When it comes to stress management, I am definitely on a path of learning. Quite recently I realised the root of many of my issues was that I was not sensitive to my inner red flags. By nature, I am not a people pleaser. I proudly do not care what most people think. When it comes to the people (or causes) I care about, that’s another story. I give all myself to them, stretching my capacity sometime to the point of breaking. Becoming a parent has been the most intense experience of my life under this perspective. I suddenly found myself responsible of creatures I care about beyond imagination and, at the same time, facing a lot of invasive and hard changes to my own life, goals, ambitions. Slowly, it became clear my ways of managing stress were not effective and a major change of direction was needed for my and my family’s well-being. Here I want to share the small tricks I started to put into action to improve my situation.
Sometime, you gotta be selfish
If you, like me, find it hard to say no to the people you care about, you probably are biting more than you can chew. Sure, I can babysit your three kids on top of mine tomorrow. No problem, I’ll wake up at 5 am to pick you up from the airport. Yes baby, I can do all my chores when you are napping and play dolls with you for the rest of the afternoon. Being kind and available is a good foundation of close relationships, but if you are feeling stressed lately, it’s time to say no. And I mean to your kids as well. They will not die if you for once feed them junk food four times in a week or if they’ll skip one dance practice. Your friends or relatives will simply ask the favour from someone else. Spare yourself.
Schedule regular me-time
Me-time can be extremely simple. I like to reserve some evenings to some at-home spa treatments. I put a nice face mask on and listen to some spa music, or paint my nails while watching a light comedy movie. You can go out with friends or even plan a long evening walk by yourself, simply listening to music and relaxing. How often you schedule it, it’s up to your needs and possibilities. Please note this is time with and for yourself, not with your partner. We are talking you here.
Foolish as it may sounds, I started giving myself small treats during the day – good girl, you’re a good girl! I will show some practical examples. I bought myself a coffee holder for the stroller and regularly brought coffee along. Going out is always a mess – you, bring your hat! You, have you gone to the toilet already? Where did you put your second shoe?! (I’m sure it all sounds very familiar) – but I started taking the time to warm up a coffee to go. I started packing small snacks for myself in the bag. The contents of my bag were 90% children’s stuff. Now they’re down to 85%, with 5% being small snacks for mommy. I like fresh-squeezed fruit and I started regularly buying grapefruit – which no one else likes, so it was never admitted into the house – and every second day I take five minutes to make myself a fresh juice. With no shame I’ll state I’ve even done it with screaming toddlers at the door (screaming for no real reason, don’t worry). Three minutes of free time are a human right, I’d say.
Ask for help
When I am knee-deep in mud (figuratively) I play all sort of excuses in my head to avoid asking for help. “I could ask my friend to watch the kids this afternoon, but she has already three of her own. It’d be too much.”, “I’m sure he’s better things to do than going to that shop fir me”. Now, I’ve decided to stop going down that road and let other people say no if they cannot help. Every time I get asked for a hand, I’m happy to lend it, so why don’t I assume that it’s the same for my friends?
If you are already a pro in this – I am not – I add a bonus achievement: ask for help for yourself. That means that you’re not asking your sister to watch the kids so that you can vacuum the whole house, but you’re doing so to get a free relaxing half-afternoon.
Give yourself credit
The more I care about something, the more insecure I feel about my abilities. Being a good parent is definitely at the top of my life goals and I am too hard on myself. I started listing my achievements and my mistakes every day, and guess what – the former always surpass the latter! I play this in my mind every night before sleeping, but you can write down if you feel like. An example of this conversation with self may be, “Today I’ve read 20 minutes to each kid, as I promised to. When R. was stalling before going out I didn’t lose my temper and I managed the situation greatly. E. fought to eat every meal but I never lost patience and he ate well. I learned a new recipe and cooked a very healthy and tasty dinner. I was disappointed in myself when I barked at E. at the park. It was hard to stay calm after he was fussy all morning. I need to repeat to myself why he does such and such…”. This is something I found useful even in my professional life. I started keeping a detailed list of all my achievements and I review it from time to time, to remind myself of all the goals I reached. This trick is helping me to be more centered on how things really are, instead of how I negatively may perceive them.
How do you manage your stress? Will you adopt some of my tricks? Drop me a line in the comments section, I’ll be happy to read about your experience and suggestions.