You Can Overcome the Effects of Stress (<i>cont'd</i>)
- Take vitamins. Women under stress often get too few of essential nutrients, such as vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12. These vitamins are found in lean meat, beans, cereals, chicken, turkey, fish and dairy products — and, of course, in vitamin supplements. Nutritional yeast, which contains B vitamins, can be sprinkled in soups or salads. Women also should boost their intake of vitamins C, A and E, and calcium.
- Take breaks. Even a short walk or 20 minutes to read a book or just have some quiet "downtime" can work wonders. But make sure it happens regularly — like every day.
- Set priorities and cut corners. Get organized. Cut back. Cut corners — not every job needs to be done, and sometimes you can do two at once. List what really has to be done and what can wait. Make an "A" list of the essentials, "B" for not-so-essential — and make sure you do the "A" list first. Then, once you've done this ... remember to just say no! Don't keep taking on responsibilities for fear of someone else's disappointment or expectations — unless those responsibilities are among your priorities.
- Insist on time for yourself If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be as capable of taking care of others. Harvard psychologist Alice Domar offers this recommendation: When the alarm clock rings in the morning, give yourself 30 seconds with your eyes closed and think of one thing you will do for yourself today — whether it's as small as buying a special piece of fruit for lunch, or calling a best friend.
- Consider alternatives. Does your job run you, or can you take charge of it? If flexible hours, telecommuting or job-sharing might help, discuss it with your supervisor. A study by University of California epidemiologist Marc Schenker found that women working longer hours as lawyers were five times as stressed and three times as likely to suffer miscarriages as those working 35 hours a week. Cindy McGovern — the woman featured in the lead article — is considering moving so that her commute will be easier.
- Write. Even if you're not a writer, Harvard psychologist Alice Domar advocates nurturing your emotions by spending 20 minutes writing nonstop about the most stressful event or ongoing problem in your daily life. Forget grammar and spelling, include both facts and feelings, and repeat the process for at least three days. Domar argues that it's an effective way to "acknowledge your wounds and free yourself from pent-up anger, fear and sorrow."
- Maintain social support. Whether in the form of a friend, partner, sister or professional counselor — or a pet — social support helps combat stress. In fact, the risk of heart attacks has been shown in some studies to be lessened with professional counseling — even when patients failed to exercise or alter their diet. "Studies show people with little social support are at as great a risk of premature death as those who smoke or have high cholesterol," says Harvard Medical School's Domar. Also, a social worker or psychologist can help with strategies.
- Recognize the benefits of stress. Stress can be stimulating — or damaging to one's health. Before a major presentation or athletic event, stress can actually help. You'll do better. Learn to recognize when it benefits you — and how to combat it when it doesn't.