For Stress Awareness Month, I wanted to write about how mom stress differs from other stress types. Also, why it’s essential to regularly check in on our stress level.
And I will be sharing an exercise that helps me practice regular check-ins as well as a few tips I use to lower my stress level quickly.
Mom stress is particularly complicated. It’s different because it has so many layers.
Mom stress comes from physical workload (i.e., making sure our home is taken care of, the last-minute school project is done, meals are planned).
It also comes from motherhood’s mental weight (i.e., Do my kids eat enough vegetables?).
And it has an emotional component to it, too (i.e., I lost my patience, and now I feel guilty).
Beyond that, we also take on the stress of our family members.
As moms, we not only carry our own stress or anxiety, but we are the carriers of everyone else’s stress too.
If my kids are stressed with school? I am stressed right there with them. We talk through it, and then I worry the whole next school day until they get into the car and tell me their day was so great! My hubby had a stressful day at work? I am there too. I listen, and we strategize how to make it better. And again, I worry until I know it has been resolved.
We are the keepers of all things, including all the emotions.
Our loved ones’ feelings are unloaded onto us because we are moms, and we are here to make things better, and we do everything we can to make things better.
This added to our daily stress can lead to a level of pressure that makes us more impatient, tired, and burnt out.
We are moms. Moms take everything on and can make everything work. Most of the time with that seems like a minimal effort to the outside world.
…But inside, we know it is most definitely not with minimal effort. It takes a lot of effort and adds a lot of stress.
It’s vital to make time to decompress before the stress catches up to us.
Unchecked stress can trigger mental health problems like anxiety and depression, and it can cause physical ailments too.
Each of us physically reacts to stress differently. It’s like our brains are saying, “You didn’t listen to me when stress was weighing on your mind, so maybe you will notice it when it takes a toll on your body.”
It’s so important that we become aware of the signs when our stress level is getting unmanageable.
How do I know my stress has gotten out of hand? I get terrible, almost incapacitating stomach aches, panic attacks, or wake up with what I call a stress hangover (i.e., headache, muscle fatigue). It even messes with my immune system.
Take a second right now as you read. Scan your body. Do you notice any physical feeling that could be caused by stress?
Here is an article from the American Psychological Association on ways stress can affect us physically.
If your stress manifests physically, it means it is time to stop and purge some of that stress ASAP!
Physical manifestations mean we are handling dangerous levels of stress that are now becoming toxic to our bodies.
After a severe burnout episode, I decided to become more mindful of checking my stress level. This exercise is something I found to be really helpful. It is something I still do from time to time.
First, I set three alarms—morning, afternoon, and night.
When the alarm goes off, I take notes of what I am feeling and where I am stress-wise.
Physically what do I feel? Mentally what do I feel? Emotionally What do I feel? The more you write the better!
I do this for a whole week.
The first time I did this I knew some of the physical signs I felt when stressed, so I knew what to look for. But I was surprised how small they started out.
Before, I only noticed them once they were raging fire, not when they were a tiny spark. This exercise helped me feel the flame from when it sparks. Once I noticed it, I was able to find ways to keep it manageable or even extinguish it completely.
The ultimate goal is to put out the flame. But if all we can do right then is make it manageable, that is a great goal too!
There are times when I still let my stress get out of hand. But after learning this exercise, it happens a lot less. The more I practice, the more aware I am of all the ways my stress manifests itself.
Along with that check-in timer, I created a list on my phone with various stress-busting activities.
My list looks like this:
- Deep breathing/meditating 2-5 minutes.
- Call/text my husband, a friend, or a family member.
- Eliminate things from my to-do list if they are not of vital importance to do today!
Please remember, as I always say, it is not the amount of time you take to do the things… it is the quality of that time. Take time to check in with yourself, and be sure to find ways to decompress when the pressure gets to be too much.
Feel free to support your fellow mama kind and share some quick ways you regulate your stress in the comments below.