If you’re a mum right now in 2022, you’re probably a bit stressed.
Stressed mums, single mums, and every other mum in between – are all prone to additional stress due to the immense responsibilities and roles.
Mum stress is worrying though, because the whole family feels it (young children much so).
Here in this post, I aim to give constructive, science-backed advice about holistic stress relief, so you can take charge of your health, lower your heart rate & blood pressure, and reduce your cortisol levels.
In plain English, this means feeling calmer, happier, and more present, with greater energy to take on the day and get those tasks ticked off.
Are you struggling to keep on top of everything?
Perhaps you’re a new mum experiencing stressful situations left, right and centre? Or a mum to teenagers who drive you mad?
From your to-do list to your family’s demands, a job, a home, a (less than) full-time social life, your ageing parents and the other bits in between. It’s all really stressful.
No matter how carefully you plan and prioritise, you still experience even higher levels of stress and erratic emotional states.
What are you doing wrong?
In one word. Nothing.
You’re not doing anything wrong. It’s called the 21st century. Welcome to “mommy burnout”.
What you must do is not stay stressed, which can contribute to depressive symptoms if it continues (sorry to bring a downer here).
Instead, take control and reduce your stress RIGHT NOW, today, for the sake of your body’s health, and your mental health.
Environmental factors and major traumatic life events can all trigger an episode of stress, yet all are different in terms of the levels of stress caused and the symptoms that follow.
If you’re reading this and your stress levels are at an all-time high, know you’re not alone and you can get help.
But the thing is, you’ve got to communicate to get help.
So begin by asking yourself some probing questions. Admitting to yourself that you’re stressed, and committing to beat it.
Talking to a family member or having a support group among friends is good for talking about stressful things.
Often talking about it is enough to relieve it.
In 2020, 9.8 million American mothers suffered from burnout (aka chronic stress). In the UK, mothers are 40% more stressed than everyone else, according to a study outlined by the Guardian.
Let’s dive in and discuss how to reduce your stress levels, bringing you back to more important tasks, such as enjoying quality time with your loved ones (stress-free, of course).
I know, you’re resisting already. But even a short walk can do wonders for getting rid of stress.
Exercise is number one for resetting the body after a stressful time. Exercise gets rid of any kind of stress hands down.
A fantastic resource for explaining this in detail is a book called ‘Burnout: Solve Your Stress Cycle’.
In it, authors Emily and Amelia Nagoski share how, if we don’t complete the stress cycle through exercise and then calm down afterwards, the stress cycle never stops.
Those tight shoulders and constantly feeling like you’re on high alert? Exercise can get rid of that.
Stress is an ancient form of fight or flight, so in our ancestors era we’d be chased by a huge tiger or an aggressive human stealing our food.
Our sympathetic nervous system would kick in, flooding the body with cortisol, and we’d run, FAST. Or, we’d fight, depending on the situation.
If we didn’t get eaten (or beaten), our stress levels would reduce naturally knowing we were no longer in danger.
This is normal stress. It ends, but only after the stress forces us to take action.
Nowadays, we are dealing with one stressful situation, followed by another, endlessly in short succession.
Not so much of a hugely stressful situation as being eaten by a tiger mind you, but multiple tiny triggers build up to something big in the long run. And this is because the stress cycle never ends!
Therefore, by exercising, you close one stress cycle. You break the cycle as it were. If another one comes along (and it will) you take yourself off for another walk/run and feel the relief.
Exercise is great if you’re looking to improve your work-life balance as it can become a nice hobby once you find something you enjoy doing.
Try out different exercises, such as cardiovascular (running, walking, swimming) and muscle toning exercises (yoga, weights). I’m also a fan of YouTube for free exercise videos when the weather’s bad.
Side note: Exercise is also good for regulating your hormone levels, which in turn will help reduce stress in the body.
We hear a lot about gratitude these days, simply because it’s powerful and beautiful simultaneously. And it puts us in a different mental state after we’ve practised being grateful.
Gratitude also works on the parasympathetic nervous system, activating the rest and relax part of our body, which counteracts the stress response.
Gratitude is a way to bring us back to this moment only. To what truly matters and to what we value the most. When we practice gratitude, we come from a place of compassion and love, rather than fear and negativity.
A simple way to practise gratitude is to write a gratitude list. Ideally, write your list every day.
Make it a daily practice. This way you build up on the good stuff and reinforce it, making the feelings of thankfulness last longer.
Pick three things that you’re grateful for every day.
And write them down. It can be the little things or big things. It’s your gratitude list.
I also cover gratitude practices in my ebook. Take a look by clicking here.
Minimise Social Media Platforms
Social media is often a cause of stress without acknowledging it.
For the simple fact that social media initiates FOMO (fear of missing out) by its eternal “my life is so great” vibe (you know what I’m talking about).
Therefore, bite the bullet and control how much time you spend browsing it. In other words, don’t spend a half-day browsing, limit it to 5-10 mins every so often.
And bring in a ‘digital sunset’. I learnt about this from the amazing Brian Johnson from the Optimise platform, and he bangs on about stopping technology at least one hour before going to bed.
Or why not try and go teetotal for a weekend and get off it completely? I’ll bet anything you feel less stressed.
Your being stressed is not a reason to be hard on yourself. Instead, it’s a reason to build compassion, self worth and self respect.
Having young kids, unexpected weight gain, lack of sleep, longer hours, multiple physical symptoms and any other stress triggers with no idea how to help yourself is not a reason to punish yourself with cruel talk.
Tell yourself kindly but firmly, “I’m doing my best, and I’m doing OK”.
The thing is, you can exacerbate your stress by becoming stressed about being stressed!
We are our toughest critics, beating ourselves up over every little thing. And therefore, awareness of this can naturally reduce stress levels, without changing anything on the outside.
Be With the Little Things
The gorgeous smile of your small children. The warm cuppa in your hands. The homemade cookies. That hilarious phone call.
The warmth of your house in winter even. In the grand scheme of things, ask yourself whether what you’re stressed about will matter in 5, 10 or 15 years? Probably not is the answer.
Whatever little thing you can be mindful of brings tremendous peace and presence to your day and reduces stress. Being with the little things is one of those perfect gifts,
Rather than focusing on your to-do list, or the chores, or workload, or whatever else is happening which feels too big to handle, focus more on the small things.
Bring in some quiet time to your schedule, on the evenings when the family are asleep at a decent time.
It ’ll calm you down and bring you to a place where you feel you can tackle the big things (if they need tackling that is!)
Spend Time Outdoors- Move your body!
Have a good time outdoors whatever you’re doing. Enjoy a day out somewhere nice. Enjoy some personal time out shopping or whatever else you’d love to do.
Spend your entire day outside if you can and your stress levels will naturally come down.
Preferably choose a sunny day and a beach, and watch your stress melt away with the sea.
Heard of Oxytocin?
Throughout our antenatal classes, we heard about it again and again – I became obsessed! Oxytocin is a key stress killer.
Also called the love hormone, it has a direct impact on cortisol, reducing it and lowering blood pressure to boot.
Eat Healthier Foods
My favourites are oats, blueberries, chamomile tea and dark chocolate for calming the body and lowering stress. And mind how you eat too.
By slowing down at dinner time for example, you’ll help calm down the stress in your body. And help your digestion along. Win win!
We don’t breathe right most of the time. Shallow chest breaths and a sedentary lifestyle mean we don’t get the ideal level of oxygen into our blood stream.
Deep abdominal breathing is fantastic to reduce stress. It wakes you up way better than coffee!
With abdominal breaths, you take a deeper inhale so your abdomen puffs out, and then breathe it all out by contracting your tummy muscles.
It takes a bit of practice, but it’s worth it to get the hang of it.
Try out some essential oils to help the room you’re breathing in smell nicer.
Using a rollerball on your pulse points such as these ones or a hot bath with some essential oils works wonders to reduce stress.
Check out these essential oils for inspiration. Lavender is my choice for helping calm the nervous system.
Stress tends to contribute to poor sleep, but it’s important to prioritize getting more hours if you can.
If you’re not getting the hours of sleep you need, get some advice from a medical professional or search online for good sleep solutions.
My personal favourites for getting more rest are making your room smell nice and welcoming, or using a lavender/essential oil spray for your pillow.
Oh, and the Calm app to listen to while falling asleep.
But I’ll admit, it’s hard to sleep well with little kids around who wake up in the night. Read this post if this is what you’re struggling with (sleep deprivation)
Accept Offers of Help
Perhaps you’ve got amazing close friends eager to support you somehow?
Whether it’s taking you out for coffee or watching the kids for an hour so you can take a break, really do accept the help.
Allow yourself that.
They’re perhaps experiencing similar situations as you and would benefit from some time out doing something different.
Don’t forget this proven wellbeing system for reducing stress aka the 4As. The best option is to avoid the stressor if you can.
Avoid – Remove the stressor (the thing causing stress)
Alter – Change the stressor
Accept – Accept and surrender to the stressor
Adapt – Change your viewpoint/mindset/position in regards to the stressor
Check Your Unrealistic Expectations
Often, expectations are a cause of stress. Are you expecting your child to behave a certain way, then getting disappointed?
Do you expect to have help, and don’t get it?
Try to remove any expectations if you can. Expectations tend to lead to disappointment.
Take a step back, pause, and re-assess your expectations. Ideally, by dropping them, you may find your stress reduces.
A deep breath, stretch your shoulders up and down, and tell yourself, “What will be will be”.
This often brings stress right down and gets your mind back in the present moment.
I hope you find this post inspiring with these healthy ways to reduce stress.
The good news is that stress can be reduced with simple lifestyle improvements. Give any or all of these tips a go and see how you feel.
Ultimately, don’t be afraid to see your medical doctor for advice on reducing stress.
If you found this post helpful, please share it.
Megan Leonhart, 2020, 9.8 million working mothers in the U.S. are suffering from burnout, Make It, accessed 25.11.21, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/03/millions-of-working-mothers-in-the-us-are-suffering-from-burnout.html
Mohd. Razali Saklleh, 2008, Life Event, Stress and Illness, accessed 25.11.21, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/
Jamie Doward, 2019, Working mothers ‘up to 40% more stressed’, accessed 25.11.21, https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/jan/27/working-mothers-more-stressed-health