Me First!

Putting others' needs before your own can be hazardous to your career and your health

out, you’re jumping off the deep end at every little thing, and there are diseases that are linked to stress alone—high blood pressure, thyroid problems, even heart attacks.”

Mental: The ability to concentrate and focus on the task at hand can be compromised when you’re overextended. As a result, missed deadlines, careless mistakes, and forgetfulness are common.

Emotional: According to the Families and Work Institute, people who feel overworked are more likely to feel angry at their employers and resent co-workers who don’t work as hard as they do. “You might feel irritable, angry, and find yourself arguing all the time,” says psychoanalyst Marilyn Martin.

Behavioral: “You might notice some changes in your appetite, like you’re eating all the time or you’re losing your appetite,” says Martin. Likewise, you may engage in escapist behavior such as drinking, drugs, excessive sex, shopping, or gambling to distract yourself.

Whether you’re adjusting to a company restructuring or coping with a family member’s illness, there are going to be periods during your life when chronic—or ongoing—stress will be unavoidable, says psychiatrist Janet E. Taylor. Here, Taylor offers some ways to help lower your stress levels and ease your mind and body:

Deep breathing: Take 10 deep breaths through your nose with your mouth closed. Deep breathing slows your heart rate, and focusing on your breathing brings your awareness to how your body is feeling.

Muscle relaxation: Stand up and lean as far forward as you can. Make yourself as tense as possible without falling for 10 seconds. Then stand up straight, square the shoulders, take some deep breaths, and let your body go limp. The result is what it is like to feel relaxed.

Healthy diet: There is no substitute for regular exercise and eating a nutritious diet. And, if you are going through a stressful time or working a difficult job, it is even more critical for you to maintain proper eating habits as well as routinely participate in physical activity.

If you suspect you’re overextending yourself, psychoanalyst Marilyn Martin offers these steps that may help:

Track your feelings and behavior. Monitor how often you feel overwhelmed and write it down. “When you journal, it strengthens the part of you that observes your behavior,” says psychoanalyst Marilyn Martin. That way, you know how often you feel stressed and are aware of how you handle that stress.

Counter feelings of guilt. Many people feel that they’re letting others down when they say ‘no,’ “but saying yes to everybody is being cruel to yourself,” says Martin. When you start to feel guilty, remind yourself that it’s OK to put your needs first.

Create a supporting cast. Pass personal responsibilities to family members, or consider hiring outside help such as a cleaning service. At work, delegate responsibilities that aren’t crucial to your role. “Think of it as giving somebody else the opportunity to say ‘yes,’” says Martin.

Exercise. Physical activity is not only good for your physical health but it “increases your endorphins, which help you feel better, and it’s also important in

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