Is Stress Taking Its Toll on You? How You Can Control It

In this bustling 24/7 world today, it is difficult to carve out some quiet space. As working women (a category that includes mothers working at raising their children), each of us has too many lists, too many tasks, too many requests from others, too many expectations and not enough time or energy to meet our own standards of perfection or self-expectations. We fail to cut ourselves some slack as the calendar fills up. We try to be everything to everyone – except oneself!

We schedule, juggle and run through each day and well into the night, we tell ourselves we are coping and have it under control. We are convinced we can live on little sleep, caffeine, grabbing a morsel of food here and there and multitasking – even our conversations. We are aware of the silent enemies of our health: heart disease, various cancers, exhaustion, etc. We tell ourselves it won’t happen to us – or when the thought of the mere possibility of one of these knocking us down comes to mind, we shake it off and say we don’t have time for that!

There is a very sneaky condition that is quietly working against us: stress. Oh sure, we feel the stress. We hear ourselves lose our tempers, raise our voices at the ones we love, forget where we parked the car or why we are even in that parking lot. Certain times of the year such as back-to-school, holidays and family vacations add extra stress even though they are supposed to be fun and special family times.

What we are not seeing is what stress is doing to us. Stress is the body’s reaction to the demands of life. There is good stress; it motivates us and is necessary. There is bad stress to which we react in a variety of ways – both outwardly and inwardly. The real culprit is chronic stress, which can leave us with a persistent feeling of anxiety, anger or frustration and keeps our bodies in a “crisis mode” for long periods of time. It wears us down, interferes with sleep or digestion, and makes us irritable and prone to headaches and other muscular tension.

Chronic stress can exhaust our adrenal glands and throw off the body’s chemical balance. It can cause a drop in melatonin, the sleep hormone, and a rise in cortisol, the stress hormone. This sets us up for what we may think is an “unexplained weight gain.”

Actually, the explanation is stress: the kind of stress we have been pushing down inside because we don’t have time to deal with it. The longer we put off taking steps to manage stress, the more serious the problem becomes. The more we diet and fail to see the pounds dropping, the more frustrated we become, which increases the stress. Now we are caught in the vicious cycle. In the meantime, our bodies are suffering. Our relationships begin to suffer. We don’t even like ourselves. And it goes on and on …

It is time to listen and abide to the old adage: Women, take care of yourselves first so you can take care of the other important people in your lives.

As an over-achieving perfectionist and breast cancer survivor with depleted adrenal glands and digestive distress, I encourage you to:

  • simplify your life,
  • carefully consider the impact of saying “yes” to often, and
  • take care of yourself.

You cannot outrun the odds, so slow down and catch up on caring for yourself. Take time for yourself – now !

Sherry G. Day, M.S., President & Chief Learning Officer of Executive Resources-Human Potential Consultants, L.C. based in Michigan, has worked with thousands of individuals to assist them in discovering the potential within oneself. Transforming individuals and organizations to maximize potential and execute intentions, Sherry works in one-on-one, team and classroom environments to help individuals to maximize their potential and develop their innate interpersonal skills to communicate and lead more effectively. © 2009

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