Jill Coghlan-Uttridge, 38, is a clinical social worker in private practice at Cary Counseling Center, where she treats individuals and couples who are struggling with depression, anxiety, marital conflicts, or general life stress. She lives in North Raleigh with husband, Mark, of 11 years and their two boys, Ryan, 7, and Eli, 3. A year ago, she and her husband made the choice to send their oldest son to a magnet school and youngest to an immersion preschool. With both schools a considerable drive from North Raleigh, not to mention her 45-minute work commute and an active tennis league schedule, Jill says geography is a significant contributor to stress in her life.
I agree with you. A 45-minute commute alone stresses me out. What else do you have going on in your life?
I average 15 hours a week at work—a job I am lucky to say I love. Then there is the running of the kids to school, to sports and an occasional play date if time permits. During the fall season, I play tennis 2–3 times per week between league matches, clinics, and for fun. Did someone say laundry? Yes, not always high on my “favorites” list but laundry must get done, too. Mark and I try to balance all this with our individual friend time, being out with other couples, and going on dates (just the two of us).
You play a lot of tennis, but you also run, lift weights, and occasionally swim and practice yoga. How do you balance it all?
I have definitely gotten more creative. I never enter carpool line without work, a book, or a scheduled phone date with a friend. Keeping a set of workout clothes in the car has allowed me to sneak a run in during Ryan’s football practice or if a client cancels a session. The kids have adapted by getting tomorrow’s clothes ready and helping to prepare lunch the night before. As a family we are avid users of a master calendar located in our kitchen. I refer to it several times a day. It helps Mark and me plan and balance. We try to be mindful if it looks lopsided or too full. I must admit, Mark is far more organized than I, but I gladly benefit from his strengths. The key to getting it all in is a disciplined schedule with the ability to be flexible.
Experts recommend we spend some time in silence every day to reduce stress. For a working parent and wife, is this really possible?
Did I mention I have two boys?!? I used to do a ton of hiking in Colorado, and I miss it terribly because that was my quiet time! I agree with the need for quiet but it doesn’t happen often in my world. Reading at night is probably the closest I get outside of yoga class.
When did you first discover the psychological benefits of exercise?
During my mid-twenties I had a high-stress job. It manifested through weight gain, sleep disturbance, and overall poor self-care. When I quit, two years later, I registered for a local sprint triathlon to get my body back and discovered exercise was my “Zoloft.” Exercise helps me manage stress, melancholy, and life’s frustrations and once I started I have never looked back!
Activities that require our complete attention can often reduce stress. Is tennis that type of activity for you?
I wish I could say I am completely focused on the match when on the tennis court, but sometimes life still creeps in. Trail running with my favorite hip-hop mix (I still feel 20 sometimes) and dancing with my boys until we are sweating are the two activities that truly connect me to the moment with no worries or interruptions.
I saw you come up Laurel Hill during the Tar Heel 10 Miler this year and you had a huge smile on your face. With everything else you have going on, how do you manage training for a long-distance running event?
When I’m training for a race I try to map out a rough plan to ensure a comfortable run. Other than that I do what I feel like my body and mood need.
If you had a choice between a live-in cook, nanny, or housekeeper, who would you choose?
None. I would get a live-in massage therapist. It is the ultimate in nurturance and stress management.