There are a lot of posts out there on ways that you can manage your stress levels – I have written one here (10 simple ways for busy mums to relieve stress) and having ongoing ways of managing your stress is really important.
However, sometimes it’s not possible to go for a walk or do a workout or go and read your book for 15 minutes.
Sometimes we might be stuck under a poorly child unable to do much at all. Sometimes it might be stormy outside and the kids are kind of crazy or fighting all day and for whatever reason your patience level isn’t very high.
What do we do then?
I’ve made a list of ideas that might be helpful in that situation that will give you a moment of calm to help support you and keep your stress levels at a more stable level.
As always, when it comes to lists like this, not everything is going to fit you and the situation you find yourself in, so pick and choose what you need.
It’s always useful to have a menu of tools up your sleeve to help support you with whatever life decides to throw at you.
Make it simple
When things are really stressful the last thing we need are complicated rituals.
Think of a few simple things of your own that would help you in the moment, write them down somewhere or on the notes app on your phone and when you are in that situation again it can remind you of something that may help you.
Focusing on your breathing makes such a difference to your stress levels and the way you feel.
When we are stressed, worried or feeling any negative emotions we tend to breathe in a faster and shallower way. So when we are intentional about our breathing and breathe in a slow and relaxed way we are sending a message to our brain and our body that everything is okay and that we are safe.
There are a few ways to do it, it can be done through meditation – although in this blog post we are talking about ways to feel calm when things are a bit stressful and we may not be able to have the peace or the clarity to meditate.
In this situation I would recommend one of the following…
Box breathing is where you imagine a box or a square in your mind, and you imagine yourself travelling around the box and match it to your breathing.
- When you travel across the top of the box you breathe in 1,2,3,4
- Then you travel down the one edge of the box and hold your breath for 1,2,3,4
- Then you travel across the bottom of the box and hold your breath for 1,2,3,4
- Then when you travel back up the opposite edge to where you started you breathe out 1,2,3,4
Focusing on the box in your mind and visualising your journey around the box is a simple way of mini meditation.
Repeat as many times as you want/need.
Similar to box breathing, but without the vision of the box you count the numbers clearly in your mind.
- Take a deep inhale and count the exhale as 1.
- Repeat and count each exhale as the next number until you get to 5.
You can repeat this cycle as many times as you want/need to.
Exhaling for a longer period of time than you inhaled is a very effective way of creating a sense of calm in your body.
- Breathe in for the count of 3, then exhale while you count the rest of the way up to 8.
Repeat as many times as you need/want.
If you feel a bit weird breathing, do it when you go to the bathroom.
Everytime you get up, or everytime you go to the bathroom do a quick 30 second stretch.
Inhale bring your arms above your head and exhale drop down to touch your toes.
We all know that stretch.
It’s not fancy.
But if you have been stuck in the same position for a while, it helps to do a little stretch – and it helps you feel a bit calmer and more in control!
Have a mindful cup of tea (or coffee)
There are so many benefits to being mindful.
We tend to do everything fast when we are stressed out, but for this one slow down.
Take a moment to really zone in on the sensory experience of having a cup of tea.
Think about how the warmth feels on your hands as you are cupping the mug.
Take an inhale and think about how the tea/coffee smells.
As you drink think about how the temperature feels in your mouth, what the taste is like, can you taste the milk/mylk in your cup alongside the tea?
Really savour the moment and zoning in on that cup of tea will create a little moment of meditation to help lower your stress levels.
Bonus points if you take your tea out there too,
You don’t have to go for a walk (although that would help!). Just stepping outside your door and feeling the fresh air and the sun on your skin creates instant calm.
Close your eyes for a minute, focus on what you can hear, what the temperature feels like, what can you smell?
If the reason you are stressed out is because it’s just one of those days and the kids are fighting etc, getting outside really helps here too. Kids love being outdoors (even if they don’t always act like it!) and it usually puts them in a better mood as well as you so it’s win-win!
Light a candle
While this one can seem a bit pointless because it’s not actually doing anything to help the situation, the act of lighting a candle and doing it for yourself because you like the candle and you are making the situation a little bit nicer for yourself is enough to help you feel a tiny bit better.
When you are in a seriously stressful situation that you do not want to be in, practicing gratitude can feel like a bit of a stupid suggestion – but it does help.
Find something small to feel grateful for.
‘I am grateful that I washed the kids uniforms yesterday so I won’t need to worry about that later’
‘I am grateful that I am able to be at home to take care of my child while they are not feeling well’
‘I am grateful for my cup of tea’
It doesn’t have to be big, but finding even the smallest bit of good in the situation you are in will help you to feel better.
Put some headphones in
This one isn’t going to be practical for everyone or every situation but it may be useful.
Create a calming playlist on spotify, chuck some headphones (or even just one side) and zone out a little.
Especially helpful if your kids are in one of those extremely loud shouty moods!
Or find some silence…
For this one I’d suggest stepping outside your door and tuning into your senses.
This was an absolute life saver for me during the 2020 lockdown when there was no escape!
When Anest is unwell and I am stuck under her on the sofa, I can’t read my book because I don’t have two hands – but I can use my phone with one hand.
I have a list of saved articles that I want to read but haven’t got around to doing so, and I use this time to read them. Otherwise I find myself mindlessly scrolling and that always makes me feel worse.
Create a board on pinterest, a new note on your notes app or download the app pocket (not an ad it’s just something i use) and save articles you fancy reading later to it.
Which leads on to…
DO NOT mindlessly scroll
Nothing will make you feel worse than mindlessly scrolling when you are in a bit of a stressful situation. Especially seeing other people posting pictures of them living their best calm life.
Read the articles that you’ve chosen when you weren’t stressed out instead!
Most importantly, look after yourself
Even if it’s just a shower.
Make sure you are eating and drinking and taking care of your basic needs.
The rest can wait until things are calmer, but make sure you are meeting the basics.
I hope this is helpful and you are able to take something away from it to add to your emotional toolkit when things are stressful!