Do you feel like your life is out of order? Are you on a merry-go-round and can’t get off? I was, too – and for a long time, actually. Here are 20 guaranteed stress busters I’ve compiled for busy Catholic moms.
I was an 80s kid, and I played on an 80s playground.
You know the kind I mean: one part searing hot metal; one part defiance of death; one part unadulterated fun. The slide must have been 15 feet tall and hotter than the surface of the sun. The rusty swing chains were perfect for wrapping around the top pole. Erstwhile metal animals bounced on questionable swings, grinning a faintly sinister, buck-toothed smile.
And then there was the merry-go-round.
Optimized for speed. Optimized for heat absorption. Optimized for maximum thrills.
My friends and I were neither bright nor safe. We would grip the rails and let our heads hang over the guillotine edge, eyes dancing in a whirlwind of circular space and time.
It was total chaos, and at the time, I thought it was great fun.
As an adult, though, I’ve grown increasingly less enamored with it.
My life has been a metal merry-go-round from the 80s lately, and I’ll be honest. I’m more than ready to get off.
From Childhood Joy to Grown-up Stress
Somewhere on the path to adulthood, I traded in sketchy metal playgrounds for a college degree, teaching career, and a happy ‘till-death-do-us-part. I gave my yes willingly and wholeheartedly to that last one: sixteen years and three kids later I’m a better woman than I ever was.
But I’m also awash in stress and anxiety, which is not what my fiat was for. My surrender should be to faith and sanctifying grace through my vocation, not to the thrall of my kids’ struggles and triumphs, our financial circumstances, or unmet, ridiculous expectations I seem to have set for himself.
I’m not alone in my struggles as the statistics on stress in motherhood point out. In 2009, the Pew Research Center released the results of a study on motherhood and levels of stress. While the numbers are troubling I can’t say it’s horribly surprising that 82% of stay-at-home moms and 86% of working mothers report high levels of stress. Working moms are also 40% more likely to feel consistently rushed and harried; those numbers drop to 25% and 40% respectively for working dads.
What’s at the bottom of this stress and anxiety?
Why are we clinging to a horribly grown-up version of a carousel completely unable to get off? For some of us, it’s overcommitment – we have a hard time saying no. For still others, it’s ridiculously high expectations, difficult living situations, decisions about careers, our families of origin, or a child’s needs at home.
We have two choices in the wake of these situations. We can let the stress eat us alive. Or (and this is preferable) we can make positive changes and develop better coping skills.
Here’s how to bust through all that stress.
Let There Be Order: 20 Guaranteed Stress Busters for Busy Catholic Moms
(The following are actions you can take at home to reduce global anxiety and stress. If your stress level is unmanageable, your anxiety prevents you from participating in daily activities, or you have thought about hurting yourself or someone else, please seek medical advice immediately).
What is causing you stress? Take a few quiet moments to inventory the pain points you’ve been experiencing (you can find ideas here and here). Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, take a deep breath, and write them down.
Narrow it Down
Looking at a list of stressors can be, well, stressful. If you’re like me, you feel like you need to tackle all of them at once. You don’t, actually, and I recommend prioritizing your list of difficulties. Which do you have the most control over? Which stressors, if alleviated, will give you the quickest bang for your buck? Bolster yourself with a big win in the beginning so you are more likely to carry on.
Take Action and Enlist Help
This is the hard part, at least for me, anyway. I don’t like asking for help. But I’ve come to realize that whether it be through physical or spiritual assistance, I’m much more likely to make progress if I’m not trying to do it on my own.
What saint can you choose as an intercessor? What Scripture verses give you the most peace? Can you sneak out for daily Mass or go by yourself one Sunday? What about Confession and/or Adoration? When was the last time you went?
Don’t forget to:
- Books that give spiritual direction (like the Bible, of course). I also recommend the following:
- They Will Be Done: Letters to Persons in the World (St. Francis de Sales)
- 33 Days to Morning Glory (Fr. Michael Gaitley)
- The Mother’s Manual (Fr. Fancis Coomes)
What tasks can you delegate to other people? For what chores can you enlist the kids? What commitments can you walk away from to make more space for breathing room?
Don’t forget to
- Seek professional help if you need it
- Find time for self care
- Learn how to say no
- Unplug from social media
- Use deep breathing exercises in tense moments
- Lower your expectations if they aren’t realistic
Now here is where I make one giant caveat – these things are all much easier said than done.
I know, because I give myself this advice every single day and not much changes.
The truth is, some of us need a little help getting help.
Fiat Ordo: A Guide for Faithful Moms with Busy Lives
This past summer, my colleague Elayne Miller of Annunciation Designs wrote a guidebook for Catholic moms. She called it Fiat Ordo: A Guide for Faithful Moms with Busy Lives. I got the book while we were on vacation and devoured it in one sitting.
The next day, I was putting Elayne’s principles to use.
What’s so great about Fiat Ordo?
As a big picture thinker who is easily overwhelmed, I’ve learned I need to break changes into small, actionable steps. Bonus points if those steps are laid out for me by someone who
- understands my situation and has lived it
- found a workable solution she wants to share and has
- rooted that solution in our mutual Catholic faith
In Fiat Ordo: A Guide for Faithful Moms with Busy Lives, work from home mom and small business owner Elayne Miller offers a 28-day journey toward a more fulfilling, ordered life. Coupling insight from personal experiences with journal prompts and graphic organizers, Miller first turns her readers’ attention to the discovery of pain points: those issues and circumstances which bring us the most stress. She then applies Scripture and examples from the lives of the saints to help readers find practical solutions to the difficulties they face.
As I worked through Fiat Ordo, my greatest source of stress became clear. Chores have long been a struggle in our household and I seem to end up doing the lion’s share. By the time I finished reading and reflecting on the book’s pages, I had a new plan of action for keeping our house in order (which, coincidentally, is going quite well).
Clocking in at 65 pages, the book is slim enough to read all at once. I would suggest taking the recommended 28 days to go through it, however. Miller’s pacing is impeccable; her worksheet pages encourage contemplation.
Our busy lives may feel out of control and chaotic, but we can learn how to slow them down.
We can find peace with a toolbox of guaranteed stress busters and climb off that merry-go-round for good.