Women's Stress

If you are still having difficulty evaluating and controlling your stress, speaking with a therapist, or a mentor, parent, friend, co-worker, or coach can be very enlightening. Although it is possible to sort your problems out alone, having someone to help makes it much easier. The investment of a few hundred dollars in therapy is well worth the reduction in stress from the understanding and management skills you will learn. Health insurance often covers counseling sessions, making therapy easier to access.

If your stress analysis suggests you do not have enough positive end results or have too many negative effects, you need to consider changes. This might mean changing a relationship with friend or spouse, changing a job or team, changing a coach or trainer, staying away from negative people, or changing sports or activities. These changes can be difficult, but you will be more successful in situations that do not provide negative stress.

Stress Relief
One of the best stress relievers is regular exercises. Exercise is a natural stress reducer, increasing endorphins in the blood, relaxing your mind, and raising your heart rate. Simply taking a short walk outdoors, going up and down some steps, or doing jumping jacks in place can also help alleviate and manage stress.

Other less physical stress relievers that can work instantly include deep breathing, inhaling for a slow count of four and exhaling for the same slow count, reaching your arms overhead and breathing deep, and closing your eyes for five to ten minutes and imagining you are somewhere peaceful. Short meditations require practice but can be very effective, along with calming personal chants or "mantras." Because most people hold most of their stress in their neck and shoulders, a simple way to relieve stress is shoulder rolls—slowly rolling the shoulders forward 10 times and back 10 times. Follow this with 10 neck rolls alternating clockwise and counterclockwise.

If you are stressed before or during competition, try deep breathing, take a quick water break, shake your legs and arms out, and focus on the horizon for a minute. Open your mouth for a deep breath followed by a relaxing yawn. Recall all your positive imagery. Imagine your successful finish.

Relaxation Techniques

  • Count your breathing: Count to four on a slow inhale and four on a slow exhale.
  • Try to focus on each part of your body, relaxing first your toes, heels, ankles, and all the way up.
  • Think of a peaceful place and imagine all the sounds, smells, and sensations.
  • Do 10 shoulder rolls forwards, 10 backward, and follow with 10 alternating neck circles.
Stress-Reducing Techniques
  • Exercise
  • Stretching
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Vacation
  • Calling a friend
  • Attacking your goal with enthusiasm and focus
  • Slowly indulging in one portion of a favorite food
  • Spending time with a loved one
  • Spending time with a pet
  • Taking a break
  • Making a schedule
  • Watching a funny TV show
Most beneficial is reminding yourself that this stress is temporary. Think briefly on an enjoyable moment ahead of or behind you. Think of the positive reasons why you are in this stressful place—you like the game, the pay, the feeling of accomplishment. Reflect on your stress chart or journal and your goals for renewed clarity, confidence, and sense of control.


From The Active Woman's Health and Fitness Handbook by Nadya Swedan. Copyright © 2003 by Nadya Swedan. Used by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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