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Danger: When Stress Becomes Source of Pride

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Much as lack of sleep tends to be normalized in New York City, high stress for many has become synonymous with success.

    That's especially apparent among young women, many of whom "still feel driven to prove they can be just as successful as their male counterparts," according to KaMala Thomas, Ph.D., a stress researcher interviewed by Women's Health magazine for an article on the subject.

    And there's the thinking that stress signals an effective and accomplishment-driven life. "Many young women think if they're not working every second of every day, they're lazy," another clinical psychologist, Steve Orma, Psy. D., told Women's Health.

    Take 28-year-old Meredith Bodgas, a New York City woman interviewed by the magazine.

    "Before switching to a lower-key Web job, Bodgas worked until 9 p.m. most nights. 'I figured anyone who left before 7 p.m. simply wasn't as valuable,' she says. She subscribed to the same misguided belief adopted by so many modern women: Stress is synonymous with success -- and if you're not totally fried, you may not be doing enough. 'I loved it when people would ask me, 'How do you do it?' admits Bodgas, 'even though I suspect what some of them really meant was 'Why do you do it?'"

    Hers is a mentality familiar to so many working women in New York. But there are serious health consequences that come from a permanent state of stress: in the short term, nutrients get depleted, and cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels skyrocket, according to a doctor interviewed for the magazine. In the long term, the immune system can be suppressed, appetite increased, sex drive and fertility affected.

    Reducing stress takes effort. Here's an overview from Women's Health on how to make that happen:

    Make a conscious effort to catch yourself in the act of gloating about your stress

    Don't get caught up in the one-upsmanship of the stress game with friends. "Stop being an enable and lose the one-upping in favor of a softer, healthier approach... Try saying something like, 'Wow, it sounds like you have a tough week ahead. What will you do to take care of yourself?'"

    Cut out the unneccessary, time-consuming activities of your daily agenda. Forego the IMs, and edit down your to-do list.

    More from Women's Health: Outsmart Stress Traps