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Mum knows best: Put the ‘b’ into balance

April 2019 Print
IHC19-4045_mumandkids.jpg

Stress affects us all, but for women navigating motherhood and striking the right balance with all the balls they have in the air, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself.

One quarter of Australians report experiencing moderate to severe stress[1]

In fact, 40 per cent of Australians cite work as a source of stress[2] – and it has a big impact on working mums. UK researchers recently looked at 11 indicators of chronic stress, including blood pressure and hormones in women and found working mothers of two children record 40 per cent higher levels on those stress indicators.[3]

If you’re tensing your jaw, grinding your teeth, getting headaches, having problems sleeping, or feeling irritable or short tempered[4] you may be suffering from the effects of stress – and its critical to find ways to manage it before more serious consequences arise.

For many mums, low mood is common, especially due to fatigue

Unfortunately, sleep is often the first thing that gets sacrificed – four in 10 Australian adults suffer some form of inadequate sleep[5] with women twice as likely as men to suffer from insomnia[6]. Researchers have also found that chronic sleep issues are correlated with depression, anxiety, and mental distress[7].

Trying to balance life, work and other family commitments with taking time out for self-care is a constant juggling act. But the most important step is to recognise the onset of stress and look at ways to address it. Adopting a healthy lifestyle may help with stress and fatigue – that means rest, eating the right foods, reducing or eliminating alcohol and caffeine, and including regular mild exercise. It’s not easy but there are other ways you can simplify your life so you can spend more time enjoying being a mum. 

1. Get app savvy

There are plenty of great apps that can help you. For time management there are dozens to choose from – check out Remember the Milk or Evernote; while apps like Calm offers guided meditations covering anxiety, focus, stress, sleep and relationships, and Relax Melodies can simply help you fall asleep. Google Calendar and Cozi are also great apps to sync your family diaries – you can even meal prep with Cozi.

2.  Seek out support

There are plenty of support services in all aspects of being a working mum. To connect with family friendly employers and flexible roles check out Working Mothers Connect, while websites like Working Mothers Inc., Mum Central and Kidspot provide plenty of reading material, links and forums. Try Sittr or Juggle Street for nannies and babysitting; and remember all the major supermarkets offer home delivery so consider your grocery ordering online or a meal delivery service like Hello Fresh or Marley Spoon. Many employers also offer counselling and support services so definitely take advantage of those, or start a conversation if you need to incorporate more flexibility into your role.

3. Nurture your networks

It’s easy to retreat when life gets too overwhelming but it’s important to maintain human connection and social groups. Even if you have close friends, when you’re working and balancing kids and families it’s hard to find times that you’re aligned to meet up. Consider a playgroup to meet other families with kids the same age as yours via Playgroup Australia or find networks that match your interest levels (it doesn’t have to be all about kids) through Meetup. Don’t forget schools, sports clubs, churches and community centres are great ways to get out and socialise with others.

4. Prioritise self-care

Self-care means different things to people but at its heart is looking after yourself and carving out time to put yourself first. It’s not easy but prioritising this time (even 15 minutes a day) will really put you in good stead to manage the rest of your life from the office to the kitchen. For some it’s all about being active – many workplaces offer corporate wellbeing and fitness classes, so take advantage of those while you’re at work. Even something as simple as a bath, walking the dog or playing your favourite music can help give you clarity or time out to switch off and recalibrate.

5. B is best (vitamins that is)

The role of B vitamins in supporting you through stress is so important. For instance, B12 cannot be produced by your body but is essential to your bone health, in the prevention of macular degeneration and in synthesising and metabolising serotonin – yes, that’s the mood regulating chemical. One of the most common early signs of vitamin B12 deficiency is fatigue or lack of energy so consider upping your diet with animal products like meat, fish, poultry.[8] Another core B-group vitamin is B9. Also known as folate, it is critical to red and white blood cells in your bone marrow and converting carbohydrates into energy[9]. Speak to your practitioner about a supplement that combines the right mix of B vitamins.

6. Start with prioritising sleep and exercise

Research suggests that the effects of physical exercise on psychological well-being could make it a suitable treatment for anxiety and stress-related disorders, and that exercise has a direct impact on improving sleep quality in people over the age of 40[10]. While time is the biggest barrier for most of us, by reclaiming some of it for sleep and exercise can help give you much more oomph in the other hours. Consider supplementation in accordance with your diet to help find your equilibrium. Remember, you know yourself best – just start listening to what your body is telling you. You’re an awesome mum and businesswoman (whatever your career).

References

[1] Australian Psychological Society. Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2014 – from document supplied

[2] Australian Psychological Society. Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2014 – from document supplied

[3] Working mothers up to 40% more stressed, study finds, The University of Manchester, 28 January 2019, accessed 8 April 2019, https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/working-mothers-up-to-40-more-stressed/

[4] Australian Psychology Society, ‘Stress’, accessed 11 March 2019, https://www.psychology.org.au/for-the-public/Psychology-topics/Stress

[5] 39.8 per cent. Sleep Health Foundation and Deloitte Access Economics, Asleep on the job, Costs of inadequate sleep in Australia, August 2017, viewed 16 April 2018

[6] http://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/fact-sheets-a-z/188-insomnia.html

[7] Division of Sleep Medicine, Sleep and Disease Risk, ibid.

[8] K Berkheiser, 9 Health Benefits of Vitamin B12, Based on Science, Healthline, 14 June 2018, accessed 9 April 2019, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-b12-benefits

[9] M Ware, Why is folate good for you?, Medical News Today, 26 June 2018, viewed 13 February 2019

[10] J Johnson, How to tell if stress is affecting your sleep, Medical News Today, 5 September 2018, accessed 9 April 2019, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322994.php

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