Bust out of that Hyperactive Lifestyle

By Christa Melnyk Hines

If you’re struggling under the mantle of an unforgiving schedule, now is the time to re-evaluate. Your health and the overall well-being of your family depend on it.

According to an annual survey called "Stress in America" conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), adult stress levels are the highest that they've been in a decade. And women report higher levels of stress than men.

"Wanting to please, wanting to be everything to everybody, women just keep extending themselves, until their minds and bodies cannot cope," says Rosalie Moscoe, RHN, RNCP, and author of Frazzled Hurried Woman! Your Stress Relief Guide to Thriving.

Health implications of stress. Stress is the body's way of coping with what it perceives as a dangerous situation. When our body switches on the "fight or flight" survival mechanism, it releases a mix of hormones including adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol into the body. We become hyper-focused, our heartbeat and breathing rate increases, and we feel a boost of energy. Ongoing high levels of circulating stress hormones, however, can contribute to health problems like heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, insomnia, headaches, depression and even infertility.

Evaluate and prioritize. Make a list of everything you do. Decide which items can be eliminated, pared down or delegated to others. Can you organize a carpool with another parent? Can you limit your kids' activities to one per season? Are there volunteer activities that you no longer find meaningful? Can your kids fold and put away laundry? Even hiring a cleaning company to come in every other week can lighten the burden of overwhelming housework.

Practice saying no. Once you've created some space on your calendar, avoid the temptation of adding any new commitments to your schedule. If you're asked to do something that doesn't match your priorities or interests, say: "I'm unable to do that right now, but thank you for thinking of me."

Exercise. Expending energy helps boost energy. Carve out 15 to 30 minutes a day for exercise like biking, running or walking with a friend.

Plan meals ahead of time. Plan out the coming week's menu according to what's happening each day. When you head to the grocery store, purchase all of the ingredients you'll need for each meal to avoid last-minute trips to the store on a busy weeknight. Prep ingredients ahead of time, if you can, and work the crockpot.

Avoid draining personalities. People who constantly complain, gossip or act victimized can sap your energy. Instead, focus on surrounding yourself with people who inspire you. If you're someone who has a habit of focusing on the negative, try adopting a gratitude practice. By growing more aware of the good things in life, the world can feel like a less hostile, stressful place.

Take a digital detox. Social media can suck up vast chunks of time and add to your stress. According to the APA, individuals who constantly check their email, texts and social media accounts experience more stress. If you're having trouble signing off, try taking a 24-hour break once a week to unplug from your email and social media accounts. (Read more about digital detox on page 52.)

Pursue meaningful activities. Above all, integrate activities into your day that bring you personal joy, like reading a book, journaling, or scheduling a moms' night out with girlfriends or a date night with your spouse.

By taking a more mindful approach to how you spend your time, you can begin more joyfully engaging with the world. And when you flourish, your family will too.