“What are you doing for self-care?” It’s a question that makes some women cringe, not because self-care isn’t important, but because we’ve already got a laundry list (no pun intended!) of things we’re “supposed” to be doing. Sometimes making time for ourselves can, in itself, feel like another stressor. Stress management for moms often feels like just one more thing you should do… but it doesn’t have to be time-consuming!
There’s good news on the self-care front when it comes to busy moms: although we can’t entirely avoid stress, there are three specific practices that you can try to incorporate into your life to help manage that stress.
Stress Management Strategies for Busy Moms:
1. Make getting enough sleep a priority.
“When we’re tired, we don’t have patience,” explains Dr. Amy Moore, a cognitive and educational psychologist and host of the Brainy Moms podcast. “We don’t have flexible thinking; we don’t reason. We don’t speak as kindly to our loved ones. That’s the #1 thing we need to do as moms is make sure we get eight hours of sleep.”
WebMD offers the following tips for better sleep:
- Turn off TVs, cell phones, tablets and other blue-light sources an hour before bed and cover any displays you can’t shut off.
- Avoid caffeine (including some pain relievers and weight loss pills) late in the day and swap out alcohol at night with chamomile tea or warm milk as alcohol will typically make you wake up more often overnight.
- Set your body clock with a regular sleep schedule and get out into bright light for 5 to 30 minutes as soon as you get out of bed.
- Use your bedroom for sleep and sex only and set the temperature in your room to between 68 and 72 degrees.
- If you feel the urge to nap during the day, limit it to 20 minutes or try a short walk and a glass of ice water instead.
2. Limit sugar to help control inflammation.
“I don’t mean that we have to be a slave to a diet, but we really need to limit the amount of sugar that we’re putting into our bodies,” explains Dr. Moore. “Because when we eat sugar, that causes inflammation in our bodies and our brains. We don’t think as clearly or sleep as well.”
Harvard Health recommends the following to help you reduce your sugar intake:
- Look for alternate names for added sugar on food labels, including high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, and syrup sugar molecules ending in “ose” (e.g., sucrose, dextrose, maltose).
- In addition to noting the number of grams of sugar on a container, take note of the total number of serving size so you’re not inadvertently consuming multiple servings of sugar.
- Nearly half of added sugar comes from beverages, including sugary flavorings we add to coffee and tea, so look for healthier substitutions.
- Be careful not to cut back on added sugar only to reach for refined starches, which can increase glucose levels.
3. Focus on your exhale.
“So many times I hear moms say to kids, ‘Take a deep breath,’ when really, the way we exhale is more important than the inhale if we want to regulate our own nervous systems,” says Dr. Moore. “I like to just sigh. It presses the brakes on the sympathetic fight-or-flight response when we’re stressed. So if we just sigh once or twice it will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, lower our heart rate and really help us be calm.”
Dr. Moore recommends any of these breathing exercises:
1. The Sigh
How to do it: Breathe in, take a really quick breath the second time, then let it out in the form of a sigh. Do it two or three times.
2. 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
How to do it: Breathe in for the count of 4, hold it for the count of 7, and then exhale for the count of 8. Do it four times.
3. Voo Breathing
How to do it: Inhale and with your exhale, say the word “Voo” in our lower register, kind of like a foghorn, for 8 seconds. Do it three times.