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Mum-stressed? Here's how to cope.

There is no doubt that mum life can be stressful. Worry over why your child won’t sleep, eat, behave…not to mention the complete upheaval and lifestyle changes that having a child can bring, and sometimes financial worry when you’re on maternity leave. You name it and yep, being a mum can be rough.

Anxiety, depression and high stress are experienced by many mums. What I like to call ‘mum stress’ can really build up and affect your day to day life. Indeed, it has been estimated that post natal depression affects at least one in five mothers of full-term infants.

I know all too well that trying to do it all for your kids, and do everything perfectly, can result in you feeling pretty average. After just under two years of being a mum, and now with two children, I recently reached a point where I was overloaded, burned out and needed help. I just couldn’t function anymore. I was diagnosed with severe postnatal depression and anxiety.

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"I know all too well that trying to do it all for your kids." Image via iStock.

But, I’m learning how to cope. And you can too.

I’m not an expert. Far from it. However, through counselling and research there are things I’m trying to do to de-stress during the hectic-ness that is mum life.

Exercise

Get the good endorphins flowing. Yes, it might feel like the last thing you want to do, but that hardest part will be actually getting moving. Once you start, you’ll feel amazing. And the buzz will set you up for the rest of your day and week.

Breathe

Sounds easy, right? Let me tell you, when you’re in the middle of a panic attack breathing properly can be the hardest thing in the world. But try to focus on your breath, even if you’re dealing with a screaming child at the same time. There are breathing techniques all over the internet - do some research and take even just five minutes a day to breathe deeply or even meditate.

Mia Freedman talks about how she manages her anxiety. (Post continues after video.)

Take yourself out of the situation

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed and/or angry to the point where you feel you’ll fall apart, put the babies/toddler/child somewhere safe, for instance in their cot or in their room with the door shut, and just be alone. Stay that way until you calm down and recover enough to think clearly, then go back to them. A psychologist gave me this advice and I’m definitely keeping it in mind.

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Lower your expectations

Productivity and motherhood do not go hand in hand. Something always happens that throws your plans for your day out the window. So, lower your expectations about what you can achieve in one day. Basically, if you keep the child fed, warm and comfortable then you’ve done your job. Full stop. Don’t worry about whether they’ve had too much screen time, or not enough tummy time, or didn’t sleep at the ‘right’ time. That stuff doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Tell that mum guilt to bugger off, and realise that anything else you get done outside of being a mum is a bonus.

Play. The rest can wait.

Playing on the floor and having fun with your kids is more important than the dishes. Or get out and get some fresh air. Yes, it’s nice to have things in order (I’m more than a little OCD about our house). But save the mess for nap times.

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Just play. The rest can all wait.

Make time for you, and couple time, a priority.

Yes, I know it’s next to impossible. But even if you have to get a nanny or babysitter in, do it. You’ll feel a lot more sane.

Talk about how you’re feeling.

It can be tempting (and easy) to just shut down. That’s what I did. But that’s the worst thing you can do.

If you feel on the edge, get help asap.

I didn’t. I thought my feeling of not coping and being very overwhelmed, anxious and stressed were a normal part of mum life and nothing out of the ordinary for someone that has two kids under two years of age. Wrong. I ignored it for too long and hit a very large wall where I just fell apart. Go to your GP, your local health care provider or the hospital if it's urgent. Just do it.

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Diet

It sounds simple, but the better you eat the better you’ll feel. I know, it’s hard to cook nutritious meals for yourself when you’re working so hard to look after the kids. But this is all part of a making yourself a priority as well. Order it from one of the online healthy meal providers if you need to. Or cook in bulk on the weekend while your partner, friend or family member take care of the kids.

And PLEASE, if you need help visit COPE, PANDA, your GP or local health care provider.

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