Five healthy ways to avoid Mum-Stress (hint – it’s NOT wine!)
When I was a drinker, I believed that my after-work wine was a reward for getting through a busy day juggling a stressful job and mum duties. I would leave the house early to drop my daughter at day-care before driving to work for an 8-hour day managing a team, deadlines and budgets, then racing back to childcare before heading home to juggle the dinner, bath and bed duties.
Before I had shut down my computer at the end of my work day, I would already be thinking about the glass of wine I had waiting for me, my dopamine receptors firing and mouth watering. At the time, I had no idea that I was stuck in an addictive trap; I just thought it was normal to rely on alcohol to take the edge off and give me something to look forward to at the end of the day.
Arriving home, I’d often walk in the door, turn on the television for my daughter and head straight to the fridge to pour myself a glass which I would drink outside as I sucked back a cigarette. By the time I had finished story time and said goodnight, I’d often have finished a bottle and would be opening the second to enjoy just ‘one more glass’ before passing out in bed. At 3am almost every night, as I lay awake tossing and turning, heart racing and anxiety soaring, I’d swear to myself that tomorrow I would take a break from alcohol. But the next day, the same pattern would begin.
Being a mother is a stressful job. We are thrown into a world of having to take care of another human and all that it entails. We are often not prepared for the roller-coaster of emotions and stress that comes with this important role and it’s a really common scenario to find ourselves leaning on alcohol to relieve stress and reward ourselves.
However, the problem with this habit is that it is counterproductive. Alcohol increases stress and anxiety as our body is pumped full of stress hormones to counter the anesthetising effects of alcohol. So while it may momentarily feel relaxing after initially having a drink, very shortly after, our anxiety is increased which can be experienced as the alcohol wears off, and depending how much you drank, can stick around for days.
This means when you drink to relieve mum-stress, you are increasing how stressed you feel.
In this blog I want to share some techniques that I have tried and tested to help you better manage stress so you’re not looking to escape or numb and so you can feel more calm and present with your children.
- Break free from the alcohol trap and set yourself free.
This needs to happen first and foremost! When you kick your bad habit to the curb, you’ll no longer crave alcohol to escape stress. In fact, you’ll notice quickly that you feel less stressed and have more energy to be a more engaged and present mum.
What can you do today to support yourself with breaking free from the alcohol trap? Our Signature Sobriety Course is the best place to start.
- Proactively fill your cup steadily and incrementally every day to get your dopamine kick in healthy ways.
When we use alcohol to self-soothe our stress, or to help us feel better physically or mentally in any way, it is an indication that we aren’t filling our cup and taking care of ourselves using self-care practices and other healthy, natural ways throughout our daily life. When we drink, the brain releases beautiful feel good chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins to give us an artificial feeling of comfort and warmth and love which can be a welcome moment of relief from stress. But as I mentioned above – this is only very temporary.
We can boost our dopamine levels by eating a healthy diet, including foods rich in L-Tyrosine (the protein needed to make dopamine). These include almonds, avocados, bananas, beef, chicken and eggs. Turmeric, vitamin D, magnesium and omega-3 supplements are also claimed to increase dopamine levels. L-Tyrosine can also be taken as a supplement. Dopamine receptors in the brain are dramatically reduced by lack of sleep so good quality sleep replenishes dopamine receptors.
Other ways to boost feel-good chemicals and endorphins are exercise, meditation, being in nature, spending time with loved ones and people who make you feel good, partaking in creative activities, having some good old fashioned fun, or just anything healthy that makes you feel good. The process of determining what makes you feel good when you stop drinking can include some experimentation – so have fun with it and think outside the square.
When you discover what activities make you feel good, start doing more of them!
3. Learn how to tune in to your needs as well as your childrens
How often do you take a moment to tune in to how you are feeling and what you need? I am guessing it’s not often enough. We are often so distracted taking care of everyone around us that we forget to take care of our needs. A powerful daily practice is to hold some space for yourself, turn in to your feelings and identify what your needs are. They can be from others, or even yourself. The Feelings Wheel is a great tool to use when you start this process. Once you have labeled the feeling you can take action towards supporting yourself in a healthy way.
4. Rest and take time for yourself
Taking a break and giving yourself daily rest time is a great stress preventative. Rest is a really important part of self-care that so many mums feel too guilty to give themselves. Rest enables you to charge your batteries so you can more intentionally and effectively work towards achieving your goals. It prevents burnout and if built into your every day, you will notice the impact it has on your general wellbeing.
Try to set a regular rest time every day where you sit or lie down for a set period of time (at least 5 mins however the longer the better) and do absolutely nothing. No screens, books or even thinking. Just resting your body and mind.
You will be blown away by how this simple self-care tool will enable you to have more energy for your kids.
5. Reward yourself
Don’t overlook the importance of rewarding yourself when it comes to managing stress. By acknowledging all of the hard work it takes to just get through life, you will feel less frustrated, and have some lovely things to look forward to which is a great way to stay motivated towards achieving your goals.
With Mothers Day around the corner, why not start this process now by taking action with all of the above, giving yourself the most incredible Mother’s Day gift possible – feeling great!