Monday, October 27, 2008

Create an Oasis at Home to Combat Stress in Fifteen Minutes or Less

Stress is no stranger to the average mom. Day in and day out it tries to enter our lives through busy schedules, a messy home, and screaming children. Here are a few ways that moms can reduce their stress levels fast.

Remember that commercial for Calgon bath soap? Calgon would seem to whisk women everywhere off to exotic locales. Too bad that that can’t actually happen—or can it? Light some scented candles and climb into a nice hot tub filled with lavender bubble bath, and try this quick visualization technique while you enjoy a spa experience at home.

Imagine the place you would most want to be if you could. See the sights. Smell the air. Feel the breeze. Let the scene take you away along with the stress. It’s simple but effective. You can do it anywhere and at anytime.

Do you own an IPOD or MP3 player? If not, get one. You can load music, videos, and pictures on them. My IPOD has a great selection of relaxation music that I listen to in the tub or while flying on an airplane. I also created a CD full of relaxation music for EclipseSpa that has received wonderful reviews.

Music that reminds us of happier times is a stress reliever. The memories that are conjured up relax our mind and return us to more peaceful times. Concentrating on these things leaves no room in our mind for stressful thoughts.

Laughter truly is the best medicine. Watch a comedy on television or rent a comedy movie if you have more than 15 minutes to spare. Alternatively, you can read the comics in the newspaper or check out YouTube clips of political comedy and such. A good laugh works your abdominal muscles. You can get in shape and have a good time while doing it.

Maybe your stress is a result of low blood flow to the brain. You just aren’t thinking clearly. The quickest way to return that mental clarity is to stand on your head. I’m not advocating torture here. This can be as simple as laying on the couch with your head hanging off the side or bending over with your hands on the floor.

More blood to the head means more oxygen also. After a minute or two of this you’ll feel silly and more alert. The thoughts of a few minutes ago will fade away. Don’t turn right side up too fast or you’ll be popping a few aspirin for a headache. Oh well.

Have a drink to relieve your stressful situation. I’m not referring to Jack Daniels or a Grey Goose Martini (although they are great, too), but Earl Grey. Tea seems to have a calming effect on the mind. My favorite tea is a lemon zest or a peppermint tea. Taking a few minutes to relax over a good cup of tea can lower your heart rate and your anxiety level.

Any one of these things can be done in fifteen minutes or less. It doesn’t take much—just a willingness to get centered.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When to Seek Help For Stress

For some of us, stress is a condition that we cannot tackle alone. If you are a mom who has tried to manage your stress alone but to no avail, it may be time to seek help from an outside source. Here are a few suggestions to help with that decision.

Stress can affect our physical body. Too much stress can lead to symptoms like hair loss, headaches, weight loss or weight gain, ulcers, and depressive disorders. All of these symptoms can be signs of conditions other than stress, but if you have been in otherwise good health before they showed up, there is a good chance that stress may be the cause.

Examine your daily life. What are the pressures you face each day? Stress on the job can spill over into family life. The threat of downsizing or loss of a job due to poor economic conditions can cause problems at home to get blown out of proportion. Financial losses in the stock market combined with decreasing home values are wreaking havoc with our emotions.

See a medical doctor if your physical body has shown signs of stress overload. Be sure to tell your doctor when the symptoms started and their intensity. The more information you can provide to your doctor, the better chance of an accurate diagnosis. Holding back anything because of embarrassment is not wise.

Get a full physical exam each year. This will give your doctor a baseline to work from when assessing new problems. Whatever his diagnosis, comply as fully as you can. It’s the difference between getting well or getting worse.

Stress builds up when there is no outlet for the pressure. Moms that have no one to confide in about things going on in their lives could use the help of a professional counselor. A counselor will listen as you speak and offer coping suggestions and solutions.

Many employers offer employee assistance programs (EAP) that allow employees to see counselors for little or no cost. The human resources officer would have information about that. These programs are confidential.

There are clinical psychiatrists and psychologists who can help, whether the problem is related to a mental or chemical breakdown in the brain or situations outside your control. Marriage counseling can help you and your spouse if this is the source of your stress. Group counseling can help moms whose stress has led to unhealthy addictions like smoking, drinking, or overeating.

If your weight is causing stress, join a fitness center and sign up with a personal trainer – someone who will hold you accountable. Sometimes just having an appointment to work out will get you to the gym. And, of course, getting regular exercise can be enough to combat your high levels of stress. Either way, it sure can’t hurt!

I have turned to exercise during times of extreme stress. When I went through a divorce in my first marriage, I turned to riding my bike, which then turned into many years of riding with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Cycling, literally saved me from depths of depression. Being physically active got me in better shape, which in turn gave me better self-esteem and confidence in myself again.

Getting help is nothing to be ashamed of, I sought professional help when I needed to, and would do it again in a heartbeat if needed. Moms are always helping others, but sometimes they are the ones in need. Doing nothing is the worst solution to the problem of stress.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Being a Great Mom and Coping With Stress

Into every life a little stress must fall. When the stress reaches higher than normal levels on a regular basis, your health can start to be affected. Moms may look invincible or even think they are invincible but it’s not true. Stress and good health don’t mix.

Stress is our body’s response to outside stimuli. Sure that sounds good, but it doesn’t mean very much. When you come home from a hard day at work and the sink is full of dishes, the laundry room is piled high with clothing, and the sink in the bathroom has been dripping all day, your blood pressure begins to rise.

The first person who says something to you usually gets to hear about your frustration. Or, they get to see you run bawling to the bedroom and shut the door. This is stress.

Moms, you have to protect your health. If the above scenario is typical of your daily life, watch out. You need to cease and desist before you end up in bed or the loony bin. Popping pills is not a long-term solution to the side effects you are experiencing from your stress. Antacids and headache medication is not the answer.

Did you know that too much pain medication can irritate your digestive system? Your body will fight back with bowel trouble or worse. There’s a reason that labels tell you not to exceed a specified dose in twenty-four hours. We’ve go to stop abusing our bodies.

Are you a stress eater – increasing your caloric intake as your stress increases? I am. I didn’t know it until I had gained about fourteen pounds. Stress can lead to some unhealthy ways of coping. My fix was mint chip ice cream. Do you know how many calories are in ice cream?

Stress can lead to poor eating habits. Overeating or eating the wrong things can lead to obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. These illnesses can lead to heart disease and stroke. Basically, we’re talking about a premature death. That is not an option for you, mom.

Stress can also cause ulcers, migraine headaches, and depression. These conditions can be avoided when we take better care of ourselves. Enlist the aid of your spouse, parents, sisters, brothers, and friends. You are not the first one to suffer stress and you will not be the last. Living with it is not an option.

As a mom, your children can even help you. How can that purple-faced person with jam all over himself or herself help you? Kiss his/her jam stained face until all the jam is gone. Jump on the bed with him. Snuggle together with some books and let all the day’s worries stay outside that door.

Then, after the children are in bed, draw a hot tub filled with lavender bubble bath. You may want to light a candle or two for ambiance. Turn off the lights and let the glow and scent of the candles be your beacon. Just 15 minutes in a hot bath where you can turn off the day is a renewing and relaxing experience and will likely guarantee a better nights sleep too. Even a long hot shower will do the trick. You owe it to yourself and to your family to take a slice for time for yourself.