It was Susan Mitchell that said, “Sometimes it seems your ever-increasing list of things to do can leave you feeling totally undone.” If you’re a Hong Kong mama, you’re probably nodding your head as you think of the million and one things you have to do today, tomorrow and every day after for as far as you can see. The words “mum” and “stress” are often subsumed with one another, but there’s good news – you CAN and WILL be a stress-free mama! Separate these two words and achieve balance in your life by following these simple guidelines below:
Let’s look at mum first. Mum is all things to all people — able to do everything but leap tall buildings. Mom is a superheroine; she can do it all, but can she have it all?
Just like first responders who save lives or our good friends Batman and Robin, mums are responsible for diffusing situations, taking control and lending a helping hand. We as mums need to realise that we can work hard, gain confidence, control our time, simplify our lives and deal with any stresses that come our way in a healthy and efficient manner.
Now, let’s look at stress – what is it and why does it matter?
The pressure is overwhelming – to be the best mum, engaged in our family’s activities, the best worker or stay-at-home manager, the best everything. Can we really be the best? We can try, but at some point in the process, stress enters the picture and gets in the way.
What is stress? It is a specific response by the body to a stimulus, such as pain or fear that disturbs or interferes with the normal function. We hear about stress every day. It affects both our minds and our bodies. Job stress increases the risk of heart disease and the development of back- and upper-extremity musculoskeletal disorders. The differences in rates of mental health problems, such as depression and burnout, for different occupations may be partly due to differences in job stress level. Clearly, we can reap significant benefits from reducing the stress in our lives at work and home.
How is stress measured?
Before we can create a formula for stress relief, we need to better understand how we measure stress. How do you know when stress has taken its toll and you can no longer continue with the status quo? How do you know when you have “had it”?
The human system can tolerate a tremendous amount of stress. Over the years, however, too much stress breaks down your resistance to illness and disease. Remember, the negative consequences of your stress are strongly influenced by your rest habits. Rest, you say! What is that? Are you telling me that rest is a four-letter word that is not a part of your vocabulary? Well, trust me – rest is the critical element in being a sassy, stress-free mom!
Will rest work for you?
What’s relaxing for one may not be for another. You may try relaxation and find yourself impatiently tapping your finger, wishing it to be over! You probably need it more than those who can easily and deeply relax. It may take you longer to learn to quiet your mind. It took my grandchildren to tell me to “chill out and relax.”
Take heart, you can learn. The trick is to find a technique that works for you personally. Begin by choosing a method that appeals to you while allowing your mind to tailor it to work better as time goes by.
In my stress management workshops I offer alternatives to relieve stress, such as:
- Set aside 20–30 minutes of uninterrupted time on a non-digesting stomach (before you eat a meal, not right after).
- Play relaxation music if you like.
- Sit upright with your spine straight and both feet on the floor. You can also lie down (don’t fall asleep).
- Begin with deep breathing for a minute or two or until your body relaxes and experiences a “body sigh.” (This is when your body gets progressively more relaxed with each breath and at one point it almost sighs into a deeper level.) Then, allow your breathing to return to normal and begin to focus on your chosen relaxation technique.
- It’s perfectly normal for distracting thoughts to enter your mind. Take another deep breath whenever you become distracted and think to yourself, “Oh well,” then return your breathing to normal and to your relaxation technique. Or gently push away your distracting thoughts. Imagine pushing them to join other background thoughts that are circling above your head.
- Relax for 20 minutes (or work up to it). Set a quiet alarm for 25 minutes in case you don’t come out of it on your own.
- Gently return your focus to the present and stretch before getting up.
Practice this powerful skill of deep relaxation regularly. Once you get good at it, I can almost promise you you’ll find it to be one of the four most powerful stress reduction techniques (the others are regular exercise, humor and great problem solving).
Squeeze a few minutes of relaxation into each day
Far too many of us lead lives that are frenzied and hurried from the moment we wake up in the morning to the moment we crawl into bed at night.
The more packed every moment of your day is the more you need to make time to relax for a few minutes of deep breathing, or, if possible, 20 minutes of deep relaxation or yoga. Making this a habit will keep you in better stress shape for the day that chronic stress knocks on your door, which it almost certainly will (if it hasn’t already).
Find and share your bliss
We all need balance, and in order to achieve balance, we need to find and share our bliss – what brings us the greatest joy. Think about what makes you get out of bed in the morning and what brings you the greatest joy.
Set aside time for yourself every day. This can be a quiet time that you schedule into your day, every day. Use this time to think, write, read, meditate or do anything else that will further your passions. Those around you will adjust quickly to this time and will not interrupt you. It is your time to be, and to appreciate, you.
Focus on what you love, eliminating as much as possible that does not feed your joy or energy. Go with your feelings and emotions and do what feels good! So many of us have allowed others to tell us what we should do, think, and feel for so long that it might take some time for you to find your bliss. Stick with it and the world will be at your command.
Mum, the superheroine, can become stress-free and create a life in balance that brings fulfillment, engages family, and celebrates the joys in life.