In terms of daily stress, I have about the normal amount for a working mother. My mornings consist of running around the house ensuring everyone is dressed, packed for school, with filled water-bottles, clean teeth and all the cats feed. Sometimes I have the added burden of getting the trash out to the street before the truck passes our house. A typical morning for the school-age parents according to Dr. Anderson who can be quoted in the article School Mornings Without Stress saying school mornings are like “frequent flyer situations for stress levels to regularly peak.” It seems that no matter how hard I try to plan ahead and get things ready the day before or wake up early to have enough time something out of the ordinary will always happen to throw us off.
What happens to all of us when I begin running around the house in chaos? Inadvertently I end up sending my kids off to school in a state of “Flight-vs-Fight” as my stress often is transferred to them when they pick up my panicking vibes. It starts with our hypothalamus getting us rolling with a blast of adrenaline and cortisol. These are the hormones that get me rolling with a surge of energy that gets my blood rushing, a flash of color to my cheeks and makes my body feel like it is in a cardio mode. This is usually the point where my kids will notice that I am hastening and will often speed themselves up and urge the other one to get going. With our now fast beating hearts we have an extra pump of oxygen-rich blood in our body and we will start breathing faster to match of pace. This seems to increase our stamina to run around the house even more as we gather supplies and finish last minute chores. These are only the noticeable physical changes occurring to our bodies as the hypothalamus activates the sympathetic nervous system.
Once we are all in the car and a good distance on the way to school our bodies begin to slow back to normal. It is almost as if a balloon of hot air is deflating in our car and balance is reinstated. Our hearts and breathing return to a normal pace. My face will usually return to my usual shade of pale and I no longer feel the need to do a thousand things in a second. My son says at this point that our game music has returned to normal instead of super speed (as video games do when the timer is about to go out.) This stage of our day is due to the parasympathetic nervous system being activated.
If you are a working parent like me, is this what your morning is like? Or if you have the magic formula for having a smooth sailing morning to school I would love to hear it! I know the children in my family and the many other families at the preschool I work for would definitely benefit from a different start to the day. If only we could learn to slow down and take a deep breath!
Arky, Beth “School Mornings Without Stress” September 2018 childmind.org
American Psychological Association “Stress Effects on the Body.” http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-body.aspx