By Emily Roberts MA, LPC
Adults today are more frazzled and overwhelmed than ever before. For many of us, being stressed has become a way of life; managing a hectic schedule, meeting deadlines at work, striving to be the perfect parent and partner, or dealing with increased financial woes, all of these daily stressors can have a negative affect on our health.
Dr. Robert Leahy, the 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”. Wow Ladies…what are we doing to ourselves?
This is extremely worrisome for women. Not only can in contribute to the onset of mental and physical disorders, but it can cause hormonal and immune system imbalances.
They longer we run on “low”, the more of our neurotransmitters we burn through. Our excitatory neurotransmitters, those that allow us to meet deadlines, bake 3 dozen cookies for the bake sale, and read your child a bedtimes story (all in the same night), are harder to access. The longer they are activated without downtime the more likely they are to become depleted. Depletion can cause burn out, depression, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. Compare this to a car that’s running on empty, you can’t drive it forever, you need to stop and refill your gas tank…you get the analogy.
Now, I am not trying to stress you out even more, but it is imperative to look at your life and where your daily stressors come from. Your demanding boss, that obnoxious PTA mom who is always delegating her tasks to you, paying bills, or the high expectations you put on yourself; once these are identified take action to reduce their impact on your life. Talk to your boss about setting up expectations she has for you or making more reasonable deadlines; set up a coffee date with the PTA mom to ask how you and she can work together (or avoid her all together); set up your bank account to pay bills automatically, you won’t even think about them. If you find that you are putting more pressure on yourself than the world is demeaning of you, and it’s more than you can handle it may be beneficial to seek out professional help.
Here are some other ways to manage and reduce stress:
- One of the best ways to reduce stress is to get it out. Write in a journal, talk to a good friend, and make a to-do list. The act of writing worries down is shown to automatically reduce stress and improve your memory.
- Boost your immune system and fight stress with good food and supplements.
- Find a good immunity complex at your local Whole Foods or Trader Joes, 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 acids, such as a fish oil containing DHA and EPA. These fats that contribute to well-being, healthy skin and nails, and boost your immune system.
- Eat to fight stress; don’t overload on carbohydrates and make sure your 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 or taking your place in the carpool when you’re overwhelmed.
- 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 that that cup of coffee, or go for a walk with a friend rather than catching up on the phone.
- Practice relaxation techniques. Therapists swear by combining deep breathing with visual imagery, to even there most anxious patients. It increases oxygen to your brain; physiologically calming you down and allowing you to move on quickly to the next task, without getting overwhelmed.
If you are stressed, often times your family and friends can feel it too. Get a handle on it now, before it takes over your life.
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