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How are you doing? If you’re like my family, we are going into a full month of #stayathome. For the most part, it’s been a positive experience. It’s not been perfect. There’ve been meltdowns, messes, and the occasional “mommster moments”. I think the biggest savor for our sanity is knowing that perfection isn’t the goal. We are ALL learning in this situation. Hopefully, the end to our shelter-in-place is not in the too distant future. If your “home-work” (terrible pun, I know) will be prolonged, here are some tips for physical stress management.
Mom is #1
Yes, it’s the old adage “If there’s an emergency on the plane, we put the oxygen on first!” The best thing that we can do for our children is to be a centered adult in their universe. Before you tell me that’s a hot pile of self-help garbage, check out the science as WHY to why mom mental health is so important!
Science has proven that stress is contagious, especially when it comes to maternal mental health. Duh, when momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Any who’s watched fifteen minutes of any true crime program on Oxygen could have made that connection. Who doesn’t have a few “mommy issues”? Interestingly, it goes much deeper, biologically.
A recent study found that a child’s brain pattern MIMIC their mom’s brain pattern. The more stress mom has, the more dysregulated her brain. When the researchers simultaneously scanned the child’s brain, they found the same kind of dysregulation! Therefore, the more in check we can keep our stress, the better our brain, and the brains of our kids, will be! This is why physical stress management is so important, especially for moms.
Dads, I’m sure you’re pretty important too but they haven’t used you as guinea pigs yet. Sorry.
Restorative Practices Experts
BEFORE, you schedule in your work and child’ commitments, I am going to challenge you to add some “restorative” activities. These are practices that will give your mind and body the energy it needs to keep up with all the demands of this chaos.
If you’re like “Christy, I’ve already got enough going on right !” Please hear me out. I get it. I’m a “plate-piler”. If there was any free time, I was going to do something with it. It all went pretty well until I had a set of twins. That brought the count to 3-2; three girls and two boys. found myself running on empty, stressed, and frankly, unhealthy. There are many guru’s out there who can give you the secret recipe. *Throughout this post you will see links for their books if you are interested in purchasing. I am an affiliate for Amazon so I will receive a small commission. I use the change to keep the lights on at www.mommster.com. Thanks for your support!*
The routine that I use every morning is Hal Elrod’s “The Miracle Morning“. I am not a morning person. It was not easy at first. When I started getting up earlier, I found that I was able to do the things for “me” and that gave me the gusto to take the day. A morning routine also was a life hack for my “big picture” goals. Since I started, I was able to begin a blog, read more, drop most of the baby weight, and write a children’s book. I’m not trying to be a braggart. I’m giving you an insight into the benefits that resulted when I put my needs first.
Morning Routine Basics for Physical Stress Management
My mom would say “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Fortunately, our family cat never lost his hide. However, she did urge me to always keep trying things until something worked for me. I am also a committed overthinker so I had to complete a multi-week metaanalysis of all the different ways to get up in the morning. After binging on books, podcasts, blogs, and at least one documentary on my fave self-helpies, I found that there are common practices focused on the following areas:
GET MOVING. The best thing that you can do to kickstart your morning is to exercise. It releases feel-good chemicals in your brain that are the basis for physical stress management. It also expends all that stress we’ve been packing in along with our Quantine-15! love being in shape but I love to sleep and eating doughnuts more. You can guess how happy I was to learn that this is a non-negotiable.
My old M.O. in the exercise world is to get really committed, workout really hard for about a week, and then quit because I was so sore I couldn’t move my arms or legs. When I began my new morning routine, I started with walking. I found out that I like walking and I also discovered I could do it every day. I was also surprised to find that the remaining baby-weight, from the babies that aren’t babies anymore, started to slowly disappear. Can I beat my former track-star neighbor in 5k? No. But, I’m healthier and happier.
A wise person once said to me “the grass is greener where you water it.” Do you spend time giving your faith the things it needs to grow? Take a minute. Ask yourself how much time do you spend reading your Bible or devotions. Do you study the word? Are you considering how you can apply it in your own life? Do you follow through?
The only thing more outta shape than my physical body was my spiritual well-being. Outwardly, I did all the things that I was “supposed” to do. I went to church every week. Each night, I said prayers with my kids. I was spending time sowing the seeds of faith for my kids. Conversely, I was letting the weeds grow in my own.
I have found that one of the most restorative parts of my routine has been reading my Bible. I realized now that I have a little life experience under my belt, the verses hit me a little differently. Usually, one chapter is about all I can manage before my mind squirrels start running all over the place. I have also found that journaling helps keep the squirrels sequestered. I write about my thoughts, feelings, and how the verses I read apply to my life.
Wait, didn’t we just do this? Are you asking if the “the mind” different than the spirit? In my humble opinion, YES, the two are very different. I would like to use a tree for the example. Your spirit (or soul, faith, etc.) is the tree that grounds you. Your beliefs are rooted in it. This is what keeps you steady through the raging storms of life. Your mind is what’s going on in the branches. Like the leaves, it’s constantly changing through the seasons. It can be bright and beautiful. It can also be blighted, bare, and ugly.
The struggle I have always found is how to make my mind more fruitful. Remember, I have lots of squirrels running through my branches. LOTS of them. If I don’t get control of them, they start chucking nuts at passersby and chattering so loud at each other I get nothing accomplished. Quieting your mind also frees up important mental real estate. The feeling is akin to remembering the answer to a question only after you’ve stopped thinking about it. It’s amazing what your brain can do when you give it rest!
Speaking of rest. Get some sleep. It’s one of the most important things we can do for physical stress management. There’s a reason that people with sleep deprivation score similarly on focus tasks to those who have had a couple of beers. Your brain needs to recharge. Studies have also found that it lowers stress hormones like cortisol that are responsible for things like belly fat and general craziness. Waking up refreshed is the best offense to tackle your morning routine. Then, you can build your brain muscles by practicing “mindfulness”. I often pray or focus on my blessings. It’s not necessary to get all yogi-like and sit cross-legged on the floor. However, many people find that helpful.
Managing “You” so you can Manage “Them”
We love our kids. We love our families. As moms, we are incredibly good at putting their needs before ours. We are cool like that. The problem we run into is that when we do this, we have nothing left in the tank for us. However, now that we’ve got a kick-butt morning routine, we have the energy to tackle the day. We are going to need every last power-bar to manage their school schedules, our work schedules, and all the other necessary daily activities such as chores and meals.
Next, comes your child’s schedule. Add in their education time and online learning segments. If there is a conflict with your home schedule, contact your child’s teacher to let them know that you have a work task that is taking precedent. Wifi can only handle so much Zooming at once! This lets your kid’s teacher know that they aren’t skipping out. Remember, they are also balancing work and kids at home too. Give them grace when they aren’t able to answer your email five minutes after you send it.
Mom’s schedule ALWAYS comes first. Determine, the night before if possible, your top three to five top “To Do’s”. If you are working from home, this is the time to prioritize the conference call, a report that’s due, or answering email from clients.
We are all in the same GLOBAL boat.
IG and Pinterest are belching out perfect homeschool classroom and choice boards. We see them, compare to ours and we feel like a failure. *Thanks, Karen*. During a recent conversation with other moms, I picked up on a tangible fear that our kids may be falling behind. Missing months of school is not ideal. However, this is not only impacting a small region of the country. For example, during the 2018-19 school year, a large portion of northern states experienced the “Polar Vortex”. This historic weather pattern resulted in the cancellation of nearly three weeks of school. This year, everyone is in the Corona Vortex.
Social media is a great tool for communication. It can also be a great weapon for comparison. Keep in mind, social media is everyone’s highlight reel. It’s an incredible reliever and tool for physical stress managemet when we choose to acknowledge that what everyone posts is likely not the most accurate representation of reality. When I counseled middle schoolers about safe internet habits, I would ask them about their posting process. My favorite question was “How many people post the first selfie they take?” Most of the time, this received more laughs than hands in the air. This is because they take dozens of pictures and scrutinize them to pieces before they let it see the light of their social media account.
The pictures we post online are edited, cropped, filtered, and scrutinized. Even in the adult population, over sixty percent admit to editing their own picture before posting. Let go of your expectations for perfection in home-school/home-learning. The most productive classrooms I have ever observed are orchestrated chaos. Kids learn at different paces and modalities. If they are engaged and interacting with the content the teacher has been provided… that’s FANTASTIC! Give yourself a gold star.
Let It Go
Last but not least, I’m going to give you permission to “Let It Go”. If you need an hour to take a shower and answer some email, take it. If that means summoning Disney+ for the 3,000th rendition of Frozen, then do it. Your child will not be forever stunted because you took some time to be a better human. In fact, it looks like they may be a better one because their mom is more chill. One day, the quarantine will be lifted. We will be able to enjoy and interact and educate.
Thank you for reading! What kinds of things have been great for your physical stress management these past few weeks?