There’s no doubt about it. Being a mom in these modern times can be stressful.
Women are more likely than the general public to cite as sources of stress family health concerns – 57 percent for women, 53 percent for the general public – and family responsibilities – 62 percent for women, 57 percent for the general public, according to the American Psychological Association survey, “Stress in America: Our Health at Risk.”
In addition, caregivers, both men and women, are more likely to report higher levels of stress than others, 6.5 for caregivers and 5.2 for the general public, in 2011, on a scale of one to 10 where one is low stress and 10 is high stress).
“What I see in my practice is that too often women are so focused on other people’s needs that they neglect the stress in their own lives,” Rosalind Dorlen, Psy.D., chair of the New Jersey Psychological Association Public Education Committee and spokewoman for the American Psychological Association, said in a statement. “With so many competing responsibilities, women often don’t take time for themselves, and their overall wellness can be compromised.”
For Mother’s Day, New Jersey Psychological Association offers these strategies for busy women, mothers, and caregivers:
Take care of yourself – Set aside time to engage in healthy activities that you enjoy or that help you relax. Identify hobbies, increase exercising or eating healthy foods. Making time for yourself will help you better manage stressful situations and allow you to better care for the whole family. Also, find something that makes you laugh – humor is important, and laughter can make life a whole lot easier.
Recognize how you deal with family stress – Some people deal with stress by engaging in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, comfort eating, or yelling and becoming irritable. Remember that stress is inevitable. What makes the biggest difference is how you manage that stress.
Reach out to others – Enlist and accept help from others including friends and family. Identify ways your family can help with specific needs that must be met such as proving a meal or babysitting so you can find time to take a break and rejuvenate. Take time to connect with your women friends when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Strong female friendships can help women overcome stressors.
Keep things in perspective – Remind yourself that each morning offers a new start and take things one step at a time. Realize that there’s no one perfect way to parent. Staying optimistic lowers stress.
Prioritize – You can only do one thing at a time. Delay or say no to the unimportant tasks, and make appointments for more important tasks, such as spending quality time with a spouse or child.
Be organized – Keeping the family and yourself organized reduces stress. Put family health information in separate folders; get family members to keep laundry in color-coded baskets; keep book bags in assigned bins. Harried searching for things adds to mom’s stress. Enlist your children’s help in developing an organization plan for your household – if they’re involved in the planning, they’ll be more likely to follow through.
Ask for professional help – If you feel overwhelmed by stress or the unhealthy behaviors you use to cope, you may want to talk with a psychologist who can help you address the emotions behind your worries, better manage stress, and change unhealthy behaviors.