These tips on managing stress for moms are from Judith Orloff, MD, psychiatry professor and bestselling author of Emotional Freedom.
“It’s not surprising that mothers report higher levels of stress than any other age group,” says Dr Orloff. “Mothers by definition are caretakers. They take care of kids and partners, elderly parents, family pets, shopping and cooking, and most of the domestic chores. On top of all that, they work outside the home and volunteer in their spare time. So who’s taking care of the caretaker?”
If not managed, a mom’s stress can affect her health and happiness. Here are six tips from Orloff’s Emotional Freedom for managing the stress, worry, fear, and anxiety that come from being a supermom and caretaker. For more information on coping with many types of negative emotions, click the book image of Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life.
6 Tips for Managing Stress for Moms
1. Set limits with emotional vampires. Emotional vampires are people who sap your energy and leave you feeling fatigued, agitated, or craving comfort food. Emotional vampires come in all forms, from needy children and critical spouses, to unpleasant coworkers and nagging parents. When you’re around people who drain your energy, practice saying no, politely excusing yourself, or communicating your limits clearly and calmly.
2. Stay in the “now.” When you feel yourself being overwhelmed by responsibilities, deadlines, and pressures, don’t catastrophize. Instead, keep your mind focused on the present moment only. Don’t let it wander to worst-case scenarios. To manage stress as a mom, stay focused on the positive changes you can make and the practical steps you can take today.
3. Use humor to counter frustration. Mothers are great at changing direction. They’re used to making last-minute changes due to a sick child, a snow day, or a babysitter who doesn’t show. Next time you’re stressed out because things aren’t going your way, find something humorous about your current situation; write an inner comedy sketch about it. Searching for humor in a situation immediately counteracts stress.
4. Evaluate the anxiety. Thoughtfully consider if a real threat exists or if you’re blowing things out of proportion. You can ask questions such as, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Or, “Will anyone die, go hungry, or be harmed?” To manage stress as a mom, go through this mental exercise to bring stressors back into perspective.
5. Change your stress chemistry. 5-HTP is a plant extract that converts into serotonin in the brain, gently reducing anxiety and improving sleep. Kava-kava, from the root of a South Pacific plant, promotes relaxation, improves sleep, and relieves muscle tension. Calcium/magnesium, minerals that are depleted by stress, are calming and promote rest. Vigorous aerobic exercise stimulates feel-good endorphins that counteract stress.
6. Express gratitude. One of the quickest ways to manage stress is to take a breath and make a mental list of five things for which you are grateful. Not only does this activity distract you from obsessive worries, but cultivating positive thoughts has an immediate calming effect on your neurochemistry and will help you relax and unwind.
What are your tips for managing stress for moms? If you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you! And you may also enjoy this article, called 10 Quips and Tips for Mother’s Day.
Judith Orloff, MD, is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA. Her new book, upon which these tips are based, is Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life (Harmony Books, 2009, $24.95), on The New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers lists.