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Stress: How I’m (sort of) Managing It

Stress. As parents we seem to automatically have buckets of it, because there are so may moving parts in our lives. Then along came 2020 and we apparently had no idea what it really was. Or how to manage stress.

What is stress exactly? Stress is when someone experiences mental and physical symptoms, such as irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles, and difficulty sleeping.

For me, like many others, 2020 was the year where things just would not give. To briefly sum up: we moved across the country 3 weeks before lockdowns started, lived in an 800 square foot cabin with 3 dogs and 2 toddlers for 6 months, sold a house, had a family member diagnosed with cancer and undergo chemo, got hit by a tornado, moved into another rental for a month, bought a house, and literally knew TWO people before we got here. Just a little stressful.

woman sitting on bed hugging her knees

I'm not telling you these things for sympathy, but rather in solidarity. Needless to say, my stress level was through the roof for most of the year. To the point that I stared losing my hair, like really badly. For some reason the realization that all of this stress was causing my hair to fall out was the thing that forced me to find ways to manage stress. The medical professionals I saw basically told me to figure it out; they couldn't do anything. AWESOME, THANKS.

I will be the first to tell you that I am not the best at taking the time to feel my feelings. I usually just push things inward and move on. Then it gets to be too much and I explode. Super healthy, I know. I also don't have the time or resources to get out of the house and do things on my own. However, after reading a lot of blog posts and online articles I found a couple things I could buy into, and they seem to be helping.

  1. Wake up in the morning and before you get out of bed tell yourself that today is going to be a good day and that you are grateful for this day. It puts you in a better mindset and seriously helps. So do a couple deep breaths.
  2. Accept that there are things you can literally do nothing about, focus on what you can control, what you can have an affect upon, and ways you can be constructive. It's easy to have a negative mindset when you feel overwhelmed and defeated. That adds more stress.
  3. Focus on the present and don't get ahead of yourself. This is the thing that has really helped me. I am a planner. I get stuff done yesterday, but I read something that really resonated with me and I will paraphrase, because now I can't find the article. When we are really stressed out, overwhelmed, and unsure of what the future will bring, our brains literally can't focus on anything but the here and now. It's a survival mechanism. Whoa, that made all the sense in the world to me. I am making a conscious effort to take things one day at a time. If it's not happening in the next 48 hours, I am aware of it, but I am not worrying about yet. My planner has always been essential to my sanity, and now I am super diligent about writing things down so that I don't have to stress remembering it all.
  4. Get moving! At the encouragement of a friend of mine, I joined Fit4Mom and started working out twice a week. I don't have the discipline to work out on my own, so this helps me stay accountable. Plus I get to interact with other moms and get out of the house (when we aren't virtual).

Neon sign reading "and breathe" on a plant background, helps manage stress

So those are the stress management techniques I'm working on. It's only been a few months, but mentally I feel better and (I think) I'm less volatile. No, my hair hasn't grown back yet, but I don't think it's gotten any worse....

moms mental health

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