Stress at work can become distress

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Stress is an inherent part of daily living. It has been a part of human life since people first walked on Earth. Modern-day life offers many challenges. The need to keep current with email messages, answer your cell phone, make "To Do" lists, and do more with less renders a sense of always being on the go.

Stress can become distress -- a chronic condition of feeling overwhelmed, oppressed and behind in your tasks. It is the pervasive sense of being taxed by life with little opening for relief. Local counselors say it is imperative that women and men find relief.

When it comes to women, Betty Prigge, a registered nurse and licensed professional counselor at the county Health Department, advises women to seek family support systems, "because you can't do everything yourself." Prigge said raising families can be demanding, especially if one also works a full-time job.

"Find time for yourself. Good friends are important. Even if you have three kids, you can take one with you for a walk through a park," said Prigge. "But you must have quality time with each child."

Getting grandparents involved with your kids relieves stress, said Prigge, because grandparents usually have more spare time than a busy woman.

Women without children are not spared stress, Prigge noted. Hobbies are good to have, and a group of close friends can be helpful.

Charlie Harrison at the Community Counseling Center in Cape Girardeau said it's critical that women make times for themselves, as hard as that might be.

"The number one thing is to be organized," she said. "If there are children involved, give them responsibilities. That helps everybody feel needed. Sitting down to a meal together is important because it makes people feel connected."

Harrison, a licensed professional counselor, advises stressed-out women to simplify their lives. Look for things to cut out. At the end of a work day, leave the work behind. Listen to a favorite CD on the drive home. And when you get home -- don't kick the dog.

"Take a deep breath and say tomorrow is another day," said Harrison. "Women are the nucleus of a family. If we are falling apart, the family can fall apart. Put the kids to bed and light a candle. Don't let your well run dry."

Carol Dippold works at the Lutheran Family and Children's Services in Cape Girardeau. As a licensed professional counselor, her clients are often referred from family members, doctors, ministers and friends. Most clients are over 60 years old.

"I'm seeing stress in people trying to understand Medicare Part D," she said. "The application process is difficult to understand. I often direct them to the APPLE Project here or the Area Agency on Aging for help."

Dippold said she recently spoke with a woman who was worried about the maintenance of her home. Also, women in public housing have to have annual audits of their incomes, which causes stress. Transportation is an issue for older women.

"I have clients who are stressed because they feel their kids are trying to tell them what to do and how to live," said Dippold. "I talk to the kids and tell them their mothers (and fathers) have the right to make choices for themselves."

Dippold says she is currently having a hard time relieving the stress of her job.

"I've been real busy with seminars, meetings and other things," she said. "I'm trying to find time for reading, prayer, devotion and exercise."

At New Vision Counseling in Cape Girardeau, Tammy Hargis urges women to rebuild female relationships.

"One of the first casualties of a stressed life is for women to lose their female friends and companions," said the licensed professional counselor. "This usually doesn't happen with men. They still have their golf games and other recreation. But women, especially working women with families, often lose their female support system."

Hargis advises women to find time to rebuild lost or faltering female relationships. One way, she said, is to plan regular lunch outings.

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