Stress reduction strategies for mums

I may or may not be typing this with a baby on my hip and another child clinging to my leg... (ok I'm not this time around, but I have TOTALLY been there before and it is how I spend a LARGE part of my day). Point is, I get it. I'm in the depths of motherhood with you and I know it can be RELENTLESS on your nervous system. But at the same time, you NEED to feel calm and regulated yourself so that you can show up as your best self for your kids. The dilemma!

But there is a way to grab moments of calm in between the chaos. I'm going to keep this short... because chances are you don't have much time to read it (actually, if you would rather listen to this blog post just click HERE and I will read it for you so you can get on with making snacks).

Have you ever heard of the vagus nerve? The vagus nerve basically calls the shots for your parasympathetic nervous system - that is the more peaceful/relaxed arm of your nervous system. This works in opposition to the body’s sympathetic nervous system, which signals a “fight or flight” response. Despite our body's incredible capabilities and intelligence, there are a few crossed wires that we get from time to time - for example, your nervous system doesn't really distinguish between the stress of being chased by a tiger and the stress of your child's scream, or even the stress of thinking about your to-do list or impending witching hour. It all equals SYMPATHETIC ACTIVATION.

To buffer this, we want to activate our PARASYMPATHETIC response - now this won't change the events going on outside of you, but it can help to modify your response and change the way the events FEEL in your body. 

Here are a few quick and easy strategies to implement as often as possible throughout your day to stimulate your vagus nerve

1. Conscious relaxation:

  • Relax your tongue, eyes, and jaw muscles, allow your back teeth to lightly separate
  • Scan your body for other areas that are tense, and consciously relax them
2. Conscious breathing:
  • I always say to clients "we have to breath anyway, so we may as well make it purposeful!"
  • I find the SQUARE BREATH useful (and easy to remember) - that is in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4, hold for 4
  • Try to do this at regular intervals through the day for a few cycles. You might like to find an "anchor" in your day that reminds you to do a few intentional breaths - for example every time you change a nappy or stop at a red light

3. Put your heart above your head with these yoga poses:

  • Child’s pose
  • Forward fold
  • Downward facing dog
  • These are easy positions for kids to join in with as well - it doesn't have to be a full yoga class, just a few minutes to change the blood flow and allow some of that restorative vagal nerve activation

4. Gargling:

  • Did you know there are nerve receptors at the back of the throat that will stimulate vagal nerve activity?
  • Each time you brush your teeth gargle for as long as you can with water at the end
  • This can also be achieved by singing! Even if it isn't in tune 😆

The goal here is to find strategies that bring calm without adding MORE to the never ending list of things to do. Most of these can be done alongside other daily activities and while they're not a CURE for stress, they can help to create pockets of calm from where you can think more clearly and soothe your frazzled nerves.

What are your favourite ways to reduce or relieve stress?  💜

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