If you’re a mom you have stress – no question. You’re likely juggling a lot of plates, and being responsible for another person’s well-being can certainly bring challenges. It’s not a question of if you have stress, it’s a question of how you deal with it. Stress, if not managed well, can cause a wide variety of ailments and serious diseases, including fatigue, depression, infections, headaches, pain and heart attacks.
I’m the first person to lovingly tell others to take care of themselves. 20 years ago I was doing great at managing my stress by meditating, getting massages, hiking in nature and taking plenty of time for myself.
Then back in 1995 I became a mother.
Being a single mother and the sole provider for the two of us, I focused on just two things – my daughter and making a living. I had a busy home business, an energetic young child…and not enough hours in the week. Taking care of myself did not even enter the picture. Merely knowing that I needed to take time for myself was not enough. The trick was to figure out how to do it and still meet the attachment and bonding needs of my daughter and pay the bills. When my daughter was two, I received a frightening wake-up call: My body gave out. I had so much pain in my neck and shoulder that I could barely function. I found myself completely drained, in a state of deep exhaustion from lack of sleep. I was alarmed: How would we survive if I couldn’t work?
A Healing Crisis
Recognizing the severity of the situation, I realized that if I was to get any rest, I had to get away, even if only for one night. I was amazed at how easy it was to arrange. It took about 20 minutes and a few phone calls to set up babysitting and a mini-retreat. I drove my tired body to a remote cabin in the forest only 20 miles away. There was a hot tub, a sauna, a pool, a comfortable bed and, best of all, peace and tranquility. I also arranged a massage and an acupuncture treatment for myself. Basically, all I could do at the cabin was sleep and rest-something I couldn’t do at home. I had to actually step out of my life for about 30 hours-30 wonderful hours of no work, and no taking care of anyone but myself.
How many times have you wanted to get away to a little retreat, but gave it up because it didn’t seem possible? Perhaps your baby or toddler isn’t ready to be away from you all night, but partial-day retreats can be just as wonderful. Or you can take naps with your baby or begin to do regular infant massage. Giving a massage can be as relaxing and nurturing for you as it is for your baby. The point is to make it a priority to carve out time for relaxation whenever you can.
Pain and fatigue are signals that you are not giving enough to yourself. You must regularly do the things that foster peace and serenity in your daily life. You must turn off the noise and fuss that has become so common. Unless you regularly take care of yourself, your body will call for attention. Ignored, that call will turn into a scream – a scream that manifests as pain or disease. Once things are at that point, everyone suffers, including your children.
My own breakdown would never have happened if I had listened to my body’s signals and allowed myself some regular rest and relaxation. If I had been receiving one or two massages a month and regular acupuncture, I might not have needed four in one week. The retreat was exactly what I needed, but it would have been better if I’d been doing it periodically with joy, instead of waiting for an emergency when I could barely move.
Yes, your children need you to be there for them, wholly and completely. But you need to be whole and complete in order to take care of them. You need to be happy and healthy before you can have happy, healthy children. You can’t teach your children how to be healthy without modeling it yourself, nor can you look to anyone else to make you healthy. Health practitioners or doctors can assist you in the healing process, but true health must come from deep within yourself. This is your responsibility. True holistic health means to be sound and vibrantly well on all levels of being-physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
There are many different elements and techniques to facilitate a healthful lifestyle. Each offers something different, but all of them help us achieve greater health.
Meditation and Yoga
Meditation is a practice that can address all four aspects of the self, renewing your mind and body while nourishing you emotionally and spiritually. There are many types of meditation, some with a basis in religion, and others that are completely secular. Regardless of the method, when you meditate, you shut out the hullabaloo and distractions of your busy life and connect to your soul, or to whatever supreme being you believe in. Daily spiritual practice is important to your sense of well-being and peace of mind. Yoga is a form of meditation combined with exercise, providing deep relaxation for the mind and body. Yoga has become popular, so you can usually find a yoga class, even if you live in a small town. If not, there are some good yoga videos available for you to follow on your own.
Massage therapy can enhance every system of the body, as well as aiding emotional and mental well-being. Massage is one of the best ways to relieve stress, quiet your mind and soothe your aches and pains. Massages can cost anywhere from $40 to $150, depending on the type of treatment and where you live. Some charge on a sliding scale; others may even trade for a service you provide. If you don’t think you can afford it, try putting a few dollars into a massage fund on a regular basis.
Few things are more relaxing than a hot aromatherapy bath at the end of a long day. Make this a ritual-your special time with no interruptions. After the kids are asleep, turn off your phone, fix some relaxing herbal tea, light some candles and play soothing music. An aromatherapy bath combines the healing properties of plants (in the form of essential oils) with the therapeutic power of water to relieve stress very effectively. Essential oils can bring relief to muscle pain, skin conditions and even depression, depending on the choice of oils added to the bath. Lavender eases muscle tension and promotes sound sleep. Clary sage has antidepressant properties with calming, euphoric effects, and is also good for PMS, menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms. Roman chamomile also helps to relax you and relieve PMS, as well as anxiety and tension. German chamomile soothes dry, inflamed or sensitive skin and allergic conditions such as eczema and psoriasis; it’s also used for inflamed joints and muscle pain. Marjoram can ease muscle pain as well. Chamomile, clary sage, lavender, marjoram, neroli, sandalwood and ylang ylang have both sedative and antidepressant effects, while bergamot, geranium, melissa and rose help to lift the mood without sedating. For starters, try an evening bath with 12 drops of lavender and 3 drops of neroli.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
A child’s range of emotion and quick outbursts can be intense when you’re trying to stay centered and calm. The key is to regularly do the things that make you happy and whole so you have your “sea legs” when you need to have your balance. Children are emotional sponges and since their energy is intertwined with yours, they will pick up on everything you’re feeling. If you have active emotional hot buttons available for them to push, they will certainly push them. The key is to remove these buttons, and you do that by clearing out whatever is blocking you from your peace and calm.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is an easy-to-learn tool that you can use whenever you feel stressed or need to regain calm in parenting.
EFT can help relieve the stress and restore some sanity and serenity to your life. It can help you work through all the ways in which you get triggered when your son won’t brush his teeth, or your daughter won’t eat the food you prepared for her, or you know you’re going to be late to work again. It can help you release the negative emotions that inevitably arise in parenting, so you can be present to what is needed in the moment.
Alison Morris wrote the following e-book to help parents who are struggling with challenging children. However, it is a wonderful and very helpful book for all parents. This e-book is included in the CureChild program, or you can purchase it:
Can you learn to love yourself as much as you love your children? You must if you are to truly instill a love of self in your children. The best way to teach this is to model it. During your daily meditation, visualize the faces of your children and feel the intense love you have for them. Really get into this feeling. Now hug yourself and direct this strong love toward yourself. Feel it flowing through your entire body. Keep hugging yourself and say, “I am worthy of self-love and attention. I take time to nourish and nurture myself.” Find ways to value yourself on a regular basis. Do the things that bring you joy.
Good nutrition, physical exercise, relaxation, spirituality, positive thinking, fun, laughter, creative expression, love, intimacy and sexuality are all necessary elements that you must make time for if you want to be healthy. Which of these elements are missing from your life? Begin to incorporate them now so you can live with vitality and avoid a healing crisis.
Plan for Alone Time
If you’ve always given most of your time to others, you might encounter some resistance from your kids, or even your husband or partner, when you begin to take time for yourself. You might need to explain to them the reasons why this is so important, not only for you, but for them as well. Write up a plan of action for taking care of yourself regularly. Sign it, and have your husband and children sign it, so they know how serious you are. Include them in the planning. Ask them what they would like to do while you’re away to make it special for them. My daughter’s very first night sleeping anywhere else but in my bed next to me was an adventure of true delight for her. After that she looked forward to sleeping over at her friend’s house.
When you need alone time, let your children know that this alone time is for them as well. You can teach your children that you need some quiet time, and so do they. Children can also be taught to meditate and practice yoga right along with you. Make sure you let them know you are not abandoning them. By taking time for yourself, you are doing something that benefits your entire family. One of the most important things you can do for your children is to demonstrate a healthful lifestyle. By treating yourself with the respect and the care you require, you’re passing down an important gift to your children.