The National Women's Health Resource Center's 2008 Women T.A.L.K. survey found that 42% of women say their health has gotten worse in the past five years and stress was the most commonly cited reason (53%).
Not all stress is bad, but when it flames out of control, it can take a terrible toll on your physical and emotional health, as well as on relationships. Following are some tips and practices that can help keep you from becoming overwhelmed or overanxious:
• Eat a balanced, nutritious diet. Eating well, getting enough sleep, and avoiding alcohol, caffeine, tobacco and junk food can help strengthen your immune system and your stress resistance.
• Schedule your time more effectively using a calendar and to-do lists, prioritizing activities and realizing you can't do everything. And, schedule a few minutes for yourself each day.
• Learn how to say no to requests that add extra burdens and can wreak havoc on your day.
• Insist on help with regular chores.
• Balance work and play by planning time for hobbies and recreation—activities that relax your mind and take you away from stressors temporarily.
• Practice relaxation exercises—like deep breathing or meditation—for just a few minutes each day.
• Rehearse for stressful events. Imagine yourself feeling calm and confident when anticipating a stressful situation. You will be able to relax more easily when the situation arises.
• Let yourself laugh and cry. Laughter makes your muscles go limp and releases tension, so try to keep a sense of humor. Tears can help cleanse the body of substances that accumulate under stress.
• Talk out troubles. It sometimes helps to talk with a friend, relative or member of the clergy. Another person can help you see a problem from a different point of view.
• Help others. Because we concentrate on ourselves when we're distressed, sometimes helping others is the perfect remedy for letting go of whatever is troubling us.
• Learn to accept a difficult problem that is out of your control, which is better than endlessly worrying about it without results.