How to Mindfully Bust Out of a Hyperactive Lifestyle
As the chief director of your family’s universe, you’re the pulse-point of the home. But if that means you’re struggling under the mantle of an unforgiving schedule, now is the time to reevaluate. Your health and the overall well-being of your family depend on it.
According to an annual survey called “Stress in America” conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), adult stress levels are the highest that they’ve been in a decade. And women report higher levels of stress than men.
“Wanting to please, wanting to be everything to everybody, women just keep extending themselves, until their minds and bodies cannot cope,” says Rosalie Moscoe, RHN, RNCP, author of Frazzled Hurried Woman! Your Stress Relief Guide to Thriving.
Health implications of stress. Stress is the body’s way of coping with what it perceives as a dangerous situation. When our body switches on the “fight or flight” survival mechanism, a mix of hormones including adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol flow into the body. We become hyper-focused, our heart and breathing rates increase and we feel a boost of energy.
Chronic stress, however, can contribute to health problems like heart disease and hypertension. It can lengthen the recovery time from illness and fuel other long-term health problems, like obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, insomnia, headaches, depression and even infertility.
“High levels of circulating stress hormones can impair adrenal function, resulting in brain fog, lethargy and the dreaded ‘pregnant belly,’ even if you are not with child,” says Elle Griffin, a natural fertility expert and feminine vitality coach. “Some women even start losing their hair.”
Evaluate and prioritize. Make a list of everything you do. Decide which items can be eliminated, pared down or delegated to others. Can you organize a carpool with another parent? Can you limit your kids’ activities to one per season? Are there volunteer activities that you no longer find meaningful? Can your kids fold and put away laundry?
“Dissect one of your most stressful commitments,” Moscoe says. “Your own thoughts and feelings about what is expected of you will determine how much stress you will feel. If you have elder care, get your teenage kids or other family members to visit your folks and do errands. It doesn’t have to be you all of the time.”
Even hiring a cleaning company to come in every other week can lighten the burden of overwhelming housework.
Practice saying no. Once you’ve created some space on your calendar, avoid the temptation to add any new commitments to your schedule. If you’re asked to do something that doesn’t match your priorities or interests, say, “I’m unable to do that right now, but thank you for thinking of me.”
Exercise. Expending energy helps boost energy. Carve out 15 to 30 minutes a day for exercise like biking, yoga, running or walking with a friend. Just don’t put more pressure on yourself by forcing yourself to complete grueling daily workouts. Griffin warns that overtaxing an already stressed body with too much strenuous exercise can increase the stress hormone cortisol.
Plan meals ahead of time. To avoid fast-food runs during hectic weeks, on Saturday or Sunday plan out the coming week’s menu according to what’s happening each day. Choose meals that are simple to make but nutritious. When you head to the grocery store, purchase all of the ingredients you’ll need for each meal to avoid last-minute trips on a busy weeknight. Prep ingredients ahead of time if you can and work the crockpot. Also check out meal kit delivery and grocery store delivery services, which can help you save time during hectic weeks.
Avoid draining personalities. People who constantly complain, gossip or act victimized can sap your energy. Instead, focus on surrounding yourself with people who inspire you. If you’re someone who has a habit of focusing on the negative, try adopting a gratitude practice. By growing more aware of the good things in life, you can view the world as a less hostile, stressful place.
Take a digital detox. Social media can suck up vast chunks of time and add to your stress. According to the APA, individuals who constantly check their email, texts and social media accounts experience more stress. If you’re having trouble signing off, try taking a “digital Sabbath,” or a 24-hour break once a week to unplug from your email and social media accounts.
“Taking a digital detox is one of the most helpful ways to manage stress related to technology use,” says Lynn Bufka, PhD, APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy.
To help you get better, more relaxed rest, before bedtime turn off screens, put away your phone and limit your exposure to news.
Remember to breathe. For a quick relaxation response in a moment of stress, take a deep slow breath. Inhale and hold it. Then exhale the breath twice as long as you inhale. Do this a few times.
Pursue pleasure. Above all, integrate activities into your day that bring you personal joy. Take at least 10 to 15 minutes a day for self-care. Read a book, make a collage, paint your nails or take a bubble bath. Indulge in a cupcake. Schedule a moms night out with some girlfriends or a date night with your spouse.
By taking a more mindful approach to how you spend your time, you can begin more joyfully engaging with the world on your terms. And when you take time to nourish your body, mind and spirit, not only will you flourish, your family will too.
Simple ways to unwind
- Color, paint or draw.
- Get lost in a page-turner novel.
- Play a game with your kids.
- Meditate for one to five minutes.
- Watch a funny sitcom or movie.
- Listen to your favorite music.
- Walk outside.
- Free Relaxation Apps
- Relax Melodies
- Take a Break
Christa Melnyk Hines is a freelance journalist and author of Confidently Connected: A Mom’s Guide to a Satisfying Social Life, a resource for moms seeking a more balanced social life that supports their emotional health.