Don’t Just Manage Stress, OVERCOME It

Guest Contributor Liz Lotts

Pull your hair out. Bite your nails. Pace the floor. Dig into a pint of ice cream. These are all common forms of stress management. Unfortunately, they aren’t the most productive means of coping. As a parent, you’re already strapped for time. Add to that financial unease, family demands, work woes and maintaining overall health and well-being. It’s a challenge finding time to keep up with the daily grind, let alone taking time to manage the stress of it all.

Unfortunately, if you let stress pile up like those loads of laundry, the weight will eventually become too much too bear. Mount Vesuvius hasn’t erupted in quite a while, and your family doesn’t need a reenactment. So, instead of letting yourself hit a boiling point, follow these five simple steps to not only manage stress but to overcome it.

O – Organize your thoughts, your feelings, even your closet if you need to. Make a list of everything that’s bogging you down, with the most stressful issue at the top and the least of your worries at the bottom.  Ranking your stressors unveils a certain perspective you may not have seen before. This will help you tackle the most important things first.

V – Vent to someone. It’s important to get it off your chest, so you don’t feel such a heavy load. Be selective about who you talk to, though. Make sure it’s a person you trust and who won’t make you feel judged. Even talking to your reflection in a mirror or out loud in the car can be a helpful release.

E – Exercise to boost endorphins and push through the negative emotions. Not only does exercise improve mood with a rush of feel-good hormones, it can help you keep a lid on stress-induced anxiety. A recent study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Public Health concluded that those who exercise experience reduced levels of anxiety long after their workouts. And, sometimes a strong hit to the punching bag just feels good.

R – Review your feelings. After organizing your thoughts, writing or talking out the main stressors and working up a sweat, it’s time to reevaluate. You’ve had some time to cool off and let the issues air out. Now, you should have a clearer viewpoint of the factors causing your stress and their importance in your life.

COME to a conclusion – a conclusion to change. To properly and productively manage stress, something in your life will need adjustment – your schedule, your spending habits, your priorities or maybe just your attitude. For instance, if you’re stressing over household chores, divvy up the duties or hire a cleaning service. Living paycheck-to-paycheck and can’t climb out of debt? Seek professional financial counseling. You will successfully overcome any stressful situation once you realize that for every problem there is a solution.

By: +Elizabeth Lotts writer for Vitacost.com. Vitacost.com has been selling discount vitamins since 1994. Since then it’s grown into one of the biggest online marketplaces for healthy living essentials-with vitamins and supplements being just one of their many helpful categories! Get the best price on vitamins like Vitamin D, nutritional supplements, health foods and healthy diet products. Vitacost.com’s customers mean the world to them, and it’s their goal to provide you with the best nutritional supplements, natural foods and sports nutrition to help with your health and wellness. Vitacost.com is not affiliated with this blog, and isn’t responsible for content outside of this article.

10 Step Plan to More Happiness

The pursuit of happiness is one of the main drives of human life. We want to be happy. We worry when we are not happy. We want to raise happy kids. We want to be happy as parents and spouses.

We often lose sight, however, of what true happiness is and how it feels. For me, happiness is the ability to let go of stress, be content with who I am and where I am, and be grateful for the small things.

Here are 10 steps you can use to be happier:

1. Acknowledge and accept your lack of control. Often, we try to control everything around us, from the people in our lives to the schedules we obey. Let go of the need to control everything and embrace each moment for what it is.

2. Material possessions do not lead to happiness. A bigger TV or fancier car or bigger house or more money is not going to make you happier. While having enough money to meet your needs can keep stresses at bay that make you unhappy, often it is recognizing how very little we actually need that makes it easier to see how little we must have to be happy.

3. Suspend judgment on others. Often, when we judge others unfairly, it is because we recognize in them a fault we see in ourselves. Believe in the best intentions of others, give others the benefit of the doubt, and do not judge others.

4. Roll with the changes. Life changes. Circumstances change. Our own goals and objectives in life change as our perceptions change. Where we lose our way is when we fight against the force of change instead of bending with it. Embrace the changes that life brings you and see the adventure in it.

5. Seek silence. We are surrounded by a never before seen level of chaos. While technology can be a tool that makes our lives easier and more enjoyable, we often become a slave to it. Turn off phones, laptops, tablets, computers, ebooks, tvs, radios, lights, and other electronics and enjoy moments of silent wonder.

6. Breathe. Take five seconds and focus on nothing but drawing in a deep, fulfilling breath and letting it out. Do this as often as you are able and especially when you are feeling pressured, anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed. Breathing is the release valve your body needs to stay balanced and the moment your mind needs to achieve clarity.

7. I recently saw a quote that said, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future.” To be happy, you must be living in the NOW. Take the time to appreciate this moment of your life without worrying about what has happened or what will happen.

8. Be your most compassionate self. Do nice things for others just because. Bite your tongue rather than say mean spirited things. Tap into the love and joy you have experienced in your life and share it with the world.

9. Meditate. Reserve time for yourself in which you can shut out all other thoughts and pressures and simply be. Quiet your mind, focus on a singular sound or focal point, and rest your mind.

10. Believe in yourself and your path. Things happen for a reason. People come in and out of our lives and connect with us and we gain something or give something during each connection. Move through your life with the faith and confidence that it is the right path for you, that you have the power to change directions when you need to, and that when you do make changes, they are the right ones for you.

 

Privacy is a Luxury Moms Don’t Have

Getting Real With Veronica Ibarra

I’m pretty sure every mother can relate to the idea that privacy is a luxury.  It never fails. I can be totally available the entire day to my children, but the moment I head to the bathroom for any reason that is the moment they descend without mercy or courtesy. Manners are what they demonstrate for others, but somehow the lesson is lost when it comes to me.

I long for the days of an uninterrupted shower or that long luxurious bath I once indulged in so often. It doesn’t matter how quick a pee break I need there will be a child banging on the door or barging in.

My favorite is when I explode, “GET OUT!” and the response is, “I just wanted to ask…”

I am mystified by the fact that the question, whatever it is, doesn’t occur before I head to the bathroom, and can’t possibly wait until I’m done. Is the universe going to implode if the question as to whether a cookie can be had now is not answered? Did my child not want to watch a cartoon before I closed the bathroom door?

This is one of the mysteries and frustrations of motherhood I have yet to unravel.

But it isn’t just them. There is my husband, too. I love the man, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not one of those people who are comfortable doing everything with their partner. Sometimes taking a shower overrides any interest in friskiness or conversation. I just want my shower to be a shower.

I’ve heard of the concept of being touched out, which many mothers feel. For me there is also being what I call thought out. I just don’t want to answer one more questions for anyone about anything. I want to be alone inside my own head for an hour and let my vocal cords rest. I want to take a hot bath in silence, alone.

Is that really so much to ask?

4 Tips to Get Rid Of Working-Mom Guilt

Getting Real With Nicole C. Harris, Guest Contributor

Is pursuing your career weighing you down with guilt because you think your child needs you more than you needing the money? Stop right there! This is not the time for any emotional decisions. In these difficult economic times, an additional income is more than welcome in the family. Although it is natural for you to feel this way but you must get banish the guilt immediately.

After all, keeping up with the needs and demands of your growing child, from braces to paying for their education, is all your responsibility. Follow these 4 simple yet effective tips to understand how you can get banish this working-mom guilt and be a practical, balanced mom, who will be looked up by her children one day:

 1.      Talk To Your Boss About A Flexible Work Schedule

Talk to your boss and request him to give you a flexible work schedule with lenient deadlines. In most cases bosses will be understanding of the situation and respect this request. If you are unlucky to have a boss does not empathize with you, start looking for another job with an understanding boss.

When you apply for a new job, make sure you put this down as a necessary pre-condition. Having a flexible work schedule will enable you to be there with your child when it matters most, say during family emergencies, during his first football game, during her first cheerleading, and many more. And being there during these occasions are sometimes equal to spending 24×7 with your child.

 2.      Don’t Bring Your Office To Home

One of the most common mistakes working mothers do is take work home. This is wrong, as your child will be expecting you to spend quality him when you physically present. Taking work home will distance you emotionally from your child.

Mothers who bring work at home also tend to be more snappy and short tempered because of the work pressure. This will have a negative impact on your child.

 3.      Think Positive

The next time someone points out to you how irresponsible you are being by working a full time job you needn’t slump into depression. Think about the positives of this well paying job. You are being able to offer more opportunities to your child like better medical facilities, private education, his favorite story books and comic figures, her choicest of costly dolls and dresses.

4.      Take A Break

Be aware of the number of casual leaves, paid leaves, medical leaves that your employer is mandated to grant you and ensure you avail every one of them. This way you are being responsible to your workplace, while maintaining a perfect balance with your child. You can occasionally ask your boss to let you off early from office or delegate your share of work to someone else.

Balancing motherhood with your career can be a challenging task, but it is surely not depressing or impossible.

Nicole C Harris is a parenting expert and a freelance writer. She is also the owner of http://www.365gorgeous.in/, a popular beauty products website.

Managing the Stress of Being a Mother-Writer-Woman

Getting Real With Veronica Ibarra

My kind of busy doesn’t always look like your kind of busy. Sometimes busy is reading a book or watching a movie with my kids. Sometimes busy is writing content for blogs or plotting a story arch. Busy is whatever I am doing.

I am a mother, writer, and woman. I am these things all the time and all at once. I do not understand the fragmented way we are encouraged to separate each of the things we are. Those comas should really be hyphens. I should say I am a mother-writer-woman.

There are days where I can proudly say that each item on the to-do list was checked off. Then there are those days I feel that I have accomplished nothing in my efforts to do everything and the best I can say is I helped keep everyone alive. Working at home with kids is like this.

To help me better deal with the demands on my life, whether from others or myself, I’ve started to really look at how I do things. Instead of having a to-do list to check off every day, about once a week or so I keep a list of what I did for the day. By tracking what I actually do in a day I can better see what I’m capable of. This allows me to make to-do lists that make sense, and which I actually have a chance at accomplishing.

I’ve also learned a few things about myself and how to deal with my kids that have become my personal tips-and-tricks to avoiding meltdowns (theirs and mine).

  • Avoid back-to-back appointments like your sanity depends on it unless they are at the same place.
  • Don’t tell kids any maybe plans, only settled plans.
  • Never leave home without a bottle of water and a few granola bars no matter how quick the trip.
  • When washing clothes wash all the underwear and socks first.
  • When putting clothes away put a few complete outfits on hangers, including a pair of underwear and socks.
  • Schedule a block of time for nothing.

That last one is a non-negotiable for me. During my scheduled block of nothing I walk away from the computer, turn off the phone, and do whatever I feel like. I do not plan or think ahead. For me it is organic free time.

These tips-and-tricks are not fool proof. I still get overwhelmed and over-stressed at times. I am a mother-writer-woman after all.

How to be a Level Headed Mother

Getting Real With Veronica Ibarra

I am asked on a fairly regular basis how I can be so calm and level headed about things. More than once I’ve been told how well I handle things that would drive other mother’s completely insane with worry. While I appreciate the complement I am not without feelings of worry, concern, and out right anxiety about my own children.

Ultimately it’s about putting things in perspective–not the perspective of the grand scheme of things in the universe, but the perspective of my own experiences. Compared to some I’ve had some pretty earth shaking experiences, while to others my trials may seem trivial. That’s why I don’t like comparing my situation to others, but when I keep things in the perspective of my own life I can manage.

My son is showing signs of developmental delays. That’s the nice technical way to say it that doesn’t really explain anything and can sound as scary as it can be easily dismissed. What it really means is that though I have a cute little boy with a great smile he doesn’t communicate as fluently nor engage as other children his age generally do. This means I have entered into what should be familiar territory with my background, but as a mother I find myself feeling like I’m here for the first time.

We are in the beginning screening-evaluation-assessment stage. Even though I intellectually know the process, suddenly all the terms are jumbled up inside my head, and I’m struggling to keep it all straight. There is a difference between a screening, an evaluation, and an assessment, but like I said it has become a jumble. I can run through every behavior quirk my son has, explain in detail my concerns, and show a list I’ve kept of every word and phrase in his vocabulary. I know it all means something, but I don’t know what.

This isn’t worse than the time my daughter was hospitalized for complications related to swine flu. This isn’t worse than the time my son had surgery to remove a swollen lymph node we thankfully found out later was noncancerous. Comparatively this is nothing like either of those extremely scary events, but I am still a concerned mother. How can I not be?

Every time I sit and think about the future–the what-if’s and the unknowns–I can’t even imagine how I could possibly deal with anything. It throws me off balance. I find myself unsettled, worrying about my son now. What if the delays become more significant? What if this is just the beginning of something much more severe? How will this impact my family? What can I do?

That’s the kind of thinking that keeps a mother up at night.

This is when it helps me to look back at everything I’ve learned and experienced. I may feel out of my depth, but I am a mother. I worry, but I can’t let my fears prevent me from asking for help. I struggle to keep myself from overreacting, while also keeping myself from dismissing my own concerns as a mother. I remind myself that knowing is better than not knowing.

So I took my son in for a screening and the professionals listened to what I said, observed my son’s behavior, and as it turns out my concerns were validated. More evaluations and assessments are needed. Interventions will be implemented. No labels have been given, but one may be coming.

It won’t be the worst. I’m not a failure as a mother. I don’t have all the answers, but I am committed to doing the best that I can for my kids. As long as I’m willing to put them first I can be that level headed woman that everyone sees.

How to Give a Relaxing Foot Massage

Getting Real With Lisa Van De Graaff, LMT
(A special thank you to Mandie Gleason of Wellspring Naturals for the use of her feet!)

There are few things we can do for that special someone that are more relaxing than a foot massage. The gift of loving touch can certainly be given at any time, but there is something special about a Valentine’s Day foot massage. It is a truly generous devotion of our time and attention, focused on nurturing our lover. (Between you and me, it is also a free and readily available gift if you have forgotten to buy a card.)

In my work as a licensed massage therapist, I often find the foot massage portion of a bodywork session is the most soothing for my clients. It is when I hold their feet that they let go of their thoughts and worries and just be in their bodies.

To make the most of a gift of foot massage, here are a few basic techniques to try that will make him or her feel comfortable, loved, and relaxed.

In preparation…

Atmosphere
Creating a space for a foot massage will help to honor the time you will spend together. Lowering the lights will help put your loved one in that relaxing parasympathetic state of mind and remove some of the distractions of the home. Some music will provide a focal point for the mind, and a comfortable chair will cradle them.  The right atmosphere pulls them away from everyday worries and lets them focus on your touch.

Positioning
We often think of foot massage with the recipient’s feet in our lap, perpendicular to us. However, the work will be far more satisfying, more equitable for each foot, and easier on our hands, wrists, and thumbs if we face our lover and place the soles of their feet directly toward us. This can be done on the sofa, or better yet in a recliner. There is an added benefit of facing each other in that the moment becomes more intimate and attentive to one another.

Aroma
Whether your partner is a runner or an accountant, when dealing with feet, there is always the possibility of an unpleasant odor. I think the best approach to remedy the situation is to bathe their feet in soapy water or simply with a warm, moist washcloth. If you find you need something more cleansing, try some spritzes of witch hazel. A couple of drops of essential oil can also be nice. The go-to oil for relaxation in a spa is lavender, but I find it is often too astringent. If your lover is a man, I suggest sandalwood. For a woman, try rose or jasmine.

Oil and Cream
I don’t use much oil and cream on the feet, since I don’t want people to slip and fall when they get up from the massage table. However, for a gift massage at home, it can be a nurturing addition to the treatment. Cream is good for calloused feet and will absorb quickly, enabling deeper massage without slipping. Oil allows for more glide, it is generally warmer, and it has a more sensual feel. For absorption, natural oils and creams will always work better than petroleum products– I find grape seed, apricot kernel, and jojoba are particularly effective, and you can certainly add a couple of drops of essential oil to any of these.

The Massage
The most important thing in any massage is confidence. You must touch your partner with tender assertion so his or her body knows it is in good hands.

To start, rub a tiny bit of oil or cream (about the size of a nickel, no larger than a quarter) into your own hands and then hold their feet for a minute – just be with them. Take a deep breath for yourself and watch your lover take a breath.

Pick a foot and apply the oil or cream to their feet, ankles, and lower legs with that confident, loving touch. Feel all the curves and crevices and think about how much those feet do for the one you love. Be in the moment.

Starting just below the knee, use the thumb side of your palm to gently press the muscle (tibialis anterior for those interested in the anatomy) along the outer edge shin bone (aka the tibia). This is the area that needs work if your lover drives a lot, or is athletic. It feels good to everyone, so long as the pressure is gentle.

Staying on the same foot, begin working on the ankle. Use your fingertips to make tiny circles around the inner and outer ankle bones (malleoli) simultaneously. Continue down to the heel with circular and/or downward strokes. Linger.

Move back up to the top of the foot and use gentle (but confident) fingertip pressure between the bones of the foot. You can press and move and press again or glide four times from ankle to between each of the toes. This is a good place to ask your partner about pressure – Are you pressing hard enough or too hard? This massage is about relaxation, not fixing problems.

Now begin work on the bottom of the foot. There is a lot to do here, and thumbs wear out quickly, so make a loose fist and brace your thumb against your forefinger to press into the bottom of the foot. Massage with direct pressure, small circles, and downward or upward strokes. Be creative, curious, and playful (but no tickling). Remember to massage the toes and the heel.

After massaging the entire bottom surface of the foot, give the foot and calf a little stretch by lacing your fingers between the toes. Use the other hand to hold and stabilize the heel, and use the palm of your hand to press the ball of the foot back gently.

If your lover wears heels or runs, loosen their toes by mobilizing the joints. Place a hand on either side of the base of their toes and rub in a figure eight. You will undoubtedly hear a sigh from your partner.

Finish this foot with some squeezes and strokes all over the foot, ankle and lower leg. Kiss a toe if you are so inclined, and cover the foot with a warm blanket. Then continue on the other foot.

Foot massage for relaxation is about nurturing your sweetheart and being present with them. Take your time. Enjoy them. Love them.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

End of the War Brings Major Adjustment to Families

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

As a mother whose son has served 4 of his 7 years in the military overseas, homecoming is something we’re anxious for. With so much time away, though, adjusting to his presence – whether for short visits or when he’s out permanently – will be a challenge. It’s even tougher for married couples who have been separated for a length of time. Reintegrating as a family can be extraordinarily difficult.

We have all seen the happy reunions of families during the holidays, but what happens after the reunion is over? For many men and women it’s the beginning of a new struggle, the struggle to put their families back together again, and it’s not easy. Military divorces have increased 42% since 2001, and that number is sure to increase with the number of service men and women returning home from Afghanistan.

There are many organizations dedicated to helping military families adjust to the unavoidable challenges of reunion. Below are links to organizations that can help you and your family.

http://www.oefoif.va.gov/

http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/

http://maketheconnection.net/

http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/returningservicevets.asp

http://www.returningveterans.org/

http://web.welcomebackveterans.org/index

http://www.soldiersheart.net/

http://iava.org/

Massage for Good Health

Getting Real With Lisa Van De Graaff, LMT

For many of us, massage is a decadent indulgence we afford ourselves only when on vacation. As over-worked mothers, we fantasize about a spa getaway vacation with our girlfriends. However, massage can also be a great way to maintain good health and a vital component of a healthy lifestyle.

Massage – more generally referred to as bodywork – supports good health in a number of ways.

The state of relaxation achieved by many recipients of massage is a parasympathetic state for the body. It is the place of rest (versus the sympathetic fight or flight state most of us live in when we face the everyday stresses of life). In the parasympathetic state, the body heals itself. This also happens with a good night’s sleep or a deep meditation.

A massage therapist manipulates our body for us, or assists our movements, to move blood and lymph through the body. This process, like regular exercise, maximizes both the delivery of nutrients throughout our body as well as the processing of waste. Massage stirs things up, and with the help of good hydration, flushes toxins from the body.

Massage can also alleviate pain. The hands of a trained therapist can release adhesions in muscle and connective tissue (also known as that knot in your shoulder). Bodyworkers can help lengthen muscles with assisted stretches and reflex responses (thereby lessening your back pain). I’ve even had “Boom! It’s gone” moments with clients that suddenly regained full range of motion in a joint after a bodywork session.

These physiotherapeutic  reasons alone are enough to seek out a massage therapist for regular treatment, but the reason that I personally feel the greatest benefit from  bodywork is compassion. The practioners that are drawn to bodywork as a profession are immensely intuitive and empathetic. Even the most scientific of us, the ones that study anatomy for fun, have a tremendous capacity for love. So when a client chooses bodywork as a way to nurture their bodies, they are treated to an unconditional acceptance by the therapist that also nurtures the soul.

Where else do we receive validation that we are who we are and that is absolutely all right in every way?

One of my teachers once told me that massage is two parasympathetic nervous systems working together for mutual healing. I believe this to be absolutely true, and I know that massage is one way that we can support both our bodies and our hearts.

Making Medical Decisions for Others

Getting Real With Jennifer Poole

We all know as moms how stressful it can be to have decide what the best medical decision for our kids might be. Do we wait out the sore throat for a few days or do we go in right away to see if it is strep?

But what if it is the other way around?

Last week, my biological father had a stroke. He lives alone in the Portland, Oregon area, but luckily, a friend found him right away. My father and I are not close. I haven’t seen or talked to him since the last family reunion 1-1/2 years ago, but I certainly want to know how he is doing and I was getting updates from an aunt.

The next thing I know, the hospital is calling me as next of kin, because my father has not established a medical designee – a healthcare representative. All of a sudden, they are telling me that I will need to fly to Oregon and make decisions about where he will go after they release him because they don’t think he can continue to live alone. My dad has 7 siblings, but by law, I have to make the decisions or release my authority to one of them with a notarized document. I am not comfortable making those decisions for someone I barely know.

Thankfully, my father is doing much, much better and able to make his own medical decisions. One of those decisions will be to designate who he wants to make medical decisions for him if this happens again. Currently, one of his sisters that he is close to is staying with him and keeping me updated on his status.

The moral to this story is that all of us should have a healthcare representative.

Normally, it would be your spouse, but if you are not married, you should download the form online to designate someone who can make decisions for your healthcare if you are incapacitated. Additionally, make sure your parents have designated someone and to let you know if that someone happens to be you so that you are not surprised by it in the middle of a crisis.

None of us want to think about this kind situation but the reality is that we need to be prepared.