Big changes? Small changes? Whether you’re facing a process change or a total reorganization, upheaval at work can zap your energy and dampen your spirit. I’ve been there! Here are some self-care tips for managing the stress of change.
Why Self-Care Matters: The Physical Impacts of Stress
The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory ranks 43 life events that can cause stress. The word “change” itself appears 14 times. Nine are work-related. Even changes we might regard as positive, such as getting a promotion, can cause a lot of stress.
Stressors accumulate. They wreak havoc on our bodies, with potential impacts on every major system. We exacerbate these problems by paying more attention to our stressors than to our own physical needs. Sleep patterns change. We are less likely to eat healthy foods and exercise. If we don’t take care of our bodies, our brain is not equipped to function during the day.
Have you ever been on a big project, working really hard, going through crunch time, everything coming at you, and you’re really super busy? What happened at the end of that really super busy? You probably got sick. Your body had had enough, and it let you know it!
Five Self-Care Essentials
After the birth of my third child in 2015, my doctor insisted I attend a support group with other women experiencing postpartum depression. (More on that in another post.) The facilitator asked each of us about self-care every single week.
Each one of us. Every week. I’ll be honest, I got annoyed by the repetition.
Each one of us. Every week. You get the picture.
What follows is everything I learned from the group. Only I won’t make you go through pregnancy, labor, delivery, and the experience of locking yourself in your closet to cry for hours at a time. You’re welcome!
1. Morning Routine
Get a little bit of sunshine every day. When you get up in the morning, get to a window, and just let the sunlight hit you. Sunlight tells your brain to WAKE UP! Full disclosure: I also use cup of coffee for that purpose. My brain is probably not as thrilled with me about that, but it does get the job done occasionally.
Make sure you’re eating. Some people, apparently, forget to eat during times of stress. Personally, I cannot relate. If you are not eating your body cannot renew itself and will start to shut down. You will not think clearly. If you have to, put fresh fruit on the counter or keep granola bars in your bag. Whatever you do, make sure that you’re not skipping meals.
If, like me, you are a little too good at remembering to eat during stressful periods, make sure you’re eating the right foods. Probably not a party-sized bag of BBQ kettle chips. Stop judging me.
Go for a walk. A simple 15 minutes will clear your head. If you can do more than that, great!
When I was training for a 5K, I noticed that the more time I took for myself, the more I felt worthy of that time. I eventually trained for and completed a half marathon. Not because I loved running, but because I enjoyed the feeling of investing in myself.
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. This is difficult when we’re stressed, because our brains turn into a three-ring circus as soon as we lie down. If this is a challenge for you, try one of the following techniques:
- Listen to a relaxation, meditation, or hypnosis podcast at bedtime. Don’t worry, you won’t wake up clucking like a chicken when your alarm goes off.
- Practice this military method for falling asleep quickly
- Follow a healthy bedtime routine
5. Look Forward to Something
Put something on your calendar that you enjoy. You might be surprised to learn that planning a vacation gives us a big happiness boost.
Book a tee time or schedule a mani/pedi. Plan lunch with your best friend. Anything you can do to imagine yourself happy in the near future will change your mood right now. Don’t believe me? Consider how miserable you can make yourself when you spend all day worrying about the worst-case scenario.
Self-Care Is Essential
I was skeptical. “Can a person really overcome debilitating depression with just these five steps?” Here’s the thing. These steps alone won’t solve all your problems. But without appropriate self-care, your brain and body lack the resources to cope with and heal from the stress you’re facing.
Still worried about change? Download my complimentary Moving From Panic to Purpose workbook.
[…] Advisory Committee on Colleague Assistance, believes that “repeated small doses of self-care are more effective than a once-a-week event.” They can be short bursts of exercise, or eating […]