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When Mary Ann came into my office that first time, she had a tired, harried look on her face and seemed nervous. She related that she had no time for herself between the duties of her part time job as a nurse, the responsibilities to her ailing mother and the duties of being a wife and mother of two pre-teen daughters. With the holidays approaching, she felt added stress and found it hard to calm down and get a good night’s sleep.
She complained of forgetfulness and said she was dragging through the day with a foggy brain. She was beginning to have persistent colds and aches.
I explained that when the adrenal gland continually works overtime through stress, it can result in adrenal exhaustion. When it begins to malfunction, a tired feeling persists and other glands began to get toxic and sluggish. Mary Ann was going on adrenalin as her primary source of energy which was wearing down her immune system. We worked together to establish a program to avoid overload by setting up a schedule that included time for rest and recreation.
Mary Ann had to learn to say no to some of the demands her life roles placed on her. We discussed the importance of establishing healthy boundaries to balance her many responsibilities and start taking better care of herself.
I suggested a plan called “Practicing the Art of Subtraction.’ It involved learning to prioritize and to incorporate activities that were self-nurturing.
Mary Ann learned to find ways to use time more efficiently by implementing new organizational techniques. Her To Do List highlighted the ten most important things to do. She started delegating some of the errands and household chores to her husband and daughters. They actually worked together as a team and rotated the time required to help her aging mother. Mary Ann gained an understanding of the ways that a low self-image can factor into the choices she made on how to use her time each day. As Mary Ann placed a greater priority on nurturing herself, she simplified a definition of the ‘have to get done’ expectations.
Some of the new choices were to sit and absorb the beauty and fresh air outside. She found a short brisk walk combined with about 15 minutes to linger in calming sites allowed her to clear her mind and relax. As Mary Ann reflected on these experiences at bedtime, she found she reduced her insomnia and sleep more soundly.
Mary Ann began to recognize the effects of stress when she mismanaged time. She noticed her heart felt like it was racing and her checks got flushed indicating her blood pressure might be elevated.
She tried an exercise that helped reduce her stress level in which she used a regulated breath technique to breathe in slowly three times and relax her shoulders and jaw as she exhaled. I suggested she become aware of her thoughts so that she could be more patient with herself and her personal expectations. The self-driven patterns of perfectionism began to diminish as Mary Ann began to love and respect herself in more ways.
When old negative, judgmental thoughts showed up, she replaced them with a focus on her good qualities. (We made a list of these that she read daily to respect herself and to remind her to take care of own needs.) She realized she had been critical of herself and felt drained from the emotions of guilt.
This fatigue was accelerated by thoughts of the preparation of upcoming holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I explained how self-love is not earned through the things we do, but is rather a gift we give ourselves and those we love. Taking care of yourself is one of the best ways to take care of others so you do not become a burden on them. Mary Ann had expressed a desire to have more time with her family so I recommended a plan of less extravagance and errands. She and her daughters decided to make some of their cards and holiday decorations.
She related that Christmas that year involved less presents under the tree, but more creative family time spent doing the planning together from early fall. Making their own Christmas cards became one of the enjoyable activities they could pass on from generation to generation. They even made some of their gifts and learned to laugh again sharing fun with earlier preparations and shared responsibilities. The family cut back on shopping trips and expensive gift purchases..
Her daughters helped in the cooking and baking when the November and December festivities arrived. They had an old fashioned tree trimming party making popcorn garlands and caroling just as Mary Ann remembered from her childhood.
She and her husband began to establish memorable traditions with their daughters that made life have more meaning. Quality time spent as a family began to create a bond that brought joy and peace to Mary Ann, her husband, their daughters and her mother. They even reduced time absorbed in TV and computers and played some family board games occasionally. Mary Ann related to me that her tension level reduced as she enjoyed life more fully even though she still had a busy schedule.
Patrice Joy Masterson, MA is a Healthy Living Consultant. She offers personalized and group programs and CEU Nursing Contact Hours in her classes at the Harmonizing Health Retreat in Bedford, KY. For more information call 937-631-5581. Go to www.harmonizing-health.info and www.facebook.com/harmonizinghealth.