Stress Management: 10 Tips for Working Mothers
In my practice as a hypnotherapist, I have many clients who come to me for stress management. Many of those clients are working mothers who fret about the demands on their time: children, husband or partner, paid work and unpaid household chores all pull these women in different directions. The day-to-day, constant small stressors leave them inadequate physical and emotional resources to deal with life's BIG stressors, such as personal and family health issues, financial worries, etc. Frequently, these women lose any sense that they are entitled to some "me" time, and therein lies part of the solution to stress relief.
Typically, one of the things that I teach these clients is self-hypnosis. There are quite a few self-hypnosis techniques that anyone can learn in order to manage stress. But I also give my clients many practical tips to give themselves some stress relief.
Here are 10 tips for stress management that I frequently recommend:
1. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Our bodies do so much restorative work while we sleep, and it's harder to deal with emotional and physical stress when we don't have enough sleep. Additionally, nights of uninterrupted sleep are better than nights of interrupted sleep. So if you have very young children who wake you up each night (for feedings, diaper changes, etc.), try to share those duties with your husband or partner so that you get some nights of uninterrupted sleep. And don't feel guilty about napping when you get the chance! The energetic demands on your body as a woman juggling numerous roles are enormous. The more you can cater to those energetic needs, the more resources you will have for dealing with life's annoyances and real stressors.
2. Prioritize and organize errands to minimize the running around time you have to do. You may need to plan a "route" that takes you to the post office, the dry cleaners, etc. once a week. And don't fret if you forget to bring something with you '99% of the time, it can wait until your next trip. Also, minimize the number of times you go to the supermarket by stocking up during fewer trips.
3. Take 10 to 15 minutes each day to just sit by yourself and let your mind float. Turn the phones off, if possible. You can also listen to a relaxation CD or a CD of your favorite music. Don't stress if you can't achieve the "quiet mind" Buddhist monks can achieve. Just giving yourself some "down time" each day is a very important stress management strategy. Treat this down time like you would treat brushing your teeth 'as something you wouldn't dream of skipping! You don't have to necessarily do it at the same time each day, as long as you do it. Don't feel guilty about giving yourself this time. Not only do you deserve it, it will keep you emotionally and physically healthier and better able to give yourself some stress relief.
4. In the back of your mind, keep some sort of mental scale for judging how stressful something is. I typically tell clients to think of some minor annoyance, and then think of the worst thing imaginable (or at least something truly BIG and stressful), and put each thing on opposite ends of the scale. Then when you feel stressed, ask yourself which end of the scale the stressor is closer to. Most things fall much closer to the minor annoyance end of the scale, and this helps keep things in perspective. Perspective is a crucial tool for stress management.
5. Keep in mind a sense of your physical and emotional energetic resources as a discrete quantity. No one is a superhuman; everyone has limits. When you feel stressed about something, or have the urge to react to something, ask yourself, "Is this worth spending my life's energy on?". Very often, the answer is "No," and you can move on without wasting your time and energy on something that doesn't amount to much.
6. Learn the art of limited procrastination. For example, if a letter from your insurance company arrives in the mail, and it tells you your car insurance premium is going up 300% in 60 days, put the letter aside. Very often, these sorts of things resolve themselves or become moot. You might get a letter in 3 days that says, "Whoops! We made a mistake!" and you would have gotten stressed over nothing. Obviously, you don't want to procrastinate about everything, because that can lead to more stress. But when something seems to demand your immediate attention, let it "age" for a couple of days. Or hand it to your husband, partner or other trusted person to take care of it. Stress management is made easier when we are willing to let others help us. There's no need to be Super Woman!
7. Plan nights out with your husband or partner or friend, so you two can have adult time together. Do this once a week or once every two weeks 'whatever works for you. Then you have something special to look forward to, which makes it easier to deal with minor stresses and the endless demands on your time.
8. Give your current work schedule some thought. You may ultimately decide that you want to keep or that you must keep your work schedule the same, but at least you will have given it some thought with regard to what's healthiest for you to do at this time in your life. Sometimes we get caught up in the routine of everyday life, and we don't always take the time to consider whether this routine is the optimal one for us. When we engage in stress management strategies, we need to consider all aspects of our lives, including those that seem more or less set in stone, such as our work situation.
9. Humor is a wonderful tool for stress management. Get some funny DVDs (movies, animated TV shows, etc.) that you, alone or with someone else, can watch in small chunks of time.
10. Exercise is also great for stress relief. It's a good way to blow off steam and get endorphins (feel-good hormones) flowing. If your life is so frantic that you hardly have time to think, no less exercise, just keep it in mind or start in small ways right now. Some of my clients build a library of exercise DVDs, which are great, because most of the DVDs have small segments (15 to 20 minutes) that can be done without taking a big chunk out of your day. Some of my other clients take a yoga class or a pilates class once a week, and it gives them something to look forward to. Exercise should be something you do as part of your overall "taking care of me" strategy.
If you implement some or all of these stress management tips, you will find that your day-to-day stress level can be significantly reduced. That will leave you with the maximum resources for dealing with life's "big stressors."
About the Author
Loretta Sernekos, Ph.D., is a Certified Hypnotherapist in private practice in Cherry Hill, NJ and Philadelphia, PA. You can visit her hypnosis practice website at http://sghypnosis.com for more information and audio podcasts. For additional hypnosis information and articles, both modern and antiquarian, visit http://hypnosisgateway.com.