According to the Merriam-Webster, “Stress: a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.”
Is it just me, or does anyone else out there feel like a servant to their children? I literally have knick-named myself “Snack Slave” to my 4-year-old son Connor, who seems to NEED a snack every hour. When I’m ready to rest my tired, aching body on the couch, he makes another request that requires me to get up and tend to his urgent need.
It’s not just my son either. My sweet baby girl, Olivia, is obsessed with eating just about everything she finds on the floor. Her favorite? Paper. Another personal favorite of hers, my slippers. She loves licking my slippers even though I hide them from her. YUCK! Needless to say, she needs constant supervision.
Stress? Yes, I’ve got plenty of it. I’m sure you have similar stress in your life too. Kids are super adorable and I absolutely love them, but they come with their fair share of stress. Of course, this doesn’t account for my work responsibilities, cleaning the house, scheduling childcare, juggling homework, monitoring piano lessons…well, you get the point.
I could easily let the weight of the world bring me down, but that’s not how I prefer to live my life. I could deal with the stress by drinking wine every night, but I don’t think that’s the best or healthiest option either. I could let it build up until I explode, but I don’t think that’s productive. Instead, I’ve been searching to find healthy ways to manage and deal with my stress.
Here are some things I have put into practice that I have found to be tremendously helpful in managing and reducing stress. I hope it can be helpful to you if you’re feeling the same way.
1. Wake up earlier than the kids: So I’ve never been much of a morning person, but I recently started waking up at 6am (an hour before my kids wake up). This early rise has made a surprising and positive impact. The fact that I have time to myself has been the most fantastic way to start the day.
2. Set a bedtime for yourself, and stick with it: In order to accomplish goal #1, this step is critical. Your body needs rest. And while each person needs different amounts of sleep, it’s as important to set a predictable schedule. If you’re looking for more sleep research, read Thrive by Arianna Huffington. She found herself in a pool of blood at her desk because she was over-worked and highly stressed. Set a bedtime and make it happen. Your sleep matters.
3. Learn the practice of mindfulness meditation: My husband was actually the one who recommended this to me. There’s this great app called, Calm found in the iTunes store. It’s free with options to upgrade. Calm combines peaceful sounds and serene visuals. The guided sessions are simple, but teach powerful meditation and breathing techniques that actually work. There are short and long-term plans that offer a variety of settings so you can choose to spend 5 or 20 minutes each day quieting your mind. Give it a chance and you’ll completely fell in love with meditation too.
4. Spend some time doing what you love: Before the days of having kids, you had a hobby right? The other day someone asked me what my hobbies were, and I actually couldn’t even remember. I almost forgot what that word meant! It had been so long since I spent time doing what I loved. One activity that I love doing is yoga. I prefer doing yoga alone at a studio, with other adults and in peace, but it’s nearly impossible for me to get out of the house. So I turned to the ‘ol faithful app store and downloaded a great yoga app called, Yoga Studio. And, sometimes I let the kids join in… Sometimes!
5. Breathe. When you feel yourself getting tense, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Breathe in, breathe out and drop your shoulders.
6. Have your kids get their own snacks. You are not a slave to your children. Keep the snacks at eye level in the pantry so they can get their own. Keep a stock of fresh fruits and veggies in the crisper so they can easily pull them out and help themselves. If your child is too small to open the fridge have an older sibling help them out.
7. Get physical. Do something outside if possible. Take a walk, mow the lawn, do push-ups with the kids, do cartwheels in the grass, but please don’t hurt yourself. 😉
8. Color. Adult coloring books are all the rage right now. Take a seat, grab your colored pencils and start coloring. Have your child get their coloring book as well and make it a time to connect. Here’s a book I enjoy from author Nora D’Ecclesis called, Adult Coloring: Be a Kid Again!
9. Read. You know that book sitting on your nightstand that you WANT to read, but never seem to find the time… Pick it up and read it. I had a friend make a deal with her son (who didn’t love to read) that was simple, yet profound. The deal was, “You and I will read for 20 minutes after dinner every night for two weeks.”
She would read her book (that was sitting on the nightstand) and he would read his. They sat on the couch next to each other while they read. By the end of the two weeks, they were both reading for close to an hour and the bond they created was remarkable. Try setting a timer for 10 – 20 mins and commit. You’ll be happy you did.
I could go on and on with this list, but this is what I’ve learned and wanted to share with you. I hope these tips help you find peace as they have for me. I feel happier and more able to handle life’s stressors with these tools and resources. I hope they serve you well.