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Three Steps to Reducing Stress in 2015

Three Steps to Reducing Stress in 2015We all know that the winter holiday season can be stressful. There are the added expenses for gifts, entertaining, and travel; unrealistic “Norman Rockwell” expectations of family time; and the very good chance that we’ll come down with a case of the sniffles or worse just to complicate the whole picture. As we hurry through the joys and challenges of the season, let’s look at how stress is impacting us all, and how we can better manage our busy, modern lives.

A recent survey cited on the American Psychological Association website points out evidence that stress levels among women are on the rise. 28% of women reported having high levels of stress (8,9, or 10 on a 10-point scale), and 49% of the women said that their stress has increased over the past five years.

Overall, women are more likely to report feeling the symptoms of stress than men, including feeling tense and irritable, being highly distractible, having difficulty making decisions, experiencing frequent mood swings, and generally feeling overwhelmed.

Perhaps it’s no wonder. Women are programmed to be caretakers, which can lead to fulfilling others needs before your own. Women are more vulnerable to feeling selfish, or feeling guilty about saying no. More women than men have both a career outside the home, while still juggling traditional responsibilities like childrearing and homemaking after hours. Striving to compete in a professional environment and simultaneously trying to embody a more traditional female ideal can take a heavy toll. Add to all of this the fact that as women progress through life’s stages, hormonal changes that result from premenstrual, postpartum, and menopause can affect a woman’s chemical vulnerability to stress and depression. It’s a lot to think about and manage.

Stress is inevitable, but planning for how you will manage stress is key to staying healthy and not letting the ups and downs of life negatively impact your health.

Three key steps to relieve stress.

  • Learn to say “no” without feeling guilty. Recognize that you have a right to say no without a lengthy justification. “I am sorry, but my plate is full” is often explanation enough.
  • Take time to “care” for yourself. Remember to eat well and get enough sleep. When you feel harried you are more likely to snack on sugary junk food, and not drink enough water. Slow down enough to breathe and give yourself a little added attention. Dance, exercise, soak in a hot bath, or a take a long walk; write in a journal or listen to relaxation tapes; meet with a friend; read or listen to music; nap; stretch, do breathing exercises and learn to meditate.
  • Don’t try to be all things to all people. Delegate when necessary. Ask for help. If you don’t get the help you need, consider eliminating tasks that aren’t essential.

The hardest part for many women is the feeling that they should “do it all.” The pressure to succeed in a professional life, to be a great mother and wife, to be a loving friend, daughter, and sibling, combined with the fear of being considered selfish can create a perfect storm of stress that can lead to high blood pressure, depression, heart attack and stroke.

Talk with your AOA physician about ways that you can protect yourself with stress-relieving strategies that will soothe your state of mind, and improve your overall health.