Stress Relief Tips for Single Moms
By Dr. Susan Bartell
Economic and emotional times are admittedly tough these days…my Less Stress for Life Success seminars (especially those for single moms!) are filling up more quickly than ever!
In fact stress can impact enormously on every aspect of your life-both at work and home–causing symptoms that you may not even realize are the result of stress. And the challenge many single moms face is keeping feelings of stress contained-so they don’t spill over when you are interacting with kids, coworkers, friends, family and even other people like childcare providers or strangers. Some of the most common (and perhaps surprising) signs and symptoms of stress include:
• Sadness/crying/pessimistic/self- critical/depression
• Trouble falling and staying asleep/tiredness
• Overeating/under eating
• Moodiness/irritability/burned-out feeling
• Anger/temper/snapping at people
• Aggressive/dangerous driving
• Back/neck/stomach aches
• Nail biting/skin picking
• Overuse of alcohol and/or prescription/non-prescription medications
• Distractibility/trouble concentrating/difficulty working
• Anxiety/tenseness/panic (NOTE: a panic attack-chest pain, shortness of breath, racing heart, dizziness–can be confused with a heart attack, even by physician, so never assume you’re having a panic attack, see a doctor or go to the ER, especially the first time!)
If you experience any of these more than just once in a while-consider yourself part of generation stress! None are healthy or adaptive coping strategies for stress-and many can become physically dangerous after even a short or period of time (like the high blood pressure you may get from being constantly angry, or a substance abuse problem you may develop or the accident you may cause while driving aggressively). In addition, even if your symptoms aren’t dangerous, it isn’t fun for your kids, coworkers or friends to have to negotiate your bad, stressed out, anxious or depressed mood! And it isn’t good for you either!
But, guess what, while you may not always be able to change your situation…you can ALWAYS change your attitude about the stressful situation so that you develop a healthier, calmer approach toward stress.
So now I offer you seven stress-busting tips for approaching the stressful situations in your life in a much healthier way so that you actually experience less stress, and just as importantly, so that you don’t take out your bad feelings on those around you! Are you ready…?
#1 Take FIVE slow, deep breaths into your stomach and out before responding to a stressful situation. This will not only give you an opportunity to think before responding impulsively, physiologically, it will reduce the stress-producing chemicals in your body, important because when they remain elevated it is unhealthy for your body-potentially causing long-term damage, like high blood pressure and heart disease.
#2 Become an optimist. Optimists are proven to be less stressed than pessimists! So, instead of saying “I can’t”, ask yourself “how can I?”; rather than imagining the worst, visualize the best; write a list of all the reasons you are a wonderful parent, and a successful employee or employer. Read this list often.
#3 Indulge yourself. When you are feeling a moment of stress:
• sip flavored tea
• smell lavender, vanilla or lilac oil
• rub your hands with a good hand cream
• take a bath
• listen to music you enjoy
• take a walk or a nap
#4 If you don’t use it or love, it toss it out or donate it! Clutter is a huge contributor to stress because you waste time and energy searching for what you want-this includes file clutter on your computer!
#5 Give yourself a break…and a push. Take a break from thinking about stress by exercising. Even a walk around the block by yourself, with a friend, your stroller or and older child releases muscle tension, gives you energy to deal with responsibilities and increases the neurotransmitters and hormones that promote calm, happy feelings.
#6 Ask for help. You don’t need to be a superhero…being a single mom is proof enough that you are one already! Give yourself a break by asking friends, family-your entire support system– for help, to prevent and alleviate stress before you take it out on your child!
#7 Don’t waste time. When you are at work, focus and work efficiently so that when you’re home you can be fully present with your child. Don’t waste time in either place with mindless internet surfing, gossip, TV reruns or anything else that will later cause you to feel stress because you didn’t use the time to accomplish something more useful-like getting your office or housework done so you could be with your child!
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Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally recognized psychologist, author and speaker. Her newest book is Dr. Susan’s Fit and Fun Family Action Plan. Learn more about her and her Less Stress for Life Success Seminars at www.drsusanbartell.com