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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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Six Tips for Women Reentering the Workforce

You put it off. Going back to work. You worry, Have I been away too long? Do I still have relevant skills? The prospect of reentering the workforce can be daunting for many women but it doesn’t have to be. The economy is improving, unemployment is the lowest it has been in eight years and with the dawn of social media, there are more options than ever. So how do you begin? Here are six ways to help women take that first step back.

1. Network. This cannot be overstated. Create a profile on Linkedin. Contact your former colleagues, your former classmates, neighbors, people you have volunteered with, any contact you can think of. Invite them for coffee. Conduct informational interviews. You never know what it will lead to.

2. Change your thinking. You didn’t just “help the PTO run the spring social”, you organized an event for 500 people that generated revenue for a non-profit organization, you managed vendors and coordinated a team of 30 volunteers. Rethink how you spent your time away from the workforce. It all counts.

3. Be fluid. Opportunities come in many forms. Your skills may be transferrable to a role in an industry you have never worked in before. Consider temping or contract work. Often times getting in the door leads to bigger opportunities.

4. Do your research. The internet provides a bounty of information on job training, skill development and resources for your job search. Get a notebook and your laptop and do some investigating. What interests you? What kind of hours do you want to work? Create a “job profile” for yourself so you have a place to start.

5. Find a mentor. What prompts you to change something in your life? Inspiration. You see something or hear something that inspires you to make a change. The same thing applies to a job search. Having someone who serves as an inspiration is invaluable. A mentor can be a sounding board, a role model and a coach. Identify a person or several people who help provide that spark.

6. Take a chance. Nothing comes from inaction. You may find that your new job is where you least expect it. You may discover a hidden talent or find more personal fulfillment in that great new role. The reality is, without taking that first step, you will never know.

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Young,beautiful, female, foreign. Guilty?

The dramatic saga of a young woman the world has come to know as Amanda Knox has come to light once more. The retrial of Amanda Knox begins in Italy this week for the 2007 killing of her former roommate Meredith Kercher. Amanda and Meredith lived in the small town of Perugia, formerly known for its chocolate and university before Meredith was found slain only a few weeks into their semester abroad. Amanda spent four years in an Italian prison before the conviction was famously overturned in 2011 and she returned home to the US. By now, the story is familiar to most of us.

What is also familiar is how once more, media cannot focus on the case itself- the sloppy narratives from conflicting sources, the compromised evidence, and the fact that someone else was already found guilty for the same crime always share media coverage with a bizarre focus on Amanda’s classic good looks and sexuality. The thrill and focus on Amanda’s sex life were and will likely continue to be the focus of the prosecution. A beautiful woman, who bought condoms, who had a boyfriend, who had a vibrator, who recreationally smoked marijuana and who had romantic dalliances with more than one man (by the way, media, this generic description likely captures a good chunk of women in their twenties today) has been cast as a vixen. And who kills their roommates? Vixens.

Women who are violent- or who are accused of being violent- are seen as more deviant from society than violent men. Aggressiveness and anger are gender characteristics associated with males. This cultural sexism is on full display in the trial and retrial of Amanda Knox. Her beauty, youth and gender contribute to the confusion surrounding her case. The prosecution relentlessly uses Amanda’s sexuality to shame her and cast her as guilty and have suggested that Meredith died in a sex game gone awry. Amanda’s boyfriend in Italy has even said to the press that their sex life was normal. What is the truth? Who really killed Meredith Kercher? Why has the investigation and evidence been compromised? Our main take away is this: even six years later, while many questions are unanswered, the fact that Amanda’s sexuality has been intensely scrutinized and twisted against her is a fact.

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Sex. Do I have your attention yet?

I read Elaine Blair’s review of Daniel Bergner’s book on female sexuality entitled “What Do Women Want?” from the Sunday book review in the New York Times. Bergner’s book explores women and contemporary sex research, especially the notion that women have less of a sex drive than men, through interviews and data analysis from a variety of sources. His research concludes that there has been a marked shift in attitudes towards women’s sexuality over the last few years.

Where did the well-accepted, and now aging, notion that men are the ones with all the sex drive come from? Blair claims evolutionary psychologists of the past spread the idea, through the male lens, since they were men. It wasn’t ladylike to want to have sex. It was primal. Women are more refined and delicate. Men initiate out of raw need. Women associate it with intimacy and need sex is for reproduction. Yet somewhere between the rise of women’s social and economic individualism and power and the mainstream acceptance of popular television series such as Sex and the City and Girls, many exasperating sex myths and gender stereotypes are being questioned today.

Both women and men can want sex for many reasons. Women especially should be comfortable discussing sex with their partners, friends, and doctors. Women should not be afraid to speak their minds and be honest with themselves about anything sexually. From your own anatomical questions to your own personal desires, our society needs to get rid of any leftover puritanical thoughts that chastise female sexuality as deviant and strange. To broaden this lens, society must remember that sex and sexuality is unique for each person based on their history with it, their attitudes towards it, how they interact with it and what they expect from it. With the increasing study of women’s sexuality though an objective lens, maybe we will find that the old notions of sexual roles are void, and I suspect that all will greatly benefit from it.

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