Stress and Trying to Chill

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Being a working mom means you are going to be stressed. That’s a fact. We have obligations to our job, our husbands, our children, our extended families, oh yeah and ourselves. We all deal with stress in different ways- working out, reading, meditating, eating, taking a timeout, getting a manicure, shopping, grocery shopping alone, cleaning, biting nails, screaming, losing it, etc. How do you deal with your stress? Can you relax? Here are some ways I deal with stress, try to relax, and goals I have for myself.

When I’m stressed, I like to vent and process things. Then I like to make a to do list and I end up cleaning or organizing something. Probably to gain some control. When I’m really stressed, I try to keep my cool at work, and then I’m short-tempered at home. I probably snap at my husband the most (sorry, Jake!) I become more of an introvert and need to remember to communicate effectively. I always try to reflect and make things better. But with all of this, I stink at relaxing!

Trying to sit down and watch TV is something I try to do after the kids go to bed. Sometimes I end up getting distracted on my phone checking emails or going through a newsfeed. The best thing I did for myself a few months ago was get off Facebook for a while. I had to stop reading all of these horrible articles and political posts that had very negative comments. I would like to relax on the couch more on the weekends. That gets hard now that my three year old doesn’t nap, and all of the chores need to get done. Here I am making excuses again for why I can’t relax. I’m constantly making a to-do list in my head; clean the house, vacuum, unload the dishwasher, do the laundry, pay the bills, write two IEPs, respond to email, plan out lesson plans, prep food, plan out dinners, shop for groceries, workout, make doctors appointment, yadda, yadda, yadda…

Like I stated before, I had to learn the hard way to take care of myself. I had a panic attack about three weeks after I went back to work from my maternity leave. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. When I looked up information about it, I definitely could check a lot of the boxes, more for an anxiety disorder. I didn’t have the baby blues, but I did have a lot of fears. I was pumping several times a day and doing all the mommy duties, on top of working full time as a special education teacher which alone can be very stressful on top of all the regular things. I thought I was doing it all and surviving until someone made a comment to me about sleeping in a half an hour. I lost it. Little did I know, I had extremely high expectations for myself and others in my life. When I went to the OBGYN, my doctor talked to me honestly for about a half hour as I sobbed about how I was trying my hardest but still felt so upset. (Obviously there was more and I can talk about that later). My doctor told me that I wouldn’t believe how many women came in each week and felt the same way. There are very high expectations for mothers, especially working moms. Here are ways I’ve been trying to taking care of myself and be less stressed.

  1. Meditating– Taking time to clear the mind is important. I meditate before I go to bed, but I should also be doing it in the morning before beginning my day. I bought a yearly subscription to Headspace which is an amazing app that has sessions available for different needs. I love the videos to help make sense of meditation and mindfulness. There’s also mini sessions that are as little as a minute!
  2. Gratitude Journal– Keeping a journal and writing down three things I’m grateful for at the end of each day, is a suggestion my doctor gave me. Sometimes on a hard day, the littles things are what I’m most thankful for. He also suggested three wins for the day. Sometimes a “win” can be hard to see when reflecting on the day.
  3. Exercising– This is what I wish I could do more often, each day of the week. Sweating the stress away makes me feel the best! I really look forward to this time.
  4. Eating Right– Sometimes I go right for the junk food and chocolate when I’m stressed. The faculty room is always filled with goodies and my goal is to have more will power this year! I pack a healthy lunch, but always end up getting a piece of some kind of dessert that seems to be making its way into the faculty room. My principal always had candy in her office too, so if I was feeling stressed I knew a Caramel Cream would make me feel a little better. They’re so yummy!  We don’t buy much junk food because if it’s not in the house we don’t eat it. I also find myself eating a bowl of cereal or popcorn after the kids go to sleep. My goals are to resist temptations at work, try not to snack at night, and to drink more water! Maybe I can reach at least two of the three.
  5. Box Breathing– This was a strategy my doctor gave me to help me fall asleep at night. I found that I wasn’t waking up when I finally fell asleep, but I was having a hard time shutting off my mind to go to sleep (and listening to my husband snore doesn’t help). Think of tracing a box- pretend to trace the top and breathe in for 4 seconds, then come down one of the sides to hold for 4 seconds, then trace along the bottom to breathe out for 4 seconds, then trace the last side and hold for 4 seconds. Repeat. I have a visual below.
  6. Reading or listening to a book– Something my doctor asked- “When is the last time you read a book?” Ah. Yes. A book. Like Goodnight Moon or What Do Dinosaurs Do When They Get Sick? How about Pinkalicious? Nope. Not an adult book. I’ve tried and I fall right asleep. My doctor’s suggestion? Audiobooks. Listen to one on the way to work. A good recommendation? The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Great book, but not one to listen to with the kids in the car!
  7. Getting off social media– I already explained this a little. Sometimes it’s better just to live in the present and not give a…
  8. Girlfriends– I’m lucky to have amazing friends and women in my life. I can get a bite to eat, have a wine night or lunch date with my girls and always feel refreshed.
  9. Going for a walk– Getting some fresh air is one way I love to chill. Most of the time I take my dog with me. My favorite season will be here soon so I’ll be outside more than any other time. I love it!
  10. Shopping/spending time with mom– My mom and I have grown closer as we’ve grown older. She’s my best friend and can always help me talk through things. Shopping just makes it more fun.
  11. Date Night (and maybe sooner than later a kid free vacation)- One stressor I have is not giving my husband enough quality time. He was there first and deserves to have his needs met too. One day. When I’m not so tired. But for now we’ll hold hands when we can, laugh at the ridiculousness of raising little ones and remember these are the days of our lives. Right?

I’m not an expert, but I’ve had quite a different experience of motherhood that I expected. (There I go again, putting expectation on things which only creates more problems. Some say peace begins when expectations are lifted. Sigh.) I always wanted to be a mother. It came naturally to me. I love my babies more than anything in this world. I also realize that in order for me to be the best mommy, wife, friend, daughter, and coworker I have to find a balance. Sometimes the balancing act will be completely lopsided and sometimes it will be in balance (the Libra in me wants the even balance all the time though). Letting myself be me and taking care of myself when I’m stressed is a goal of mine as I begin a new school year.

Wish me luck! 

Melissa

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