By KRS Edstrom
Is there such a thing as “positive” stress? I own a small business and am running from morning to 6 p.m. I seem to thrive on the challenges that come up each day but my family is worried that I’m pushing myself too hard.
Dear Positively Stressed,
The phrase “positive stress” is currently popular but I am not comfortable with the message it carries. While our bodies and minds are made to endure short periods of stress, prolonged periods become health hazards, raising blood pressure and weakening the immune system, to name just a few by-products. To endorse the idea that stress is good for us is playing with dynamite.
Isn’t our goal in this new century to slow down and add quality to our lives? If we are to evolve into more fulfilled, conscious beings we need to reformat our language as well as our thinking.
I prefer the word “challenge” and your using it instead of
“pressure” implies a sense of control, accomplishment and satisfaction for
your work. This puts you in the no-stress zone. Share that with family so they
can stop feeling stressed about your life.
I’m a 34-year-old working mom who is having trouble finding time for myself. Since I had my baby, it seems like I finish my “paycheck job” only to head home to another full time job. Since my baby is in daycare all day, I want to be with her as much as possible the rest of the time — but then there’s no time left over for me. I’m not asking for two weeks in Hawaii, just a break here and there.
Tired Working Mom
Dear Working Mom,
You’re not imagining things. You really do have “two jobs” and a very demanding schedule. In fact, the average combined home/office workweek for women is 75 hours compared to only 62 hours for men. That’s a 13-hour difference!
Congratulations for recognizing you need a “balance adjustment” versus trying to be a Super Mom (who ultimately ends up an exhausted, Unfulfilled Mom). A break “here and there” is well within your reach. Here are a few ideas you can customize to suit your particular lifestyle. Write them down along with any others so they will be handy on days when you are too tired to think.
Instead of listening to the news at home or in your car, play special soothing music. Your baby and husband will respond positively to it as well.
Make a ritual of soaking in a bath each night (after your little one is firmly ensconced in the Land of Nod). Light candles, play soft music (Hawaiian music perhaps?) and sip herbal tea while you visualize being on a quiet beach in Hawaii.
These mini-breaks will restore mental and physical calm, balance and vitality. This, in turn, will make you an even better mom. Got the message? You can’t afford NOT to make time for yourself.
P.S. This also does wonders for
I need some motivation to get me to exercise in the morning. I diligently set the alarm early but 9 times out of 10 times I punch the “snooze” button and the next thing I know I’m racing to get to work on time. Don’t suggest I do it later in the day because that’s impossible.
Snoozing & Not Losing
The biggest obstacle to exercise consistency is not physical - it’s mental. Staying motivated. We have to become our own “exer-psychologists” to be sure the job gets done day in and day out. What works one month may need adjustments the next month. Be aware of this and evolve your program accordingly.
Mental Motivator: Put a sign on your
alarm clock that will trigger a response in you such as, “You Snooze, You
Lose.” Alternatively, many of my clients love this one, “Take ONE Step.”
That means all you have to do is get dressed and take one tennis-shoed step
(versus slippered step) into your routine. Promise yourself you can go back to
bed if it’s really that bad. (No one ever does, but don’t tell that to your
rebel sub-self). You might also paste a picture of your “goal” self (no
models please) on your Mental Motivator sign for a little added incentive.
At the age of 41, I have recently re-entered the work world after devoting the last 16 years to my two children and husband. The job routine is coming back to me but I still get quite nervous and find I often talk too fast and occasionally even hyperventilate, especially in high-pressure situations.
Re-entering the Work Force
Dear Re-entering the Work Force,
Assuring yourself that you will be back in the groove very shortly will help dissipate your stress. In the meantime, you have this wonderful opportunity to practice a new and very simple skill that will help quell the stressful waters. When nervous, we tend to breathe shallowly, in our upper chests, thus not maximizing oxygen intake. Interestingly, studies show that when a group of calm people purposely breath shallowly for a short period they soon feel stressed. It is a vicious cycle. Stress induces shallow breathing; shallow breathing induces more stress and so on. You can restore an even, stress reducing breathing pattern with The Complete Breath.
The Complete Breath
The Complete Breath is a great on-the-spot yoga exercise that takes only seconds and can be easily incorporated into your work day. Do it in your car, in the elevator, at your desk or during meetings. Once you get in the habit and feel the results you will become “hooked” on this wonderful opportunity to not only relieve stress but to visit “home base,” your true self, and get centered for the challenges ahead.
1. Exhale completely to the slow count of 8, like letting all the air out of a balloon. Contract the diaphragm muscles (just below the ribcage). “Push in” to get all the air out.
2. Inhale slowly and deeply to the slow count of 12, filling your lungs “from bottom to top,” that is from the bottom of your rib cage area to the upper lobes of your lungs, which extend almost up to your shoulders. Keep the neck relaxed and the shoulders lowered.
HOLD this breath for a slow count of 8 or as long as you can. [Your lungs need to stretch like your muscles do!]
3. Exhale slowly and evenly to the count of 8. Now, let a natural rhythm
resume, originating from the diaphragm. If you like, place your hand over the
diaphragm area and feel the slow expansion and contraction of this area. Notice
how calming it is. Continue this for as long as you can.
My husband and I both work long, hard days and when we get home we are drained. We eat, watch some television and go to bed. What conversation there is mostly revolves around household business. We’d both like to exercise more which would probably give us more energy but then we’d spend even more time apart. We made a conscious choice not to have children so we could be together and have the freedom to do what we want when we want. That’s not happening and I don’t like where we’re heading.
Couple that Works Too Much
No surprises here. Drained at the end of the day = drained, flat communication and potential drained, flat relationship. For starters, how about setting a once a week “appointment” to exercise together? If possible, make it on the weekend and be specific about the time and activity. Walk or bike around town — or drive to a part of town (or the country) that is conducive to the activity. I particularly like walking or hiking for couples because it also serves as a natural, non-threatening and inexpensive therapy session. My private clients love it when we do talking/walking sessions. More psychologists should consider it. Exercise opens the mind and heart and stimulates healthy communication that is actually enjoyable (versus sitting across from each other and saying “Okay, now it’s our time to communicate...”). Believe it or not, exercise in the form of yard work or cleaning the garage together can also be a bonding experience if both approach it with the right frame of mind. A mission with rewards that extend beyond a nice looking yard.
KRS Edstrom, M.S., is an author, lecturer and columnist. She is available for private sessions (by phone or in person) and seminars on meditation, motivation, stress, pain, weight loss and other personal growth issues. Her books and audios, offer solutions for healthful, conscious living. For free soothing guided meditations and more, visit KRS’ “Serenity & Meditation Corner” at www.AskKRS.com . For more information call (323) 851-8623 or e-mail to: ASKKRS@aol.com
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