11 Revitalizing Stress-Busters for Working Women

This post of mine was originally published in The Huffington Post

Stress has been dubbed as the “Health Epidemic of the 21st Century” by the World Health Organization. Being a Leadership Trainer at a multinational pharmaceutical, I first developed a program to address this epidemic, eight years ago. I called it ‘De-stress & Revitalize Your Soul’ and exclusively dedicated it to women in my company. The program went on to become an annual flagship program and to date remains one of my most popular training sessions amongst clients. However, I was asked the question then and am still asked the same many question years later; ‘Why only women?’ Well firstly, being a woman myself, I relate more. And secondly, I firmly believe that women juggle multiple responsibilities in hand, much more than men do and are hence more susceptible to stress. It’s not only about multi- tasking; in any given day working women are required to run a ‘multi-track mind’ as well, rapidly switching between tasks that are often varied and quite different from each other. Managing both work and home is a responsibility traditionally passed on to us and there is usually an unsaid expectation to flex our schedule and realign commitments more than our partner needs to or is required to do. According to HBR, women experience more stress at work because, on top of domestic responsibilities, we must also contend with stereotype threat at work-a phenomenon unknown to men.

The right kind of stress also known as positive stress/ eustress can be beneficial as it can challenge and motivate us. However, it is usually bad stress/ distress that we fall victim to. As debilitating as it may sound, the good news is that there are many simple ways through which we can minimize the negative impact of stress. Listened below are 11 revitalizing, stress-busters which, if practiced regularly can make bad stress, a thing of the past! Here they go:

  1. Train your brain to think ‘I CAN’: The brain will always do as it’s told. If you keep telling yourself that you can achieve something, you will be amazed to see how well your brain cooperates in reaching that goal.
  2. Stay positive: Negative feelings sap energy and set up a self-perpetuating cycle of disappointment, worry, and regret. Enhance your self-worth by affirming your positive characteristics and repeating positive statements about yourself.
  3. Set attainable life goals: Break long-term goals into small attainable sub-goals or steps. Reward yourself after each step to stay motivated and on track. Breaking down your journey into smaller milestones and celebrating them will give you a sense of purpose too and, who doesn’t like celebrating, every now and then anyway!
  4. Laugh heartily, very often: Laughter is the best therapy out there! Moreover, it’s free! It gives your heart and lungs a good workout and research indicates that laughter releases feel-good brain chemicals which in turn lower the blood pressure, relax the muscles as well as reduce pain and stress hormones.
  5. Start a gratitude journal. Remember the deprived ones and wake up each day thanking God for even the less obvious blessings. Pain easily overshadows joy; we are quick to point out what didn’t work. What went good, however, takes time, because most likely it is something we commonly take for granted.
  6. Spend time with loved ones. Spending time with loved ones and bonding with them over coffee/ dinner or even a Skype call gives you emotional support and distracts the mind from the daily grind. Take time to enjoy with children, play with them, and act silly; their enthusiasm and vitality will rub off on you. Plan nights out with your spouse/ friends or order in, snuggle and watch a movie. You will never feel more relaxed!
  7. Nurture a hobby: Invest time in doing something you enjoy such as painting, cooking or anything that excites you. When you spend some time of the day or even week, doing something you are passionate about, your soul is invigorated and you feel an inner sense of satisfaction and contentment which no other therapy can substitute.
  8. Meditate and/ or practice Mindfulness: Take 10 to 15 minutes each day to just sit by yourself and let your mind float. Meditation de-clutters the mind, helps you unwind & boosts mood and immunity. Mindfulness helps you focus on the present moment rather than worrying about the past or dwelling on regrets. Indulge yourself with a luxurious warm bath or light up some scented candles, close your eyes and allow your mind and body to drift.
  9. Treat yourself once in a while: Retail therapy is overrated. I would opt for the spa therapy any day. Go to the salon and pamper yourself with a good massage, or even a makeover. If the spa doesn’t fancy you much, treat yourself to anything else that stimulates you. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Travelling & going to new places is another great option which promotes self-awareness and personal development and overall, makes you a happier person.
  10. Exercise: Any form of exercise, be it, dancing, yoga, walking or even daily stretches at work will certainly make you healthier. It doesn’t have to be an hour or forty-five minutes. Even twenty minutes of being active and following a fun exercise regimen are enough to improve circulation and kick start your metabolism in the right direction.
  11. Just feel good; Anytime, Anywhere, ALWAYS: Do not let the weather or anything else, influence your mood. Be in charge of your own happiness & always look forward to the good, which is yet to come.

It’s important to understand that it’s okay to fret and panic. It’s okay to vent out too. It’s also okay to sometimes get your super-heroic cape tangled in the stress trap but when it does, just take a break to untangle and step back. Breathe in deeply, lift your chin and continue marching forward with your cape flying nice and high. PS: don’t forget to breathe out! 😉

Hira Ali is Founder of ‘Advancing Your Potential’ & ‘Revitalize & Rise. She is a Leadership Trainer, Motivational Speaker, Writer, Professional Coach & NLP Practitioner.

Twitter: Coaching & Mentoring @ advancing you

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Dear Girls, We Have Got Your Back

A lot is being said to support and empower young girls these days and the importance of establishing the concept of female mentors for female students. After all, when you empower girls, they say, you are raising the quality of life for everyone. It is these very girls that will lead children by example, lead businesses, lead communities and even lead the country one day. The World over, females are feeling increasingly disillusioned owing to the turn of events on the political front but I believe this is the time to stay positive, all the more. Here is a self- written note to these very girls who look up to us for guidance and motivation. (Some snippets have been taken from my recent speech at an all-girls school assembly)

Dear Girls,

Don’t worry. We have got your back. We are there for you! We are there to provide you clarity when all seems ambiguous; we are there to encourage your ambition when success seems improbable. We are there to empower your confidence when unsurety and insecurity surrounds you. And, we will always be there for you.

Whether you cover your head or not, whether you belong to this side of the wall or the other, whether you are a native or an immigrant, whether your skin color is different from ours or not, it doesn’t matter to us and we promise, it never will. We hope to inspire you and motivate you just the way you are. We want to be your role models and, your mentors. We believe that you girls are beautiful, yes, each one of you. You are smarter, more globally aware and more techno-savvy than we ever were. You are compassionate. You are capable. No matter how negative, the situation seems today there will always be hope for a brighter tomorrow. Never stop hoping. Never stop trying. The world needs you to keep trying. We need you to keep trying Good things have happened before and there is no reason why good things cannot happen again. They will. Let no one tell you what you can and cannot do. You have the power to rise above all challenges and crush all stereo- types and biases that rise against you and against us. You have the power to change the world. And when you do all this, you will find us smiling cheering for you & inwardly feeling proud, knowing that we had something to do with it!’

Yours truly,

Your Mentor

 

What exactly is Coaching?

Before I was introduced to coaching, I had been a Management Trainer and HR professional for many years and yet I was unaware of what coaching actually entailed! I always visualized a coach as a grey-haired, super enlightened, highly sophisticated, all knowing, subject matter expert with possibly an imaginary halo hovering over his head. Little did I know that all these characteristics weren’t even essential to be considered as a competent coach!

So who exactly is a coach? There are many definitions and interpretations for coaches these days. Quite literally a ‘Coach’ is a railway carriage or medium of commute which transports a person from one place to another. Figuratively too that’s exactly what a coach does; he enables you to move from one point to another which you may have otherwise found difficult to do on your own. I recently attended a two-day coaching event and in that event one of the participants described the coach as some one who will stand alongside as you unlock one door of potential and move on to open another. This one of the most fascinating and visual descriptions I have ever heard to depict what I do!  In the HBR Guide to Coaching Employees, an executive coach defines coaching as a style of management characterized by asking questions, questions which will make you progress from command and control style of leadership to a dynamic one in which the person being coached grows through self-reflection and self-discovery. Asking the right questions, however, is the key to setting the right foot and good questions are as important to a coach as is a light saber to a Jedi. We shall be covering that in more detail in our next few publications.

Moving on to the Coachee, let’s see what this one is all about. Typically a coachee is someone who drives the coach and in reality, too, it is the coachee who determines the coaching agreement through self-inspection which in turn leads to envisioning of new solutions to old problems. Thereby a coachee is someone who is being coached.

Last but not the least Coaching itself is a powerful interactive process between two or more people that helps individuals to develop personally and professionally more rapidly and with more satisfying and fulfilling results than would have been possible if working alone.

And now that we have discovered the basic terminologies of Coaching let’s move on, shall we?