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How to Cut the Tension

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Case Study 5
An Overworked, Overtired Mom, who gets three hours of sleep on a good night.
Solution: Use the Internet. “Talk to someone else who’s going through the same thing,” says Elana Katz, a family therapist with the Ackerman Institute for the Family. Fifteen minutes a day of good solid bitching on urbanbaby.com to an understanding chat group, even if they’re invisible, establishes a connection to the outside world.

Get rid of the Cocoa Puffs. Never mind your kid’s sugar-fueled tantrums; you’re the one finishing off those half-eaten cookies and discarded M&Ms. “When a mother is stressed-out, a lot of the time she doesn’t think about what she’s eating. If there’s junk food in the house, she’ll pick at it, which will affect her energy levels,” says Lisa Young, an assistant adjunct professor of nutrition at NYU. Nap when the kids do. What’s more important, the laundry or your sanity?

If insomnia strikes, pop a pill. Lack of sleep alters your brain chemistry, removes your sense of humor, and eliminates your patience and problem-solving abilities. “It’s advisable to find ways to increase sleep hours, either by having child care or pharmacologic assistance, such as Ambien,” says Dr. Michael Strongin, an OB/GYN associate with Lenox Hill. “Just understand the mother will be unavailable to the child for about six hours.”

Don’t rush back to the gym. Personal trainer Ari Weller suggests long, slow stretches, using a small BodyBall for support. Focus on the back, abs, and midsection; they got the most trauma during pregnancy. He’s also a fan of lots of deep belly breathing (inhale, then slowly exhale while envisioning your stomach meeting your lower back). It’s relaxing, and helps flatten your stomach.


Case Study 6
A Self-Employed, Self-Medicating Creative Type, who de-stresses with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
Solution: Put your tight jeans on. “If you did a drive-by of this person’s apartment, she’d be in sweatpants,” says Heather Greenbaum of Nu-train nutritional counseling. “When you have that elastic waist, you just keep eating.” Start the day with some exercise, and it doesn’t have to be an hour on the elliptical trainer. A stroll around the neighborhood is fine, followed by a shower and a breakfast with some protein.

Eat your meals at a table, not off your lap. “You’re a civilized person,” says Greenbaum, “so eat like one. Civilized people do not eat in front of the refrigerator or standing over the sink.”

Volunteer at a charity. The freelancer’s schedule allows you to commit to something that will bust you out of work-at-home isolation and put a stop to your neurotic spin, suggests Stephanie Secolsky, a Manhattan psychologist. “Commit to a certain number of days a week at a certain time,” she says.

Adopt a pet. “It gives you something to think about besides yourself,” says Nicole Petron, client coordinator at Bide-A-Wee Manhattan. “It’s like having a child that will never grow up or leave.” You’ve got time to walk and love the pet if you’re home all day, and you’ll be rewarded with something fluffy that’s always happy to see you, no matter how whiny you are.

Binge smart. Go for something less artery-clogging than premium ice cream, like frozen yogurt or Soy Dream. And try to chew at least half the time, rather than gulping. “Chewing makes eating a conscious act, and you’re more in control,” says author and macrobiotic chef Jessica Porter. “You don’t feel quite so insane.”


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