Stressed out? 5 ways to embrace balance
Monday, June 23, 2014
Posted by: Barbara Francella
By Kathy Caprino
When I was younger, I
was in a constant state of overload. I grew chronically ill, depleted and depressed dealing with my high-level corporate job, juggling the needs of my little children (with whom I desperately wanted to be more present and engaged), and not having time
to relax and rejuvenate.
Stress was the reason.
But back then, I believed there was nothing I could do about it. Now I
Dealing with stress
effectively is a life-long process —
of learning about and accepting yourself, understanding what you value and
gaining awareness of your triggers. The more you engage in this process of
self-discovery and self-mastery, the more powerful you become in reducing
stress and dealing with it in life-supporting ways.
Related: "3 ways to be perfectly imperfect"
First of all, what is stress?
Stress is necessary for life, and for creativity, learning and survival. It’s a
normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your
balance or status quo. It’s also the body’s way of protecting you, by helping
you stay focused, energetic and alert. When we sense danger of any kind — whether real or imagined — we tend to move into a "fight, flight or
frozen” reactions, and both "positive” and "negative” or common events can
contribute to these reactions.
Stress becomes harmful
when it becomes overwhelming or chronic. When that’s the case, stress can cause
major damage to your health, mood, productivity, relationships, functioning and
quality of life. And chronic, everyday stress can be as damaging as stress from
a traumatic incident. (See my book Breakdown Breakthrough for more.)
It’s critical to know where your stress is coming from and understand how you are
exacerbating it. Are you making yourself more stressed? Do you:
- Worry about things
that are out of your control?
- Dwell only on the negatives?
- Imagine the worst?
- Criticize yourself mercilessly?
- Hold yourself and others to unrealistic standards?
- Take on too many responsibilities that are impossible to manage?
- Engage in "below the line” thinking —
pessimistic, fatalistic beliefs and mindsets that tell you there’s nothing you
can do and no one who can help to make things better?
If so, realize that managing stress is all
about taking charge of your thoughts,
your emotions, your schedule, your environment, your relationships and the way
you deal with challenges and problems.
Here are five steps you can take starting today to change how you respond
to life’s challenges and to reduce and manage your stress:
1. Avoid unnecessary stress. Not all stress can be avoided and it’s not
healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed. But there are many
stressors you can eliminate. First, you need to know when and how to say "No!”
to people who stress you out and to environmental factors that overwhelm you.
For instance, avoid hot-topic buttons with your family over the dinner table.
Don’t let yourself engage in discussions that will inevitably end in fist
fights. Also, force yourself to pare down your to-do list. Stop your perfectionistic over-functioning. Control your environment
and say "no” to hosting 30 people for dinner if that’s just too much for you.
Accept yourself, learn what stresses you and begin to erect powerful boundaries
that help you honor who you are authentically. Stop spreading yourself too thin
and exposing yourself to experiences that make you feel overwhelmed, resentful,
angry and out of control. You don’t have to live up to someone else’s standards
anymore. You’re you and you’re more than enough.
2. Alter the
situation. Figure out what you
can do to change things so that the problems you’re facing don’t present
themselves in the future. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate
and operate in your daily life. Begin to express your feelings productively
rather than bottling them up and letting them fester. Confront the issues
rather than hide from them, but be willing to compromise. (Learn more about
the power of
3. Adapt to the
stressor. If the stressor is
here to stay, adapt to it. Find a way to reframe the problem so that it doesn’t
break you. Look at the big picture and see what this challenge might be
teaching you that will benefit your growth in the future. Adjust your
perfectionist standards, for instance, and reshape your attitude so that you
can embrace what’s happening and learn from it, instead of resist and fight it.
And eliminate absolute words in your vocabulary such as "always,” "never,”
"should” and "must.” These are telltale marks of self-defeating, self-hating
thoughts and mindsets. And most of all, learn to forgive — yourself and others
4. Make time for
fun and relaxation —
and for you. In my work with
high-achieving professional women, I see firsthand that the last thing that
women prioritize is themselves. They leave no time to nurture and recharge, to
have fun, to be creative, silly, free and to simply relish life. It’s all about
striving, stretching, achieving and accomplishing.
For a healthy, happy life, you have to nurture and love yourself. Do that
- Committing to fun,
healthy ways to relax and recharge.
- Setting aside
relaxation time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule.
- Connecting with others
you love, respect and admire. Spend time with positive people who enhance your
- Doing something you
enjoy each and every day.
- Keeping your sense of
- Introducing stress
relief into your life each day, and tapping into and relishing each your
gratitude and happiness to
5. Adopt a healthier lifestyle. Finally, to handle the stressors in your life
effectively, increase your resistance to stress by strengthening your physical
health. Make time for at least 30 minutes of exercise,
three times per week. Eat a healthy diet. Reduce coffee, soft drinks, chocolate
and sugary snacks in your diet — you’ll feel more relaxed and sleep better.
Also, self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from
stress, but the relief is only temporary and damage is likely to occur in the
long run. Get enough sleep. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think
Remember, stress management is within your control. Instead of fight or flight, build a new, more effective
reaction to stressful situations, one that reflects your authentic self at your
best, with the highest degree of balance, wisdom, courage and self-love.
Kathy Caprino is a
nationally recognized women’s career and leadership coach and speaker dedicated
to the advancement of women in business. Author of Breakdown,
Breakthrough, Caprino is a contributor to Forbes, Huffington Post and AARP. Follow her on Twitter at @kathycaprino. For Kathy's original post on this topic, visit her Forbes
Leadership blog "Career Bliss.”
Views expressed in signed blogs and user comments are those of the
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