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Health

5 Simple Self Care Tips for Fall

With a summer that surely expired quicker than we all would like, it’s almost time for the weather to change again. Fall in Boston has so many redeeming qualities: colorful leaves, cozy sweaters, apple picking (see: apple donuts) and your favorite warm drink.

Unfortunately, this time of year can also bring extra anxiety and sometimes an overwhelming increase in items on the ‘to-do’ list. As we plan for the upcoming start of classes, new jobs, and whatever else may be on the horizon, it is important to remember that it’s not all about the hustle. Slowing down and taking time for YOU is vital for well-being and long-term productivity.

When you are happy and managing stress, you are performing better overall – so, to help our followers stay at the top of their game we compiled these 5 tips for self care. 

  1. Take time for soul-searching before taking action

Something often overlooked in self care is the importance of individual consideration. No number of spa days will cure the overwhelming stress of working in a role that is a major mismatch; or, working within culture that mismatches with your own personal beliefs. 

Taking some time to clear your head, identify a root cause or a personal need can be the best gift to yourself. For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed at work or in personal matters and aren’t able to quash the stress or anxiety, take time to soul search. If there is something or someone in your life causing you pain, and you are able to distance yourself, then that may be the best self care possible. Similarly, if you used to love to paint (or name a hobby) but haven’t had time for it lately, maybe it’s time to pick up that brush and see if it is the escape you needed.

Our leadership team is composed of a diverse group of women and we all have different self-care rituals. You must find what works for you. 

Have trouble slowing your mind down long enough to think? Sometimes the best way to think is to pause long enough to catch your breath & be present – Try one of these guided meditation apps to find your zen:

Headspace

Calm

Insight Timer

Ensō 

& for the skeptic who is not sure that they want to meditation, read this

 

  1. Hit the weights

Getting into an exercise routine can be the hardest part with a busy schedule but blocking time on your calendar and following through is worth it! There is no prescribed time for the positive results of exercise so just get your blood pumping even if that means taking 10-15 minutes each morning to do push ups and sit ups before your morning routine. 

Research shows that exercise can relieve stress, reduce depression and improve cognitive function. But don’t just take our word for it:

Harvard Health on exercising to relax.

American Psychological Association on the stress and exercise link.

American Heart Association on working out to relieve stress.

 

  1. Indulge in a spa day

A spa day doesn’t mean you need to take an entire day off (unless you can – then treat yourself). Instead, choose a service that makes you happy and relax. Taking an hour to get your nails done or get a massage could be “your” meditation.  Changing up your hair or nails can be a boost of confidence. A spa day isn’t going to fully change your self perception BUT it gives you a chance to step back and refresh your look (& hopefully outlook on life).

Having a positive self image can impact your daily life and part of that is how you feel in your skin. Think through these positive thinking strategies as you pick out your new fall nail color (helpful for perfectionists like me!). 

  1. Take a walk

If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed out and aren’t able to take time off (yet) –  sometimes the best thing to do is take a walk. Even taking a walk around the office or around the building outside can do wonders for clearing your head or helping you cool down from a tense situation in the classroom or boardroom. Walking removes you from the stressors and the stressful environment and can give you much needed fresh perspective. 

For even more value on your walk – take a friend. Use the walk to vent or get feedback on an issue you are facing. Or use the time to connect with someone you may not normally talk to and make a new friend in the process. 

 

  1. READ

If time off of work for travel & relaxation is out of the question, take your mind on vacation. One of the easiest ways to escape is to dive into a good book and feel immersed in its pages.

If you have a long commute (shout out to the MBTA), you can take 10-15 minutes to step away from your stressors and imagine a different world or learn something new. Once you reach your destination, you will at least have a fresh perspective on your environment and maybe even a few ideas to tackle the day’s challenges!

 Check out these 24 reads under 200 pages (both fiction and non-fiction).

 

“Self-care is how you take your power back.”

– Lalah Delia

 

Finally, remember that we are in this together. Empower, Engage and Elevate!

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RESET Your Stress Event with Dr. Kristen Lee Costa

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Dr. Kris has been a clinical practitioner for over 20 years. In that time, she noticed that people would come to her only at a point of crisis, particularly when they were “oversaturated with stress.” From her practice and experiences working with her patients, she gained insight into how various institutions affect well-being and physical health; these insights prompted the question “how do we sustain ourselves through complexity?” Various online resources will provide what she referred to as a “cookie-cutter” solution, such as “Five Easy Steps to De-Stress Your Life.” While a quick solution such as this might provide immediate respite, the solution doesn’t provide a sustainable, renewable method of dealing with stress and complexity. Moreover, every individual regards and handles stress differently, so a one-size-fits-all option is not a viable solution. Enter “RESET,” Dr. Kris’ method of self-care. Simply stated, Dr. Kris’ RESET method of self-care builds upon introspection and helps you to carve out a space that enables you to engage in a productive self-care strategy; importantly, this method can be tailored, modified, and adapted to the individual and their needs.

Our event started with a discussion on the definition of “Resilience.” Many incisive contributions came from the interactive audience and Dr. Kris added a new facet to the term that resounded with the audience: resilience is a process that “helps us to adapt.” Resilience is paramount in not only surviving, but also thriving, while navigating through complexity. One example of complexity that was discussed at length—and both women and men in the audience could identify with—was what Dr. Kris referred to as “Institutionalized –isms.” Examples of these inimical “-isms” are racism, sexism, culturalism, ageism, and manifest in the way we respond to the people’s perceptions of us based on their biases and attitudes. The RESET method helps one to become cognizant of the “isms” at play, to adapt within the complexity, and avoid frustration while maintaining the ability to navigate this complexity.

How does one cultivate resilience? How does one cultivate strength and the ability to bounce back? A cookie-cutter approach to dealing with stress is to “squash it,” but this doesn’t truly eliminate it. In fact, this cookie-cutter approach, as Dr. Kris suggested, might actually perpetuate stress. One component to Dr. Kris’ approach to dealing with stress is to recontextualize it. Instead of viewing stress as a wholly negative or antipathetic entity, realize that it can be a powerful teacher that can help cultivate resilience. Change and flux are part of the human condition and natural occurrences in life, and may occur more frequently in the lives of those who enjoy challenging themselves, are driven, and self-motivated. In this context, stress can be a “sign of conscientiousness” (e.g., you worry about doing your job well because you care about doing your job well), and can provide new perspectives and growth that the aforementioned “squashing” would’ve otherwise precluded. Harnessing stress in a new way helps you build “emotional muscle” that strengthens your inner grit and resilience, and ability to be self-sustainable. While the concept of harnessing stress seems paradoxical and counterintuitive to self-sustainability, understanding the context of the stress, knowing the change you can effect within it, and having a personalized RESET method enables you to harness stress, learn, and grow in a self-sustainable way (be sure to read more on this topic, specifically “natural stress” versus anxiety, in Dr, Kris’ book “RESET: Make the Most of Your Stress, Your 24-7 Plan for Well-Being”).

A key component to maintaining your resilience and self-care is “Emotional First Aid.” Dr. Kris states that emotional first aid is the preventative [self-]care that “helps avoid disaster”—don’t neglect yourself! Proper “emotional hygiene” allows you to become efficient and prevent burnout. The RESET method teaches you proper emotional hygiene through time management to find spaces for self-care.

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So what is this RESET method? Without giving too much away (I highly recommend you read the book—it has changed my life profoundly for the better!), RESET is

Realize

Energize

Soothe

End unproductive thinking

Talk it out

Realize

Oftentimes stress triggers a raw, visceral reaction, or the “primary appraisal.” Trying to problem-solve or make sense of things in this stage is dangerous because thinking patterns often lead to self-sabotage and intense frustration. In this stage, Dr. Kris urges you to be cognizant of the primary appraisal stage and to not let its effects affect you. After waiting it out, you enter the “secondary appraisal” stage that allows you to get a sense of the resources available to you, to avail yourself to these resources so that you can lean on them, learn from them, and gather more information. This allows you to build better behavioral and thought patterns and harness the stress in a new and productive way. Furthermore, this process is important for those with Impostor syndrome, which is prevalent amongst high-achieving women. For those with Impostor syndrome, bolstering your appraisal process is key in realizing your value and resources at hand.

Energize

Mind-body wellness is important. Movement of the body affects your ability to reason and process, your mood, and memory. Movement can also help bring anxiety down to a normal level. Also, sleep is necessary, as it provides the body with an opportunity for recalibration. Sleep-deprivation has serious consequences and the RESET method helps you to be more efficient so that you can carve out time for sleep. In addition to moving and sleeping regularly, nutritional value is important, as the body needs to receive “the right signals and messages” from what you consume.

Soothe

Our generation is the first to die faster from “lifestyle diseases” than from communicable/infectious diseases. This is why energizing our bodies and giving them a chance to recalibrate, and knowing how to soothe our bodies properly are absolutely essential to our self-care. Soothing can be as easy as taking a walk, unclenching your fists, or smelling the proverbial flowers. Maladaptive soothing, such as participating in impulsive or destructive behaviors, can occur and it does not help the body recalibrate.

End unproductive thinking

Dr. Kris discussed “rumination,” a term she described as “a negative emotional state where we chew on fixed thoughts or ideations and keep chewing on them.” Rumination robs us of opportunities for productive thinking and ultimately depletes us. Recognizing when rumination occurs and setting boundaries and limits to it is important in self-care.

Talk it out

Becoming overwhelmed by stress and participating in counterproductive processes like rumination can leave us feeling lonely and isolated. Oftentimes in isolation, negativity is suppressed, which causes it to fester. Talking it out involves finding a community of like-minded, supportive people, people that “get you,” and mentors that you are comfortable conversing with, being inquisitive and learning from. Naysayers and “dream bashers” will always be out there, so finding a community that bolsters you is an important part of self-care and defeating negative habits and thought processes.
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The RESET method empowers you in a very unique and edifying way. As Dr. Kris stated, it gives you “permission to say ‘when we struggle, we can find resources, and connect in thoughtful ways, rather than depleting ourselves and burning out.’”

The event was simply amazing. Dr. Kris is a gifted speaker and an empowering, motivational, and genuine woman. It was a pleasure to host her and a privilege to learn from her. I think it’s safe to say that everyone in the audience left inspired, empowered, and equipped to RESET and successfully navigate all complexity!

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June 3: “Reset your Stress: Cultivating Resilience in Today’s Complex Market” event

Register for de la Femme’s next event at: http://dlf-reset-your-stress.eventbrite.com

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Reset your Stress: Cultivating Resilience in Today’s Complex Market

How can we maintain wellbeing given today’s hypercompetitive marketplace and increasing demands?  Join Dr. Kris, a researcher and practitioner specializing in preventing professional burnout and increasing resilience in today’s complex work arenas, for a discussion that will help participants in examining complex contextual factors that create barriers for professional and personal success.  Participants will be supported in understanding the importance of engaging in practical strategies that cultivate excellence and resilience at work and beyond.

Participants will learn:

*Common stressors today’s women face within organizations.

*How to avoid the trappings of professional burnout.

*Practical, proven methods for increasing longevity and sustainability at work and at home.

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Kristen Lee Costa ’11, EdD, LICSW, known as “Dr. Kris,” an award-winning professor of Behavioral Science and a Doctor of Education faculty member at Northeastern University in Boston, where her research and teaching interests include individual and organizational wellbeing and resilience. Dr. Kris operates a clinical and consulting practice devoted to preventing and treating burnout and is the author of RESET: Make the Most of Your Stress, winner of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Motivational Book of 2015.

Dr. Kris is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker known for her advocacy in promoting increased mental health integration in social policies and institutions to facilitate access and improved health outcomes in the U.S. and across the globe. She has served as a U.S. federal grant reviewer for the Departments of Minority Affairs, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, and Health and Human Services.

Dr. Kris’s signature ability to engage with a diverse range of audiences in implementing strategic self-care practices has led her to be invited to speak nationally and internationally to educators, health and mental health professionals, business leaders and general audiences.

Dr. Kris holds a BS from Worcester State University, an MSW from Boston University and an EdD in Organizational Leadership Studies from Northeastern University.

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RESET: Make the Most of Your Stress is based on the RESET© model of self-care developed as a therapeutic framework to prevent and treat burnout. RESET© blends substantive theory with practical tools for readers to draw upon at work and home, and has been called “a breakthrough model that reframes our ideas about stress” and “provides a clear strategy for self care that is compelling, creative and motivating for those leading high stress, demanding lives.”

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Register at http://dlf-reset-your-stress.eventbrite.com

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Differential Effects of Stress on Gender

Written by Hilary Bowden, de la Fember.

We all know about stress.  Some of us perform well under it and some of us collapse.  Some people are more prone to take more risks and some become hesitant.  When it comes to our work we all have to make decisions and take risks, no matter how small or big they are.  What is the effect of stress on our decision-making capabilities?

Our body likes to be in a homeostasis, it likes to maintain a stable, controlled environment.  When we experience stress, this homeostasis is threatened, various neurotransmitters are released and the normal signaling between our body and brain goes out of whack.  Our sympathetic nervous system releases cortisol in our bodies, and this, among other things, affects the decision-making regions of the brain.

How does this reaction to stress differ between men and women?  Several studies have shown that men, in general, take more risks than women (Endres, 2006). Lighthall and colleagues found that acute stress amplifies these sex differences: men become more risk seeking and women become more risk avoidant.  These leads us into the basic “fight-or-flight” paradigm – our body’s response to a stressful stimulus – however, Taylor et al. demonstrated that females appear to have a different stress response than males.  They coined the term “tend-and-befriend” arguing that while “flight-or-flight” may work for males, it is not so adaptive for females given their sex-specific parental roles.  It makes sense, if you think about it: we women carry around a baby for 9 months, give birth, feed it, love it, and protect it with our life!  If we were to just leave our offspring their unguarded to either fight a battle or run from a lion, we’d be leaving it unprotected.  So, it makes sense that women would be more adapted to inhibiting risky responses to predators/stressors.

In corroboration with the above findings, Wang et al. found that there was greater hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (e.g cortisol) response and autonomic responses in men than in women.  A hormone that is expressed at high levels in women, oxytocin, may be the reason for the decreased response.  Basically, the cortisol might not be “properly” communicating with other regions of the brain.  Their study also suggests that the combination of increased limbic activity (read: emotion control center) and inadequate cortisol feedback may mediate the high propensity of women to depression.

Scientific jibber jabber aside, we get stressed, it’s not evolutionarily beneficial for us to run or fight but to stay and protect.  We play it safe.  In our work lives this may result in us not taking the same risks as men or cause us to interact differently when a threatening situation comes along (i.e competition for a promotion, proposing a more daring project idea, etc.).  Aside from these initial results of stress, the consequences of it can be emotionally taxing and, in some cases, can lead to depression.

I would like to end by saying that I do not think this means that we are stuck in these roles or that women can’t/don’t/won’t take risks.  I am also not saying that women are sensitive little flowers that need to be handled delicately.  I just think it’s important to take note of these differences and use this knowledge to our advantage.

 

Citations:

Lighthall, N.*, Mather,M., Gorlick M. (2009) Acute Stress Increases Sex Differences in Risk Seeking in the Balloon Analogue Risk Task.  Plos One Volume 4: Issue 7

Taylor SE; Klein LC; Lewis BP; Gruenewald TL; Gurung RA; Updegraff JA (2000) Biobehavioral responses to stress in females: tend-and-befriend, not fight-or-flight. Psychological Review 107: 411-429

Wang   J,   Rao   H,   Wetmore   GS,   Furlan   PM,   Korczykowski   M,   et   al.   (2005) Perfusion functional MRI reveals cerebral blood flow pattern under psychological stress. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 102: 17804–17809.

Endres   ML   (2006)   The   effectiveness   of   assigned   goals   in   complex   financial decision   making   and   the   importance   of   gender.   Theory   and   Decision   61: 129–157

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