Let’s not beat around the bush here, modern life is stressful. Add to that kids, career relationships and economic pressures and it can be downright frightening. As much as we love our children, they take some fundamental coping mechanisms and preventative self-care measures from us. As mothers, there are a lot of sacrifices we make for our children because we want them to have a good life.
But at some point, we may move from providing the good life and time our children need into the area of unhealthy sacrifice.
That’s why the Body Beyond Birth team want you to get behind fostering resilience and leave the stress behind. Here’s how.
Good stress versus bad stress
Stress helps us. But there is a big difference between good stress and bad stress. Stress empowers us to move forward and make decisions, but continued stress (even low level stress) without a reprieve or a win can make us feel powerless.
In careers with a lot of responsibility or with self employment, stress can be an ever present part of the working experience. This in itself isn’t a bad thing. But it can start to make it feel like all the effort is wasted. That as soon as one thing is crossed off the TO DO list or another problem solved 5 more sprout in their place.
This continued level of stress can lead to compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is literally where our compassion for a person or situation is replaced with a sense of hopelessness. We begin to feel like the problem at hand is so great, we as one person will never be able to make a real difference. It means our resilience is often lowered to the point where it’s non-existent.
Caregivers often find they face compassion fatigue, especially if they don’t make time for self-care. If your child is going through things like the toddler stage, puberty or questioning authority and acting out, this can make managing life particularly difficult and draw away your ability to cope. Add financial hardship, sickness, disability, redundancy, domestic violence or any high impact event to the mix and you are definitely in a high risk category.
All parenting is stressful, as are relationships and making it in the modern world. We deal with things such as debt, job insecurity, and concerns about buying a home as well as the self doubt inherent with parenting. It’s human nature to second guess ourselves and we’re under so much pressure to succeed. As people and as mothers, as a member of a family and as an individual, there is always someone or something asking more of us.
Sometimes, we may not know where that more is going to come from.
What you can do about it
Our level of resilience and responses to the situations at hand together with the ability to see hope defines how effective we’ll be in the face of challenges and adversity.
Now on the outset, this sounds like a small list of achievable things. But our resilience is often set by our own childhood and experiences. If we were unloved at home or bullied at school or face difficulties in our relationships now, our resilience will be lowered.
Resilience is based quite a lot on how we choose to respond to a given situation. In most people, we have the ability to respond or react. Responses generally come from a place of considering all the options and the mitigating circumstances. Reactions tend more to lean towards acting out- like taking offense when our ego is bruised or acting out without considering consequences.
We can nurture resilience, calm under pressure and remain hopeful if we take the time to foster self-care. If we look after ourselves, we can build up more resilience than we started with.
Building resilience in adults
There’s no magic bullet with building resilience in adults. Especially if we’ve been trained to expect the worst or primed to think the only way to be heard is through dramatic reactions. But there are a few ways you can channel some inner calm and grow some resilience of your own over time.
Connect with family and community-
Having supportive, healthy relationships with friends and family members can go a long way to creating strength and resilience. If you feel like you have a network and a safety net, it can give confidence and courage.
Sometimes, this may not be forthcoming through the usual channels. Perhaps your in-laws aren’t supportive or your parents are absent. This doesn’t mean you can’t create a family or community of your own. Many people find the same sort of network of love, community and belonging they need through community groups, faith based services – and likeminded challenges such as parenting.
Your network doesn’t have to be large, just effective. That’s part of the reason why we offer our online community.
Change your thinking-
Nadine Champion was a fighter. She fought in martial arts tournaments. She fought and won against Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A message bestowed to her by her coach, Benny, helped her pick herself off the floor of a hospital and continue with chemotherapy when she was at her lowest. Suffering from continual sickness and burnt out veins with no end of the pain in sight, Nadine was saved by one simple phrase- “change your thinking.” That trainer’s voice compelled her to push herself off the hospital floor and get back in the chair to finish chemo and to beat the disease.
We might not want the terrible hand we’re dealt. Very few of us would wish for pain, trauma and disease. But we can change how we think and even how we respond to a situation. You can’t change the fact something stressful has happened, but you don’t have to let it influence how you respond as well.
Trust your instincts yet keep perspective when greeted with challenges. Invest in solutions over drama. Think about getting through the situation. Think about times where other moments in life have threatened to keep you down. Draw on your support network.
Don’t allow the problem at hand to sit rent free in your head. Instead, change your thinking.
Acceptance is key-
There’s a huge difference between lying down and taking something and accepting it has happened. If we move beyond denial and anger to acceptance, we can buy ourselves a clear head and the potential to work through the problems at hand.
But we do have to acknowledge and accept the things that have happened to us first. This is incredibly tough but worthwhile. How acceptance is reached is as individual as it is powerful. Like the tiger with the stripes, once you accept who you are as a whole person, warts and all, you can forgive yourself, love yourself and move forward.
From acceptance comes love. Once you begin to see the wonderful things about you and love the quirky traits instead of resent them or hide them away, something magical can happen. When we stop dealing with the events in our lives and the scars they have left as separate from ourselves, we can begin to heal. That healing can help us integrate even the toughest event. And from that integration, we can begin to feel whole.
This is by no means an overnight thing. But once we start loving and accepting ourselves like we do with our family, children and friends, we can start feeling less powerless.
Choose your own adventure-
Resilience is about working with you in the best way possible for you. This includes setting goals, making plans and designing the kind of life you want.
It doesn’t have to be grand plans or even something you share with others.
Think about each day and what you’d like to accomplish. Do you want to walk an extra kilometre so in 3 months time, you can try that bushwalk you’ve always wanted to experience? Are you interested in studying but need to see if you are indeed cut out for the classroom with a smaller challenge first? What would it be like for you to set aside 20 minutes to sketch or write in your journal each day? How much Spanish can you learn in 5 minutes with your favourite App? Just how much fitter can you feel with 20 minutes of Pilates a day?
Think about the things you want to achieve and take on your adventure. Make it your own. And chart the progress along the way so you don’t lose sight of how far you have come.
Foster the positive-
One of the most powerful things you can give yourself is hope and care. Think about what you want in life as opposed to dwelling on the things that make you worry and fear. Make looking forward with hope part of your everyday routine.
Take out me time for yourself and allow yourself the time to enjoy your day. We spend far too much time creating and revelling in how busy life is. We exhaust ourselves by investing in wearing busy as a sign of bravery. Yet it isn’t. It’s a sign we need to slow down and re-assess.
Allow yourself to practise self-care. Get sleep where you can by napping instead of doing that extra laundry. Eat well instead of settling for a toasted sandwich while the kids eat like royalty. Take time out to exercise- for just 20 minutes out of your day, you can feel stronger and more focused. Not to mention healthier and more confident. Make time for friends and to connect. Pick up hobbies and explore ideas. Make time for mindfulness.
Stress owns you if you let it
Enjoying a healthy relationship with stress can be a tough thing to establish. But it is by no means impossible. Taking time out each day to explore the reasons for your stress and what you can and can’t change is incredibly helpful.
The most important message however is that you are only as good as what you allow yourself to be. So stop being too brave and allow yourself some self-care. Make fitting your own mask during daily life a priority so you can be strong enough to face what comes along.
And pull on your community.
If you want people to speak to that understand the challenge of parenting, connect with our online group, Health and Happiness for Mothers.
Experience the difference 20 minutes a day can make in terms of your self-care by trying the Body Beyond Birth 7 day trial.
Create connections and friendships while lightening the domestic load through places like MamaBake.
Be inspired by the story of a former domestic violence victim turned homeless mother that transformed her life through facing adversity with Kylie Travers.