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Categories > Mental and Emotional Health > Stress management

5 steps to less stress
Identifying your hot buttons
What’s a woman to do?

You can cope
You can cope

More tips on coping with stress:

  • Get a checkup. That gives your doctor a chance to treat signs of stress like high heart rate, rapid breathing or too many stress-related hormones like adrenaline in your blood.
  • Don’t take your job home.
  • Don’t take your home life to work.
  • Control your anger at all costs. If it’s a struggle, take anger-management classes or get individual counseling.

Feel as if your life is one endless track meet? You’re not alone. Millions of women, whether working, raising a family—or doing both—say they’re in the same bind. Uncontrolled stress can lead to serious health problems including fatigue, depression and insomnia. Some experts suspect it may even set the stage for heart disease—the number-one cause of death in women.

The good news? With better time management, rearranged priorities and some coping skills, you’ll improve your health and regain time for loved ones and yourself.

Identifying your hot buttons

Does this sound like you?

  • Always first: First person awake, first one at work, first to hit the accelerator when the light turns green.
  • Always last: Last one to bed, last to leave work, last to arrive at social gatherings.

If you answered yes, it’s no wonder you may feel grouchy, angry or resentful much of the time. Perhaps you’re having trouble sleeping or find you’ve either lost your appetite or just can’t stop eating. Maybe smoking or drinking alcohol is your preferred way to unwind.

What’s a woman to do?

If these conditions sound familiar, don’t surrender and think you’ll just have to live with them. Sure, some stress is unavoidable. But you can tame most of it by applying these five self-help strategies:

  1. Rearranging. Is blowing up your typical reaction when things bog down? Is doom-saying (“That idea will never work!”) or catastrophizing (“I’ve ruined everything!”) how you talk to yourself under stress? Next time you feel tense or overextended, try:
    • Letting go. Face facts: You can’t control others. Instead, accept what you cannot change. Reliving long-ago arguments, holding grudges or wishing someone did things your way only adds to stress and fuels anger.
    • Being real. Wishing for a perfect world—like insisting on having a job and a spotless home—is unrealistic. Down-to-earth standards lead to a lot less stress.
    • Not fixing it. Must you always improve upon another’s efforts? Stop perfecting things. Next time your kids put their toys away, thank them instead of double-checking (and redoing it).
  2. Changing. Doctors say you can help battle stress by eating nutritiously. Choose a low-fat diet that features lots of fruit, vegetables and grains. Limit salt in the foods you buy and prepare to less than one teaspoonful (about 1,500 milligrams) a day—too much salt raises blood pressure. Watch your sugar, too. It can worsen PMS and intensify mood swings. You’ll soothe caffeine-frayed nerves and reduce sleep problems by limiting coffee to two cups a day and easing up on soda, tea and chocolate.
  3. Planning. Tomorrow, instead of hitting the ground running, take a few moments to plan your day. Tomorrow night, review your plan to see if you really used your time efficiently. That way, you’ll spot and avoid future time-wasters. More ideas:
    • Leave work at quitting time at least twice a week instead of putting in extra hours. Do something enjoyable.
    • Set limits when it comes to doing favors—a polite but firm “no” on occasion lets others know you have a life, too.
    • Delegate chores. Let the kids clean up after meals and tidy their rooms. Have your husband fold the wash, go food shopping and make school lunches.
  4. Improving. First, quit smoking. It raises your blood pressure and your cancer risk every time you light up. Then start exercising. A minimum of thirty minutes’ worth three days a week boosts energy and helps you work off tension. And adopt a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night and get eight hours of restorative shut-eye. That way, your mind will be clearer and the daily grind won’t seem so overwhelming. Other tips:
    • Take time regularly to do what you want—window shop, go bowling, tend to your flowers, play with the kids.
    • Book a vacation this year that’s restful, not “rush-full.” Leave your (and his) laptop, beeper and cell phone at home.
    • Stay connected with others. Studies show you’ll be happier, have better coping skills and may even live longer than workaholics.
  5. Relaxing. Studies show that calming skills such as deep breathing, stretching, tai chi, yoga and prayer; a pastime; or a leisurely walk lower heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen consumption and muscle tension.