At the start of the day, you sit down at your desk. What’s on your schedule? A meeting in an hour, followed by another meeting and then a test run of a presentation, which means only 15 minutes for lunch. By 1 p.m., you have two conference calls back to back, before spending the afternoon and evening setting up for a presentation early the next morning and a networking event to attend afterwards.
Your only free time to work on five different projects is right now. So, how do we deal with stress?
In a time where we strive to find that perfect balance between career, family, friends, relationships and ourselves, it’s no easy feat to avoid stress. Stressors lurk everywhere, feed on our vulnerability and can pounce at any moment.
With so much to do and so little time, we suppress stress and force it to the back of our minds, but if unchecked and undealt with, it can fester and grow to a point where it’s too much to handle. This can lead to outbursts and overbearing feelings of, “I can’t do this,” or giving up, which affect daily life, as well as work productivity. And, let’s face it, we become less than pleasant to be around when under heavy stress.
As a whole, we must learn how to take a moment, take a break and focus on ourselves to relieve stress before it overtakes us. Here are some self-care tips we can incorporate into our daily lives.
Working it out. Everyone has a busy schedule, which is our rationalization for not having a workout regimen. However, workouts don’t have to involve long hours of intense sweat and tears. Something as simple as going for a run can relieve mental tolls by focusing on your feet pounding the pavement. Kickboxing helps punch your frustrations out, while yoga has become a popular way to relax the mind because it focuses on bodily poses that require full concentration away from our stress. In particular, Hatha yoga is designed to focus on breathing exercises, harnessing meditation-like peace of mind and body.
Simply stepping outside can even make a difference. Us cubesters work indoors – sometimes in windowless offices – for an extended period of time, so we should consider setting aside time to go on outdoor walks, bask in fresh air to clear our minds or, if this falls on our scale, go fishing for peace and quiet. In addition, soaking up natural sunlight provides vitamin D, which is an essential nutrient for our bodies. Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to risk of depression.
Whichever works out best, the goal is to focus on youand carve out time dedicated to yourself, so tailor workouts to fit you and your schedule.
Making healthy choices.We’ve heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” Despite the indulgences we don’t want to deprive ourselves of, this expression rings true as one of the keys to managing our bodily and mental well-being. When we’re busy, we hardly take the time to prepare a healthy meal, but the more we consume unhealthy foods, the more sluggish we feel, the less vitamins we absorb and the more the pounds we accumulate.
Unhealthy habits may hurt our stomachs, bodies and sometimes our wallet, creating even more stress – and in those times of stress, some might turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism, but heavy intake can have detrimental effects. While we all work hard and deserve whatever indulgences we desire, moderation is key.
Making healthy food choices makes all the difference in boosting our energy levels, such as eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of unrefined carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein, along with lots of vegetables, whole grains and healthy oils. Setting time aside to plan and prepare weekly meals not only helps better balance each day by having one less thing to worry about, but also benefits our health.
Utilizing helpful tools.There are a lot of tools to relieve stress. Here are some options fellow cubesters specifically mentioned help them throughout their work days:
- Fitbit– a watch that tracks activity and helps alert when it’s time to move and walk around, so that we aren’t constantly working our brain 24/7.
- Headspace– “It’s an app that teaches you how to meditate. It’s kind of genius.” – Emma Watson. Set the app to alert when to stop and meditate for a minute or more, taking a moment to clear your mind and refresh.
- Five Minute Journal– a journal that starts and finishes each day with positive vibes. The concept is to take five minutes in the morning and night to write down things we’re thankful for, goals for the day and thoughtful reflection.
Enjoying the small victories.Small victories lead the way to those in a larger and greater scale. For some people, something as simple as making the bed in the morning can help tackle bigger things. This small first finished task emits an early onset sense of accomplishment, which sets the tone for the rest of the day.
For others, there is significant power in writing things down. Making to-do lists and setting a plan to accomplish these tasks provides a sense of organization, which helps us manage the week and take it day by day. It may not seem like it, but checking things off on these lists provides a satisfactory sense of accomplishment. Writing things down can also bring us closer to believing whatever it is we put on paper. Included in the Five Minute Journal mentioned above is a section to fill out in the five minutes at night, titled “3 Amazing Things That Happened Today.” Whatever kind of day we are having, there are at least three things that can be found to appreciate – something as “small” as the smell of fresh coffee or finding a good parking spot.
It’s easy to be absorbed by the hectic, stressful busy or bad days, but reveling in the greatness of the little things generates positivity. Finding a way to manage the stress of our day can make all the difference in a healthy and positive outlook.
Recognizing when we need extra help.Incorporating daily regimens on our own volition is a valuable way to handle stress. However, it’s also important to acknowledge when we need additional help. Sometimes, we are too proud or too scared to reach out to others for fear of being burdensome or thinking we can deal with it on our own.
But, if we can find someone we trust and talk to – a friend to vent to – we shouldn’t shy away from talking about what’s causing us stress because confiding in someone spawns a sense of comfort, rally and support. On a more serious note, another option is to talk to a therapist or a mental health professional that can provide a private space to share our thoughts and feelings. Having someone unbiased listen and provide a different perspective can be insightful. It’s confidential, and the heavy weight lifts off our chest and our shoulders.
Some say that personality and beliefs have an impact in individual needs to manage stress, as well as physical and mental well-being. While some individuals might retreat into their own world to relax, others might go to a workout class or happy hour with friends. Religious individuals turn to their faith, finding comfort and assurance in prayer.
Nevertheless, most can agree that taking time for ourselves, away from daily stress factors, is imperative. Neglecting physical and mental well-being can have negative consequences, including anxiety, depression and illness, so it’s vital to make healthy choices in order to do what we need to take care of us. We need to make time for ourselves because at the end of the day, regardless of what support system we may have, our mental and bodily well-being starts with us, and no one can upkeep it better than us.
This article was originally posted in the Leading Edge Digital Magazine – Fall 2018 Edition.