Written by Kasia Kurek and Kirstyn Brown
Photo by Eugenia Porechenskaya/shutterstock.com
Feeling stressed out? Of course you are—who isn’t? According to the latest statistics released by the American Psychological Association, one in four women report that their stress levels are “extreme.” And the more stressed we become, the more health experts are warning us of the dangers to our hearts, immune systems, digestive systems and mental well-being. So what’s a modern-day busy woman to do to stay healthy and sane? Sure, you can add an extra yoga class to your already jam-packed schedule or try to sit still long enough to meditate, but these five science-backed strategies are things you’ll actually do—today.
1. Start Single-Tasking
Between work, home and our personal lives, women have a lot of choices, says Laurisa Dill, a psychotherapist at the Mindfulness Clinic in Toronto. “It’s common to feel a fear of ‘missing out’ on opportunities,” she says, “so they tend to take on a lot and find themselves stretched thin.” While multitasking can lead to stress, it’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll only ever have a single thing going on at a time, so the key is to stay aware during everything that you do, she says. “You can have multiple goals, but make conscious transitions between the tasks.”
2. Eat Your Omega-3s
Instead of going to town on a box of Oreo’s when you’re stressed, having salmon for dinner may be the better comfort food. Studies have shown that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids helps lower cortisol levels, the hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Get 1-2 servings of salmon, mackerel, or trout each week and take a high-quality fish oil supplement.
3. Avoid Overtraining
Exercise is a de-stressor, but it can also be stressful on the body if you push yourself too hard. “If you’re overtraining, you’re not giving your body a chance to rest and recuperate, so you’re likely to have more fatigued muscles and more inflammation,” says Eva Selhub, MD, a Clinical Associate of the Benson Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, lecturer in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and author of Your Health Destiny (HarperOne, 2015). Over time, overtraining can sabotage your performance, which can lead to more stress.
4. Get Busy
Let’s face it, being super stressed out can take a toll on your libido, but tons of research points to sex being an excellent stress buster. A study in the journal Biological Psychology found a link between intercourse and an improved response to stress (compared to those that didn’t do the deed). But if you’re really not in the mood, putting time aside to cuddle with your partner or take a walk holding hands can have stress-reducing benefits as well.
5. Turn In Early
Work deadlines and money woes may keep you up at night, but burning the midnight oil won’t help your stress levels. A recent study out of Birmingham University found that people who sleep regular hours most nights have fewer negative thoughts than those who hit the hay late at night and skimp on sleep. If you’re a night owl, try winding down for the evening 30 minutes earlier than usual for a few weeks, then 45 minutes, and so on, until you’re hitting 7-8 hours of shuteye.