Got Stress? Yeah, I know…a silly question. In today’s busy world, stress seems to be an inherent part of our daily lives. As a leadership and life coach, what concerns me is that most people accept chronic stress as part of their daily lives. In fact, according to a recent article by Dr. Oz (www.doctoroz.com), “stress is the top reason why women are aging faster, getting sicker and dying before their time.” The article further states that “chronic stress impacts 3 vital organs – the brain, the stomach, and the heart; it weakens the immune system and increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal problems and possibly even cancer.”
Geez, not a pretty picture. So, what’s a person to do?
First, recognize that while stress may be normal in today’s crazy world (and, certain levels of stress are actually necessary and healthy!), chronic stress is not necessary. By telling yourself a different story about stress, it opens up possibility for new and different action.
In my work as a coach, I encourage people to consider taking action in the domains of body, emotion, and language (or thought).
There’s lots you can do to fight stress by taking care of your body. Eat well, exercise, and get sufficient sleep. Yes, sometimes easier said than done. But, taking steps to improve your physical body goes a long way in supporting steps you can take in the other two domains. You don’t have to dig deep to find great resources about specific foods, vitamins and sources of exercise that might support a healthier lifestyle—including reduced anxiety, stress and depression.
In addition to watching what goes into your body and how you physically take care of yourself, try slowing down. We’re overloaded, distracted and pulled in many directions. We’re constantly on the run and, as a result, we feel disconnected and disengaged from many aspects of our life. People often feel the need to speed things up during times of stress, feeling they have to work longer, harder, faster to get things done. Ironically, this is the opposite of what we often need to operate at our best. Slow down, breathe (deeply!), and ask yourself: “How am I feeling right now?” Assess your stress level, label your emotion, and reflect.
As you reflect, try grounding yourself in a powerful vision of you at your best. Some refer to this as a “best self” image. To do this, you need to have a high level of self-awareness. Really take time to consider: What do you care most about? What are your personal, core values? Are you living your life in a way that’s consistent with these values…and in a way that provides meaning and fulfillment? What are your unique gifts—those strengths and assets you can draw upon when faced with challenging situations as well as opportunities? What difference do you wish to make in your own life as well as the lives of others?
By taking time to answer these questions before charging off mindlessly to address your next to-do, my guess is you’ll not only reduce stress but take steps towards living a life of greater balance, happiness and wellbeing.