If you're already frazzled, you might want to sit down for this: A new study reports that women today are more stressed than any other demographic out there. So stressed, in fact, it's the first time in history that women might not outlive their male counterparts.
Why? Because stress takes a toll on your entire system. It lowers your immune system function, makes you more likely to gain weight, disrupts healthy sleep patterns, and compromises healthy, healing food choices (i.e., reaching for the pizza delivery menu instead of taking time to cook vegetable stir-fry).
Yes, women can certainly have and do it all: A happy marriage, fulfilling career, kids, etc. But many women find themselves juggling both the demands of children and teenagers and helping out aging parents. The stress of it all is nothing to take lightly.
With back-to-school upon us, now more than ever we can use some expert tips to facilitate our many hats, and get those stress levels down.
Focusing on yourself doesn’t make you selfish
The kids’ school schedules (and their many after-school activities) are happening again. Much like the airplane "your oxygen mask first" rule, you simply can't help your kids navigate this transition if you don't look out for yourself. You-time is greatly underrated.
"Once Labor Day is over, September is a great month to think about prevention for yourself," says YouBeauty Wellness Advisor Beth Ricanati, M.D. "Have you scheduled your mammogram for the year? If you need it, have you scheduled your pap smear? What about that bone density [test] or colonoscopy? Take time this September to feel beautiful, both inside and out."
One of the most tried-and-true stress relievers is exercise, so even though your schedule is packed, you owe it to yourself to carve out some time to get the heart pumping. Make it feel less like a chore by recruiting friends to join you. “No time of year can beat the fall for refreshing walks with friends,” explains Fitness Expert Tracy Hafen. “Grab a resistance tube to carry with you, and stop every five minutes to do an upper body exercise. You can have a great time and complete a total body workout in 30 minutes.”
Maintaining a healthy diet—for you and your little ones—is an important step to keeping stress in check. All it takes is a little pre-planning at meal times, YouBeauty Nutrition Advisor Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D., says.
"If you know you're heading into a crazy week, find a day where you have the most time to yourself and cook for the entire week," she says. "Make a batch of brown rice that you can simply throw black beans and broccoli in, cut up veggies for your kid's lunches and put them in baggies, [or] make homemade hummus to dip the veggies in."
Lower your kids’ stress too
Also remember that it's a frenetic time for your kids too, so organizing some fun activities will go miles in reducing stress for everyone. Sure, it's time to get homework and bus-routes on the brain, but your little brainiacs also have to feel calm and collected to make it all work.
"Go out for ice cream, head for the beach or an amusement park, [or] kick around a soccer ball," Psychology Advisor Art Markman, Ph.D. suggests. If you work on your communication with your children now, he says, it will pay dividends later when they're busy with school-year activities.
Remember that perfection doesn’t exist
Trying to do it all with a perfect smile on your face and every hair in place can backfire in a big way. A new study found that "supermoms" have a higher rate of depression than women who realize that they won't be able to seamlessly handle everything.
As Dr. Lynne Knobloch-Fedders (Director of Research at Northwestern University's Family Planning Institute) puts it: "Women need to remember that 'perfection is the enemy of the good'—that is, trying to do everything all the time 'perfectly' isn't realistic, and just adds unnecessary pressure on top of the stress that is already there. Acknowledge and celebrate your limitations rather than trying to be perfect!"
Amen to that. Super Moms everywhere: Wear your many hats proudly, no matter how many things still loom on that never-ending checklist.
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