15 April 2017

Another Reason for Mom to be Serene

Young Mother Sewing - Mary Cassatt - Public Domain
Because I am widowed now, my number one earthly concern is not my husband but my children.  But even for mothers who are fortunate enough to be married (which seems an odd thing to write but there it is), children remain a very high priority.  I truly believe that raising our children to be healthy, society-building adults is the most important contribution that women make to the wider world.

Therefore, I read with interest an article from the May 2015 issue of Obesity Review by Eleanor Tate and company: "Do Stressed Mothers Have Heavier Children?".  Ms. Tate and her fellow researchers analyzed the results of seventeen different studies on childhood obesity and its prevention, and they found a relationship between mothers' stress levels and children's unhealthy eating:  when mothers are more stressed, children are less likely to consume fruits, vegetables, and other health-promoting foods (from the article's abstract). 

Perhaps the effect of mothers' stress levels on their children is more pronounced because mothers generally spend more time with their children than fathers do or because mothers who are stressed model unhealthy eating behaviors for their children.  Whatever the reason behind the effect, the effect is undeniable at this point.

What's a mother to do?

I can only speak for myself, of course, but I find the following activities helpful to increase my feeling of serenity and to decrease my feeling of stress:

  1. Pray.  Prayer is reaching out to God in a verbal way, whether through the spoken word or through thought.  If you don't believe in God, I suppose that meditation would be a substitute, but I don't know that much about the practice, hence the supposition.
  2. Learning to be Content. This one is difficult.  The world's consumer-based economy rests on women being discontented with their lives.  "I'm ugly, so I need this cosmetic." "My clothes are out of style, so I need new."  "Our car isn't as nice as the neighbors'.  Let's purchase a new model."  To help me to be content, I have learned to focus on what is right in my life without ignoring the problems I face.
  3. Practicing Positive Problem-Solving.  Rather than stomping around the house or repeatedly "venting," I try to think of actual, practicable solutions to problems.   I start by brainstorming possibilities: listing anything that comes to mind without judgement.  I then remove or modify the ideas that are a bit on the outrageous side and narrow until I have a few workable solutions. Do all my solutions work?  No, but coming up with possibilities keeps me moving forward in a healthy way.
  4. Find Something Beautiful in Nature Each Day.  When life is particularly stressful, seeing the world as an ugly place comes easy.  I have found it helpful to look for something beautiful in nature each day: insects (some insects are quite beautiful in their own way); leaves; birdsong; cloud patterns; stars; moonlight; warm sunlight or the breeze on my skin.
  5. Take Some Physical Exercise.  A few minutes' walk or turning on some music and dancing for a while helps my feeling of serenity almost immediately.
  6. Take Some Mental Exercise.  I have discussed my compulsive reading before, so I won't bore you with that.  In addition to reading, I have found crossword puzzles and Su Do Ku to be helpful ways to boost my serenity level.  
Your results may vary on all of these suggestions, of course, but as always, I hope that my little woman-to-woman ideas have helped.

Agape always,
Cynthia

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