Homer Alaska - Lifestyles

Story last updated at 7:04 PM on Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Counter stress by behavior change

By Tresa Erickson

It's 6:30 on a Monday morning and already the week has taken a turn for the worse. The kids are yelling for breakfast, your husband needs his shirt ironed, the dogs are fighting and you're about to collapse. The stress is getting to you and it's only Monday. How are you going to get through the rest of the week? You're not if you don't learn to take charge of your life and get your stress under control.

Everyone gets stressed from time to time — it's only natural. Too much stress, however, can weaken the immune system, leading to colds, coughs and other infections. According to experts, women are more subject to stress because of the dual roles they play. Every day, women get up and put in eight or nine hours at work and then come home and put in another five or six hours, making dinner, helping the kids with their homework, doing laundry and cleaning up the house. Women work overtime every day, putting their minds and bodies under a high degree of stress.

Most women sense when they are near the breaking point and need to slow down, but they don't. They feel so guilty about not being able to take care of everything for everyone that they push even harder. The harder they push, the more stressed they become. If they are not careful, their stress may turn into illness.

If you're one of these women and you feel like you're spiraling out of control, here are some tips to help.

Set realistic goals.

You're only human. You can't possibly take care of everyone's needs, no matter how hard you try, so don't. Sit down every day, make a list of the things you need to accomplish and stick to it.

Learn to say no.

Don't underestimate the value of your time. Sure, it's nice to feel needed, but the more tasks you take on, the less time you'll have to take care of what's important. It may be difficult, but you can say no. Don't hedge either. Be firm, politely turn down the request and move on.

Keep multitasking to a minimum.

There may be 24 hours in a day, but that doesn't mean you have to squeeze a hundred things into every hour. Slow down and focus on one or two tasks at a time. That way, you'll get more done in less time.

Insist on help with regular chores.

You may be in charge of the household, but that doesn't mean you have to do everything. Assign your family members chores and resist the urge to go behind them and redo everything. So what if they don't make the beds as well as you do—learn to live with it.

Take advantage of your natural body rhythms.

You're not a superwoman, so don't try to act like one. There are only so many hours in a day when you're at your best. Figure out when your prime time is and make the most of it. If your peak is between eight and noon, schedule your most demanding projects for that time frame. Save more routine tasks for later.

Schedule time for yourself.

It's easy to feel guilty about spending time to yourself when there are so many things to do, but everyone deserves some time alone to rejuvenate. Take a walk, read a book or see a movie. Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy yourself. Even after making these behavior modifications, you may still feel stressed from time to time, but that's normal. If you feel like you are nearing a breaking point, take a moment to relax. Picture yourself in a special place, breathe deeply and let the tension slowly ebb away. If you still feel tense, get up and walk around. Stretch your shoulders and neck — these are the areas where stress is stored — and swing your arms.

Sometimes, no matter what you do, you may not be able to get your stress under control. In cases like these, it's best to consult a professional. Doctors, therapists and counselors are available to help. Medication and therapy are just some of the measures they may take to help you get back on track.