Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Stress-Busters for Working Women

Are you juggling work, caregiving and the holidays? Feeling the holiday stress? Me too!

I don't know about how it’s been at your workplace, but these past few months have been exceptionally busy for me! On the business side, I presented at women’s leadership conferences in Philadelphia PA and Asheville NC. I also facilitated several corporate and public workshops on communication, management and leadership skills for women. The conferences and classes were great!

At the same time, however, during October and November, my mom was in and out of the hospital and skilled nursing care. Happily, she’s back to independent living - with the help of home nursing and me.

My mother's illness reminded me of two self-care tips and, for all you caregivers, I'm sharing them with you this holiday season.

Here’s the first one: Watch Out for Overcare

One Sunday in November, somewhere between presenting at a Saturday conference and picking my mother up for a family party, I got a "nervous stomach". It took a full day before I realized what the problem was. Yes, I was in overcare. In spite of all the seminars and workshops I've given on overcare and how it happens, I fell into it anyway.

Overcare happens to any of us when we upset the balance between our own self-care and caring for others. It happens because we put our own care on the back burner while being busy taking care of parents, or children, or both. Overcare also happens during certain times or events, like getting ready for the holidays. The result? We run down, maybe get ill, and then miss work or a special event.

Once I realized I was "in it" I started rebalancing. For me, breaking the cycle meant blocking off thirty minutes a few times a week for exercise and prioritizing that time. Also, I restarted my vitamin regime and made appointments with a chiropractor. Small things but they are making a big difference.

Here's how a couple other women broke their cycle of overcare:
- Business owner Maria signed up for art classes and re-ignited her passion for painting. Now she looks forward to the time she spends in her "studio" - even though it's just a section of the basement where she goes once or twice a week
- Stay-at-home mom Kathy goes to lunch every Saturday with her sisters. She loves that while she's getting some stress relief, her spouse has "time to bond" with their four children

Question: What about you? What’s ONE THING you can do – just for yourself – this holiday season?

Here’s the second: Remember the Moments

For most of us, time zips by, one day into the next. And during the busiest moments, like Christmas and the holidays, we get so caught up in what we’re doing that we often forget to just stop and enjoy the moment.

That's what I realized during one of the all-night ER stays with my mom. The two of us were laughing about how all the medical staff kept saying she didn't look her age. Then, all of a sudden, she became very wistful about her ninety years and said, “It went so fast.” Her words startled me. Later I thought, “How could that be? How could that many years seem 'so fast'?" But then I thought about how long I’ve known my spouse, Joseph – nearly twenty-five years. It doesn’t seem so long ago that I wondered if I’d ever meet someone I’d want to marry…and now it’s nearly a quarter of a century ago. How did that happen? It went so fast.

In recent talks with my mother, I’ve realized that what really stands out in our memory isn't a "big" event. What makes up the best part of our lives are the little moments. When we are alone, it's the memories of our moments that come back to us. It's up to us if those memory-moments warm and comfort us, or make us feel sad.

So here’s the thing I'm urging you to do, starting today. STOP and pay attention to what’s happening around you. Make a point to take a mental picture of something, like a special look someone gives you or an intimate moment with a loved one. And also internally record your child’s laugh or a kind word someone says that touches your heart. Jot it down in your journal too. Don’t have time to journal? Then when you email a friend about something special that happened, make a copy and file it – it can substitute for that journal entry you might not make time to write. Bottom line: Do something to help your mind remember your best moments.

And if you are still struggling with Overcare into the New Year:
On January 18, I’ll be offering a free teleseminar on Breaking the Cycle of Overcare. Details will be going out to my mailing list right after Christmas, or you can email me at info@victoriouswoman.com, with Overcare in the subject line.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas! and a Magical Holiday Season!

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