I was enjoying 10 minutes of *blissful* solitude at my fave local café this morning (I love a good matcha latte, but today was a double-shot soy latte kind of day!) when another mama and her two little ones walked in.
I had a giggle (and a silent nod of respect) at her t-shirt… Its slogan read: Hot Mess.
Can you relate?
Because being a mama often means spinning all the plates – dropping some, and occasionally feeling like a hot mess – I’ve created a list of ways on how to reduce stress as a mum (or as a dad!) throughout parenthood.
13 things mums can do to reduce stress
1. Be aware of your expectations of being a mama
It’s often only the good stuff about being a mama that we see in magazines, books, movies or on TV, and this influences what we’ve come to expect of motherhood. Be open to a range of experiences – enjoyable and difficult ones – and be kind to yourself, you’re on a huge learning curve!
2. Establish genuine support networks
Difficult times of being a mama often aren’t spoken about openly. This can make you feel like you’re the only one who’s struggling. That’s NOT the case. Establish genuine support networks – people who you can be open about how you’re really feeling – so you don’t feel alone.
3. Make time for you!
Putting your kids’ needs first can make it easy to forget about your needs. Do things that you loved to do before your baby arrived to fill your cup and remind you of who you are, as well as being a parent.
4. Exercise to release stress
Get moving and shake off some physical and mental stress. Exercise can help release positive endorphins, relieve muscle tension, give you some time out and the chance to focus on something else – YOU!
5. Don’t expect too much of yourself
There will always be more chores that can be done, so does it really matter if everything is not done, or not perfect? Slow down, savour the good moments, rest, and take care of yourself.
6. Remember that tough stages pass
You may go through stages with your baby that really test your patience. As cliched as it may sound, this stage won’t last forever. Things generally get easier as your baby grows and you grow into the role of a parent too.
7. Connect with friends, family and professionals
When things get tough, don’t go it alone. A phone call and a chat with someone can help you instantly connect, feel less isolated, or provide you with some perspective that you need. There are professional helplines that you can call too, including PANDA and Lifeline.
8. Trust your gut
There’s no right or wrong way to parent, and there is so much advice out there that it can be confusing, overwhelming and contradictory. Consider the advice of experts and also trust yourself to find your own way too. You know your baby better than anyone!
9. Be aware of how others make you feel
The support and advice of others can be useful, but sometimes can undermine our confidence. Be aware of those around you who may be critical or seem competitive.
10. Stop comparing yourself to others
Everyone’s situation is different, period.
11. Avoid using drugs or alcohol to relax
Some people find a drink or two can help them unwind at the end of the day, but it’s also important to be aware of your reasons for drinking, and if you might be becoming reliant on alcohol or drugs to relax. (FYI alcohol isn’t recommended when breastfeeding, and alcohol or drugs can affect your ability to safely care for little ones, so always manage your intake responsibly.)
12. Have a process in place for when when things reach breaking point
Place your baby somewhere safe (for example, in their cot) and take a few minutes for yourself. Deep breathing, music or talking to someone can reduce heightened levels of stress.
13. Be aware of how much and how long you’ve felt stressed
If stress becomes constant and ongoing it can become distress and increase your risk of developing postnatal depression, anxiety or other mental health problems. Be aware of these conditions and what the symptoms are so that you can identify these conditions early, and seek timely and appropriate help.
For more tips on managing stress in early parenthood, visit COPE, Centre of Perinatal Excellence.
What are your go-tos for juggling all the plates or coping with stress as a mama? Let us know in the comments.