Part 1: Mini Guide for Managing and Balancing Stress in a Busy Lifestyle

I’ve been in hiatus (at least on this blog) for awhile with good reason! My husband and I welcomed our second child, another son, into our family on April 9! We kept with a mountain themed name (our first son’s name is Everest), and named our second son Logan (after Mt. Logan, the highest mountain in North America which is located in Yukon).

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Everest recently turned two years old in late February, and I have the boys at home full time. It’s been an amazingly rewarding and VERY challenging time, with Evey going through the developmental stages of being two years old (yes, you know what I’m talking about – the “terrible two’s”) and adjusting to having a new baby brother. Even as a psychologist and having all the tools to manage my stress levels, my humanness comes into play a lot. I have a new found and deepened level of appreciation for family and friend support, me-time and single-parents (hats off to them!!!).

When asked how life has been busy, it seems almost silly to say well, I went out grocery shopping as my “big event/outing” today or whatever one-thing I have planned for that day. Okay, I admit, I plan for two to three things and only end up getting one thing accomplished (and that’s okay by me!) My typical day consists of nursing, getting the kids packed and ready, attending the outing (whether it’s a playdate or running errands with kids), napping kids and feeding kids. So it’s not too exciting of a conversation because “busy” all of a sudden is described as just what I said above. I’m sure you parents who have or had young kids can relate 😉

And I’m going to be honest here…there have been times where I’ve felt overwhelmed, stressed, fatigued (lacking sleep due to interrupted sleep to nurse newborn) – being a parent is one of the hardest jobs! As Logan has just turned 3 months, we are all adjusting a bit more to the family change (whew!) and getting the hang of having more routine.

Throughout these past three months, I’ve been taking notes on what to add to my next blog post (this one!) to write about managing and balancing stress when one’s life is so busy – and many of these factors are not in our control for us to slow down. So I finally have the opportunity to share some ways to do so, and these are just some of the things I do. I recognize that not all these ways would work for everyone, but hey, if I can share some of my ideas and they fit for you- great!!! I always welcome your ideas as well!

I will start with general ways to deal with stress in this post and next post I will get more specific on some of these ways, particularly with eating healthy and movement/ exercise. This post is aimed more towards moms/dads, but it applies to anyone who doesn’t have children as well.

General Ways to Deal with Stress: 

*Be mindful of your stress levels on a scale of 1-5 (1=no/low stress and 5=extreme stress), and check in with yourself every couple hours with your stress scale. Take 5 deep belly breathes even if you’re only at a 1.  This can really shift how you move into your next moment.

*Stretch: This doesn’t take much “planning” – even if you’re just playing or standing there with your toddler/baby, take a few moments to raise your arms above your head, lean over to one side to stretch your sides (feels so good!), and if you are at home on the floor with your child(ren), do some floor stretches. Think of this as a little gift to your body. Hey, your kids might even want to join in! 😉

10295415_10154143457870641_7743363732035417757_o*Go for a walk – I often love to just pack the kids into my stroller (or toddler can walk) and go out to the park or drive to Millcreek Ravine, River Valley or Terwillegar Dog Park. Being amongst nature is very grounding and therapeutic for our senses and soul. I feel more connected with me and in turn, I feel more connected with my kids during and afterwards.

*This is also related to the above – I like to explore and discover different gems or neighbourhoods around my city, Edmonton. I usually enjoy doing this with my kids and another girlfriend (and her kids if she has). Stopping in local eateries is fun too to discover new foods!

*Daydream – this one came to me without intention one day, as I was just finishing a run, I was stretching outside, laying on my back with leg up in the air – and noticed that the clouds were so relaxing and calming to look at. My whole body responded and immediately felt lighter. It was a reminder for me to slow down, soak in the beautiful sky and give myself permission to daydream. This can be done with toddlers and older kids too as a fun activity (or spouse to make it a bit more romantic!) Another way to daydream is to watch the sunset – it’s like a painting for the soul.

*Nap – Many of us, including myself, are often resistant to nap when our kids nap because we feel we can get so many things accomplished (which is true!). However, even a 15 minute power nap (or just a chill out time like daydreaming), can make a world of difference and shift your energy. So pamper yourself by giving yourself permission to nap – your mind and body will thank you for the rejuvenation!

*Get creative – When I’m feel angry, bored, sad, frustrated, or (insert emotions), I have been turning towards my sketch book and pastels or canvas and paints. There’s something so delicious about seeing colour and expressing what’s inside me onto the paper/canvas. Or if you know how to knit or crochet, this would be soothing. Try it!  Set up a space for yourself (this can be the same space as your child’s but if that seems to trigger more stress, set up your own space) so that it’s readily available when you need it. If you have to set up materials, it may block you from wanting to get creative. At least for me it would.

*Listen and Dance to Music – I love my Songza App (it’s free!) – it has some amazing stations to match my mood or help shift my mood. Even just turning it on in the background of whatever activity I’m doing creates a more relaxing/fun energy. You could catch me dancing too with my kids or while I’m cooking.

*Do less – Like I mentioned earlier in this post, I may have 2-3 things planned for a day but only end up doing one, and I totally give myself permission to be okay with this. Doing too much creates more stress (for me anyways) because then I feel like I’m always hurrying and rushing my children, and I hate creating that kind of energy for myself and them. If I get more than one thing done, great, but I don’t expect to, and that’s okay. It’s more important for me to be relaxed around my kids so we can enjoy each other’s company.

*Acupuncture and/or Cranial Sacral Therapy– Wow, I cannot say enough about the importance of Acupuncture and cranial Sacral Therapy. My Acupuncturist, Genevieve Boyer has saved me so many times from being burnt out with her magic. My whole body deepens into relaxation (I’ve been known to fall asleep in our sessions), and for the rest of the days to come, I’m much more chilled out. Things that might bother me sometimes don’t seem as much of a big deal.

*Make a protein smoothie – I love my smoothies – they are a real pick-me-up! I love packing them with protein powder, cinnamon, ginger, various greens (fresh/frozen spinach, rhubarb, liquid chlorophyll, powdered pure matcha green tea, spirulina, wheatgrass), ground flaxseed/ chia seeds/ hemp seeds, and a nut butter (peanut or almond butter is my choice) and of course, fruit – I love adding banana, frozen berries and/or tropical fruit. I add little water because I love having it super, ultra thick – the texture is so satisfying to me. Best part is, it takes less than 5 minutes to make and kids usually love them too!

•Movement/ Exercise – I will get more into the details of this topic in my next post, but I wanted to emphasize the importance of moving your body. I like to use the word “movement” because “exercise” may be a loaded word for some of you. Movement is anything to brings you pleasure – whether that’s walking, yoga, stretching, dancing. It is whatever brings your body into a pleasure response. If exercise is a loaded word for you, it would certainly not bring your body into a pleasure response, but rather, a stress response! That’s what we are trying to avoid! 😉

*Eat Regularly and Balanced Meals – once again, my next post will go into the specifics of this topic and what a “balanced” meal looks like, but what I generally mean is that it’s important to eat at regular and consistent times. By doing so, you are tell your body when to be hungry and when to eat, and thus, your metabolism continues to fire. Skipping meals can bring on lethargy and (at least for me) – “hangry” (anger + hunger) – which is NOT a good thing for everyone else! 😉

*Tidy/Clean Up – This one is sometimes one that works for me, but it’s not my top strategy to reduce stress. I know for many others, this may be a top strategy because there is something soothing and relaxing about the repetitive motions and being “mindless” (not having to think about what you’re doing), like washing dishes or scrubbing your bathroom. For me, sometimes it’s about de-cluttering the space so that it’s more aesthetically pleasing to my eye.  Be sure to take some time to taking the satisfaction of your efforts once you are done. This is a really important step to help one slow down and feel more “complete”.

*Connecting – with supportive family and friends. Pick up the phone and chat or set up a mommy (or daddy) playdate – I love to go for walks when it’s nice outside or indoor playgrounds if it’s not so nice outside. ,I might also just have the playdate at home or at my friend’s home.

I know there are more ways than just what I’ve listed, and I would love to have you post in the comments below how you manage and balance stress in your busy life! 🙂

 

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