Friends are "essential, not frivolous," noted Carol Gullstad, who reinforced the notion that moms need to put relationships close to the top of their priority list at a recent workshop she hosted with Linda Williams Rorem at . The authors, who write a weekly blog called Permission Slips together, said 22 studies back up their point -- there are real measurable health benefits to having friendships.
Here's how recurrent stress becomes a problem for us today. When humans were hunter-gatherers, they experienced serious adrenaline-inducing stress a few times a year (like being chased by a tiger). Now, our large to-do lists can put us in that same mode daily, warned Gullstad. This constant state of stress weakens our immune systems and increases risks for a number of other health problems.
Too many of us are slaves to never-ending "to-do" lists. One example that hit home was a story about a husband and wife who decide it's time to go to bed, and while the husband actually goes to bed, the wife puts a few more dishes in the dishwasher, starts a load of laundry, and prepares some last minute paperwork for school before finally heading to bed 45 minutes later.
The message of their blog and their book-in-progress is that women need to take personal time off with friends.
Rorem identified guilt as the primary roadblock for moms when it comes to taking a break, especially something like an extended trip out of town with friends. Girlfriend get-aways are promoted as the best way to rejuvenate, but Rorem warned you should be prepared for guilt-inspiring words from some fellow moms like, "It must be nice."
It will take some training to get off the schedule-driven merry-go-round because we strive to be productive all the time. We don't even realize how fast it's spinning until we get off for awhile, said Gullstad. On top of the normal tough job of being a mom, Mercer Island creates more pressure than some communities because involved parents compare notes about their kids' sports training, SAT prep and Kumon sessions. Keep your eye on what's best for your family, they advised.
So overcome the guilt obstacle, because you're not the only one who will be better off. A mommy martyr, or mom that's too stressed, has a negative impact on everyone around her. Ironically, those who suffer most when you're not at your best -- your family -- are often cited as the reason one can't get away or take a break. Now you have scientific proof, so give yourself a "Permission Slip" and plan your next getaway, even it it's only for lunch with girlfriends.
The authors' weekly blog can be found at http://Permissionslips.wordpress.com.