Being a parent is joyous and rewarding — and also stressful at times. Whether working or staying at home, parents face a barrage of demands and self-imposed expectations.
As parents, particularly mothers, we are constantly comparing our parenting skills with others and are often our harshest critics, said Lateefah Watford, MD, adult, adolescent, child and forensic psychiatrist and chief of Behavioral Health Services for Kaiser Permanente in Atlanta.
Here are some ideas for making Mother’s Day a time to help mom relax and de-stress.
Gifts that help mom unwind
While flowers and chocolates are always appreciated, go for a gift that will significantly improve her mood and well-being.
“In today’s busy, ever-on, always-connected world, we sometimes forget that it is not always things that bring us feelings of peace, contentment, love or appreciation,” Dr. Watford said. “Sometimes it’s the simple, heartfelt ‘thank you!’ or some guilt-free quiet time that speaks to us far more on Mother’s Day, so try to give your mother something that will show her your appreciation!”
A few gift ideas that will increase mom’s sense of well-being:
- Music — classical, jazz, any genre, can help anyone unwind.
- Self-guided meditation CDs or DVDs. Meditation is being introduced in some schools to help children boost emotional well-being, so why not share it with mom?
- A gift certificate for spa treatments or a massage pillow or shawl.
- A gift certificate for a gym membership or a yoga studio membership and mat. If she enjoys walking, a new pair of tennis shoes.
- Paid help: Hire a cleaner, gardener, or babysitter. Having alone time can give mom the mental break she needs.
- Socializing has been shown to help relieve stress. Perhaps a gift certificate to her favorite movie theater or coffee shop where she can spend time with friends.
- Was there an activity mom always wanted to try, such as making ceramics, learning ballroom dancing or playing tennis? Buy her a class or lessons.
“Mothers generally focus on meeting the needs of others, and it’s important that we take care of ourselves, too,” said Elizabeth Dueñas, MD, a Family Medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente’s South Bay Medical Center in Harbor City, California. “Being physically active is one of the best things you can do for your emotional and physical health.”
Instead of having a family gathering in the living room or dining room, lace up those athletic shoes and get moving, because exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals. Take a walk or a hike — getting outdoors in nature is essential to our health and well-being.
“Our busy schedules during the week often make it challenging to regularly fit in enough daily exercise, so weekends are the ideal time to get in dedicated physical activity,” said Suzanne Deschamps, MD, family physician in Salem, Oregon, and co-director of Physician Wellness for Kaiser Permanente in Oregon and Southwest Washington. “And why not incorporate physical activity into a Mother’s Day celebration for your fabulous mom?”
Here are ideas for a physically active Mother’s Day:
- Take a yoga, Zumba or dance class together.
- Go on a bike ride.
- Buy plants, herbs, vegetables or flowers and plant them together.
- Give her time to exercise in a way she likes, whether that’s swimming, rock-climbing or jogging.
- Have a family volleyball or softball game.
Healthy foods that also de-stress
Mother’s Day celebrations often center around meals, and there’s a connection between our mental well-being and what we eat — the gut has been called the “second brain.”
If mom is the primary meal planner, why not let her take the day off and prepare a meal for her?
“Certain food choices can help soothe stress and anxiety, and some of these same foods can also improve gut flora, which can improve mood,” said Michele Gilson, RD, registered dietitian with Kaiser Permanente in Denver. “Happy mom, happy family!”
Find recipes with the following stress-reducing foods:
- Leafy Greens: Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, chard and kale are loaded with calcium, a mineral that can help the brain use tryptophan to manufacture melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep. For a lunch, make a kale salad, such as this simple one or this one with couscous, blood oranges, and herbs. If you want a brunch dish, make this quiche or try a piña kale-ada.
- Blueberries: The antioxidants and phytonutrients in these tiny fruits can help your body better respond to stress. Blueberries are a great source of fiber. A high-fiber diet can fuel healthy gut bacteria, which can influence emotional state, helping to diminish anxiety and depression.Fold them into this pancake recipe, or turn them into a dessert with this “ice cream” recipe or berry crisp.
- Yogurt: A growing body of research shows a connection between our bellies and our mood. In fact, most of the body’s serotonin resides in our gut, Gilson said. Yogurt, a food rich in probiotics, can boost your gut bacteria, which in turn can improve your mood. Try this parfait or this Turkish soup.
- Sauerkraut and pickles: These fermented foods can contain high amounts of probiotics; refrigerated versions are best.
- Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, almonds, chia seeds and flaxseed are great sources of omega-3, well known for its role in brain development. It can also influence mood, behavior and personality; low blood levels of omega-3 have been associated with depression, pessimism and impulsivity. Add nuts and seeds to salads, side dishes or desserts. Try this Caesar salad with almonds, this baked apple recipe, or easy-to-make bread.
“It is important to know that every day is Mother’s Day, but on this particular day you can take the time to relax and make it about you,” said Anabel Castrezana, a licensed marriage and family therapist for Kaiser Permanente in Anaheim, California. “Your daily life and routine will be waiting for you the very next day, so it is OK to take this one day to celebrate all you do.”