Employed parents are experiencing high levels of stress.
September 2019, I had the opportunity to speak via broadcast to a group of almost 7,000 full-time employed parents who work for an American multinational technology company. They had invited me to participate in one of their Lunchbox Learning sessions where I spoke about active gratitude and wonder.
That day, I walked around Seattle for a few hours and watched as people hustled around quickly getting coffee, or eating lunch while working—working so hard to work hard.
As I observed, I thought about the parents I had just instructed and the amount of need for relief that they expressed. I had them participate in a live poll and one of my questions, “How are you feeling today?” had results I did not expect.
The answers available were: Happy, Excited, Content, Tired, and Stressed.
Results of Live Poll:
60% were feeling stressed
20% felt tired
10% were content
The results were quite shocking to me! 90% were feeling something negative and not one person answered happy. Researchers from The University of Manchester and University of Essex came together and ran a study that measured the stress level of 6,000 individuals and found that in women with 2 or more children working full time the biomarkers associated with chronic stress were 40% higher than the control group of full-time working women with no children. This shows that parents, and moms in particular are suffering from high levels of stress. Fathers are not immune to high amounts of stress either. Of the 2,750 parents surveyed in the Modern Families Index report, a third of fathers reported regularly feeling burnt out.
To address this issue, I have a few suggestions of simple positive psychology practices that will help lighten the load and increase life satisfaction at the same time.
We work so hard to work, yet we don’t work so hard to live, or take care of our most important organ—our brain. The Dalai Lama said, “Peace of mind is the basis of a healthy body and a healthy mind; so peace of mind, a calm mind, is very, very important.”
May I suggest 3 simple positive psychology practices that I recommend in my Executive and Corporate Training:
5 minutes a day of meditation: May I suggest a simple meditation: the “Loving Kindness Meditation” (LKM). According to scientists, LKM can “enhance positive emotions in daily life and…the on-going practice of LKM could provide short-term positive emotions.” I recorded a Loving Kindness Meditation to help my clients and have found that it helps with sleeping better, forgiving, and lowering stress levels.
5 minutes a day of walking: Taking a break from work for—”recess time”—sans electronics—can lead to more creativity and productivity. A study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Health and Physical Activity, shows that taking 5 minutes to walk around and interrupt time sitting at the desk, improves mood and cognitive function as well as can lower cravings! I personally recommend taking it up a level and getting outside to increase the “Wonder” and “Awe” impact of your walk. Bring a co-worker along to experience connection and you have just created a Mental Wellness Power Moment. Que fist bump.
5 minutes a day of connecting: Find someone to connect with face to face. It can bring purpose and peace to our troubled and stressed out mind and heart. The Grant Study, the longest behavioral health study conducted by Harvard researchers, found that meaningful relationships are one of the top indicators of a successful and happy life.
Without a sound mind, we cannot be a healthy and loving parent. Due to the stress that parents are facing today as full-time employees and caretakers, I hope that the practices of Meditation, frequent mental wellness breaks, and face to face connection will become part of everyone’s daily mental wellness program. Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” I challenge you to apply the suggested mental wellness practices. Start with one practice and build from there. As you do so, you will find yourself living life, fully, powerfully and joyfully.
Working Hard to Work
A Poem by Kristin Petrucci
Working hard to work
How hard do we work to play?
In and out we clock in and leave behind the day.
Exiting right before dusk, rushing to beat the storm
Of cars and horns and bustling people that make us work some more.
Getting home an hour past six to try and get our quick food fix
And off again to get in the gym lest we forget our heart health and #1.
Leaving the building we realize we forgot to run errands and such
We rush from grocer to dry cleaner to hardware store and now just one more…..
Kids running and hugging and kissing and loving,
Dinner and wife and honey-do this
When will I ever get that one sweet kiss?
Time for bed, beyond exhausted.
Breathe in, breathe out, lights out
But sleep doesn’t come easy, for today I did much.
Hustling and bustling and running and such
Taking time to care for my mind such a chore….
I always feel like there could be more
Thoughts of tomorrow plague me
I must start once again
The need to flourish
The need to connect
The need to sleep
Wonder, Gratitude, Connection and self-care are key for thriving.