Mother’s Day rightly brings with it a lot of flowers, candy, handmade cards, and commercials starring well-scrubbed, radiant moms looking adoringly at their kids. This is all lovely and good, but it’s not the full picture of motherhood, is it?
The other side of the coin is the go-clean-your-room, do-your-homework, eat-your veggies mothering. The part of motherhood that pushes you to do things that you might not want to do, but that she knows is better for you. It’s this unyielding authority that insists you do better, be better, try harder. You know she’s right, and you love her for it, even if you don’t always love her the moment she says it.
These days you may not have anyone who both nurtures and nags you like your own mother (maybe you miss it, or maybe she still does it!), but that’s exactly the combination you need as you work to manage your stress and boost your health. In other words, you need to be your own mom, and heal your own stress in the process. Here’s how.
Practice patience. Self-improvement is hard enough as it is; it doesn’t need to come from a punishing or judgmental place. Imagine a mom at bath time, watching her toddler try, over and over again, to pour water from one measuring cup into another, and missing, again and again. She watches, patiently and with calm presence, fully believing in her child’s ability to learn and grow over time. She wipes up spilled water, hands the measuring cup back to the kid when he drops it, and laughs with delight when he manages the feat.
Celebrate small successes. Your milestones may not be as awesome as a kid’s first step or first bike ride without training wheels, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t raise the roof when you do achieve. I know, it’s terribly easy to blow past successes; there’s always another mountain to climb. Make it second nature to stop and be thrilled with yourself—you’ll boost and reinforce your own confidence.
Do it because I said so. Mom didn’t need a better excuse than that, and neither do you. Tempted to ditch cycling? Nope. You signed up for class, you show up for class. Want to eat a cupcake for lunch instead of some greens? Not on my watch. Want to snap at a co-worker just because you’re feeling frustrated? You know better than to take your stress out on someone who works just as hard as you do. When you feel yourself giving in to a whiny inner child, call on that simple reason and use it to do what you know is better for you, your health, and your relationships.
Make it a habit. You know mom’s habits a little too well. Because she did the same thing and maybe still does it—for decades on end. Whether it’s the way she does her hair or makes tea. Take a cue from mom and apply habitual behavior to your own self-care. No way you’re rushing mom through her bath, right? Block out time in your schedule–even ten minutes works–for an activity that makes you feel happy, or safe, or confident, and stick by it.
(Read more on turning bad habits into stress-reducing rituals.)
Adopt a mom-like slogan. “Could be worse.” “Early bird gets the worm.” “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Oy, our mothers with their cliched, go-to sayings. And yet they function as a kind of self-strengthening shorthand for parents—and for you as you parent your stressful self. So do that for yourself. Give yourself a hokey mantra to counteract the urge to eat more cookies, watch more tv, pick another fight (and use it often!).
Every mother knows what it is to feel out of energy and patience. But a mother never runs out of love; it’s self-replenishing. This week, treat yourself to that same patience and support, the kind you have shown to your own friends and family, to help you ease the negative effects of stress. This Mother’s Day, celebrate the mom (or mom-like people) in your life, and all the wisdom that she handed down to you.
And while you’re at it, put yourself to some use, would you, and take the garbage out.
(Read more on how changing your thinking can change your life.)
Learn more useful information about stress and your health! Order meQuilibrium’s new book, meQuilibrium: 14 Days to Cooler, Calmer, and Happier, co-authored by meQuilibrium CEO Jan Bruce, Adam Perlman, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, and Andrew Shatté, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer.