August 27, 2018

Pursuing a career and raising a family can be so rewarding. But some days “Having It All” can feel like “Having Too Much.” You get up at 5 a.m. to work out or catch up at home, take care of your kids, work all day, shuttle kids, make dinner, volunteer, go to kids’ games. Sleep, wake, repeat.

In today’s busy world, it feels like the pace and expectations are constantly increasing. In a recent study from The University of Arizona’s School of Family and Consumer Resources, 166 married couples kept a daily diary for 42 days. The study found women experienced more episodes of being stressed.  

When stress is short-lived with periods of rest between stresses, it can have a positive effect on health. Job interviews, wedding planning or work projects are some examples. Physical stressors, such as running, can improve your resilience and build tolerance to stressors.

Chronic stress can have negative effects on your health. By lowering the immune response, chronic stress can make it more likely to catch a common cold. Chronic stress also causes sleep disruption, increased heart rate and blood pressure, irritable bowels, headaches and fertility issues.

Chronic stress can make it more difficult for women to manage existing conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Stress can even increase the sensation of pain. We can experience unexpected weight gain or loss, hot and cold flashes, numbness or tingling in hands or feet, dizziness. It can impact mental health leading to symptoms of anxiety, depression, irritability and substance abuse.

Try these stress busters.  

  • Enjoy social activities, even just for 15 minutes. Play with your children, chat with a friend, talk to your partner.    
  • Physical activity can help relieve stress. You can make it social by taking a walk with a coworker, family member or your dog! Or enjoy your solitude. Some types of exercise, such as yoga and tai chi, address stress response directly. Do what fits your lifestyle best.
  • Meditation and mindfulness can help reduce your body’s response to stress. You might like the mobile apps Headspace and Calm.
  • Breathe. Relaxation exercises can help you manage stress.
  • Take breaks from stress. Even if the stress is sure to return, a break can reduce the negative health effects.
  • Schedule time in your day for relaxing, socializing, breaks, hobbies and exercise. Carve out small chunks of 15 and 30 minutes. Look at reducing other activities such as watching TV, scrolling through your phone or mindless snacking. What if you tried something new for five minutes?
  • Record a few accomplishments each day. With a full schedule, you are often looking to the next task or event. That can overshadow what you’ve accomplished. Taking note reminds you of a job well done.

Stress is unavoidable, but having a good plan to manage it can reduce the negative impacts. Remember, the things we overcome tend to make us stronger.