Healthy Advice for Moms this Mother's Day: Take it Easy
Doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital remind that moms are most at risk for stress-related illness
Moms are like superheroes. They juggle everything from household budgets to healthcare decisions. They handle household chores and shuttle the kids to countless after-school activities, making home-life the full-time job that it is. And yet for many, it doesn’t stop there as they maintain full-time jobs and may also be caring for aging parents on top of all of the responsibilities at home.
“Stress is often dismissed as a byproduct of our lives and not taken seriously as a warning sign,” says Kim Lebowitz, PhD, health psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “The truth is stress can have serious health implications and can contribute to heart disease, the common cold, and gastrointestinal illnesses.”
It’s no wonder that women, specifically mothers between the ages 35 to 54, are so stressed out, this according to the American Psychological Association’s 2007 Stress in America Survey. But as Lebowitz explains, knowing risks and warning signs is half the battle, and this Mother’s Day, Dr. Lebowitz wants to remind moms that balance is key.
“I see countless patients who experience high levels of stress each day, yet put their own health aside and don’t address the issue,” said Dr. Lebowitz. “It’s important that women know how to effectively manage stress levels so what may seem like a nuisance now, does not turn into a serious illness down the road.”
Take a Daily Time Out
Lebowitz advises moms to begin by not feeling guilty about taking time for themselves. Provide yourself with one hour each day that you can devote to a hobby or activity important to you. “Whether it’s taking a walk, catching up with an old friend or even watching the latest episode of your favorite TV show, the important thing is that it’s an entire hour dedicated to just you,” says Dr. Lebowitz. Moms who do this feel more refreshed and typically discover that family members are more than willing to help in order to carve out this cherished time.
Exercise is a great stress reliever. Research shows that physical activity is a powerful way to alleviate stress and tension that can accumulate during the day. It also boosts your mood, improves concentration and can improve self-confidence. Whether jogging or taking a brisk walk, spending the afternoon biking or taking a weekly yoga class, it’s important to find an activity that you enjoy.
Join a Book Club
Getting lost in a book is a great way to escape life’s daily stresses. Don’t have time to get together with the girls once a week? Consider hosting a virtual book club. Doing so will provide the joys of reading a great book, as well as offer beneficial “girl time” which can mitigate the effects of stress on the mind and body.
Laughter is the Best Medicine
Did you know laughter can actually lower stress? It’s true. Laughing can reduce levels of stress hormones while increasing hormones such as endorphins and neurotransmitters which can enhance your health. Laughing also takes our mind off of negative emotions, relaxes muscles and connects us with others. The best part – laughter is contagious. By allowing laughter in your life, you can boost the moods of others and therefore help lower their stress levels as well.
“Moms need to be proactive about their own health in order to be there for their family,” says Lebowitz. “Relieving stress is an important part of staying healthy and something moms should keep top of mind this Mother’s Day and every day throughout the year.”