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6 Healthy and Helpful Ways To Handle Stress

Lifestyle

As a wife, mom, businesswoman, author, and women’s advocate, I am a firm believer that you need to be willing to put your oxygen mask on before supporting others. I wasn’t always good at figuring out how to balance my needs with my responsibilities, so it’s been a work in progress. Certainly, there are times when it’s easier to be there for others, but I if I don’t make intentional time for myself, I end up getting burnt out very quickly.


To deal with stress, I practice a lot of self-care: going for walks with my dogs, getting a massage, spending time by the ocean, turning off my phone and shutting down my computer to read a book or just do something for ME. I’ve also become better at setting boundaries and taking power pauses. I make these priorities, and I encourage my family, friends, and employees to do the same.

How do you reduce stress at work?

Slowing down, taking baby steps, and focusing on one thing at a time is awesome. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help! I know many people, especially women, who steamroll over their own needs because they’re trying to be everything to everyone. Don’t do that!

Let colleagues and managers know what they can do to help you bring your best self forward at work. And don’t forget to stop and breathe. This sounds so simple, but it’s one of the most profound actions I can think of. Even if it means merely taking ten deep breaths in a stressful moment, this simple act can be so clarifying and create space for new solutions to emerge. It gives us room to get real with what’s going on at the moment so that we can actually ask (and give) ourselves what we need.

Is it possible to prevent stress at work?

I’m not sure we can ever prevent it. And honestly, sometimes those pressure-cooker moments can help me to generate my most creative ideas, so I try to welcome them for what they are. I believe it’s more about learning how to manage my stress. I do this when I create buffers of time between activities and appointments because things always take longer than you might expect and it’s good to give yourself opportunities to recharge instead of always being “on.”

Creating boundaries around my “me” time is also important and has helped me communicate more effectively with everyone in my life. In fact, clear communication is a must. Transparency creates an environment of trust and respect, which makes it way easier to reduce stress!

Do you draw a hard line between work life and home life?

I don’t really compartmentalize all the different parts of my life. I might get a great creative idea for my organization in the middle of a dinner with a friend, or I might have a deep insight into my personal life when I’m meeting with a colleague. I think those boundaries people tend to make between their “9 to 5” and the rest of their lives are somewhat artificial and unattainable.

For me, it’s more about not letting myself get to a point where I feel overwhelmed by any specific area of my life. When things start to feel joyless and draining, I prioritize those moments of recharging and rejuvenating myself, no matter what I’m dealing with.

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How do you keep stress from becoming overwhelming?

First, you have to become aware of the fact that you are stressed. This isn’t always straightforward. For some people, overwork and anxiety become more of a lifestyle than something to avoid or manage. This is why we need to get honest about the ramifications of what we are doing. After all, stress is one of the top contributing factors to disease and illness. We might be literally working ourselves to death!

I know that when I’m completely overwhelmed, I shut down, and this alerts me to the fact that I’ve spread myself too thin or placed too many expectations on myself. If this is the case for you, be compassionate, but also make sure that you step away from the situation. This can give you valuable perspective and the energy you need to get back on track. Usually, simply taking a power pause can help us to access our own inner resources and get really clear on what we need. Also, remember that you are not alone and that there are people who care about you. If you need to, turn to a trusted mentor, a therapist, a good friend who knows how to listen, or even a colleague or manager who might be able to alleviate the stress you’re experiencing.

Photo Courtesy of Community Table

What do you do to reduce stress in your free time?

I love alternating between stillness and activity. Sometimes I need to sweat it out and get out my emotions in a cathartic way—this might mean an hour of kickboxing or just venting about my emotions with a close friend. Other times, it might mean turning inward: journaling, meditating, taking a nap, or going for a walk alone. Most of all, it’s about checking in with myself to understand what’s really going on.

Many of us are disconnected from our bodies and emotions, so it’s just a matter of making it a habit to get curious and to ask, “How do I really feel?” instead of jumping into autopilot. When we check in with the most important person in our lives (US), it becomes so much easier to recognize what we need at any given moment and to offer that to ourselves. Also, don’t be afraid to say “no.” I promise you, the world won’t end if you do!

How do you recognize when you are not managing stress as well as you think you are?

There are lots of warning signs. Certainly, getting to the point where I’m just operating on autopilot and can’t feel my body is a huge red flag. This happens a lot by numbing out with things like drinking too much, compulsive online shopping, binge-watching TV, overworking, etc. To me, that’s the nature of addiction: we shut down in the face of what’s really going on, and we use certain substances and activities to avoid our pain. I also know I’m over-stressed when I get cranky and impatient with loved ones. This tends to happen when I’m overloaded with obligations and appointments, and when I don’t have a clear idea of how what I’m doing contributes to my larger vision and joy. If the challenges in our lives feel like all pain and no gain, this is usually a sign that we need to build more sustainable habits that actually serve and inspire us. We can do this by moving toward what rejuvenates us, brings us effortless joy, and helps us feel that integral connection between our body, mind, and spirit.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.

Pre-Read

When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.

Highlight

Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.

Summarize

If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.