6 Essentials Tips to Eliminate Stress + Live a Happier Life

The word stress is practically synonymous with the title of mom. There are memes about it, character tropes based on it, even entire companies who make their living, on the backs of stressed moms. 

Everyone reacts differently to stress and feel it manifest in different ways. Some people’s responses are more extreme than others. Some of us are predisposed to be more susceptible to the effects of stress depending on our genetics and the environment we grew up in. But no matter how severe our stress and anxiety, there are resources out there to help us cope and not let stress take over our lives. 

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re living in pretty stressful times. But we’re in this fight together and we’re stronger when we band together for support! So to help as many of our fellow mama’s out as we can, we’ve curated a list of items, activities and ideas to help you fight back against stress and anxiety.

Create a Soundtrack for Your Life
Music is a fast and easy way to distract our minds from the onslaught of stressors coming at us from all sides. A good playlist can help you forget about almost anything, at least for a little while. And that little brain break will help you think clearer, feel better, and gives your frazzled brain a second to cool off, which could help you to make better decisions or find solutions to the issue that is causing you stress.

Move Your Body
We don’t advocate for movement for the sake of weight loss, or even for physical health, although it’s obviously great for that too. For us, the real power in movement comes from the effect it has on our brains. Moving our bodies has some serious mood boosting power; it releases endorphins, helps us think more clearly and thus problem solve better, and perhaps most effectively, it can help release some of the tension that gets stored in our bodies and muscles when we’re in a state of heightened stress. If we don’t find outlets for that tension causing energy, our bodies become a manifestation of our mental struggle, with an increase in muscle fatigue and joint soreness (3).

Create a Sacred Ritual
This one definitely reads a little kitschy, we get that, but it’s vitally important in maintaining sanity. Often as moms our mental and physical needs are pushed to the perimeter to make space for the needs and desires of our families. Obviously, we’re not going to have time for ourselves the way we did before we had kids, but we still need to be making time for ourselves, even if all we can find is 10 or 15 minutes at the beginning or end of the day, make a point to take some time back. What you do with that time is up to your specific needs, but carve out a niche of time and commit to making your needs a priority, just for that chunk of time. 10 minutes to do a face mask or read a book, a 15 minute shower, a quiet cup of coffee in the morning, any activity that brings you joy and fulfils an unmet need – no matter how serious or mundane – those are the only requirements!

Focus on Joy
There is an old adage that says, whatever you focus on, grows. Even if you’re new to the ideas and practices of mindfulness, it’s likely that you’ve experienced this process and can vouch for its truth. Like that feeling after a big fight with someone you care about, when you can’t stop thinking about what was said or unsaid and your feelings of anger or regret just keep bubbling up to the surface. Or the excitement after you meet someone new, and can’t stop thinking about them. So much that you build up an image or expectation of them, based more on your ideas and feelings, than on who they actually are. The point is, our minds get carried away, so it’s important that we give them a direction to wander. Focusing on the joy you feel throughout the day helps you to find more of it. The feeling after the kids are asleep and you can finally relax; the joy you get watching your child laugh uncontrollably or discover something new. There is no joy too small, so say out loud the things you’re grateful for, that make you smile, that you love about your life! And see how much easier it becomes to spark joy.

Play More!
Ever wonder how kids seem to be so worry free? They spend most of their day playing! As we grow up, playing becomes almost taboo for adults. We look down on other adults who play video games or participate in activities like cosplay or role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. But the benefits of regular playtime are well documented and become more valuable as we get older. Playing, or engaging in an activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than practical purposes, is known to stimulate the creative centers in our brains, releasing endorphins that help us cope with our emotions and the world around us (1). When we play, we smile more, which triggers our internal alert system (read: fight or flight) to turn off, allowing us to relax at a deeper level. And the opportunity to decide for yourself how you will spend your time resonates deeply within us and when done regularly, can help us feel more in control of our lives (2). We obviously can’t spend our days playing anymore, but engaging in playful activities for even 20 minutes ca have a major effect or your mood and your psyche and the awesome thing about playing is that it can be anything we want it to be! Organized sports, board games, puzzles, sewing, baking, photography and painting are just a handful of examples of perfect playtime activities for adults. 

Stress Toys
Manipulative toys like zen gardens and stress balls have been around for years before the fidget spinner craze of 2015. Fidget spinners brought this product category to mainstream markets where they had previously been tools for therapists and their patients. These toys aim to eliminate stress by creating a physical distraction for our bodies, allowing our minds to relax and stress or anxiety to melt away. There are tons of toys on the market, but there are also many options for stress toys that you can create with what you have at home! Rainbow Rice and Cloud Putty are some of our favorites! Check out this recipe for Lavander Cloud Putty via Hello Giggles.

Stress Toys
Manipulative toys like zen gardens and stress balls have been around for years before the fidget spinner craze of 2015. Fidget spinners brought this product category to mainstream markets where they had previously been tools for therapists and their patients. These toys aim to eliminate stress by creating a physical distraction for our bodies, allowing our minds to relax and stress or anxiety to melt away. There are tons of toys on the market, but there are also many options for stress toys that you can create with what you have at home! Rainbow Rice and Cloud Putty are some of our favorites! Check out this recipe for Lavander Cloud Putty via Hello Giggles.

Ingredients:

  1. Conditioner
  2. Corn starch
  3. Flour
  4. Lavender essential oil
  5. Food coloring

Directions

  1. Mix desired food coloring together in a bowl with the conditioner. Stir until mixture is thoroughly blended.
  2. Combine conditioner mixture with the rest of ingredient and mix together until soldiified. 
  3. If your mixture is too runny, corn starch will help to solidify the mixture and make it less sticky. 

XO, Fake Mom

Sources:
1/Definitions from Oxford Languages
2/https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-chronicles-infertility/201908/the-importance-playing-and-relaxing
3/https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Hhe1-tgUBNwC&oi=fnd&pg=PR11&dq=mental+health+and+exercise&ots=BFpZh24X0Y&sig=R7A6n719_exeUiVrH9FWV9frH2I#v=onepage&q=mental%20health%20and%20exercise&f=false
4/ image via https://www.afloral.com/products/french-lavender-dried-flower-bundle-11-15-long?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIweO6-__Z6QIVnB-tBh2vLg9BEAQYBiABEgJGuPD_BwE

How To Make Your Baby Smarter with Rainbow Rice

You may have seen this colorful sensory activity on instagram or Pinterest; buckets full of bright blue rice and aquatic toys. Or bright green rice with tiny plants and jungle creatures. These fun and whimsical worlds are actually extremely educational and beneficial to your little one’s development! Their base is made of dyed rice and provides unlimited opportunities for your little one to develop their fine motor skills as well as engage in sensory play. And we’re gonna show you how easy and fun it is to make! Skip to the end to find out how sensory rice may be beneficial to you too, mama!

But first, what is sensory play and why is it important?
Great question! Our senses are how we intake information about the world around us and learn to navigate it. We are born with these senses, but we must learn how they work and how to use them. Sensory play involves activities that stimulate your little one’s senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell and movement) and increase their threshold for sensory stimulation, essentially making their senses sharper. Sensory play encourages exploration and that exploration helps build nerve connections throughout the brain. These new connections allow your little one to take on more complex tasks and promote cognitive, motor skill, language and problem solving development, which is another way of saying this type of play actually makes your baby smarter (1).

Ok, now it’s time for the fun part. This process is super simple and all the ingredients are probably already in your cupboard somewhere.

What You Need:

  • Dry rice
  • Food coloring
  • Vinegar
  • Sandwich bags

What You Do:

  1. Fill your bag with ½ – 1 full cup of rice
  2. In a separate cup, pour in ½ tablespoon or less of vinegar
  3. Add a few drops of food coloring to your cup of vinegar
  4. Swirl the dye mixture around to make sure the vinegar and food coloring fully mix together
  5. Dump your dye mixture into the bag of rice
  6. Now the fun part! Zip your bag closed and squish it up. Make sure the dye works its way through the bag and touches all the rice. It will pool in the bottom of the bag and form pockets so make sure you mix and squish it enough to cover all the rice in dye.
  7. Let the dye soaked rice sit in the bag for a little bit, rotating it every 20 minutes or so to make sure the rice is evenly colored.
  8. After an hour or two, most of the food coloring mix will have been soaked up or evaporated off. Pour the now brightly colored rice into a bowl and place it in the refrigerator to dry the left over vinegar and get rid of the strong smell.

Helpful Hints

  • You don’t actually have to measure any of the ingredients, eyeballing everything works just as well.
  • A lot of rice + a little dye = lighter colored rice
  • A lot of rice + a lot of dye = brighter colored rice
  • A little rice + a little dye = brightly colored rice
  • A little rice + a lot of dye = darker colored rice
  • You can mix food coloring to create new colors just like with paint. If you’re mixing colors, you will need to pay attention to ratios and eyeball your measurements carefully. A bad ratio of colors can turn your rice dark and muddy.
  • The good news is that, like with paint, you can continue to add one color or another to lighten, darken, or tone your dye mixture. For example, when we made our first batch of purple, we used entirely too much blue. The mixture turned a blue tinted black color, but was able to be toned back down to purple by adding in more red. 
  • When mixing a new color, start with a base of the lighter color and add in the darker color one drop at a time. Colors with deeper pigments will absorb and darken higher concentrations of lighter colors. Think of what happens when you add white to any color of paint. The mixture may lighten slightly, but the white will be completely consumed by the pigment of the original color. The principle applies to food coloring as well.
  • Brown rice can also be dyed, but produces more jewel toned colors compared to the bright colors created using white rice.

You’ll Love It Too!

If you enjoy working with your hands, and don’t mind a little mess, you’ll probably have some fun making this rice, and might want to consider making an extra batch for yourself!

Remember in inside out, when we’re meeting Riley’s emotions? Joy, ever the optimist, describes Anger as someone who ‘really cares a lot about things being fair’ right before he blows his top over not being able to have dessert. If you, as a mom have never had a moment like this, we…well we wanna know your secret! But if you’re like us, and blow your top from time to time consider keeping a small stash of this pretty rice to play with when you’re feeling agitated. Just a few minutes of ‘playing’ with a manipulative, like a stress ball, zen garden, or a handful or rice, can have intensely calming effects. The process by which we find relief from objects like this, called fidget widgets, is mostly psychological. Our brains intake information in two ways: physically, through our senses, and cognitively, with our mind. Sometimes, when we’re stressed or overwhelmed, it becomes difficult for us to process all the information our bodies are taking in, and we become distracted or unable to focus. When we play with a stress ball the physical distraction allows our brains to slow down and relax, and thus refocus on processing cognitive information or problem solving (2). 

These devices can help address anger in a way that is similar to how they address stress. As with any emotion, our bodies produce a cognitive and a physical response. Often, our physical responses are more extreme than our cognitive responses and we have much less control over our physical responses than we do our cognitive, making it reletively easy for our bodies to overpower our minds. Fidget widgets use the same power of distraction, or redirection, to distract our minds from the physical manifestations of anger: sweating, increased heart rate, muscle tension, and shortness of breath (3).

Not only is this colorful rice a fun activity for you and your little one, but it can atually make your little one smarter, and help you be a more relaxed and focused mama! what could be better? Please share with us if you’ve made this fun rice, and tag us on Instagram so we can see all the lovely colors you make!

XO, Fake Mom

Sources:
1/ https://www.educationalplaycare.com/blog/sensory-play-important-development/ 
2/ https://ardesign.us/2016/01/the-bouncing-science-behind-stress-balls/ 
3/ https://www.sharecare.com/health/anger-management/what-physical-effects-of-anger

Attachment Part 2: Incorporating meaningful touch into your child’s life

Happy Hump Day Mama! You’re halfway there..

We hope the New Year’s been treating you kindly 🙂 Today, we’re jumping right in, with Part Two of our series on the importance of physical touch in your child’s development. If you missed Part One when we discussed 25 benefits that come from positive, affirming physical touch, you can catch up here.

Today, we’re taking it a step further, and looking at what we can actually do to incorporate loving, meaningful touch into our little one’s lives.

Kangaroo Care

VIA UNITYPOINT.ORG

Kangaroo Care gets its name from its similarities to marsupial care. It involves a parent holding their swaddled newborn to their bare chest. For children born preterm or with complications, Kangaroo Care has life altering capabilities (6). In the first hour after birth, skin to skin contact is essential for babies to bond with their parents and regulate their vitals (1). This initial skin to skin time is so important in baby’s growth and development that professionals recommend building time for it into your birthing plan, postponing the normal protocol after birth of washing and weighing baby to prioritize skin to skin time (1).

Infant Massage

VIA MOM365

Infant massage is the next stage of important developmental touch after skin to skin. This type of touch is about bonding, love and respect. It’s important to be read baby’s interactions with you during this time; Trust is a key part of this activity, and it goes without saying that baby needs to trust that you’re not going to hurt them, so pay attention to the physical responses your child may be giving you; whether they are positively engaged or disengaged. Children communicate instinctively from their time they’re born, through physical responses before they can talk so it’s important that you learn to read their cues (1).

Good Nights

Creating positive associations with sleep is a vital part of your child’s development, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to build in positive touch with your little one. Goodnight hugs and kisses are quick and easy ways to increase your physical interactions and massaging their head or back while you read them a goodnight story will help them fall asleep faster and feel more connected to you.

Myth Busters: They Don’t Know What They’re Talking About…

How many times has someone (older than you, most likely) told you that you were gonna spoil your baby picking them up too much? This is one of the most common critiques of moms, most especially from well meaning (?) relatives and family friends, who know that you’re going to regret picking that baby up so much when they won’t leave you alone. Umm, what? Thank you for you concern sir, but we’re not doing that let them cry till they can’t no more, no more.

For generations, the myth that holding a baby too much will ‘spoil them’ has persisted. You’ve likey heard it before, and may have even put some stock in it. Nobody wants a ‘spoiled’ kid and technically, it’s true, they have been raising kids longer than us…

There are two parts to the baby spoiling ideology:

  • You should let your baby cry for a while
  • You’re holding them too much

“Let Them Cry”
When an infant cries, they need something. They’re not crying for your attention (they don’t even understand those concepts yet) and they’re not trying to be difficult. Babies only cry as method of meeting their needs. This means if your child is crying, they need something from you; a meal, a diaper, a measuring hug (7). When you allow your child to cry for extended periods of time, without responding to them, you being to send silent messages that their needs are not a priority, or that you may not even notice them. These messages will compound as the child grows, and one subjected to this kind of treatment for prolonged periods will begin to show effects, like struggling to create bonds with others, that will follow them into adulthood.

Sources:
1. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2013/09/the-benefits-of-touch-for-babies-parents.html
2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/born-love/201003/touching-empathy
3. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/23/health/23mind.html?scp=3&sq=touch&st=cse
4. https://www.americanadoptions.com/adoption/do-orphanages-still-exist 
5. https://www.chla.org/blog/rn-remedies/cuddling-does-kids-and-parents-good 
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5683265/
7. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/infants-attention#1

Attachment Part I: 25 Reasons to Cuddle your Baby

The Importance of Physical Touch and Affection

Part one in a two part series on the effects of physical touch on your baby's growth and development.

Hey Mama, Happy New Year!

As you probably didn’t know, cause, you know, it’s a made-up holiday, National Cuddle Day (!) was on January 6th this year. With that in mind, and in the spirit of new beginnings and healthy habits, we’re going to be kicking off the New Year with a series on the importance of cuddling! Sounds silly, we know but it’s actually a scientific fact that humans, and especially babies, need physical contact for proper development. 

The following have been found to be direct benefits of physical contact for babies:

  1. Regulated heart rate following birth
  2. Regulated temperature following birth
  3. Regulated breathing following birth
  4. Enhanced awareness following birth
  5. Improved sleep patterns for baby (and you too!)
  6. Improved digestion and elimination for baby
  7. Reduced fussiness in baby and increased comfort in their surroundings
  8. Improved neurological function in babies
  9. Increased weight gain for premature and full term babies
  10. Improved relaxation for you and baby (1)
  11. Lays the foundation for baby to learn empathy (2)
  12. Encourages bonding for both parties
  13. Helps baby associate physical touch with pleasure/love
  14. Helps baby create connections with others later in life (2)
  15. Increased levels of oxytocin, decreased levels of cortisol (3)
  16. Increased self confidence later in life (5)
  17. Greater ability to deal with life’s stressors (5)
  18. Creates a healthy sense of personal boundaries (5)
  19. Improved muscle tone + circulation (5)
  20. Improved pulmonary and immune functions
  21. Reduced discomfort from teething, congestion, colic, and emotional stress (5)
  22. Deeper sleep
  23. Improved milk production for mom
  24. Increased brain function from time spent quiet and alert, rather than crying (5)
  25. Greater self worth 

When physical touch is absent during a child’s early life, it can have devastating repercussions. Babies who aren’t huggled, cuddled or touched enough have been observed to stop growing, and in extreme cases, even when being provided adequate nutrition and care otherwise, they have died (2). This phenomenon was most notably observed in overcrowded, underfunded orphanages in early America, where infant mortality rates hovered around 35% (2). This disturbing trend led reformers to replace orphanages with the modern foster care system, in hopes of providing children with a higher quality of life (4).

The benefits of physical touch affect adults too. From an association between winning NBA teams and their physical contact with each other, to adults whose perception and memory of a given situation is actually changed by physical contact, the results are clear (3). In older children, studies found that children who received a positive, affirming touch on the back or arm from a teacher were twice as likely to be positively engaged than students who did not (3). 

But how does this happen? Does it actually work?

It’s a pretty simple chemical process that happens inside our brains thats causes touch to have such far reaching effects. A warm touch has been shown to cause a spike in levels of oxytocin, a stress relieving hormone that actively reduces levels of the nasty little stress hormone cortisol. When levels are lowered, the prefrontal areas of the brain – the part responsible for regulating our emotions – can relax, allowing it to perform it’s other chief function, problem solving, more easily. Essentially, the body interprets this type of touch as saying, ‘I’m here to help; I can share the load’. For little ones, this is endlessly reassuring and will provide the foundation for how they interact with others for the rest of their lives. 

Come back for Part II next week when we’ll be sharing some easy ways to incorporate meaningful touch into your routine with baby and debunking one of the oldest motherhood myths out there! Have a great week mama!

XO,
FAKE MOM