Stress relief is a hot topic, to say the least.
“Set reasonable boundaries.” “Make a plan and stick to it.” “Ask for help.” “Identify your triggers.” Every parent has come across some version of these well-meaning tips for reliving stress between juggling the responsibilities of parenthood. While investing in your long-term mental health has its own long-term benefits, most of these “tips and tricks” fall flat in the realm of immediate relief.
Sure, meal prepping on Sunday can help alleviate the stress of this week’s last-minute dinners; laying out your kiddo’s clothes the night before can minimize Monday morning chaos; decreasing your caffeine intake can reduce your overall anxiety. But what happens when your stressor is occurring in real-time? What happens when your meals haven’t been prepped, your kids still aren’t dressed, and your anxiety is running on overdrive after this morning’s espresso?
Here at Cheerily, we know tensions are running at an all time high—being a parent just multiplies that by 100x. In a world of well-intentioned (but a little misguided) stress-relieving advice, here is our list of 10 activities any parent can do to relieve stress right now. No seriously— take a break and try these yourself.
1. Write it out
Can’t stop thinking about the election? Stressing about Thanksgiving plans? Uncertain about holiday gatherings? WRITE. IT. DOWN. According to a Harvard study, simply writing down why you’re stressed and how you feel can improve physical stress markers like heart rate and blood pressure! When we try to mentally suppress what’s really bothering us, stress can manifest itself in physical and sudden ways (just ask anyone who’s had an impromptu panic attack). Take a minute to write down why you feel overwhelmed without the fear of judgement or stigma; you’re the only one who has to see that piece of paper!
2. Take a yoga break
Access to *free* quality content has never been easier, with thousands of aspiring yoga instructors offering their videos for free on Youtube. Take 10 minutes, less than 1% of your day, and perform some light stretches and breathing exercises designed to improve your relaxation and flexibility. Classes range from beginner to instructor-level, so there’s always an option that’s perfect for you, whatever your experience!
3. Make a one-pan treat with your kids
Raise your hand if you love cooking with your family, but are often left frustrated and overwhelmed when it comes to cleanup? 🙋🏾♀️ The kitchen can be the biggest source of shared love and appreciation in any family, but it can also be the biggest source of tension in the home! Piled up dishes, sticky refrigerators, crumb-lined floors and crayon-stained kitchen tables are just a few reasons why our cheerily mamas report the most stress around dinner time. But by cutting down the clean-up and amping up the family-time, one-pan meals and treats are a great way to decompress and enjoy cooking with your little one. Feeling extra ambitious? Take this activity as an opportunity to cook some extra meals for later in the week!
4. Dance it up!
Music has the power to *literally* transform the way we feel. Staring down a pile of laundry that still needs to be folded and put away? Throw on some old-school hits and make the task an opportunity to dust off those signature moves! On top of the mental break it can provide parents during those four funky minutes, dancing is a great way to improve your physical well-being. Added bonus: a study in the New England Journal of Medicine linked dancing with a 76% reduction in dementia risk— even traditional cardio didn’t even come close to the same results!
5. 5-5-5 breaths
When it comes to stress and anxiety, sometimes the easiest way we can help ourselves is just by remembering to breathe. When those jaws start clenching and that chest starts tightening, use 5-5-5 breaths to literally re-start your system and bring your body out of fight-or-flight mode. Here’s how:
- First, exhale as much as you can (like blowing out birthday candles). Experts report more often than not, the cause of anxiety-related shortness of breath is because we forget to fully exhale.
- Then, slowly inhale through your nose for a steady 5 seconds, imagining your tummy expanding as you fill your diaphragm with air.
- Hold that breath for another 5 seconds.
Slowly exhale through your mouth as much as you can for 5 seconds.
Every round of this breathing pattern helps re-oxygenate your blood by 20%, helps mute your fight-or-flight response, and helps parents who struggle with chronic or unavoidable environmental stressors.
6. Watch an empowering TED Talk
You don’t need to change the world this morning, but listening to others who’ve overcome hardship can be a great resource when things don’t feel hopeful. Everyone has areas in their lives that could use a little guidance. Are finances stressing you out? Is motherhood less than magical? Do you feel like you’re not making a difference? Has parenthood affected your identity? You are so far from being alone! Finding guidance in the community is one of the easiest ways to address your stressor head-on. Even if you just need 10 minutes to watch an interesting speech, we support whatever supports your mental health, mama!
7. Make your favorite drink
Fall has arrived as we are HERE for it at Cheerily. Not only is the season a great opportunity to sport those warm autumn colors and cold-weather styles, but it’s also an excuse to make cozy drinks for days! Whether you fancy a spicy chai, a coconut milk cocoa, a skinny soy mocha or a lavender latte, decompress for just a few minutes by making an intentional beverage. While we’d recommend straying away from the caffeine if your stress is long-lasting, popular latte ingredients like turmeric and lavender have been shown to decrease anxiety and aid relaxation! (It’s also just a great excuse to whip out your favorite mug).
8. Aromatherapy this ish!
Whether you find relief from incense, essential oil diffusers, scented candles or DIY potpourri, our favorite scents can make even the most stressful parts of our day feel transformed. While improved sleep, reduced blood pressure, and lessened pain are often reported by aromatherapy enthusiasts, perhaps the most common effect is an overall reduction in stress and anxiety. You don’t even have to buy a fancy diffuser or enroll in a costly product subscription— all you need is a nose and some fragrant flowers!
9. Take a HIIT (workout)
If dancing, breathing, cooking and smelling just aren’t doing the trick, lean on nature’s most effective stress relief to get you through the day. Exercise has been the long-standing holy grail recommendation to those struggling with stress and anxiety for a reason: it really works. By dedicating as little as 10 minutes (again, less than 1% of your whole day) to strengthen your body and clear your mind, you can expect: immediate gratification, immediate stress relief, and immediate feelings of being a fit little baddie— get it mama!
10. Remind yourself that you're a great parent- but you're also so much more.
Remind yourself how much you have to offer the world, beyond being someone's parent or spouse. One of the biggest side-effects of postpartum anxiety is the feeling of lost identity; Maybe you were an aspiring creative before motherhood, defined by your art and your keen attention to detail. Maybe you were a social butterfly, known for your network of friends and ability to light up a room. Maybe you were an independent introvert, content with your peace-and-quiet and your freedom to get lost in a good book. Whoever you were before parenthood, you don’t have to put that identity to rest. Take a moment to write down your favorite qualities about yourself, and plan one way to express that quality today. Here's an example:
Ex: My favorite qualities about myself:
- I'm creative
- I'm crafty
- I'm a good listener
- I've got a good eye for photography
- I love fashion
- I'm caring
- I'm funny AF
- Make an interactive IG story
- Start a DIY project
- Call the friend I’ve been meaning to reach out to
- Take a funny photo of my little one
- Wear my favorite accessory
- Make a homeless care kit
- Make my family laugh
Aaaand that's a wrap! We know tensions are at an all-time high, but we also know you are strong and capable enough to get through whatever is stressing you out. Have any ideas you didn't see in the list above? We'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment with your best stress-relieving tips in the comments below, and follow @cheerily.co on Instagram for a daily baby photo that's bound to put a smile on your face :)