You’ve been stressed lately. There’s a big initiative at work and you’ve been putting in a lot of hours, even bringing work home in the evening and on the weekends, and getting up early to catch up on your email inbox that you never have time for during the workday.
You’re starting to feel the effects of too much work and not enough quality sleep. You’re feeling run down and hoping this itchy throat and congestion in the morning doesn’t develop into a cold or the flu.
You’ve got no time for anything you enjoy; you can’t remember the last time you had a massage or went out with friends during the week.
You try to unwind some nights by binge watching your favorite TV shows and Netflix, but that doesn’t really help.
You just want to start feeling better, to be full of energy, to really relax after a long day of work and running around. You want to stop working so much and have more fun with family and friends.
You want the control back in your life so life doesn’t feel like it’s running you.
This scenario sounds a bit out of control, definitely unbalanced at the least. It was my experience years ago when in my Corporate career and I wished someone asked me sooner: who’s taking care of you?
So, who is taking care of you? If the above sounds a lot like your current situation, you’re definitely not taking good care of yourself and I’m sure you know that. It’s time for a change.
It’s time for some self-care and self-love. In fact, if you’re not feeling well on a regular basis – physically, mentally and emotionally – it’s probably long overdue.
Self-care is actually part of self-love, and includes mostly physical aspects like going for walks, exercising, drinking plenty of water, and making sure you’re sleeping well. It’s taking care of your “self”.
Self-love includes not just your physical wellbeing, but also loving and caring acts for your emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing too. It’s about balancing and supporting all the parts that make you whole.
Self-love is having regard for your own well-being and happiness and doing the things that support it. And it’s also paying attention to when something isn’t working for you so that you can pivot quickly and make a better choice that’s more aligned to your best interests.
It seems pretty straightforward but many people act in ways that don’t support wellbeing, for numerous reasons. Sometimes they don’t even realize it’s happening until something makes them stop to listen, like a serious health crisis or the end of a relationship. It can go on for weeks, months, even years before being addressed.
Here are 3 tips to bring more self-care and self-love into your life, so that you take back control and start feeling better fast.
1. Get a pre-sleep ritual. Sleep is so important. For optimal health and wellbeing, it’s recommended that you get no less than 7 hours each night.
Make that happen by creating a ritual to help you de-stress at night. Take an epsom salt bath, read a book, meditate, do some stretching or relaxing breathing exercises. Do whatever works best to help you unwind after a long day.
2. Treat yourself like you treat your best friend. Most of us are our own biggest critic and we think and say some very mean and unhelpful things. Would you talk to your best friend like that?
Be supportive, be kind, and be loving to yourself. Compliment yourself without feeling guilty about it. Pay attention to what you say or think when you look at yourself in the mirror.
Shut down that self-critic quickly and replace any negative self-judgement with a more positive statement that supports you. Again, pretend like you’re helping your best friend.
Take a break from self-judgement; don’t be so hard on yourself. For example, call something you accomplished “good enough”, without worrying about all the ways you could have made it better.
Even if something goes wrong or you don’t get the result you wanted, make sure you treat yourself like someone you love. We’re all human and we’re supposed to make mistakes, that’s how we learn and grow.
3. Speak your truth. Express what you truly feel, think, or want to do – respectfully without regard for what people might think or how you may be judged.
We’ve all done this before: where you agree to help out a co-worker with a project, and then end up doing most of the work while he gets the credit and your own work gets put on hold. You were trying to be helpful and a team player, but as it kept taking more time away from your priorities, you began to really regret helping out, even getting short-tempered, frustrated and angry about it.
In these kind of cases, don’t hesitate to say “no” when you have to. Your most valuable assets are your time and your energy, and it’s an act of self-care and self-love to prioritize your wellbeing over any requests from others.
If you have a hard time with implementing self-care and self-love on your own, I urge you to pick one of these tips and commit to it for the next month. And after that month, spend 15 -30 minutes to focus on where you are and evaluate your progress. Has your overall stress lessened? Are you sleeping better? Do you feel like you have more control of your work life and balancing a healthy personal life too? Most importantly, are you feeling better and more in control? Feel free to share in the comments below.
Another act of self-love is to get help when you need it. If you feel like you could benefit from someone partnering with you to reach your career and personal goals, I offer Free 20 Minute Insight Calls for professionals. You’ll gain greater insight into your specific challenges and how coaching can help. Schedule your call directly by clicking here or via my website at www.energyrapport.com.
The impact of stress is well-known but often overlooked or ignored, and it could be negatively affecting you to a great degree without you even realizing it.
Too much stress can have serious implications and cause imbalances in your physical health, your emotional and mental wellbeing, your energy levels, and even spiritually (your connection to what brings meaning to your life).
Do you have a problem with stress?
Do you think you have a problem with stress in your life? If you’re anything like I used to be, you probably justify your stress as the normal challenges that occur at work and personally. Often people downplay the seriousness of it, and ignore what stress can become if not addressed right away.
Pay attention to the physical, emotional and mental signs your body is giving you
I recommend you check in with your body to see if there really is a problem. How do you feel when you’re feeling stress or under pressure? Do you start holding your breath or does your breathing become shallow and rapid?
I experience many challenging people and situations during my corporate HR career. During these times, I distinctly remember a burning, and tightening in my stomach, like a knot was forming in there. And sometimes that tight feeling would start climbing up to my chest and face where I could feel my face becoming hot and blood pressure rising. Talk about my body sending signals.
Another thing to consider is how much stress do you have, and are you managing this stress well. Is it happening on a regular basis? Is it going away within minutes, or lingering for hours, days or weeks in the form of physical, mental/emotional or energetic issues.
Here are some telltale signs of too much stress becoming unbalanced and unmanageable.
Physical signs may include:
- Upset stomach;
- Burning stomach or indigestion;
- Pounding heart;
- Serious cravings for food/sugar, nicotine, alcohol or other substances or activities to “numb out” or “take the edge off”;
- Headaches or migraines;
- Back pain, many times inexplicable or chronic;
- Other body aches and pain;
- Low energy, always feeling tired;
- Immune system is weak, getting sick frequently;
- Sleep problems (too little, exhausted upon waking, waking up during the night and unable to get back to sleep).
Mental / emotional signs may include:
- Feeling anxious or in a panic, often;
- Mental fog, unclear thinking;
- Difficultly concentrating;
- Confidence problems, feeling off your game;
- Angry often, usually snapping at others, very little patience;
- Feeling overwhelmed or like things are out of control;
- Unable to turn off work once home or when trying to fall asleep.
These are warning signs. They are your body trying to get your attention, warning you to take action.
If downplayed or ignored for too long, they can impact your energy levels to the point where you’re always feeling run down, unmotivated and unhealthy.
Like you, I’ve been there many times in my professional career, attempting to manage a high-pressure, demanding business environment with all the personal challenges life throws at us.
My stress seemed manageable; but, on two separate occasions throughout my corporate career, after ignoring some of the signs listed above while trying to be strong and push through it, my body took over and put the brakes on. My stress became chronic.
I developed a serious health crisis that made me take action to address and alleviate the stress at work and in my personal life. With the proper support and focus, and taking action against the root cause of my health crisis – the chronic stress – I was able to successfully get past it on both occasions.
Why you should care – the long-term issues of chronic stress
The really bad type of stress is chronic stress. It is when distress continues for a prolonged period of time, typically 21 days or longer. It can be shorter or longer depending on the stressor and how much you can tolerate.
This long-term activation of the stress-response system – and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones – can disrupt almost all your body’s processes.
It can put you at an increased risk of physical and mental/emotional health problems including diseases, chronic health conditions, high blood pressure, depression and anxiety. You can read and learn more about the different types of stress, including chronic stress, and how to prevent it here: A Moment of Silence for Your Chronic Stress.
What you can do about your stress
There are numerous strategies and tools you can use to counterbalance your stress. Think of it like taking a proactive “time out” from work and other stressful activities in order to minimize the stress-induced symptoms that may follow.
Two things in particular are very useful: 1) getting and staying active and 2) finding a support network.
Daily activity and exercise is the ultimate stress buster. It strengthens the physical body as well as helps to release those feel good chemicals affecting our moods and wellbeing. Go for a walk with your dog, take a break from your computer and walk around the office, or dance around to some favorite song. Just move, every day.
A support network helps you stay connected to others and nourishes your spiritual side. Make a list of people in your personal life and professional life who you like and trust and can confidentially share challenges and concerns and then brainstorm solutions.
Here are three additional resources with other options for you to consider and use to prevent or lessen the impact of stress regardless of the cause.
- Do have a hard time letting go of thoughts about work or personal worries, to the point where it prevents you from falling asleep easily or wakes you up at night? Restful and rejuvenating sleep is the ultimate tonic to building your defenses against stress’s unwanted side-effects, like a low immune system or brain fog. Read more about stress and sleep and try the suggestions here: Too Stressed to Sleep? Here Are 3 Things to Try.
- Do you need help getting centered and focused for the day ahead, so you’re in the best possible shape to handle any challenge that may come your way? Mornings set the tone for the rest of your day. That’s why most successful people have an intentional routine where they take care of their top priorities before the demands from work and others begins. Done consistently, it impacts your health and wellbeing and keeps your stress levels manageable. Read about options for morning routines here: Connect to Success – Every Day for Best Results
- Being prepared and organized is a proactive way to repel the stress in situations. You can organize what’s going on inside, namely your thoughts, beliefs, and ideas in your mind. And you can also organize your physical space to release the things weighing you down, increase your energy flow and make room for new opportunities. Read and learn more about how to get more organized here: How to Take Back Control: First, Get Organized
Stress and spirituality
Spirituality has many definitions, but essentially it’s a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves. It’s not necessarily a specific belief system or religion, but comes from your connection with yourself, with others and with your purpose or meaning in life.
Some people find spirituality in religious services, church membership, prayer, belief in God or a higher power. For many, spirituality is found in nature, art, music, writing, gardening, animals or spending time with others that you connect with (community).
However you define spirituality, know that it has numerous benefits for stress relief and overall mental wellbeing. Having a sense of purpose and defining what’s most important allows you to focus less on the unimportant things and eliminate stress.
The belief that there’s a higher power allows you to realize you’re not responsible for everything that happens and you can surrender that “control”.
Cultivating more spirituality into your life brings more peace and calm and helps you cope with stress better.
In closing, it’s worth the effort
It takes some effort to manage constant sources of stress, or to reduce your chronic stress and become a more balanced person, but take it from me, it’s so worth it. It took almost 2 years for me to find the right help and support during my first health crisis.
My main message for you is to not let your stress get out of control, and get the help and support you need to manage as soon as possible. Make it a priority before it’s too late.
Try using the tools and strategies suggested above. And if you’re struggling on your own, find a professional who can provide the guidance, support and accountability to aid in your success.
Stress is a normal part of life. There’s good stress, bad stress, and then really bad stress: the chronic kind. Chronic stress is very serious. Left unchecked, it can lead to poor job performance, sleeping problems and major health issues – or worse.
Let’s have a moment of silence for your chronic stress. It was there for a reason. It made you aware of an imbalance in your life, and now you can move past it to a better state for your health, wellbeing and success.
[Not sure if you’re experiencing chronic stress? Below in this post is a quiz to find out.]
Is your chronic stress still alive and kicking, and causing all kinds of havoc for you emotionally, mentally, and physically? Not quite past it yet but ready to put it to rest?
Below are some ways you can start taking back control and start feeling better again.
The different types of stress: the good, the bad and the really bad
There are 3 different types of stress: the good, the bad and the really bad.
The good stress is called eustress. It’s a positive form of stress that has a beneficial effect on health, motivation, performance, and emotional wellbeing.
This positive stress happens when you’re promoted, or given a new work project you were competing for, or during a vacation.
Anytime you stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone, which is a good thing for your growth and personal development, you’ll experience eustress. You may not be consciously aware of it, but it happens.
Endorphins, the feel-good chemicals our body produces, are released. It’s exciting and fulfilling, but the feelings can also be a bit challenging and unsettling.
This type of stress helps you to develop and stay emotionally and mentally balanced due to the positive feelings you’ll experience. Eustress also supports your physical body too, like when you work out, lift weights or finish a challenging hike.
The second type of stress, the bad stress, is called distress. It’s defined by Merriam-Webster as pain or suffering affecting the body, a bodily part, or the mind.
It is the body’s response to changes that are creating a demand on it. We experience physical changes as part of this “fight or flight” response, like the release of stress hormones (e.g., cortisol), and an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, perspiration, and respiration rate.
In addition to the physical changes, distress taxes your resources on all levels: mentally, emotionally, energetically, and even spiritually. It can lead to poor performance, mental fog and confusion, scattered thoughts, or a feelings of anxiety or depression.
The really bad type of stress, the third type is chronic stress. It is when distress continues for a prolonged period of time, typically 21 days or longer, but the timing varies from person to person. It can be shorter or longer depending on the stressor and how much you can tolerate.
This biological response to the challenging and demanding situations that are a regular part of our life is normal, but becomes dangerous when it continues for this prolonged period of time.
This long-term activation of the stress-response system – and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones – can disrupt almost all your body’s processes, putting you at an increased risk of physical and mental/emotional health problems.
It can go on long-term because we either ignore or push down the negative effects of it. For example, one of my clients worked in a demanding environment. She was so busy working on the next new “emergency” and feeling under pressure to deliver results on time and under budget, that weeks went by while she ignored the burning sensation in her stomach every time she ate or drank something.
Working together we made the connection of her stomach pain to the work stress. She had a vacation planned and to no one’s surprise, her burning stomach went away during that time away from work.
The consequences of chronic stress can be much more serious than my client’s, she recognized and made the connection early on, before her burning stomach could escalate to a serious health problem or illness.
Like in my personal case when I worked in Corporate Human Resources, I was ignoring my chronic stress and thought I could push through it. I thought that things would get better tomorrow, or in a few days.
That never happened. I remember the work demands seemed to lessen, but that was temporary, and before I could take a breath, the next new “fire” was screaming to be put out.
That chronic stress led to physical symptoms that I ignored for months. My body was trying to get me to slow down and make some changes, with excruciating joint pain, lethargy, body aches, night sweats, shortness of breath, sleep issues and digestive problems – all of these things on a daily basis.
This eventually led to a serious inflammatory disease that finally got my attention. The scariness of a health crisis was the turning point for me to re-evaluate my chronic stress, and start making changes to address the root cause.
My only regret is that I didn’t get the help and support I needed sooner.
That’s another reason for getting help, and getting it quickly: chronic stress can lead to a feeling of overwhelm and make the situation seem hopeless if it goes on for months or years.
The right professional to partner with can bring a whole new perspective and viewpoint along with support to start seeing positive shifts.
Do you have chronic stress?
It’s critical to recognize the signs of chronic stress and to take the necessary steps to remove it from your life – to have that moment of silence for it.
Take this quiz (click here) to find out if you have chronic stress.
Additionally, stay present and mindful, and pay attention to the bad stress in your life, and any physical, mental or emotional symptoms because of it. How long does it last? How frequently does it occur?
If it’s been going on for weeks or months without any improvement, and you’re beginning to feel overwhelmed and like things are out of control, take back control and address it like your life depends on it, because it does.
Here are three ways to take back control and start feeling better
1) Get organized and start setting limits. It’s okay to say no.
Make a list of all your commitments and projects and identify the ones you absolutely must do and the non-essential ones that can be removed, delayed, or delegated.
My previous corporate career was very demanding with new priorities every day. As the tasks and expected deliverables kept coming in, instead of just adding them to the list and beginning to feel like I was drowning and out of control, I took control.
I would review these new items with my manager, in relation to the others. Specifically asking which were the top priorities to work on immediately and which would have to be delegated, delayed, etc. Setting these expectations and being clear on a regular basis was key to keeping things organized and in control.
For personal non-work commitments, you may want to postpone non-critical items like volunteer activities or home-improvement projects until a later time. Or, delegate or hire someone to take the pressure off of you.
One of my clients would get stressed about not having the time to keep a clean home. She would get mad because her husband and children wouldn’t help clean.
She found the perfect solution in hiring a cleaning service to clean on a regular basis. The cost was well worth it; she has more time for priorities and for quality time with her family, and feels more in control and less stressed.
Most importantly, remember that it’s okay to say no and to set limits.
Don’t accept any more commitments until you feel that your stress is under control. And don’t feel guilty about it – your wellbeing and health is of the utmost importance.
2) Commit to one simple change.
To increase eustice, or good stress, and keep distress at bay, learn how to set professional and personal goals that are challenging and realistic. Track your progress to hold yourself accountable.
Your one simple goal, or change, may be adding in some regular physical activity a few times a week – exercise is a great stress buster.
Or you may want to enhance the quality of your sleep and can commit to getting at least 7 hours a night of good quality sleep.
3) Get support from family, friends and professionals.
When I was so sick, I sought help from the typical sources: doctors and health specialists. Fortunately, after going the standard healthcare route and becoming increasing hopeless in finding a diagnosis and treatment, I began sharing my struggle with close friends and family who in turn led me to some alternative health specialists and therapies (energy healing, naturopathic medicine, plant-based supplements, meditation) that worked for me and helped in my recovery.
In most cases, even more support is needed and a professional coaching relationship could be the solution for you. With a good coaching relationship, you have an unbiased professional devoted to their clients’ progress and wellbeing.
It’s a different dynamic than support from family and friends, who may think they are helping but they might be biased, incapable, or too close to you to help.
Take action now
Trust me, from someone who’s been there and learned – if you think you’re experiencing uncontrolled chronic stress, please take action now to address it.
Take one small step to start, and before you know it you’ll be able to look back like I can now, and see how far you’ve come.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
Back in my corporate days, employee engagement was a big deal – and it still is today. As a Human Resources Business Partner, every year I partnered with Gallup and company leaders to run employee surveys, track metrics, and create and implement engagement programs with the goal to increase our employee engagement.
A highly engaged workforce means the difference between a company that outperforms its competitors and one that fails to grow. Gallup’s 2017 State of the Global Workplace survey finds striking differences between the most engaged workplaces and ones that aren’t, specifically: 21% greater profitability, 17% greater productivity, 41% less absenteeism and 24% less turnover. Gallup also reports in that same survey that 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. Said in another way, only 15% of employees are engaged.
I think about employee engagement in a holistic way – looking at the employee as a whole person, not just the one that comes to work.
Human beings are complex, and multiple factors should be taken into consideration when looking to improve engagement including health, wellbeing, relationships, and finances. Because of my experience with chronic stress and burn-out, both personally and with helping others struggling, I know the impact that stress can have on engagement.
Think about it: when you’re under a lot of pressure, are you making the best choices or acting the same as you would when at ease? Even now, when I’m under a tight timeline to get something done, I can sometimes get short with colleagues and feel some unwanted anger and anxiety creeping in.
Too often at companies I worked for and with current coaching clients, I see conflict in the workplace due to the pressures of a fast-paced and toxic environment. The pressure and subsequent stress seemed to change the people and their typical behavior for the worse. They’d lash out, yell, get angry, and have to apologize later (some never did). It’s not the best behavior in a professional work environment, or any environment really.
Recognizing employees comprehensively, as complete people, is a great approach to increasing engagement. In fact, some companies are beginning to evolve their workplace wellness to address stress and provide unique all-encompassing offerings. For example, the company Asana has “nap rooms” where employees can de-stress and recharge. They also offer mentor programs that provide coaching, along with monthly workshops with different health-themed focuses like an immunity boost workshop before flu season.
Intuit’s program offers meditation and mindfulness classes as reimbursable expenses as well as incentives for employees engaging in stress-reduction habits, like practicing breathing exercises, taking walks or listening to calming music. Their website provides mindfulness resources and employees see “mindful moment” tips on the whiteboards in the conference rooms.
If you’re not fortunate enough to work at a company that provides these types of trailblazing programs, you still have options. If you’re in a leadership role, you can suggest bringing similar initiatives to your workplace, reinforcing the importance of high employee engagement and its impact on profitability.
Or you can personally pursue any of the examples above, like taking a walk, mindfulness classes, working with a coach or mentor, listening to calming music – until your company provides them. Yes, it would be better to have it included and paid for by your employer. But if you value your wellbeing, you’ll find the time and money.
We all can benefit from learning more about increasing engagement and taking steps to increase it. Prioritizing and supporting employees’ success at work, and our own success overall as people, is key.