Stress Awareness: Inspiring Change From Within
April is National Stress Awareness Month, something I think most of us are already aware of and likely experience. The fast pace at which we operate our daily lives added to our increasing obligations is an unquestionable formula for stress. Research shows that nearly half of all adults suffer from adverse health effects due to stress where the body feels increased physical, mental and emotional responses.
Two of the most common contributors of stress? Work and family – at not the very least how these two intersect. Often we think “balancing” work and family life will alleviate some of the pressure, but the issue with the term “balance” is that it implies everything is (or should be) equal. So if one side weighs on you a little more than the other, you are presumably out of balance.
Today, the popularity of resources like 85 Broads, Arianna Huffington’s Third Metric conference series and, most recently, the launch of Mom Corps YOU, is verification that the quest to strike the right combination of personal and professional elements is more relevant than ever. Professional women are trying too hard to “have it all” and meet some kind of societal expectation. As a result, we end up frustrated, stressed or worse from the internalized guilt and feelings of inadequacy when we can’t be everything to everyone.
I speak from experience. After I had my first child, I had a difficult time meeting the demands of my life to the degree I expected and wanted. I realized I alone had find my own perfect alignment between personal and professional by taking control of my day-to-day activities the best I could. It mattered to my well-being, fulfillment and happiness.
[Related: Mindfulness = Purpose + Productivity]
This epiphany of self-empowerment was the foundation for launching my own company advocating that work-life satisfaction is best achieved when taking ownership of a few key areas of your life: career, finances and health & wellness. Here are some tips for reducing stress I’ve learned from personal experience and some really wonderful women I have encountered along the way:
- Evaluate what you can control. Take stock in your priorities, activities and obligations to determine where you can influence change in your life. This will help guide your decisions and keep you focused on what’s important and what you can control. Reducing stress and finding work-life satisfaction isn’t just about trying to “fit” work into our life, but about how everything in our life fits together.
- Even a small amount of control can make a difference. Much of our stress stems from feelings that we just don’t have control of our own lives. And if we allow it to happen, we do indeed lose that control. Start with a couple small things to get your feet wet – request to come to work a half hour later to reduce your commute time and buy yourself that extra time in the morning with the kids; take an hour on Sunday to plan your week’s meals (eating in and out is okay, not everything has to be homemade!); hire a neighborhood mother’s helper to do laundry twice a week; reduce your coffee intake by one cup and switch to skim milk.
- Controlling your 24-hour clock. I think it’s critical to have working hours and non-working hours, and recognize these don’t generally fall neatly in one half of the day or the other as if assigned. When it comes to work-life satisfaction, think of it along a continuum based upon a 24-hour clock, rather than in chunks of hours or days. There are general structures within this timeframe we live by, for example, our nanny comes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. If during those hours I want to go to my kids’ school to volunteer class time, I’ll do that, then make up the work time at night.
[Related: Positive Relationships Reduce Stress At Work]
Importantly, be honest with yourself and with those you love when the pursuit of work-life alignment just isn’t working. The power of sharing candidly with each other why we struggle to be everything to everyone can be a helpful and therapeutic reminder that you are not alone. 85 Broads is a great resource that provides women the opportunity to connect and collaborate with other professionals who have the common goal of inspiring others to succeed.
I encourage you to take a step back during this month and switch your focus from achieving balance to instead concentrating on taking ownership of the key areas of your life. By mastering those areas, all the other details will fall into place.
By Allison O'Kelly. This article was originally featured on ForbesWoman
Allison O’Kelly is CEO of Mom Corps and Mom Corps YOU, an online resource helping professional women find work-life satisfaction through expert-driven content. She is also Chapter president of 85 Broads Philadelphia. She can be found @AllisonOKelly and @MomCorps on Twitter.
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