Have you ever been stressed, but only you were not aware of it?
Stress can sometimes sneak up in a subtle way!
For example, as I rushed to pick up my son from school the other day I realized that I was on autopilot. My mommy-monkey-mind had taken over.
Between juggling personal errands, tackling an ever-growing to-do list, and managing pressing deadlines for my business, I found myself taking a deep sigh and saying out loud ‘Yikes! I’m feeling overwhelmed.
I had all but forgotten to pause long enough to take a deep breath.
It’s easy to become unaware of those signs that you are feeling stress.
Overcoming Stress is about Awareness
Experiencing calmness, clarity, and centeredness starts with AWARNESS!
So, consider logging moments of stress in this Stress Awareness Journal. Through awareness, you can take action. And that is why I created a Stress Awareness Journal for my clients!
April is Stress Awareness Month
Stress has been recognized as a leading health issue since 1992.
Stress is a reaction to a situation that triggers feelings of anxiety. The American Psychological Association found that the five factors most often cited as a source of stress were money, work, family, economic outlook, and relationships.
According to a 2021 American Psychological Association report, 49% still felt uncomfortable about adjusting to in-person interactions after the pandemic ends, and nearly half of the mothers who still had children home for remote learning (47%) reported worsened mental health.
Emerging out of the pandemic era we are stuck in a post-pandemic survival mode, creating a greater need to bring awareness to how working moms have been affected by stress.
A common theme among moms, even as we return to “normal” is a feeling of emotional overwhelm, lack of focus, and just a general feeling of being ungrounded.
As a mother have you felt your heart race each time you hear about a new case of Covid at your child’s school? Of course, you have! Just days ago my son’s school asked me to pull my son out of school for a day to get tested. Thankfully, he did not test positive for Covid, but these types of situations can build layers of stress.
Each of us experiences stress differently.
Effects of Stress
The reality is that some level of stress is a normal part of life.
Not all stress is bad. There is good stress and bad stress.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “stress can motivate people to prepare or perform and might even be life-saving in some situations.”
The good kind helps you meet that important deadline, or helps you quickly take action!
Unfortunately, the effects of bad stress can take a cumulative effect and harm you physiologically. Such stress can often result in
- Compromised Immunity
- Digestion issues
- Sleeping difficulties
- Muscle tension
- Heartburn or ulcers
- Skincare issues (acne, eczema)
- Weight loss or weight gain
- High blood pressure
The bad kind of stress can also affect your brain by making your brain’s neural pathways less effective. Neuroscientists at the University of California Berkely have found that chronic stress triggers long-term changes in brain structure and function. And the stress hormone cortisol can damage and block the generation of new neurons in the part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is vital for learning, memory, and emotional regulation.
Stress can impair your ability to think and make you more prone to anxiety, depression, and embarrassing mommy meltdowns.
The bottom line is that unaddressed stress may manifest physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Strategies to Slay Stress
Motherhood combined with mompreneurship can be a challenging combination that can induce stress. Trust me, I get how stressful the balancing act can feel!
As working moms, it’s natural to feel stress.
My life is designed around daily routines, rituals, and practices that honor my body, mind, and soul from the moment I wake up and expand my energy into the world, till evening when I slowly contract my energy. My commitment to myself is the start each day with clear intentions. The foundation that allows me to not only show up for myself, and others reside in a meditation practice. Additionally, other mindfulness strategies empower with greater awareness. Awareness of internal state and external factors that might be a source of stress.
By recognizing Stress Awareness Month, you are able to identify common sources of stressors and understand how they can affect your wellbeing.
Fortunately, there are ways to proactively manage stress before it takes a toll on your well-being, emotionally, mentally, and physically. There are simple stress management strategies to not only quickly get yourself out of stress mode, but provide your body and brain relief.
Here are 7 strategies to proactively slay stress:
1. Embrace the Moment
How often have you found yourself wanting your circumstances to be different than it is?
This type of stress comes from your desire for circumstances to be different than it is. In other words, you may find that whatever is happening at that moment, is what you wish wasn’t not happening at that very moment. Which is impossible! If you think about it, whatever is happening at the moment already IS! So, wishing for a different circumstance is a futile waste of your energy.
The best course of action here is to embrace the ’NOW’! Train yourself to say ‘YES’ to that moment rather than thinking about ‘what could have been’ which only hurts your mind and causes your body stress. This is not to say you are a martyr. In fact, it’s just the opposite. This is your opportunity to practice mindfulness practices like meditation or journaling, to get aligned with your True Self so that when you do take action it’s coming from a place of CLARITY.
Through this awareness, you are empowered with two choices to slay your stress at that moment.
- Option 1: Action
- This option is your opportunity to do something about the circumstances by taking action! To create your action plan, have that difficult conversation, pick up the phone, and ask for help! Approach this situation not as a victim, but as an empowered mompreneur.
- Option 2: Acceptance
- This option is appropriate if the source of the stress is something you can’t control regardless of what actions you’d like to take. How often have you gotten frustrated when someone in your life doesn’t behave or act the way you want them to behave or act? Maybe it’s your kid, your spouse or significant other, or your dad! We need to realize they are behaving the way they are based on their own personality, based on what they think is right, and we can’t control how they act. In this situation, you may need to find a way to accept that situation and embrace that moment. This type of stress may require you recognize what you can control. Sometimes the source of the stress can be an ‘environmental condition’ which may include variables that you can not change, such as traffic. I often feel this type of stress when I’m waiting in a long line of cars, nearly half a mile, to pick up my son at school. I learned that while I couldn’t always control the wait time in my car to pick up my son, I could actually make my time more pleasant and productive – so, while waiting I often listen to an uplifting podcast, or get caught up with phone calls or emails.
There are 3 modes in how one can respond to stress: fight, flight, or freeze. When we “freeze” we may often find our breathing affected. When you find yourself not breathing or taking shallow breaths consider pausing and intentionally taking a deep breath. Take a few. To “un-freeze” bring awareness to your breath. This action will allow you to reset your mind by calming down.
- Vagus Nerve Breathing Exercise: This is one of my favorite breathing exercises as it is simple and very effective. You can do this by placing your right hand on your heart, and your left hand on your belly. Take one deep breath in through the nose, pause, and release through the mouth. Then take 3 intentional breaths, with each inhales expanding the belly, and with each exhale draw the belly inwards. This draws oxygen all the way down to the bottom of your lungs. This type of diaphragmatic breathing (also known as “slow abdominal breathing”) is something you can do anytime or anywhere to instantly stimulate your vagus nerve – which is the longest cranial nerve extending from your neck all the way down to your abdomen. Stimulating your vagus nerve can reduce stress (associated with the fight or flight response), anxiety, anger, and inflammation by activating the “relax response”.
- To learn more breathing techniques consider using the Breathing App, iBreath available on iOS (for free).
3. Plan Ahead
One of the most proactive strategies to slay your stress is to have a plan in place. Part of this planning process includes planning your day with built-in rituals and routines that are designed around key projects or tasks you need to complete. Be sure to build flexibility into your routines, so you aren’t overcommitting, and allow time for self-care rituals.
Before you go to bed create a task or to-list for the next day. This reduces any looping thoughts at night, as you can anticipate how your energy will be spent the next day. I personally feel a great sense of accomplishment when I tick off an item on my to-do checklist. In fact, I have a few different types of lists, and each of these lists covers professional tasks, personal goals, and time with family, especially children.
- Master List: This type of list resides on my wall with post-it notes that map to “Doing”, “Do Next” and “Back-burner”. This approach is based on a visual workflow management system referred to as ‘Kanban‘. To get more ideas on how to apply Kanban to manage your family tasks see this article, “Parents: Manage Your Daily Tasks on a Family Kanban Board“.
- Weekly Project List: This list maps to different types of goals I set for each day of the week. Mondays are for ‘Administrative Tasks’, Tuesdays are for ‘Training & Research Tasks’, Wednesdays and Thursdays are for ‘Production Tasks’ which is when I blog, create content for my social media, and work on my podcast production, Fridays are for ‘Planning & Organization Tasks’.
- A Daily Task List: I apply the POWER OF ONE rule to this list. As moms, we are all too familiar with multitasking. The goal is to not over-schedule the completion of too many tasks. As you think through what set of tasks you’d like to complete for any particular day, keep it simple. With all the hats you wear it’s no surprise that it is really hard to get stuff done all in 24 hours! So the goal of this strategy is to choose that ONE key goal you have for that day that ties to the theme for that day, for example, if Thursday is your ‘Production Task Day’ then intentionally time block when and what high priority goal you absolutely need to accomplish. Once that ONE goal is accomplished tackle the next priority task.
- For more tips on list management check out this article, “How to Actually Get Sh!t Done with a To-Do List“.
This practice always helps me. Through being a mom, an entrepreneur, and having experienced a range of human emotions including grief, I have learned the importance of getting really connected to my True Self through the powerful practice of journaling. Journaling provides both awareness and accountability.
Often my approach is to use the space on the blank pages to capture the following:
- Today’s Intention – Each morning I reflect on and write down my intention for the day in my journal that I write in my journal. I believe that when an intention is set with conviction it sets the tone for the day.
- Present Moment Gratitude & Awareness List – I mindfully reflect on various facets of my life and capture at least one thing for which I am grateful. I also have a list of “be present to” items that I maintain awareness of such as being present to sunset and feeling gratitude.
- Daily Priming Statements – My daily priming statements (I also call them Sankalpas) are a combination of “I AM” statements and affirmations. Sometimes I write down these statements in my journal, sometimes I read them out loud, and often I listen to them. You can listen to my 2022 Sanklapas here which includes a guided meditation.
- Sadhana (Spiritual Routine) Log – A sadhana is a spiritual routine. I log my routine and set goals that are part of my specific sadhana routine, such as how long I’ll meditate.
- Introspection Check-ins – My check-ins include areas where I can mindfully and consistently cultivate awareness around my mindset, thinking patterns, blocks, behaviors, attitudes, habits, and stress triggers. This journaling practice is not only about awareness, but also accountability. This is also about learning to listen to my True Self.
- A FREE Gift For You: Remember that overcoming stress starts with AWARENESS! That is why I created a Stress Awareness Journal (click here to download) where you can log conditions that might be triggering stress in your life. The end result can often feel cathartic and it may help you gain a new perspective on a seemingly stressful situation.
Your journaling practice can also be a way to allow the stream of conscious thoughts to flow on paper. This is an opportunity for you to witness your mind’s movie, your emotions, your ego, and your role in all of it. Journal without judgment, while being mindful that this is an opportunity for you to recognize attitudes, behaviors, or actions that you can improve upon.
5. Get Moving
Physical movement not only keeps you physically fit but also helps increase the production of serotonin. My mornings include a short yet powerful movement exercise to get my energy flowing, such as the SATORI Qi Gong Energy Flow exercise. Practice any kind of movement that feels right for you – yoga, spinning, or walking in nature!
- Click here to learn a beginner’s SATORI ‘Morning Qigong Routine’.
6. Cultivate a Sleep Ritual
Sleep had been elusive for me well before I became a mommy. That is until I adopted a sensible yet consistent nighttime sleep ritual. It’s through key nighttime rituals that I have trained myself to improve my sleep cycles. My nighttime routines include dimming lights in the room, turning on the white noisemaker, a warm bath or shower, occasionally soaking my feet in warm water with Epsom salt, drinking a soothing herbal tea to induce relaxation, or having a warm cup of Golden Milk, and a short meditation. I also occasionally incorporate some Yin Yoga stretches or listen to Yoga Nidra-guided meditations through my headphones.
- The founder of WeSleep is a Sleep Ambassador, and offers an orchestra of highly effective sleep approaches in her book “The Naural Sleeper“. You can learn more about her from my conversation with her on my podcast, On a Holistic Approach to Better Sleep: A Conversation with Author of “The Natural Sleep”, Julie Wright (Episode #17).
7. Practice Meditation
Last but most certainly not least, learn to practice meditation! Emerging research on meditation reveals that meditation facilities in stress reduction. By having a consistent routine that includes a meditation you train your body and mind to body and mind to relax, reset, and revitalize. Meditation helps you build equanimity and resiliency. I recommend integrating meditation into your daily routine, and practicing it first thing in the morning, and just before you go to sleep as part of your evening sleep rituals. If you are new to meditation consider following guided meditation.
- You can get access to a vast library of my guided meditations here on Insight Timer.
Disclosure: Omnimindfulness is viewer & reader-supported. I only recommend books, services, or products that I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. I may earn a small commission when you click on the affiliate links, at no additional cost to you.