Category Archives: Well-Being

Overwhelmed to Overjoyed

Woman meditating outside against blue skyFrom Overwhelmed to Overjoyed – How This Working Mom Found Sanity in 20 Minutes a Day

As a working mom, I had experienced so much stress for so long, it became normal. Seriously, it was like a friend. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I wasn’t running somewhere with my impossibly long list of things to do. I remember listening to a co-worker lament one day about how long it had been since she had been to the spa. As I halfheartedly listened, I remember thinking, “My idea of a spa day is an uninterrupted trip to the bathroom.” This was not sarcasm. This was an honest, eye-opening assessment of my life. Not long after this, I realized things had to change.

I looked around for ideas, asked friends, Googled away at all the appropriate key words, went to the doctor, etc. I had loads of suggestions, ranging from acupuncture to Xanax. The Xanax appealed; I’m not gonna lie. After lots of thought about what would work best for me, I decided to give meditation a try. There are a number of low cost strategies people can use that can have dramatic results. In my opinion, meditation is the easiest to begin and the most effective. The benefits of meditation are not only profound; they were tailor made for the challenges I was facing as a working mom.

I often felt tired, overworked, and frustrated. Basically, I was overwhelmed. Most of us feel this way at one time or another, but sustained periods of stress can lead to long term health challenges. If this sounds like you, meditation may be the answer. I would not say meditation will eliminate the challenges we face in our day to day lives, but it does reduce stress levels and it has a significant impact on your sense of well being.

The benefits of meditation are profound. Meditation has been proven to reduce inflammation, increase immunity, restore emotional balance, and lower blood pressure. It costs nothing and takes very little time to do. Clearly there are life changing and even transformational benefits to this ancient practice. If it’s so fantastic, why is it not more prevalent?

There are two primary reasons. To begin with, most people don’t know what to expect. They make a few attempts, don’t feel anything or wonder if they are doing it right, then give up. I was definitely one of those people. I tried it a couple times just for kicks in my early twenties. But I absolutely didn’t “get” it. I was sitting there, trying to concentrate on my breathing and it took 90 seconds tops for my mind to start wandering. Thoughts started racing through my mind. “Did I feed the dogs this morning?” “How long does it take eggs to expire?” “Oh right, concentrate, breathe.” “Is Elvis alive and pumping gas in Arkansas? That would be awesome.” “I don’t think this is working.” Then, like any other self respecting, overworked and overwhelmed person, I decided, “It’s not me; it just doesn’t work.”

If you are new to the meditative arts, I suggest guided meditation. There are dozens of guided meditation recordings available through YouTube, so there is no expense to trying it. This type of meditation eliminates the “Am I doing this right?” moments from the equation. By guiding the thoughts towards relaxation, it helps beginners develop their concentration skills. Quieting the mind is difficult for anyone, let alone someone worrying about their kids, their jobs, PTA meetings, soccer games, feeding the dog and doctor appointments. By focusing on the guide’s direction, stressors and the “things to do” list slowly fade from the mind. These thoughts are replaced with deep breathing, soothing thoughts, and total relaxation.

There is another equally compelling reason people don’t take advantage of this practice. Most people see the benefits on a superficial level, but deep down they don’t know how it works. So, they don’t truly believe it works. To be honest, I always wondered how or better yet, if, meditation truly worked. It seemed liked bunk. How could sitting quietly in a room and deep breathing have major impacts on my life? Intuitively you can see that in the short term your stress would be reduced, but long term, positive impacts on my overall life? It didn’t seem likely.

So how does it work? The regulated breathing pattern releases accumulated stress in the system in two ways. It decreases a stress-related hormone called Cortisol that has many adverse effects on the body, including weight gain. It also increases Serotonin. Serotonin is a compound that improves mood and your overall sense of well being. In addition to the many stress reducing benefits meditation provides, studies have shown that it boosts the immune system, increases your energy and decreases tension-related pain,

Bottom line, it’s free, it’s relatively easy to do, it can be done in minutes a day and it can significantly improve your life. Try it! Other than stress, what have you got to lose?

Managing Stress as Working Mother

Ask any mother who’s been there, and almost every woman will agree trying muster up energy every day to take care of new children and young kids is a mountain of a challenge. Add onto that task maintaining a job as well, and it’s no surprise mothers are completely stressed out and high candidates for chronic stress health problems.

Despite all the guide books and resources, there is no perfect method for being a successful, stress-free mother. Instead, unpredictability usually reigns supreme, causing havoc with every other aspect of life and work. Just imagine being on a schedule, already thinking about the meeting at 10am that morning, and on the way to delivering a child to preschool, a potty mess and emotional tantrum occurs in the backseat of the car, simultaneously. Welcome to the typical morning of a working mother of a preschooler on the first day of school. It shouldn’t be any surprise that the same mother can barely keep her wits together in a meeting when someone at the adult level decides to be difficult on work issues as well.

Stress affects every part of how a mother operates in her work and personal life. It reduces her energy, her efficiency, and her critical thinking capacity. Day after day, the continued stress wears down on a person. However, there are ways a working mom can fend off stress or reduce it significantly. Believe it or not, the following tips can help tremendously:

 

  • Plan every day and stick to the plan as much as possible - the daykeeper, whether paper or electronic, is a working mother’s best friend. Half the cause of stress is trying to remember everything perfectly and getting nothing even somewhat right. Planning each day as much as possible provides consistency to what can otherwise be a chaotic day. It also cuts down on the unknown which creates anxiety drives up the stress-o-meter. For more help here, download my e-book, “The Balancing Act: Time Management for the Working Mom” available at WorkingMomsAdvisor.com.

 

  • Define parameters – a working mother who defines limits for everyone involved or wants something from her at home creates barriers that allow her to take a break. When a person can shut down and rest, she gets sick. By defining how much people at home can demand from a mom and sticking to that line, a working mother can create a rest zone in time and place which is critical to get re-energized.

 

  • Keep connected to the kids – When things get stressful, it’s easy to put the kids in the proverbial back seat. However, kids who don’t feel loved or paid attention to start to act out to get more attention. That can lead to more stress as the little ones and teenagers get in trouble. By staying connected, a working mother can head off the problems early, reducing their own stress in the long run.

 

  • Exercise, exercise, exercise - The body needs a break from stress as much as the mind. One way is sleep but the other involves exercise, burning off muscle anxiety and allowing a person to loosen up. Women who can maintain even 30 minutes or an hour a day or every other day can do wonders for personal health and stress reduction. It also helps keep the weight off.

 

  • Network and share help - The old saying that it takes a village to raise a child is still true today. When working moms are overwhelmed, one of the best ways to tackle the challenge is to rely on other friends who are moms for help. Not only does the reliance help build networking, a mom helped today can help another mother tomorrow. The benefits are huge when big problems are broken down by multiple people working together.