University of Missouri Extension

GH6651, Reviewed May 2001

Challenges and Choices: Stress Management — The Challenge of Balance

Ibtisam S. Barakat and Janet A. Clark
Department of Human Development and Family Studies

Seek balance.
Balance emotions with reason.
Combine detachment with doing our part.
Balance giving with receiving.
Alternate work with play, business with personal activities.
Balance tending to our spiritual needs with tending to our other needs.
Juggle responsibilities to others with responsibilities to ourselves.
Balance caring about others with caring about ourselves.
Whenever possible, let's be good to others, but be good to ourselves too.

-- Melody Beattie

Today's busy lifestyles

If you think you don't have satisfactory balance in your life, you're not alone. More than a quarter million working women, when surveyed in 1994, said their number one concern is difficulty in balancing work and family.

Over half of these women indicated that "too much stress" was a serious problem for them.

Stress is your body's signal that an area in your life needs attention. When you receive the stress signal, don't ignore it. Often, this alert tells a woman that it's time to rest, acknowledge a limitation, make a decision or meet a need.

When ignored consistently, stress escalates to distress. A permanently distressed woman develops burnout and exhaustion.

She also becomes increasingly vulnerable to physical and emotional setbacks such as anxiety, heart attacks, and ulcers.

A positive approach to managing stress is to develop a balanced lifestyle and become more attentive to personal needs. Yet many women neglect themselves trying to meet everyone else's needs, both at home and at work.

A balanced life can include work, friends, family, play, love, time for self and time for spiritual enrichment. The likely result of such balance is not exhaustion but rather a greater sense of well-being.

This guide can assist you in managing stress and balancing your multiple responsibilities. It discusses the nature, causes, and symptoms of stress; provides activities to identify stressors and monitor responses; and suggests a variety of preventive and coping strategies. Some of these strategies can help relieve the "pile-up" effect of daily hassles, and some can help you manage long-term distress.

What is a stressor?

A stressor is any demand on your body or mind. It can have external causes such as the irritability of your boss, or internal causes such as a distorted belief that tells you caring for your needs is selfish.

Stressors can also be pleasant or unpleasant. For example, while losing a job is stressful, so is moving on to a better one. Getting a divorce or getting married to the person you love can also place additional demands on your mind and body.

Everyone is different. Situations that are considered stressful for one person may have very little effect on another person.

In order to better manage your stressors, first learn to recognize your body's signals and identify the causes of your distress.

Use the Daily Stress Record below to record stressful events, and your body's response to them. If your first attempt to manage the stressor does not work, don't give up. Finding a permanent solution to a highly stressful situation may take some time and effort. Consider the following alternatives:

By admitting that there are some situations you can change and some you can't, you can stop wasting emotional energy on those unchangeable situations and put your mind and effort to finding solutions to situations you can control.

Stress signals

Daily stress record

Event When it occurred Stress signal(s)
Sometimes, a short-term response is enough. Try doing something you enjoy such as taking a short walk, reading from an inspirational book or listening to your favorite music. However, when the stressor is reoccurring, it's time to find a long-term solution. Consider a stressful situation that you are currently facing, think it through and write down your ideas. Often, writing what you think and feel can clarify the situation and give you a new point of view.
Thinking through a stressor
What I can change about it:
What I cannot change about:
The people who can help:
The first step I can take:
My action plan includes the following steps:

Points to remember about stress

Pay attention to how you currently react to life's events. Stress can have a cumulative effect without you realizing it. The pile-up effects of everyday hassles can become very harmful to your mental and physical health if you aren't managing them effectively.

Women's employment outside the home may or may not cause distress depending on the circumstances. If a working mother receives adequate support with household chores and childcare, then outside employment can contribute positively to a woman's well-being. Results from the 1994 National Working Women Count! survey indicated that the majority of women do like their jobs, but they would like to have policies established that are more supportive of family responsibilities.

Setting priorities

Gaining a greater sense of control over your life can come as a result of thoughtful planning.

Decide what your short-term and long-term goals are and develop realistic strategies to achieve them. Consider the various aspects of your life by asking yourself these questions:

Stress reduction

To reduce stress and set more reasonable standards for yourself and others, the following suggestions may be helpful to you. Select those from the list that are the most useful to your own circumstances. Work on making one or two changes at a time.

Community resources

Check your phone book for numbers not listed below.

A parting word —

It is rewarding to find someone whom you like, but it is essential to like yourself.
It is quickening to recognize that someone is good, but it is indispensable to view yourself as acceptable.
It is a delight to discover people who are worthy of respect, admiration and love, but it is vital to believe in yourself deserving of these things.
You are the only one who you will never leave or lose, and therefore you must learn to take care of yourself.

-- Jo Coudert



GH6651 Challenges and Choices: Stress Management — The Challenge of Balance | University of Missouri Extension

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