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SOS for the Stressed: 7 Stress Management Tips

Head off burnout with these seven tips for reducing stress from Dr. Amy Wechsler, author of The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You.

You’re working long, long hours to get your career in high gear, then blowing off steam late at night, trying to meet people at smoky after-hours clubs or late-night bars. What with proving yourself on the job, struggling to get a romantic relationship going, and losing sleep over both, you’re ripe for burnout. And maybe breakouts, too — a nonstop lifestyle can suddenly produce a bumper crop of pimples. Some suggestions follow.

Wean yourself from work. How do you do this? By setting up boundaries and sticking to them, just as you keep to brushing your teeth and hair every day. Choose a time each day after which you will not do any more work. Make sure you give yourself at least one day over the weekend to goof off (no work!), whether it’s by yourself or with family.

Blow out the flame. If you’re truly burning the candle at both ends, you need to stop and evaluate why. Are you working sixteen-hour days? Or are you staying out late with friends to cut loose and enjoy the fruits of your labor?

If it’s wall-to-wall work, you’ve got to take charge. It might mean a long talk with your boss or, if things are really out of hand, even switching jobs. Or it might mean you need to just stop being such a workaholic and do less.

On the flip side is our yearning to take a break by doing something exhausting. In the case of a lot of end-to-end candle burners, we party hard, drink, smoke, and stay out way past our bedtime. My advice here isn’t not to have fun. On the contrary! But when you need a break, take a break. Six hours at Club All Night Long probably isn’t it, no matter how cute the suits at the bar are.

Get a dose of morning light. Our body clocks don’t exactly match the day’s twenty-four-hour-day clock, which makes us want to sleep twelve minutes longer every day and stay up later every night. But you probably don’t sleep later but do stay up later…no wonder you’re wiped. What helps? Getting out of bed at the same time every morning and sitting in a sunny spot for breakfast, or exercising outdoors, or just turning on lots of lights. A dose of brightness in the morning helps synch up your internal clock with the twenty-four-hour day. Which also helps you get on regular, saner schedule.

Turn off the cell phone and PDA. More and more we’re growing into a culture addicted to our BlackBerries (there’s a reason they were instantly nicknamed CrackBerries). The flickering, hypnotic light from their tiny screens will arouse your brain and cut into your sleep time. Put away your electronics at least an hour before you hit the hay, if not earlier. Otherwise, you’ll never get a truly restful night’s sleep. (True confessions: I know about this — I’ve been there!)

Tell yourself how well you’re doing. Even if it feels silly, give yourself a morning pep talk while you’re in front of the mirror. Say a few positive affirmations, such as “I’m going to have a fabulous day; I’m beautiful and healthy, and it’s up to me to make great things happen; I’m grateful for this life and I’m doing terrific.” Note how well you’re coping with whatever pressure you’re under. Even if you don’t quite believe yourself, it’s still effective. Research has shown that over time, a daily rah-rah builds resilience, which can fortify you against stress.

Prep yourself. Take stock of your coming day. Note the pitfalls: the two-hour parent-teacher night that tends to last three; the regular Thursday staff meeting; the eighty-five unanswered e-mails that could consume the entire morning. Every day has its molehills, but if you’re prepared and limit the time you give them, they won’t turn into mountains.

Book a massage. Massage strokes relax your muscles and your psyche because being touched releases oxytocin; remember, that’s the bonding hormone that makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over. It’s the internal reason massages are so calming and soothing. The external one, of course, is how they unknot those tense, clenched muscles in your neck.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy Wechsler, M.D., the author of The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Kin, and a Whole New You (Copyright © 2008 by RealAge Corporation), is a dermatologist and a psychiatrist, one of only two doctors in the country who are board-certified in both specialties. She is also Evidence of the mind-beauty connection walks into her office every day: “Premature aging and adult acne are the two most common skin problems I see, and stress and exhaustion are often at the bottom of both,” she says. Dr. Wechsler practices in New York City, where she lives with her husband and two kids. She is a member of the RealAge Scientific Advisory Board.

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