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Working moms: We need to believe that it’s not selfish to take care of ourselves

Categories: Hacking Life, Making Time

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I’m supposed to be on vacation this week but, as usually, I have once again discovered that I don’t know how to unwind. Even when I’m not at work, I rarely feel like I can just sit still and be; there are people to see and chores to do and the house to (fake) clean and kids to feed/amuse/maintain. And, after a while, I feel like a wind-up toy that’s stuck in the “on” position, gears rapidly working toward burnout.

The problem is that, with so much on our to-do lists all the time, we working moms have conditioned ourselves to believe that really taking care of ourselves is selfish, or at least not that important. When we do it, we justify it, almost as if we feel guilty about it: We “deserve” time to ourselves, we need to “make time” to exercise. Or, at least, I do.

And it turns out that I’m not alone.

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 75 percent of adults reported experiencing “moderate to high levels of stress” in the past month, and 42 percent said that their stress levels have increased in the past year. And more and more people don’t feel like they have the energy to deal with it.

According to the study:

47 percent of respondents report that they have lain awake at night
45 percent report irritability or anger
43 percent report fatigue
40 percent report lack of interest, motivation or energy

Nearly a third of respondents report headaches, feelings of depression, and sadness; 27 percent blame stress for their upset stomachs and indigestion.

Though more of us are experiencing stress, fewer of us are willing to do much about it, the survey found. Some — as many as 44 percent — reported exercising or walking to relieve stress, but more people listen to music, read, watch TV or movies, or play video games to relax.

At The Wall Street Journal’s The Juggle, Helen L. Coons, a clinical psychologist and a fellow of the APA, suggests that one reason people don’t tackle the long-term job of managing their stress is that they feel they don’t have enough time to do so. “We need to “reframe ‘self care’ as something that is not selfish,” she said.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but it seems like a good one: Resolve to believe that taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. Everything else — getting more sleep, getting more exercise, eating healthily, being kind to yourself — kind of falls under that big umbrella, doesn’t it?

Do you feel like you’re being selfish when you take care of yourself?

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