Women are the masters of multitasking. Whether it is of one’s own volition or forced by circumstance, we are adept at slipping into multiple roles and donning different hats in life . Our social fabric is such that in addition to pursuing our professional agendas, we also shoulder the lion’s share of household chores and childcare. Call it an outcome of dogma, gender ideology, or remnants of outdated patriarchy, there are distinct gendered patterns exhibiting inequity in distribution and carrying out of childcare and household chores. The result is that, we have a constant “Things-to-do” checklist ticking in our minds. Whether it is the 10 minutes stolen away from lunch break to pick up groceries or arranging that Fancy-dress costume for the child, or putting together the science project or picking up gifts for the in-laws, our minds are always occupied and stressed. Because there is always something that needs our immediate and urgent attention. And which will not get done to the best standards, unless we do it ourselves ( I can see the perfectionists nodding away) .
The social media epidemic has ensured that every minutiae of our life is on display to be compared, judged and glossed over . As appreciation hoarders, there is the constant pressure to live up to the “Superwoman” phenomenon. The ambition to be “The Best Mom” , “Best Daughter”, “Best Wife”, “Best Performer” puts us under further duress . And what is the outcome? We end up being the irascible, forever- tired, cantankerous, insufferable, always-complaining women, with disastrous consequences, physically & emotionally. Not to mention the impact on our families and close ones.
The following 6 practices have helped me to combat stress and enable me to function in a sane manner
- Accepting Oneself– Realize that you are unique. A one-off masterpiece created by God, with your own talents and an inimitable, emotional blueprint. Accept that there will be something that will come easily to you and something that may not. Eschew comparisons .Revel in your uniqueness and be a collector of your strengths and talents. Accept that it’s okay if you are not equally good at everything. Celebrate yourself every single day, especially on the hard days. Be your biggest cheerleader. And remember nobody is more invested in yourself as you are.
- Asking for Help – Don’t shy away from asking for help when you feel overwhelmed. Prioritize the urgent and objectively analyze what you can do and cannot do . Despite the “Superhuman” aspiration, you are still human. If you need to be at a meeting at work that cannot be pushed forth and which clashes with your child’s swimming class, ask your husband to step in. The most important catalyst in relationships is communication. Many times, we function on pre-conceived notions and make assumptions. People can be very obtuse that way and may not realize that you are struggling till you actually ask for help. And the solution to a problem may be as simple as asking for help .Delegate everything that does not require your attention and involvement.
- Caring for oneself – Unless we are ourselves stable and cared for , how will we care for the ones we hold dear . Create an exercise routine for yourself. Find something that you enjoy and are comfortable doing, like Yoga , Zumba , Gymming , Walking , Swimming etc .Maintain discipline and ensure that this time for yourself is non-negotiable . Focus on your diet. Ensure that you get the required amount of Carbohydrates, Proteins, Dairy, Fruits required for optimal functioning. Do not skip meals and follow fads to conform to transient and unhealthy fashion trends .Remember, the fashionistas and celebrities we drool over have an army of people working overtime in the background to help them look the way they do. If you are unwell, see a physician. Do not procrastinate and wait for it to assume life-threatening proportions. If you are above 30, go for annual pelvic exams .If you are above 40, also get mammograms and pap smears. It may make all the difference between prevention and cure. Pay attention to your bodies and be mindful of changes .Make time for your hobbies and follow them passionately. Keep those neurons of your brains firing to stay happy, satisfied and mentally agile.
- Conflict Management – No two people ever think alike. People’s responses in life are deeply colored by their biases, their culture & experiences that they have picked up over a period of time . Often we may become opinionated and make everything an ego issue. In such situations, take a step back, reflect on the issue and see how important is it. Would this really matter in 5 years! If the answer is no , then don’t waste your time and sleep over it . Pick your battles with care . Not every battle is worth staying for and not every argument and every slight needs to be graced with an acknowledgement .Secondly, cut out the negative influencers from your life. I have found from experience that most manipulators /conflict creating people are short on courage. If you take them head-on, you would find them making excuses for their behavior and saying that they did not mean it .Remember , such people thrive on drama and if you refuse to fuel it , their theatrics would ebb away .
- Building your tribe – Remember, there is strength in unity . Create your support system . The single –most important advice from Women leaders like Indra Nooyi , Sheryl Sandberg ,Manisha Girotra is to build your support system . This support system is your infallible backup plan . The support system could be your parents, your parents-in –law, your girlfriends and your maids. To start with, these are the people you can repose your trust in and who enrich your life with their positivity .Mutual trust , empathy and compassion are the cornerstones of this practice . You also have to be there for them as you would expect them to be there for you .
- Letting Go – I think this is the most important of all the practices. Too often we wallow in self pity, refusing to let go of past negativity and fail to focus on the gifts of the present. The hangover of bygones has us in such a vicious grip that it obfuscates our vision. Over a period of time these feelings become internalized and unknowingly our thought patterns also change .But it’s imperative that we release any anger , frustration and toxic feelings and embrace the present with open arms , devoid of any debris of the past . Remember you cannot change what happened in the past, but you have full agency over your present. Send positive vibes and let the universe reciprocate with the same positivity. Let old wounds heal and the scab fall off. Learn from the past to craft a better tomorrow.
“The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”- Lao Tzu
The time for that single step is now . It may not be possible to incorporate all the practices at the same time but to make a beginning itself would be significant. I think our wellbeing is often relegated to the sidelines in our endeavor to provide for everyone else .And unless we take ownership of lives , we will continue to be conflicted , unhappy and stressed. So here’s to embracing the good life for a happier today and tomorrow .