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"I'm a stressed out mom. Help!"


Updated April 29, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Are you a stressed out mom? Don't worry--there are steps you can take to manage the stres!

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Question: "I'm a stressed out mom. Help!"
"I've been a stressed out mom since my baby was born last year. I get mad at the drop of a dime. I used to have a reason, but now when one little thing upsets me, I find everything in the world upsetting me, and it could be the littlest thing to trigger it. I cry all the time just out of the blue. When I get too stressed out, I won't have an appetite, but I have an attitude. Then I don't feel like answering the phone nor the door. I forget things all the time, I lose focus really quick, lost desire in things I loved, my family doesn't like me around anymore. All of this is caused by stress. What can I do?"
Answer: It sounds like you are indeed a very stressed out mom! Many moms find that after they have children, they may have less patience with stressors because their overall stress levels are greater, and their lives are more complicated. For example, having a surprise visitor at the door might be stressful for a new mom who hasn't had a shower in two days, has a roomful of clothes and toys cluttering her surroundings, has just put the baby down for a nap and is looking forward to some coveted 'down time' (which might be filled with desperately-needed housework anyway); the same surprise visit might be less stressful and more fun for a woman who was just surfing the internet alone and looking for something to do with her free time. A ringing phone that is barely heard over the din of the children's fight a mother is trying to referee may be a less-welcome sound than a ringing phone that breaks the silence of a boring afternoon. You get the idea. (Here's a more complete list of general causes of stress for moms.) Being a little more stressed is a part of life for many mothers, and it passes. However, there are steps you can take to keep your stress at a manageable level.

Because your stress sounds pretty intense, because it seems to be a marked change from your normal state of mind that coincided with the birth of your baby, and that you feel it's due to stress (and are naming some stressors that become more intense once the sleep deprivation and demands of motherhood kick in), and because you're describing some symptoms of depression (lack of enjoyment in things you used to enjoy, lack of energy, etc.), I'm wondering if you may be experiencing a form of post-partum depression. (Please don't take this as a diagnosis -- you need to talk to your doctor or therapist to get a diagnosis and treatment, and you should never take advice from the internet as a replacement for a professional diagnosis, but only for informational purposes anyway, but I mention this first to let you know that this may be more serious than general mom stress, and that support is out there.)

Robin Elise Weiss, our guide to pregnancy and childbirth, some of the hallmark symptoms of postpartum depression include the following:

  • Being very irritable
  • Being tired or unmotivated, beyond normal
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Crying easily over anything or for no reason
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • No interest in activities, particularly those that were previously pleasurable
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
For more information on postpartum depression, including symptoms, relief, and tips on when you should see a doctor, see this resource on postpartum depression from About.com's Depression Site.

That said, there are certain general guidelines that can help stressed out moms get through the day more easily, and these may help you to lessen the intensity of the stress that you're feeling. If you haven't already, I would suggest that you try the following:

  • Time Management Tips for Moms
    When you have more to juggle in your life-with-children, time management is more important than ever before, and can help you manage some stressors and prevent others altogether. Check out these tips and see which ones you can start putting into use today.

  • Time Management Tips from Other Moms
    Other moms' best advice is wonderful to hear, too. They've worked hard to learn these tips, and would love to help you make your life easier by sharing them! Read other moms' best time management tips, and share your own best advice here.

  • Working Moms' Stress Relief
    Working moms face general mom stressors, as well as stressful situations that are specific to them. Read about working mom stress, and see what other moms have to say as well.

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