By Julie Alvira, MD
Robert Urich once said, “A healthy outside starts from the inside.” We all know that at some point or another, stress is going to visit. Crazy work hours, brutal schedules, family, relationships, and the intensity of life demands require us to adjust and adapt (Cleveland Clinic, 2009). Most of the time, these stressors lead to negative effects such as the exacerbation of health problems, the deterioration or end of relationships, lack of sleep, tension, anxiety, a decrease in job performance and productivity, self medication, excessive caffeine ingestion including coffee, pills and energy drinks, less time to enjoy life, less time to exercise and take of yourself, overeating or eating the wrong food, emotional problems, irritation, and so many more! The question is, for what? Is it for the pursuit of more money? What good is having more money if you cannot enjoy life? Remember, money cannot buy happiness or health. It can buy material things that we can enjoy, but if we are not happy inside or do not have good health, we are not going to enjoy life to its fullest.
Keys to combat stress
Identify stressors. What is the source of stress? Is it a project, a person, a situation, etc…
Know how your body reacts to stress. Do you experience headaches, stomach distress, an increase in heart rate, etc…
- Disconnect for a moment. Let yourself take a break by getting some fresh air, walking around or meditating. Nowadays, there is a popular type of meditation called “Mindfulness Meditation,” which is widely practiced and simple to do. Simply disconnect from your current situation, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing while you clear your mind for at least 15 minutes to get a hold of yourself. This will help to sharpen your focus. If you need music, go ahead and use it, and remember to RELAX. Trust me, when you step back you will begin to see everything a little more clearly. Everyday, more and more successful individuals use meditation to cope with stress. Here are just a few examples: Rupert Murdoch (CEO, News Corp), Padmasree Warrior (Cisco Systems), Tony Schwartz (CEO, The Energy Project), Bill Ford (Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company), Oprah Winfrey (CEO, Harpo Productions, Inc), Russell Simmons (Co-Founder, Def Jam Records), among others (Gregoire, 2013).
- Practice positive self-talk. This discipline can help keep you calm and control stress. Use positive reaffirmations like, “I will take one step at a time and I will complete this work.”
- Set healthy boundaries within yourself. Know and understand your limits and build your own toolbox of techniques to maintain them.
- Exercise regularly. A lot of people say that the most underrated antidepressant is exercise. It’s true. If it has been a while for you, try getting back in the habit. Exercise offers psychological benefits to counteract stress. It increases your feeling of control, boosts your self- esteem, and helps feed your emotional system. Make time!
- Start eating right. Improving your diet will lead to a healthier lifestyle. Make choices to lower saturated fat, sodium and sugar intake, moderate your amount of alcohol and caffeine ingestion, get sleep, stop smoking, etc… By modifying your diet and lifestyle habits, you are taking care of your heart and your overall wellbeing (American Heart Association, 2014).
- Take vacation time away from home and work
- Manage your time. You have more of it than you think. Organize and plan.
- Get a hobby. Pick something that you love to do, or used to love, and get busy!
- Suppress feelings of helplessness. Organize, plan, and prioritize your tasks, then take action. Not everything is in your control, but you can definitely control a lot of things. Look for ways to take action.
Secrets from the Executive World
Besides the techniques mentioned above, here are some unique tricks that some CEO’s use to help manage their stress (Forbes, 2009):
- Create drawings. Every morning, draw something on a napkin or paper. This might seem elementary, but a famous CEO (Robert Freedman, ORC Worldwide) does it in the morning to clear his mind before starting the day.
- Start baking. Marissa Mayer (CEO, Yahoo), enjoys baking cupcakes to reduce stress (Business Insider, 2014).
- Engage with nature. Jack Dorsey (Co-creator, Twitter and Square), enjoys observing botanical illustrations as well as studying leaves and other aspects of nature.
- Remember to stay centered. Try to do at least one little thing every day that you enjoy. Be creative. It is not indulgence, it is empowerment.
Julie Alvira, MD holds a MBA in healthcare management, is the owner of AJBodysculpt, and is a fully bilingual health and wellness speaker. She is available for fitness and nutrition coaching. View her YouTube fitness videos and podcasts on Broadcast radio at www.ajbodysculpt.com.