Most women’s bodies and brains are able to handle significant stress as they balance many roles, including parent, spouse, business owner or employee, and caregiver for aging loved ones.
However, many moms sacrifice their own needs to take care of others. And sometimes, that sacrifice can take its toll on physical and mental health.
Too much stress can overwhelm the body, and mental and physical resources can become quickly depleted, bringing on fatigue, irritability, increased physical pain, and difficulty concentrating and getting tasks done.
“When stress levels get too high, it can interfere with our ability to meet the competing needs of being a mother,” says Dr. Dara Schwartz, PsyD, a geropsychologist with Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. “And when moms become overwhelmed, it can have a ripple effect on those they love.”
Dr. Schwartz adds that partners and kids can be quite perceptive and usually notice increasing stress in the household. Kids may start to mimic the stress they see in their parents or may try to compensate by taking on too many tasks and pressures of their own.
“A family system rises and falls together, so it becomes even more imperative that when we do notice stress increasing in ourselves, we stop and take time to heal and restore,” says Dr. Schwartz.
One popular way women have been taking time for themselves is by embracing the idea of the “she shed,” a counterpart to the “man cave,” as their own sanctuary to tap into their creativity or find some quietude.
She sheds are often freestanding structures placed in the backyard of a home. Many are decorated with inspirational art and filled with yoga mats, craft supplies, books and magazines.
However, if building a she shed is not in your near future, don’t let that stop you.
“If you can, designate a room in your house as a ‘mommy room,’” advised Dr. Schwartz. “Have it be toy- and technology-free, and have a rule that kids and others in the household can find another place to be.”
She also suggests creating a portable “she shed,” or self-soothing kit, a practice she encourages with her patients at the hospital. Moms can decorate a shoebox and fill it with items that promote rest, recovery and clarity, and engage all senses — a picture that brings good feelings, music or guided meditation to listen to, a journal to write in, or tactile items such as moldable sand or dough.
The main point is for all women to restore and take some much deserved “me time.”
“Scheduling purposeful ‘me time’ is not avoiding or escaping; it is putting yourself in the equation of life,” says Dr. Schwartz. “You are devoting time to you, so you can be the best you, and in the case of a mom, so you can be the best mom you can be.”