Sarah Jessica Parker plays a woman many of us know all too well in I Don’t Know How She Does It, a movie based on what most of us are trying to achieve on a daily basis–“having it all”. She actually makes feeling stressed out look good, due to her hair and make-up team. This is not what the stressed out woman of today looks like.
Women today are more stressed out than ever before, and who wouldn’t be? If climbing the corporate ladder or making an impression as an entrepreneur isn’t enough, we have to worry about managing our virtual lives: responding to emails, checking our Facebook, being “linked” on LinkedIn, responding to texts and staying constantly connected. Don’t forget to workout and eat as “clean” as you can to prevent a worrisome list of preventable diseases, and of course, maintain a look of ageless beauty (is that even possible?). And oh yeah, keep relationships alive with your partner, best friend and colleagues; all while looking “effortlessly” beautiful and stylish…. Stressed out yet?
Women Who Do It All: It’s Only Stressing You Out
Stress does more than just boggle your mind and keep you on overdrive; it depletes your system of important nutrients, amino acids and neurotransmitters (the chemicals that make you feel good), and thus causes many more ailments. Sometimes we think, “I can manage it all,” and oftentimes we can for a little while, but what happens is our health and beauty tend to deteriorate, as well as relationships, if we don’t take the time out to manage our stress?
Dr. Robert Leahy, Director of The American Institute for Cognitive Therapy and author of The Worry Cure, reports that women today, “Have the same anxiety level as a psychiatric patient did in the 1950s”. This is insane! We function on a level that people were committed to a psych ward for. This is extremely worrisome for women. Not only can it contribute to the onset of mental and physical disorders, but also can cause hormonal and immune system imbalances.
Adult women who are consistently “on overdrive” are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and even phobias due to their inability to maintain control. Not to mention a plethora of physical diseases and problems including dehydration, irritable bowel syndrome, heart attacks and even cancers. When you think that things will settle down in the future and you just have to push yourself in the moment, beware. Things may become quieter at work or home in the future, but our brains become hardwired to function on a stressed level regardless of the “to-do” list. Unless you take action now, it may be difficult to repair the damage that has been done to your body, your mind and relationships.
How Do You Reduce Stress and Increase Happiness?
- Schedule YOU time: Whether that’s going to get a blowout, a manicure or hitting up your favorite class at the gym, they matter. These fun tasks are as important as “writing that proposal” or “making a deadline” as they help clear your mind, release stress and allow space in your mind for new creative ideas to form. Many clients I have talked to had their best ideas while they were doing something they loved, not something they loathed.
- Get it out: Write in a journal, talk to a good friend and make a to-do list. The act of writing is shown to automatically reduce stress and improve your memory. If before bed, you find yourself worried about the day ahead, get a pen & paper and write out your do-to list. Getting it out of your head and on to paper will automatically help to relieve this anxiety.
- Get healthy: Boost your immune system and fight stress with good food and supplements. Balanced meals of a lean protein, good fat, vegetables and fruit with a complex carbohydrate can be a brain’s best friend, especially when you’re overwhelmed. The nutrients derived from these foods will assist your focus. Find a good immunity complex at Whole Foods, containing high amounts of Vitamins B, C and D; these are the first vitamins to deplete when you are getting sick or running on empty. Make good fats a staple in your diet. Supplement with an Omega-3 fatty acid, such as a fish oil containing DHA and EPA. These fats contribute to wellbeing, healthy skin & nails and boost your immune system. Don’t overload on carbohydrates and make sure you’re eating enough protein. Protein is the precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin (aka the feel good neurotransmitter).
- Delegate tasks: Instead of taking things on that you don’t have time for, ask for help. Recruit a co-worker to help with a project or your partner to help with cooking dinner when you’re overwhelmed.
- Get active: Exercise is a great way to reduce stress. It releases endorphins in your body to make you feel good, plus it temporarily increases your energy. Try an afternoon jog rather than a cup of coffee, or go for a walk with a friend rather than catching up on the phone. Even if you only have a few minutes, studies show getting out of your head through exercise is very therapeutic.
- Practice relaxation techniques: Therapists swear by combining deep breathing with visual imagery. It increases oxygen to your brain, physiologically calming you down and allowing you to move on quickly to the next task without getting overwhelmed. You can download a meditation on your iPod and listen to a trained therapist (soundstrue.com) guide you to decreased anxiety.
- Take some time to NOT be scheduled: Contrary to what I said above, a little unscheduled time can be good for you. Perhaps it’s just a Sunday afternoon or a few hours during the week; allow this time to be your own and do whatever you need to bring balance back into to your life. Whether it’s running the trail, catching up on your favorite TV shows or an impromptu shopping trip with friends, do something that you enjoy. Whatever it is, allow it to happen; don’t force it in to your already over scheduled life.
The bottom line is you can only function on overdrive for so long. Your physical and mental state depends on you to have times of joy and relaxation; think of it as a balance. Stress is palpable; when you are feeling overwhelmed others feel it too. Your partner, children, friends and coworkers would much rather be around a peaceful and happy person, rather than a frazzled one. Get a handle on it now before it takes over your life, others will notice and you will too.
Take Good Care,
Emily Roberts MA, LPC
This post was origninally published on Austin Beauty Guide.
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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is The Guidance Girl. Her goal is to help YOU become the most confident person you know! Emily is an award-winning author Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, Educational Speaker, and parenting consultant. She travels around the country educating girls, women, and parents. Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.