When undergoing a lot of stress, it’s important to get plenty of rest, exercise, and eat a healthy diet. It’s also helpful to practice active relaxation techniques – especially when having a difficult day. Here are five delightful and sometimes surprising ways to relax, relieve stress and improve your mood.
- Adopt a pet – Our furry friends give us unconditional love, and are always there when we need them. Just snuggling up with my cat in my lap relaxes me. Did you know that pets are good for your health? During times of stress, relating to a pet can even lower your blood pressure.
- Listen to your favorite music – At the end of a stressful workday, listening to your favorite music elicits feelings of joy. Music not only reduces anxiety and boosts our mood, but also helps us sleep better (which is another stress-reducer).
- Take a nap – According to Weill Cornell Medical Center, a mid-afternoon nap can help improve mood, memory, and learning – and it won’t interfere with night-time sleep. If you have the flexibility in your day to take a cat nap, do it. Snoozing for just 20 minutes improves alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy.
- Take a nature walk – Spend time outdoors in natural settings to relieve anxiety. Surprisingly, as little as five minutes a day of walking in a city park, cycling, gardening, or other outdoor activity can boost your mood and sense of well-being (according to a study from the University of Essex, England). When I worked at HP, I would take a walk outside along the par-course during my lunch hour. I’d come back to work refreshed and ready to tackle my work again.
- Have sex – If you feel like you’re too tired to have sex after a long, hard day, think again. Sex has many benefits. Sex causes the brain to release endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that act as painkillers and reduce anxiety. What’s more, sexual activity is associated with lower levels of depression, according to a study in the journal Society and Mental Health.
Pick your favorite idea and try it out the next time you need to relax and unwind after a tough day. You’ll be delighted with the difference it makes.
For ideas on managing your stress during the work day, listen to Managing Workplace Stress CD.
From traffic jams in the morning to looming deadlines at work, stress is something we all have to deal with on a daily basis. While we may never be able to rid ourselves of stress and the negative symptoms that come along with it, there are many things we can do to keep stress levels under control and lessen its impact on our physical, mental, and emotional health. If you or someone you know struggles with stress management, take a look at these seven simple ways to reduce stress and get back to being a happier, healthier you.
We can’t say enough good things about the stress-reducing benefits of exercise. It doesn’t matter what exercise you do or how many calories you burn, just do something you truly enjoy. Exercise relieves stress by boosting endorphins, the feel-good neurotransmitters that improve your mood and regulate your emotions.
Whether it’s watching TV, jogging, cooking, or shopping, we all have activities that make us happy. You owe it to yourself to do one of these enjoyable activities, especially after a stressful day. The key here is to actually make time for leisurely activities and allow yourself the break even when it feels like there is no time to break.
Sometimes, all you need is a good laugh to brighten your day and relieve stress. The physical act of laughing stimulates the organs, increases your intake of oxygen, and releases endorphins in the brain. A good chuckle can also increase your heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in a relaxed, soothing feeling. If you’re in need of a good laugh, throw on a comedy, call up an old friend, or check out the funnies section of your newspaper.
If you’ve ever gone a night without sleep, then you know how much sleep deprivation can affect your mood and stress level. Sleep is vital to proper brain function and mental performance, and when these functions become impaired, your stress levels rise. One of the best ways to reduce stress and keep it from ruining your day is to get adequate sleep. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep per night, and be sure to practice relaxing bedtime routines, like reading or listening to soothing music.
Whenever you feel stress creeping up, stop what you’re doing and meditate. There are many different types of meditation and relaxation techniques you can do virtually anywhere. Whether you close your eyes and imagine yourself laying on a beach underneath the stars, or pause to take deep breaths while repeating a mantra in your head, spending even just a few minutes in meditation can do wonders for reducing your stress and achieving inner peace.
As hard as it is to give up your morning cup of Joe or sugary snack after dinner, it may be the best thing you can do to reduce your stress. Although caffeine may give you a productive jolt, too much of the stuff can cause a rapid heartbeat and increase in blood pressure. The energizing effects of caffeine can also keep you up at night and interfere with sleep. Sugary foods can also produce a temporary “high,” but as soon as you crash, irritability, poor concentration, and tiredness tend to follow.
In order to eliminate certain stressors in your life, you have to identify the sources first. If you’re unsure of what exactly is causing you to stress, keep a stress journal and document your emotions every day. By doing so, you’ll be able to see stress patterns and become more aware of the causes of your stress. Once you know this information, you can better address the problem and develop healthy coping methods.
To learn more about stress management, listen to the audio “Managing Workplace Stress”.
Have you ever known anyone who seems to sail through rough times? Whether they experience job loss, financial set-backs, or health issues, they seem to bounce back easily. What is it that sets these people apart? In a word – resilience.
Today, more than ever, resilience is needed in the workplace. The one constant is change. Today, we’re experiencing on-going change in the workplace – from budget cuts, downsizing, reorganizations, to new technology and new leadership. As a result, employees need to take on new responsibility — sometimes what once was the job of 2 or 3 people – learn new skills, and do more with less.
In order to not only survive, but thrive in today’s workplace, employees need to be resilient. Resilience is the ability to cope with stress and crisis, and rebound quickly.
Here are characteristics of resilient people. Review this list to see how resilient you are.
- Copes well with high levels on on-going, disruptive change.
- Sustains good health and energy when under constant pressure.
- Able to change to a new way of working when the old way is no longer possible. Adapts to new technology, new processes, etc.
- Doesn’t fall apart during crisis, able to cope with adversity, and bounce back easily from setbacks (sometimes coming back even stronger).
- Has a learning/coping reaction rather than a victim/blaming reaction. Rather than become victimized, asks herself, “How can I best cope with this situation?” and “What can I learn from this situation?” As a result learns valuable lessons from her tough experiences.
Although some people are naturally more resilient than others, resilience can also be learned. For more information, listen to the audio CD Managing Workplace Stress.
As working women, we often run ourselves ragged. We’re so focused on meeting the needs of others – our husbands, children, or elderly parents – that we neglect our own needs. We put ourselves last! If we continue to do this, we won’t have anything left to give others.
Think of yourself as a resource, like a savings account. You want to do everything you can to increase, not deplete it. Anytime you expend energy, you make a withdrawal. When you replenish yourself, you make a deposit. So why not make automatic deposits by renewing yourself on a regular basis? The greatest asset we can invest in is ourselves.
What renews and refreshes you? It’s very personal. For me, it’s playing tennis, hiking, or reading a Danielle Steel novel. For another, it may be listening to classical music or attending a play. For you, it might be a hot bubble bath or a massage.
The Four Dimensions
We need to take care of ourselves not only physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We need to renew and refresh ourselves in each of these four dimensions.
The physical dimension involves caring for our bodies – getting enough rest and relaxation, eating a healthy, balanced diet, and exercising on a regular basis.
Often busy working women don’t take time out to exercise. I often hear, “I don’t have the time or energy to exercise.” Here’s a tip that worked for me. Wear a pedometer and challenge yourself to get more steps in the day. When I’ve been working at my computer awhile and am ready for a break, I’ll take a short walk outside. Whenever I go anywhere I’ll park farther away and walk the extra steps. Whatever you do, make it fun. If you don’t like your workouts, you won’t stick with it. Choose something you enjoy. If it’s dance, try taking a Zumba Fitness® class. If you have a dog, then take your dog for a walk each day. You’ll be amazed at how invigorated you’ll feel.
The mental dimension involves activities that keep your mind sharp. Reading classic literature will stretch and improve your mind. If you enjoy writing, then consider filling up a journal with your thoughts and insights, or write letters/emails to friends and family. If you like puzzles, there are numerous types to stimulate the mind – Sudoku, crossword puzzles, mind teasers… My sister starts each day with a cup of coffee and her crossword puzzle.
The emotional dimension involves activities that bring you joy or peace of mind. What brings you joy, delight, pleasure? Many of us enjoy the social connection – spending time, conversing and laughing, with our family or good friends. For others it’s a hobby or a creative outlet like painting or quilting, art or music. I have a friend who finds her spirit soaring when she strolls through art museums.
The spiritual dimension is very personal; it involves connecting with your sense of meaning and purpose. It could be God, peace or nature. It may involve attending church or synagogue, praying or meditating. It might be reading inspirational books, literature that touches your soul. Singing and worshiping are ways we get in touch with our spiritual dimension. And nature is a spiritual source for many. By getting away from the city and hiking out in nature, people can connect with creation.
Be sure to renew yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. By doing so, you’ll have more energy to invest in others. You’ll become a better wife, mother, friend, and employee.
Do you take time just for you? If you’re like most working moms, the answer is ‘no’. In my polls of working women, nearly half indicated that “finding time for myself” was one of the biggest work-life challenges they faced.
Women, in particular, don’t take good care of themselves. By nature we are care givers and nurturers. We don’t need social pressure to transform us into emotional resources for the family. We are programmed somehow that spending time on ourselves will be at the expense of the family, so we…don’t. We are so focused on meeting the needs of others that we forget our own needs. Or downplay them.
Maria, Director of Faculty Development at a large community college district in Arizona told me: “Between work and family, I put myself last. Some days I get so busy, I don’t take time to eat. And now that I’m middle-aged, I need to be concerned about my health too.”
We need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others. I think of the airlines; they had it right. Think back to your last flight. At the beginning of each flight, they go through a safety spiel, and it goes something like this. “In the unlikely event of loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from the overhead compartment. Place the mask over your face and tighten the straps.” Then they go on to say, “If you are traveling with a small child (or someone who is acting like a child!), then please secure the mask on yourself first, and then assist the child with their mask.” The point is this: we need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others, to be the best we can be in each of our roles as wife, mother, and businesswoman.
If you don’t get off the treadmill and take leisure time, there will be serious effects. Lynn was a middle-aged manager at HP, a driven and ambitious woman who worked long hours and always strived to do her best. Like many others, she describes herself as a perfectionist. Because she kept pushing herself beyond her limits, Lynn landed in the hospital with a life-threatening illness. The doctor informed her family she may not make it. Miraculously she did, but while in her hospital bed, Lynn reflected on how she’d been living her life. She knew she’d been given a second chance. This was Lynn’s wake-up call; she made a 180 degree turn, changing jobs to take on a position with far less stress, a position where she no longer managed people but projects. She found time to spend with family and friends. She stopped to smell the proverbial roses and enjoy life. Today, Lynn is happy, healthy and productive. “My friends can’t believe I’m the same person.”
Taking care of you is not selfish; it is necessary for your health and well-being. And anything that keeps you away from being yourself will cause you stress. You matter. And when you believe it and embrace it, you’ll experience freedom.