3 Stress Management Techniques for Chaotic Times

3 Stress Management Techniques for Chaotic Times

3 Stress Management Techniques for Chaotic Times

Self-Care for Stress Management

Between COVID-19 and political upheaval, the past year has been chaotic for many. Many of my career and life-coaching clients, even those in other countries, have discussed feeling more stressed and anxious overall. There have been many uncertainties with some businesses laying off workers or closing altogether, people losing family members to COVID, and parents navigating work-from-home situations while trying not to lose their minds due to their young children’s school-from-home situations.  

The stress response in our body exists to address an imminent threat (aka the fight-or-flight response). This response is great when there is an immediate issue, such as a bear chasing you. It causes a release of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, in our body and sends the blood to our extremities, so that we can either run away from the bear—or fight it (though I don’t typically recommend fighting bears).

However, when the stress is chronic or long-term, our bodies stay in high-gear and cortisol levels stay elevated in our body which can cause negative long-term effects. Long-term stress has been identified in studies as a contributing factor in everything from heart disease to cancers. 

Below are a few tips for stress management and, if at all possible, I encourage you to practice these things before you are super stressed. It’s harder to use a new skill for the first time if you’re already in an intense situation and much easier if you’ve already been using the skill before you really need it. 

1. Deep Breathing

We tend to be a nation of chest breathers in our fast-paced society. When stressed, our breathing becomes even more rapid and shallow. Again, the stress response causes blood to go to our extremities, thus away from our brain. This is why people don’t think as clearly when they’re overly stressed. 

Taking a minute to do several slow, deep breaths where you breathe in air all the way down to your abdomen, literally bringing in more oxygen to your body—including your brain. 

Try putting your hand on your belly and slowly inhale through your nose to a count of 4, then exhale just as slowly through your mouth to a count of 4. Your belly should push your hand out as you inhale if you are breathing all the way to your abdomen instead of your chest. Repeat this slow breath two more times to feel immediately more centered and grounded. 

Tip: You can do this anywhere, even in traffic, and will notice a difference.

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2. Sleep

This one is actually the most important on the whole list. If you don’t have good sleep, the rest of this list won’t matter. Sleep is the period when your body restores and repairs itself. If you start with only one thing as far as stress management, start with protecting your sleep and going to bed at a reasonable time so that your body can cycle through to the deep stages of sleep which is where the magic happens. 

If you have difficulty falling asleep, start a consistent bedtime routine (a cup of tea, reading from a book, warm bath, etc) about an hour prior to your desired bedtime and keep that bedtime the same if possible. 

Some of my clients even set an alarm on their phone, in the beginning, to remind them to start their nighttime routine. In time, your body will automatically begin to wind down at a certain time—it’s like muscle memory. Your body will thank you for doing this and as a bonus, you’ll start out the next day feeling refreshed and energized if you’ve given yourself adequate time to recharge.

3. Meditation

Many of my clients are new to meditation when I begin working with them, but this one is life-changing. Meditation is simply the act of being present in the moment and resets your body from a state of stress to one of relaxation. 

If you think about it, the present moment is where all the good stuff in your life happens anyway, so you want to be there as much as possible. If you catch yourself worrying about something, it’s a red flag that you’re in the past or future rather than the present moment (unless a bear is chasing you and then you have bigger concerns to worry about). Meditating helps you to train your brain to stay in the present moment. 

Additionally, if you have issues with sleeping, such as insomnia or frequent waking, you can also use meditation at bedtime to help you relax so that you go into deeper stages of sleep.

Meditation doesn’t need to be done sitting cross-legged on a special cushion. You can meditate while walking, washing dishes, or doing yoga. 5-10 minutes is all you need, though some of my clients prefer to do it first thing in the morning and also at night before bed. 

MRI’s have shown the impact of meditation on the brain and there are some fascinating research studies on this. If you prefer music or guided meditation, there are numerous free apps available such as Insight Timer or Calm, and YouTube has free meditations on every subject available.

I’m a personal fan of binaural beat meditations, designed to bring your brain into different wavelengths such as theta or gamma, and I use Brainsync which is not free but worth the money in my opinion.

Bonus Stress Management Tip: Laughter

Laughter really is the best medicine and has been shown to release your body’s feel-good neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, which act as natural pain killers and antidepressants. 

Spend time at night watching your favorite comedy series or movie (and never the news before bed!) or talk to some funny friends or family members. Try to keep your sense of humor even when times are tough and it can help shift your perspective to find silver linings of difficult situations. 

Dark humor can work too—I’ve worked with some first responders who said it was the only thing that prevented them from having a total breakdown. 

In Summary: Stress Management is Essential to a Healthy Life

Play around with these techniques and see what works best for you. Keep in mind that self-care and stress management are essential for living a healthy life. It’s like the flight attendant telling you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first—by caring for yourself, you have more to give the world around you. 

During stressful times, it’s more important than ever to protect your emotional and mental well-being. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, go breathe, sleep, meditate, and laugh your way to a better place. Your loved ones will thank you. 

Warm Wishes, 
Dr. Kristi

Dr. Kristi Helvig, PhD, LP, CPC

Dr. Kristi Helvig, Ph.D., LP, BCC is both a licensed psychologist and a board-certified coach, and she specializes in career and executive coaching. She can help you get clarity, overcome old obstacles, and climb the mountain to success — no matter how you define it.

 

 

Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

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[social_warfare]

As a Ph.D. clinical psychologist, I started out years ago doing traditional therapy with clients for issues such as depression and anxiety. The in-office setting made the most sense for me at that time due to the extreme distress many of my clients were experiencing and it was important for me to physically be present with them and to offer support (and tissues!). However, once I obtained my professional coaching certification, I began to specialize in career and life coaching which drew different types of clients to me. While they had some transient anxiety or depressive feelings about not being in their dream career or living their best life (which would be expected), they didn’t have those symptoms at a clinical level. Additionally, my coaching clients had different needs and expectations than my therapy clients. As an aside, I do have some coaching clients who are also in concurrent therapy and I feel fortunate to have some amazing therapist colleagues to refer them to for their therapy needs.

When I first made the switch to coaching by phone or online, I have to admit that I was hesitant at first about meeting with people online or by phone. Would we have the same connection? Would it be as helpful as in-person? Would it be weird looking at a camera or talking on the phone with someone instead of being face-to-face? Now that I’ve been doing online and phone coaching for several years, here are the things I’ve discovered as well as what my clients have shared with me.

Global Reach

Whereas I used to be limited to serving clients who happened to live in my general proximity (Denver), I now have clients all over the U.S. and the world—from South Africa to Europe to Canada. Working with such a diverse population of clientele is not only inherently rewarding but has greatly enriched my knowledge of other cultures and experiences. It’s also amazing how similar people are in terms of wanting to live their best possible life! 

Flexible Session Times

I’ve had people do sessions outside from a street in Dubai, at an airport terminal while waiting for a flight, in their office on their lunch break, from their car (parked of course!) and in their own living room while their kiddo was napping. Whereas an in-person session means the client also has to allot time for traffic and driving to and from the appointment, parking, checking in with the receptionist, finding a baby sitter, etc., online coaching is so much easier to fit into a busy schedule—and my clients tend to be very busy people.

Flexible Scheduling Platforms

Sometimes, my clients want to see my smiling face so we do Skype or Zoom; while other times, they may be traveling and so phone works better on certain weeks. Or technology blips happen (because life) and we switch from one mode to another. 

Effective Results

In fact, I’ve found it to be even more effective because we are laser-focused during those 45 minutes. I’ve had multiple local clients whom I initially saw in-person who decided to switch to online coaching with me due to their busy schedules. An interesting outcome of that is that most ended up preferring the phone even over Skype/Zoom. Why? Many told me that they can think better and process ideas more when they walk around, so the phone allows them to do that while we talk. 

If you’ve never given online or phone coaching a try, I hope you will consider the amazing benefits. Taking steps to change your life for the better is an investment of your time, energy, and resources but life is too short to waste another day. 

Wishing you all the best,
Dr. Kristi Helvig, PhD, LP, BCC

[social_warfare]

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5 Ways to Test Drive a New Career

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Reduce The Risk of Changing Careers

Do you hate your job? Have you already determined that you’re ready to move in a different career direction? Maybe you’ve even identified one or even several possible new career options. It warrants mentioning that there is no one perfect career out there for you, but you will find that several career paths best suit your individual skills and desires.

So now what? Sure, you could simply chuck your current job and blindly go out there to pursue your dream. [Check out: The Top Five Best Reasons For Leaving Your Job] This can work for some people, and the personality and career assessments I give to my career coaching clients helps to identify who those risk-takers are, but for most people, this would cause excessive anxiety and uncertainty. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Here are five ways that you can ease into a new career before jumping ship:

Strategy 1: Six degrees of separation – Okay, so maybe you don’t know someone who knows someone who knows Kevin Bacon…but there is something to this theory. You probably do know someone or someone who knows someone who is doing your dream job or has knowledge about it. Offer to take them to coffee or lunch. Ask them questions. Your best bet for gaining crucial knowledge of a career is to talk to someone who is already doing it, and doing it well. What do they love about their job? What don’t they love? They will be a wealth of information, and finding out important information ahead of time can save you time and energy in reaching your goal.

The power of networking is especially huge if you are changing fields entirely. You have a better chance of finding an “in” to a different field if someone knows you and can vouch for you. You need to get your foot in the door before you can convince someone how your skills translate to that area.

Strategy 2: Research – If you’re reading this article then you have an understanding of how to use the internet to find information…and you know that Googling is a verb. 😉 There is so much available online – just use a search engine to explore a specific career field and you can find things from salary information to success stories of people in that field.

Strategy 3: Volunteer or Intern – Many times, you can gain enormous insight into a possible career by volunteering a few hours a week. Non-profit organizations, hospitals, and shelters are just a few examples of places that use volunteers. Many other businesses offer internships (some unpaid, some paid) to those who want to break into a field. If a place doesn’t offer either of these, you can always offer yourself as an unpaid intern or volunteer– the worst they can say is no.  

Strategy 4: Take classes – Your new career field might require additional learning or certification. Some of these courses might be online which makes it easier for those working a full-time job. I’ve had career coaching clients do everything online from learning computer coding to obtaining their real estate license. Another bonus of doing this while remaining at your current job is that depending on the type of classes, some or all of the tuition may be reimbursed by your employer. You can check with your HR department ahead of time.

Strategy 5: Moonlight – Unless your current career forbids this, you can start doing your new career on the side to see how you like it. Especially if your new venture involves self-employment, starting it out on the side allows you to keep the financial stability of your current job while going through the growing pains of a starting a new business.  

As a career coach and executive coach, I know that changing careers always involves an element of the unknown but the rewards can be enormous. Being uncomfortable is actually a good sign, because the greatest growth in life always occurs beyond your comfort zone. Good luck and remember:

“You miss 100% of the shots not taken.” — Wayne Gretzky, hockey great.

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Top 5 Best Reasons For Leaving Your Job

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5 Ways to Determine If It’s Time to Leave Your Job

Most people daydream about a change in jobs now and again, but here are 5 ways to determine if it might be time to take the leap.

1. Make a list of all the things you like about your job.

No matter how unhappy my career coaching clients say they are in their current job, one of the first things I have them do is list the things that they enjoy, even if it’s a very short list and they can only honestly say, “the free coffee in the break room.” If their list of things they like is solely related to having a great boss, great benefits, and/or good co-workers rather than the actual work itself, that is very telling. Loving their work but not loving the corporate mission or its leadership is also important to figure out. Make an honest list and then keep that list in mind if you decide to go job-hunting, so you can recognize the things you like.

2. How do you feel on Sundays?

If you find yourself already dreading Monday’s return-to-work on Sundays, it might be time to rethink what you are doing. One of my executive coaching clients told me he started to feel that dread on Saturdays, because he knew he only had one more day before he had to return to a job he didn’t like. The ultimate goal is to be happy about what you get to do each day, and that your weekends are a time to truly relax and renew yourself. Keep in mind that it’s normal to have some ambivalence about jumping into the work week after an amazing weekend of fun, friends and family, but that’s different than the experience of actual dread.

3. You frequently browse jobs on places like Indeed and Linked In.

I get this one a lot from career coaching clients. They aren’t exactly sure what they’re looking for but they just want to “see what else is out there.” The problem is that if you don’t first clarify what you want, you end up with the “different job; same crap” problem and you’re back to job searching soon after. If you take the time to sort out what you really desire in your next job, you will be happy you took that time in the long run.

4. You keep hoping things will get better.

Sometimes, waiting things out is the smart thing to do. For instance, if you love your job overall, aside from one or two things, such as an overwhelming project, bad boss or annoying co-worker, it makes sense to give things a chance. Projects end, co-workers move on, and bad bosses may (hopefully) get fired. The key is to figure out where that tipping point is and your overall satisfaction. Did the project that ended get replaced by something equally undesirable; are you working too many hours per week despite being told things would “slow down,” or does your bad boss seem like they are settling in for the long haul? If the “waiting it out” is to the point that you feel you’re in danger of an ulcer or drinking problem, it might be time to leave.

5. You have thought about getting a career coach.

Many of my clients say they had considered getting a career coach at some point in the past due to work dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, too often people wait until they are really miserable in the jobs, and only look for a coach when either they feel they can’t take it anymore, or their work stress is impacting the quality of their relationships with their spouse, friends, and family. Ideally, you want to have a positive work/life balance, where you have plenty of energy and attention to give to the people you care about outside of work hours.

Is it Time to Make A Positive Change?

Think about the number of hours you spend each week at your job (2,080 per year for full-time work), and how many hours that adds up to over your lifetime. Life is too short to waste on something you aren’t passionate about, so if you are unhappy in your current job, do something about it. Many people don’t need a career coach if they already know what they want to do and how to get there, but others need more guidance or desire career assessments to determine their next path. Whatever you do, decide you want to be happy doing it, and get started!

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