Motherhood is stressful. There is always something isn’t there?
Add in the stress that is still lingering from 2020, and stress has just ramped it up a notch for everyone.
Being busy and a bit stressed has become the norm for a lot of us. There is always so much to do and it seems like not enough hours in the day to do it all in.
And I don’t know about you, but some weeks it feels like I lurch from crisis to crisis and it’s honestly not very fun!
We all know about stress – we have all felt it and we all feel it, but nobody really teaches us much about it.
We know that we should be working to reduce our stress, and we know that there are certain things that help like movement or taking a bath or reading a book – but that is about as far as it goes…and we don’t really have time for those things anyway so they quite often don’t get done.
I am a big believe in knowledge being power, and when we can understand the reason behind why we should be doing something and how we can apply it to our own life it makes it so much easier to actually do that thing consistently.
What is the stress cycle?
The stress system evolved in our body thousands of years ago, and even though the lives we lived back then are very different to the lives we live today and our stressors come from completely different things – it’s unlikely a saber tooth tiger is going to chase you on the way to tesco these days – the stress response that our bodies go through has not changed.
Our body works its way through a cycle.
The cycle is made up of four stages and our body needs to work it’s way through all four to complete the stress cycle.
Let’s imagine you were walking in the park and suddenly a tiger jumped out of the bushes, your stress response would kick in – your body would start pumping out cortisol and that will cause a chain reaction in your body – which means that things in your body that aren’t important in this moment of surviving a tiger are turned down (very simplified explanation).
For example, blood gets taken away from your reproductive organs because now is not the time for a baby, your digestive system gets turned down, parts of your brain that aren’t vital in this moment get turned down – and at the same time the blood from those places are being pushed towards different areas – like to your legs and arms to help you run and climb faster – your blood cells move away from your skin so if you are bitten you are a bit less likely to bleed out etc etc
Your body is kinda cool.
So with this extra blood in your legs you run and you manage to get back to your cave and you pull your rock across the doorway to keep the tiger out and you are safe.
You start crying and jumping around and hugging everyone in relief that you have survived this tiger attack.
And that closes the stress cycle.
Your brain says – okay we are safe and it’s safe to get back to normal.
We get triggered and all these survival mechanisms kick in inside our body – and while they are useful when we are being chased by a tiger, it’s not so useful when you are completely stressed out running late for the school run.
Even though those two stressors – tiger and school run – are not the same at all – it still gives the same response from your body.
The problem with modern life is that we don’t close the stress cycle.
We just stress out that we are running seriously late, drop the kids off and then move on to the next task on our extremely long todo list.
We don’t close the cycle.
There are times when the stress cycle is good – like when there is an emergency, but most of the time we aren’t in that situation.
How do we close the stress cycle?
Closing the stress cycle is extremely important.
It allows our body to know that it’s safe and it let’s our cortisol and other hormone levels drop back down to normal so our body can go back to functioning the way it should.
Some of the ways that we can close the stress cycle are:
This one is such a good one. It might not be what you feel like doing when you are stressed out – but the way you feel by the end of it is worth it.
It’s worth taking note here that some movements put extra stress on your body – like HIITT workouts – so choose a more gentle workout if you are in high stress – like yoga, pilates, walking etc.
Imagine the stress just working it’s way out your body as you move.
Crying can be such a relief. It’s one of the best ways to close the stress cycles, especially if you feel you need to cry.
Especially if you feel like you are holding it all together. Honestly, it helps no-one.
We see crying as a weakness, but it isn’t. Nobody can be strong all the time.
Breathing allows you to move into your ‘rest’ (parasympathetic) nervous system from your ‘stress’ (sympathetic) nervous system.
Slowing down and focusing on your breathing allows this to happen and this will close the cycle for you.
The more time you spend in your sympathetic nervous system the more stress you are putting on your body and your mind.
Do some breathing exercises. You could do some box breathing – breath in for four, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four. You can visualise yourself breathing moving around a square outline.
Or you can try breathing in through your nose with one hand on your belly so you feel it expand for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4. Keep repeating and counting in your head. This is a good one to do everyday. Try for the count of 4 this week, and the count of 5 next week etc.
Close your eyes. Drop your shoulders. Hand on your belly and breathe.
We know laughing makes us feel better.
Have you ever been crying and someone is trying to cheer you up by making you laugh and you just instantly feel a shift?
Close the stress cycle by watching something funny – a comedy or even some funny videos on TikTok or instagram reels – you know what makes you laugh.
I kinda recommend you know the person or it might be very weird.
Nothing makes us feel as good as having a cwtch (welsh for hug) – hold for more than 20 seconds to get that feel good release of oxytocin flowing through your system.
I am honestly the least creative person I know in the artistic sense.
It can be anything that gets your creative juices flowing:
- colouring in (even I can manage this one!)
- playing an instrument
- writing (my thing)
Do something that gets you into a state of ‘flow’ where you can zone out everything else and just zone in on that one thing.
A thing to remember….
It’s easy to read this list and think that is great and all that BUT I can’t just stop every time something stressful happens to me in the day and do a bit of knitting.
Here is what I suggest – just take two minutes.
Do two minutes of breathing. You can do this anywhere, in your car or lock yourself in the bathroom and do it there if you don’t feel comfortable doing it where you are. That will be enough for now.
Then at the end of the day do a bigger thing to close your stress cycle.
Choose something from the list and do that.
Once a day counts.
Which will you choose to close the stress cycle?