Autumn marks an end to the lazy days of summer, and often an increase in stress caused by busy schedules, shorter days and an approaching holiday season.
Whether you know it, stress adds up and can impact your health, eventually leading to chronic conditions like high blood pressure, gastrointestinal conditions,1 and even impacting your pelvic floor.
Here are 3 tips to manage back to school stress.
1. Get Organized
If autumn means a return to busy schedules, then organization is key. Juggling schedules, driving the kids around, a busy time at work, and then coming home to a house that needs cleaning—these are all recipes for increased anxiety.
Organizing helps, and here’s why:2
- There are health benefits associated with organization, and as a result, cleanliness. Studies show that something as simple as making your bed can help you sleep better, and those who develop a schedule and keep a clean home are more likely to commit to being active.
- When it comes to mental health, studies show there is some sort of link between organization and depression. One study found women who felt their spaces were cluttered were more likely to be depressed, and have higher levels of cortisol, the hormone that controls stress.
- Our bodies love routine and order—like the natural circadian cycle of sleeping when it’s dark and working in the light—so having an organized and clean environment gives our bodies some peace of mind.
Take time to create a calendar to keep schedules straight, and enlist the family to help with tidying your home on a regular basis. Developing a routine is good for everyone in the household.
2. Watch What You Eat
It’s easy when we feel stressed to cut corners in the kitchen, by ordering in, stopping for fast food, or eating junk food as comfort food. But a healthy, balanced diet can help give you the energy you need to cope with stress.3
That’s because some research suggests that certain foods like vegetables and polyunsaturated fats including omega-3 fats—found in certain fish and seafood, nuts, flax seeds, and leafy vegetables—may help regulate cortisol levels.3 Cortisol affects several aspects of your body and mainly helps regulate your body’s response to stress.4
Consider meal planning to make preparing good food at home easier. Meal planning takes some effort but can help save time in the long run, ensure more balanced and healthful meals, and prevent weight gain.3
3. Take Time to Care For Yourself
As women, we tend to place everyone else’s care ahead of our own. In fact, a survey conducted by HealthyWomen and Working Mother magazine revealed that women place the health care of their children, pets, elder relatives and spouse or significant other ahead of themselves.5 If you’re not healthy, however, you won’t be able to look after others.
Self care is a bit of a buzzword these days, but there is benefit to making sure you exercise, get outside, meditate, or find time to do whatever it is you love to do.
Here’s another important form of self care: making sure you visit a doctor for wellness checkups. A survey found that 62% of women aged 20-34 waited until a health symptom became urgent before scheduling an appointment, and for older women the number was 44%. Catching potential problems early is key to staying healthy, and knowing what health issues are common as you age is also important.6
For instance, women in their 30s should be mindful of thyroid issues and pre-diabetes; in the 40s concerns arise over mental health with hormonal fluctuations brought on by perimenopause and menopause, as well as being a good time to start mammogram screenings; and in the 50s and beyond, women need to be aware of heart disease and the risks of various cancers.6
See a Doctor
If you’re worried about your stress levels, or concerned about a health issue that may be caused by stress, use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you. Discuss symptoms and concerns with a doctor who has expertise in women’s health, and be proactive in dealing with stress before it causes health problems.