Effective Tools To Reduce Stress: Part 1

Whether you are a stay at home parent or working parent, raising children can be very stressful.

As a mother of three girls, I occasionally find myself stressed about a variety of things. Learning how to calm myself and remain cool and full of energy in the midst of all the chaos that comes with parenting was one of the best skills I ever learned.

I‘ve decided to write a series of blogs focusing on stress and ways we as parents can effectively manage our responsibilities by reducing the overwhelming stress that bogs us down. Looking back at my early years as a mom, I wish I had more tools in my toolbox when it came to parenting and wellness strategies.

Feeling stressed and becoming tense is a natural reaction where our body prepares itself for fight or flight. In our modern world, constant stress is a part of our daily living, and kids often add to the stressors parents already experience.

Recognizing that we as parents are in this together and most of us feel stressed out – at least some of the time – is an important first step. Now, let’s talk about ways we can de-stress!

Today’s blog post will focus on a few steps you can take to reduce stressful thoughts and feelings – basic tools that will benefit any parent. These simple stress management tips and relaxation exercises have proven useful to parents – so might as well give them a try! See what a difference they can make in just a short period of time.

A Simple 4-Step Plan

Step 1: Take a deep breath and count to 3 (or 10 if you need…). This allows your mind to stop spinning and be present.

Step 2: Accept that you can control your thoughts so that events are no longer perceived as stressful. This, in turn, will prove to you that you are also 100% in control of your emotions. I know you must think this is crazy, and maybe during a few days of the month when we are hormonal and feeling “out of control” this will be challenging, but it is possible!

Step 3: Learn to relax. It’s important to realize what that means in terms of the systems in our bodies. When we learn to relax, we are activating a system in our central nervous system called the parasympathetic nervous system, which prevents the “other” stress system, the sympathetic nervous system, from being activated. It’s important to understand that both systems can’t work simultaneously, so when your “calm system” is activated you WILL relax and become calm.

Now, why didn’t we learn that in first grade??? It took me years of feeling stress and anxiety and lots of research to learn this one simple fact. Think of the parasympathetic nervous system like brakes on a car. When your body is in stress mode, it is activating hormones in your body that cause changes like rapid beating of the heart. Relaxation techniques can teach you to alert your body that it doesn’t need to be stressed – AKA in fight or flight mode – and the parasympathetic nervous system will be activated, slowing down the sympathetic nervous system and putting a stop to that stressful energy.

Step 4: Create a list of 3 songs that are uplifting and play them when you feel stressed. I use the song “Happy” (yes, maybe passed it’s time bubble but still has the word happy it in so it stays on my list). I also like the song “I believe I can…” from a movie called “Honey.” We all have different preferences for music, but it’s a good idea to figure out a few no-fail songs that make you happy. Have them on “speed dial” (a handy playlist on your phone or computer) for whenever you are worked up and need a break.

There are many other ways that your can reduce your stress. In fact, there are about 52 proven stress reducers!! But let’s start with those four. Let me know how you did with them so we can continue to the next set of steps!