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Stress & Meditation

Those early days of motherhood can, at times, make even the most organized and balanced person feel like she’s hanging on by a thread. Between the sleep deprivation, constant feedings, diaper changes, and the whole keeping-a-tiny-human-alive thing, maternal stress is pretty much inevitable.

I still remember what it was like with my first. One of the most stressful things for me was desperately trying to get my newborn on some kind of manageable schedule per all the baby books. It seemed so easy, according to the books. But I did what the books said, and my son still wasn’t following their schedules.

It finally clicked that I needed to ditch their schedule and get in tune with my son’s own cues and patterns instead so we could create our own. Adjusting my expectations for his needs rather than trying to force him into a mold did wonders for my mental state. And it worked! We still had a schedule and predictable routine, it just looked different than the picture those books painted. I was a calmer, more present mom when I surrendered the need for total control. And, I learned a lot about my baby in the process.

Our babies are little wildcards who are going to constantly keep us on our toes. The sooner we make peace with that reality and let go of how we think it “should” go, the easier it becomes to roll with their needs and get in a rhythm that works for you.

Another extremely stressful aspect of motherhood for me is all the unseen, emotional tasks that get piled up, often on mom. I remember about six months in, feeling so stressed and overwhelmed because suddenly my baby was in a new developmental chapter and needed more stimulation, the introduction of solids, etc. It was around this time that I also started feeling resentful that my husband didn’t seem to be weighed down by the tonnage of unseen labor. So, I made a list of physical tasks (which we’d already been doing a good job sharing) and the unseen labor (which I felt like I was primarily shouldering), recurring and one-time tasks. And we worked out the delegation system. For example, scheduling doctors appointments, keeping track of daycare/nanny schedules and putting it on our shared calendar, researching baby led weaning and food prep instructions/ideas and making the grocery list accordingly, searching for baby and me classes and coming up with other ideas for activities during the week. I sat down with my husband and said here’s why I’m stressed, what can you take off my plate. And it worked! He was able to better understand why I was so stressed and help. It strengthened our relationship, reduced my stress, and made us a much stronger team.

For me, managing stress became about adopting certain habits and mindsets, and learning to delegate or hand off tasks I was used to doing myself:

1. Abandoning the rigid schedules and routines from the books that caused me more anxiety than peace. Every baby is different – what works for one may not for another. This is true even among your own kids!

2. Naming the burden. Being able to articulate the invisible load allowed my husband and I to see the problem clearly and make a plan together.

3. Getting serious about me time – I get touched out very quickly, but I also learned I reset very quickly. So, whether it was five minutes meditating with the Calm app, a long walk, or letting my partner take a baby shift so I could have some time to myself and reset.

4. Delegating. Asking for and accepting help from friends and family, even if it was just keeping the freezer stocked. Having a friend coordinate a Meal Train was the ultimate gift.

5. Embracing a “good enough” mentality for certain things around the house. The laundry may not be folded and put away, but it’s clean and that’s a win.

The truth is, a degree of stress is probably unavoidable when you’re a new parent, but there are lots of helpful tools and strategies to make it manageable. At the end of the day, you’ve got to grant yourself plenty of grace and find the techniques that work best for you and your family.

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