My husband and I joke about what life was like before kids. Of course, there were stressors and I found things to obsess about. But at the end of the day, I was responsible for myself. Lack of sleep wasn’t a concern. I found time to work-out alone, finish tasks without a million (ok, a gazillion) interruptions and found time for leisure activities and stress-reducing hobbies.
Seven years and 3 babies later, I find myself wearing so many hats some days that it's hard to remember who I am. Wife, mother, entrepreneur, shuttle service, chef, housekeeper…
After having my daughter (my third), I began experiencing a lot of anxiety and mild PPD (post partum depression). It was through my experience and by opening up to other moms and my midwife that I learned how common anxiety and chronic stress are among moms and how crippling it can be at times.
Before I go further: Please understand that there are varying degrees of anxiety and types of stress. What works for me may not work for another. I am sharing some of the things that helped me. Sometimes professional counseling or medical advice is necessary and please don’t be ashamed or afraid to seek help if your symptoms have been ongoing.
Below are my top 5 ways to help manage stress:
1. Exercise: This one is at the top because exercise increases feel-good endorphins! It is hard to stay stressed after a run, focusing on the rhythm of your breath and footsteps. It doesn’t have to be a high-impact cardio workout either. A walk or yoga class can have the same positive benefits. Just getting out and moving will increase your focus, self-image and sleep.
2. Ritual: Having rituals can be powerful in bringing predictability to our chaotic days and grounding us. Rituals can be as simple as lighting a candle next to your bed as you wind down, pausing for a cup of hot chamomile tea, or spending 20 minutes out in your garden; taking in the smell of the earth and experiencing the beauty and wonder of nature.
3. Prayer/Meditation: Sometimes we feel like we hold the world on our shoulders. Whatever your faith, believing in a higher power helps relieve us of our notion that we have to make it all happen. Much of the time my stress comes from the crazy idea that I have to control and make everything happen or it will all fall apart. When I pray and acknowledge that it is not me, but God, who holds the world in his hands, I am both relieved and hopeful because I know it will be ok.
4. Aromatherapy: There are many effective essential oils that work to relieve mental and emotional stress. Some include: Geranium, Lavender, Sandalwood, Bergamot, Grapefruit, Cardamom, Palma Rosa, Vetiver and Rose. A few drops of essential oil can be used in a bath, in a room mist or vaporizer or can be blended into a massage oil.
To create a massage oil blend to combat anxiety, combine the following:
· 1 oz carrier oil (olive, jojoba, sunflower)
· 7 drops of each: lavender, geranium, palma rosa
5. Talking to someone you trust, counseling and mom groups: For whatever reason, moms tend to feel that, in order to be a “good” mom, they must take on far too much and then top it off with brutally high expectations of themselves. Then we feel that if we can’t live up to this ridiculous standard we have set for ourselves, we have failed. And the last thing we want to be to our family is a failure. So, many of us strive away, suffering in the silence of our own fear, when regular conversations with a trusted mama friend, midwife or counselor could help bring a healthy perspective and, most importantly, help us feel like we are not alone.
It is important to remember that life and managing stress is a process. If stress has become chronic and your body and emotions are experiencing distress, please don’t ignore it. Try implementing these 5 practices; adapting them to make them personal to you. And don’t hesitate to ask for help. We are in this together.
Heather Hamilton is wife, mother of 3 and founder of Zoe Organics, a lifestyle brand that creates beautifully handcrafted, organic home and body care products for the conscious family. Although Heather has always been passionate about health and wellness, motherhood was a big turning point in her life; causing her to make more educated choices with regard to the health and well-being of her own family. She fell in love with the craft of making skin care products when she began creating natural and organic potions for her own family. Heather holds an MBA degree along with training as a birth Doula. She lives in the northern California countryside and in addition to running her business and caring for her family, she enjoys cooking, gardening, yoga and running.