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Stress Management for Moms: 5 Tips from an Expert

We’ve all had the feeling. It’s 5pm. The kids are screaming/whining/back-talking/mess-making/generally making horrific decisions, all making you wonder if you are truly cut out for this parenting thing. It’s at this dire apex that you officially reach your “I’m done” moment. At this point, you feel that it’s scientifically impossible for you to make another meal, wipe another nose, pick up another mess, or fold another miniature shirt. You sink into a puddle on the stairs, letting a solitary tear run down your weary face.

Sadly, your maudlin stair-puddling cannot last for long, as the hamster wheel of mothering never ceases. Luckily, there are ways to manage these moments and keep yourself from teetering over the edge.

I was able to get some tips from Solange Swafford, LISW-CP, a Charleston-based, licensed therapist. She focuses her practice on women and says the common challenges for her female clients are time management, self-care, relationship woes, and identity issues. Swafford sees firsthand the detrimental effects of the constant pressure on moms to “have it all” while simultaneously looking flawless, youthful, and chock-full-of-joy while mothering.

Here are some of her practical tips to navigate the ups, downs, and “I’m done” moments of motherhood:

Make time for downtime

With social media and the ever-satisfying click of the internet, we are more technologically-connected than ever. There are obvious advances to technology, but the constant scrolling leaves us dealing with an endless barrage of stimuli, most of which perpetuates the myth of maternal perfection. Swafford suggests building in downtime to disconnect from technology (ahem, put your phone down) and simply process the world around us. She notes that, “Giving ourselves that quiet space is a key to self-care and supporting the emotional and mental health of ourselves and our kids.”

Check out the blog Hands Free Mama for more tips on reducing the grip of technology on your life and making space for things that truly matter.

Build a strong mommy network

When you’re having a tough day, there’s nothing more affirming than reaching out to a mommy friend to get some words of encouragement or understanding. Swafford emphasizes, “We cannot mother alone; we need to cultivate relationships and create positive and helpful support systems.” We need friends if we, or our kids, get sick, a family member dies, or we just need some advice. She suggests focusing on making friends with mothers who have children the same age as yours, especially mommies of babies and toddlers.

 Ask for and accept help

Having friends is one thing; putting yourself out there by asking for help when you need it is another. Swafford encourages moms to push through that vulnerability and “ask for help and accept help when needed.” Having that safety net to fall into when needed can be a tremendous comfort.  

Don’t be afraid to say, “No”

There are only so many hours in a day and only so much we can realistically take on. It’s okay and even healthy to say, “No,” especially when that little internal voice is telling you to run for the hills. Swafford says setting healthy boundaries is a huge issue on which she counsels mothers in her practice. If you spread yourself too thin, eventually you’ll have nothing left to give.

Create a self-care tool box

Swafford suggests creating a “self-care tool box” with some go-to daily rituals to ward off anxious and overwhelmed feelings. These self-care rituals can be both empowering and grounding. “Don’t make this another to-do item,” she cautions, “but instead make it a fun experiment into what makes you feel calm and balanced.”

Some suggestions for items for your self-care tool box include:

  1. Meditation: You can listen to guided meditations at night or when the kids are busy or napping. She recommends free meditation resources like  Headspace and Insight Timer (especially Sarah Blondin).
  2. Epsom Salt Baths: The magnesium in Epsom salts are known to alleviate sad and anxious feelings.
  3. Get outside and lie in the grass: Swafford says being connected to nature in this way “can create a sense of stability and groundedness when you are feeling overwhelmed.”
  4. Breathing techniques: You can learn different breathing techniques to use when you are feeling anxious. Swafford suggests the “4-7-8 breathing technique.” Find more information on this here.
  5. Move it: Incorporate moving your body in a way you enjoy, like dancing, walking, playing, or stretching. In adding this movement, Swafford encourages her clients to “think outside the traditional physical exercise box.” In fact, she believes in movement so much that her therapy sessions are done exclusively while walking in nature. “I incorporate walking while having our sessions because there are so many scientifically-proven benefits to getting outside in nature and moving our bodies.”

If you’re still dragging the bottom after trying these tips, you can schedule a session with a therapist to talk about your concerns and roadblocks. Talking with someone outside the circle of your family and friends can give you an unbiased and fresh perspective on your own life journey, as well as helping you stay accountable to your goals. Swafford likens it to “having a personal trainer for your soul and well-being.”  

There’s no doubt that motherhood can be grueling, a 24-7 marathon of sleep deprivation, worry, frustration, and non-stop vulnerability. Hopefully, these tips will help you push the reset button and find your balance once again.

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