When you’re a mom, it can feel like you’re constantly on a hamster wheel that you can’t jump off of. Working, taking care of the kids, taking care of the house, and trying to find time for date night or to see friends take up all your time. You can barely find time to sleep, much less do anything you find enjoyable like taking a bubble bath or reading a book.
But there are a few things you can do that might help you reduce your stress level and get more pleasure out of your life. Here are seven things I recommend for making this shift.
Be more organized
Organization is key when you’re a parent. Keeping your home organized is, of course, one thing. The easier it is to find backpacks, purses, keys, and ingredients for dinner, the easier life will flow.
But this goes deeper than just a well-organized home.
Organize as much of your life as you can. Create a schedule for cleaning so that you do a little each day. Create a meal plan so that you only have to consider what to make for meals one day a week or month, and the rest of the time, you can just pull out what you need for that day’s meals and cook.
Create a routine for getting through the day – everything from getting up in the morning, through work, helping with homework, cooking dinner, getting kids bathed and into bed, to getting yourself into bed at the end of the day. A routine that lays out what needs to be done and when will make it smoother and faster to get it all done.
Make a list of what you need to accomplish
We all have a running to-do list: that list of things that need to get done that never really seems to get done. And we have a regular to-do list, filled with things that really need to get done (and often much too long!). These to-do lists are unfortunately often more of an aspiration than a real motivator.
Instead, create a list of what you really truly need to accomplish in a day. What absolutely must be done today to ensure that you don’t lose your job, your kids are fed and cared for, you have a roof over your heads, and no one ends up sick or dying?
Maybe you really want to clean the bathroom, but no one will die if you don’t. Grocery shopping, on the other hand, has to be done because your kitchen has nothing but a slice of pasteurized cheese and a moldy yogurt in it.
Make a list of the absolute essentials. If those things get done, call the day a win. If they get done and you still have time to accomplish some of the things from your other lists, great! But you can feel accomplished just for getting the essentials done.
Make a list of things that annoy you in your life
What really bugs you? Your commute? Your boss? Mowing the yard? The sheets on your bed? The smell of your body wash?
It doesn’t matter who or what it is, whether it’s shallow and seemingly insignificant or a big hairy deal, write down everything that annoys you in your life.
Why are you doing this? Well, first of all, being honest with yourself about what annoys you will lift a huge weight off your shoulders. You can quit pretending, with yourself at least, that you enjoy those things or people.
Second, many times once you write down what annoys you, you begin to see things that don’t really need to be a part of your life. You can buy a different body wash, for example, or hire someone to mow your yard. You realize you don’t need to keep reading that book or talking to that neighbor.
Lastly, when you write down a bigger issue, such as hating your job or boss or where you live, it puts things in perspective. You realize it’s a problem for you and you’ll begin working on being able to change it. You may not be able to do anything about it right now, but you’ll be able to get started and that will make you feel better.
We’re all guilty of it. We all dread doing something and so we put it off by doing all the other things that “need” to be done. Scrubbing a clean toilet will suddenly be the most important thing in the world so we can avoid that other task.
Most of the time, when we do get to the dreaded task, it’s not nearly as bad we expected and it doesn’t take nearly as long as we thought it would. And even when it is that bad or takes that long, it’s still a relief when it’s done and behind us.
So stop procrastinating. When you procrastinate, you drag out the stress. You make it bigger and worse.
Instead, tackle the stuff you dread or hate as soon as you can. Get it done so it can be behind you. It’s far less stressful, I promise.
Schedule time to relax
Scheduling time to relax might seem counterintuitive but it will ensure that you actually follow through and do it. Put it on your calendar just as you would a doctor’s appointment or a meeting at work.
I recommend creating a repeating relaxation appointment for, say, once a week on the same day at the same time. You might schedule it while your kids are at an after-school activity or a playdate if that’s an option. Otherwise, you might schedule it for after the kids are in bed on a night when you don’t have to get up early the next day.
You don’t have to have a set plan when you schedule it, but you should be thinking about what you’ll do before the moment arrives. Particularly if your time is limited to only an hour or so, you want to make the most of that time so decide what you want to do before it arrives.
Don’t forget to allow for driving time if you’re planning to get a massage or a manicure, go to the gym or hang out with friends somewhere.
If you’re doing something at home, such as giving yourself a manicure, watching a movie with popcorn, meditating or taking a bubble bath, make sure you have everything you need before your relaxation appointment arrives. Nothing kills relaxation more than realizing you don’t have everything you need to actually enjoy it.
Evaluate your relationships
Have you ever had a romantic partner or a friend whom you thought you were happy with until they left your life? After their exit, you suddenly realized that you were actually pretty miserable with them.
Maybe that’s happening your life right now. Or maybe you have a few relationships that you know the other person increases your stress, annoys you to no end, or otherwise just isn’t good for you.
Take the time to evaluate your relationships. Ask yourself if they add value to your life. Do you enjoy spending time with and talking to this person? Is it a give-and-take relationship or more one-sided? Do you try to avoid this person?
Of course, some relationships are awful and we can’t cut them off. We might have a very bad relationship with our ex, but because of the kids, we have to remain in contact. But you can limit contact, as well as work to try to change the dynamic – even if it’s only a little.
Take a look at your job
Do you love what you do and who you do it with? Or is it nothing more than a paycheck?
For many people, their job is a significant source of stress. And if you’re only there for the paycheck, it might be time to reconsider what you’re doing.
I understand that, as a parent, just jumping ship and finding a new job isn’t always an option. But what is an option is putting out some feelers. You can let friends and family know you’re interested in a change, update your LinkedIn profile, and scroll through job ads to see what’s out there.
You can also look at other options where you currently are. Maybe there’s a promotion you could go for or a department change you could request. If it’s a particular co-worker that makes your job unpleasant, you might request to move your office or cubicle. If you’ve got too much work to handle, ask for an assistant or to give some of your work to someone else.
Life is stressful for all of us. And it’s not possible to completely eliminate stress. But with a few simple steps, we can reduce it dramatically. You just need to be willing to do the work.
What tips do you have for reducing stress?