and start taking deep breaths so that I can respond better to my children instead of reacting poorly to the stressful situation. Okay, moving on.
2. Simplify. When you are stressed, it’s often because there are too many things going on at the same time. It’s time to take a step back and just simplify life. Cut back on activities and obligations. Learn how to say no to things that you don’t really have the time and/or energy for. If you already have a lot of obligations you’ve agreed to, prioritize them and handle them one task at a time. Don’t try to juggle everything at once. Ask for help in getting things accomplished, and, once completed, do not take on any new tasks until you are sure you are able to handle them. Do not feel guilty if you have to tell someone, “I’m sorry, but I just won’t be able to help with that.” They will survive without your help! I promise! There are plenty of other people in this world with capable hands! You don’t have to do everything! (Shocking revelation… I know!) 😀
3. Remember. Remember your priorities and what is truly important. Often the things we are stressing about are things that are not really important and we end up hurting or compromising the people that we really care about over something that doesn’t really matter to us at all. So take a step back, remember what matters, and then let the rest slide. I have to remind myself of this when I’m sitting at the computer for large amounts of time and my girls start whining and crying because I’m not paying any attention to them. And then I get frustrated because they’re whining. But really it’s my own fault because I’m ignoring the things/people that are important (my beautiful, precious daughters) for something that really isn’t important at all (the computer). So remember, remember and remind yourself often. 🙂
4. Me Time. This has been another HUGE one for me. Take some time for just yourself. It can be a few minutes every day, a few hours every week, or whatever works for you, but you have GOT to take some time to connect with who you are. When I was finally understanding that I had to do something about my stress levels, I told Hubby that I was going to take Wednesday nights for myself. (Fortunately I have the most wonderful husband in the world who didn’t even bat an eye and said that sounded fabulous.) 🙂 So every Wednesday night, Hubby stays home with the kids and I go do absolutely whatever I want. I desperately try to avoid doing ‘mommy’ things with that time (i.e. the grocery shopping, etc) because this is MY time. I’m learning to reconnect with ME. I’ve been spending time at the library just reading. Going to the mall and just wandering. Trying to feel pretty again. Rediscovering my likes and interests. Anything that helps me remember who I am/was that makes me unique and special. I’ve only been doing this for about a month or so now, but it’s already been helping a lot. I come home, anxious to see my kids again and ready to go another round in the wringer. 🙂
5. Slow Down. Try not to let yourself be in a rush. If you’re in a rush, that means you don’t have time for something unexpected to happen. And something unexpected always seems to happen, so high stress inevitably ensues. I frequently find myself trying to rush life along. Even when I don’t have any place I need to be. I think our culture in general has moved towards this. We just do everything fast paced now. This reminds me of a song that goes, “I’m in a hurry to get things done. Oh, I rush and rush until life’s no fun. All I really gotta do is live and die, but I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.” Doesn’t that seem so true? Try just slowing your pace down a little bit and see how much more peace it brings to your life.
6. Exercise and Relaxation Techniques. Again, learning to connect with your body will not take away stressful situations, but will help you to deal with stress better. Here’s what the Mayo Clinic has to say about it:
“Relaxation techniques are an essential part of stress management. Relaxation isn’t just about finding some quiet time or enjoying a hobby. Relaxation is a process that helps you repair the toll that stress takes on your mind and body.
“Almost everyone can benefit from learning relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques usually involve refocusing your attention to something calming and increasing awareness of your body. Common relaxation techniques include meditation and yoga. Almost any type of exercise is a great stress buster. It doesn’t matter which relaxation technique you choose. What matters is that you practice relaxation regularly.”
Well, I’m sure there are lots of additional helpful ideas for dealing with stress, but I just wanted to share what I’ve learned that has been working for me. I hope this can help someone else as well! And please feel free to share any tips that have worked for you as well! Warm wishes and happy thoughts to you all!