Stress has been dubbed as the Health Epidemic of the 21st Century by the World Health Organization. As a Leadership Trainer at a multinational pharmaceutical, I first developed a program to address this epidemic eight years ago. I called it ‘De-stress & Revitalize Your Soul’ and exclusively dedicated it to women in my company. The program went on to become an annual flagship program and to date remains one of my most popular training sessions amongst clients.
However, I was asked the question then, and am still asked the same question years later: ‘Why only women?’ Well firstly, being a woman myself, I relate more. And secondly, I firmly believe that women juggle multiple responsibilities in hand much more than men do, and are hence more susceptible to stress. It’s not only about multi-tasking; in any given day working women are required to run a ‘multi-track mind’ as well, rapidly switching between tasks that are often varied and quite different from each other. Managing both work and home is a responsibility traditionally passed on to us and there is usually an unsaid expectation to flex our schedule and realign commitments more than our partner needs to or is required to do. According to HBR, women experience more stress at work because, on top of domestic responsibilities, we must also contend with stereotype threat at work-a phenomenon unknown to men.
[Related: The Truth About Work/Life Balance]
The right kind of stress, also known as positive stress/eustress, can be beneficial as it can challenge and motivate us. However, it is usually bad stress/distress that we fall victim to. As debilitating as it may sound, the good news is that there are many simple ways through which we can minimize the negative impact of stress. Listed below are 11 revitalizing stress-busters which, if practiced regularly, can make bad stress a thing of the past.
1. Train your brain to think ‘I CAN.’
The brain will always do as it’s told. If you keep telling yourself that you can achieve something, you will be amazed to see how well your brain cooperates in reaching that goal.
2. Stay positive.
Negative feelings sap energy and set up a self-perpetuating cycle of disappointment, worry, and regret. Enhance your self-worth by affirming your positive characteristics and repeating positive statements about yourself.
3. Set attainable life goals.
Break long-term goals into small attainable sub-goals or steps. Reward yourself after each step to stay motivated and on track. Breaking down your journey into smaller milestones and celebrating them will give you a sense of purpose too, and who doesn’t like celebrating every now and then anyway?
4. Laugh heartily, very often.
Laughter is the best therapy out there — moreover, it's free! It gives your heart and lungs a good workout and research indicates that laughter releases feel-good brain chemicals which in turn lower the blood pressure, relax the muscles as well as reduce pain and stress hormones.
5. Start a gratitude journal.
Remember the deprived ones and wake up each day thanking God for even the less obvious blessings. Pain easily overshadows joy; we are quick to point out what didn’t work. What went well, however, takes time, because most likely it is something we commonly take for granted.
6. Spend time with loved ones.
Spending time with loved ones and bonding with them over coffee, dinner or even a Skype call gives you emotional support and distracts the mind from the daily grind. Take time to enjoy with children, play with them, and act silly; their enthusiasm and vitality will rub off on you. Plan nights out with your spouse or friends, or order in, snuggle and watch a movie. You will never feel more relaxed!
7. Nurture a hobby.
Invest time in doing something you enjoy such as painting, cooking or anything that excites you. When you spend some time of the day or even week doing something you are passionate about, your soul is invigorated and you feel an inner sense of satisfaction and contentment which no other therapy can substitute.
8. Meditate and/or practice Mindfulness.
Take 10 to 15 minutes each day to just sit by yourself and let your mind float. Meditation de-clutters the mind, helps you unwind & boosts mood and immunity. Mindfulness helps you focus on the present moment rather than worrying about the past or dwelling on regrets. Indulge yourself with a luxurious warm bath or light up some scented candles, close your eyes and allow your mind and body to drift.
9. Treat yourself once in a while.
Retail therapy is overrated. I would opt for the spa therapy any day. Go to the salon and pamper yourself with a good massage, or even a makeover. If the spa doesn’t fancy you much, treat yourself to anything else that stimulates you. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Traveling & going to new places is another great option which promotes self-awareness and personal development and, overall, makes you a happier person.
Any form of exercise, be it dancing, yoga, walking or even daily stretches at work, will certainly make you healthier. It doesn’t have to be an hour or forty-five minutes. Even twenty minutes of being active and following a fun exercise regimen are enough to improve circulation and kick start your metabolism in the right direction.
[Related: Integrating Your Health and Your Wealth]
11. Just feel good; anytime, anywhere, always.
Do not let the weather or anything else influence your mood. Be in charge of your own happiness & always look forward to the good, which is yet to come.
It’s important to understand that it’s okay to fret and panic. It’s okay to vent out, too. It’s also okay to sometimes get your super-heroic cape tangled in the stress trap, but when it does, just take a break to untangle and step back. Breathe in deeply, lift your chin and continue marching forward with your cape flying nice and high. PS: don’t forget to breathe out!
Hira Ali is Founder of ‘Advancing Your Potential’ & ‘Revitalize & Rise. She is a Leadership Trainer, Motivational Speaker, Writer, Professional Coach & NLP Practitioner.