Stress Solutions // Preparing for Pesach need not unravel you

By Leah B. Schorr

Pesach is coming. (I am sure you appreciate my reminder.) For many women, pre-Yom Tov preparation produces enough stress to last until summer packing for the bungalows. (No stress there…)

But it’s not only preparing for Pesach that does a number on us. There are many other stressors in our day-to-day lives (as if you didn’t know that). Everyone seems to find a means to de-stress—sometimes on their own, or by using tips in magazine articles (like this one) or suggestions from friends or doctors.

A recent scientific study lists music, speaking with a good friend, hobbies, outdoor walks, small treats, laughter, turning off the telephone and computer, yoga and exercise, even chewing gum and eating bananas, as ways to reduce the production of cortisol and boost the production of endorphins—the “feel good” hormones. Other stress gurus will tell you to take things one day at a time, make lists, ask for help, take breaks, resist the drive for perfection, and on and on…

We asked a number of women and some Ami staff members how they deal with stress. Here are their responses:

No Phone Home
Bina H. works in customer service for a large appliance company.
I spend much of the day responding to complaints from customers. Satisfied customers rarely call. I have to be professional, cordial and even-keeled throughout the workday. Some callers can be nasty, but I have to keep a smile in my voice at all times. When I get home, I have an iron-clad rule—no phones for two hours. The ringers on my house phone and cell phone are shut off. Just that space of two hours with no one talking into my ear makes the difference that allows me to get back to being a mommy and wife for the rest of the evening.

Tea and Puzzles
Mindy C. has elderly parents
who live close by.

My sister and brother live in Israel with their families and are not very involved with our parents, so taking care of them and their household and their health is all on me. Inasmuch as my parents are the most wonderful, easygoing people, the enormity of the responsibility I carry is very stressful. The best way I de-stress is to sit down with a cup of tea and do a crossword puzzle. My mind focuses on the puzzle and distracts me for half an hour or so. Once the puzzle is done—and I am pleased to say that I finish them most days—I can move on to other things. (See sidebar on page 53.)

Garden Leave
Mimi H. is an English principal at a girls’ yeshivah on Long Island.

There is hardly a day when I don’t have some crisis to deal with, whether it’s a teacher, a student or a parent with an issue that requires my involvement. I also have three lively teenagers at home. With my schedule, there is hardly time to breathe. Baruch Hashem, I have my garden. That’s the place I go to de-stress. I tend to my rose bushes, rake the leaves, prune the ivy—whatever needs to be done to keep the garden beautiful. In the winter months, my living-room window contains numerous houseplants that I tend to. Something as simple as watering the plants calms me down and gives me the strength to tackle the next item on my never-ending list.

Working Out Works
Deena S. is a single woman.
I’m 30 and I know people mean well, although my two great-aunts can be a bit overbearing, but the whole situation really stresses me out more often than I’d like, especially after Shabbos in shul. I have learned that the best way to regain my equilibrium when the whole single “thing” gets me down is to exercise. As long as I have my earphones and some good rhythmic music, I can forget the pity I feel from others and focus on myself in the privacy of my room. When I’m done, I feel invigorated and self-confident, and I can focus on the positive things that I’m thankful for in life.

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