As parents we know what it means to have multiple daily tasks and obligations on our minds. We regularly deal with the problems and challenges that arise both professionally and domestically, and we attend to the physical, emotional, and intellectual needs of our children. We are in a permanent state of alertness. And while we plan our days and weeks (some more efficiently than others), a sense of overwhelm is not uncommon. Ongoing stress, mental and emotional strain, lack of sleep and unhealthy eating habits can also lead to minor health issues such as headaches, which decrease performance in daily life and can add an extra layer of pressure that will lead to more stress, creating a vicious cycle.
Busy parents rarely have long periods of time to devote to themselves. On top of that, many of us, as soon as we have a chance to relax, end up cleaning, organising the house, finishing small chores, doing some shopping and taking care of other aspects of our lives that have little to do with rest and relaxation.
If instead of taking a well-deserved break we end up using those few moments to do less attractive activities, or we wait for the ideal time to unwind, we will not only feel stressed but also frustrated.
Following, a few simple strategies that you can put into practice anywhere that will help you reduce built up tension.
5 ways to release tension anywhere
1. Repeat a mantra:
The word mantra can be translated as “tool for the mind.”  Mantras are special vibrational sounds that have effects on all aspects of the person, not just the mind.
Choose a word or short phrase that makes you feel empowered, safe, happy and positive. Take a moment to sit in a comfortable upright position, close your eyes or soften you gaze, take a few deep breaths and start repeating the chosen word or sentence (audibly or silently) until you feel calmer.
You can also select to complete one of the following sentences:
“I’m grateful for…”
“I let go…”
This basic aspect of human behaviour is simple and easy to use, but no less effective in eradicating tension. It is an instant mood lifter, even if you don’t feel like laughing. If you’re struggling to find a reason to turn the corners of your mouth upwards, think, what has made you laugh in the past? A movie? A podcast? A book? A friend? Your partner? After a laugh you can make even the most serious situations feel lighter. A sense of humour can help you change the way you look at difficulties, and sometimes you can even change someone else’s day.
3. Move your body:
From a short walk around the block (with the benefit of getting fresh air) to jumping up and down or shaking your arms and legs, movement often has the ability to help us release tension and instantly de-stress our mind and muscles. Set a timer and repeat throughout the day.
4. Deep breathing:
Although the respiratory system operates unconsciously most of the time, breathing is the only autonomic body function that we can easily control voluntarily. We can change the rate, the volume, the sound, intensity and vary the degree of passivity or activity. Breathing rhythmically and consciously can help us regulate stress (which trigger the “fight, flight or freeze” response of the body), reduce anxiety and calm the nervous system.
5. Hand massage:
Whether at home, on public transport or at work, carry a small bottle of hand cream or better still, prepare a mix with a carrier oil (such as jojoba, sweet almond or olive) and add a few drops of your favourite (organic) essential oils: 12 drops per 30 ml of carrier oil, 6 drops if you are pregnant (please check for contraindicated oils). Lavender is a favourite, but it can be anything that relaxes you and transports you to a peaceful plane. Use to massage your palms and fingers for 5 minutes. Once you are done, place your hands palm up on your lap, close your eyes and notice the sensations.
Remember: Although the overwhelm is real, your mind is yours and you have power over it. Just as you choose what you read, what you watch, what kind of information you consume, you can choose your thoughts, always. If you are one of those people whose mind is racing when life is too hectic, you can also, with some work and patience, learn to turn it off and create mental space.
If you want to experience a short but effective daily practice, join my 5-day Self-Care Challenge for Busy Mums!
For more de-stressing strategies check this other post.
1. Stephens, Mark. 2010. Teaching Yoga: Essential foundations and Techniques. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books. P 241.
2. Vivekananda, Rishi. 2005. Practical Yoga Psychology. Munger, Bihar: Yoga Publications Trust. P 242.
3. Stephens, Mark. 2010, p 266.