Women can be especially susceptible to stress, and new research shows that stress can have devastating consequences, including long-term serious illness. Unchecked, stress can wreak havoc on your mind and body, leading to anxiety and depression as well as physical health problems like gastrointestinal complaints, headaches, and other chronic maladies.
One of the biggest risk factors when it comes to stress and women is that most women don’t fully understand how truly stressed they are. Some women may even believe that the way they’re functioning is perfectly normal.
1. Walk away. This one sounds cliché, but it can be one of your most useful initial responses to a stressor. When you’re actively involved in a trying situation, taking a step back can be hard, making you feel momentarily defeated. Yet, taking a “time out” can help you refocus and regain the clarity you need to bring your best self forward.
2. Practice breathing techniques. The next time you’re feeling particularly relaxed, pay close attention to how you’re breathing. You’ll probably notice you’re breathing deeply and evenly, similar to the way you do just before you wake up or go to bed.
The best part about incorporating breathing techniques into your life is that you don’t need any special equipment or knowledge to begin! Try taking 5 long, slow breaths the next time you feel keyed up. You can even repeat a word as you breathe, such as “relax” or “peace”.
3. Get some exercise. In addition to the obvious health benefits exercises offers, regular physical activity can also boost your overall quality of life. Numerous studies throughout the years have proven that exercise can improve mood and how you feel about yourself. Research also indicates that physical activity helps lower anxiety and depression, giving you the upper hand in managing stress.
4. Find something that engages you. What do you look forward to? How often do you spend time engaging in your hobbies? Having something that engages you outside the regular routine of work can make a substantial impact in all areas of your life. If you already have a hobby you love, think about ways to grow it. If you haven’t yet found something that lights your fire, start trying out different things until you find something that resonates with you.
5. Talk to someone. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend, counselor, mentor or other person can help give you a sense of release and relief. And, the person you’re talking to might be able to offer you a different perspective – one that may aid in resolving the difficulty.
6. Spend some time by yourself. Being alone can seem like a challenge, especially if you’re not used to it. It can also be incredibly freeing and offer an unprecedented opportunity to reexamine things. Try spending about an hour totally alone – no distractions allowed – and allow yourself to simply “be”.
7. Look at the bigger picture. It’s easy to become so focused on what’s stressing you that you lose sight of the bigger picture. Expand your mind for a bit. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Don’t be afraid to ask this question – and be honest and realistic with your answer.
You might find that the “worst case scenario” isn’t as bad – or as likely – as you first thought. If you feel like the stressor blindsided you or was unavoidable, re-establish structure and order by coming up with a game plan to tackle it.
Check out these resources to help you conquer the stress in your life:
HeartMath: Founded in 1991 by Doc Childre, HeartMath “develops and provides research-based, practical, and reliable tools and technologies that enable people to align and connect their heart, mind and emotions to produce transformative outcomes – with more flow and less stress.”
Meditation Basics: From the Mayo Clinic, learn why meditation is a proven stress-reducer and what simple methods you can try to reap its benefits.
Stress, In-Depth: From the University of Maryland Medical Center, this excellent resource gives you an in-depth report on everything stress-related, including how to prevent stress from taking over your life.
At some point or another, everyone will be affected by stress. Just as each individual is unique, there is no one stress reduction strategy that works for every person. Try one or several of the tips above to see what works best for you.
Colleen Slaughter Raue, Managing Partner of Authentic Leadership International
Colleen is a transformational leadership coach who guides international leaders as they attain the clarity, courage and self-confidence necessary to realize higher levels of productivity and fulfillment in both their personal and professional lives.
Her purpose is to facilitate her clients’ transformation from limiting beliefs and self-doubts into a deeper, more powerful knowingness of how much they – and what they envision for themselves – truly matter.
Colleen’s perspectives were recently featured in an article on the International Coach Federation’s website here.