Mommyhood and stress go hand-in-hand. Whether you stay at home with your kids, whether you work, or whether you have one or five kids, you have stress. In my last post, I wrote about my struggles with perfectionism as a working mom and my goal to stress less. Unattainable? Maybe. But who doesn’t love a challenge? It’s an especially timely goal as my graduate school classes gear up again this week.
If you’re anything like me, the more you add to your plate, the higher the stress. Keeping the tiny humans we created in line is plenty in and of itself. But when you add marriage, work, personal goals, and the grind of daily life, it’s more than enough to put anyone over the top! So how does one keep their cool amidst all the stress? How can you keep from going over the edge when it seems inevitable?
I will be the first to admit that I’m far from an expert in the topic of how to stress less. It’s tough to remember a time (even before kids) when I didn’t stress. If I was a super hero, my special power would be creating a worst case scenario out of even the most mundane situations. It seems like a pretty useless one but we don’t get to choose our talents. We just have to make the best out of them. It’s kind of a “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” situation.
Lemonade out of Lemons
So … how do you make lemonade (stress less) out of lemons (stress)? My first suggestion involves diving head first into the stress. Avoiding it won’t solve anything. Make a list of all the different areas of your life (work, mommyhood, finances, etc.) and then do some soul-searching. Figure out the stressful parts of each area and write them down. I have discovered (through much trial and error) that the major source of stress in my life actually comes from myself. It was only after I started paying attention to how I felt in certain situations that I realized how stressful I (yes, me!) was making life.
I’m not saying that I (or you) are 100% to blame for the stress but I significantly contribute to it. One way I contribute to the stress is through my constant over-analysis of every situation. I realized that my thinking was consumed with imagining these worst case scenarios. It’s basically impossible to not feel stressed when salmonella and predators are hiding around every corner. The great news about this is that I have control over my thoughts and can simply choose not to think those thoughts.
I can choose positive, uplifting thoughts aimed towards what’s actually happening in my world and not what I’m imagining. Journaling can be a great way to uncover those mental hang-ups you may be experiencing. There’s just something about putting pen to paper which gets those racing thoughts out of your head and into the real world. Journaling can help you determine whether you should actually be worried about those probably imaginary fears plaguing you.
Plan It Out
Stress comes from unrealistic expectations you may have for yourself. If you’re anything like me, your to-do list is a mile long. In other words, there’s NO WAY you will accomplish it all today. Or even tomorrow. I’m willing to bet that your to-do list would probably take you 3 weeks (kid-free) to accomplish. It’s time to lay off on making yourself feel bad for not accomplishing it all today. There’s no way ANYONE can accomplish that much. There are days when all you will accomplish is keeping the tiny humans safe, happy, and fed. That’s perfectly ok! Accept the chaos and revel in this huge accomplishment!
On other days, planning gives me structure. I have recently started using a planner and absolutely love it! The planner gives me the ability to plan out my schedule, hour-by-hour, and to write in my top 3 goals of the day. My huge to-do list has been eliminated because I know there are only 3 things that I absolutely want to accomplish today. It’s helped tremendously in reducing my expectations of what I can actually accomplish in one day. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the sense of accomplishment you get from crossing that stuff off your list! I never knew how accomplished I would feel from having fewer daily expectations but it’s been exhilarating!
Find Your Happiness
Do you know what’s also exhilarating? Losing yourself in something that makes you happy! Something that completely draws you in and lets you forget about all the busyness and stress in your life. It might be a creative hobby, a great movie, or a glass of wine with a friend but everyone needs that something. In my own life, I discovered that I tend to fixate on the negatives including my undone to-do list. It’s as if my subconscious self believes that by constantly fixating, it will magically get done. Nothing could be further from the truth! Fixating on the negative, including my undone to-do list, is the fast track to burnout.
Constantly thinking about everything that you need to accomplish is completely exhausting. Especially when you combine it with unrealistic expectations about what you can accomplish in a day. The physical act of writing things down has been incredibly helpful in keeping track of “all the things” and in managing my expectations. Once you have things on paper, it’s time to add the fun factor. Figure out what it is that makes you happy and then do it. Moms are great at putting everyone else’s needs above their own. But you can’t fill from an empty pitcher so figure out how to fill yours up first.
Part of filling your pitcher and learning how to stress less lies in focusing less on “doing” and more on “being.” I am driven by accomplishing tasks and checking things off my list. But this means that I’m constantly chasing the next task and checkmark. I don’t take time to congratulate myself for what I’ve accomplished or to enjoy where I’m at in life. And this feeds into the cycle of stress and my special power of catastrophizing everything. It’s definitely NOT how I want to go through life!
The great thing about life is that you get to choose what you do with your talents and your perception. You can choose to continue focusing on the stress and letting it control you by feeding into it. Or you can take a step back and do some analysis to figure out where it comes from. Once you’ve figured that out, you can begin to take control over it instead of vice versa. For me, finding a few tools to remind me of my goals and to keep me on track has been incredibly helpful. And remember that stress isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes stress actually helps us perform better and pushes us outside our comfort zone. When stress and busyness overwhelm your life, your thoughts, and your happiness, then you need to take control and do something about it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to stress less and be more! Have you found other helpful tips and tricks? What makes you happy?