Motherhood is stressful. I know that’s not news to you, but I just wanted to say that out loud because we all need permission to just tell it how it is sometimes, ya’ know?
So, with that said…I want to remind you (and myself while we’re being honest) that there are ways to manage stress — in the moment.
And by “in the moment” I mean when you’re on the verge on losing your shit, but you have a second of clarity to rationalize and think through your options.
I want to strongly encourage you to take the option that does not involve yelling or throwing anything at anyone. 🙂
What’s the other option?
Doing something that will bring you back to a level headed mindset and into a calmer state of being.
AKA, using a stress coping technique.
So, let’s keep our shit together before we lose it, k?
Stress Coping Technique #1: Deep Breaths
Like the ones you used when you were in labor!
Yeah, I know thinking back to being in labor is probably not the most stress relieving thing, but I really want you to understand the importance of deep breathing and how to do it in a way that is effective in the moments of chaos.
The nurses were probably very persistent in getting you to breathe properly, and with good reason. It relaxes your body, your mind, and brings a sense of control to the situation. (I’m sure the reasons are much more medical for the whole labor thing, but I’m no doctor.)
You can do this by counting, visualizing (which we will cover in a second), or well…just breathing. I think you’re pretty good at that already!
I personally use all of the ways but my favorite is by combing both.
Here’s how I do it:
Step 1: While counting to 3, take one long continuous breath in, and imagine a balloon filling up with the air from that long breath.
Step 2: Hold that breath for a couple more seconds (do whatever is comfortable for you) while that imaginary balloon is staying still.
Now, as you hold your breath — bring all of those negative feelings and thoughts or experiences together, and pretend they’re all just swirling around inside the balloon.
Step 3: Slowly release those deep breaths, counting down from 3. As you do this, imagine that the balloon is shrinking. Slow and steady.
As you breath out and imagine the balloon getting smaller, it helps to also imagine that those negative feelings, thoughts, words — whatever is stressing you out — are in the air within the balloon and are leaving, too.(Sometimes I imagine they’re leaving my body, mind, and the entire situation.)
It might feel silly at first, but when you focus on it you’ll be amazed at how well it can work!
Stress Coping Technique #2: Reframe the Situation
This is by no means an exhaustive example of reframing, but I want to quickly talk about it anyway.
When you’re in the middle of chaos and your head is spinning with all of these negative thoughts, it’s really important to reframe the situation and change your perspective before you lose your shit.
I personally tend to use this technique after I’ve done some deep breathing because I find it much easier to stay level-headed and respond instead of react.
It’s still very useful no matter what, though.
So, what is reframing? Simply put, it’s intentionally questioning and changing how you view what’s going on.
Here’s the thing: we get to choose what we think about anything, and the things we tell ourselves about any given situation.
The situation itself may not change or be in our control, but we can control how we let it affect us.
This is a really simple way to reframe any situation:
Start by asking yourself questions. It’s important to be honest with yourself when you’re answering them. You’re the only one “hearing” the answers, so give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling without judgement.
- What is stressing me out right now?
- Why is this stressing me out?
- Can I do anything to change the situation?
- If so, what?
- If not, what can I do to change how I usually react when something is out of my control? AKA, what CAN I control? (Hint: you can always control YOURSELF!)
(You can go back to deep breathing or try some of the next techniques to stay in control of yourself)
The goal is to respond with a solution-based mindset and appropriate actions, not react out of frustration or overwhelm.
Stress Coping Technique #3: Positive Phrases and Affirmations
Did you know that you can actually rewire your brain and the way you think? Pretty empowering, huh?
I discovered the power of affirmations, positive phrases, mantras, quotes — basically the power of WORDS — when I was just getting started in my personal growth and self care journey.
My (undiagnosed) postpartum depression and anxiety hit an all-time high, and I was getting upset over everything and at everyone (thanks, hormones).
So much was out of my control, but I realized that my thoughts were not.
We have so much power over what we think, but it takes some effort to make our thoughts work for us instead of against us.
Which is why I started with affirmation cards.
It felt really weird to me to read these even in my head, much less out loud. But I kept with it because I knew that if my negative thoughts and words could have the power they did, so could the positive ones that would actually serve me and my life.
They were hung on my mirrors, in my bed, on my computer, on the fridge — basically anywhere I knew I’d be throughout my day.
When you really give yourself permission to believe the affirmations and positive phrases, it can change your life. In the case of using in the moments of high stress, it can help you to reframe the situation and bring you back to a calmer state and rational thinking.
If you want to give affirmations and positive phrases a try, I created some printable ones that you can get for free by signing up to the Mommy Hates Mornings newsletter!
Want more free affirmation cards? Here are 15, plus a printable poster with my top 15 tips for surviving motherhood without losing yourself!
Stress Coping Technique #4: Visulization
This one pairs perfectly with the deep breathing exercises, but is amazing all on its own, too.
I discovered the power of visulization when I was in labor (you’ll find out that a lot of my life lessons were learned during pregnancy or the birth of my son!) and have used it in stressful situations ever since.
There are a number of ways to use visualization, but here are some of my favorites that work like a charm:
- Imagine your happy place or somewhere you’ve always wanted to go (try to imagine and take in the smell, the temperature, and any other details and bring in an element from that place, like lighting a candle that makes you feel just a little bit closer to whatever you’re visualizing)
- Visualize what you wish that situation was instead of what it is now (is there any way you can make it more like what you want?)
- Pull up some relaxing pictures on your phone (I have a stress reliever board in Trello for this purpose!)
- Listen to calming sounds or music (my favorite is the sound of rain hitting windows or the ocean) and imagine you’re there — by the ocean or sitting in the rain, for example — until you feel calmer.
- Breathe in as you imagine a circle or balloon slowly getting bigger, hold, then slowly release as that same circle or balloon gets smaller.
Visualization can be so powerful when you really focus in on it, and you may be surprised at how well it works for you next time you’re in freak-out-mode!
Stress Coping Technique #5: Move Your Body
Have you ever had a sudden urge to go for a run or clean like a mad woman when you were really pissed off? While that is the fight or flight response kicking in gear, it may not be a bad idea to actually flight.
No, I don’t mean run away or do something crazy.
I mean just moving your body. Get that energy flowing.
The truth is, if you’re going to be pissed and using your energy, you might as well make it work for you, right?
Amazing things happen when we move our bodies, especially in moments of stress.
Some easy ways you can move the negative energy out of your body and feel happier sooner are:
- Going for a walk
- March in place (I do this when I’m doing dishes or cooking!)
- Jump up and down (bonus: kids will join in and feel better, too!)
- Dance parties! (Let the music boost your mood and let it all out!)
- Stretching or yoga
- Play tag or chase with the kids (or your partner if you’re the playful type)
- Play hide and seek
- Clean (my house always looks the best after a solid anger-filled cleaning session)
- Bounce on a yoga ball (learned the magic of this when I was absolutely over being pregnant!)
- Writing (moving your hands counts, too!)
It doesn’t take too long to see the positive effects from moving your body. After 10-20 minutes of moving around, I usually feel much calmer and level-headed. Truth be told, sometimes I even forget why I was mad in the first place.
Your situation might look different, but I encourage you to just do something to move your body next time you feel like you’re going to explode.
Stress Coping Technique #6: Walk Away and Come Back
Sometimes we can do all the stress relieving exercises in the world, and it still isn’t enough. That’s when walking away can be the best option when appropriate.
Taking a few minutes to yourself to breathe and gain control of your feelings and thoughts can be very powerful, and everyone experiences moments when it’s necessary.
Something that I’ve been doing lately is visualizing that whatever is stressing me out goes out with me, and when I close the door that’s it. It does not come back inside with me. When I walk back into the room or house, I am reset and recharged.
Just like your phone flashing the recharge battery signal, our bodies usually signal that it’s time to do something to relieve stress before we completely shut down.
It takes time and paying careful attention to our bodies and feelings, but learning what our bodies tell us in times of stress can be a really important tool to have.
Walking away when appropriate is one way to listen to our body when it’s signaling the reset or recharge sign at us.
Stress Coping Technique #7: Say or Write Something You’re Grateful For
It’s really easy to get ahead of ourselves and act like everything is bad when we are in the heat of the moment, when in reality there are probably hundreds of things we are usually thankful for. It’s just hard to admit that when we want to scream and freak out.
When we are focused on what is pissing us off, it can be hard to see the bigger picture or “the forest through the trees”. Tunnel vision is so real, especially when we are consumed in chaos or overwhelmed. Which is why it’s important to force ourselves to think about something that is good.
This has been a game-changer for me, especially being the stubborn person I am. When I’m mad, I want to hold onto the anger with everything in me and stay angry. Letting things go is not second-nature to me, and forcing myself to say something I’m grateful for (in that moment) is one way I am reprogramming myself to think and act better.
It’s all about being intentional, and it starts with just committing to one better choice at a time.
The app, Presently: A Gratitude Journal is great for this and something that I just started using.
I love that it’s so easy to use whereas I normally write down what I’m thankful for in my planner which can be rather inconvenient, especially in stressful moments.
Bonus Stress Coping Technique #8: Check in with yourself and evaluate your expectations and priorities
I saved the most important one for the last!
While this isn’t exactly a “quick-fix” I still wanted to mention it because of its importance.
If you don’t have the right expectations or priorities in place, it’s going to be that much harder to effectively handle stressful situations (particularly when your kid is having a meltdown).
I’ve been learning the power of appropriate expectations and priorities from the day I became a mom. Motherhood is the ultimate life lesson, isn’t it?!
So, how do you start evaluating your expectations and priorities?
Start by simply asking questions!
What do you truly value in life? What are your real priorities?
And then pay attention to and notice what you tend to get stressed out about, what you are resisting, what’s working and what’s not, and anything that you are wishing you could change.
After you figure out what those things are, learn what you can about them, and adjust your expectations accordingly.
When you find yourself getting annoyed or stressed out, check-in with yourself and ask “is this really that big of a deal and how does it affect my priorities? Are my expectations appropriate and benefiting my priorities or do I need to reevaluate and go from there?”
Then simply do the best you can with what you have available to you in that moment, which may be one of the stress management tools above.
To Sum It All Up
The goal is to be more intentional about how you handle stress, and any of the 8 tips listed above will help you to do just that.
But here’s the gist in case you skimmed (don’t worry — I do it, too!)
- Deep breathing can recenter you and bring you into a calmer state
- Reframing the situation can bring a fresh and solution-based perspective
- Positive phrases and I am affirmations are great tools to grounding yourself in the moment and ultimately help you to think positive thoughts on autopilot
- Visualizing can be an effective way to relieve stress by focusing on something that calms you or makes you happier
- Moving your body is an amazing way to release negative thoughts and feelings, especially when done by dancing to some happy tunes
- Walking away when appropriate is okay. Taking a few minutes to yourself to breathe and gain control of your feelings and thoughts can be very powerful, and everyone experiences moments when it’s necessary.
- Saying or writing one thing you’re grateful for even when you want to scream is a really good way to see the “forest through the trees” and put things in perspective
- Checking in with yourself to evaluate if the situation, your expectations, and your response is benefiting your true priorities can help you to overcome to the problem at hand much quicker and much more effectively.
So, there you have it, lady!
8 ways to effectively manage and relieve stress in the moment.
What tip was your favorite? Let me know in the comments!
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