- As a BLT (busy-lazy-tired) mom, stress can come in many forms
- In times of extreme stress, I find myself tail-spinning in "fight or flight" mode
- Instead of obsessing over stress factors you can't control, try taming your reaction to stress, starting with breath
There are times when I get to work and I don’t realize how I got there. Sure, I’ve been doing the drive everyday for years so it’s easy to be on autopilot but there are days when I’m so lost in my own thoughts that I’m not paying attention to what’s around me at all. Like I’ve lost a whole chunk of time and can’t find it.
As a BLT (busy-lazy-tired) mom working a demanding full-time job, stress can come in many forms. In times of extreme stress, my heart rate speeds up, my breathing gets shallow and my mind literally begins to spin. I used to call it “going down the rabbit hole” but have since learned this is a typical stress response called "fight or flight."
The body reacts to stress by activating the nervous system and releasing stress hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. This type of adrenaline rush could be helpful in certain situations. For example, when it’s go-time on a black Friday sale and there’s only one pair of shoes left that you’ve been obsessing over… and 50 other BLT moms trying to get it. In everyday life though, stress is generally not a good thing. What’s even scarier is, that on average people can go into fight or flight mode multiple times a day, meaning there’s a constant stream of stress hormones wreaking havoc internally. Think about it: work deadlines, sitting in traffic, money problems, nerves, conflict in relationships – all part of everyday life and we often don’t realize the impact it’s having on our body, mind and soul.
Stressful things can happen all the time. On top of that, many stress factors are totally out of our control. What’s important to note is that, even if we can’t get rid of them or control them, our reaction to these events matter - they can exacerbate the stress and make it way worse, or they can calm you down and help you respond thoughtfully rather than react impulsively. When I mull over all the stress factors in my life, it just causes more and more stress. So instead of focusing on the stress elements themselves, I’ve learned to focus on my reaction to them.
As a BLT (busy-lazy-tired) mom, I need habits I can sustain and easily implement. Mediation can do wonders for stress management but sometimes trying to find time to fit in a session stresses me out (see how easy it is to get stressed?!). So, the simple trick I’ve learned to kick my body out of fight or flight mode is this: just breathe. But really breathe, take a deep breath and be really mindful, concentrate on how the breath feels going in and out, feel your belly and your rib cage expand on an inhale and empty on an exhale. Then take a few more. While breathing, take a look around you and look and see what’s in front of you.
I will carefully study a tree sometimes when I’m at a stoplight. I’ll make note of the color, of the wind blowing through its leaves. It might sound silly but the tree is real and tangible and being mindful of what is going on around me brings me back to the present and out of stress mode. When you breathe deeply from your belly, it can stop many of the stress responses happening under the covers in your mind, heart and body.
It’s something I can do while in traffic, in a meeting, or making dinner and when the kids decide it’s more fun to scream and run around the house instead of taking a bath and going to bed. What’s also helpful is to suggest taking group breaths with others – have you heard of startup company culture where they will kick off a meeting with a few deep breaths or even a 1-minute meditation? Give it a try next time you feel stressed - it’s simple, easy and free!