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before your own not only violates our
biological nature, it leads to constant, if
not always conscious, resentment.
How do women handle the stresses
of multiple roles? Many take a break.
For some, it's a vacation day midweek.
For others, backgammon. Still others
exercise with health spa workouts,
raquetball, tennis, swimming, walking.
One woman observed that her tension
increases under stress because she doesn't
breathe. So she runs. "When I run, I
breathe," she says. Another woman
worked on breathing at a body awareness/movement class at the First Unitarian Church. "Now I'm aware of the
tension and can let go," says temporary
secretary Juanita Maddox. "When I
realize my hands are clenched, my jaw,
neck, and shoulders, I just stop, roll my
head around a little bit, and breathe. It
"It's funny. Everyone looks at me
and says the same thing—'what do you
do about stress?' " says former radio
talk show host Nikki Van Hightower. She
follows this pattern. "I do things deliberately to relieve stress-stay in good physical shape, allow myself time for entertainment, choose sports activities such
as skiing or scuba diving that engage me
totally. I feel a little guilty about taking
the time out but do it anyway."
Allocating time carefully can help
lessen stress. One working mother lightens her load by using a microwave,
serving frozen foods, cooking weekends
for weekday meals, doing home chores
on her lunch break. Then she finagles
an hour from the boss for the beauty
Clarify what you can control and what
you can't. Bartholomew says, "If you can
do something to change what's happening
to you, good. If you're just getting
bloody beating against that brick wall,
forget it. Once you get past a certain
point without going bananas, you decide,
'Okay, I'm not hurting anybody but me;
this isn't doing anything but churning me
up, and I'm getting old,' so you just blow
it off. After that, it bothers you, but it
doesn't take you up the wall."
Coping means avoiding destructive
habits, too—overdrinking, oversmoking,
overeating, undersleeping. "I try to cut
down on too much caffeine, too many
cigarettes, drinks and drugs," says singer
The martini after work may be all too
common. Family Service Counselor Carol
Kelleher says that one out of three adults
in the United States-two out of three
women-needs psychotropic drugs to
"I alleviate stress by going to bed with
certain men," says one mature professional. "I do that like others use alcohol
or cocaine. When I've had jobs I felt were
worthwhile, this behavior tapers off.
Then I might sleep with someone, but
it'd be a person I really care about."
Another woman recommends the support she gets at home: "I picked a great
husband, the second time. One I feel
really very nourished with, very good,"
says psychotherapist Edelman. "A lot of
stress comes from hanging on to relationships that just don't fit."
"Visiting with a good friend has kept
me sane," says Bartholomew. "Going
over once a week or so to her apartment
where there weren't any kids, no toys on
the floor. Talking about men, sex, the
way of the world. That was better than
Therapists agree that the first step
toward relief from stress is identifying
what causes you stress. Potts debunks
the myth that we know when we're under
stress. We're like hikers in the woods, she
says. At first the backpack seems heavy,
but after awhile, you don't even feel it.
She suggests keeping a journal for two
Once you recognize your own stress,
use it creatively, the experts say. Accept
what is, and go with it. In a freeway
traffic jam, plug in a tape you want to
listen to. Develop options. (That's
—option?!) Relax—but not too much.
Finally, avoid unnecessary stress. Organize yourself. Change your environment. Change your mind. Enrich your
body. Nurture yourself. Nurture yourself. Nurture yourself
Judith Richards is a freelance writer.
Does stress make you sick?
Some events that cause stress are positive, some negative. All call for you to adapt.
The body can only take a certain number of changes in a 12-month period. Look
and see how much change has occurred in your life during the last year.
This "stress test" was developed by professors at the University of Washington.
It can give you an indication of your chances of becoming ill within the next two
years based on the amount of stress you have endured lately.
To take the test, find each Life wEvent you experienced in the last year on the
chart below. Add up all your Life Event scores to obtain your total score.
If your total score is 150 points or less, your chances of becoming ill-anything
from a cold to a major illness-within the next two years is about 30 percent.
With 150-300 points, your chance is 50 percent. Over 300 points, your chance of
suffering an illness is 90 percent.
Change in responsibilities at work
Son or daughter leaving home
Trouble with inlaws
Outstanding personal achievement
Begin or end school
Change in living conditions
Revision of personal habits
Trouble with boss
Change in work hours or conditions
Change in residence
Change in schools
Change in recreation
Change in church activities
Change in social activities
Mortgage or loan less than $10,000
Change in sleeping habits
Change in number/ family gatherings
Change in eating habits
Minor violations of the law
Score Life Event
100 Death of a spouse
65 Marital separation
63 Jail term
63 Death of a close family member
53 Personal injury or illness
47 Fired at work
45 Marital reconciliation
44 Change in health of family member 20
40 Pregnancy 19
39 Sex difficulties 19
39 Gain of new family member 18
39 Business readjustment 17
38 Change in financial state 16
3 7 Death of close friend 15
36 Change to different line of work 15
35 Change in number /spouse arguments 13
31 Mortgage over $ 10,000 12
30 Foreclosure of mortgage or loan 11
Listing courtesy Great Southern Life Insurance