Zumba Mom: Using Exercise to Manage Stress

by Sandra C. Saenz

“You need to stop trying to be supermom,” my doctor said with a serious look on her face. “Take a good look at your life and make some changes. Your body is not happy right now.”

lotI guess I was not expecting to hear this from my doctor. All I really wanted was a quick fix for the massive hair loss problem that has been afflicting me for the last three months. So I walked out of my physician’s office with some words of encouragement, a warm hug and an assignment: to find fun and positive ways to deal with my stress.


Stress is the body’s reaction to a change that requires a physical, mental or emotional adjustment or response. I have never thought of my children as stressors or the cause of my stress; however, that is exactly what they are. My child with special needs has his crazy daily routine, doctor’s appointments, therapy and feeding schedule. Driving back and forth fighting traffic and then trying to cook nutritious meals is enough to drive me crazy.

Lot was born with a rare genetic disorder called Campomelic Dysplasia. This disorder affects his skeletal system and airway. When he was born, his breathing problems were so severe that he had to be trached and put on a ventilator for the first three years of his life. He has slowly gotten better and no longer has a trach or needs a machine to help him breathe. However, when he gets sick, he stills require breathing treatments around the clock. This, of course, stresses me out and I tend to not eat or sleep well as a result.

Now, to all this excitement, add my rowdy three-year-old Silas. I spend my days chasing him and yelling “no,” “don’t touch that,” or “get down,” to a clueless little boy who is an expert at ignoring me and elevating my blood pressure. I guess running around acting like the exorcist, with my head spinning while yelling, is actually bad for me.

I tried putting all my teacher skills to use by setting up a behavior chart with happy faces. When he is good he gets a happy face. When he is bad, I take one away. On most days the behavior chart doesn’t work very well because I seem to be viciously tearing off all the happy faces before my kid gets any type of reward. It is very clear that I really need to try some kind of stress management.


Taking my doctor’s advice, I went looking for a Zumba studio nearby. When I first walked in, I felt very shy and embarrassed. I stood in the back close to the wall hoping no one would notice my awkward moves. Suddenly, I was in the middle of a dance party with music blaring and lights flashing all around me. I was having the time of my life! It did not matter what song was played because I knew that I would throw myself completely into the music and choreography. I was dancing to HipHop, Cumbias and even Merengue. I was game for anything! It was ecstasy. With every sweaty step, I was reliving my Solid Gold Dancer fantasies, and my responsibilities and stressors were light years away.

It has been a year and a half since I discovered Zumba, and it continues to be a very important part of my daily routine. I have made some Zumba friends who enjoy working out and dancing as much as I do. I always look forward to a little chitchat and socializing with my buddies before my workout.

Overall, I am a much thinner and happier person as a result of my search for stress relief. I have lost close to 40 pounds and I have a much more positive attitude. I still have some hair loss but living out my Dancing with the Stars daydreams on the dance floor every night is priceless.

Author: Sandra C. Saenz • Date: 3/19/2013

About the Author

Sandra C. Saenz is a special needs mom and author of the Lot the Tot books.

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