According to a recent study, approximately 40% of people in the workforce experience persistent stress or excessive anxiety on a daily basis in the workplace. That’s nearly half of the individuals who report to work every day and doesn’t even count entrepreneurs, self-made CEOs, and those who work from home, whose stress often surpasses those of their peers.
There are any number of reasons why the working woman is experiencing more stress than ever. We have a lot on our plate. In an age where we can have it all, we push ourselves to our limits and juggle increasing responsibilities with admirable multi-tasking skills. There’s certainly nothing wrong with pursuing it all, but stress, left unchecked, can be extremely harmful. Even the United Nations’ International Labor Organization has defined occupational stress as a “global epidemic,” one that’s been demonstrated to be associated with increased rates of heart attack, hypertension, and other disorders.
Does that mean you have to give up on the empire you’re building for yourself? Of course not. But it does mean you should learn how to stay mentally fit when needed. Think of it this way: the more time you devote to destressing, the better able you are to maintain your mental/emotional/physical health, which best positions you to accomplish your goals with more energy, enthusiasm, and clarity.
Below, discover 4 easy ways you can destress this week and recalibrate a cluttered, maxed-out mind:
Take a personal day
It’s astonishing how many highly ambitious, career-driven women work so much that they neglect to make use of their vacation time. Interestingly enough, while working more may indeed result in getting more done, it doesn’t always mean you’re getting more done effectively.
It’s essential to our mental health to take regular breaks from work now and then, hence the importance of a personal day. Not only does taking a step back help rejuvenate your mind and body, but with your focus off of a problem, your brain tends to continue turning it over in the background, which almost always leads to new innovations and creative solutions. You’ve no doubt heard of people who say their best ideas come to them in the shower or on a run or while they’re shopping for groceries. That said, make it a point to take a personal day every once in a while for the sake of your health.
Get your 8 hours
We’ve all been guilty of not getting enough sleep at some point or another. There are those who somehow get by on just 4 or 5 hours of sleep each night—but the question can be asked as to whether or not they’re giving their bodies the restoration it needs to function at its highest potential? This is something Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post, learned firsthand.
One day in 2007, Huffington was at home checking emails when she passed out, collapsing from exhaustion. She woke up in a pool of her own blood with a broken cheekbone. This experience led her to eventually write the book The Sleep Revolution, where she shows how neglecting sleep compromises our health and undermines our work life. The fact of the matter is that sleep plays a vital role in our wellness. Not only can it affect weight gain, heart disease, and even cancer, but it can impact our moods, hence the expression ‘waking up on the wrong side of the bed.’ When you get enough sleep each night, however, you’re better able to take on the stressors that are sure to surface throughout the day—while staying positive and confident. Set up a sleep routine that works for you so that you can begin unwinding at the same time each night, and ensure that you get your 8 hours so that you feel refreshed and energized each morning.
Smartphones and other technological devices have completely revolutionized the way we show up in the world. Whether you’re at the grocery store, a restaurant, or waiting in line at the bank, you’re sure to see a sea of heads staring down at a digital screen. If it’s not our phones, it’s our computers and TVs at home, constantly warring for our attention.
Interestingly enough, not only does this addiction to technology negatively impact our ability to sleep (the light from our devices throw off our body’s biological clock, which is why you might’ve had trouble sleeping after spending so much time scrolling through your social media feeds), but so much nonstop interaction can also lower our moods, making it harder to effectively deal with stress. For instance, reading a friend’s stress-filled status update on social media can heighten your own stress, as can constantly comparing your job/possessions/family life/home/travel plans with those of your connections. For this reason, it’s well worth it to unplug from technology for a few hours each day. This break from the constant barrage of updates allows your mind to breathe, be present, and enjoy the life that’s right in front of you.
Connect with loved ones
One of the best ways to stay mentally fit in the midst of stress is to connect with loved ones. Studies have repeatedly shown that individuals with strong friendships increase their odds of survival over a certain time period by an impressive fifty percent! Those are the same survival odds for those who quit smoking and nearly two times as beneficial as exercising’s effect on longevity.
The reasons for this positive impact on our health are many. For one, having strong friendships means that in times of stress, you have others to lean on for support, others you can depend on in your times of need. You might’ve noticed in the past how simply venting to a friend about a stressful situation immediately made you feel slightly better. Friends can also encourage healthy behavior (better eating habits, trips to the gym, more positive thinking). Lastly, friendships simply add more meaning to our lives and help us to derive more fulfillment and joy from our experiences. That said, make it a point to spend more time with loved ones, and if you’re somewhat short on positive relationships in your life, attend local activities, classes, or events that you enjoy to find like-minded people you can network with.
As a busy working woman, you may believe you don’t have the time to step back from your to-do list to take a breather. But the truth is, you don’t have the time not to. Leaving stress unchecked affects the quality of your work, the state of your mind, and the way you show up in the world. How many hours might you have spent going back over work that was done when you weren’t at your best? It’s time to make wellness a priority in our lives, and using the four strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to being your most productive and powerful self.