Caught in the middle?

If you're like many midlife women, you may be caring for both children and aging parents. This "sandwich" pressure can add stress to other demands of work and home. Add to that the physical and emotional changes that announce menopause, and the responsibilities in your life may seem overwhelming.

Too much stress can lead to heart problems, weight changes, exhaustion, and depression. So to reduce stress, learn to relax:
  • Wind down. Indulge in what soothes you, such as music or reading.
  • Lay down. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep.
  • Sneak exercise in. Parking farther from a building or walking around the block may work wonders.
  • Talk it out. A friend or profesional therapist can help you work through your feelings and find positive ways to handle stress.
And start becoming the gal who can say no. Even the best multitaskers can't — and shouldn't — do it all.

Caregivers need care too

In many families, caring for elderly or sick relatives falls to women. Most female caregivers wouldn't have it any other way. But caregiving without relief can harm a woman's mental and physical health by raising blood pressure, interfering with sleep, and triggering depression.

If you're a caregiver, care for yourself, too:
  • Get moving. Do regular exercise to help you sleep and feel better. Exercise also can curb stress-related jumps in blood pressure.
  • Get together. Make a special effort to see friends regularly, or join a support group.
  • Get wired. Participate in an Internet discussion group for caregivers.
  • Get relief. Remember, you deserve time to visit others, read a book, and do other things for yourself. Friends, relatives, social services agencies, and religious groups may be able to help with duties.