BY Mrs J Woodley

“LifeLines is a monthly column dedicated to addressing issues of mental, behavioural, and social health. The column appears on the 1st weekend of the month, and is written by professionals in the field of social work, mental health, and community medicine”.

Motherhood can be challenging at times, and even more so for single mothers who balance the daily responsibilities of parenting alone. When personal, work, and family obligations are added to the mix, mothers can feel ‘out of control’, and may become physically or emotionally sick or take out their frustrations on those around them.

It’s important that stress is managed so that mothers can keep healthy, while continuing to function in their different roles. Below are some tips that can help mothers manage daily stresses:

1. Get enough Sleep – What’s the minimum amount of sleep you need in order to feel alert the next day? Set your bedtime to at least get this amount of sleep (and if possible, shoot for 7-8 hours). A rested body and mind increases your ability to manage stress.

2. Do something that recharges you – What activities refresh or relax you? Is it watching T.V, taking a walk, sipping hot tea, or gardening? Take some (guilt-free) time to partake in relaxing activities on a regular basis. It’s healthy for you and gives you the energy to take care of other things too.

3. Start and end the day peacefully – If you can, start your day before the children do. Take the first few minutes of the morning for you! Saying a prayer, having a quiet breakfast, or getting an early start to your morning routine are good ‘start your day’ options.

Unwind peacefully at the end of the day too. Set a reasonable bedtime for your children and stick to it, so that you can use the time afterwards to complete leftover tasks and relax.

4. Manage your time well – Try to get the most out of your hours at work and at home. Avoid procrastinating on important activities, but don’t waste time on things that can wait. Make a list of priorities/reminders for the week and check it off as you complete them.

5. Plan ahead – Anticipate ‘to do’s’ and prepare ahead of time. For example, picking out and ironing your next day’s clothes or putting together your children’s lunchboxes the night before, can help ease the stress of your morning routine.

6. Keep positive -Try to keep things in perspective by remembering all the positive things about your life and by looking for the ‘silver lining’ in seemingly hopeless situations. Maintain your sense of humour. Laughter is a great stress-buster!

7. Try relaxation exercises – In moments of stress, try doing breathing exercises. Take a deep breath for a count of 8, hold for a count of 5, and exhale slowly for a count of 8. Deep breathing helps to relax your body and calm anxious feelings. For other ways to relax, try retreating to a quiet room, taking a brisk walk, visualizing a peaceful scene, or listening to music that you enjoy.

8. Connect with others – spend quality time connecting with your children, friends, family, and other loved ones. This can help distract you from personal problems, while providing time to relax, get support, and enjoy the company of others.

9. Express yourself! – Talk out your feelings to a trusted friend, family member, partner, or counsellor/pastor. Writing out your thoughts and feelings on paper is a good way to express yourself too.

10. Schedule time away from the children – if you can, arrange to have some ‘alone time’, by having children stay with their father,
a friend, or family member for a while.

11. Exercise – if time permits, incorporate regular activity into your schedule. This can be a simple as taking a walk (with or without the children), stretching at the end of the day, or doing an online work-out video twice a week.

12. Don’t worry about things that can wait – While thinking ahead can be useful, try not to focus on issues that you can deal with later on.

13. Set boundaries/know your limits – Committing to extra responsibilities because of the fear of saying ‘no’ is a surefire recipe for stress! If you are unable to take on a task, decline politely, or suggest someone else. Set limits for family friends and friends who encroach on your life and bring added stress. Don’t be afraid to set limits with your children too, by asking them to wait (if possible) if you need to finish something important.

14. Share responsibilities – If your children are old enough, let them help out with minor household duties, like clearing up their toys, tidying a room, or washing dishes. Also, see if a friend, family member, or partner, might be willing to help with particular tasks, such as cleaning on weekends, or picking up children from school.

15. Connect with your faith – Reading the Bible, talking to God, and
fellowshipping with others can provide inspiration, hope and strength to carry on, and to continue the important God-given task of mothering.

Mrs Woodley is a Counsellor at the St. Kitts Counselling Center

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