Tips to Manage Stress from a Stressed-Out Mom

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A stressed woman holding her head.November 2nd is Stress Awareness Day.

Stress is something that we all experience and struggle to manage each day. Whether it is a child’s upcoming test, a sports tournament, or a deadline at work, every day has a possible way of stressing us out.

With stress being ubiquitous, it is important to spend some time each day doing things to help lower our collective stress burden. Fairfield County moms use many techniques to manage stress, and here are some of my favorites.   

1. Plan ahead.

I can often predict when my stress levels will go up, so I plan for them. I warn my friends and family that my fuse will likely be short. I schedule mom dates. I preplan the week’s menu and make sure there are some take-out meals planned. I try to get the less stressed version of myself to think about what the crazy stressed-out version of me needs, and then I try to make that happen.

2. Strive to be good enough.

I have a type A personality, and I like things to be organized and a certain way. But when I am stressed and running on fumes, I settle for good enough instead of trying to make everything perfect (my kid’s costume, my work presentation, the balanced dinner, the kitchen counter). I have learned over the years that sometimes spending half as much time stressing over something to get it “good enough” rather than perfect has saved my sanity and my marriage. While this doesn’t come naturally, each time I do it, and it doesn’t turn into a disaster, it shows me that perfection isn’t always what my goal needs to be.

3. Be kind to yourself.

Let yourself feel the stress and do what you can to release it. Find little ways to silence your inner critic and let that guilt go. Our energy and excitement will naturally ebb and flow, so know that your best will look different on different days. Take the time to stop. Shut the door and take some deep breaths at home or work. Spend a moment listening to an audiobook or taking a short walk rather than tackling the next thing on your to-do list. Stop to smell the flowers (or baked goods, or new baby smell) and let yourself have moments to be a “human being,” not just a “human doing.”

4. Ask for help.

I am the worst at this, but there have been times in my life when I didn’t have a choice. Those moments have taught me that having people in your life willing to help is a great gift that we, unfortunately, don’t always remember to allow into our lives. Get a circle of mom friends to commit to being part of your support structure. Whether it is taking turns making big platters of food to share or just alternating the carpool, it is so important to find ways to share the burden of life and parenting with your friends.

5. Pick your battles.

If your kids are like mine, they think they know everything, and more often than not, my “helping” with their homework leads to a fight. While you can set the stage to help them succeed, sometimes it is better to avoid the fight by finding a tutor to help them instead. And when it comes to little things around the house, letting everyone win once in a while helps the whole family.

6. Do little things for yourself.

Get yourself an afternoon cup of tea. Go for a walk. Use your destress coloring books. Stop with the chores and get a good night’s sleep. There are a million little ways to care for yourself that you can do quickly that can add a little joy to your day, so find one and do it.

How you decide to manage stress helps the whole family. What do you do to keep it under control?

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Erika is a professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies and mom to two kids (2010 and 2013) plus two cats (2005 and 2019). A Midwestern transplant who has lived in 32 places, she has happily called Fairfield her home for the past 12 years. At work, she directs a program to support first-generation and underrepresented student success in science. In town, she can often be found driving her kids back and forth to their respective sporting events and teams or sitting in a coffee shop using the wifi to get a little work done before pick up. Erika loves spending time enjoying the water, cooking, theater, reading, and hanging out with her husband.

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