Mom’s Need to Relax: Thinking About Family Too Much Causes Stress

Mom’s, whether they work outside of the home or in the home, are the quarterback of most families and because of this, tend to stress more over family matters than their husbands. While moms and dads both think about family matters throughout the day, it is moms who tend to react more in an adrenaline pumping fashion to these thoughts.

A new study to be presented at the 10th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association focuses on the amount of stress that is created simply by thinking about family and home chores. These may be such things as making dentist appointments, arranging for kids to be at their music lessons or what we will have for dinner.

Data was collected from the Family 500 study that looked at how middle class families balanced work and home responsibilities. Participants in the year-long study lived in both urban and suburban areas and were educated and employed in professional occupations. In addition, study participants worked longer hours and had higher salaries than middle-class families that had been studied previously.

According to the data reviewed, working moms spent 29 hours a week engaged in mental labor while dads spent 24. Both moms and dads spent 30 percent of their mental labor time thinking about family matters. However, the difference in mental labor was seen in the quality of mental labor not so much the quantity.

A Mother’s Way

Despite changes in home structure with more women working outside of the home and even some dads staying home, mothers still seem to bear the brunt of the taxing mental labor. Researchers hypothesized that societal pressures pushed mothers to assume the role of home manager, which leads them to address issues of family more frequently than men. Women may, in fact, be held accountable more than men for family-related matters.

Compared to women, men spent more time engaged in mental gymnastics regarding work issues, however, dads seemed to do a better job keeping work and family matters apart. Moms, on the other hand, are more likely to change their work schedule to meet family matters.This could mean staying home with a sick child, leaving work early to pick a child up or asking for a flexible work schedule to deal with family responsibilities.

Because women tend to let family and work lines cross, they are more likely to worry about job responsibilities while at home and home responsibilities while at work. Mothers often feel that either work or home, or both, are getting the short end of the stick – which creates a double stress burden.

It is very hard for women to give each 100% without becoming stressed about something, or dropping the odd ball. Perhaps, most men are able to draw a clear line between work and home because they know that their wives have “got their back,” and will take care of family matters – including the house and children?

Researchers say that study results suggest that fathers need to take a greater role in family care to take some of the mental stress off of mothers. Yes, fathers are more involved with family matters than previous generations, however, responsibility for the home and kids still fall disproportionately on the mother’s shoulders.

Fathers should be encouraged, at all levels, to take a more active role in family matters. This means that federal, state and organizational policies need to be in place that support men leaving work early, starting late or taking time off to care for children.

Dealing with Stress Naturally

Meanwhile, at a time when prescription anxiety medication use is at its highest, many moms are turning to pharmaceuticals for help. However, these may present more problems in the long run as they do nothing but mask the symptoms of anxiety and create a host of side-effects. Here are five ways moms (and dads), can deal with stress naturally and effectively.

Exercise – There is nothing like exercise to melt away stress, especially if you exercise outside in the fresh air. Aim for at least thirty minutes outside daily to help manage stress.
Deep Breathing – When you feel yourself beginning to tense up over family affairs, practice some deep belly breathing. This will keep you energized and improve your mental clarity.
Eat a Balanced Diet – It is easy to overeat and eat too many “comfort” foods when we are stressed. This usually means high carbohydrate foods or foods that contain very few healing nutrients. Stick to a whole food diet as much as possible and avoid junk food and excess sugar if you want to stay on top of stress.
Sleep Well – This may be easier said than done for some people; however, a regular bedtime, preferably before 11pm and at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep will help you prepare for a busy day.
Use Herbal Aids – Using herbs is a time tested method to reduce stress. Here are some popular options to choose from:

  • Passion flower: This beautiful flower, also known as Passiflora, is both edible and medicinal and is known for its calming properties and as a sleep aid. Passionflower is the perfect complement to our hurried culture and can quickly take the edge off of a supercharged day. With millions of Americans suffering from chronic insomnia and a host of other sleep disorders, this pretty little herb offers help. A number of studies confirm this flower’s sedative and anxiolytic (inhibits anxiety) effects.
  • Lobelia: Lobelia use has a long history as a muscle relaxant and has also been found to decrease adrenaline in the body. As lobelia reduces tension, it also slows and strengthens the heartbeat, calms and deepens breathing and is beneficial in halting anxiety attacks.
  • St. Johns Wort: This herb is one of the most commonly used herbs in the United States. It is best known for its ability to remedy mild to moderate depression and anxiety. Studies show that people who take St. John’s wort on a daily basis experience reduced anxiety and an improved sense of overall well being.
  • Pulsatilla: Also known as European pasque flower and Easter flower, this ancient herb is used by herbalists to soothe nerves, relieve tension and pain and treat headaches and insomnia.

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-The Alternative Daily

American Sociological Association (ASA). “Thinking about family matters linked to stress for working moms, not dads.” ScienceDaily, 11 Aug. 2013. Web. 17 Aug. 2013.

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