When you’re struggling, try these 4 steps to overcome stress with love – including parenting tips for when you feel like you’re going to lose it.
By Ann, Contributing Writer
I work very very long days.
As a mother, homemaker, homeschooler, and breadwinner I have a never-ending set of responsibilities. When I get home from working an 8-hour day at my office, my day does not stop. Although my job description changes, my work continues through dinner, it continues through bedtime and it continues all through the night. It’s a never-ending cycle of responsibilities and remedial tasks that keep us happy, healthy and whole.
As a mother who subscribes to gentle parenting and attachment parenting, I am unwilling to shift my expectations for how I raise my kids. I could give them countless instant meals and hours of screen time. I could give them a continuous stream of gadgets and toys, distract them with novelty and sweets or even keep them away all day in school and childcare, that would give me several hours to myself where I am not cooking, cleaning, teaching and entertaining. But I believe the bodies and minds of my children are too sensitive and precious for me to pollute.
Raising Children Respectfully
My husband and I promised ourselves long ago that we would never knowingly subject our children to something unhealthy just because we couldn’t handle our own stress, our own emotion. This is why handling our own emotions and stress and having our home be as safe and loving as possible is vital to raising happy and healthy children.
They are kids and their entire world – everything they understand and everything they know – is within the walls of our home. Children are unable to reach out beyond themselves to seek comfort, wisdom, and support from anyone else. This makes my husband and I number one in all areas of their life requiring us to show up 110% all the time, whether we want to or not.
There are moments though when my desires, ideals, ene, gy and gumption for life all come crashing down around me. I can be angry, resentful, grumpy. I tire of the stress, of the responsibility and I become the mother I never wanted to be.
When this happens I plainly say to myself “if you didn’t want stress and responsibility then you shouldn’t have had children.” I then take a deep breath and remember I cannot stop what I have started and to live in integrity and responsibility I need to step into my strength in order to give my children what they need and to provide for myself what I need.
And it’s always love.
There hasn’t been one situation in my house that hasn’t been bettered through love and deep acceptance of who we all are. And when my children are acting out of control, hitting, screaming, tantrums and my stress is mounting and I start to feel out of control, I stop myself and take a deep, long breath, breathing deeply into my heart, belly and down to my feet.
This deep breathing gives me the ability to become neutral and open, to let go of anger and then allows me to help my children. I help them with love, I welcome their stressed mind and body into my arms, I fill their hearts with my kind, understandable words, I protect them from hurting themselves or others through gentle but firm restraint and I do this all with love.
And after long, tiresome days where I feel the continuous, overwhelming stress of responsibility; work, child-rearing, homemaking and homeschooling I go to my husband to receive the love and deep acceptance that I need. My husband and I embrace each other, we lean into each other, we breathe deeply into the embrace, filling our hearts with understanding and love.
4 Steps to Overcome Stress with Love
- Breathe deeply into your heart, into your belly and down into your feet.
- Take a moment to become as neutral as possible and always use love instead of force.
- Use gentle but firm physical restraint when children are out of control, reminding them of how much you love them and that you are keeping them safe.
- Receive an embrace from friends and family, lean into the embrace and fill yourself up with love.
There may be times though that no matter what you do, the anger is too great, the anxiety too high and you are unable to find neutrality. This is normal, physiologically our nervous systems can only handle so much before they go into fight or flight. When you get to this place it’s easy to lash out at kids, to start yelling at them and to do something you may regret, so it’s vital that you take control of yourself immediately.
4 Emergency Protocol Steps When You Can’t Calm Down
- Jumping jacks, push ups, running in place or a jog around the block, anything that gets your heart rate up will help to regulate your nervous system and take you out of fight or flight. Often in the middle of absolute and total kid chaos I start running and jumping around the house, the kids follow and we all end up feeling better after about 10 minutes.
- Leave the house/restaurant/car, where ever you are that you are about to blow. If your partner or a friend is around throw on your shoes and briskly walk, taking in deep breaths of fresh air. I can’t tell you how many times I have power walked my neighborhood in my pajamas…
- Start smiling and laughing. This may seem bizarre and feel really fake and weird but it works. Feelings are not facts and by using muscle memory we can trick our mind and body into a different state of being. Engaging our smiling and laughing muscles in our face and body causes our mind to believe we are enjoying ourselves, it releases good feeling chemicals and takes us out of fight or flight.
- Vigorously repeat a mantra or prayer. Prayer is powerful and it will distract and focus the mind so you can regain control. I have a go to prayer for when I feel completely overwhelmed. It’s long enough to distract my mind and comforting enough to remind me that I am cared for and loved.