I’m happy to welcome Nicole Connolly, PhD, today to talk about reducing stress in light of Mental Health Awareness Month. I must say, motherhood has brought me more stress than anything else has! 😉 Thank you for being here, Nicole!
If you are like the typical mom, you are on the go from the moment your feet hit the ground. Between family, work, and household demands, stress can begin to accumulate quickly, with little time left over to manage it.
According to results from the American Psychological Association’s recent study on stress in America, women tend to report significantly more stress overall than men. Women also report that their stress has been increasing at a much faster rate over the last five years compared to men. About 68% of women surveyed said that they feel that managing stress is important to them, but only 34% of women surveyed feel that they are actually being successful at managing their stress.
Here in the US, May has been designated as Mental Health Awareness Month. In addition to promoting greater understanding of mental health issues and reducing the stigma of seeking help, this month is also about reflecting on our own lives and finding new ways to improve our overall wellness and mental health.
So how can busy moms who are being pulled in hundreds of different directions every day do something positive for their mental health and their stress levels?
Here are my 5 favorite tips for improving your mental health this week:
- Do something you enjoy to pamper yourself every day. As moms, we are often called on to take care of everyone else, leaving taking care of ourselves on the back burner. While this can work in the short term, taking care of others without taking time to replenish ourselves eventually just leaves us worn out and depleted. Taking a little time for yourself can help you be a more effective mom in the long term.
- Find time to exercise. I know almost every stress management article for women mentions exercise, and I know many of you will groan and roll your eyes at the suggestion. Despite the bad rap, exercise is often on the list of top stress management techniques because it works. It releases feel-good chemicals in the brain and has been shown in research to be as effective as medication for reducing mild depression symptoms. Adding exercise doesn’t have to be an overwhelming chore involving long trips to the gym or an expensive personal trainer. Something as simple as going for a short walk can have a positive impact.
- Take a momentary time out when needed. Especially when the stresses and frustrations of dealing with the demands of motherhood pile up quickly, most women could use a short time out to regroup and refocus. When overwhelmed by the latest antics of your little ones, just taking a two minute break to take a few deep breaths in another room can help get your emotions back under control. Plus, it models positive anger and stress management strategies for your kids.
- Try learning a new relaxation technique. Different techniques work for different women. Finding relaxation strategies that work for you is an important component of managing your stress and your moods on a regular basis. If you’ve never tried formal relaxation techniques, All About Depression has a wonderful library of free sample clips of many different relaxation techniques. I find that progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness meditation are the most popular and effective techniques among my clients.
- Seek out support from others. For many women, talking to a supportive friend, acquaintance, or family member can also help with managing the ups and downs of daily life. However, it can be easy to become isolated as a busy mom. Building social supports is an important, but often neglected, part of being a well-balanced mother. If this is an area of weakness in your life, look into joining a mom group in your community, seek out interesting volunteer work, or join a community organization that sounds interesting to you. Many women may also benefit from speaking with a therapist who can provide support and help you find even more ways to manage your stress and moods.
What small change can you challenge yourself to make this week to prioritize your own wellness and better manage your stress?
Nicole Connolly, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and is the mother of one rambunctious boy and a second baby boy on the way. Dr. Connolly received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she conducted research examining the relationship between stress and anxiety and depression in young women. She currently operates a private practice in Santa Clarita, CA. In addition to working directly with women and families on managing stress, depression, and anxiety, she regularly writes a blog on her website at http://drnicoleconnolly.com, discussing issues relating to mental health, parenting, and relationships.