I went to law school at night while working 50 hours a week as a paralegal. For a while, I had a part-time job in the law library, too. I can’t say it was easy.
There was a Krispy Kreme donut shop about three blocks from campus. When the “Hot Donuts” sign was lit and the wind was just right, that sweet smell would travel down the road and through an open classroom window, right in the middle of Torts. I once fantasized about ditching the law for a job at the donut shop, like a frustrated child might threaten to run away and join the circus. I didn’t, of course, but I still remember that feeling that it might all be too much.
It helped that I had only myself to worry about. Some of my classmates were parents. There was this one widow with two kids, a full time job, and a side hustle recording our courses and transcribing the notes for $10 a class. To this day, I assume she was made of steel.
More women than ever are now caring for families while they also work, attend school, or both. It’s difficult to manage stress when running the daily business of your life leaves time for little else.
Because self-care is important, it helps to have a few tried and true techniques at your fingertips.
5 Stress Management Tips
Have a network.
There truly is nothing new under the sun. Whatever your problem, you can be sure someone else has dealt with it before. Why reinvent the wheel when someone else can give you some direction? Even if you don’t have a ready group of experienced friends, there are still plenty of ways to expand your network. Social media is full of targeted groups where people of similar interests can pool their resources and share information. It’s easier to manage stress when you realize you’re not all alone in the wilderness.
Enjoy the outdoors.
Spending time in nature reduces depression and aids in stress management. Find creative ways to squeeze in some fresh air and sunshine. If you have break at work, try to spend half of that time walking outside, even if it’s just around the parking lot. Bring a blanket or towel to the playground. If your kids are able to play independently, you can keep a watchful eye while still getting in a good stretch. When play time is over, use the blanket for a picnic.
Get away from it all.
I have a friend who hides snack foods and an iPad her closet for when she needs to steal a moment alone, but you don’t need to go to that extreme. Carve out time for yourself each day, even if it’s only 30 minutes. You can read, enjoy a hobby, or soak in the tub. If you are feeling stressed during the workday, allow your mind to wander for a few minutes, take some deep breaths, or even share a joke. Just a few moments of rest can help your mind “reset”.
Never feel guilty that you’re not perfect!
A few crumbs on the counter never killed anybody. Everyone has left the dirty dishes in the sink overnight. Do you know what that other mom is thinking when your youngest is screaming in the grocery cart? “At least it’s not my kid this time. Solidarity, Sister.” We’re all human. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Ask for help.
If persistent stress is negatively affecting you or those around you, seek help right away. Talk to your doctor and about finding a mental health professional who can help reduce the stress in your life.
Robyn Frank Smith is a retired attorney and mediator who now teaches Conflict Resolution at the university level. Though originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Robyn has lived in a variety of places (some more interesting than others), including Memphis, Washington, D.C., and the Republic of Singapore. Her hobbies include weightlifting, creating upcycled furniture and décor from found objects (she is currently working on a project with an Amish buggy door), and fighting about politics with strangers on Facebook. She also enjoys pretending she’s happy being a vegan, and traveling the world with her husband and teenaged daughter. She lives in Pennsylvania.