Women's Health Only provides information and tips on women's fitness, health, sex, career, relationships, nutrition, weight loss and strength training.

Monday, March 13, 2006


The consequences
Everyone needs a certain amount of stress in order to live well. It’s what gets you out of bed in the morning and gives you the vitality and zest to do all sorts of things, such as sport and presentations.

Stress becomes a problem (‘distress’) when there’s too much or too little. A lack of stress means your body is understimulated, leaving you feeling bored and isolated. In an effort to find stimulation, many people do things which are harmful to themselves (such as taking drugs) or society (for instance, committing a crime).

Too much stress, on the other hand, can result in a range of health problems including headaches, stomach upsets, high blood pressure and even stroke or heart disease. It can also cause feelings of distrust, anger, anxiety and fear, which in turn can destroy relationships at home and at work.

People often feel over-stressed as a result of some event, or trigger. This doesn’t necessarily have to be negative (such as the death of a loved one, redundancy or divorce); it can also be seemingly positive (a new partner, new job or going on holiday). Such feelings can also be acute (as the result of a death or loss of a job) or chronic (coping with long-term unemployment or being in a bad relationship).

In order to cope with their stress, many people look to things which are not only ineffective but also unhealthy. Negative stress-management techniques include:

* drinking alcohol (it changes your mood, not your problem)
* denying the problem (the problem will remain)
* taking drugs (including stimulants such as caffeine or pain medication)
* overeating (binge-eating, poor diets)
* smoking cigarettes

Instead of these harmful techniques, why not try one of the following:

* Take a nap – 30 to 40 minutes’ downtime will recharge your batteries.
* Get a massage – either visit a professional massage therapist or ask a friend or partner to give you an impromptu neck and shoulder rub.
* Express yourself artistically – divert your energies into something creative, such as acting, playing an instrument, writing poetry or singing.
* Have a laugh – not only will it make you feel better, it will make you look better too. Practise always having a smile on your face.
* Be gentle to yourself – we talk to ourselves all the time, even though we’re not aware of it. This ‘self-talk’ determines our attitudes and self-image, so try to change both with a bit of positive chatter. Positive self-talk also promotes favourable body chemistry as it activates the parasympathetic nervous system and causes relaxation. Try these simple positive affirmations.

Time management
Ask most women what makes them stressed and they’ll tell you it’s not having enough hours in the day. Time is today’s most valuable commodity. We all juggle choices, anxious to please family, workmates and friends – all of whom expect absolute attention to their priorities. But what are your own priorities? What goals do you want to achieve – and what’s most important to you? Try these tips to help you sort them out:

Determine your mission – set aside time to think deeply and write about your life and goals. Writing such a ‘mission statement’ is a good way to firm up your opinions about what’s essential to you in life: what you’d like to be and what you’d like to accomplish. Write to inspire yourself, not to impress others.

Understand where you spend your time – yes, it’s list-making time. Think how you could best prioritise and itemise the many pressures of your life. Can you categorise your life in neat ‘important’, ‘quite important’ and ‘unimportant’ boxes? Or would a more complex chart suit your life: ‘urgent and important’, ‘important but not urgent’, ‘urgent but not important’ and ‘neither urgent nor important’ perhaps? Think about your life with clarity and the priorities will clarify themselves. And try not to trivialise quiet times, sleep and other (seemingly) unproductive moments – they’re essential for your health.

Review your roles – like actors, we play many parts. A clear set of roles will help you create order and balance in your life. Your roles grow out of and contribute to the fulfilment of your personal mission.

Identify goals – now it’s time to apply your insight to the next seven days. Begin by identifying a goal for the coming week in each role. These goals don’t necessarily have to be an activity; they can be as simple as determining an area on which you want to concentrate, such as being more patient with your children. Limit yourself – two goals for each role should be achievable.

Organise your week – using a week-at-a-glance diary or drawing up your own chart, plan the week ahead. Don’t feel that your can’t deviate from this, however. If you plan an activity and something prevents you from completing it, just adjust your schedule and try to fit it in elsewhere. If you can’t do this without compromising your other priorities, make it the first thing you plan for next week.

Evaluate your week – at the end of the first week, take a realistic look at how it went. Where were the big successes? And which scheduling details were less successful? Learn from the last seven days and identify turning points, those times when you consciously decided to prioritise one activity over another. Do your goals need revision?

Enjoy success – no schedule absolutely positively guarantees instant success, but remember that you’re in control. Set aside time every week to re-evaluate your goals and roles, so you can close the gap between what’s most important to you and how you spend your time. Spending 30 minutes in this way will reap immediate benefits – inner peace, a balanced life and increased productivity. Finally, celebrate your successes.

This article was last medically reviewed by Dr Trisha Macnair in August 2005. First published in November 1997.

All content within WomensHealthOnly.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. WomensHealthOnly.com is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of WomensHealthOnly.com website.



Post a Comment

<< Home