In 2016, when my two and a half year stretch of solo-parenting ended and I had my husband home again, I felt like my insides had been hollowed out.
The week before he came home, my mom tried to console me by saying that I just missed my husband and that I would feel better when he came home.
I’d made the incorrect assumption (probably based on her statement) that as soon as the stress of solo-parenting came to an end, that I would instantly feel “normal” again.
But I didn’t.
Instead, it took me a solid six months of time to recover from the stress of those years – which is apparently totally normal.
Hence, I’m fully aware that recovering from the stresses I faced in 2020 is going to take some time. But, I’m older, wiser, and my toolbox is fuller than it was in 2016. So, I’m hopeful that I can recover faster this time.
But it won’t happen overnight.
Recovering takes time
What’s something challenging that we can all agree takes time to recover from?
Perhaps alcohol abuse, for example. Would you assume that an alcoholic can give up drinking and suddenly feel amazing?
No, you wouldn’t.
You understand that there is a sobriety process that takes place. The body of an alcoholic will go through a detox period, a period which could feel much worse than if they were to just pick drinking back up.
The same happens when we experience long-term stress.
When we undergo long-term stress, our bodies get used to a steady drip of cortisol – days, weeks, months, or years. No matter the duration of the stress, a dump of hormones for an extended period of time will throw your body off balance. When that drip stops (when your body has sensed the stressful danger has passed), your body will still have stress hormone to deal with. It doesn’t just magically disappear.
I’ve learned that, just like an alcoholic’s recovery, I have to have patience (and sometimes take action) in order to restore balance to my body.
In this post, I’ll share 3 simple steps (adapted from my own experiences) for how to help your body recover after a period of long-term stress (aka 2020).
See a therapist.
If you feel like you’re coming up for air for the first time in a while, therapy could be a great place to start for helping you recover from a period of long-term stress.
During stressful times, our nervous system works overtime – dumping extra doses of cortisol – because our body thinks our life is at stake. We enter “fight or flight” mode. And if this goes on long enough, it can lead to emotional exhaustion.
According to this article from Healthline:
“Anyone experiencing long-term stress can become emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed. In difficult times, emotional exhaustion can sneak up on you, but it’s never too late to get help.”
If you think you could be emotionally exhausted (and who isn’t after 2020?) and can’t talk to a trusted friend or family member, I’d highly recommend seeking out the help of a licensed therapist. A friend or therapist can help act as a sounding board for the stresses you’ve been experiencing.
Take a break.
Because you want to encourage your body to return to a calmer state, the last thing you want to do after a period of stress is to add more stress than necessary.
Give yourself permission to do a whole lot of nothing. Let go of productivity expectations around the house. Order take-out for dinner so you don’t have to cook. Put someone else in charge of the laundry (or just put it off as long as possible).
Everyone’s situation is unique. And the type of stress you were under will determine how your break looks.
In the situation where I wasn’t parenting alone anymore, I took a break by taking a step back in my parenting role. I could have easily just pretended like my husband wasn’t home to help, but I didn’t. I allowed him to take over in many areas and I leaned on his presence to help give myself the break I desperately needed away from the stress of raising our kids.
Release any built-up stress.
This might sound a little woo-woo, but when we undergo stress, we sometimes store some of those stressful emotions in our bodies. They get there because, during the period of time that we were stressed out, we failed to address our emotions as they came up. Instead, we stuffed them down to deal with later.
Well, it’s later.
Here is a list of several methods you can use (aside from therapy) that might help you release them:
- EFT tapping
- Massage therapy
- Reiki (a form of energy healing)
- Chakra balancing
All of these methods can help you discover and release old emotions that you’ve been hiding in your body.
I’ve done all of these and use many of them regularly for preventative care. Because I’m also an empath and highly sensitive person, it’s extremely important for me to release leftover emotional baggage (especially if it isn’t even my own).
I know it’s easier to just walk away from stressful experiences and not revisit their impact. But, if you want to recover faster, I strongly recommend doing something to help you release any emotions you might be unknowingly holding on to.
But I’m not an expert.
I can only speak from my own experience, and I know that these strategies for releasing built-up emotions have helped me recover from times when I’ve been chronically stressed.
One of the first things I did when recovering from the stress of those solo-parenting years was to try meditation, yoga, and Reiki energy healing. While yoga and meditation helped to stretch my mind and body, Reiki helped turn things around for me emotionally. If you’re highly sensitive or an empath, you might find that starting with energy work might be the quickest way to feeling better, too.
Recently, to recover from the stress of 2020 specifically, I found Yoga with Adriene’s 30 day Breath practice to be extremely therapeutic. I was able to release a lot of residual anxiety trapped in my shoulders and heart chakra space. You can find all the videos for #YWABreath over on Adriene’s YouTube channel.
Whatever you do, be kind to yourself
Whether you choose to see a therapist, take a break, or release all your built-up emotions, just make sure that you take the time necessary to properly recover from whatever long-term stress you’ve recently faced.
In America, we live in a culture where even proper childbirth recovery isn’t accepted. We put an artificial timestamp of six weeks for post-partum recovery and expect that a woman is going to feel like her pre-pregnancy self by then.
True recovery from childbirth AND from long-term stress (such as what we faced in 2020) takes time. And only you can tell whether you’ve recovered or not.
Don’t allow society to push you when you aren’t ready yet. Take as much time as you need, mama. The world will keep spinning until you’re back on your feet.
Love & light,