9 Ways for Moms to Let Go of (Unneeded) Stress

‘Cause really, there is enough stress we can’t help already. So we need to do all we can to let go of the unneeded stress and irritations that can pile up and make the whole thing seem unbearable on some days.

Let me help you get started:

1. Let go of expectations that don’t match your personality.

This one is tricky. We have to balance the need to improve in some areas with accepting who we are. Some people are naturally morning people. They get super sleepy at 8 p.m., but they’re rearing to go at 5 a.m. Be jealous all you want, but don’t try to be that person if you’re not. And let yourself off the hook about it. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy, just different. Go with your clock and make the most of your best hours.

Similarly, I used to feel pressured by my friends who constantly had company over. As in, revolving door. I’m a huge believer that hospitality is not only important, but commanded by Scripture. (Albeit, comes in many forms.) But, I’m an introvert. The friends I envied were extroverts. Me trying to imitate their level of hospitality would be like a fish trying to take an evening stroll. It would kill me. And to them, my level of interaction might be suffocating.

Do what works within your parameters of comfort and don’t push yourself out of comparison.

2. Let go of your toddler’s messy dresser drawers

Yes I said it. Let it go. I know. There is something inherently calming about neatly stacked clothes and order in all things. Stacks of perfect laundry make me happy. But some things have to be postponed to another season. If your toddler’s clothes are hidden in a drawer, we can let this one go until he’s old enough to keep them folded himself. Yes, what I mean is, if you come to my house right now and open my 4 year-old’s drawers, you will find a mess. I’m talking a mayhem of t shirts and jeans. And guess what? No one would know that if I hadn’t told you.

After years of trying to keep toddler’s drawers neat and orderly, because I felt like I needed to, I realized that it was sucking up unneeded stress and time. They change clothes a gazillion times a day. What I have done is taught him to put his clothes in his drawer for now, instead of throwing them in the floor. That’s a start. Soon, I’ll fold everything neatly and teach him to keep it that way. I probably could have already. Maybe I will after I finish writing this post. But right now the drawer is closed and it makes my life easier.

3. Let go of the obsession over bath time

It works out so nicely that research backs up my own experience on this one. Did you know that Americans over-bathe their children and it’s not healthy? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, kids aged 6-11 only need bathed around 1-2 times per week, with a few exceptions. And there’s this bit about the dangers of over-clean, by allergy expert from the University of Michigan, Mike McMorris:  “We’ve developed a cleanlier lifestyle and our bodies no longer need to fight germs as much as they did in the past. As a result, the immune system has shifted away from fighting infection to developing more allergic tendencies.”

Daily bathing can cause skin irritants in some children as well as the dangers of a lowered immune system. So, if you’re stressing because you think your child is supposed to have a bath every day, relax. He’s not. God has created amazingly efficient systems in our bodies meant to make our lives easier.

4. Don’t forget to use your crock pot

Do yourself a favor, and research some crock pot menus, and utilize your crock pot several times a week. While you’re at it, if you don’t already, jot down a menu plan for the week on Sunday evening to keep your from standing in your pantry door, praying for a miracle at 5 p.m. Don’t forget the simple meals like potato soup, breakfast-for-dinner, and casseroles from leftovers.

5. Don’t forget to put the big rocks in first

You know that analogy, right? If you try to fill a jar with tiny gravel, then put big rocks in, they won’t fit. The gravel is the little stuff of life, the big rocks are, well, the big stuff of life. If you put the big rocks in first, the gravel still fits in around it. It’s a law of nature. So decide, for you, what the big stuff is, and do that first. The other stuff will find its place. By the way, I would include prayer time as one of the biggies.

6. Don’t forget to make the most of multi-tasking

Some are better than others, but multi-tasking can save you a lot of time and stress. When my mother calls in the morning, I want to talk to her. If I’m able, I answer the phone. But while I’m on with her, I make up my bed, put away clothes/clutter, maybe empty the dishwasher. If I’m getting ready in the morning, I may have a child join me in the bathroom to read while I fix my hair. Think of ways you can double up on activities.

7. Don’t do more than is within your job description

Moms wear many hats, it’s true. But maybe sometimes a few too many. I’ve heard moms talk of doing all the chores, all the cooking and all the cleaning because “that’s my job.” (Have mercy on her children.) But it’s not entirely. Our job is to guide, train, manage, oversee, and work alongside our children. We are primarily responsible for doing all those things, but we fail if we don’t require our children to do them too. And though it does reduce stress by spreading out the work load, that’s a perk; it truly is our job to equip our children by teaching them to do things for themselves, and for their family. Delegate. It’s good for everyone.

8. Respond the right way to whining/complaining

It’s every mom’s bane in life–the whining, complaining, crying–but we usually don’t handle it the right way. (Tip: A clenched-teeth, hair-pulling “Stop it or I’m gonna lose my mind!” is not the most effective method.) Even for very little ones, training them to not whine or complain takes a little deliberate effort, but isn’t hard. You simply give them opposite of what they’re whining for, and/or remove them entirely from the room/situation. Even as my 2 year old cries because I won’t put a diaper on him (Please, Lord, help me get him potty trained), I simply tell him he must cry in his room and he can come out when he’s done. It almost always works.

If an older child complains or makes excuses about not doing a chore, I add another one. If they argue about that, still another one. If they whine about oatmeal for breakfast, I give them a choice. “Oatmeal or nothing until lunch.” I let them have a voice, don’t get me wrong, but outright excuses and complaining I try to meet with an effective deterrent.

9. Let go of stuff you don’t need

De-cluttering on a regular basis will naturally create more calm and less stress. Keep a box or bag handy to toss the unwanted, unneeded or unloved. Keep it simple. Also, keep your counters (especially in the kitchen) free from any objects you don’t really need and use on a daily basis. Visual clutter can create inward stress. A basket for incoming mail, a basket for things that need to be put away–look around and find the problem areas then find simple solutions for them. I loved Ann Voskamp’s post about keeping order. And we implement one of her ideas–lockers for each child.

What are your stresses and/or your solutions? This is motherhood uniting.

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25 Responses to “9 Ways for Moms to Let Go of (Unneeded) Stress”

  1. Christy says:

    Thank-you, Kelly! These tips are so helpful!

  2. Megan says:

    I definitely needed to read this today! Thank you so much for sharing. Some things I’ve had to skip doing (but wish I could keep up with) are vacuuming and even bathroom cleaning. With three kids 3 1/2 – 3 months, and physically needing to rest in the afternoons, it’s just not doable most weeks. This post was very encouraging!

    • Megan,

      I’ve had many nights where I clean the bathroom while a little one is playing in the bath tub. You can at least do a quickie clean, wiping down surface areas with a baby wipe, then spraying the toilet with bleach. Sometimes I think a compromise goes a long way.

  3. Nastashia says:

    Great article! You really nailed it 🙂
    Momma of 6 here –
    I think another “bane” in this is the under lying culprit of “people pleasing”
    Wanting to live up to everyone else’s expectations.
    That is it for me anyways 🙂
    God bless you,

    • Nastashia,

      Yep, you’re right. We *have* to let get go of the people-pleasing. When I struggle with that, I like to recite the verse: “For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” John 12:43

  4. 6 arrows says:

    A good and freeing list. However, I am sorry to have to shoot down one of the items thereon — multitasking. 😉

    “Multitasking” is rather a misnomer. There’s research that shows our brains don’t really multitask in the sense we tend to think of the word.

    This is a good article on the subject: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-wise/201209/the-true-cost-multi-tasking

    However, the #3 point in the article that explains how one can cope with all the input and distractions in our lives (which tempt us to multitask to try getting it all done) goes along well with your #5 above: putting the big rocks in first.

    From the link:

    #3: Work on your most important tasks first — I think one of the reasons that we give in to multi-tasking is that we feel more and more anxious as the day goes on that we have not accomplished what we wanted to, or what was important to us. So identify at the start of each day (or better yet, at the end of the day before) one or two really important things that you want to accomplish during that one day. Then do those tasks first. The sense of relief and accomplishment is immense, and you will find that you are more relaxed as the day goes on. You will not feel the anxious drive to do more and more and more, and it will be easier to resist multi-tasking.

    So sit down, Kelly, put your feet up, and have a nice phone conversation with your mom when she calls, and give her your full attention while you still have her. I’d call that one of the big rocks when we have aging parents.

    (A gentle exhortation from an older sister in Christ who doesn’t know how much more time she has with her parents — 75 and almost 86.)

    • 😀 Now that’s a good word.

    • HeatherHH says:

      I’ve definitely noticed that often when I multitask I am not giving as much focus as I should to something. But, there are still real ways to multitask that don’t have any effect. Note the linked article said the research shows people can attend to only one *cognitive* task at a time.

      When I talk on the phone, I often instinctively find myself walking back and forth (on the porch in good weather, inside in bad) without even noticing. So a long phone call with my mom can end up being my exercise for the day. Or, if you have a little one that likes to cuddle, phone time might be a good time to cuddle with them.

      Of course, there are also tasks that aren’t completely 100% mindless, but are still not truly cognitive tasks, like making your bed and emptying the dishwasher. Doing one of those simultaneously with a cognitive task like talking on the phone may be much faster and meet sufficient quality standards. If it’s a routine call with my mom (i.e. not hashing out major issues), then I don’t see a huge loss with doing low-thought tasks like the above. I often talk with my kids while doing those sorts of tasks. Now, anytime I’ve tried to do something like balance the checkbook, or write an email, or check something online while on the phone, I have noticed the huge drop in effectiveness. But that’s trying to double up cognitive tasks.

      • 6 arrows says:

        LOL, I sometimes pace the floor, too, when I’m talking on the phone. 😉

        You’re right about the linked article distinguishing between performing two cognitive tasks, and doing one cognitive task along with something else that requires little to no thought. However, the author, after stating the exception that becoming very practiced and good at doing a physical task can give the ability to do that and a cognitive task simultaneously without a problem, did go on to say, “Then again, maybe there isn’t an exception…”

        She went on to quote research showing that people walking while talking on their cell phones showed diminished attention to their surroundings.

        I’ve seen this. I was driving in a nearby city a while back and saw a pedestrian crossing in a crosswalk and talking on her phone. One driver who was making a turn didn’t see her at first, and had to slow way down to avoid hitting her.

        She walked on, appearing oblivious to the fact that, among the busy traffic patterns, someone came close to hitting her.

        One can presume that, as an adult, she’d been walking and talking for many years, but she appeared not to notice the danger she had been in when something out of the ordinary happened while participating in activities she was probably quite experienced in.

        So while I agree with most of what you said, Heather, I’m not sure I could say as confidently as you do that “there are still real ways to multitask that don’t have any effect.”

        After 45 years of playing piano, I’m still waiting for that first time I can go onstage and forget there is an audience listening. 🙂

  5. Kim M. says:

    Great ideas!

  6. Jill says:

    Loved this entire post! Especially the introvert/hospitality one. I’m also an introvert and have trouble myself at gatherings that last more than a couple of hours-this makes the holidays w family difficult and with an extrovert husband even moreso.
    I’m a mama to 5 little ones kindergarten and under-my energy for hospitality is abt zero at this stage of life!

  7. 6 arrows says:

    As an older mother, if I could add another “Let go of…” to this list, it would be “Let go of your kids as they reach adulthood.”

    This, of course, is a process, but it is sometimes hard to stand aside and let them make their own choices. We can hope they will look to us for guidance, seeking our advice well into adulthood, but they will falter or fail sometimes, or choose differently than we might have, or what have you.

    Letting go of the stressful, “Why are they doing that?”, and our eagerness to control, or to prevent difficult consequences for them, adds to the stress all around. They need opportunity to spread their wings, even if (when) they fall to the ground on occasion.

    And we should also let go of the fear of what other people might think of us if our adult children make unwise choices.

    It is very easy to become prideful if all our children are walking with the Lord, and worried about our “image” if one or more of them are not.

    These are attitudes to let go.

    • 6 arrows says:

      Oops, I didn’t say something right in the third paragraph. “Letting go of the stressful, ‘Why are they doing that?’…adds to the stress all around.”

      Nope. It’s the middle part of that sentence, “our eagerness to control, or to prevent difficult consequences for them,” that adds to the stress.

      Letting go of those worries and controlling actions is a GOOD thing.

      Hope that’s clearer. 😉

  8. Blessed says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with St Thomas More Academy. There are few things more stressful than a cluttered, messy home, and not being able to find things because of disorganization. And the peace and joy you feel from having an orderly, neat and organized home is amazing. Not to feel condemned if you don’t have it, but have a goal to shoot for. This has been repeatedly backed up by research.

  9. Blessed says:

    Where are St Thomas More ACADEMY comments about order and organization?

  10. Erin says:

    God’s timing is so gracious with this post. I had a check up yesterday and my normally good blood pressure was high-severe hypertension high. As heart disease runs in my family I got anxious. A recheck at the end of the appointment was still quite high. Good news is my thyroid function is great! As my weight is ok and all else is good, the doc suspects it is stress. We are going through major changes now and I probably am not handling it well. Add in the little things that I stress about and it’s not healthy for me at all.

    Thanks for the reminder and advise!

  11. Peggy Rickard says:

    I am going to try your suggestions for sure. It will be a life saver for me. Even though I am ill I am still trying to do it all and fix it all and its only wiping me out.

  12. Natalie says:

    Great advice! I often have to restrain myself from doing something while a child is talking to me. There are always so many things to be done.
    Question about personality…we have 4 boys at home. I do not function well with constant noise and movement. I am pretty sure that I have some sensory integration issues. It seems to me that my brain partially shuts down when there is too much stimulation and I can not focus.
    For many years, I felt guilty that I could not handle the “chaos”, but I am starting to think that it is something that I cannot change. Not that I use it as an excuse to sin, but I am introverted as well and sometimes resent my boys for all the stress generated by their movement, messes, conflict, and noise.
    In your opinion, is this just one of my weaknesses in which God’s strength may be manifest? Or do you have advice about how I may better cope?
    Of course I strive to control the chaos, but as anyone with multiple boys knows…boys will be boys 🙂

    • Natalie,

      I have no doubts that people are wired differently, and as such, some people do struggle with sensory overload. I am one of them. If the exhaust fan is on over the stove, it can be enough to send me over the edge if my nerves are frayed. It’s almost comical that I have a house full of kids. I do consider something God is using to work on me, BUT, I understand my weakness and try to soften it, practically. Ever so often, we have a reminder meeting about areas of the house. I asked for the living room/upstairs area to be a “calm place” where we use normal voices, we don’t run or horse play, etc. Besides my own weakness, I think it’s important to teach this anyway, and to have a sense of serenity in any home. I tell them that if they need to be loud and romp around, they may do it more downstairs or outside.

      If they break the rule, I usually just send them to one of those places for a while. And if all that fails, retreating to the bedroom/bathroom for a short time can provide some temporary relief.

      • Natalie says:

        Lol, the exhaust fan..I totally get it. My husband brought home an automatic vacuum for me. I felt like I was losing it after a few minutes of the droning noise :). Thanks honey, but no thanks!
        Our dishwasher cannot run during the day either, though I never really understood why, except that it causes me to feel anxious. It is helpful to me to know 1)that I am not alone, and 2)that you can still function in a houseful of children!
        I really like the idea of having a designated place for noisy play. I sometimes feel guilty for sending them away, but your answer helped me to see another side of the issue. It is about respect for others and the serenity of the home. Thanks Kelly!

    • D. says:

      Natalie,

      I think many mothers feel the same as you do about struggling to handle the noise level of children – I sure do. Part of being a mom wants to understand that kids will be kids (which means volume), but children also need to learn how to use inside voices and be respectful of others. We live in a smaller, two-storey town home, with horrible soundproofing/insulation, so there really is nowhere in our home that allows me to simply let the kids be overly loud. We also have neighbors on either side to consider. I think we have to take everything into consideration. If you have a basement, that would be a great place to send your boys to get their “craziness” out or a safe outdoor space. For myself, I’ve come to the conviction that as much as kids love to be rowdy, there is no reason for them to yell, scream or be excessively loud even when playing. They can still have fun (in their actions) without needing to all yell at the same time.

      I understand for my own children that it’s hard to be “cooped” up in smaller spaces most of the day as we homeschool, but this is all part of character building and training them to prefer others. It’s challenging enough to be a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother and while I do let my kids be silly, I am always reminding them to keep their voices down. 🙂

      • Natalie says:

        Thank you D. Recently we camped out. My husband realized that even out in the middle of nowhere, we tended to hush the children. Once we realized we were telling them to be quiet unnecessarily, we had to make a conscious choice to let them have fun, without worrying about voice level :).
        I agree that they do need to learn to respect others and to be self-controlled. I guess I always thought it was selfish/unloving for me to want quietness, but I see that it is more about them learning to consider the needs of others!!

  13. Kelly L says:

    Great list!

    If one homeschools, I would add let go of ridiculous expectations there too.

    My now 15 year old had a bad injury right before we were to start her Freshman year last year. The pain was so much that concentration and comprehension of a subject was almost impossible. If the pain was so bad she needed a pain pill (which was almost always), forget about it. Then she had her first surgery and had short term memory loss for 3 months from the anesthesia. Fast forward to this August where she had the same surgery because she re-tore the labrum almost immediately after surgery after being too aggressive in PT, but they didn’t catch it until 9 months later, when she stopped progressing. Another pain, pain pill, and short term memory situation.

    I was so busy trying to keep her schooling on schedule, we were going to do 2 years in one as soon as her memory came back. It took a friend to help me see I was being dumb. My husband and I decided she will finish her Freshman Year by August of next year and just graduate a year later, at 19.

    Her acne cleared up drastically 4 days after hearing the news. My stress went to nothing. And she’s excited that this means she only missed her first year of High School Softball, not 2 years, which had been depressing her. (Don’t worry, not clinically depressed, but I have her on St John’s Wort, and that helped her out of the funk)

    Sorry long story, just to show how much expectations of schooling can cloud vision.
    🙂

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