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Mom's Time Out

Stress, what is it?

Mary Angel

(Nov, 2011) It is a tiny word and easy to spell, but it can have a huge affect on us as Mom's. To some of my mom friends stress is trying to juggle a career and a family. To others it is arguing over money or family decisions with your spouse. To me it has always been something I denied or overlooked, until now. I recently read a statistic that stated that women between the ages of 45 and 65 are the most stresses people in the United States. It went on to point out that this stress actually starts at the age of 35 and then gave several reasons why this made sense and several common symptoms. Suddenly I realized that maybe the persistent headaches I had been having might be the result of stress. I of course blew the idea off almost as quickly as it entered my head. Afterall, the woman who prides herself on being the Queen Mother of Denial-ville most certainly is not going to admit being stressed. That would mean I would have to consider what was stressing me out. It wasn't until a few days later when I was brought to my knees, figuratively of course, that I was forced to consider the idea of stress being a factor in my life.

It was a morning like all of the rest that week, I got up, got the kids ready, packed lunches, middle school, elementary school bus, preschool, grocery store and home again. Only that particular morning I moved a bit slower since I had another one of my stiff necks. I get a stiff neck about two or three times a month and I always blame it on sleeping wrong and the kids getting me up too many times. It is usually just stiff and not really painful and only lasts for 3 days at the very most. A couple more days past and I moved slower and slower each day, the pain increased and my neck got stiffer and stiffer. Finally I admitted defeat and called the doctor, but only because we were going out of town for the weekend and I didn't want to be debilitated for the whole trip. When the doctor came in he started poking in spots on my back that I hadn't complained about, and some that I had. He informed me that I had one of the worst cases of stress he had seen. Apparently us women have "stress markers" in our neck, shoulders and back. So when we are very stressed these spots get very tight. He explained that massage therapy and chiropractic can help for maintenance but that I had such a bad case he had seen little to no change from either of these in severe cases like mine. He suggested I start with pain killers and muscle relaxants. Never haven taken either of these I was a little leery, so I started with the pain killers. I ended up taking the muscle relaxant only once and the pain killers a couple of times for a few days. But in the end I still had to admit I was a victim of stress, the same stress that I spent my life denying.

I have seen many of my friends go through stress and deal with it accordingly. Whether it be my friend who struggles with health issues but continues to be one of the most amazing working moms I have ever met, or friends who deal with separation, death, unemployment, and all the other stresses of life today. And for those of you who do not realize that stress comes in all shapes and sizes let me tell you it does! Stress can come in the form of every day struggles, like homework, bills, being overworked, over scheduled, and over extended. Sometimes I think that the everyday stresses are the type that can sneak up on us. The little things that you blow off or ignore until one day there is the proverbial last straw and we know what happens to the camel. The camel in my case is my neck and kaboom!!!! For some people the camel isn't their neck but, headaches, depression, exhaustion, weight loss or gain, or illness. If this fact doesn't scare you it should.

When stress starts to affect your health you are at a much harder point to alleviate the stress than if you deal with it as it comes along. I have found that my friends who acknowledge stress and deal with it as it comes along are much more relaxed and "together" people. They obvious have some of the symptoms of stress but deal with it much better than those of us who live in denial. I have a tendency to sometimes notice a stressful situation but brush it aside. Take homework with four kids. I now have my four kids line up their papers on the counter after school and then I can look at them in turn and it is less likely to turn into some chaotic situation that will just escalate as the evening progresses. I have started decluttering my house and life to remove that stress. And I have promised to take time to take care of myself first, since that will make it possible for me to take care of my family.

The bottom line about stress is that we all encounter it but from different areas of our life and the sooner we learn to recognize it and deal with it the healthier our lives will be. I would like to challenge anyone who reads this to examine their life (and health) and to help relieve their stress and consequently we can change the statistic that sparked me to write this letter. This is our chance to make women between the ages of 45 and 65 a little less stressed. I dare you to relax!!!

Read other articles by Mary Angel