Most women experience a fair amount of stress in both their working and personal lives. Dr. Fran Walfish, a leading relationship and family psychologist in Beverly Hills, observes that women and girls can be particularly susceptible to anxiety because we often struggle to set boundaries.
"Women are more exhausted with higher demands and living at a faster pace,” Dr. Walfish says, explaining why so many of us are coping with stress nowadays. And with increasing exposure to online news, social media, and other information at our fingertips, any existing anxiety can just be compounded if we don’t know how to set the right kinds of boundaries.
Marketing Manager Micah Pratt of Business.org points out that boundaries are especially vital in the workplace, where “you might feel the need to bend over backwards to meet your employer’s expectations without pausing to take care of yourself first.”
If you feel anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed—and frequently find yourself in stressful situations—take a step back before trying to power through; there are many ways to manage stress and reduce the impact of your stressors. Try to connect with yourself, other people, and your surroundings by following some of these suggestions from successful working women.
Connect with yourself.
1. Stay hydrated.
Jennifer McDonald, Founder of Plentiful Earth, sets a water intake goal of 128 ounces per day. “When we're dehydrated, our bodies go into alert mode and this creates an enormous amount of mental stress, as we are desperately trying to focus on our day. This dehydration alert creates a baseline of stress, so no matter how much medicine we take, we'll always be on edge,” she says.
Drinking water is important for your overall health and well-being; not only is it essential for physical functions, but it plays a factor in your mental health as well.
2. Improve your sleep.
McDonald also advocates for addressing sleep problems like insomnia. Doing so will improve your waking life. She recommends taking natural sleep supplements, such as melatonin, to address those issues. Other ideas include eating a healthier diet to promote better sleep, establishing a routine bedtime and wake time, and possibly consulting a doctor to identify underlying problems.
Although you can’t exactly pop into the conference room for a quick nap at work, your sleep at night can have an enormous impact on your ability to manage stress during the day.
3. Do a brain dump.
Certified life and career coach Carolyn Birsky says that when she can’t quiet her brain before going to sleep, she’ll get out of bed and write a list of everything on her mind. Then she puts the list aside until the next day. Making a to-do list and putting it aside until it's time to tackle it can be an effective way to deal with stress.
“There is something about physically writing down what I'm stressing over that lets my brain compartmentalize it and relax enough so I can go to sleep. I know that when I wake up in the morning, the list will be waiting for me and I can tackle what needs to get done then,” Birsky says.
Meditation is another method that Birsky uses to calm her mind when she must face stressful situations at work or in her personal life. She notes that when you empty your mind during meditation, you “open up space for solutions or new ideas” to come to you. Meditation can take many forms depending on your preferences and objectives, and you can do it for as little as five minutes a day to reap the benefits.
Meditate in the morning before work, in the evening once you’re home, or even in your car on the commute, if that’s what works for you. You can also set aside a few minutes of your lunch hour to sit somewhere quiet and clear your head.
Connect with other people.
5. Connect with another person.
Birsky goes on to suggest reaching outside of yourself to ask for help from another person when you feel stressed. “Stress has a funny way of clouding our ability to see beyond ourselves,” Birsky notes. She says she’s found that whenever she admits she can’t handle everything alone, her friends and colleagues never fail to offer their support.
“Be honest and ask the people around you for help,” says Birsky. “This could mean asking a teammate to help you with a project at work so everything can get done in time for a deadline. It could mean asking a friend to meet you after work so you can vent about a problem and get help finding a solution.”
6. Do something nice for another person.
Dr. Walfish recommends turning your focus outward in a different way. While Birsky advises her clients to ask for help, Dr. Walfish suggests you should sometimes offer to be that helpful friend or colleague. Helping someone else with a stressful situation can in turn improve your own sense of well-being.
“Being generous in words and actions creates positive feelings for the doer and gets your endorphins flowing,” Dr. Walfish explains. So by easing another person’s stress you may actually improve your own stress management.
Connect with your surroundings.
7. Cultivate a garden.
Jane Clarke, gardening expert for Fantastic Services, suggests gardening as an oft-forgotten but effective method for combatting workplace stress.
“Nowadays, our lives are full of long office hours, traffic jams and digital screens," Clarke says. "Gardening is one way to take a break from all that. While you’re deliberately focusing on the actions of gardening, you are setting aside all your problems for a while.”
Although Clarke recommends cultivating a full garden, depending on your particular work situation, you may be able to keep potted plants at your desk. You might not always get to soak up the sun outside, but you can spend a few moments each day tending to your little plant.
8. Use aromatherapy.
Mevei Founder and CEO Rupinder Mangat relies on relaxing scents like lavender, peppermint, and sandalwood to relieve her personal and workplace stress. According to Mangat, the olfactory nerve can have enormous impact on mood and overall sense of well-being, which explains why humans have such strong reactions to certain smells.
But you can use this influence to turn around anxious moments by keeping soothing scents handy at work. If you have your own office. you might want to try an oil diffuser, or if you share your space with co-workers, a more discreet option is scented lotion. You can even tap out a tiny bit of oil on your wrist and take quick whiffs between big meetings.
9. Go forest-bathing or take a walk.
Between running a company, facilitating groundbreaking partnerships, and raising two kids, Kango Co-Founder and CEO Sara Schaer wears a lot of hats. But when she needs to take all her hats off for a few minutes, Sara likes to take a walk through a park or a forest. “Taking the time to be in outdoors seems to ease my stress, and allows me to be more productive once I've taken some time to myself,” she says.
Sara takes her cues from Shinrin-yoku, which is the Japanese art of forest-bathing. Rather than walking toward a destination or for some sort of defined objective, the only goal of forest-bathing is to absorb nature and slow down from the sometimes overwhelming pace of life. If you don’t have a forest near your office building, look for a park or any quiet space with grass or foliage where you can still spend time around nature on your breaks.
The key to coping with stress at work or just in life is to step back and breathe. Some tips might fit your situation better than others, but don’t be afraid to give new methods a shot if you’re still struggling to deal with stress.
Kelsey Down is a freelance writer in Salt Lake City who has been featured on publications including Elite Daily, VentureBeat, and SUCCESS. She’s covered fun stuff like why TV reboots need to stop and how to hack sleep as a workout, and she also writes about personal and family wellness. Follow her on Twitter @kladown23.