Okay: Heres the deal. We all know that too much stress is bad for us, and have heard the long litany of ailments associated with it high blood pressure, obesity and cancer, to name just a few. And nd a way to relax is the piece of health advice everyone from our moms to our M.D.s gives us. So why arent we relaxing, de-stressing or taking time to smell the proverbial flowers already? The truth is the things highly stressed women are doing to cope eating comfort food and smoking, according to a recent survey sponsored in part by the American Psychological Association (APA) are just exacerbating the negative effects of stress on our health. So whats going on here?

Basically, trying to cram in stress-relieving activities like finding time to meditate or taking a vacation has become its own stress inducer. Women have come to see managing stress as just one more thing to add to their to-do lists, and they get even more overwhelmed, says Kenneth Pelletier, Ph.D., co-author of Stress Free for Good (HarperCollins, 2005). But the either/or approach either schedule a massage or down a bag of chips isnt your only option. Here are 10 ways you can effortlessly weave stress relief into your hectic routine.

1.BEFORE YOU LEAVE WORK Prep for tomorrow. Nothing is more stressful than being unprepared, says Mona Lisa Schulz, M.D., Ph.D., author of The New Feminine Brain (Free Press, 2005). Get organized so youre ready for the next day, taking a few minutes to make a to-do list and clean up before you leave. Knowing youve got everything covered means youll be less likely to fret about work in the evenings. When you come in the next morning, youll have the sense that youre in control of the situation and can handle it, Schulz says. This sets a positive tone for the day, which can help you get more accomplished.

2.BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE HOUSE Arm yourself with snacks. According to the APA survey, more women than men (one in three) turn to comfort food such as ice cream and cookies to ease stress. Its common for women to deny themselves favorite foods because theyre trying to lose weight. But under stress, the urge for them becomes even stronger, says Ellen Frankel, co-author of The Diet Survivors Handbook (Sourcebooks, Inc., 2006). In fact, researchers at Montclair State University in New Jersey recently confirmed that dieters are more likely than nondieters to overeat when under pressure, bingeing on the very same high-fat foods they normally try to avoid.
The key is to not deprive yourself, Frankel says. Her advice: Keep three or four snacks on hand that you know youll probably want peanuts, if you like salty; string cheese, if you crave protein; a small piece of chocolate for something sweet so you arent tempted to binge.
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