By Betty Murray
We live in a culture of “busyness.” It affects every aspect of our lives, and even the lives of our children. With a new school year comes more activities for our kids that have to fit into an already busy schedule. Whether it’s studies, sports, hanging out with friends, family obligations, or other extra curricular activities, piling too much on your child’s plate can have negative emotional and physical consequences — for you and your child.
Being too busy adds stress, and stress is hard on the mind and body in a number of ways. The body’s “fight or flight” response to stress results in increased heart rate, tight muscles, and high blood pressure — the problem is that when our lives are filled with perpetual stress, the body is in a continual stressed out state, and is never able to return to normal.
Prolonged stress leads to exhaustion and inevitable burn out, which can lead to serious health problems such as increased infections, illness, and sometimes even death, according to some research.
Warning signs of stress
Like a car’s warning system, the body gives us signals when the stress becomes too much. If you (or your child) are experiencing any of these symptoms, take it as a sure sign it’s time to start clearing off the schedule and making time for rest.
• Difficulty sleeping
• Chest pain or heart palpitations
• Gastrointestinal discomfort (cramps, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion)
• Gynecological problems (infertility)
In addition to these physical signs, there are also behavioral and psychological signs of too much stress. Those include:
• Change in eating pattern (eating less or eating more)
• Increased drug or alcohol use
• Dramatic mood changes
• Poor concentration, short attention span, forgetfulness
• Loss of interest
• Increase in nervous habits (nail biting, teeth grinding, foot tapping, hair pulling, leg shaking, etc.)
• Anxiety or worry
• Feelings of hopelessness
If you can relate to the symptoms listed above, you aren’t alone. The stress of being too busy is unfortunately all to common in our culture. But there are some practical things you can do to help manage your stress during life’s busiest seasons. Here are a few tips:
• Take time over the weekend (or on a weeknight when you aren’t busy) to plan meals for the rest of the week. Take it one step further by prepping meals that can be frozen and simply reheated later.
• Make time to exercise. Adding a workout to your already busy day may seem impossible, but exercise is a natural stress reliever. So if you want to reduce your stress and have more energy for the other tasks that need to be done, try to squeeze in 20 minutes of exercise here or 10 minutes there throughout your day.
• Make a chore chart to hold each family member accountable for keeping the house running.
• Prep for the next day the night before. Before you hit the sack, be sure the kids’ lunches are made, clothes for the next day are laid out, and backpacks are packed. Mornings are hard enough when you’re dealing with groggy kids. Eliminate some of that stress by preparing the night before.
• Let it go. You can’t do everything for everyone all the time. If you don’t get those two dozen cupcakes for the 2nd grade bake sale made, the world won’t stop turning. Learn to say “no,” and learn to let it go when you just can’t get it all done. After all, there are only 24 hours in a day!
Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.