Stressing out about Stress

Stressing out about Stress

I am productive. I get shit done. I also have a ‘type A’ personality. I’m one of those people who does our meal plan each week, makes memory books for the kids, and gets most items on my to-do list crossed off. To some, this sounds great. I often hear, “Wow, I wish I could be more organized like you!”.  You know what I wish though? That I could stress less and switch it off–be a ‘type B’ for a day!

I see moms who seem so chill. They have no idea what they’re having for dinner that night and they’re cool with it. They sound so spontaneous and relaxed. I want to be like them! With my personality, comes stress. With being a mom, also comes stress! This is not ideal and let me tell you why.

This is what stress does to our bodies

Our nervous system regulates all of our bodily functions and can be broken down into two divisions:

  1. Parasympathetic
  2. Sympathetic. 

The parasympathetic nervous system is the more “chill” of the two. It’s responsible for calming our body so we can digest food, produce hormones, eliminate waste, and keep everything moving along. The sympathetic nervous system is the “bull in the china shop”. It comes in and creates the fight or flight response.

The body needs a balance of the two. If there’s too much parasympathetic input then things may not get done quick enough. If there’s too much sympathetic input, there’s not enough attention to detail and tasks get rushed. The nervous system is highly adaptable. This mean these two systems take turns at being dominant in our body.

How does this relate to us as moms?

What division of the nervous system do you think is most often dominant?

We have so much going on as new moms; laundry, meals, organizing the household, errands, and not to mention a baby crying! This creates stress and puts the flight or fight response in the lead position. The business of being a mom doesn’t go away, obviously. So the sympathetic system keeps dominating over its calming counterpart. Over time, this unbalance can lead to negative symptoms like:

  • Irritability
  • Difficulty losing weight or weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Skin issues
  • Poor sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Digestive problems
  • Decreased sex drive

Feeling stressed just reading that list? Never fear, there is good news! Remember our nervous system is always changing. So, you can change this! Learning to balance the two parts of the nervous system can help bring your parasympathetic nervous system up!

Here are 5 ways to be calmer:

  1. Activity. Yoga, gentle swimming, walking; all will help calm your nervous system. Be mindful, activities that make you sweat are creating the fight or flight response. Do a balance of activities. 
  2. Sleep. When you sleep your body heals itself. Try getting to bed a bit earlier at night.
  3. Limit your coffee and sweets intake. These will increase the fight or flight response.
  4. Do something that feels good! Get a massage, go for a float session, or sit and read a book.
  5. Breathe. This is arguably the best way to calm down the nervous system. Whether it’s 5 big deep breaths throughout the day or mindful breathing in yoga or meditation, just do it!

Did you know your pelvic floor holds stress?

If your body is feeling stressed, there’s a good chance the muscles and nerves in your pelvis are on are especially feeling it. The pelvic floor is an area where people tend to hold stress. Constant stimulation down there can lead to pain, tense muscles, and recurrent symptoms of bladder or yeast infections. Stress reduction is a common treatment technique I use for my clients. 

I have come to realize I will not change my personality. I will always be someone that lives in the high-stress zone. However, I have learned to manage it by carving out some time nearly every day to be calm and stay as close to my balance point as possible. 

What can you do to stay balanced?

Melissa Dessaulles
mel@mommyberries.com

Melissa is a pelvic health physiotherapist in Kelowna, BC. She is an active mom of 2 young kids. Her own experiences with post partum recovery have made her passionate about helping other moms.

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