Too much of a good thing?

Mom on the run

A Day in the Life of a Family:  middle of the night wake up calls by your children, rise early to get a head start on the day, a load of early morning laundry, throw together a meal that represents “breakfast”, run errands, playgroups, doctor’s appointments, drop the kids off at childcare, work,  more meals and clean-up, maybe an afternoon nap for the littlest one,  walk the dog, chatting with your significant other, homework help, sports events, school events, and the list goes on and on…

Needless to say, family life is busy.  And quite honestly-overwhelming at times.  From the first moment your child is born, you realize you would do anything for their health and happiness.  Your intentions are only the best.  But time has a way of accumulating more responsibilities and opportunities.   And you worry.  Worry about appropriate child development, social opportunities, or if they are safe and healthy.   And you may question yourself all the time about your parenting abilities (in comparison to all the magazine recommendations!).  So it seems like the right thing to do to be involved in numerous groups or clubs in addition to tackling everyday family and work life responsibilities.  But do you recognize when you are taking on too much?

Stress is a normal and appropriate part of life.  Appropriate amounts of stress can be a good thing.  Stress can help you complete a work task, or finish bike race, or pull you through a tough time.  But too much daily stress that never is resolved can become chronic and can seriously interfere with your job, family life, and health. Almost half of Americans say they suffer negative consequences of stress in their personal and profession life;  and more than 70% say they experience real physical and emotional symptoms from it (Statistic Brain Research Institute).  The top reported stressors are job pressures, money, health, relationships, poor nutrition, media overload, and sleep deprivation.

What can you do?  Sometimes it seems impossible to eliminate any one of the stressors.  We all have to work, have to feed our families, and socialize with others.  First recognize some of the symptoms that you may be overstressed.  Are you experiencing some of the common stress response’s:   headaches, ongoing fatigue, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating,  irritability, physical symptoms like upset stomach?  Make it a mindful practice to check in with yourself and recognize when you are starting to experience some of these signs of overload.  Then get a plan…what will you do to help bring balance back into your life?  Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Talk it out. Talk to a friend, family member, or therapist if your stress level is too high. Know who that person is in your life that can let you talk without judgment, and just listen.
  2. Take time out. Before you reach your breaking point, take time out for solitude. Make time to take care of your own mental health. It could be a walk on a nature path, listening to your favorite music, reading a favorite book, journaling.  Whatever your time out is, know that it is okay to take a break from the world and make time for yourself.
  3. Set limits. Never hesitate to say “no” before you take on too many commitments. Especially if you are balancing work and family, it’s important to prioritize. Saying “no” can help bring your stress to a manageable level and give you more control over your life.
  4. Try exhaling. Breathing can measure and alter your psychological state, making a stressful moment increase or diminish in intensity. Oftentimes, 10 measured breathes in and out can help restore a more relaxed state of mind.  At least it will give you a moment to refocus your thoughts and next steps.
  5. Exercise.  A body in motion tends to focus on that motion. Exercise acts as a displacement defense mechanism for those who are “stressed out.” If you’ve ever walked or ran for several miles, you know how hard it is to think of your problems when your mind is focused on walking and your breathing.  Exercise releases the brain’s  endorphins, which are known to induce feelings of peacefulness and happiness. Many studies show that exercise, along with the boosted endorphin levels, really does increase confidence and self-esteem and reduce tension.

The reality is we are all going to experience different levels of stress in both family life and our professional lives; this you can’t change.   But what you can change is how you respond to it.   Understanding your triggers, recognizing when you have too much on your plate,  and developing strategies can help bring you back to a more balanced life, and a happier you!

For more ideas on balancing stress in life, visit:

http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/topic/stress-and-anxiety/managing-stress