There is only one you, so love yourself

The truth is that there is only one you. That means you can’t do everything and be everywhere. You have unique needs and special talents, but that often makes you feel crunched for time and energy. By managing demands and stress well, you are telling yourself that you value you!

During stress, women tend to care for their children and find support from their female friends. Women’s bodies make chemicals that are believed to promote these responses. One of these chemicals is oxytocin (ahk-see-toe-sin), which has a calming effect during stress. This is the same chemical released during childbirth and found at higher levels in breastfeeding mothers, who are believed to be calmer and more social than women who don’t breastfeed. Women also have the hormone estrogen, which boosts the effects of oxytocin. Men, however, have high levels of testosterone during stress, which blocks the calming effects of oxytocin and causes hostility, withdrawal and anger.

How can I help handle my stress?

Don’t let stress make you sick. As women, we tend to carry a higher burden of stress than we should. Often we aren’t even aware of our stress levels. Listen to your body, so that you know when stress is affecting your health. Here are ways to help you handle your stress.

  • Relax. It’s important to unwind. Each woman has her own way of relaxing, including deep breathing, yoga, meditation or massage therapy. If you can’t do these things, take a few minutes to sit, listen to soothing music or read a book.
  • Make time for yourself. It’s important to care for yourself. Think of this as an order from your doctor, so you don’t feel guilty! No matter how busy you are, try to set aside at least 15 minutes each day in your schedule to do something for yourself, like taking a bubble bath, going for a walk or calling a friend.
  • Sleep. Sleeping is a great way to help both your body and mind. Your stress could get worse if you don’t get enough sleep. You also can’t fight off sickness as well when you sleep poorly. With enough sleep, you can tackle your problems better and lower your risk for illness. Try to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night.
  • Eat smart. Try to fuel up with fruits, vegetables and proteins. Good sources of protein include peanut butter, chicken and tuna salad. Eat whole grains such as wheat breads and wheat crackers. Don’t be fooled by the jolt you get from caffeine or sugar. That extra burst of energy will wear off.
  • Move more. Believe it or not, getting physical activity not only helps relieve your tense muscles, it improves your mood, too! Your body makes certain chemicals called endorphins before and after you work out. They relieve stress and lift your spirits.
  • Talk to friends. Talk to your friends to help you work through your stress. Friends are good listeners. Finding someone who will let you talk freely about your problems and feelings without judging you does a world of good. It also helps to hear a different point of view. Friends will remind you that you’re not alone.
  • Get help from a professional if you need it. Talk to a therapist. A therapist can help you work through stress and find better ways to deal with problems. For more serious stress-related disorders like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), therapy can be helpful. There are also medications that can help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety, and help promote sleep.
  • Compromise. Sometimes, it’s not always worth the stress to argue. Give in once in awhile.
  • Write down your thoughts. Have you ever typed an email to a friend about your lousy day and felt better afterward? Why not grab a pen and paper and write down what’s going on in your life! Keeping a journal can be a great way to get things off your chest and work through issues. Later, you can go back and read through your journal and see the progress you’ve made!
  • Help others. Helping someone else can help you. Help your neighbor or volunteer in your community.
  • Get a hobby. Find something you enjoy. Make sure to give yourself time to explore your interests.
  • Set limits. When it comes to things like work and family, figure out what you can really do. There are only so many hours in the day. Set limits with yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to say NO to demands on your time and energy.
  • Plan your time. Think ahead about how you’re going to spend your time. Write a to-do list. Figure out what’s most important to do.
  • Don’t deal with stress in unhealthy ways. This includes drinking too much alcohol, using drugs, smoking or overeating.

I heard deep breathing could help my stress. How do I do it?

Deep breathing is a good way to relax. Try it a couple of times every day. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Lie down or sit in a chair.
  2. Rest your hands on your stomach.
  3. Slowly count to four and inhale through your nose. Feel your stomach rise. Hold it for a second.
  4. Slowly count to four while you exhale through your mouth. To control how fast you exhale, purse your lips like you’re going to whistle. Your stomach will slowly fall.
  5. Repeat five to 10 times.

Content courtesy of The National Women’s Health Information Center. 

Revised: June 7, 2011

This web site is designed for informational use only; it is not designed to give advice, diagnose, cure or treat any medical condition you may have. If you have any questions about your health, please contact your health care provider.