Did you know that irritability, anxiety, and depression all can be created or worsened by stress? Stress can also make you gain weight, lose sleep, have chronic pain, and make you more prone to injury and sickness.
Yeah, stress is pretty much the worst, and as we all know, being a mom is stressful.
The good news, though, is that we put a lot of that stress on ourselves, which means…if we are mindful, we can prevent that self-induced stress from happening.
5 Stress-Causing Habits No Mom Has Time For (and How to Stop Doing Them)
When you scroll through your facebook newsfeed and you are greeted with one smiling face, beautiful family, and major accomplish after the other, how does that make you feel?
It’s really hard not to compare- especially if you are being overly self-critical (but more on that later.)
It’s natural to compare yourself to others, but when you are comparing your true life gritty details (from your unwashed hair to your unsightly bathroom) against the perfectly filtered life of your facebook and instagram friends, then you are asking for trouble.
Jon Acuff said, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle,” and I will add, don’t compare your true life with someone else’s social media life.
When you find yourself feeling down because you have been comparing yourself, stop.
Instead, be mindful of your own strengths. Go down a mental list of the things you have done well lately and the talents you possess.
You may be a master grilled cheese maker. Flaunt it.
You may rock at putting your baby to sleep. Celebrate it.
Or you may just be the best darn fitted sheet folder this side of the Mississippi. Own it.
Whatever your talents are- remind yourself of them.
Also, practice gratitude.
Every Thursday in our facebook group, Making Time Moms, is #ThankfulThursday where we all share what we are most grateful for that week.
I know being mindful of what you are thankful for can brighten your outlook on life.
Concentrating on your own talents and your own blessings will retrain your brain to focus on the positive, and positive people are happier because they aren’t wasting time feeling sorry for themselves.
2. Being Overly Critical
I used to poke fun at people. I would see some slight personal defect or crazy hairstyle or weird accent and think it was the strangest and funniest thing.
I prided myself in coming up with little funny quips I would whisper to my friend at school about a classmate or teacher.
I would make comments about an outlandish wig on an older woman to my mom in the grocery store.
At one point I even re-wrote the words to a song to make fun of a girl I clashed with, and my friends and I sang it in front of all our peers.
I thought I was so funny.
Then I met my husband. While we were dating, I would say something “funny” under my breath about someone and he wouldn’t laugh.
Instead, he would be appalled and say, “What if they heard you?” or “What if someone said something like that about you?” or simply “shhh.”
I thought he needed to lighten up at first, but soon I began to see people differently and I learned to control my words and soon after, my thoughts.
I’ve since learned that being kind to yourself begins with being kind to others.
When my “jokes” stopped, my self-critical voice was also quieted. I was more capable of giving myself forgiveness for my own imperfections.
When you think harsh thoughts about others, you are more likely to think they are thinking the same of you, and you will be all the more harder on yourself.
Mother Teresa taught us that “if you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
The same is true for self-judgment. When you are being overly critical of yourself- it is very hard to find the good and love yourself.
Pay attention to the thoughts you tell yourself. Are you being constructive or just plain negative? When you see something in yourself that you really want to change, don’t beat yourself up over it. Find something you can do about it and focus on that instead.
Make a habit of practicing kindness in your thoughts toward other people and the thoughts you think about yourself will become kinder too.
3. Mom Guilt
After my daughter turned 5, I planned a surprise birthday party for her. It got postponed because the flu was going through our family, and when I rescheduled I realized too late that I had set the new date on the first weekend of spring break. All of her friends that were planning to come the first time were slowly sending their RSVP of not attending because they were going out of town.
On the morning of the party, I realized only one family was maybe going to be able to make it. The big celebration I wanted to give her wasn’t going to happen and I felt so guilty and upset at myself.
I had wanted to do something really nice for her and I had failed.
But you should have seen her face when she walked in the door and saw all the decorations and the giant cake with her name on it.
She was smiling and kept saying “Wow!” and “Thank you!” And when the family with her two little friends knocked on the door, she was ecstatic.
The party ended up being really fun and she loved it. Now she even sometimes says “remember my surprise day?” with a big grin on her face.
In hindsight, the thing that was making me feel guilty was simply unmet expectations, and I think most mom guilt derives from that.
We have this perfect ideal in our minds of what motherhood should be, and because we are constantly falling short of that- we beat ourselves up.
I have found that when I start feeling guilty, I remind myself how lofty my expectations sometimes are and that I am trying. The more I try, the closer I will get to it, but I need to practice forgiveness and give myself grace when I fall short.
When I really struggle, I try focusing on one central achievable goal– like making sure my kids know we love them. When I begin to have doubts and guilt creeps in, I just ask myself “but do my kids know I love them?” and everything is brought into perspective.
4. Losing patience
I think there is a patience bank inside every mother. And while there are many withdrawals, we sometimes forget to make deposits also.
You may gracefully handle your toddler spilling their cereal on the floor for the second time this morning.
You may even lovingly remind your three year old to please not pull all the books from the bookshelf.
And you may even keep your cool when you step on the lego that you asked your son to clean up two hours ago.
But each of these actions are making a withdrawal from your patience bank, so when your oldest kid leaves the bathroom door open again and you find the baby playing in toilet water- your patience bank has officially reached a negative balance.
Your head starts spinning and your forked tongue comes flailing around as you hiss and steam.
Nobody wants that.
The solution? Make small deposits to your patience bank throughout the day.
You can do this by finding bits of time to be alone, or by enjoying patience-replenishing activities with your kids.
To find alone time you can:
Guard naptime with your life.
Older kids can be given something to do and trained to not disturb you. Tell them it is quiet time. Set rewards up for them for being quiet during this time. After you set the routine every day they will be more likely to understand and enjoy this time too.
You could also wake up early before the kids. I know, sleep is so precious. But I have found that even just getting up to pray, use the bathroom, and put a bra on before having little people demand food does a lot to lift my mood for the rest of the day.
Ask for help. Your spouse, your mom, your neighbor- there has to be someone who is willing to sit with the kids for an hour while you do something –anything– alone.
Give yourself time to rest, to pray, to reflect, to read a good book, to exercise, to shower alone, to nap, or -if you’re really depleted- to just hide in the quiet of your laundry room, blissfully doing nothing at all.
To enjoy patience-bank-filling time with your family:
Do calming family activities.
Get out the coloring books, crayons, and put on some soothing music. Sit down with your kids and color with them. Making art and visiting with your kids can be so calming and stress-relieving.
Try not to go overboard with a time-consuming mess-making pinterest project. Keep it simple.
You could also put on some fun music and dance together. Play fun, simple games (like hot potato, eye spy, or red light green light).
You could cuddle up together and read a few books, and if the weather is nice, go for a walk.
These kinds of activities are not only calming, they also strengthen your bonds with your family and will help you be patient with them and empathize with them.
For example, sitting down at dinner together at night and peacefully visiting each other without distractions can help you understand why your child is having struggles at school- which will help you in the patience department after dinner when you are trying to help them with their homework.
Along with making deposits, a powerful way to stop making so many withdrawals from your patience bank is to create routines.
This way, you and your kids know what is going on and what to expect. The kids will be less likely to act out or disrupt the peace.
I wrote about how moms from all walks of life use routines to find balance in their lives here, and introduce you to some great courses on creating life-changing morning and evening routines for moms here.
Another idea is to set up a reward system with your children for certain expectations.
This could be as simple as putting a marble in a jar when they listen the first time you ask them to do something and taking a marble out when they don’t. Make a promise to them that when the jar is full they can have a dinner out at their favorite restaurant, a day trip to a fun museum, or a picnic at the park.
Now, you won’t have to lose your crap when you tell your kid to get their shoes on for the fifth time. Just start taking marbles out of their jar!
The internet memes of the world perpetuate this idea that moms are always tired and overwhelmed and impatient.
While these are often funny and a good way to commiserate with other moms, you do not need to define yourself this way, and please don’t let that expectation of motherhood become an excuse to behave like you have no other option than to be frazzled.
When you are determined to find your ability to be patient and NOT overwhelmed- you will.
5. Second-guessing yourself
I always wanted to be a home-school mom. I saw my sister successfully home-school her children and their home was always filled with the joy of learning and sharing ideas.
But as my daughter was approaching school age, I wasn’t certain anymore. I second-guessed my own abilities to teach her and with all my personal goals to be a writer, I thought it would be nice to have more time to myself.
I talked to my husband about it and we both agreed it might be a good idea.
Then I let the idea sit with me- that this would be our decision.
It ate at me.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it and talking about it. I kept wondering if it was right- or if it would be worth the effort after all to home-school her.
Was I just being selfish wanting her to go to school? Or was I being selfish if I wanted to keep her home?
I realized then that the reason I kept going back and forth about it was because I didn’t have the right answer.
When I talked to my husband again we agreed that we would, in fact, continue to home-school.
We made tweaks to our home-school routine shortly after that, and so much peace came over me. I haven’t doubted myself in that respect again.
If you are spending time second-guessing and doubting yourself over a decision you have made, tell yourself you’ll do the opposite. Let the new decision sit with you for a few days and see how you feel.
If the potential outcomes are fine with you and you feel peace because all the little what-ifs are quieting down- then you know you’ve got your answer.
Learn to trust your mom instincts, they are very powerful.
There is Stress-relieving Power in Developing Good Habits
You do not have time to waste comparing yourself to others, being overly critical, feeling guilty, losing patience, or second-guessing yourself.
Focus instead on developing habits of gratitude, kindness, forgiveness, filling your days with stress-reducing activities, and learning to trust your instincts.
Your life will be happier, less stressful, and you will feel more free!
If you want to learn more about how to gain good habits and stress less, check out the other articles in the Habits that Last series.
This Post is Part of the Habits that Last Series:
Create a new life for yourself with less stress.
- Habits that Last: Less Mom Stress is Possible (Series Beginning)
- 7 Tips on How to Make New Habits Last (and Change Your Life)
- 4 Steps to Breaking a Bad Habit For Good
- How a Habit Tracker Can Keep You Motivated to Reach Your Goals (Free Printable)
- 5 Stress-Causing Habits No Mom Has Time For (and How to Stop Doing Them)
- Keystone Habits: Transforming Your Life by Changing the Way you Define Yourself
- 7 Simple Habits for a Tidy, Less Stressful Home
- How to Find Time for New, Good Habits (and Finally Reach your Goals)
- How I Changed My Unhealthy Habits as an Overwhelmed Mom (and You Can Too)
- How Busy Moms Create Balance with Weekly and Daily Routines
- A Morning and Evening Routine that Will Change Your Life
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