At some point during most weeks I feel some degree of anxiety.
It can be triggered by anything from one of the girls hurting themselves, trying to get out the door on time (why do phones, hats, keys and shoes ALWAYS go missing when you’re racing out the door?) or the daily life juggle.
I’ve had lots of conversations with friends who have shared they also experience feeling stressed and anxious.
It can happen for all sorts of reasons.
Sometimes is can strike for seemingly no reason at all.
I reached out to a lovely friend of a friend, Psychologist Dr Monique Robinson who works at the Telethon Kids Institute. She is also a mum to Teddy and expecting baby number two, so she’s speaking from a professional AND practical point of view!
Monique wrote one of the most amazing pieces on breastfeeding I’ve ever read and today is very kindly sharing her tips on coping with stress and anxiety as a mum, although many of these tips can apply to anyone!
Thank you SO much Monique for taking time out of your busy schedule to help those of us experiencing stress and anxiety, especially with back to school week = back to reality and the daily juggle!
It’s amazing how something so simple can be so effective, but when we are feeling stressed and anxious our bodies go through physical changes and end up in a keyed-up and hyper-alert state. The only way to calm our bodies so that our minds can start thinking clearer again is to breathe very slowly- 4 seconds in, 4 seconds out. This brings our body and mind back to a state where we can tackle problems sensibly instead of getting overwhelmed. Practice breathing each day and remember it when you start to feel like everything is getting on top of you. It’s simple but it works!
• Exercise, yoga and relaxation
Keeping active is a great way to relieve stress and clear your thinking, and even light exercise like going for a walk can make a difference. If regular exercise is hard to schedule, try building it into your day, like walking up stairs or pushing the pram to the park or shops instead of driving. Yoga and pilates and other relaxation classes are particularly useful and can be modified for pregnant and postnatal Mums, and some councils offer free classes so see what is on in your area. If you want to exercise but never find the time, schedule it into your diary as an appointment and prioritise it.
• Asking for help… and accepting it!
For those of us who worked hard and had successful careers before motherhood, asking for help doesn’t necessarily come naturally. Many of us feel we ‘should’ be able to cope with anything without relying on others. Forget that idea- motherhood is a new game and getting help is pretty much essential! If family or friends offer to take your kids for an hour or so- let them. It is amazing what you can do in only one hour when you’re on your own! On a day when you’re feeling good you can reciprocate and help them out. If you can afford it, think about a cleaner, even if it is only to scrub the bathrooms every few weeks. Or research someone reasonably priced to take your ironing for you. And don’t forget babysitters are not just for nights out- if you need help during the week think about someone to come in the afternoons and look after the kids for a couple of hours while you get things done. The cost is often far outweighed by the value to your mental health!!
I find working mums are generally more accepting of the need for outsourcing these things. Stay at home mums often tell me they feel bad for not being able to be on top of everything as they’re at home each day. Forget it- being a stay at home mum doesn’t mean you have any more time. Organising a household and looking after children is intense! Don’t feel you need to justify things, if you need help and it is affordable or available, get it!
• Social support
Sharing your stress and problems can be a really good way to not just calm down, but also to get some good advice on tackling challenges in life. Talking things over and learning that others have found themselves in similar situations can help you to feel less alone. If social support comes with a cup of tea or a glass of wine at the end of a hard day- all the better! Research has found that those with strong social networks are less likely to experience depression and anxiety, and it doesn’t have to be face to face contact- online support groups can also be useful in managing all the challenges that come with work and motherhood.
• Forget being perfect
None of us are perfect, and when we don’t accept ourselves as we are, we miss out on celebrating all the wonderful things we do for ourselves and our families because we’re always focused on how we could be better. And don’t compare yourself to others – yes there are other mums who seem to have it all or seem to be able to do things far easier than we can – but it doesn’t mean they also don’t struggle from time to time or lead ‘perfect’ lives. Focus on being the best ‘you’ that you can be, and work out what you want to achieve or become more organised with. But accept that especially while your children are young, you may not be able to have and do it all, and that’s okay. Embrace the chaos and don’t let the enjoyable moments pass you by.
Sometimes the hardest thing about coping with stress and anxiety is recognising the feelings that go along with them! All of us get stressed from time to time, and many people accept it as an inevitable part of life and just struggle through. But sometimes the stress and anxiety get to the point of being overwhelming, and are often accompanied by physical symptoms such as rapid breathing, quickened heart rate, digestive problems and difficulty keeping attention, plus more emotional symptoms such as constant worries, sleeplessness and low mood.
If you are at the point of feeling overwhelmed regularly, it doesn’t have to feel that way. Talking to your GP is a good first step. They can refer you to local services or a psychologist that can help you with these feelings and get you feeling like yourself again. Successfully managing anxiety and stress is a skill that is easily learned and for those who are naturally more anxious, it’s a skill that can come in handy for the rest of your life!
For more info on help for stress and anxiety head to Beyond Blue.
A x x x x
What triggers feeling stressed or anxious for you?
How do you cope with these feelings?
* Cover image via Pinterest0