Beat Stress Now!
It's everywhere, and sometimes—oftentimes—it seems impossible to escape. Now, relax and take a deep breath: Here's how to manage stress in four key areas of your life.
Late last year, when 32-year-old actress Brittany Murphy died from cardiac failure, the speculation was that the heart attack might have been caused by an eating disorder. Murphy's death highlights the extreme end of the spectrum of how women perceive their bodies, but Dr. Jennifer Gaudiani, a hospitalist and assistant medical director of the ACUTE Center at Denver Health, says that "many women exist somewhere on the spectrum of disordered thinking about their bodies and food." Constant talk of weight and physical appearance, ubiquitous conversations about food, and the barrage of mass-media images of stick-thin models and actresses can be huge sources of stress for women. Paradoxically, stress from other sources can trigger body image issues. "Some people might grab a bag of chips and eat it when they're under duress," says Gaudiani. "Others might look in the mirror and instead of saying 'I'm stressed' or 'I'm sad,' they might say 'I'm dissatisfied with how my body looks or how my body functions.' " Here are three ways to help create a healthy and happy relationship with your body.
SWALLOW YOUR WORDS
"When you're out socially, don't make comments," says Gaudiani. "I have never told one of my friends, 'Gosh, you look so thin!' or asked, 'Geez, have you lost weight?' I don't ever talk about the food I eat, except to say it's delicious. You never know who you're talking to—someone may indeed have a past, and you can't know what you might be triggering by making what are otherwise very socially acceptable comments about body and about food." And by modeling that kind of behavior to others, they may begin to be more circumspect in their comments about your body and eating habits, too.
MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
The Front Range is a region full of physically active people, and some women feel like slackers if they're not training for an Ironman, running four marathons a year, or bagging fourteeners on the weekend. "Women are constantly comparing themselves to others and feeling like they're not doing enough," says Pieracci. "People in Denver tend to think that if they didn't go for a five-mile run, that they didn't exercise. But if they went for a walk, or if they parked farther from their office and had to walk more to get to the car, those things really make a big difference in terms of how you feel" in terms of your body image and stress level.
LEARN TO LOVE YOURSELF
We all focus on what part of our bodies we're not satisfied with—it's human nature. "But if we can turn our attention to what we like and emphasize that, that's much more useful," says Pieracci. "Because no matter how much we exercise, or even if we have plastic surgery, there are always going to be aspects of our bodies that we don't like as much."