The moms we surveyed say that money is their biggest stressor. It makes sense; the U.S. Census Bureau reports that in the years since the official end of the recession, the American family’s household income has fallen 4 percent, nearly the same decrease as during the recession itself. Gaining control through help from a financial expert or library books about money management will make a difference. So will a change in perspective.

Description: Don’t let finance freak you out

Don’t let finance freak you out

Question what’s “essential.” “I want to know that my kids have everything they need,” one mom said. But look closely at wants vs. needs. “Most of what you think your kid should have is unnecessary," says Parents advisor Wendy Mogel, Ph.D., author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee.

Share. Swap child care with a friend, or organize toy trades or neighborhood potlucks. “People feel isolated when it comes to money worries,” says Dale Atkins, Ph.D., author of Sanity Savers. “Helping each other erases that lonesome feeling and gives you a sense of control.”

Don’t shop for sport. Even though money worries are your biggest anxiety producer, when we asked respondents how they relax, one of the most popular answers was shopping! Instead, find other ways to zone out.

Stop stress eating

When you're on the food ledge, Parents advisor Elisa Zied, R.D.N., a nutritionist in New York City, suggests these ways to talk yourself down. Wait it out. Take 15 minutes. Go for a walk, snuggle with your partner, knit, and paint your toes. Doing something else can distract you from your craving. Eat – but in your mind only. In one study at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, when people merely imagined eating a food such as cheese, they subsequently ate less of the food they’d imagined eating. Brush, floss, and rinse with mouthwash, or have a strong mint or a piece of sugarless gum. The routine may also help you convince yourself that eating time is over now that your teeth are cleaner. If all else fails, indulge in your craving but in the right portion size. Measure out a 5-ounce glass of wine, serve yourself one scoop of your favorite ice cream, or have one snack-size bag of chips.

Description: Eat – but in your mind only

Eat – but in your mind only

78 percent of moms consume comfort foods at least once a week to help them relax.

Description: Some days it really feels like a high-wire act, doesn't it?

Some days it really feels like a high-wire act, doesn't it?

Be the boss

Many moms report that the daily tasks that irritate them most involve catering to family members’ needs. “Resist taking the roles of Sherpa, butler, crabby concierge, short-order cook, talent agent, and hospital staffer wiping the bottom of people old enough to do it themselves,” says Dr. Mogel. Some ways to lay down the law:

Don’t snap to attention every time someone makes a demand. “Kids aren’t hothouse flowers; they’re hardy perennials,” Dr. Mogel points out. “Let them be cold, wet, or hungry for more than a second and they’ll appreciate the chance to be warm, dry, and fed.”

Assign a task the next time you feel mom martyrdom creeping in. “It’s the worst thing in the world to feel resentful,” says Dr. Atkins. Annoyed that no one sees that stuff on the stairs except you? Don’t sigh dramatically as you haul it off – delegate the job to someone else.

When that doesn’t work, practice selective perfectionism. “Deal with the one or two things that bug you most and force yourself to let everything else go,” says Parents advisor Alice Domar, Ph.D., author of Live a Little: Breaking the Rules Won’t Break Your Health.


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