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Sisters under Stress

The kids are running around the house screaming. One has a cat, the other a bottle of dishwashing liquid. They're heading for the bathroom. Your head is pounding as you rush after them; you arrive seconds before your Persian sinks her claws into your five-year-old. After you dry off the cat, lecture the children, and bring out some popcorn to distract them, that extra cup of coffee and sweet roll are starting to look pretty good. If you smoke, you're probably reaching for the pack by now. After all, you deserve it, don't you?

You don't deserve it. You deserve better. Kids are stress machines, it's true, but, comforting as it might be take a little cheesecake bite from the freezer, as the snack food industry folks brag, it's hard to stop with just one. The next thing you know, you deserve the whole box. Tired now, you change your mind on grilling some chicken and fixing a good salad for dinner and decide to pick up some fast food fried chicken, complete with those rich mashed potatoes with gravy and creamy coleslaw. The kids are happy, and it's certainly easier, but you've given in to a cycle that could ruin your health. Stress eating is a serious problem for women of all colors, and so-called comfort foods are no comfort to your health.

Food isn't the only way that women try to drown their stress. Spending sprees, whether on expensive vacations (I deserve it!) or gorgeous, over-priced clothes (deserve that, too!), only work if you've got the money in the bank to cover it, and if that money isn't already earmarked for car payments or rent. Getting so stuck in debt that there is no way, short of declaring bankruptcy, that you can get yourself out, has got to be a major stress source. If this is a problem for you, make a promise to take charge of your spending today. Clear the debt, declare your own freedom-- your financial freedom from buying something just because it's cute and it's there.

Stressed by Success

Say your career is taking off. Your boss and co-workers respect you. You're getting good promotions and opportunities to strut your stuff. Yet, the minute you walk in the door, you realize that the image of the amazingly organized person everybody knows at work stays at work. Home time is mom time, and much as you need a break from office stress, before the door even opens, you can hear the shrieks and clatter of something, somewhere, falling on the tile floor. For the fifteenth time this week, you think to yourself:
I could keep a perfect house if only:

I didn't have to work
I didn't have kids messing up the place two seconds after I clean
My partner would help out more
We could afford maid service

If none of these is in the cards for you, it's time to ease up on your expectations and look for some positive ways to channel the stress in your life. Perfection on the home front just is not going to happen. We are not angels, and this life is not Heaven. It can be good. It can be sweet. There can be and will be love for ourselves and our families.

Untreated stress leads to so many medical problems, including hypertension, high blood pressure that can worsen other conditions such as diabetes. To handle everyday stress, you can take the edge off by enjoying a massage, aromatherapy, music, and spending time with good friends.

Sometimes stress has beaten us down so far that we need to seek help from doctors. There's no shame to this, and it could mean the difference for you between a good life and a lousy one. A general practitioner can often diagnose depression, which can be at the base of a lot of addictive behavior (overeating, drinking, gambling, spending, and drugs), and give advice and perhaps medication.

These books and Web sites are mostly written by sisters, for sisters, with love and compassion to show a way to a better life and understanding of ourselves. Click on any book's title to go to the catalog and request that it be held for you.

In the Library

The Big Book of Relaxation: Simple Techniques to Control the Excess Stress in Your Life edited by Larry Blumenfeld.
Check out ways to make it easier to take it easy: meditation, aromatherapy, music, food, creative visualization and more.

Broken Silence: Opening Your Heart and Mind to Therapy: A Black Woman's Recovery Guide by D. Kim Singleton.
A psychotherapist shares the stories of eight black women who have dealt with careers, relationship issues and the echoes of abuse in their lives. She takes it further by showing how the treatments have helped her patients be more at peace and gives the reader a gauge to judge her own self awareness.

Having What Matters: The Black Woman's Guide to Creating the Life You Really Want by Monique Greenwood.
From love and money, to looking good and feeling great, Ms. Greenwood, an editor at Essence magazine, tells how to use the past lessons of a strong people to reach for your successes whether on the job or at home.

The Value in the Valley: A Black Woman's Guide Through Life's Dilemmas by Iyanla Vanzant.
"If you are an honorary member of the Black Woman's Suffering Society, you have probably been told that it's all your fault. Or that struggling and suffering is your lot in life. Iyanla Vanzant says NO! Life is an Act of Faith and suffering is optional! Those everyday challenges, obstacles, and dilemmas are what Iyanla calls valleys. As bad as they may seem, there is a purpose or, as Iyanla says, 'There is so much value in the valley'. Valley experiences open your eyes to the things you know but have difficulty facing and accepting. Valleys challenge your fears, strengthen your will, correct your misperceptions, and give you valuable insights into yourself, the world, and the people around you. Those dark, bleak, ugly experiences that make you most uncomfortable can help you to grow."

On the Web

Black Women for Wellness
http://www.bwwla.com
"Black Women for Wellness is committed to healing, educating, inspiring, and supporting Black women, so we may tap into our personal power to enhance and improve our health and well being."
A warm and informative site that is well worth visiting.

The National Women's Health Information Center
http://www.4woman.gov
"This website and toll-free call center was created to provide FREE, reliable health information for women everywhere. Browse our database for great resources or take a look through our Special Sections on topic areas like heart disease, disabilities and pregnancy. We're constantly updating our site so please check back often."
Includes the section Tools to Help You Build a Healthier Life and an online newsletter.

How Stress Affects Diabetes
http://www.diabetes.org/type-1-diabetes/stress.jsp
This article explains how stress has an amazingly negative impact on people who are trying to control their diabetes.