Health

The Stress-Less Woman

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StressLessWoman_LifestyleWe all experience stress when speaking in front of a large crowd or getting stuck in traffic, but these are considered instances of short-term stress and are actually normal. Long-term or chronic stress is caused by stressful events or situations that last over a long period of time, such as environments at work, finances, or conflicts with family and friends. Over time, chronic stress can not only lead to health problems, but can also sap the joy out of our lives. We sometimes don”t realize how an intangible factor like stress can have such a tangible impact on our physical and mental well-being.

The “Stress-less Woman” focuses not on waving a magic wand to make all stress disappear, but on helping women manage their stress and finding ways to reduce unneeded stress. These tips are not new actions you need to add to your already busy schedule. The last thing you need in your life is one more thing on your “to do” list. Instead, these articles provide valuable information from local experts that focus on tips from the trenches of finding peace, calm, and joy in your daily routine – whatever that routine may be.

Free Your Mind
A set of alarming statistics was released by The Jenkins Group that shows that one-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives and 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college. Just by reading this article, you”re ahead of the curve! But what else are you doing to challenge your brain?

Children are like sponges, soaking up vast amounts of knowledge about the world around them using all five senses. But then as we get older, we reach a point where our thirst for learning dries up. Other things occupy our lives and we tell ourselves we don”t have time to read a book, take up a new hobby, or take a class at the local college. The truth is, continual learning not only exercises our brains, but it also brings us a sense of accomplishment and is a wonderful cure for a restless soul.

There comes a certain satisfaction when we finish the final page of that long novel, display that homemade craft, or hang that hard earned certificate or diploma on the wall. Challenge yourself to explore opportunities to free your mind and enjoy the sense of accomplishment and wonderment that will follow.

Don”t Try to Do It All
Patience is something that you often try to impress upon on your children. When they demand for you to immediately do something for them, you often tell them to take a deep breath and although Mommy or Daddy will do it for them, it just won”t be right this second. You teach them that there is a time and place for everything and that the proper time to yell a battle cry at the top of their lungs as they chase the family dog is not while Mommy is on the phone with the local pharmacist. Why then do you forget this valuable lesson in your own life? You may not be yelling as you chase the family dog, but you do sometimes need to separate your “to do” lists from your “to do now” lists.

By doing this, you can eliminate the stress you experience as you rush to accomplish everything on your overcrowded list as well as, avoid the guilt and disappointment felt when you don”t accomplish everything on list you created for a 30 hour day. Sometimes, you try to do things for which you aren”t yet ready.

Christine Martinello, leading authority in leadership & life balancing and author of The Momager Guide, states: “Life is filled with seasons. At every age and stage, women are faced with choices. If we see and accept the seasons of life clearly we can have what we want, for a season.” You CAN do it all – you just don”t need to do it all right now.

Be Kind to ME Starts with Me!
We think that it is the affirmation or encouragement from others that will finally give us peace. But when it comes, do we truly feel relief? No matter how many kind words we receive from others, they will make no difference if they come up against the negative and sometimes brutal words we say to ourselves. “You can”t do that. You”re not good enough. You”re too fat, skinny, tall, short, old, young…”

Sandy Porter, founder of the health and wellness company Start with the Inside, states that our body responds to negative words just as much as positive words. She does an exercise with clients where she asks them to carry around a notebook and immediately write down the negative things they say to themselves as they come up throughout the day. After a few days, clients begin to realize all the negative thoughts they feed their bodies. “If they don”t recognize what they say, they can”t get over it. Turn around the negatives to positives. The body believes what you tell it.”

If you wouldn”t allow someone to say hurtful things to your child, then why do you say them to yourself? People are generally good and they want to be good to you. You just need to create an environment within yourself that can accept kindness of others by first being kind to yourself. Kind words from others are like seeds. They can grow into beautiful flowers, but they must be planted in fertile soil, not the dry, rocky, nutrient-deprived soil of our wounded self-esteem. Contrary to the saying, sometimes words do hurt just as much as sticks and stones, and the words we tell ourselves can hurt the worst.

Clear Priorities Make the Day-to-Day Decisions Easier
Remember when you were asked “what do you want to do with your life?” How did that turn out? Rather than becoming an astronaut or singing in a rock band, you work at a bank or stay at home and raise three beautiful children and couldn”t imagine doing anything else. Now that you”re all grown up, when was the last time you asked yourself “what do I NOW want to do with my life?”

Life happens and your goals need to adapt accordingly. Take time to map out your life goals annually”then live by them. This is different than those New Year”s resolutions (which are more accurately wishful thinking) that usually go by the wayside by February. Create life goals that become clear priorities. That way, you will have a clear standard to base your day-to-day decisions upon.

“Many people underrate the importance of decision management,” says Rachael Bodie, Regional Director of Leadership at The John Maxwell Company in Duluth. “Of course, we need to both make good decisions and then manage those decisions well. It starts with prioritization in the form of establishing goals and then a daily commitment to executing those goals. I typically set mini-goals every six weeks to move toward achieving the larger goals.”

You don”t have to create your life goals in January. You can create them at any time”just make sure you evaluate them annually to see how you”re doing and whether or not they need to adapt to your changing life.

You Take Care of Yourself First
You wouldn”t put your children on a school bus that was in dire need of a mechanic would you? Just as that school bus needs regular tune-ups to fix problems caused by the stress of the road, your own body needs regular tune ups for the stress it encounters.

Dr. Spencer Rozin of Rozin Internal Medicine in Lawrenceville states that he sees somebody at least every day with stress related problems. “People come in and say “I”m tired and I just don”t know why.””

Rozin continues: “Stress sometimes slowly creeps up on you and you don”t realize it. People just think this is how normal feels. Sometimes we may experience symptoms like headaches or stomach problems and not realize that they are actually caused by stress. Visiting a doctor for a regular check-up can help diagnose these problems as being related to stress and keep you from experiencing bigger problems down the road.”

Dr. Rozin says that a general internist should be able to handle most problems and refer you to a specialist for more complex issues. Word of mouth he says, rather than the Internet, is the best way to find one.

Exercise is also something that can reduce stress and keep you out of the emergency room. Henderson Vanderpool, owner of Buford Sports and Fitness, calls stress a “deadly emotion” because it “causes certain functions in your body to shut down.”

With your busy schedule, you”re probably thinking you don”t have time for exercise. When asked about this, Vanderpool”s response is, “I don”t find time to exercise – I make time to exercise. If you look at exercise as a lifestyle, you”ll continue with it throughout your life.”

You have to make yourself a priority. If you think of yourself as that hardworking school bus, you”re not going to be much good to the children if you run and run until the wheels fall off!

Fashion that Fits
It”s Monday morning and you”ve come to the stark realization that you can”t hit your alarm”s snooze button any more without being late to work. As you enter the panicked frenzy that is “getting ready for work” you experience a small feeling of trepidation. You shouldn”t stress out over it, but sometimes you can”t help it. “What am I going to wear?” not too long followed by “Is this too formal?” “Is this too casual?” “Will coworkers notice the stain?” “Does this even fit anymore!?”

What you put on in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. It establishes an image of who you are and how people respond to you. The saying goes, “don”t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want to have” but let”s be honest, all those years of wearing a spacesuit to work never made you an astronaut!

Knowing the importance of creating your wardrobe in the morning, how can you do it in a way that doesn”t add one more thing to stress about on Monday morning? The Mall of Georgia”s Director of Marketing, Carol Cox, has some great advice putting together your wardrobe in a simple stress-free way. “Your style is a reflection of your personality and most people don”t have multiple personalities. Try to stick with one style.” She says mixing and matching can easily create variety. “Pick a timeless piece and add to it. If you like a new trend, pick one thing from it to add to your wardrobe.”

A well-organized closet can also cut down on those stressful mornings where you are rushing to get out the door. “Organization is key! I organize the clothes in my closet according to color and it makes it much easier getting ready in the mornings.”

What if you don”t know your style or your stress comes from not even knowing what clothes to buy? Don”t be afraid to ask for help. According to Cox, many stores now have an on-staff “Personal Shopper” who can give advice and make suggestions on what to wear. Some of the stores at Mall of Georgia that employ Personal Shoppers are Nordstrom, Dillards, JC Penney, and Belk just to name a few.

Fashion shouldn”t be something to stress over. Wear your clothes, don”t let them wear you!

Decide Who You Are Going To Please
Bill Cosby once said “I don”t know the secret to success, but I do know the secret to misery – trying to please everyone!” We all want to be liked. That”s understandable. The problem lies when we try to bend over backwards and to please everyone. Ultimately what happens is that all that bending breaks our backs! Clearly, there are those we should strive to please. We want to please our employer so that we continue to have a job. We want to please the ones nearest and dearest to us because doing so is a way of expressing our love. However, if the number of people we try to please gets too large, we find that we begin to lose our personal identity as we attempt to take on an identity that resembles what others want us to be. If we hold back our true thoughts, words, and actions because it may not please someone, are we living for ourselves or living for other people?

The fact is some people are not going to be pleased by the things in life we have to do. Our children aren”t going to be pleased when we have to discipline them. The credit card company isn”t going to be pleased when get our finances under control and begin using cash instead of plastic. The salesman at the dealership isn”t going to be pleased when we opt for the cheaper model on the used lot rather than the latest luxury SUV.

If you could only please 10 people, who would they be? How about 5 – or 1. Why choose them? When you realize that you can”t please everyone, stress will begin to lift and those around you will be pleased to find you living your life for yourself once again.

Make Your Body Your Best Friend
Sometimes, we treat our cars a little rough. We drop french fries between the seats, don”t tune up the engine regularly or fix that dent in the fender, and push it hard during our daily commute. With all this punishment, we”re happy to get 8-10 years out of it. What if the car we now have was the only car we were allowed to own for the rest of our lives? Would we take better care of it? Of course we would. Why then don”t we take better care of our bodies? It is the only one we have and it has to last the rest of our lives!

Fitness & Nutrition expert Sandi Porter is founder of Gwinnett”s Losing It!, a healthy 12-week weight loss program in Gwinnett County, and gives some insight on the role of exercise and stress. “Most people don”t realize how important exercise is to reduce stress. So many times when we”re under stress, we say we don”t have time to exercise and the stress stays in our bodies.”

With our busy schedules, what if we don”t have time to exercise or eat healthy? Porter has some suggestions. “If you”re time crunched, walking is the best thing you can do. Just 5-10 minutes of briskly walking can help reduce stress. If you go to the store, park far away and walk briskly. Also, it is really important to find something you like, instead of forcing yourself to use the treadmill you hate – such as spending time outdoors or playing sports or games with your kids.”

Stress also makes us tend to gravitate towards trigger foods or what Porter calls “pushers” that we think will cure stress, whether it be chocolate, ice cream, or alcohol, but have a negative nutritional value. She suggests three ways to deal with these “pushers.” 1. Substitution: “Find a healthy substitute like yogurt with fruit on top instead of unhealthy ice cream or a protein bar instead of candy bar.” 2. Moderation: “instead of eating the full portion of your trigger food, eat a smaller portion of it.” 3. Elimination: “if you are able, totally get rid of the trigger food and stop cold turkey.”

With these simple tips, we will find that not only will our bodies run more smoothly, but we will have many more enjoyable miles on the road ahead!