"When you throw the holidays on top of everything else in your life, the expectations and all the things you feel you have to do, it can become just overwhelming,” says Natalie Gahrmann.

While the easy definition for Gahrmann’s career might be “an expert on stress management,” she defines herself much more broadly, as a “speaker, author, coach, trainer, writer, parent, and priority pro.” The author of the book, “Succeeding as a Super Busy Parent,” she is the founder of N-R-G Coaching Associates in Hillsborough.

Gahrmann will present “Taming Stress In Your Over-Committed Life” at the Mercer County chapter of NJAWBO on Thursday, December 10, at 6 p.m. at KC Prime Steakhouse on Qukaerbridge Road. Cost: $45. Reservations may be made at www.NJAWBOMercer.org.

While on leave after the birth of her second child, Gahrmann accepted, “with much trepidation,” a voluntary early retirement package. Faced with a tough choice as both the family bread-winner and ambitious career woman, she learned first-hand the value of controlling her own destiny. She never pictured a future as a life coach. “I didn’t even know what it was back then,” she says .

Gahrmann received an associate’s degree in retail management from Middlesex County Community College in 1981, a bachelor’s in education from the College of New Jersey in 1983, and a master’s in administration and supervision from Montclair State University in 1991. In 1997 she founded N-R-G Coaching Associates, an international training and coaching company, dedicated to helping her clients transform their lives.

Gahrmann is the life coach on the “Mom Makeover” team for Parenting magazine and the work/life expert at BlueSuitMom.com. She is also an independent trainer for CIGNA Behavioral Healthcare, as well as an advisory board member for the Academy for Coaching Parents International and TickleU (a new division of Cartoon Network).

Gahrmann wrote about the “super busy parent” as a way to help many of the successful women she met in her coaching practice. She defines the super busy person as different from those who are “just busy.”

The super busy person is “an accomplished, successful person who wants still more success. They have strong character traits and develop warmer relationships than others,” she says. But the super busy person can also fall prey to even greater stress — and guilt, she explains, particularly if they don’t learn how to prioritize or to say no.

Make choices. The first and most important thing to learn in managing stress, whether during the holidays or throughout the year, is that you can’t always do everything. “You need to step back and decide what’s most important to you. You have to make choices and make them consciously,” she says.

How important is sending out that end of the year newsletter? Making two dozen different types of Christmas cookies? Hosting a party? How lavish do your decorations really need to be?

If we take the time to evaluate what is most important, to “make conscious choices that are true to what is in our hearts,” we will, in the end, be much happier than if we make ourselves crazy by trying to do it all, she says.

“Don’t just go on auto pilot. Just because you have always done something in a certain way doesn’t mean that you must always continue it,” she adds. Traditions can be changed or modified. You can choose to cut out that holiday newsletter, or send fewer Christmas cards. You can still bake some Christmas cookies, but you might choose to make less than in years past.

Ask for help. Women, in particular, often have a problem with asking for help, particularly with holiday and family events where traditionally most of the burden falls on women in areas such as cooking, cleaning, and decorating.

“Ask for help, then step back and let the person you’ve asked do the job,” says Gahrmann. If you are going to delegate you must let the other person do it their way. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a woman say ‘I ask my husband to do such and such but he just doesn’t do it the right way.’” Remind yourself that there is often more than one right way for a job to be done.

Don’t forget to look at the big picture. “What will your family (or your employees) learn from doing a task themselves?” she asks. “And what won’t they learn if you are always coming to the rescue?”

Allowing others to do a job, whether they do it exactly the way you would have or not, is an important part of everyone’s learning process.

The end result is more important than making sure that each detail is done in the exact same way that you would do it.

You’re a work in progress. Gahrmann assures her clients that she has not mastered all of the skills she suggests for dealing with stress. “I struggle with these things every day,” she says. “If I were perfect how could I understand what other people are going through?”

“I still have times when my palms sweat and the hair stands up on the back of my neck. The trick is to pause, take a deep breath and smile. That will help you put things back in perspective.”

Nourish yourself. Women are often so busy caring for others they forget to take time to care for themselves, or feel guilty if they do. Taking time to care for themselves should never make a person feel guilty, says Gahrmann. It is a necessary part of life, particularly for busy people who are juggling both work and family.

Gahrmann points out that everyone has stress — “we just all wear it differently.” In the end, the trick is to make sure that we don’t allow stress to wear us down.

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