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Dial Down the Parenting Stress

5 tips to help moms who are losing control.

McClatchy/Tribune Newspapers

August 12, 2009

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If not managed, a mom's stress can affect her health and happiness. Psychiatrist Judith Orloff offers these tips for combating the stress, worry, fear and anxiety that come from being a supermom and caretaker.

Set limits with emotional vampires. Emotional vampires are people who sap your energy and leave you feeling fatigued, agitated or craving comfort food. Emotional vampires come in all forms, from needy children and critical spouses, to unpleasant co-workers and nagging parents. When you're around people who drain your energy, practice saying no, politely excusing yourself or communicating your limits clearly and calmly.

Stay in the "now." When you feel yourself being overwhelmed by responsibilities, deadlines and pressures, don't catastrophize. Instead, keep your mind focused on the present moment. Don't let it wander to worst-case scenarios.

Use humor to counter frustration. Mothers are great at changing direction. They're used to making last-minute changes because of a sick child, a snow day or a baby-sitter who doesn't show. Next time you're stressed out because things aren't going your way, find something humorous about your current situation, and write an inner comedy sketch about it.

Evaluate the anxiety. Thoughtfully consider if a real threat exists or if you're blowing things out of proportion. You can ask questions such as, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" Or, "Will anyone die, go hungry or be harmed?" Go through this mental exercise to bring stressors back into perspective.

Express gratitude. One of the quickest ways to ease stress is to take a breath and make a mental list of five things for which you are grateful. Not only does this activity distract you from obsessive worries, but cultivating positive thoughts has an immediate calming effect on your neurochemistry and will help you relax and unwind.