Kay Rosenthal PhD, RN – Guest blogger, EPNRC volunteer
Vacation- what a relief…what a stressful time….. which is it for you?
For me, it was both! I was super stressed planning our trip to Iceland. Therefore, I did a ton of reading, reached out to people to see where they visited when they were there, then talked to my friends and family about my fears around planning the trip. Maybe we should just go on a package trip and make it easy on ourselves.The downside would be we wouldn’t get to see all the things I had learned about. Finally, I enlisted the help of my husband and we created an excel spreadsheet to plan our activities on and my son came to the rescue with Google Maps! Google Maps helped me determine if we could really get from point A to point B.
Knowing I couldn’t control a lot of the aspects of our trip helped me to plan parts of the trip and then have contingency plans for weather, fatigue or both. Seeking out support helped me get it all planned. PS – Our trip was magnificent.
The stress related to planning a vacation is one thing, planning events and day-to-day operations of a nonprofit organization can loom much larger for staff and board members. Jill Lancaster, Executive Director EPNRC, sent me this great article, How to Hack Stress- Science of People by Vanessa Van Edwards. I hope you will take the time to watch the TED presentation by Kelly McGonigal and read the six steps for hacking stress in the link below. Invest in yourself and spend 15-20 minutes learning more. Then, see if any of the tips work for you.
Here’s the link: http://www.scienceofpeople.com/2016/10/how-to-hack-stress/
After watching the video this morning I realized that I have always befriended stress. I have used it as a way to get myself geared up and moving forward. I do see it as the body’s response to help me rise to the challenge, whatever that challenge that might be. What I used for my trip planning instinctively – asking for help, getting support – worked! I didn’t even realize that reaching out was actually part of the stress response. Kelly mentions the role of oxytocin in her TED talk and explains how we experience stress and our body responds by increasing our heart rate and respiration so that we are ready to respond physically. In addition Kelly explained how our body then supplies a natural anti-inflammatory neuro-hormone to encourage us to seek help and give help to others which then helps our body cope with the stress. Our bodies are amazing, aren’t they?
What I found even more interesting in her TED talk was the meaning and belief behind our stress response is life threatening or life saving depending on if we feel that stress is bad for our health or is actually good for us. Re-framing stress into a positive part of our life is powerful and Kelly explains that caring creates resilience. With all the caring you do within your non-profit organization and the volunteer efforts you provide our community you are helping not only others but yourself.
The article continues with six main points to help you hack stress. I’m not sure you need these pieces now if you focus on re-framing the stress in a positive way however, you might still find these helpful. The six tips include:
1. “Lose Control”- The article talks about disrupting your routine intentionally to help you get more comfortable with chaos and not being so time conscious as we all know we cannot control time.
2. “Put Yourself First”- Be sure you “are well-rested, well-fueled and recharged.”
3. “Practice Mindfulness”- Do one task at a time instead of multi-tasking.
4. “Create a ‘Break’ List” You might want to take a walk around the building, jump on a mini-trampoline, call a friend, or do something else that you think is fun.
5. “Distract Yourself”- Journaling and taking walks, take up a new hobby are mentioned as ways to distract yourself.
6. “Color Meditation”- Have you been to a coloring book party? It’s a great way to socialize and find your “mental zen.”
After watching the TED talk I am going to work on enhancing my positive perception of stress as actually helping me to reach out more to others and help further increase my resiliency. Let me know what you plan to do and what you find works for you. Believing that stress is healthy may be the most crucial aspect of your taking time to read the full article after viewing the TED talk.