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Reducing Your Stress

Nobody likes being stressed, but mothers often seem to have a hard time doing anything about it. First, it might look like nothing can help. After all, you're kind of stuck for now with having to grocery shop with a fussy toddler in tow, or juggle home and work. But while it's true you no longer have the kind of control over your life you once had, it's important to remember that no matter how bad it gets, there is always something you can do to soothe your nerves and boost your spirits. Right now, for instance, try shifting in your seat, loosening tight clothing, or taking a full breath. Do you feel even a little better? It's a small thing, but it shows you can affect your own stress level.

Second, you may be experiencing some resistance to taking time to be good to yourself, either from within you or from the people around you. Well, you're certainly not alone there. Many women were raised to put everyone else's needs first, and they can have a hard time asserting their own. And for mothers, it just gets worse. Your commitment to your children's welfare is so primal that it's hard to pay attention to yourself - how can you even think about taking a bath or a nap when your kids need you? - plus other people can make you feel guilty for daring to try. A client of Rick's with a two-year-old plus a newborn was talking with her own mom about how tired she was. Her mother interrupted impatiently, That is just mothering, you may as well get used to it, and then changed the subject, as if she were passing down some unwritten rule of motherhood: I suffered, and so must you.

To us, this view is crazy. Nurturing yourself is what enables you to be at your best for your children. One mother told us: The times I have really blown it with my kids have all come when I was at the end of my rope. I remember moms with older kids telling me to take care of myself. I thought, "yeah, sure," and kept on going full tilt. But they were right, and I wish I had accepted that earlier. Further, mothering is not a hobby you picked up for fun. You work hard for the sake of your children and family, and that entitles you to respect, care - and stress relief.

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From Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships by Rick Hansen, Jan Hansen, and Ricki Pollycove. Copyright © 2002 by Rick Hanson. Jan Hanson, and Ricki Pollycove. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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