It’s no secret that the demands of modern motherhood are a recipe for increased stress and anxiety, in part because of the way society has set us up, and in part to our own limiting beliefs about boundaries, self care, and more. If you find yourself feeling stressed and/or anxious, you are not alone my friend. And I can help. In this post I show you how to use mindfulness tools to reduce stress and anxiety in a different way than most experts, for long-lasting results.
While this work isn’t a replacement for medical treatment and should not be interpreted as an alternative to medicine, etc., it can be used alongside any other types of tools that you use, such as therapy, medicine, and more.
Mindfulness To Reduce Stress And Anxiety
Mindfulness gets a bad rap for being “light” or even a privilege. But the way I teach and use mindfulness practices is that it’s critical in reducing the overwhelming amounts of stress and anxiety we experience as part of the natural human experience.
I define mindfulness as “awareness with acceptance” which is to say that by becoming aware of the root cause of stress and anxiety in your body, you can learn how to 1) manage these feelings, and 2) change them, to the extent you want to.
For more on how I teach mindfulness, see these resources:
- Mindfulness For Moms: The Ultimate Resource guide (blog post)
- The Benefits Of Mindfulness (podcast)
- How To Become A More Mindful Mom (free class)
- How To Use Mindfulness To Handle Toddler Tantrums (blog post)
- 10 Mindset Shifts For Moms (podcast)
Stress And Anxiety Are Emotions
The human brain is sneaky. It will have you thinking stress and anxiety come from outside of you—from your spouse, your work, your home, or whatever else is going on in your life. This is because the brain is, in part, wired for survival. One of its most important functions is to scan your environment for danger to make sure you are safe. This was useful evolutionarily, but not so useful today, in our modern suburban homes. Enter: stress and anxiety. When this part of the brain perceives a threat, it goes into fight or flight mode where your nervous system gets activated and your brain is hyper focused on the challenge in front of you.
Here’s the lie: your brain wants you to believe your feelings of stress and anxiety come from outside of you. The truth is that they’re coming from your brain. Your brain has a thought and that thought releases chemicals in your body, which creates the feeling of stress and anxiety.
Stress and anxiety are both feelings that come from the way you think. This is good to know. By understanding the root cause of these emotions (your thoughts), you can solve for them.
Normalizing Stress And Anxiety
Because stress and anxiety are buzz words today (and for good reason), they can feel very big and problematic. But here’s another truth: they’re a normal part of being human. All healthy humans experience the emotions of stress and anxiety. To be very clear, I’m not talking about having a chemical imbalance, needing psychiatric or medical attention. I’m talking about the every day stress and anxiety that comes from the healthy human brain being concerned about what it perceives to be worrisome. This is normal.
Start normalizing stress and anxiety simply by changing your relationship to it. Allow yourself to be a human. Say, “oh yeah, this is the part of my day where I’m going to do stress or anxiety. There goes my brain again.” By relating in a more positive way to your emotions, you’ll decrease the impact they have on you. Interestingly, stress and anxiety aren’t so bad when you think about them as a normal part of being a human.
How To Allow And Process Emotions
Instead of avoiding stress or anxiety by escaping them with your favorite external pleasure (scrolling, TV, wine, sugar, calling a girlfriend, etc.), choose to allow the feeling in your body.
When you allow the feeling, you accept it with curiosity. You’re not mad it’s there. You’re not reacting to it, nor are you resisting it (“oh no this shouldn’t be happening”).
Allowing feelings is the process of:
- Naming the feeling
- Welcoming the feeling
- Describing the feeling in your body
- Breathing through the feeling
This is a skill you can get exceptionally good at and it will serve you for the rest of your life. (Since, of course, there’s no point in time where we graduate from negative emotion!)
There is a Processing Feelings course you get inside Grow You right when you join our community. Learn more about Grow You here.
Identifying The Cause Of Stress And Anxiety
The facts or circumstances of your life don’t have any meaning. The meaning you give to them is by your brain, through your thoughts in your mind. Then your mind creates feelings, and from there you take action.
Stress and anxiety are both feelings created by your thoughts. They’re not created by your life.
Jobs don’t cause stress.
Health problems don’t cause anxiety.
The stress or anxiety you feel always comes from your brain, as the creator of them.
So, remind yourself whenever you’re feeling stress or anxiety, “this is a feeling in my body that I can process and it’s coming from a sentence in my head.”
This awareness of the cause of the feeling along with processing the feeling can decrease the impact stress and anxiety have on your body.
Becoming Aware Of Your Patterns
Take the last time you experienced stress or anxiety and study yourself. Act like an investigator who is trying to learn more about something. In this case you’re learning about yourself. With your curiosity glass on, examine the thoughts and feelings you experienced after something happened in your life.
For example, let’s say yesterday you felt really stressed. What were you thinking that caused the stress? What were the facts? Let’s say your spouse came home and said the words, “honey, I put in my two weeks notice at work today, I just can’t work there anymore.” These words are the facts. They don’t create stress. Stress is created from the meaning you give those words. What was your thought? Let’s say it was, “oh no, now we’re going to struggle financially.” That thought—the specific sentence in your head—is what created the stress.
The goal here is to be the observer of your own thoughts, feelings, and actions so you can better understand your own patterns and behaviors.
This is the work we do inside Grow You where I teach you how to coach yourself and understand your own thoughts and feelings. Explore the Grow You Membership here.
You can do this over and over to learn so much about yourself. Just by learning about your patterns of thinking and feeling, you actually decrease how often you’ll create these feelings in the future.
Deciding What To Think And Feel On Purpose
The final part of this is that you can pre-coach yourself about situations you anticipate are likely to come up and decide what you want to think on purpose.
For example, if you know you often feel stressed at the end of a typical day, you can decide on purpose what you want to think. The key is to think something that empowers you. This is different than reciting random affirmations that your brain doesn’t believe. It’s not useful to practice, “this day was amazing” if you tend to think that “this day was so hard” every day. Instead, you might go to a Next Believable Thought like, “parts of this day were hard but I made it through and did a great job; I’m proud of me.” This way of thinking still allows for your truth that it was challenging but it also shifts you out of feeling stuck or self-pity and into feeling confident and empowered.
A Final Note
Using mindfulness to help reduce stress and anxiety is not only possible, but it’s also actually easy and doable. It’s not hard or complicated like you might think. Instead, it’s just learning a new skill you haven’t done before. Like riding a bike. Sure you might fall off a few times and scrape your knee as you’re learning, but once you learn, you have the skill of riding forever. The same is true with managing your mind and emotions. When you use these tools in your daily life, they become skills that not only reduce anxiety and stress but truly change your life so you have more happiness and fulfillment. Start small with these steps and keep going. You got this, my friend.