April is Stress Awareness Month and according to Google, the theme for 2023 is Look After Yourself.
You most likely have seen or heard how stress can impact your overall health. Last year, we wrote about How Successful Women Beat Stress and shared some of the more scary elements of stress such as research has shown that up to 90% of illness can be linked to stress.
Last year, we also wrote about Practicing Self-Care and how important it is for our well-being. This is the perfect month to rejuvenate those efforts.
In alignment with our theme for the quarter of Empower Your Beliefs, we want you to empower your beliefs around prioritizing self-care above other seemingly more urgent or more important people or pursuits. When we don’t focus on ourselves and what we need to thrive, we become more and more depleted until there’s a crash.
What a “stress crash” looks like for you may be very different than the person next to you. If we don’t become more aware of the signs, stress can cause major harm to all elements of our well-being – emotional, physical, & mental. Here are the symptoms we previously shared that indicate you might be experiencing stress:
Symptoms of stress include:
Headaches and sore muscles
For women especially, stress can cause:
Increased rates of depression, anxiety, panic disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder compared to men
Tension headaches and migraines
Stress-related weight gain
When you look at this list, you may want to pause and rework some beliefs around why you’re experiencing these symptoms. Could stress be the cause?
I know that I’ve had the bulk of these symptoms. Over my career, work has been a huge stressor. Being a woman in leadership and responsible for the people and the results has been a stressor in my life.
Combined the external stress is the internal stress I have regularly added by expecting myself to be perfect in unrealistic ways. Are there areas in your life where you don’t give yourself grace to make mistakes? Do you find that you aren’t good with good enough?
There are times when I’ve been able to manage stress better than others and there are times when I find that all I want to do is hide away in bed because the list of what I “need” to do is so big I don’t even know where to start.
For the remainder of April, I’d like to challenge you to consider doing some things to look after yourself and prioritize your needs over others. I know for many that’s a BIG ask! What can you do over the next 11 days (April 19-April 30) that will help you de-stress and look after yourself? Check off one of these activities each day for the next 11.
1. Consciously Breathe
Have you ever found yourself not breathing? I find that when I get stressed, I unconsciously hold my breath. I think the expectation that “bad” things will happen stops my breath. I definitely know this happens more when my stressors are internal. I have found a go-to has been this YouTube Breathe Bubble by Calm. Everyone can find less than a minute to consciously breathe.
2. Social Media Detox
Have you ever been shocked when your phone shares your screen time for the week? I know I have! When I’m stressed, I find that I scroll more. Pick a day before the end of the month and do a 24-hour detox of Social Media. If it feels good, go for more. Over the last year, I know the less I’m on social, the better I feel.
3. Set an Important Boundary
One of the harder things we have to do in life is set boundaries that can protect ourselves from undue stress. Two weeks ago, we challenged you to Evaluate Your Environment. During that evaluation, did you discover an important boundary you needed to set? Start by determining what’s ok and what’s not ok as Brené Brown defines. What’s NOT OK right now? Who do you need to set an important boundary with? Boundary setting is a crucial element of self-care and is how you can start with one act to look after yourself.
4. Find Some Easy Fun
Fun shouldn’t be hard! We sometimes overcomplicate even what should be fun. What’s fun for you? How can you do something fun today and not overcomplicate it? Overcomplicating whatever we're doing sucks all fun out of it. Have you ever hosted a party and you over planned and over thought it to the point that all you wanted was for it to be OVER? Just do fun today.
5. Create a Music Playlist
What music will help you de-stress? Are you the mellow meditation or metal scream it out? Thanks goes out to my fellow Toastmasters for inspiring this item on our list. You might want both based on the occasion. I know that stressors have taken me to the point where I want to scream.
Long ago may be the days when we made our cassette tapes filled with our favorite songs for a certain mood. Today you have the option to use a variety of online music playlist options to create your own! Amazon, Apple, Pandora, Spotify and Youtube are just some of the options. Explore and get your de-stress playlist ready to launch!
6. Get in the Money Know
One of the biggest stressors can be linked to finances. As today also happens to be the tax filing deadline for 2023, you already have details at your fingertips about your money situation. Avoiding money awareness does not improve any situation. Spend a day using the available information and get in the money know.
Consider creating a budget where one of the items you include goes toward looking after yourself. Maybe that’s shaving off some money you spend to get streaming video services or drive thru coffee and putting it toward a vacation, a gym membership, a massage or a course you want to take. When you’re in the know – simple awareness can actually decrease money stress.
7. Get Outside
Have you ever had a busy day at work and missed the sun? If the day disappears on you, you have to intentionally get outside. Maybe it’s just the few minutes you’re heading to your car for the next appointment. With spring, there’s no excuse. It’s time to get outside and maybe do a little conscious breathing while you’re at it! I’m going to challenge myself over the remainder of the month to take advantage of lunch and break times to get outside! Join me in this focus.
8. Clean Out the Junk Food
When was the last time you inspected what’s in your cabinets or pantry? How much of the on-hand snacks you might eat when stressed are junk? I’ve recently been on a mission to replace some previously go-to snacks with bins of fresh fruit in my refrigerator.
In my social media scrolling, I got obsessed with making what I see when I open my refrigerator appealing and organized. I’m now happy to say that it makes me happy and motivates me to have more healthy and fresh snacking options vs. the junkier snacks that I would gravitate to when I craved comfort food. Take an inventory today and clean out the junk food!
9. Organize Your “Space”
For me, when I have a disorganized and cluttered space, I can’t get started with work. The disorganization actually creates stress! Take some time to organize your "space." The space you do your work, do paperwork, or are building your business. Decluttered space helps declutter our minds (at least for me).
Start small by creating a filing system or just going thru the mail pile and purging. See if a little organization helps you de-stress.
10. Say Yes
What something do you want or need to say “yes” to? What have you been putting on the backburner? Looking after yourself is being able to say “yes” to what you need or want. Make a list of all the things in your life you want to say “yes” to that you’ve been denying yourself. Pick one and say “yes” today!
11. Have a Day Date with Yourself
One of the things I’ve noticed myself and among other women is that we find it hard to actually spend a day just for ourselves. Where is our day on the lake, in the woods, or on the golf course? Spend an entire day having your perfect date with yourself. Maybe it’s a day without cleaning anything, a day in your PJs, or a day (soon) that you can have some solo time at the pool or beach. Figure out your perfect date with yourself, schedule it and do it to look after yourself!
What would you like to add to our list of activities? What have you done or plan to do to look after yourself? Share in the comments by becoming a site member of JennQuest.