Working mothers today hold more power to make choices in their personal and professional lives than ever before. While that may be a positive outcome of the fight for more equality throughout past generations, women with too much to do, too many options and too much stuff often struggle to find balance and peace.
“I often hear women say they feel guilty when they’re at work, and they feel guilty when they’re at home with their children,” says Marilyn Franzini, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and licensed psychologist. This creates stress, simply defined as mental, emotional and physical tension; it feels like internal pressure. “Women can feel this stress less by keeping in mind that ‘yes,’ they can do it all, just not all at once.”
Stress is further compounded when women have “unrealistic expectations” by trying to do too much and doing it perfectly, says Franzini.
Excessive stress creates havoc mentally, emotionally and physically on your health. It will pay off to check out the following simple ways to ease your stress in the office and at home:
Determine your values
One vital key for women to combat stress from too many demands is to discern what they value, and then place those things at high priority. For example, when mothers sign up their children for activities, they can consider how much time they want to spend driving them around. If a woman places a high priority on family dinners or quiet time in the evenings, she may want to cut back on her kids’ sports and other recreation.
Taking the time to determine values relieves stress in itself, because women need to slow down to discern, rather than race through their day, says Franzini. Women that run through their schedules, often make hasty decisions - such as saying “yes” to another activity - without thinking about the extra stress it may cause.
Inexpensive ways to decrease stress
Women don’t need an expensive massage or a shopping spree to decrease stress; women can integrate many stress relievers into their day for little or no cost, says Pamela Radosen, an alternative health practitioner.
“Out of habit, women don’t prioritize our own needs,” she says. “We are wired to look after our families and others, and we give them our time and energy first. By taking good care of our self, we have more for those we love. When we eat right, get enough sleep and exercise, we are more calm, balanced and effective at home and at work."
Start your day with the intention to be harmonious and balanced, says Radosen. Attitude is important. Plan to eat well. “Sometimes it is the simple things that make a big difference in our stress,” she says. “For example, wearing comfortable clothing in colors that feel right for the day can support the positive flow of energy.”
Exercise is always an excellent tool to boost your energy levels and reduce negative feelings. Prayer and meditation are other ways to decrease stress. In stressful situations, taking deep breaths gives our body the opportunity to calm down. Radosen personally benefits from spring forest qigong, which focuses on breath and movement.
Discipline your mind
During the day, it’s also important to keep stress at bay by monitoring self-talk, those voices in your head that can be negative, including “I have to get everything done on my list.” Try to stop those demands with more positive talk, including “Good enough”; “Easy does it”; and “One thing at a time.” Having a disciplined mind not only eases stress and produces gentle self-talk, but also keeps people in the present moment. When women are stressed, they are most likely thinking about the past or the future. “Practice being in the here and now,” suggests Franzini. “It is so fundamental to being happy and warding off stress.”
Being in the here and now is also known as “mindfulness”. Franzini recommends women to make a list of “mindfulness practices”, ways to enjoy the present and enhance health. These tools will vary from woman to woman.
Kept in a simple notebook or a special journal, the list can include a healthy diet, exercise, pets, body work, energy healing, prayer, meditation and hobbies. The activities are enjoyable; make a point to do many of these throughout your week.
Find daily pleasures
“Women need to make sure they are getting enough ‘Vitamin P’; the ‘P’ is for ‘Pleasure,’” says Franzini.
Savoring a piece of chocolate and reading a few pages of a novel only takes a few minutes, but it can improve one’s attitude and energy for the rest of the day.
Be sure to update your mindfulness practice list, as it will change with the ages of your children and seasons of the year.
With the holidays just around the corner, continue to practice mindfulness and discern what’s most valuable this season, says Franzini. Rather than buy for everyone on your Christmas list, pare down your shopping, as well as your Christmas card list.
Prepare for busy times like the holidays by making a reasonable plan and keeping it simple, says Radosen. “Consider making one family favorite instead of trying to do it all,” she says.
Kim is a busy wife, mother of two daughters and owner of a small business who strives for balance.
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