Stressing Out

by Meri on July 19, 2012

Stress is a topic that has been on my mind recently. I’m feeling a lot of it having three 2-year-olds running around while moving into a new house. My cortisol levels are on over-drive and it affects my mood and sleep. In my opinion, dealing with toddlers all day isn’t the same type of stress as facing a big presentation for work. It doesn’t feel like a big pressure building, instead I’d describe it more of a constant nerve rattling that goes on and on until it’s time for the little ones to go to bed. One type of stress isn’t necessarily worse than the other, they are just different.

Although there are many, many great moments…my days like many of yours also include screaming temper tantrums, testing boundaries (CONSTANTLY), fighting, pushing, taking toys from each other with ensuing screaming and crying, more screaming and crying and oh…did I already mention the screaming and crying? It’s a strange land to live in where doing simple tasks like making lunch or going to the bathroom include little people following you and whining about something someone did to them, “THE BOY DID IT!!!!” Or that they need a drink right at that moment, “MILK!!!!” For me it feels like having three different radio stations on at the same time on full blast. A different kind of stress, but still likely doing a number on your body.

Trying to unpack a house? Forget it. This is the slowest unpacking I’ve ever experienced and makes me really feel for those military families who have to do it frequently.

The bottom line: Stress is bad. Over time chronic stress can:

- increase inflammation leaving you at greater risk of chronic diseases

- increase depression and anxiety

- reduce sleep

- increase your risk for heart disease, heart attacks and strokes

Walking, exercise, yoga, meditation and deep breathing are all great stress relievers, but when you’re facing a day with toddlers there’s not a ton of time for many of these things except for deep breathing. I know all about the benefits of deep breathing, I’ve taught it to my clients, written articles about it, I even teach my kids to do it when they are in the red zone, but I don’t do it very often.

Recently I was working on some continuing education for my profession and read the book The Ultra Mind Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman. He of course wrote about deep breathing, but for some reason the way he discussed it stuck with me. You know how you can hear the same message over and over, but one day it just resonates with you? After telling you to deep breathe for 5 breaths he writes:

“You have just activated the vagus nerve, which flows from your brain through your neck, right into your chest, and through your diaphragm. So when you take a deep breath and relax and expand your diaphragm, your vagus nerve  is stimulated, you instantly turn on the parasympathetic nervous system, your cortisol levels are reduced, and your brain heals. ”  – passage from the Ultra Mind Solution from Dr. Mark Hyman

I think about this all the time. All I have to do is take some deep breaths and create that sort of change in my body. Remarkable when you think about it. I have to send a great big thank you to Dr. Hyman because I think I will remember to take a few moments each day to take some deep breaths.

Other than deep breathing, the good news about toddlers is they come with their own stress reducing capabilities. When Tiny sees that I’m stressed, frustrated or internalizing things (as I like to call it), she comes up to me and with that sweet little voice says, “happy mama”. That also melts the stress away in an instant! They make them terribly cute at this age for a reason!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

esther July 20, 2012 at 1:21 am

I have the The Ultra Mind Solution and few other books along those lines. I also have a $400 macerating juicer, and tried every yoga video and class out there. For some reason, the stress always finds me, and I lose my way.

I can’t even fathom what my 3 two-year-olds will be like while I’m working on a dissertation!! (That is, if I don’t drop out first, which I think about doing every single day.) Sigh.

I’m already to see the first signs of what you are talking about. I get so frustrated I have to walk away and Jason takes over. I really appreciate your honest posts. It makes me feel like I’m not the only one having a hard time!! :)

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Nina August 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Oh man thanks for reminding me to take deep breaths. I totally know what you mean and I don’t know why I don’t take deep breaths more often. Or even just sit and do nothing but close my eyes and breathe. I totally feel an instant change in my mood when I take a deep breath. And like you said, chronic stress is a big no-no, so any way to alleviate it is good.

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