It's only a matter of time before a mother feels overwhelmed by the stress of a family sitting on her shoulders. It is constant. Moms are needed for things at nearly every given moment by someone, and if it's not another person, it's themselves. Physically, mentally, emotionally, it's all demanding. It's a cycle that, like the washing cycle for all the laundry, seems never-ending.
The thing about being so overwhelmed, though, is it diminishes a mother's capacity to do all the things and take care of everyone's needs. It's counterintuitive. This fine line, take care of things as a mother, but don't take care of it too much. It's hard to balance. It's hard for moms to remember to put their oxygen mask on first.
Stress is sneaky. One moment a mom might feel fine, and the next, it can feel like an elephant is sitting on her chest. Often moms are moving so fast they don't even notice it coming. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of stress can help. If a mother feels the oncoming burden of pressure, it might be possible to stop it before everything collapse. The American Psychological Association says there are some common signs of stress moms can look for before blowing up.
- Lapses in judgment
- Rapid heart rate/shortness of breath
- Speaking louder or yelling
Children are intuitive, they pick up on a mother's stress. If there is a particularly close bond between the two, children may even experience it with her, says author and licensed marriage and family therapist, Catherine Crawford. They can pick up on her stress symptoms, even if she doesn't. Finding effective coping mechanisms will help both the mother and the child(ren).
Taking Breaks Is Essential
Despite what most moms think, it's not a bad thing to take a break. When a mother starts to feel her tightly-knit ball of sanity unraveling, that usually means that stress levels are rising. It is time for mommy to take a time out. Just a short break. Stepping aside for just ten minutes can do a world of good. The Journal of Family and Marriage says, overwhelming stress is just one of the implications of intensive motherhood. Mothers try to have it all, and do it all. When they start feeling the signs of being overwhelmed, taking a break can bring them back and gain perspective.
- Listening to music: According to The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), listening to music can help calm your nervous system and lower cortisol levels, both of which can help reduce stress.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing: This particular breathing exercise is one of the most useful tools, if not the most useful, when it comes to calming down. Diaphragmatic breathing can ease anxiety, stress, lower heart rate, stimulate the vagus nerve, and overall ground the body when it's in turmoil.
- Laying Down: The position, also known as 'active rest' is the best way to restore and reconnect the body and mind; a little like the reset button on a computer. As well as realigning the spine, it stops you feeling overwhelmed, allowing you to focus on yourself and providing vital time out to quieten the mind and process emotions, states The STAT Research Group.
Using these techniques will not only get a mother the break she needs; she will also be teaching her children healthy ways to deal with stress.
Identify & Be Aware Of Especially Stressful Times
No matter how hard a mom may plan or try to change the way of doing something, there are bound to be regular stressful moments. Maybe it's when the kids are getting ready for school, maybe it's bath time, or maybe it's both. Being aware that these are the more stressful times is important. A mother can know going in to the situation and better prepare herself from the inside.
Clinical Psychologist Ellen Hendriksen recommends setting a process goal instead of an outcome goal. Approaching bath time with the mindset of keeping more water in the tub than out, or that it will take 10-15 minutes tops, not a single minute more is just going to cause even more frustration. If mothers stop and think first, they can gain perspective and widen their mindset. What does this do? It lessens the pressure, which frees mom up to be more flexible and resilient, and ultimately handle bath time more calmly than staying attached to a narrow outcome goal.
Get Support When Needed
The saying, "It takes a village to raise a child" is true. Although most moms can and do, do it all on their own, it's not healthy in the long run. Reaching out for support from family and friends doesn't make anyone a failure. Joining a parenting support group, or seeing a therapist doesn't either. Reaching out for support can give mothers the physical and emotional help they need to cope with the stressful times that inevitably come as a parent.
Enjoy Your Children
It sometimes feels like motherhood is nothing but stress and worry. A lot of fun is had being a mother, though, too. Finding fun in the mundane helps to ease stress. Drop a silly joke here and there, have a tickle fight, crank up the music and dance, create memories. Motherhood is not an easy job, but when moms find the time to slow down just a little, it allows them to not only take care of their family better, but themselves better too.
Sources: American Psychological Association, Catherine Crawford, Journal of Family and Marriage, ASCAP, STAT, Ellen Hendriksen