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Why stress is taking a toll on moms and how to handle it

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Moms are more stressed out than ever before and it’s taking a toll on their health, their relationships and their happiness.

In fact, a survey from the American Psychological Association shows that women are more likely than men to experience physical and emotional symptoms of stress. Furthermore, moms spend 14 more hours per week on childcare and housework than fathers do, according to a recent Pew Research Center report.

Katrina Alcorn, author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink said stressed-out moms are actually a phenomenon, one she knows all too well. After having her third child, Alcorn was busy juggling a full time job, a home, and all of her family’s needs, but it became too much for her to handle.

“On the surface everything looked fine, but I was crumbling inside,” Alcorn said.

Alcorn suffered from panic attacks and sleepless nights for months when finally, on a trip to buy diapers, she had yet another panic attack and realized something had to give. She needed to make changes now if she wanted to be a healthy mom.

Between clocking extra hours at work, caring for spouses and families and managing all of life’s curveballs, it’s not surprising many moms feel like they’re at their breaking points. And if you’re one of them, here’s what you can do to manage your stress now:

1. Say no
You’ll always have obligations, but volunteering on another committee or chauffeuring your kids to extra after-school activities can wear you down. 

“We have to figure out what is really important and let everything else go,” Alcorn said.

2. Push back
“Work will take up every inch of your life if you let it,” according to Alcorn who said telecommuting even one or two days a week can help. 

Be sure to back up your request with research that shows how working from home can make you more productive and benefit your company.  

2. Eat healthy
“Moms tend to snack and grab whatever they can,” according to Christie Rampone, captain of the U.S. women’s soccer team, mother of 2 and spokesperson for EpiCor. 

Planning ahead is key to maintaining your energy throughout the day so be sure to decide on your meals ahead of time, if possible, and always have healthy snacks on hand – a handful of almonds or an apple with peanut butter, and a bottle of water.

4. Sleep
Feel like a rock star on just 5 hours of sleep? You might be able to get through the day but consistent sleep-deprivation can make you feel worse. If you have a baby, nap when he or she does or ask your partner to take a nighttime feeding or let you sleep in on the weekends. Or try to go to bed earlier, even if it’s just one night a week, Rampone suggests.

5. Prioritize
“Often when we feel overwhelmed, it’s not because we’re being perfectionists,” Alcorn said. “There really objectively are too many things pulling at our time.” 

Instead of trying to do it all, decide on what must be done today, what can wait for tomorrow, and what you can let go of.

6. Swap with a friend
Offering help can be just as powerful as asking for it. So the next time you make dinner, double the recipe, drop off half to a friend and let her reciprocate. Or offer to run errands, swap babysitting, or carpool.

7. Shut down
Your smartphone is always in your hand, you read email incessantly, and can’t go 30 minutes without checking Facebook.  

“There’s a mental clutter that we’re all struggling with and we need quiet and peace,” Alcorn said. 

It might be hard to step away from work, but if you can check email only at certain times or shut down all your devices at the same time each night, chances are you’ll feel less frazzled.

8. Get help
Hire a babysitter so you can run errands or catch up on your to-do list. Or ask your partner to pitch in on specific tasks and accept what he does as good enough.

9. Exercise
A good workout gives you an endorphin rush, helps to clear your mind  and can help you relax – but don’t overdo it or you’ll feel more exhausted than you did before, Rampone said.

10. Make "me-time"
Your needs are last on the list but making time for yourself every day can help you feel less stressed out. Even if it’s just 10 minutes to take a bath, or an hour for lunch with a friend, carve out “me time” every day.

11. Take a break
Rampone suggests establishing an “independent hour,” every day. Sneak into another room to read, watch TV or meditate and have your kids play by themselves—no interruptions allowed.

Julie Revelant is a freelance writer and copywriter specializing in parenting, health, healthcare, nutrition, food and women's issues. She’s also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.