As mothers our stress can escalate quickly and cause our energy, and self-control, to plummet.
I haven’t yelled at my children for years (and if my mother-in-law is reading this, the whole situation is completely hypothetical!). I attribute that largely to everything I’ve learned about the fact that life is really a mental game, and you need strategies to maintain your mind, your soul, and your body long term. But sometimes the first step is to just make it through the day.
One of my friends requested practical tips, so I thought I’d take a post to talk about how-to-make-it-past-breakfast.
Here are 4 steps to never losing your cool again with those you care most about.
As moms we often talk about being in ‘survival-mode’. But the key here is to keep yourself from actually being in survival-mode by addressing your basic physical and emotional needs.
Basic physical needs include air, water, real food, strength and physical motion. Emotional needs for us as women include connecting with others, beauty and joy. Combining elements in pairs makes this exercise more powerful and effective.
1. Breathe. Stand up straight. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Now stand up straight, engage your muscles and bring them into a position of good posture. Don’t overstretch or put strain on them. Roll your shoulders back slowly until you feel taller, but without feeling tension in your collarbones. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. When you breathe in, let it lift your shoulders gently. Tilt your hips forward slightly. Don’t lock your knees. Take a few more deep breaths. Think about being confident and strong. Remind yourself that God gave you the wisdom you need to mother your children.
Quick version: Stand up, pace in a small circle if you’re feeling anxious or stressed, and take several deep breaths. When my 5 yr old gets worked up and I tell him to breathe, he does. And if I don’t have complete composure myself, I stop and take a couple of deep breaths with him, before we continue dealing with the situation.
2. Drink water. Use your favorite cup. Take a few seconds to find your favorite cup, mug, or water bottle – one that makes you smile, wash it if you need to. Slowly drink 8-16 oz of water. Think about a few things that are beautiful to you.
Quick version: find the closest clean cup, fill it with 8 oz and gulp it down. If necessary, offer your children water too. Make them find their own cup and bring it to you. While they do, take a deep breath.
3. Eat. Connect with a friend. Find the healthiest thing you can eat that is available quickly, even if you’re on a ‘diet’ and it breaks one of your rules. Eat it slowly while you text or call a friend and tell them that you appreciate them – or that you can’t believe x y z just happened. Your brain needs food. Your soul needs friendship and to feel connected to others.
Quick version: eat the leftovers your kids left on the table and think about one friend or family member you are thankful for. Make a decision to contact them by the end of the day.
4. Move. Choose a small goal. Do something to get your blood moving. If you can turn on music, turn on your favorite feel-good song. Pick up your youngest child and dance around the room holding them. Or alternate running and walking up and down the stairs. As you finish, think about one thing that you want to accomplish by the end of the day, that is realistic. Write it on a sticky note and stick it on the fridge. “I will do x today.”
Quick version: Do five jumping jacks, take a few deep breaths. Repeat twice. Decide what has to happen by the end of the day and say out loud to yourself that you are going to do it.
Try doing all of these in a row without stopping. If your kids won’t leave you alone, tell them you need a mommy time out for 5 minutes, set a timer. If your youngest needs you, try doing all the quick versions while holding them. If you have no time, and you’re in-crisis, do the first two, deal with the situation and then do the last two.
When you’re done, give yourself a few moments to sit and be. If your stress was caused by a child-emergency, make sure it’s been addressed first. Now ask yourself if you’re still upset about anything. Pretend your best friend or your spouse is there to ask you what’s really bothering you. Write down your thoughts – in your phone, on scrap paper – whatever you think of that might be the deeper root of your emotions and stress, and promise yourself you will address it in some way by the end of the day.
Always remember that our children are children, and we are the adults. Your child will never do anything that justifies yelling at them. When we let them be the “last straw” or overreact to them because of some other issue in our lives, we don’t let them be children, and we hinder our roles as the moms we intend and desire to be, and that God gave to them.
Pick your battles! Before you take it out on your children, break your diet rule, be late to a meeting, ruin your shirt, let the baby cry, risk burning dinner. When the perfect storm happens and something has to give, don’t make them pay the price. Keep life in perspective.
When your tank is empty, and all hell breaks loose, stop and breathe, and thank God for the privilege of raising happy, healthy children, and teaching them everything – including how to keep your cool.
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