As someone who coaches busy, high-achieving women, I often hear about the stress and responsibilities that are permanent realities in my clients’ lives. I also frequently hear women make the mistake that reducing stress requires a major life overhaul—something they may not feel that they have the time or even the interest in. Fortunately, this isn’t always true. There are tricks and strategies for taking control of stress—even in the midst of challenging circumstances. Here are three that you can start using today.
- Spend time outdoors. There is something important about getting outdoors—no matter the weather. A recent study by researchers at the University of Essex found that five minutes of outdoor activity each day can improve mood and lead to an increase in self-esteem. The study found that subjects benefitted the most when they spent their outdoor time around a body of water (like a lake or river). Consider breaking up your day (or ending your work day) with a short walk around the block, or stopping by a park in the midst of your errands. You don’t have to pack in lots of outdoor activity—just have an outdoor experience and savor it.
- Practice pausing. Disengage from your busy brain and connect with your body. Use a timer (both as a reminder and to time yourself) and practice pausing and breathing consciously for 3-5 minutes, 2-3 times a day. Here’s a structured breathing pattern to try so that you don’t have to worry about how to breathe consciously: simply inhale for a count of four, hold the breath for the count of four, exhale for the count of four, wait for the count of four, and inhale and begin the cycle again. This is called four by four or “square” breathing. It helps you slow down, deepen your breaths, and engage the body in the process of relaxing. You can do it anywhere. Practice doing it every time you hit a stoplight or while you wait in line.
- Stop multitasking. It seems like our mind’s response to stress is often to take on more or try to get as much done as quickly as possible. While that may make the idea of multitasking very tempting, the truth is, multitasking doesn’t make us more productive, increases our stress, and can seriously interfere with the quality of our output. To start putting the brakes on multitasking and decrease the stress you are putting on yourself, practice deliberately noting the focus of your attention—and choose one thing to focus on at a time—even if it’s only for five minutes. Declare it out loud if you can: “Now I am doing the dishes,” “Now I am preparing notes for my presentation,” “Now I am organizing my desk.” Learn to give your brain one thing at a time to chew on and put the rest on a list instead of trying to hold all the details in your brain.
Stress reduction really is possible (and probably easier) with small, simple steps. My challenge to you: pick one of the three strategies and commit to it for the day.
Take good care,