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'Tis the Season to Stress Less

Holiday Gratings

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Dec. 7, 2001 -- Do you handle stress, or does it handle you?

A 28-year-old female lawyer directed the following question to Cheryl Richardson, coach and author of Take Time for Your Life: A Personal Coach's Seven-Step Program for Creating the Life You Want.

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We won't reveal her name, but no doubt, she reveals a familiar feeling of being overwhelmed. Such feelings demand some attention -- whether the pressure you feel comes and goes with the holidays or it is a year-round fixture in your life.

The Question:

"I work an average of 10 to 12 hours daily, and my work is deadline-oriented. Several months ago, at the same time I was transferred to a new location at my job, the person I love and my parents began to have emotional conflicts with each other. Since then, I have suffered from the following symptoms: tight neck and shoulders, feeling weepy and anxious, memory loss, low energy, diminishing appetite, migraine headaches, irregular sleeping patterns, lack of focus, breathing difficulties, and more.

At first these symptoms occurred one at a time, but now I suffer from most of them all the time. I don't know what's wrong with me. I love my job and I know things will get better on the personal side, but somehow this does not seem to make me feel any better. Can you please offer some advice?"

Here's how Richardson responds:

"Consider these symptoms as your body's way of offering you a warning that you're heading for danger, and take them seriously. I highly recommend that you sit down with your partner or a good friend and have a heart-to-heart talk about what's going on in your life. Consider everything from your long work hours and deadline-oriented work to the emotional conflict between your partner and your parents. Then, together, create a plan of action in order to restore your health and well-being as soon as possible. Your self-care must be a top priority.

It's important to know that the emotional conflict you're dealing with in your personal life does create additional problems at work. Too often, we make the mistake of believing that we can separate our work lives from our personal lives, but we can't. Conflicts related to parents or a loved one -- the people who are closest to us -- are some of the most stressful of all. What goes on at home either enhances your well-being at work or adds to your overall stress level.

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