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work-life balance

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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May 7: Can You Work And Have A Life?

Thursday, May 7: Can You Work And Have A Life?

Paula Rayman HeadshotRecently, the book Lean-In challenged women to be more assertive in their workplaces in order to better able to climb the ladder of success. However, through blogs and twitters, thousands of women have responded with compelling reasons why this is counter-productive to a woman’s well-being, and instead offered the prescription to reject male patterns of power-over with an ethic of power-with. Others noted the importance of focusing on changing public policies and corporate practices that would give both women and men more choices about work-life balance throughout the life course.   We are excited to have Professor Paula Rayman, author of Beyond the Bottom Line: The Search for Dignity at Work, a world renowned scholar and Senior Fulbright Award recipient, who will lead a conversation on the work-life equation.

Date/Time: Thursday, May 7, 2015 at 6 PM
Location: The Broad Institute (Olympus Room), Kendall Sq, Cambridge, MA
Dinner and drinks will be provided.

Register at Eventbrite: Registration is required, sign-in upon arrival.

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Paula Rayman, Ph.D., is Professor of Sociology at University of Massachusetts Lowell. She is Director of the Middle East Center for Peace, Development, and Culture and Executive Director of the public sector hub of the Women in Public Service Project. She was the Founding Director of the Peace and Conflict Studies program at UMass Lowell.

Dr. Rayman is a Senior Fulbright Award recipient. In 2014, she led trainings on non-violent social action for a coalition of Israeli and Palestinian women leaders and spoke at the United States Embassy in Israel as part of the Distinguished American Speaker series. Her new project with United States Institute of Peace is focused on the implementation of United Nation Resolution 1325 and development of National Action Plans to combat violence against women.

Dr. Rayman is also a nationally recognized scholar in the field of work organization, labor, and public policy. She is the author of Beyond the Bottom Line: The Search for Dignity at Work.  She was the founding director of the Radcliffe Public Policy Center at Harvard University. Rayman has also worked extensively on issues related to women and science. She was the Principal Investigator for the National Science Foundations Project Women and Techforce and WORKING WISE (Women in Science and Engineering). She is the co-author of The Equity Equation.   She was the recipient of the Pathways for Women in Sciences award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Professor Rayman has been recognized for her leadership on advancing women in STEM from many organizations including the Weizmann Institute, Israel, the 1995 United Nations Woman and Science Tent, Beijing, and the Council on Competitiveness, Washington D.C.
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Selected Publications:

  • From Birmingham to Budrus: Nonviolent Resistance in Conflicted Regions. Dorothy Cotton Institute, Cornell University, In Progress 2013
  • The Eight Peace Pillars: A More Inclusive Approach to Building Positive Peace.
  • Co-authored with Suyheang Kry, Peace and Conflict Studies Program, University of Massachusetts Lowell, In Progress 2013
  • Working WISE: Intergenerational Voices of Women in STEM Fields. National Science Foundation, Washington D.C. 2009.
  • Beyond Coexistence: Israeli Jewish-Arab Relations. Fulbright Senior Project. University of Haifa, Israel. 2008.
  • Beyond the Bottom Line: The Search for Dignity at Work, Palgrave St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2001.

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Being your best “whole” person: advice from a Harvard professor

There still is hope for female scientists.

A recent blog post came out in Scientific American by Radhika Nagpal where she talks about her life as a tenure-track academic professor at Harvard University (1). Many of us have already imagined the stereotypical life of a Harvard professor — constantly working, hunched over a desk writing grants into the wee hours of the morning. We believe that every academic professor is not able to maintain a good work-life balance. In fact, one of my own female advisors gave me this piece of advice: “If you want kids, the quality of the time that you spend with them is important; not the quantity of time. So make sure you get a good nanny.” A good nanny? So that as-a-matter-of-fact statement solidified for me what the life of an academic professor would be like. And I certainly didn’t want that.

And then I read Dr. Nagpal’s account of her life as an academic professor where she is able to maintain a wonderful work-life balance…at Harvard, no less! She seems to seamlessly be able to integrate her family life into her career. To be quite honest, I cringed a little just typing that sentence — how I have been conditioned to believe that your family life needs to integrate into your career. Regardless, here’s my take-away from her blog.

“I stopped taking advice”: And she’s right. What works for one person may not work for you. Yes, it is great to listen to the roads that others’ took to get to where they are, but it was their road and not yours. Listen to yourself (read: see the “best ‘whole’ person” you can be section below). There is no one road to success, and the roads vary from person to person.

“I work a fixed number of hours and in a fixed amount of time”: This section of her blog really stuck with me. Within the last year, I’ve graduated with PhD and left the big city that I had lived in for 6 years to go to another big city where I have a job as a post-doc in the biological sciences. I went from working over 80 hours a week in graduate school to cutting that time in half in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance. I also stopped “working late Friday night and I don’t open my email client until Monday morning.” (1) Dr. Nagpal is right; people do adapt. If it was an urgent message, my colleagues know how to reach me on my cell phone. But honestly, no experiment has been that urgent — as least not yet (I hope I just didn’t jinx myself!).

“I try to be the best ‘whole’ person I can”: And being a “whole” person can mean a lot of things, but most importantly, it means taking care of yourself and your wellbeing. Once you do, only then can you put good, solid effort into other areas of your life. For me, it means taking the time to care for myself by working out, reading a good book, or seeing friends. Dr. Nagpal is right, being your best “whole person” is giving yourself your very best. And I, at least, will not settle for anything less.

So if you haven’t read Dr. Nagpal’s great advice yet, I certainly encourage you to do so (1), even if you aren’t in the sciences. Her musings about her “feelgood” email folder and trying to be the best “whole” person you can be is easily applied to all who want to have it all. This post really helped me realize that as women, we can have the family and the career, and maintaining a work-life balance certainly helps with that. And by doing so, you are able to give 100% in every aspect of your life.

(1) http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2013/07/21/the-awesomest-7-year-postdoc-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-tenure-track-faculty-life/

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