“How I overcame my addiction to stress”
At a time when busy is the new black, many moms are taking a step back and realizing that being pulled in a million directions is overrated. These moms, who once had trouble defining boundaries and putting themselves first, made real efforts to un-busy their lives.
When it comes to motherhood, busy is a state of being, which in turn can lead to stress. This stress, combined with endless responsibilities and a hectic schedule, can easily lead to an addiction to anxiety. But moms can overcome stress addictions and come out stronger on the other side.
I am worth it
For Sheri Boyle, a mother of three, an addiction to stress began in college under the weight of a very demanding schedule and the need to feel worthy. "I became accustomed to working many hours taking little time for myself," she says. "I became a school psychologist right after I graduated and continued to carry the mindset that I had to prove my worth." Under this pressure, Boyle began to drink massive amounts of soda and coffee and was constantly thinking about her to-do list. It wasn’t until the birth of her first child that Boyle realized the extent of her stress addiction. "My life had come to a complete halt," says Boyle. "I was now sitting a lot and doing tasks that require[d] patience and moving at a slower pace. This was extremely difficult."
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Rest and relaxation
When Boyle began taking yoga in an effort to find some "me time" she couldn’t sit still during meditation. Rather than relax, she would look at her watch but she kept at it and eventually found the benefits of relaxation. Today, she helps others overcome stress addictions as a yoga instructor and encourages moms to address their own needs, emotionally, physically and nutritionally. "When you get up in the morning, feed yourself first," she says. "For me it works better that way. I fill my cup before I fill others and now it is filled with nutrients low in sugar."
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Stress = Balance
Gina Holmes, a mother and novelist, had a similar relationship with stress, but hers began at a much earlier age. Growing up with a feeling of instability due to family upheaval left Holmes with a skewed perspective of normal. "Stress became what I knew," she says. "I thought that was normal and if I wasn’t under stress, life seemed unbalanced." As a mom, Holmes recognized her tendency to take on more than she should after reading two eye-opening books, Codependent No More by Melody Beattie and Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. "As women, we are naturally the caretakers and created to be," she says. "But often we take on what others can and should do for themselves. Just like my childhood, we get used to feeling stressed out and when we're not, something feels off, we feel we're slacking in some area and take on more."
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The cycle of stress
For Holmes, like many moms, establishing and adhering to boundaries was key to letting go of stress. "Learning good boundaries, how to say no and why it's such an important word not just for myself but also for others to hear helped me end a cycle of stress," she says. In an effort to share her lessons learned with other women, Holmes tackles this topic in her new novel, Wings of Glass. She encourages other stress-addicted moms to learn the power of "no" and trust others to do their jobs rather than feeling the need to take everything on themselves.
April is Stress Awareness Month. Find out how to stop being anxious, frustrated and stressed out all the time with these tips from the Health Resource Network.