As a mother, you’re programmed to take care of everyone around you. Add greater than usual stress into your already busy life, and taking care of your own health is often the first thing to go by the wayside. But ignoring your health during times of high stress can be the start of a vicious circle. Periods of prolonged stress can negatively impact your health in a myriad of ways, including headaches and migraines, depression and anxiety, heart problems, a weakened immune system, trouble sleeping, upset stomach, obesity, infertility, irregular periods and severe PMS and decreased sex drive. While avoiding stressful situations is near impossible, especially for moms, there are ways you can manage your response to stress to minimize its impact on your health. Here are five ways to take care of your health even during times of high stress.
1. Seek out others
Many people tend to isolate themselves when they feel stressed, but research shows that this kind of social isolation can lead to health problems like heart disease. Reach out to friends or family and share your stress. Giving your feelings a voice with people you trust will help relieve some of the stress. If your issues seem too big to share with a friend, talk to a counselor or therapist who can give you a neutral perspective.
2. Move your body
When your time is limited, making space in your day to exercise can seem impossible. But even just 20 minutes of exercise can boost your mood and keep your heart healthy. Research shows that exercise raises endorphins, which will immediately make you feel less stressed and the effect can last for hours.
3. Take another look at your health insurance
Having affordable and comprehensive health insurance can provide peace of mind, as well as securing people against expenses from stress-related illness. You don’t want to wait until you are in a crisis moment, when making decisions can be difficult, to realize your health insurance plan does not cover mental health services.
4. Be mindful of what you eat
Stress can lead to poor food choices, which can affect your mood and overall wellbeing. Particularly during times of high stress ensure you are eating regular, healthy, well-balanced meals. A well-fueled body will ensure you keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day. Try to eat foods with omega-3 fatty acids, like walnuts and flax seed, food that are high in fiber, and fruits and vegetables. These foods have all been shown to decrease stress levels. On the other hand, limit your caffeine intake, which can increase your blood pressure and make you anxious.
5. Tackle the source of the stress head on
If the bulk of your stress stems from a specific problem, try to tackle it head on. The anxiety that surrounds the anticipation of an action is often less stressful than the action itself. Make a list of solutions or actions and break big tasks down into more manageable goals. When you have a concrete plan in place, you will feel less burdened.
While stress is an unavoidable factor is most mom’s lives, the way you react to stressors is within your control. Having strategies in place — like talking to friends, exercise, having comprehensive health insurance, eating well and tackling stress head on — will ensure you stay healthy even during stressful times.