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Community leaders offer tips on stress
We ask local women to tell us how they deal with a demanding schedule
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Top row, from left, Dr. Tiffany Jessee, Shelby Willis and Arthelene Rippy; bottom row, from left, Elaine Poe, Marci Sadorf and Doreen Caudell
In today’s society, the demands can be great on women who are working full-time and have families. Some stress can be good, but chronic stress can lead to serious health problems.

According to the website for the National Institute for Mental Health, there are three different types of stress. The first is routine stress, which is related to pressures of work, family or other daily responsibilities. The next kind of stress is from a sudden negative change, such as losing a job, divorce or illness. And the third is traumatic stress, which is caused by a major accident, war, assault or natural disaster.

According to the American Institute of Stress, the No. 1 stress in the United States is job pressure. It can sometimes be the hardest to recognize, so knowing how to handle stress is the key to preventing health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety disorder and other illnesses.

We asked six women in our community who have demanding jobs about the stresses of work and life and how they handle it. Most of these women work more than 40 hours at the office and have families at home. Some also are moms to young children. Even when they are out of their office, many don’t stop working when they get home.

What stresses you out?

When asked about what stresses them out the most, the women’s top answers included getting off schedule and not being prepared.

Dr. Tiffany Jessee, 46, founder of Sun Coast Bariatrics said adding meetings or patients to the schedule throws her off.

Largo Fire Chief Shelby Willis, 48, said she generally does fine with her “very busy schedule,” but gets stressed when deadlines are getting close.

“The stress comes into play when I am trying to balance my home life, work life and school life,” she said. “I do not believe in being late for anything, and I plan, organize and prepare everything. Once in a while, the planning and preparing fall short.”

Television host Arthelene Rippy, 81, said getting behind, not being prepared and feeling rushed get her stressed.

Madeira Beach Commissioner Elaine Poe, 67, said her stress comes from “trying to make the right decisions for the resident’s that I work for.”

Marci Sadorf, 61, a clinical liaison at The Palms of Largo, said she can get overwhelmed by the variety of tasks she must do.

“I think one of the greatest stressors I have is not having enough time to complete everything I had scheduled for the day. This includes work responsibilities, family responsibilities and personal time,” she said.

Doreen Caudell, 49, said she usually doesn’t have any stress.

“I really have a pretty good time. The only time is when I am waiting for a payment to pay subcontractors,” she said.

How do you handle stress?

All six of our women have a way they personally handle their stress.

Jessee said, “I like to listen to music in the car ‘loudly.’ A little car dancing never hurts either.”

Willis said she had a few strategies to help her.

“I have strong faith, so church, prayer, and time with my friends and family are important. Additionally, I love to exercise. I run three days a week as well as lift weights, take a yoga class, ride a bike,” she said. “I will get up a few days a week at 4:30 a.m. to ensure I can get a workout in and still meet my workload.”

Rippy also said she relies on her faith.

“I think I might have less stress than normal because the first thing I do in the morning is to read the Bible and pray. Jesus promises peace,” she said.

Poe commented, “I like yard work and painting. I enjoy the solitude in being physically active and my mind inactive.”

Sadorf said she doesn’t like to get out of her routine.

“I currently get up early to take the time to read Oswald Chambers, the Bible and journal and pray. This sets the foundation for the day in grounding my heart, mind and will to follow in the work that Christ has laid out before me,” she said. “It keeps it all in perspective. I’m not going through the day, just by chance. There is a larger story that I’m a part of.”

Caudell said she doesn’t get too stressed, because she loves what she does.

“I really enjoy both jobs. I don’t get stressed. I look forward to getting things done,” she said. “If you don’t love what you do, get out of it. If you have stress hanging over you, get out. There are so many things in the world to do.”

How do you unwind?

Even though they are done at the office, the women all have families at home. So, how do they unwind after a long day?

Jessee said, “I help the children bathe, do homework and get ready for bed.”

Not only is Willis the fire chief and has an 8-year-old son, but she also is working on a master’s degree, so she said there isn’t too much unwinding.

“It is all a long day, every day. I try to spend a few hours with my son and husband each night,” she said.

That doesn’t always happen with work obligations after the workday ends.

“So I do homework after my husband and son goes to bed at night,” she said. “However, we love spending time together as a family, watching movies, playing board games, nerf gun wars – you never know at my house. That is stress relief for me.”

Rippy has her own routine.

“I have dinner while watching Jeopardy. My friends and family know that it’s not best to call me when Jeopardy is on,” she said.

Poe said she likes to be outdoors.

“I like to grill steaks and eat outside,” she commented.

Sadorf said exercise is key to her relaxation.

“It helps me if I can get outside and swim, bike or run. I train for triathlons and have found that it helps me relax better after a training session,” she said.

She also has a secret weapon.

“Another thing I love to do is to visit with my grandkids! I love to get on the floor and play with them or read to them. This helps put things in perspective. Most important is to clear my head of the work items and be fully involved in the next thing,” she said.

Caudell said she relaxes by walking, yoga, paddle boarding, boating and spending time with her husband. She also likes to travel and spend time with her kids.

What do you recommend for keeping up with a busy schedule?

Jessee doesn’t worry about the little stuff.

“Try to be as organized as you can,” she suggested.

Willis said she actually likes being busy.

“I tend to function better when I am busy. However, I am extremely organized. I keep a schedule and a to-do list and refer to it often. I plan my work week on Sundays,” she said.

Rippy said she likes to be ready.

“I lay out my clothes, makeup and prepare my lunch the night before. Also, I’m not a coffee drinker, but have my first cup of tea at the office while going through email,” she said.

Poe recommended staying organized and on task.

Sadorf said time management helps her.

“I realistically plan the day, week, month and allow time for what needs to be accomplished. Prioritize things as the day unfolds and then, before the day is over, have a plan for the next day,” she explained. “Do not carry the work stress home. Then it takes control and does not allow me to be fully involved at home.”

Caudell said. “I relax by walking and spending time with my husband. We like to travel. I also like to spend time with my kids.”

Caudell said her life revolves around her work.

“Doing things all the time doesn’t feel like work. I am usually doing things seven days a week and love it,” she said.

How do you get through stressful days?

Jessee said caffeine helps her get through the day.

Willis said her “amazing family and group of friends” help.

“Being at home with my husband and son keeps my priorities in check. If I need to vent or get advice, I can call a few close friends,” she said. “I am so fortunate that I work with very talented people. We are very close and are able to help each other when things get tough.”

Exercise also keeps her sane, she said.

“It helps me sleep better at night. With that said, sleep is very important, I try to get seven to eight hours a night sleep most nights,” Willis said.

Rippy said she goes to prayer.

“Knowing I can pray anytime, anywhere,” she said.

Poe said she is encouraged by “knowing that I may have accomplished something positive.”

Sadorf said her responsibility drives her.

“Knowing that I have been given responsibility to complete my job with the best that I have to give. Not slouching or leaving work for others to do, and in the same breath, not walking into co-dependent situations and taking on others responsibilities. Keeping health boundaries in work and family relationships,” said Sadorf.

Caudell said, “I am very organized and I love what I do.”

Why is life more stressful these days?

All six women agree there is more stress in today’s jobs. Here’s what they think is causing it.

Jessee said the medical field itself has changed.

“Even in the past 10 years in the field of medicine, everything is different. You spend 15 minutes with a patient, then another 15 to 20 minutes doing the chart in the online record,” she said. “Reimbursement is down, but we now work harder to collect that lesser amount.”

Willis said balancing everything is harder.

“I think we are still in the mode of doing more with less. Today, the fire service performs a variety of services for the public, and each service requires unique training, education, and equipment. Couple this with an ever increasing work load, and there is more work with the same amount of hours in the day and same number of personnel within the department,” she said.

Home life has changed too, she added.

“I think we try hard to balance home and work, with home being every bit as busy as work,” Willis said.

Rippy said technology and making less money causes more stress today.

“Technology and instant communication, etc., is wonderful but it makes it much more difficult to ‘disconnect.’” she said. “Also, as the government takes more and more of our money for foolish projects, it leaves the wage earner with less and less.”

Poe has a simpler answer.

“If you strive to do a good job there is always more stress,” she said.

Sadorf said today’s world is busier.

“With technology at our fingertips, we have so much access to information and communication tools that we may ‘feel’ as if we are connected and keeping ‘all the plates spinning’ so to say. Heaven forbid, one of the ‘plates’ falls!” she explained.

Caudell also believes technology has a lot to do with today’s stress.

“I think a lot has to do with more issues and social media also has a lot to play with it. You hear so much on social media and have to be ahead of it. A lot is self created stress,” she said.

What is your sleep strategy?

With these women so busy, how much sleep do they get? What time do they wake up and go to bed? What is interesting is most of these women had similar answers.

“I get up around 6:30 a.m., and go to bed at midnight,” said Jessee.

“I wake up anywhere from 4:30 to 5:15 each morning and go to bed between 9 and 10 each night,” said Willis.

Poe and Sadorf have about the same schedule. Sadorf said she is in bed no later than 9 p.m. during the week.

“I am in bed around 10:30 to 11 p.m. and up between 5:30 or 6 a.m., and at my desk between 7:30 and 8 a.m.,” Rippy said.

Caudell also wakes up between 5 and 6 a.m. and goes to bed around 10 or 11 p.m.

The six women are role models not only in their careers, but also in how they deal with the daily stresses of life.

According to the American Institute of Stress website, the key to reducing stress is to prevent it. Getting enough sleep, proper diet, avoiding excess caffeine and other stimulants and taking time out to relax is helpful in dealing with stress.

For more information or tips on how to deal with stress, visit the American Institute of Stress website at www.s­tress­.org.
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