Seven positives for stressed parents

We can’t give what we don’t have. This translates to ‘when we don’t take care of ourselves we are actually doing a disservice to our children.’

Children learn from all that we do. When you don’t take care of yourself, what kind of message are you sending to your children about priorities? What messages are you sending about your worth as a person? And, if you think this sounds a little selfish consider, when you are burnt out and stressed from neglecting your own needs, your ability to nurture others mindfully with respect becomes compromised.

Keeping up with active littlies is a huge stress on your body and the responsibility of nurturing a little being is rewarding and joyful–but also takes up a lot of energy, both physical and mental. So, if you are feeling overloaded right now, here are some tips to regain your balance:

1)  Eat well

Give yourself a head start in the energy stakes, and maintain your energy levels until the afternoon, by eating a nutritious breakfast. Avoid empty calories–sweets and junk food will not sustain your energy and may cause mood changes as your blood sugar levels fluctuate. Opt for healthy snacks such as fresh fruit or vegetables, avocados, boiled eggs, cheese and crackers; and include fish in your diet–deep-sea fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are rich in DHA, a fatty acid important in maintaining the nervous system.

Studies show that a mother’s DHA levels become depleted as her body provides for the developing infant during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Low levels of DHA can lead to reduced concentrations of serotonin, which has been linked to depression.

2)  Have a health check

You need to be in peak health to meet the needs of your little ones as well as the demands of your busy life. So take time to have a health check. Thyroid disorders, low iron, and vitamin D levels can all make you feel exhausted. A simple blood test will reveal if you need treatment.

3)  Delete, delegate and simplify

Take a look at everything you do each day and make a list (this could take a week to do), then check which things you have to do, what you like or don’t enjoy doing, what can wait, where you can take shortcuts–then delete, delegate or simplify. Meals for instance can be simplified, without resorting to takeaway. Slow cook, batch and freeze, organise a mama bake group, eat more raw foods. 

Do just one bigger job a day–rather than clean the entire house, just clean or tidy one room or shelf. By the end of the week it will all get done and if it doesn’t, as long as choking hazards are picked up, no small children will suffer because they lived in an untidy house.

Children won’t remember whether they wore clothes that were ironed or not, and they won’t give a toss if they ate cheese on toast and fruit for dinner some nights, or if they ate a picnic dinner in the bath–saves clean-ups; mess goes down the plughole–you are multi-tasking so it saves time and everyone has fun.

4)  Protect your mental energy

Learn your early warning signs that you are entering your ‘overwhelm zone’. They could be:

  • you feel extra tired
  • you start to say ‘yes’ when you know you should have said ‘no’
  • your shoulders are up and tense
  • you are yelling too much
  • you are feeling anxious.

These are all signs that you need to stop and take time out, whatever that is for you, and however you can manage this.

It might mean sitting in the sun while your toddler plays outside or having an afternoon nap with your baby. Perhaps invite a friend over just for one afternoon so you can go to bed while she cuddles the baby or plays with your toddler. Inviting a friend over can be great if your stress is affecting your mothering–it’s like having ‘supervision’ as well as support. You are less likely to have a mummy meltdown if you have company. You can take turns helping each other.

5)  Reduce your negative self-talk, especially about how much you are achieving – or not!

If you feel as though you haven’t achieved anything all day/all week/all year–whatever, stop this negativity and try looking at your day as though you are making a movie of yourself. Follow yourself through your day, and acknowledge everything you have done. So the floors may be scattered with toys, the benches might be piled with junk, and you have no idea what you are making for dinner. But you have engaged with your baby, fed him, cuddled him, rocked him, smelt his delicious smell, you have sat outside with your toddler, listened to his chatter, seen the world through his eyes, survived the tantrum about the toast, listened to your mother on the phone as you wiped a toddler’s bottom with your other hand … maybe you even managed to have a shower among all of this–you haven’t achieved nothing! You have worked all darn day.  So, look at all of this as though you are watching a movie–and tell yourself–I am friggin AMAZING!

6)  Ditch the guilt

Divide guilt into ‘piles’–good guilt motivates; bad guilt takes you away from the present, and if we dwell on guilt, that adds to our stress load. We tend to over compensate–often giving in when we should actually be setting boundaries or indulging our child when all we need to do is apologise, acknowledge what we have done that disappointed us and our child, and move on. 

Guilt can be a signal that we might need to do things differently, so instead of being overcome, try and work out what happened. Did we lose our temper, and how could we do things differently next time?

7)  Have fun

Set yourself a goal to do one fun thing every day before 10am. If you are too stressed right now to be spontaneous, write a list and stick it to your fridge–your spontaneity will develop as you see the positive response from your little ones.

Create some longer term family fun goals. Calendar in one day every month this year as FUN day–have fun as a family. Whether you have a baby or older kids, focussing on fun will mean you are more aware. You will soon lighten up and find ways of having fun more often than just once a month. Best of all, you will be modelling for your children so they will seek out fun experiences in their lives in a positive way too.

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