Katrina, mum at 20 and Project Manager for Young Mums Together has written a blog about how to manage stress as a young mum.
Have you ever had that day where everything seems to mess with you?
The home visit you were expecting never shows up. Your card doesn’t work when you go to pay for the nappies. Your baby misses her nap, fussing all the way through the morning. And right when you need to leave the house for an appointment, you can’t find your keys!
Could this day get more stressful?!
I’ve had way too many of those days. Being a young mum, a student, and managing (what feels like) a million appointments a week, nothing seemed to come easy or simply. Those times were stressful, I can tell you.
Looking back, I wish I had known about how to deal with stress, how to not let it get on top of me. It piles on so quickly, when life seems chaotic and nothing is quite set up yet.
It does get easier, things fall into place. But in the meantime, being able to recognise the signs of stress and having better ways of coping with stress would have made all the difference.
How do we cope with stress?
There are healthy and unhealthy ways of coping with stress. For some people, drinking heavily is their coping strategy to help them deal with stress. For other people, doing some exercise is their way of coping.
Coping strategies can be unhealthy when they produce negative effects on us, even if they seem to help in the short term. Many of us use unhealthy coping strategies without realising it.
Each of us will have different life experiences and different situations. What works to lower my stress levels might just make you feel more stressed.
Finding healthy coping strategies to deal with stress is all about testing out what works for us… and then remembering to use those coping skills in our lives. You can find out more about managing and reducing stress here.
Five tips for coping with stress
- Just breathe…
It sounds too simple but our breathing is actually affected when we’re stressed. That control and attention on our breath gives a soothing calm and focus.
Start by taking a deep breath in… hold your breath for 1…2…3…then slowly breathe out. Count to 3…and breath in again. Continue this slow breathing until you feel more relaxed.
This simple trick can be used at any time to avoid feeling tense, frustrated or overwhelmed with the moment.
When there’s more time available, this breathing technique can be combined with peaceful songs, sounds of nature or whatever brings us to our happy place.
- Enjoy the outdoors
Spending time in nature is so important for our wellbeing.
Whether it’s a slow stroll with toddler in tow, or a fast-paced walk with a pushchair, by moving around we release muscle tension, improve mood and think more clearly.
Have a picnic; visit the woods; explore an unexplored park; collect leaves for an art project. These experiences are great for both ours and our babies’ stress levels.
- Play time!
Finding playful and silly moments to enjoy is probably the most important de-stressor for me, and our little ones offer plenty of those moments!
It’s so easy to get caught up in the to-do list and fail to notice the joy and fun that kids bring into our lives. For them, life is there simply for fun and exploring. We can all benefit from joining in that!
Finding small quality moments can break through the most stressful of days. Playing little games while waiting in queues or on journeys can avoid meltdowns, making the journey a time to enjoy each other.
- Chit chat
Finding time to have an enjoyable adult conversation is so important for all mums. Spending the day with a hilarious little one is fun, don’t get me wrong! But it doesn’t quite replace adult conversation.
Quiet moments at home can be used to reach out and have a chat. The dishes and laundry can wait a few moments, can’t they?
It takes the weight off our shoulders when we offload to a sympathetic friend or family member. It may not solve everything but it improves our ability to cope when we feel connected to others.
- Be in the moment
Staying in the moment allows our minds to have a break from running ahead into the future, or staying stuck in the past. Being in the moment makes us focus on the here and the now – not what could be or might have been.
It’s a skill that takes practice, just like any other skill. We can practice being in the moment when doing the dishes, going for a walk, pushing a swing – anytime, really.
When out walking, notice the light breeze on your face. Feel the movement of your hair as the wind blows. Focus on the feeling of your feet as they step on the pavement. Listen to your breathing as you go.
Doing this practice for just a few minutes each day can lower stress levels and helps us feel more able to deal with stressful times.
All of these tips and exercises are more effective when we do them without the distraction of our phones.
Turning off notifications or just putting the phone away can help us to stay in the moment.
When we’re looking down at our phones, we can miss those playful moments. We can forget to focus on the things that bring us joy.
All it takes is finding one or two ways that work for you! We have plenty of ideas and tips on how to manage stress, here.
If stress is affecting your everyday life, we would advise that you speak to your GP or a health professional. They will be able to provide you more information about the support services and treatments available and help you mange your symptoms.
Suicidal thoughts: If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts it is important to seek advice immediately from a member of your family, a friend or someone you trust. You can also call the Samaritans 24-hours-a-day on 116 123.
If you are in immediate danger or know someone who is, please call 999. It’s so important to speak out and please remember, you are not alone!