As women, we often struggle with bringing balance into our lives. Just when we think we have job, family, friends, finances, and our health in perfect harmony, something happens to upset the proverbial apple cart. We are blindsided by life, and many of us automatically go into rescue mode.
At a moment’s notice, we’ll cancel a lunch date and drive twenty-five miles to fill in because our daughter’s babysitter called in sick. We’ll donate time (or money) we don’t have just because a neighbor asked us to help and we feel compelled (and guilty) if we say no. We’ll complain about our kids, spouse, pets, job, and lack of employment. But we do nothing to change our circumstances. We’ll react to traffic, long lines, telemarketers, disappointments, and anything that comes into our mental or physical path without realizing the amount of stress these tiny irritations can cause.
Unless we have a wakeup call like an illness or an accident, we’re likely to continue on this path without giving it much thought. As a result, we become so stressed out by our lifestyles that we don’t realize the toll it’s taking on our mind, body, and spirit.
According to an American Psychological Association’s survey, women report higher stress levels than men (5.3 vs. 4.6 on a 10-point scale where 1 is “little or no stress” and 10 is “a great deal of stress”). Both genders agree that 3.6 is a healthy stress level, pushing women nearly two points beyond that point. Twenty-three percent of women report their stress level at an 8, 9, or 10, compared to 16 percent of men.
Solutions for managing stress abound. You can take a class in stress management, become a regular participant in an exercise program, eat better, and take a prescription medication, if necessary. But there’s one thing you can do to feel better immediately—and it’s free. Take five minutes to sit quietly and breathe.
The key to a balanced life
Regardless of the crisis that is looming or actually occurring, the key is to remove yourself from the situation and go to a quiet place (I sit in my car), set a timer on your phone for five minutes, and follow your breath. In and out. In and out. When thoughts enter your mind (and they will), simply notice them and say to yourself, I’m thinking, and go back to following your breath.
That’s it. The (5 minute) Pause that Refreshes, and it’s not Coca Cola!
Jan Fishler, MA, is currently co-authoring a new book, Don’t Stop Now, Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life (DontStopNow.us). She is also the author of Searching for Jane, Finding Myself (An Adoption Memoir), and has written several articles about alternative health and PTSD. You can learn more about Jan at www.JanFishler.net.