Ah, blissful, ignorant me. When I first started this homeschool journey, I thought that homeschool stress was something that only other moms would experience.
But me? Nah. I was going to happily explore bugs and meadows and other natural wonders with my kids. They'd eagerly ask me questions; and I'd joyfully respond. What in the world could go wrong? I thought.
Ha! (I could write so much more here, but I'm going to let you do your own fill-in-the-blanks. Because I'm pretty sure you're laughing along with me.)
Let's just say that if you've homeschooled longer than two minutes you recognize the, um, potential for stress in homeschooling. You recognize that even the happiest homeschoolers deal with ongoing stress.
So let's get real about that. What are some practical ways to cope?
Here are 26 helpful mindsets, habitual practices and in-the-moment strategies to combat the very-real stress inherent in homeschooling. You'll also find 25 other stress-combating resources sprinkled throughout these tips (and at various lists at the end). For a total of (that's right) 50 ways to manage homeschool stress!
NOTE: Please know that I have not mastered all of these! I am a flawed and imperfect momma just like you. But I'm sharing these with you because they are my go-to list of ways to combat ongoing homeschool stress.
Practical Ways to Manage Stress
In the Moment Strategies:
1) Source the stress. Maybe this sounds obvious, but what is the biggest source of stress in this particular moment? Step away, take a breath and try to identify what's actually going on. Are there actions you can take right now to lower the stress, such as…
2) Establish a restful atmosphere. On most days, we diffuse various essential oils throughout our learning space. This keeps tempers lowered, and stress down overall. Essential oils are amazing because they not only smell nice, but, because, they work on a biochemical level, they can encourage positive emotions in a learning space. Some of our favorites to use to combat stress in the classroom are Lavender, Copaiba and Stress Away. Peppermint and Lemon are also great to diffuse as well to encourage a bright, fresh atmosphere.
3) Practice stress-relieving yoga poses.
- Standing Forward Bend. I use this pose to reset my mind, and to release tension in my back, hips and neck. Once in the pose, I like to grab opposite elbows and slowly sway side to side. I stay in the pose for a minute or so, or as long as feels comfortable.
- Child pose. When I’m in this pose, I feel safe and comfortable. Biologically speaking, the Child Pose calms the nervous system, stretches the back and increases circulation. This is a wonderful pose to end the day or as a way to bring instant calm into a moment.
I really like these Christian yoga videos:
Holy Yoga TV, a subscription-based Christian Yoga video site, looks interesting too.
4) Practice breathing exercises and calm holds. These are some stress-reducing strategies that I learned from Lisa Grace Byrne in her Replenish 365 course:
- The Long Exhale. This is my go-to defensive strategy, especially if I feel quickly provoked to anger. Inhale through your nose to the count of 4, exhale through your mouth to the count of 8. Repeat 4-5 times. Be sure to exhale twice as long as you inhale for the full benefit of the exercise.
- The Calm Holds. Either of these are great to do at the same time as the “Long Exhale” exercise (above).
- Calm Hold 1: Cup your forehead with one hand and the nape of your neck with the other and hold for 30seconds, squeezing your head as if you were pushing them towards each other.
- Calm Hold 2: Put your thumbs at your temples, and the pads of your fingers at the center of your forehead. Count to 30 while taking slow, deep breaths with long exhales. It if helps, you can massage your temples with your thumbs as well.
5) Stop and just smile. Of course no one feels like smiling in a stressful moment, but no matter how fake or phony it feels, I try to smile, and then hold it for a good 30 seconds. When we smile (even fake smile), endorphin and seratonin are released, which help us feel better on a biochemical level. Seriously, give it a try!
6) Lower your vocal tone. When I get angry my voice becomes louder and more high-pitched. Therefore, one strategy I use to lower stress is simply to lower both the level and tone of my voice. It’s kind of a little trick I play with myself, but there have been many times that it has saved me from boiling over.
7) Free-form journal on the tough days. Perhaps it's helpful to keep a small notebook where you could spend anywhere from 1 minute to 30 minutes (or whatever time is available to you) to just let the emotions out. No agenda, no formal questions—just whatever you’d like to say.
13) Get up before the kids do. (Yes, I just heard the night-owls groan.) Seriously though, the hours before my kids wake up are some of the most peaceful hours of the day for me. I love being able to get up, take a shower, spend some time in my Bible, and grounding myself for the day. It is my number one tip for getting your day off to a good start!
14) Recharge. Regularly. What replenishes you and makes you feel rested? What brings beauty to your days (looking at art? watching the sunset? doing something crafty?)? These can be big things (like a weekend away) or small things (like a five minute break for you between breakfast and that first subject of the day). I am a highly creative person, and so for me, I need to feel like I'm creating beauty each day in some way. Some days that's just sitting outside and appreciating the sunset.
15) Drink water. Water has so many amazing properties, but studies have shown that water actually brings refreshment and clarity to the brain! This is why on school days I make sure that the kids and I stay extra hydrated! In addition, I find that the act of stopping what I’m doing to grab a glass of water also adds to the calming effect.
16) Limit coffee and sugar. Caffeine amps up our emotional energy (which is the last thing we want when trying to keep stress at bay) and can increase anxiety. Sugar can have a similar effect. I know, I know. I hear you.
17) Institute a daily quiet time (for you and kids). There is a wonderful period of time in my home in the late afternoons known as “quiet time.” Everyone is either in their room reading or resting. I desperately need this as part of our day in order to reduce stress!
18) Ease into/out of a homeschool schedule. When starting school, we try to not add in all the subjects at once, but instead slowly ease our way into the homeschooling “waters.” We reverse the process when ending our school year, or around long holiday breaks. This can lessen the stress.
19) Expect it to be hard. Really. This one mindset has brought such freedom to my soul. For the longest time, I was expecting perfection and was continually disappointed when my homeschooling world did not rise to my unrealistic expectations. This is a hard journey. Accept it, my friends.
20) Focus on the big picture. Understand the “why” behind your homeschooling. Why are you doing this? What is your ultimate purpose? For our family, we do long to academically prepare our kids, but our bigger purpose is to develop essential character qualities and leadership abilities, while encouraging them toward a deep relationship with God.
21) Let some stuff go. Really. You don't have to have a perfect house (find systems that work for you). You don't have to cook gourmet meals every night (think freezer meals, once-a-month shopping and crock pot meals instead). Find systems and mindsets that set you free to focus on what's really important in this hectic season of parenting and homeschooling.
22) Consider readjusting priorities. Are there activities that perhaps aren't essential right now? Do you really have to have each of your children in multiple extra-curricular activities? Consider if these “good things” are bringing unnecessary stress to the overall family structure.
23) Consider the seasons. The beautiful colors of fall only come once a year. Spending the day playing in the snow is one of those great joys of childhood. There's nothing like taking a hike through wildflowers after a rainstorm. Having the freedom to experience these joys with our kids is one of the great blessings of homeschooling, and they can be wonderful stress-relievers too.
24) Focus on the good that is happening. There is always something great happening in our homes! Always. Find these things and meditate on them regularly. Celebrate them. Let them encourage you during the toughest seasons.
25) Acceptance with joy. Oh, I could write a book on this topic alone. So much freedom comes when we stop fighting the “why” and just accept–with a happy heart–what “is.”
26) Realize that you're not alone in this journey. Friend, we are ALL going through this! You are not alone! Never, ever forget that!
As I was putting this post together, I realized that I have written a LOT on this topic! Here are 12 other related posts with other ideas:
This post is Part 3 in the “Homeschool Sanity Savers” series. Don’t miss the other posts:
- Part 1: Monthly Meal Planning, Monthly Shopping, Freezer Meals and the Crock Pot
- Part 2: Daily and Weekly Household Routines That Work for Your Family
- Part 4: Why Your Classroom Needs a Learning Activities Station When Teaching Multiple Kids
- Part 5: How to Keep a Strong Marriage While Homeschooling (15 Bloggers Speak!)
Some of my favorite books on this topic include:
Phew! And there you go: 26 helpful mindsets, habitual practices and in-the-moment strategies and 24 additional posts, books and other resources about this important issue!
Which of these in-the-moment strategies, habitual practices and helpful mindsets do you use to combat homeschool stress?
Which ones would you like to try? Let's chat about this!