Children bring countless moments of joy and love to your life. However, the age-old proverb “children are a blessing” neglects to mention how stressful, tiring and overwhelming motherhood can be. Amid the many blessings are the dirty nappies, temper tantrums, high expectations (usually of yourself), bouts of mum brain, and little time to yourself. It’s normal to feel stressed out and overwhelmed by mum life, however there are still a few tricks at your disposal to help you cope during motherhood’s more turbulent times.
Knock, Knock… Your Daily Dose of Stress Reporting for Duty!
Stress is often viewed as a negative thing, however small amounts of stress can help you get through daily challenges. Whether your stress is the result of sleepless nights, juggling school pick-ups and drop-offs, work, or simply having an ‘off’ day, your body’s stress response ensures there’s enough gas in the tank to power you through.
It does this by producing stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, and neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that carry signals between your nerves and other cells in your body (such as your muscles). These substances cause physiological changes that are beneficial in times of stress. For instance, you may notice an increase in your heart rate, breathing and mental alertness during a stressful event, all of which help you get through the situation.
While these hormones and neurotransmitters help you to push through life’s ups and downs, ongoing exposure to stress can put pressure on your body’s stress responses, leaving you feeling burnt out, fatigued and anxious.
Click here to learn more about the impact of stress on your health. To survive the challenges of mum life, it is important to learn healthy ways to cope with life’s stressors. Focussing on your own physical and emotional needs wherever possible can go a long way toward keeping your stress levels in check.
Dear Stress, We Are on a Break. Love, Mum
Try these stress-reducing activities for a much-needed time out from the demands of mum life:
- Meditate: Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, improve sleep and increase focus.1 Digital mindfulness programs available through many apps, websites and audio streaming services can walk you through the steps of meditation.
- Spend time in nature: Two hours spent in a green space each week is associated with better overall health and psychological wellbeing.2 This can include a brisk walk through your local park, a hike on a trail, time spent tending your garden, or walking the dog.
- Move your booty: Exercise boosts production of your body’s feel-good neurotransmitters, known as endorphins, which have a positive impact on your mood and stress. Though you might not always have time to hit the gym, a brisk walk, yoga at home or putting on some music for a quick boogie can be an excellent way to unwind.
- Treat yo’ self: Some mums find the only opportunity for solitude is a bathroom break, while others get interrupted by little knuckles knocking on the door. Plan some alone time by waiting until your child naps or calling in a babysitting favour, and recharge your batteries by reading a book, soaking in a bath, or scheduling some kid-free pamper time. You may grapple with feelings of guilt around taking time out, however prioritising time to yourself can prevent you from experiencing burn-out.
- Hang out with friends or family: Maintaining your social connections is an integral part of fostering a support network. Good adult conversation over a cuppa can help you blow off steam and give you a break from talking in baby talk.
- Take a break from electronics: Scrolling through social media can add to your stress. Not only does it reduce the time you spend conversing with actual people, it can also leave you feeling self-conscious when comparing your life to embellished, picture-perfect Instagram grids. In fact, high exposure to social media has been associated with poor mood and depression in adults.3 Click here to discover how you can disconnect from social media.
- Eat well: It is tempting to comfort eat when you are stressed, but this can leave you feeling lethargic, making mum life more difficult. Instead, opt for meals that nourish your body, including fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, good quality fats, and wholegrains.
- Cut down your caffeine: While caffeine can enhance your mood and alertness, it can also stimulate your body’s production of stress hormones at times when you don’t need them,4 making it more difficult for you to relax.
- Seek out support: If daily pressures are becoming overwhelming, speak to a health professional or an organisation such as Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia, also known as PANDA, which provides support to mums experiencing anxiety and depression.
- Support your stress response with key nutrients: Your body’s production of stress hormones and neurotransmitters relies on specific nutrients, including B complex vitamins and magnesium.5 As previously mentioned, a balanced amount of stress hormones and neurotransmitters can be beneficial and help you turbo through mum life. So, for a healthy stress response, make sure you are getting enough of these important nutrients. Increasing your intake of wholegrains, nuts and seeds will help, however the quickest way to significantly boost your levels is with a supplement.
Mums Everywhere, You’ve Got This!
Motherhood can provide you with lifelong happiness, however it can also create a fair amount of chaos. While you spend the better part of your life giving to others, it is important to nurture your own needs and prevent the stresses of mum life overwhelming you completely. For tailored advice on how to reduce stress in your particular case, speak with a natural healthcare Practitioner.
If symptoms persist, consult your health professional.
1 Headspace. The science-backed benefits of meditation [Internet]. London UK: Headspace; 2019 [2019; cited 2019 Nov 26]. Available from: https://www.headspace.com/science/meditation-benefits.
2 White MP, Alcock I, Grellier J, Wheeler BW, Hartig T, Warber SL, et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep. 2019 Jun 13;9(1):7730. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3.
3 Lin LY, Sidani JE, Shensa A, Radovic A, Miller E, Colditz JB, et al. Association between social media use and depression among US young adults. Depress anxiety. 2016 Apr;33(4):323-31. doi: 10.1002/da.22466.
4 Lovallo WR, Whitsett TL, al’Absi M, Sung BH, Vincent AS, Wilson MF. Caffeine stimulation of cortisol secretion across the waking hours in relation to caffeine intake levels. Psychosom Med. 2005 Sep-Oct;67(5):734-9. doi: 10.1097/01.psy.0000181270.20036.06.
5 McCabe D, Colbeck M. The effectiveness of essential fatty acid, B vitamin, Vitamin C, magnesium and zinc supplementation for managing stress in women: a systematic review protocol. JBI Database System Rev Implement Rep. 2015 Aug 14;13(7):104-18. doi: 10.11124/jbisrir-2015-2298.