If you’re a mother, you’d better think long and hard about this question. Science is teaching us about the hardships that life imposes on the hearts of women, and for many of us, the news is sobering. At a recent American Heart Association meeting, Dr. Michelle Albert presented research scanning ten years that shows that women who experience a lot of stress at work are 88% more likely to have a heart attack. So what exactly does “stress” at work mean? Stress means feeling underused and powerless over our decisions or experiencing high job strain.
Count me in. As a physician and mother of four grown kids, I guess I’m one of the lucky 12% who hasn’t had a heart attack. But I should have. Who among us trying to raise nice kids, keep our homes looking like Thing 1 and Thing 2 just left and appease our bosses doesn’t feel inordinate stress every single day? Then there are the single mothers who are the heroes of all heroes. How are they staying alive if their hearts are strained and the work of daily life puts them at 40 % increased risk of very serious cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks, strokes and other arterial maladies?
We need help. And here’s the good news: any of us mothers can make some changes that will drive that 88% down to single digits. But we won’t make changes until we really get how serious the stress we feel is. In The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose and Sanity (due March 8) I detail many of those things. We need to learn to simplify our lives, take time for solitude, pay attention to friendships and we need to do some real soul searching. I’m anxious to help every one of you stressed mothers who feels like you’re ready to go over the edge, get a handle on life so that your heart keeps going for a long, long time. Stress is serious stuff, but we can get control of it. More tips are coming because without strong hearts, nothing else much matters.