As I get older, I’m realizing that things don’t necessarily get easier; rather, the challenges we face evolve. At our house, the serious discussions have changed from job searches and pregnancies to balancing our budget, managing our work-life balance and finding ways to stay positive in the current political and cultural climate. Add to these discussions sleep deprivation, busy work schedules, preparing healthy meals, and keeping up with the laundry, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for stress!
Evolving challenges have also shifted my priorities. My “Circle of Important Things” is much smaller, and those things (mostly people) are much more valuable to me. Having this appreciation for what really matters has helped me respond better to periods of stress and adapted my approach to new challenges.
At the risk of sounding like I have it all figured out – ha- don’t worry, I don’t. But what I do know is that for me, focusing on balance and positivity in my life helps me deal with stress in a much healthier way.
Here are some techniques that have helped me re-establish that harmonious balance:
1) Surround myself with positive people- I find I am easily influenced by other people’s moods and attitudes, so lately I’ve been trying to minimize my interactions with negative people and instead focus on spending my precious free time with people who make me feel better about myself and the world we live in.
2) Spend quality time with my kids- My kids are still young enough to see the best in everything and everyone, and I learn so much about pure joy, love and contentment just from watching them engage with the world. They remind me what is most important in our lives and what to stay focused on.
3) Make time for myself– I believe so strongly in this one that I have actually rearranged my work schedule to make it happen. Having a day off to do what I need to do helps me feel re-energized and ready to tackle the many burdensome tasks at hand. I also try to make smaller “me-times” happen throughout any given day, such as reading before bed or taking an extra 5 minutes in the shower (sometimes you have to take what you can get!)
4) Schedule time to talk with close friends or loved ones about what’s on my mind. I make a point to talk with someone I trust so that I can vent my frustrations about whatever is going on, and hear their opinions as well. Knowing I have a time and space dedicated to discussing these issues helps me compartmentalize them during times when I need to be present.
5) Say No. Or at least, “Let me think about it.” In a world where expectations of moms are at an all time high, saying no has become a luxury. But if a new project interferes with my top priorities, it leaves me stressed, resentful, and exhausted. So I’m trying to say “no” more often, or if I feel really guilty with an outright no, I try, “let me get back to you on that.” This response buys me time to really think about what I’m committing to and how it will affect my family and myself.
6) Exercise. I know we all know this, but I want to emphasize how helpful exercise can be, not just for fitness but also for our overall well-being. I find my best and longest runs are on the days when I have a lot on my mind. It’s a great way to clear my head, organize my thoughts, and get back on track.
7) Listen to music. Music for me is like a massage: it finds that one knot that needs to be worked out and releases all that built up tension I didn’t even know I had. It can make me feel vulnerable and sad, empowered and confident, or goofy and carefree, all of which can help me de-stress depending upon my mood.
8) Meditation– yeah yeah, some of my friends will claim I’m officially a Californian now, but there is now myriad data out there emphasizing the importance of meditation and mindfulness for our mental and physical health. It only takes 5-10 minutes a day, and the benefits can be profound- increased happiness, less irritability, better sleep, higher energy level, weight loss, etc etc. There are so many ways to get started- apps, books, audio, video- so pick your paradise and get started!
9) Seek professional help– sometimes we hit periods in our life where despite our best efforts we just can’t seem to find peace within ourselves. That is the time to consider calling a therapist or counselor for help. Unfortunately, our culture has a hard time admitting we need help and making mental health a priority. If you are struggling, please don’t be afraid to seek out professional services.