The life of a single mother is naturally busy. (Apologies if that’s a huge understatement.) There are so many balls to juggle. From providing clean undies for your kids, to providing a roof over their heads, and everything in between. For this reason, stress relief for single mothers is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
Stress can become such a familiar feeling, that we consider it the norm. A standard part of the single parent package. But, this shouldn't be the case.
The impact of long-term or high-level stress can be extremely damaging. It can manifest with health issues, both mental and physical.
In addition, stress can affect our children, who feed from our emotions and moods. It's one thing me feeling stressed but if my children feel it too, our household is like a collapsing pack of cards.
Can you relate?
But it doesn’t have to be like this. Stress is manageable.
First, you can take preventative measures to stop stress before it comes knocking. You can also learn ways to manage stress when it starts to take over.
In this article, I'm not talking the standard stress tips we hear everyday. I'm talking about unique ways to derail and disengage with stress that will work for busy single mums who are unable to take a three day meditation course or pack our bags and head for a me-time break at a mountain spa.
Are you ready?
Now is the time to take your first steps along the super-chilled, single mama pathway.
Stress relief for single mothers: 15 Unique calming tips
1. Don't dismiss discipline
It’s easy to become lackadaisical about disciplining children when we’re busy, tired or overwhelmed.
Yet, if you let your children opt out of their obedience obligations you are not doing them, or yourself, any favours.
Whether you are shared parenting or a solo mum, get a firm hand on your kids conduct because if they are running you ragged , your life will be Stress Central.
And, do it as early as possible. I know from experience that trying to introduce discipline is harder than starting early and enforcing good behaviour from the get go.
I have found that my children thrive within clear, fair boundaries and set routines. They learn self-control and understand acceptable behaviour.
Consequently, this makes my life easier and less stressful. It’s a win-win.
2. Eliminate your time wasters
A lot of stress is caused by lack of time.
Put simply: If you can save time daily your stress levels will plunge pleasantly.
Contemplate any repetitive tasks you do on a daily basis. Are they taking more time than they should? Can you streamline them?
I used to be the worlds most disorganised grocery shopper. I never wrote a list and meal planning was not in my vocabulary. The end result was about four trips to the supermarket every week. This was not only costly but a huge waste of time. The penny finally dropped while having coffee at a friends where I saw and mocked at her detailed shopping list outlining meals for the week and what to buy. In a good-natured way, she explained her masterpiece lists may look a little OCD but she made only one trip per week to the grocery story. I then did the maths and worked out I could save about three hours (yes, three hours!) per week if followed her lead. So, she had the last laugh but I eliminated a time waster and ultimately lessened my stress load.
If you can save just ten minutes a day, six days a week, you have freed-up an hour.
Use your freed-up time wisely to create a less stressful world for you and your kids.
3. Find a natural stress relieving supplement that works for you
You never know when your kids will get into trouble or when some meddlesome neighbourhood gossip might strike.
Sometimes, getting a little help in managing stress doesn't hurt. Thankfully, heaps of natural supplements on the market have proven effective in alleviating stress.
In my case, I am particularly in love with chamomile when it comes to stress relief. I always ensure that I have a steady supply of loose-leaf teas and teabags in the pantry all year round. I also have a bottle of chamomile capsules in my handbag to help calm me down when I'm not at home.
If you're on the lookout for natural supplements for stress relief for single mums, I highly recommend chamomile. But if you've tried this grassy yet lightly fruity herb and it's not your cup of tea, you can try the other natural sleep remedies in our exhaustive list.
Just make sure you don't get so reliant on natural supplements to relieve your stress that you stop reading at this step.
4. Know that guilt is a wasted emotion
Many single mums carry guilt around with their baby wipes i.e. always.
An undercurrent of guilt in your everyday life is a big contributor to stress.
Whatever the circumstances that led you to your single mum status, they are in the past. Psych Central suggests a number way to deal with guilt. These include accepting and moving on, as well as learning from our past behaviours.
For me, the best way to deal with guilt is to try and be the best version of myself moving forward. We can't change the past or other people's behaviours. We can, however, change how we behave and react.
Just knowing you are doing your best lowers the guilt-o-meter and therefore, your stress.
Further reading: The truth about mum guilt and how to kiss it goodbye.
5. Consider No.1 (which is you BTW)
Single mothers are selfless creatures. We put our children first and that’s that.
Yet, as the captain of the ship, if you’re not in good shape, your children will suffer.
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- How often do you exercise?
- Do you allow yourself that all-important ‘me-time’?
- What’s your diet like?
- Are you drinking too much?
All these factors are relevant to your well-being and directly affect your stress levels.
Remember, this list is especially for single mothers to reduce levels, so I'm not suggesting a complete overhaul of your life. This is simply not possible.
Yet, if you can improve in just one area, it will mitigate stress from your life and make you a more content single mum.
How single mums can feel less stressed (cont.)
6. Delegate age-appropriate tasks to your kids
There's nothing better than fresh laundry - but why is folding clothes the most boring thing on the planet?
As a seasoned single mum, I can 100% say that most of my stresses come from the never-ending list of to-do's around the house.
Especially if you have little kids, dishes need to be washed and toys be returned to their proper places. ALL. THE. TIME. Seriously, it seems impossible to have a clean home.
Believe it or not, assigning chores to your children is an incredible stress buster. Sometimes, we mums think no one can do it better than us. Well, that's true, but it's also super stressful and counterproductive. The trick is to delegate the easy chores they can do well and which don't stress you out if not done 100% your way.
Another bonus is that when you delegate work around the house, you don't feel like a servant in your own home - ouch, memories! - and things are getting done.
It's not just an excellent stress relief for single mums. You're also doing a great service for your children when you're teaching them life skills. They learn to be responsible and better regulate their emotions by having them do chores.
If you're looking for resources on age-appropriate chores, this article from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is one of my favourites.
7. Differentiate help from hindrance
As a stressed single mum, you’ll get offers of help. Having a solid, reliable support system is an instant stress diffuser.
Don't get me wrong ... this is great.
But make sure it’s the right help.
- Who is genuinely helping you?
- And, who is a hindrance?
When I first became a single mum I was so desperate for help that I let anyone in. It wasn't until a few months later when I was able to breath that I realised many of these people were actually adding to my mental load in a negative way.
By all means, connect with other single mums and offer one another support but only if they are lifting your spirits and genuinely helping you. While, of course, you are doing the same for them.
8. Try time blocking instead of multi-tasking
Admittedly, I am not a fan of multi-tasking. It just never worked for me. I'm the type of person who needs to focus on one thing before I can move on to something else. That includes chores, activities with my kids, work, and everything else. My friends and I found that focusing this way is an excellent stress reliever.
If you're finding yourself multi-tasking, you're probably also not finishing anything. Or, if you've finished something, you might discover that it's been done half-heartedly, if not totally mindlessly.
It's not surprising that multi-tasking can cause us single mums to be overwhelmed and stressed. So, why not try time blocking instead? It's a time management tactic that lets you divide your day into blocks. You're dedicating that entire block to a single task.
I recommend getting a planner journal if you've never tried time blocking before. You can download an Excel or Google Sheets organiser if you prefer digital. If you're the type of mum who loves the scent of ink on paper, head over to the nearest bookshop to get your planner or notepad.
9. Stay connected to your kids
Our children are definite contributors to our stress, yet they also have a magical way of calming us.
However busy I am, if I take just ten minutes to throw a netball with my daughter, I feel better.
Allow yourself to just ‘be’ with your kids. Let them take you into their superbly simplified worlds. Play a game with them. Do a handstand with them. Just spend time chatting to them. You may find out something you didn’t know. And they will love the undivided attention.
Loosing yourself in the Land of Kids is actually very healing. It will make you forget your stresses for a while and clear your mind.
Confession time: I also had a Marie Kondo phase. The operative word is "also" because I know you've been there, too. *wink*
Following the first time I encountered her videos, I decluttered my home, box by box, room by room. With the help of my daughters, I purged our house from things that caused us bitterness and sadness. (Obviously, our wedding photos were part of the casualty.) Slowly but surely, we noticed that our house was beginning to feel happy again, filled with things that sparked joy in our lives.
And although I have long passed my KonMari phase, I still value the things that the decluttering process has taught me. Decluttering gave me clarity and peace of mind. When I'm stressed, I recognise that something in the environment is distracting me, and I have the power to remove it.
While you might think cleaning is the cause of stress and not a source of stress relief for single mums, hear me out. By decluttering, you make space in your life for what really matters. With a clear space, you get to see what's important.
Remember: The more you declutter, the less you have to tidy and clean!
Stress relief for single mums (cont.)
12. Seek out financial sanctuary
Money, and lack of it, is a constant stress contender in the single mother world.
This is especially true for single mothers and solo mothers who have the full financial burden of their kids on their shoulders.
Although, I can't make money appear from thin air for you (if I could, I would), I do have some suggestions to alleviate some of the financial stress:
- Take time to understand your financial situation
- Are you receiving all applicable benefits?
- Could you lower your spending?
- What are your financial goals and how can you reach them?
Knowing where you stand financially and having a plan won't make you rich overnight but it will ease the stress, and that's what we're aiming for here.
11. Make a routine and stick to it
I harp on about routines, and with good reason.
A productive routine, well followed, is super-efficient.
Routines leave less room for things to go haywire because everyone knows where they stand, what happens next, and what their part in it is. You'll get through the mundane tasks faster and more effectively. This in turn, will free up time and energy for stress relieving activities such as me-time, self-improvement and quality time with your children.
Consider things like your ‘before school’ and ‘homework’ routines. Do they work? If not, change them.
Both you and your kids will benefit from good routines to guide you through your days.
12. Keep in mind the bigger picture
Your daily grind may be hard. But if you have clear goals for your future and a process in place to reach them, the little things are easier to cope with.
Perhaps a particular day has been a disaster on the domestic front, but so what, you’re studying for a new career which will pay better and improve your domestic life, so all is well.
I try hard not to dwell on the little things. Just the other day, I was cooking dinner and knocked the cooking oil off the shelf, the lid came off and oil made it's merry way across my kitchen floor. As you can imagine, the clean-up was huge. But, instead of cursing myself and my bad luck, I scrubbed away while firmly focusing on the Bali holiday I was saving for.
It is our long-term objectives that will see us through the everyday chaos.
Stick reminders of your goals around your house. Write a mission statement and stick it on the fridge door. Over-ride the little stresses by driving towards your dreams.
14. Don't look back in anger
As a single mum, it’s likely you will have been through some stressful circumstances.
Replaying the past will manifest negative emotions, causing further stress.
Instead, learn from your past and move on. Even if you feel you have been treated unfairly, you are unable to change what happened.
Look to the future and make sure it’s the happiest it can be for you and your family. Focus on your quality of life, your goals and all the positive aspects of your world.
15. Jump on a trampoline!
When all else fails … jump!
I wanted to end on a light note, but seriously jumping on a trampoline is not just for kids. It's also excellent as a full-body workout, not to mention helping improve your agility and balance.
And we know that exercise releases happy hormones. It's a fun stress relief for single mums, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks so. There are tens of YouTube fitness videos on rebounding. Some of these specifically indicate stress relief or help with depression. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it!
Plus, the kids absolutely love trampolines, so taking them to the trampoline park when you're stressed is always a good idea. You get to bond with your children in a fun and healthy activity while getting relief from stress at the same time.
Summary: Single mother stress relief
Being a single mum is a walk in the park - the Jurassic Park!
From looking for child support, keeping the home, and parenting your kids all on your own, over time, it's no surprise single mothers are more prone to psychological stress compared to married parents.
That's why stress relief for single mums is super important!
First, there's prioritising yourself. You can't pour from an empty cup, after all. This includes eating healthy, getting enough rest, and working out. (fancy a jump on the trampoline, anyone?) You can even try natural supplements like chamomile to help you calm down. Prioritising yourself also includes being kind to yourself by not letting mum-guilt and anger eat you alive.
Then, there's eliminating unnecessary things that affect you emotionally. This includes recognising things (and people) that waste your time from what's essential, and decluttering your space for more clarity. If money is a source of your stress - as it is for many of us - it will also help if you review your current financial state and cut back on unnecessary expenses.
In addition, you can do many things to manage your family better. Discipline, creating routines, giving age-appropriate chores, and practicing time management through time blocking are just some things that can provide stress relief for single mums. As a mum, getting things done alone is easier than engaging the kids. But the truth is the opposite. Feeling like you're the only one responsible for everything will only cause you more stress.
Finally, pat yourself on the back. Being a single mum is for the strong. You're doing a job for two all by yourself … and you're doing well.