It’s NOT The Most Wonderful Time of The Year: 5 Ways for Stressed Moms to Cope

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” 

As the common holiday tune blared through my radio after Thanksgiving, I internally snorted. “More like the most stressful time of the year!” I thought, for the thousandth time. 

I’m stressed.

Every December, like clockwork, my stress starts to ratchet up. Every year I tell myself, “This will be the year I take it easy. I won’t let the pressure of the season get to me.” However, as the days of December click past, I always get stressed, trying to meet all the demands and do ALL THE THINGS to make Christmas special. 

Surely this year will be different!” I comforted myself.

It’s a pandemic! So many things will be canceled. Expectations will be so low. You will have a peaceful holiday season!

So far? Nope. 

I’m stressed. 

stressedIt’s been the weirdest year of everyone’s lives. We have been living through the chronic stress and trauma of a global pandemic, and it shows. Mental health is suffering at unheard-of rates.

I have been having a hard time with heart palpitations, hair loss, back pain, anxiety, and headaches, mostly because I am holding stress in my body so tightly as I try to cope my way through this insane season. 

A blessing of 2020 is that it has literally forced me to find ways to lower my stress levels. Here are five coping strategies that have been really been helping me over the last few months: 

  1. Yoga: Like everyone, I find it difficult to make time for exercise and fitness with little kids around, but my stressed body was so tight and my back has been so painful this year {hello, 30s!}. I was willing to try anything to relieve it. I did several weeks of yoga and it did wonders not just for my tight muscles, but for my mental health as well. Yoga is proven to get the brain more in tune with the body, and it definitely did that for me! Now when I feel a headache coming on or my anxiety starting to build, yoga has taught me to breathe and truly feel the sensations in my body. I can notice my jaw is tight, my shoulders are up by my ears and my feet are flexed, and I can work on stretching them or relaxing them. Living through a pandemic is trauma, and it is important to take care of ourselves, physically, mentally, and spiritually as we fight our way through. For more good information about the mind-body connection and healing trauma, check out “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk.

I'm stressed, so I do yoga2. Meditation: As a devout Christian, I’ve shied away from meditation in the past because it seemed a little too “out there” for me spiritually since I already find solace in prayer, but when I saw “Unstress” on Beachbody on Demand, I gave meditation another try – and now I’m the biggest fan! In these particular meditations, you basically spend 10 minutes just breathing and focusing on feeling your body and noticing your feelings. All the concentrated deep breathing oxygenates the blood which feels great. Plus, taking the time to let go of all the things you are holding on to helps me be more peaceful, mindful, present, and less stressed. Additionally, I’ve found that surprising thoughts bubble up while meditating – often as moms, we are so busy during the day we don’t even really know what is going on inside our own mind because we are so occupied caring for everyone else!

3. Turmeric Tea: Stress causes inflammation throughout the body, and with this stressful year I think it would be safe to guess that everyone’s levels of inflammation are up! Turmeric tea helps to lower inflammation in the body and boosts immune system function. I’m a coffee girl, but drinking large quantities of coffee often makes anxiety worse, so I’ve been trying to swap my afternoon coffee out for Turmeric tea. Alcohol doesn’t help with anxiety or inflammation either {even if it feels like it in the short term}, so when I want a glass of wine at the end of a long and stressed day, I’ve been trying to swap that for Turmeric tea instead. 

I'm stressed. Tea and a book help.4. Dancing: I love to dance, but aside from a couple of living room dance parties with my kids, there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity for dancing this year. A few days ago, under the advice of an Instagram psychologist, I sent my kids to the basement while I made dinner and cranked a dance playlist while I chopped and sautéed. You know what? I felt amazing! I had been having a really bad day, and just dancing like a fool for a while felt so freeing. I was dancing so hard I was sweating, and it was another way to connect mind and body and free stress from my body.  

5. Make Time For Fun: I know it’s beating a dead horse, but mama – you can’t pour from an empty cup! I’m sure you have had “self-care” preached at you ad nauseum, but taking care of yourself is truly so important. Often these days at home are long blurs, and whenever I get a moment of “free” time, my brain is rocketing to “what is the most important thing to do next? What would be the most efficient use of my time?” In those moments I’ve tried to take a deep breath, set a timer for 20 minutes, and do something I truly enjoy, like cuddling up in a blanket and reading my Bible or a good novel. You don’t have to use every moment to it’s fullest; it is okay {and important, even!} to “waste” time on something you love if it fills your cup

Now – I don’t do any of these things perfectly. Somedays I’m a calm, meditating,  tea-drinking mom, and other days I’m a stressed, angry, yelling, eating-chocolate-in-the-bathroom kind of mom. We are all doing our best through this crazy time. I see you, mama – keep coping, and keep up the good work!

Do the holidays, or other seasons, leave you feeling stressed? How do you cope?