Less Stress in 2009: Expert Advice
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Less Stress in 2009: Expert Advice

Women who make a career out of helping others handle stress are probably so well-adjusted that daily pressures and hassles don't get to them -- right? Not exactly. Turns out experts can have as much trouble managing stress as the rest of us. We asked psychologists, life coaches, mind-body doctors and other stress-fighting professionals to confess what they still struggle with -- and how they're resolving to do better.

Marci Shimoff

The Expert: Marci Shimoff, coauthor of Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul and Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy From the Inside Out

Stress Confession: I get overwhelmed! I suffer from the "too much to do, too little time" syndrome. I'm a classic multitasker, even though I know that it just makes me more stressed.

New Year's Resolution: Let things go. I'm going to try to pare down my list by saying no -- a key stress reliever. Sometimes it takes a crisis to spur these changes. Recently when I was traveling on business, someone stole my computer, my luggage was lost right before I was due to give a big speech, and back at home my water heater, stove and refrigerator all broke. I hadn't backed up the computer, so I lost a year's worth of work and 2,000 unanswered e-mails. My stress was through the roof. I stopped and asked myself, "What is the lesson and the gift?" And I realized that my life had gotten out of balance. I was saying yes to too many work-related things that I didn't enjoy. It was an opportunity to reevaluate my priorities.

Mary Loverde

Mary Loverde

The Expert: Mary Loverde, life-balance expert, former director of the Hypertension research Center at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and author of three bestselling books, including I Used to Have a Handle on Life but It Broke.

Stress Confession: I obsess about the little stuff. A lot of times before I fall asleep, I'll think about what I haven't gotten done and what I still have to do tomorrow. I'll obsess about my e-mails, the dirt in the corners or something that was said about me.

New Year's Resolution: Pay more attention to what really matters. I'm going to spend less time on the minutiae and pay more attention to connecting with the important things in life: family, faith, friends, fun, finances and health. My new life-balance motto is going to be: When you can't keep up, connect. I'll ask myself, "Okay, who do I need to connect with today?" Sometimes it'll be myself. Other times I'll just pick up the phone and ask someone to help me -- my mother, my child, my friend. We feel stressed when we feel disconnected.

Amy Wechsler

Amy Wechsler

The Expert: Amy Wechsler, M.D., dermatologist, psychiatrist and author of The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Reverse Stress Aging and Reveal More Youthful and Beautiful Skin

Stress Confession: I don't get enough sleep because I stay up too late working on my computer The only time I can really focus and catch up on work is after my kids go to bed. Because I have this need to be available at all times, I'm constantly checking e-mail -- I'm afraid I'm going to miss something, even at midnight! I know that I should go to sleep about an hour earlier than I do.

New Year's Resolution: Unplug earlier. I need to tell myself it's okay, it can wait till tomorrow. When I don't get enough sleep, I can see the toll it takes on my face, and I know I shouldn't wait for my body to tell me something's wrong. So this year I'm going to get my husband to remind me to go to bed at 11. Or write myself a sticky note that says 11 o'clock: done. really, I just have to give myself a boundary. Maybe I'll use a few of my parenting skills on myself. If I get to bed on time, I'll give myself a star!

Kate Gosselin

The Expert: Kate Gossellin, mother of 8-year-old twins and 4-year-old sextuplets and star of TLC's reality show Jon & Kate Plus 8

Stress Confession: I panic about my impossIble to-do list Sometimes when I think about what I need to get done, I feel like I am going to cry and scream at the same time. My stress level has skyrocketed over the past five years: I gave birth to sextuplets, my husband lost his job and I left mine, several close friends and family members died and our whole lifestyle has changed -- for one thing, there's a camera crew in my house much of the time, taping my every move. That's been a good thing for our family in many ways, but on some days even one additional person can cause me stress.

New Year's Resolution: Stay in the moment. I won't allow myself to think ahead to tomorrow's stress, unless it helps me get organized. Also, I'll try to remember not to let the to-do list steal my fun time with the kids. It's easy to let stress overwhelm you and take over, but stopping to play, kiss, hug and read a few books is very important. My personal goal is also to handle stressful situations graciously -- something viewers of our show know I don't do that often. Instead, I take my anxiety out on my husband, Jon!

Erin Olivo

The Expert: Erin Olivo, Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center and a psychologist in private practice

Stress Confession: I get so busy that I forget to eat. My patient schedule is crazy. In this past week I've scheduled meetings at 10 p.m. Then, in an attempt to do it all, I'll tell someone else, "Sure, I can do 8 a.m." for the next morning. Sometimes I'll skip eating and get a headache. I'm hungry but I don't have the time.

New Year's Resolution: Listen to -- and take care of -- my body. Stress affects our moods, but its real impact is on our bodies. Research has shown that stress is linked to cardiovascular disease, so it's a health issue, not just a quality-of-life issue. I need to recognize that by taking care of myself -- taking time to eat, sleep and exercise -- I'll be better able to take care of other people. I think we're told to be superwoman and do it all. We can do a great job, but we should observe our own limits. I need to commit to putting my own needs into my daily schedule.

Kathleen Hall

The Expert: Kathleen HallD.Min., founder and CEO of the Stress Institute and author of A Life in Balance: Nourishing the Four Roots of True Happiness

Stress Confession: I worry about my relationships. I am very type A. The easiest thing for me to do is work -- it's like eating candy. An incredibly tight deadline or a last-minute business trip? I live for those things. My stresses come from my personal relationships, whether it's a coworker or a relative or a friend. I had a tough childhood, so I struggle with anxiety that stems from my past.

New Year's Resolution: Take care of myself. I'll start by setting aside two hours a week to e-mail or call friends or relatives. I'm committed to breaking it down like that, putting it on my schedule. It's important to create the time to connect with people! Also, I need to block out some creative time each week. I love to paint -- it touches things in me that nothing else really does. And I'm determined to have more fun. We women take our children to parks but we forget to play. I love to go to the movies, but I can't remember the last time I went to see one.

Joan Borysenko

The Expert: Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., cofounder and former director of the mind-body clinical programs at two Harvard Medical School teaching hospitals, and author of 10 books including Inner Peace for Busy Women: Balancing Work, Family and Your Inner Life

Stress Confession: I watch the news 24/7. Like so many people, I have an addiction to news and these days a lot of it is bad. I realize if I sit there in front of CNN, my stress level goes from high to off the charts. And I find myself taking out my iPhone about every five minutes and hitting the little icon for stocks -- bad news at the touch of a button. The market goes up and down all day, and I can feel my heart pound.

New Year's Resolution: Turn off the TV. I'll simply limit myself. I'll turn on the TV once in the early evening to see what's happening. I won't be watching late, because when I do, I take the bad news into my dreams and that's not good. Should the world fall apart, I expect that someone or something will notify me. Meanwhile, I'm going to try to remember that, whatever else is happening, there's so much to be grateful for.

Secret Weapons

Our experts share their stress busters.

Marci: I take little breaks throughout the day just to breathe.

Amy: I try to shift gears before bedtime by reading a novel.

Mary: I dance -- cha-cha, salsa and fox-trot -- two to four hours a week. A passion is a source of energy -- don't cut it out!

Joan: I spend time with my beautiful standard poodle. Playing with him and petting him just brings me into the moment.

Kathleen: Before I start my workday, I read an inspiring quote, look at family pictures and fix myself a pot of tea.

Erin: When I get a phone call, I stop, take a deep breath and let it ring three times. Those little pause moments help me stay centered.

Kate: I try not to be afraid to ask for what I need. Most often, others will happily help. By not asking, it creates...more stress!

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, January 2009.

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