Advice passed down from my mother (and amendments)
Although the only constant in life is change, many of the things I learned from my mother still ring true today. And since Mother’s Day is right around the corner, I’d like to pay tribute to her timeless advice.
First and foremost, my mom taught me how to count. Not just the knowledge of numbers – although that served as a valuable first step – my mother showed me how to apply this knowledge to manage stress.
I still remember one of the first times she told me to take a deep breath and count to 10. I was young enough to still heed my mother’s instructions, but old enough to question her intent. Once I reached the number 10, the frustration and anger I’d been feeling had subsided and I could see the situation with a renewed, clear perspective.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), “stress is how the brain and body respond to any demand” – anything from exercise, work and school to major life changes or traumatic events.
But not all stress is bad. When we face a stressful situation such as a difficult test or a job interview, our pulse quickens, we breathe faster, our muscles tighten and our brains use more oxygen because our bodies are built for survival.
However, long-term stress harms our health. If our stress response becomes chronic due to a constant stressor or if it continues long after the danger has ceased, then these same life-saving reactions can cause our bodies to malfunction and affect our immunity, digestion, sleep and reproductive system.
The NIH reports that over time, continued strain on your body from routine stress may contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, as well as mental disorders such as depression or anxiety.
So, thanks mom for teaching me a tiny habit that continues to lengthen and improve the duration and quality of my life.
Another stress-management tool she passed down to me was stopping to smell the roses. Although I’m fairly sure she meant for me to be present and enjoy life, which is important in its own right, I’ve taken her advice to the next level and literally get down on the ground to smell the roses because physical activity, stretching and movement all matter for lifelong health and wellness. When we keep our core strong, we help our bodies maintain the capacity to balance and, thus, control the risks associated with unintended falls.
And now, years after mom handed down her matronly advice, those healing scents have been bottled for their aromatherapy benefits because their inhalation leads to a release of “happy hormones.” Sometimes I believe mom was ahead of her time.
Other words of wisdom such as ‘an apple a day’ or ‘eat your veggies’ carry even more validity today. For example, science tells us that veggies and fruits provide us with a variety of micronutrients including all important anti-oxidants that help us mitigate stress.
We know so much more about our bodies today than we did 50 years ago. Scientists around the globe have sequenced the human genome and now doctors can determine if we have a predisposition to illnesses such as breast cancer so we can take extra precaution in our preventative care.
I must admit, mom got it right most of the time. But, she could only work with the information she had available. She always told me not to drink coffee because it would stunt my growth, however we now know that coffee in moderation is a good source of anti-oxidants – so go ahead and enjoy that morning cup of joe.
And my mom didn’t know that heart disease would be the leading cause of death for women today. And even though this knowledge is now readily available, we don’t teach our girls this fact or how to prevent heart disease through living a lifestyle full of healthy eating and movement.
Our daughters will one day be mothers, so let’s continue to pass along the sage advice our mothers bestowed upon us, amending and adding on as needed.