Watching the new Ariel ad “share the load” at the local multiplex, I interestingly observed a movie hall full of men getting uncomfortable and squirmy in their seats. The ad depicts a harassed working woman running between kitchen, laptop, laundry and child while her husband is parked on the couch. Her dad ruefully watches the scene, regretting how he did the same with his wife. To be fair to guys, women get stressed not just because they find it tough to balance work and home or because they do a lion’s share of the work but also because of certain flaws in their thinking patterns.
Let’s look at some of these imbalances in thinking:
- Perfectionism: “If I don’t get the best appraisal and my kids don’t get the best report card, I’m a bad mom”
- Catastrophizing: “It’s AWFUL if I don’t pack healthy food for my kids everyday”
- Minimization: “Mrs. XYZ has a beautiful home and beautiful figure. I have nothing. I am a loser”
- Ignoring the positive: My boss gave me a compliment but that’s because I had time to do that presentation properly. Next time it may not be that great.
- I MUST/SHOULD/ALWAYS be on time, hand in every report without spelling errors, pick up my kids from school, cook at least one meal daily, workout 4 times a week.
- All or nothing thinking: Either I get up at 5 am every day or I am a failure.
None of the above thoughts are 100% wrong. None of them are 100% right either. However, they create an immense pressure to perform. Living life with a rulebook where there is some mythical perfect balance actually creates a perfect imbalance- in family, work and definitely in your hormones!
Here are some strategies to get you going on the road to balanced thinking.
Avoid "must"-urbating: Let go of musts and shoulds. Convert them to preferences. I prefer to cook dinners but it’s not possible each time.
Give due credit: Mostly to yourself. Take pics/screenshots of appraisals, reviews, compliments, and comments on social media. Keep a diary where you note down your positive qualities/actions/good deeds that you did. Treasure each of these and review them frequently. It’s easy to forget all your achievements in moments of stress.
Stop comparing: You only end up comparing your weaknesses with someone else’s strength. How fair is that?
Take a vacation, not a guilt trip: Most women get assigned free doses of guilt from babyhood. You can start reducing the negative impact of guilt in your life immediately. Do what is right in the immediate moment rather than what society expects. If your kid has fever but you need to travel on work, guilt will not make his fever go away. Buy the needed medication and monitor him regularly. Such solution finding can only come in with a guilt free mind.
Synergize: Don’t put things into black and white categories. Taking your child to the park to play makes you exercise apart from spending quality time as a parent. Taking a walk with your husband serves the same purpose.
Resounding what Oprah Winfrey once said, “Before you agree to do anything that might add even the smallest amount of stress to your life, ask yourself: What is my truest intention? Give yourself time to let a “YES” resound within you. When it's right, I guarantee that your entire body will feel it.”