This time of year is always so busy.
There is Christmas to organise, our todo list to stay on top as well as all the other things that goes along with being a mum – it is very easy to feel overwhelmed!
It’s important that we have some strategies in place to help us keep our stress levels low as it can be so detrimental to our health (and our mood – let’s be honest here!)
Being stressed out affects our sleep, our hormones, our mood, our food choices, how well we feel able to cope with everything, our productivity levels and so much more.
It just has a negative knock on effect in all areas in life.
However, it can sometimes be really difficult to keep our stress levels as low as we would like them, especially if we have something going on in life that is on the whole out of our control – and in this case it’s even more important to keep our stress levels as low as we possibly can – even if that level isn’t ideal!
Keeping our stress levels lower means that when something unexpectedly stressful happens, our stress levels don’t rise quite as high as they would if we were not managing them and they were already a bit on the high side.
So how can we keep our stress levels in check?
1 – Brain Dump
Kind of self-explanatory. To brain dump you literally just write down every single thought and todo and reminder that you have swirling around in your brain and write it down on paper. A brain download if you like.
The idea is that it creates more brain space for us to be able to see more clearly what needs to be done. The act of writing the items down allows our brain to say ‘Okay, I won’t forget that now it has been written down I can stop thinking about it’.
It also lets us make a plan of action to get some things crossed off our todo list and that in itself will help bring our stress levels down.
I personally when doing this, write everything down, sort it all into categories and it helps me to see what I can do and when. For example, I could sit down for an hour and cross off as many things in the ‘Christmas’ section of my list as I can.
Single tasking is so much more beneficial than multi-tasking.
It takes our brain up to 20 minutes to change activity e.g. going from ordering christmas presents to sorting out the toy cupboard, so grouping like tasks together means you will get so much more done in a shorter period of time.
2 – Just one thing
So you have brain dumped and made a list but now you are feeling just as overwhelmed because now you can see everything that needs to be done all in one place.
I hear you.
When you are overwhelmed and stressed out, it is very hard to find clarity about what needs to be done.
Get a highlighter or a different coloured pen, and highlight the URGENT things on your list.
The things that either have a date attached to them, or the ones that just really, really need to be done.
Concentrate on those things, one at a time.
What things on that list are going to make the most impact?
You’ll find that when you just choose one thing, and just make a start on tackling what needs to be done – it usually creates the momentum we need to power through our list and just think with each item you are crossing off your stress levels are coming down a little bit more.
You can read some more about tacking your todo list here…8 ways to keep on top of your todo list over the school holidays.
3 – Create Rhythms and Routines for your life
I have previously written a blog post all about this here (Rhythms and Routines) .
Having routines in place means that you can take away the stress of trying to work out when you are going to fit in everything you need to get done actually done.
Knowing that your kitchen gets cleaned on a Wednesday means instead of stressing out wondering when you are going to have time to fit it in and it just bothering you – when you know that it has a set day to be done, you can just forget about it until then and it frees up a little bit of extra space for you to think about the more important things!
4 – Find 15 minutes every day to do something you love.
This might be reading your book, it might be doing some crafts, meditating, listening to your favourite podcast – it might be watching your favourite tv show or playing on your nintendo switch.
There is no right or wrong answer.
It’s 15 minutes of doing what you love doing and prioritising making time for you.
When you give yourself time to rest it actually makes you more productive.
If you are reading this and thinking ‘I don’t have 15 minutes to do that’ then…
- it sounds you like are the person who needs that 15 minutes more than anyone else reading this!
2. It doesn’t need to be done in one 15 minute chunk. Find five minutes here and there. When the kids are playing happily for a bit, read a quick chapter of your book etc.
Little chunks of time add up.
5 – Move
There are so many benefits for moving.
One of the main ones are how movement helps to reduce stress.
Go for a walk. Do a workout you love. Find a dance workout on youtube that leaves you crying laughing by the end of it. Practice a tiktok dance with the kids.
It releases serotonin in the brain and that makes you feel happy and that has the knock on effect of making you feel less stressed.
It doesn’t have to be an hour workout, it can be 5-10 minutes of messing around with the kids kicking a ball around the garden or going for a walk to the shop and back.
I have a blog post all about moving more as a mum here…. How to find a way of moving that you love as a busy mum (even if you don’t like exercising!)
6 – Nature
For even more benefits of moving, move in nature.
Getting outside and getting some fresh air makes such a difference to our mindset.
Go for a walk to break up the day a bit.
If you are a stay at home mum, getting out for some fresh air everyday does not only you the world of good, but your kids too. Especially on those days when everyone and everything seems hard work.
An added bonus that getting out into the sunshine gets us some vitamin D (also a friendly reminder that over the winter months in the UK EVERYONE should be taking a daily 10mcg Vitamin d supplement)
7 – Talk it out
A problem shared is a problem halved, as the saying goes.
As humans it is biologically hard-wired into us to be social. The need to socialise with other people is in-built because thousands of years ago being isolated from a group would have meant we wouldn’t have survived. Things aren’t the same now, but evolution wise we haven’t quite caught up yet.
Make the time to talk to someone when you are feeling stressed out.
Face to face is more beneficial, but if you can’t manage that make a phone call or send a message. It all counts.
We can tend to want to withdraw and go quiet when we are feeling more difficult emotions (myself included) but it would help us more to actually talk it out.
I’ve got a blog post here on how to support yourself as an introvert mum….8 Self-Care Strategies for the introvert mum.
8 – Make sure you are getting enough sleep
It’s so important we get enough sleep. Not only are the health benefits immense, it also helps us cope with stress so much better.
We need to be aiming for 7-9 hours a night.
Don’t aim for perfection here, especially if you don’t get a full night sleep because of your children’s sleep patterns etc but aim for good quality sleep and as much of it as you can get!
9 – Declutter
I don’t know about you, but how messy and cluttered our home is can usually be a visual representation of my mind at that second.
The messier and more cluttered our house – the more overwhelmed and stressed I am.
The calmer and the less cluttered out home – the more calm and in control I feel.
It’s not a coincidence a UCLA study (you can find the study here) found that clutter and mess does really have an impact on women’s brains and found they had much more cortisol in their body than those who didn’t have a cluttered home.
While you don’t have to go completely minimalist – having a good sort out does really help.
The process has therapeutic benefits too, it’s a win-win situation.
10 – Unplug
Probably the hardest one to do sometimes.
It does really help to create some space and clarity in your mind.
You don’t need to not use your phone for an entire week to feel the benefits, even setting some boundaries around your phone use will help.
e.g. I will not go on my phone after 8pm.
There are so many apps and settings on our phones that allow us to be more intentional.
For example on my phone, I’ve got an alert that tells me when I have been on facebook for more than ten minutes – and when I go over that set limit and hit 15 minutes my Facebook app goes into ‘downtime’ and I can’t use it until the next day.
If you need a bit of motivation to do this one – check your phone usage on your phone settings.
It will shock you.
How do you keep your stress levels in check?
Let me know in the comments!