If you are among the many who find family to be one of the biggest sources of stress this time of year, let’s take a different approach to the next family gathering. Let’s make moves, together.
Families that move together, bond together. Studies show that when individuals engage in exercise together, afterwards they naturally feel happier with their relationship. Endorphins > stress = happiness. Let’s not forget, exercise is also a good way for us all to ward off that Santa stomach.
So, your approach for this holiday season: less fighting, more moving. If you feel the urge to snap at Uncle Bill, at your mom or dad, or to snap within your own self from stress, make moves instead. We’ve got 5 ideas below for doing it together.
By Emma Fogt, MBA, MS, RD, LDN, FAND
Recent studies suggest just like catching a cold, stress is contagious. It can travel in social circles, from one person to another, like a germ that floats from one coworker to the next. Personal stress not only affects ourselves, but can also infect our friends, our families, and even strangers nearby.
Here’s an example from my own life: I remember being on a BOLT bus getting ready to depart to NYC. Suddenly the driver went A-wall on a poor passenger who placed his bag on an empty seat. The driver was flailing his arms, swearing at the passenger and screaming at the top of his lungs for the passenger to get off the bus. The inadvertent result? I was so stressed out that I felt sick to my stomach! As the passenger got off the bus – so did I. I had absorbed that secondhand stress of the driver and passenger, and it had infected my body and mind.
Now let’s take a look at a research-backed example: Researchers from NYU and the Emotion Health and Physiology Laboratory at the University of San Francisco have studied how mother’s stress levels affect their babies. In their study, mother’s stress levels were measured with an EKG to see if their babies absorbed their personal stress signals. As it turned out, the baby’s sympathetic responses did match their mother’s stress levels. If mothers were more stressed, their own heart rates went up, as did the rates of their baby’s.
Stress can be hard to avoid, which is why it’s important to be mindful of both how you let it affect you and of others around you. On the bright side, there are lots of strategies and mechanisms you can utilize to minimize its impact in your life. By controlling your stress levels, you can boost your own health and energy, and simultaneously reduce the secondhand stress you may transfer onto others.
Here are three ways to handle the contagious stress that might be thrown your way:
- Avoid stressful situations. Yes, this is obviously easier said than done, but if you know a certain situation or environment places a repeated negative tension on your life, seek alternatives. Don’t needlessly walk into a pressurized situation if there are better options out there.
- Determine how you will react to stress. Instead of letting stress stick to you like Velcro, just imagine, you are made of Teflon. The stress just slides off. You don’t absorb it, but instead block it from your mind so that you can fill yourself with positive energy. What you don’t let get to you can’t control your life (or health!).
- Use coping mechanisms like meditation and deep breathing to refocus your energy and move away from the tension that stress can bring. When you feel your palms start to get sweaty, your head start to throb, or perhaps your anxiety levels start to skyrocket, stop for a moment and evaluate from where these symptoms are coming. Take a deep breath. Take two deep breaths. If you can, take 3 minutes of deep breaths, and feel how this simple act can center and refuel you. Then, remind yourself, you can take charge of the situation, and that anything can be accomplished when you slow down and take one step at a time.
Emma Fogt, MBA, MS, RD, LDN, FAND is a Wellness Expert, Speaker & Author. She is seen as a Nutrition Expert in the local media and enjoys cooking up a storm with corporations via Culinary Team Building. Her programs offer leaders and emerging leaders talks, webinars and workshops on wellness, wellbeing and work-life fit. Emma is an active member of Nutrition Entrepreneurs (Chair 2012-13), The National Speaker’s Association and a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Emma’s first book published by ewomenwellness is entitled: Having YOUR All, How Self-Care Leads to an Energized, Empowered and Effective Life!
A high-level fashion executive was in a panic. A report was supposed to be on her desk by Monday morning, and it wasn’t. She was angry at the employee and couldn’t let it go. Now, her whole week was thrown off.
So, Jeff Cannon told her a story. Not about how to manage your subordinates, but about a monk carrying a geisha across a river, with a “leave it behind” moral at the end.
His approach to working with CEOs might sound unorthodox, but for the meditation teacher and author, it’s par for the (karmic) course. Cannon’s put the ancient practice into powerful service as a tool in the modern (and often fashionable) work place.
“What I’m doing is teaching people how to leverage this wonderful practice in the real world, so that in the short-term, they can reduce stress, increase focus, and manage distractions,” says Cannon, who’s coached executives at Gucci, Armani, and Harper’s Bazaar.
The method explained in his book The Simple Truth, applies particularly well to business, a group that’s embracing meditation despite lingering New-Agey stereotypes. “You don’t have to start shaving your head, wearing sandals, and dedicating two hours a day,” Cannon emphasizes. “You can still wear Prada and meditate.”
We noticed in speaking with Cannon that many of his career boosting and balancing tips for fashion industry CEOs work just as well for the rest of us. So, here we share some of the most enlightening:
1. You Don’t Need to Go to the Mountain Top to Meditate… or Even Leave Your Desk
Instead of waiting for meditation to occur in a quiet place, Cannon says you can incorporate background noise into your meditation (including honking horns and loud talkers in the next room). You can also create short practices, so that you don’t have to commit to a 10-day silent retreat in order to benefit. A few minutes in your corner office or cubicle should do just fine.
2. Breathing Before a Meeting
Cannon teaches grounding techniques you can use before a big meeting or presentation, when you should be at the top of your game but your nerves undermine you and send you into a panic. He’s a fan of belly breathing.
“Stress in the workplace was getting to me—deadlines, deliverables,” says Roget Roman, a well-known record executive who attended a training session with Cannon. “Since then, the breathing techniques have helped me tremendously.”
Want to learn more about improving your health? Check out LifeVest Health and learn how to get paid to get healthy.