“I was at a Halloween party and approached by another mom who said ‘we just want to let you know that we’re not going to choose sides.'”
I wanted to scream at her. No one’s asking you to choose sides!
A recently divorced mom had come into my office and shared this story with me.
Divorced, single, married, or widowed. This story highlights something that rings true for so many mothers. It’s time we state the obvious…
Stress in motherhood is very high! (And I’ll share some techniques to help deal with that stress in just a bit).
All the responsibility juggling takes a toll on you.
When YOU burn out, your kids and marriage can suffer.
You have nothing to give to anybody. You have nothing to give to yourself. You start running on empty. Every mom knows that feeling, and it’s terrible.
How do we, as mothers, prevent mommy burnout?
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for staying sane as a mother, but there are a few techniques to help us deal with the stress of being a mom.
Here are my 10 favorite techniques for dealing with motherhood stress:
1️⃣ Spend Time With Your Partner Or Spouse
The only thing lower than your husband on the totem pole is the stressed mother herself. Kids come first, then work, then the house, then the laundry, then x, then y, and then z.
It sounds like common sense but women don’t do it. That’s why I need to remind you to spend time with your partner to relieve motherhood stress.
Here’s the kicker: when you’re with your partner, you can only talk about the kids for a set amount of time. Try to carve out 10 to 20 minutes to talk about kids and then make the rest of the evening no kid talk.
I actually run into this problem often with my patients. A couple will come to me, cheerful and proud, because they FINALLY took the time to go on a date. When I ask them what they talked about, I hear laughing, followed by:
“I don’t know if we talked about anything outside of the kids!”
Please, for the health of your relationship, limit the time you spend talking about your kids when you’re with your spouse. By limiting the time you spend talking about your kids, you’ll soon realize what’s left to fill the space.
I recommend the 80/20 rule: 20% of the time talking about kids and 80% of the time talking about other things like your week, your dreams, your next vacation, what’s going on at work, your lives.
2️⃣ Make Time For Friendships
You know you need to spend time with people that make you feel good, but how do you do that when there aren’t even enough nights to have dinner with your own family? And your spouse? Let alone your four girlfriends? What gives?
Here’s when busy mothers need to get creative with how they spend time with friends.
- Workout together
- Go for a walk outside together
- Meet for breakfast or lunch
Motherhood brings you into a new phase of life. It means social time with friends won’t look like it did 10 years ago. That’s ok. Be creative and make sure you’re making it a priority, it’s critical to managing stress.
3️⃣ Carve Out Time For Yourself To Be Alone & To Do What You Love
“Mothers” and “alone time” don’t fit together all that easily. Kids are hanging from our limbs. They’re screaming for us when we’re trying to pee. We’ve come to fill every solitary bit of time with something.
But the truth is, even mothers need alone time to reflect and do something they love…and you’ll need to get creative again with how you do it.
Try getting your “mom” time:
- During your commute: no radio, no music, no phone calls. Use this time be quiet with your thoughts.
- Online: find a class to take, like knitting, foreign language, jewelry making
- Outside: join an adult soccer league
- Reading: finally tackle that reading list
Your alone time is YOUR time to reflect. It’s time to ask yourself what’s really on your mind. Do something you enjoy.
Remember: everybody is allowed to have alone time.
You tug at your clothes. You dread shopping. You feel like you’re carrying around extra baby weight.
A lot of mothers don’t feel great about their bodies, and we’ve been told that exercise helps.
What we forget is that exercise is multidimensional and goes beyond just looking good. It’s also good for your mind, your body, and your self-esteem. It controls stress. You feel better.
You also set a great example for your kids when you exercise. You show them how you take care of your health and that you’re comfortable with your body. If you’re not comfortable in your skin, especially if you have a daughter, your kids will pick up on it.
Meditation intimidates many people.
I have to be still and quiet my mind and slow my thoughts down? What?
I was very intimidated by it, too. At times I felt like a failure because I tried to meditate but couldn’t clear my mind. I couldn’t even sit still. I’d start at 2 minutes, then go for 5 minutes. To this day I’ve never gone over 7 or 8 minutes on my own.
I’m not a master at meditation, but I still do it because I know how it improves my thought clarity, calmness, blood pressure, adrenaline, and allows me to embrace a healthy mindset for the day. The list of benefits goes on and on.
My advice for those just starting out with meditation is this:
Don’t resist it.
Don’t fight yourself.
Don’t feel like you’re alone. (No, really, there’s an amazing app – “Headspace” – that helps with meditation. Check it out).
6️⃣ Nourish Yourself With Fresh Food
I’m not concerned if eating crappy food is the exception in your household, but if it becomes the norm – then we need to talk.
We eat crappy food when we’re stressed. If we feed our kids crappy food too, we perpetuate the stress cycle.
How do we fix that?
We have a wide variety of options to help us eat healthy, fresh food. You might consider:
- Hello Fresh
- Cooking on Sunday and freezing meals
- Easy 30-minute recipes
You won’t know this until after you try it, but eating healthy really does make a difference in how you feel. I promise you’ll feel great once you figure it out.
7️⃣ Journal To Get In Touch With Feelings, Sources Of Stress & Dreams
Journaling gets your unfiltered thoughts flowing and documented. Things come out that you didn’t expect. It’s an awesome way to download whatever’s on your mind.
For a career mom, it might be that a position opened up at her job. She wants it. She thinks she could be the next CFO of her company, but that’s a scary idea to say out loud. If she tells somebody, now she’s accountable for it and worried what others might think.
This is what makes journaling so cool: after journaling for a while, this career mom starts to recognize thought patterns and sees that she’s been talking about wanting to change jobs for months now. Journaling makes her more confident to do that.
And like everything in life, there’s an app for journaling. There’s a great one called “Day One.” It’s secure, allows you to type or voice transcribe, and you can add pictures from your phone.
8️⃣ Spend Time In Nature
We spend our days surrounded by unnatural products, but research shows that we are physically healthier when we spend time in nature.
The benefits of being in nature are compelling.
- Your blood pressure lowers
- Your mood improves
- Your stress levels go down
- Your energy levels increase
- Your creativity gets a boost
- You get Vitamin D from the sun
- You sleep better
There’s no specific path you have to take when it comes to spending time in nature, just make sure you do it.
This ambiguity makes it all the more magical. There’s a sense of creativity and freedom when you play with rocks and skip stones, and it’s so important for child development.
Pssst! Ever heard of NDD? (Nature Deficient Disorder) It’s basically a twist on ADD, and it says that some kids lack focus because they lack time in nature. Think about that.
9️⃣ Learn To Ask Others For Help
Moms feel like they have nobody to ask for help from. They don’t want to be a burden on other people.
Guess what? You don’t need to figure out everything yourself, and you don’t need to apologize when you ask for help.
People feel good when they help others. They like to feel useful. Even busy moms like to help other people.
So next time you’re having a really tough week – maybe you’re supposed to be in 3 places at once – you need to learn how to ask for help. Even if you have that nagging feeling of: “Crap. I bet she has to be in 3 places at once too.”
Ask for the extra help.
Often times the answer you’ll receive is yes. Helping makes everybody feel good, and the other mom knows the next time she’s stressed, she’s going to call you.
We can live isolated lives.
Asking for help builds relationships. It doesn’t burn them.
🔟 Belong To Something
We ask ourselves 2 questions at every stage of motherhood:
“Who am I?”
“Is this it?”
If you just work and drive kids around and rinse and repeat 6 days a week, that’s not a sense of belonging. That’s just existing.
Belong, don’t just exist. Every mom should be part of a community-based group.
Whether that’s a religious community, a nonprofit, or a volunteer board.
It helps relieve stress. You’ll meet new people. You’ll feel good. You’ll do good, and you’re modeling that for your kids. You can even get your whole family involved, too. There’s no downside (except for time management).
We function in our own little worlds, and as mothers it’s important to find connection and a sense of belonging somewhere.
The Bottom Line:
Stress is a part of life. We need to learn how to manage that. We can go from acute stress, to chronic stress, to burnout. You’re giving, giving, giving all the time.
Now give to yourself.