Oh, hi. Feeling stressed? Like you can’t catch your breath? Bowels raging against you?
If you’re feeling a bit AHHHHHHHHH right now, it’s understandable, especially if you’re a parent. Back-to-school is advertised as some sort of long-awaited freedom for parents, but in actuality it’s really just more…everything. More work, more communications, more remembering, more going and doing but less time in the day to do it all. I’ve scheduled my breakdown for mid-October, you? Right then, so let’s try to cope together, shall we?
Learn How to Say No
No is a complete sentence and healthy boundaries are perfectly okay. Decide what you are going to say yes to, and what you are going to say no to. Is there something you can stop doing right now that’ll make an immediate, positive impact on your life and how you spend your time? DO IT. It’s always important to evaluate life and see if it’s possible to make any changes. When you support yourself, you’re better for your family.
Identify Stressful Activities
Another coping mechanism is learning how to identify stressful activities. Figure out what routines create stress, and take the time to modify or eliminate them. Like, if you’re packing school lunches every morning and it’s adding more stress to an already harried time of the day, then try and take care of it the night before. Or better yet: have the kids make their own damn lunches! I finally started doing that this year and with a few guidelines (no, you cannot just pack chocolate), they’re doing really well. I think we mothers tend to take on tasks that others are very capable of doing just because it’s “easier.” It might be easier in the moment, but in the long-term, it’s a big ol’ headache–one that we can prevent.
Create a Do Not Disturb Zone
I’ve worked from home since my children were born, so these “do not disturb” boundaries have been necessary. When I slide my office door closed, there’s a sign on it that says: “STAY THE EFF OUT” or something to that nature. Setting a visual cue helps let others that you just need a moment. Or twenty. It also helps to model that they can do the same if they need it. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I need this time for me.” Just be sure someone’s keeping an eye on the dog while you’re in your self-imposed time-out. Otherwise, she’s chasing a field mouse into your fire pit and dismantling it brick by brick with her surprisingly strong paws on the very night your kid asked to have friends over for a bonfire. It’s fine. Everything is fine.
Join a Support Group
Not enough of us ask for help. That’s silly. If you want to help yourself, join a local support group. There are so many different group demographics out there, but if yours doesn’t exist, create it! Other people, for as annoying as they can be, are truly a great resource and the best way to realize you are not alone in your situation. There is nothing wrong with talking about the way you feel; I talk things TO. DEATH. and my patient husband listens intently while I process. It all helps me work through my feelings positively and sometimes prevents me from eating all those feelings…
When we are stressed, we don’t cope very well with things. DUH. We tend to be very reactive to our environment which is a grown-up way of saying we throw tiny tantrums. We’re trying to get our kids to stop that nonsense, so let’s be good role models. Mindfulness-based stress reduction is so important, and I’ve actually had a lot of success with yoga. Experts say those who incorporate mindfulness into their daily practices, tend to sleep better at night too. I disagree with those experts, but I will say I can downward dog my way right through a bad day whereas I used to be more reactive. So, mindfulness for the win?
Make Time to Move
Yes, this is the part where I suggest exercise. Listen, I know physical movement isn’t the end-all, be-all for everyone’s everything, but it is a great way to improve mood. It’s good for long-term mental health as well. If you can’t bust out of work and frolic in nature the way God intended, I get it. But prioritize movement however you can. Get yourself a workout buddy to hold you accountable (hi, Erica!); do a workout at home; force your children to go for a walk with you! I’m sure your teenager won’t yank out their AirPods in disgust and roll their eyes. It’ll be fun, promise.
Other suggestions* for coping with the stress of life whilst also being a busy parent: run away. Show those fools just how integral you are to their day. Let’em fend for themselves for a few and they’ll be BEGGING you to come back. AHA! Now who’s rolling their eyes!
*probably don’t do this one