Stress Management 101

We all have stress…I mean it’s normal, right?!  Yes, absolutely.  So when does stress become harmful  and what can you do to reduce stress’ harmful effects on your mental and physical health?  Read on to answer those questions.

With the recent election, the campaigning prior to the election, and the reactions of Americans since the election, there has been a lot of stress felt across our country.  I don’t know about you, but just reading my FB feed has become stressful and occasionally traumatic.  In addition, we’re all beginning to plan for the upcoming holiday events, thinking about having family members together who don’t always get along, and how to discuss politics around the family table.  Needless to say, we are surrounded by stress and stressful events.

Did you know there are actually two kinds of stress?  There is good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress).  Good stress helps us focus, proves a sense of urgency, and can help us complete tasks more efficiently.  Distress, on the other hand, causes a host of physical and mental symptoms that can actually keep us from doing our best work and living our best lives.

There is another differentiating factor to stress, too: acute versus chronic stress.  Acute stress is felt when someone is approaching a deadline.  It lasts for a finite amount of time and for a specific reason.  Chronic stress is a heightened amount of stress for a prolonged amount of time.  It’s as though your daily “bar” or threshold for stress is at a higher level than before and it begins to seem like your new normal.

What are some examples of events or interactions that cause stress?

  • discontent at work
  • fear of termination/loss of a job
  • relationship or family trouble
  • illness or death of a loved one
  • planning events (weddings, anniversaries, birthday parties)
  • getting married, divorce, separation
  • moving
  • financial obligations
  • traumatic events
  • family get-togethers
  • having a baby
  • TV, news media, social media

Many of us believe that a little stress is normal, and that it might even help us perform better.  The problem is that we say we can handle a little stress to finish a project, or to finish planning an event, but then one project leads to another and then another and soon our stress level is increased indefinitely.

So what does stress actually do to us, anyway? How would I know if I’m experiencing the effects of stress?  If you are experiencing any of the following, you’re likely experiencing stress at a moderate to high level.  (If these symptoms are prolonged or intense you may need to seek medical assessment and treatment.)

  • headaches
  • chest pain
  • high blood pressure
  • fatigue or trouble sleeping
  • upset stomach & digestive issues
  • anger or irritability
  • sadness or depression
  • overeating, over drinking
  • anxiety
  • weight gain or loss
  • skin conditions
  • nail biting, leg bouncing
  • loneliness/isolation
  • having a negative perspective on most life events

For women, some effects of stress are even more pronounced.

  • Women are 10 times more likely than men to develop eating disorders due to stress
  • stomach issues
  • skin reactions
  • sleep deprivation
  • difficulty concentrating
  • heart disease/heart attacks
  • cancer/breast cancer
  • lowered immune response

So what can you do to help prevent, treat, or combat your high stress levels?  There are many things you can do.  Below is a diverse list of activities, but it’s far from exhaustive.

  • watch a comedy movie or attend a comedy show
  • play with a pet
  • get a manicure or pedicure
  • get a massage
  • read a book for pleasure
  • savor coffee or hot tea
  • journal your stress, emotional responses
  • journal about your hopes and dreams
  • practice a deep relaxation exercise
  • add breathing techniques into your day
  • move your body
    • 10 minute movements throughout the day
    • standing from your office chair every hour
    • walking around the office or around the block
  • meditation
  • yoga
  • stretching
  • improve your diet
    • eat quality protein, veggies, Omega-3 fatty acids, ginger
  • get enough sleep
  • socialize–spend face-to-face time with friends
  • dance
  • avoid drama
  • take a bath
  • take a walk
  • reduce screen time (TV, computer, phone, tablet, video games)
  • Avoid stressors (such as the news, scary movies, social media negativity)
  • express your feelings to trusted friends, family members, or colleagues
  • laugh
  • put things into perspective
  • connect with nature
  • slow down, live in the present moment
  • use your five senses–notice smells, what colors do you see, notice how something feels in your fingers, what do you hear, how does something taste
    • actually take time to intentionally feel the lotion you’re putting on your hands
    • notice the warmth of the blanket you’re napping under
    • notice the color in the leaves of the trees
    • smell the dinner your partner is cooking
    • see the food you ordered at a restaurant before taking a picture of it for social media
  • spend time doing things you enjoy (hobbies, athletics, museums, etc.)
  • learn to say “no” without feeling guilty
  • light a candle
  • reduce your caffeine intake
  • take time to relax
  • use your vacation time
  • cook or bake
  • practice gratitude: what are you thankful for, experience the gratitude, share gratitude with others

Perhaps most important is that we reflect on our current situation and STOP EXCUSING our level of stress thinking “let me just get through this one __________ (project, dinner, event, etc.)” because what inevitably happens is that one project or deadline leads into the next and the next.  We MUST prioritize our health, wellness, and sanity by prioritizing our stress management.  We can do this by creating a daily or weekly routine for self-care.

What could you be doing on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis to care for yourself? 

Some ideas for each time frame are below. (Many of the things listed below could occur more often than I’m suggesting here–there is no limit to your self-care routine!)

Annually: take a vacation, use your sick time, attend a conference, take a class
Quarterly: review the goals you’ve achieved, go to the movies, attend a theater production
Monthly: date nights, coffee with a friend, massage, send a card to someone
Weekly: religious event, counseling appointment, yoga, manicure, dance, sing
Daily: breathing technique, take a walk, journal your gratitude, walk your dog, love

While it’s true we all have stress in our lives, what we don’t all have is an intentional practice for managing our stress.  If you would like to create a self-care routine, or if you have a vision for your life that you would like to clarify or achieve, please email me at Nikki@GroundedVisionCoaching.com.  I offer free discovery coaching sessions and I’d love to see how I can serve you and if we would be a good fit to work together.

Dr. Nikki Tobias
Certified Life & Career Coach
Grounded Vision Coaching & Consulting

Nikki@GroundedVisionCoaching.com
(717)515-0820

Owning The Cape

"Even when I'm a mess, I put on a vest with an S on my chest..." Alicia Keys

This line is from Alicia Keys's song "Superwoman". It's one of the many anthems to womanhood that have been penned over the years. Today I'm writing about my own battle with this label. I am a self-confessed "A type". I do a lot and have a lot of roles. As a working mother of two, and now also working on my coaching business, my life is very full. Some days it’s a bit TOO FULL lol. But I enjoy it. I know that I'm in the right space in time for me right now, so even though my pace is a bit manic at times, it's extremely fulfilling.

I have not always been at peace with this. I've had the title "superwoman" for most of my adult life. But I didn't OWN it. As a matter of fact, you could even say I resented it. I once journaled, "Superwoman is dead. She was crushed by the weight of the world on her shoulders." Wow, right? That's a very strong statement, but that was the space I was in at the time. Totally a victim - "poor me, I've got too much to do". But it is very real when you are in that space - in overwhelm and not able to find a good way to balance it out.

Now, before I go any further, I am NOT claiming to have figured this all out and have the magic formula. But over the years, and with God's grace and the help of some wonderful teachers, I have begun to challenge my perception of things. The truth of the matter is, I LIKE to be busy. And part of my busyness is because of the various relationships I have - family and friends, and taking time to focus on things that matter to me. So now I embrace the fullness of my life - it gives me focus and adds richness to my life. Recently I've been struggling to balance things out, so I thought writing this would help refocus an reenergize. Hope you enjoy it, too.

OWNING THE CAPE
... so how do you shift into wearing the cape proudly? Here are a few suggestions:
 

  1. Feed your spiritual life. Having a relationship with God helps us tap into a higher power and not feel so helpless when things are out of our control. We all experience bumps along the way, (sometimes valleys and derailments!) but knowing that God is with you throughout makes a huge difference. One of my favorite scriptures is Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."(KJV). This verse has gotten me through many rough spots, and in retrospect, I find it to be true! Some of my greatest blessings have come after a period of loss or trial. God knows what he is doing, and part of the trick in owning the cape is knowing when to let go and let Him have control.
  2. Acceptance. If you are a superwoman (or superman) wear the cape proudly! Clearly there is something about you that resonates strength, leadership and/or perseverance. All wonderful traits to embrace!
  3. Cultivate a positive attitude. Do you routinely see the glass as "half full" or "half empty"? We've all heard "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade", and similar adages. How you view things makes a huge difference. So rather than seeing your talents as a burden (like I used to), wear that cape proudly. Cultivate a swagger and own the power that God has endowed you with!
  4. Take care of yourself. I'm sure this seems very basic, but when we are juggling a lot, sometimes we slip to the bottom (or off) of the priority list. This can lead to burnout, resentment and worse. Yes, it's easier said than done, but it is absolutely essential. When I wrote that "superwoman is dead" bit I was not even on the radar screen. Always allow some time for yourself - to enjoy things you like to do, spending time with people you love, or just DOING NOTHING. 

Have a wonderful week, and *raising cup of coffee*... here's to the journey!

Peace & Blessings,
TRamsey © 9/2010


Trina Ramsey is a career and life coach, specializing in personal transformation and career transition. With 20 years of experience in business and management, Trina is a "people person" and a change agent. Trina started her business, Perspectives Plus Coaching in 2009 after spending 15 years as a nonprofit fundraiser and experience running her own interior decorating business. For more on Trina visit trinaramsey.com. @PerspectivePlus  or https://www.facebook.com/CareerTalkWithCoachTrina