By Gayla Grace 

I listened as my running partner relayed an ongoing frustration with a friend from work. Not wanting to be rude, she had allowed herself to get too heavily involved with her friend’s problems. Now her friend was always calling her or dropping by, expecting inordinate amounts of time to listen to her problems and offer solutions.

Women have many sources of stress. It’s important for us to learn how to manage stress so stress doesn’t manage us.

A frequent source of stress is relationships. But they don’t have to be. If we maintain healthy boundaries for ourselves, we can prevent the emotional exhaustion that comes from allowing the problems of others to dominate our lives.

 In their book, Boundaries, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend define a boundary as “a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not.”  We can use boundaries to let good things inside our property line but keep harmful things out. If used properly, boundaries allow us to take care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. For example, if we’re annoyed with a needy friend, we can determine how often we will lend a listening ear.

Women are natural caregivers and want to be helpful; however, when others take advantage of us or ask for more than we can give, we need to set appropriate boundaries.

Another frequent source of stress for women is the constant juggling act we play from the demands of work, family, exercise, volunteer involvement, etc. The stress is easier to manage, however, if the demands on our time are things that are important to us.

For instance, a few years after graduating from college, I accepted a job with Coca-Cola as their Human Resources Manager. I loved the job and had few family demands at the time so I didn’t mind the travel and long hours that were required. However, once I began having children the long hours at work became stressful for me, as I wanted to be home with my children more. I began to explore other options and finally worked into a different job that allowed me to work from home a few hours everyday.

Now, twenty years later with four children at home, my career focus has completely changed. To allow more control of my schedule, I teach piano lessons from home and enjoy freelance writing. It’s a good combination for our family needs.

  Although it’s not always possible to pick and choose the job we want, it’s important to consider our career goals with our family goals to alleviate the stress we feel about how we spend our time.

            Women also spend huge amounts of time stressing over our weight, diet and exercise plan. If we are realistic with our goals and how to reach our goals, we can minimize our stress. We can’t expect to be perfect with our diet or exercise routine. We can focus on long-term exercise habits instead of short-term solutions. Likewise, we might have better success with our weight if we concentrate on how much better we feel and handle stress when we eat properly, rather than the number on the scale.                       

 There are many other sources of stress that women encounter. Sometimes we invite stress into our lives. Allowing too much busyness or neglecting to get organized can create stress. Failing to address difficult situations can compound stress. If we’re overburdened with chores or responsibilities at home, we need to ask for help. If our co-worker’s gum smacking drives us crazy, we need to address it. It’s up to us to determine what action to take to alleviate our stress.

 Some stress can be avoided altogether with different choices. For example, our kids know I become a nervous wreck when I get in the car with a new teen-age driver. Since my husband has more patience and less anxiety in the passenger seat, he is the primary teacher for driving lessons (which our kids appreciate).

Other times, stress cannot be avoided. Traffic jams and late appointments are part of life. But, we can always choose how we will respond. Negative thinking and unhealthy reactions such as drinking, overeating, or emotional outbursts will only create additional stress.

Take a moment to think about the stress in your life and how you are managing it. Can you take action to alleviate some of your stress?  Can you respond better to your stress?

Consider the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.