Business professionals frequently ask motivational speaker, writer and communications consultant Cathy Kreyche what they can do to alleviate stress in their professional and personal lives. Her answer is as amusing as it is ambiguous. “Embrace it,” she says. “Life is stressful and if we didn’t have stress we would be a pot of wet noodles!” But Kreyche says while some stress can create challenges, other stress can, indeed, be good. When people ask her, “How do I deal with stress?” Kreyche, puts a slightly different spin on the query and says, “Make stress work for you.”
Stress, in its broadest definition, is defined as the brain’s response to any demand or change that can be triggered by nearly anything. These changes can include positive or negative influences and may be recurring, short-term or long-term. Stress causes the body to experience things such as chronic pain, insomnia, depression and a decreased immune system resulting in an increased risk for infections and hormonal imbalances.
The harsh reality is that stress is something that can be caused by anything and affects many people at some point in their life. “Stress in our bodies is designed to help us act,” Kreyche says. “When we bring our minds and our awareness into action, we have the potential to respond in ways beyond what we can envision.” She says while many people see stress and anxiety filled situations as negative, there are ways to effectively handle stress. For example, implementing a vision into a creative design; writing, singing or becoming involved in the community are common outlets for reducing stress.
“These are not only ways to deal productively with stress, but also ways to enter more fully into life,” she says. “When work and productivity become the overwhelming drive for us, we lose our sense of humanness.” Kreyche, a member of the Rutgers Writers Conference Advisory Board, dismisses the notion that all stress is bad and encourages people to know how to distinguish between the two. “We think of stress and being stressed out when something negative is happening,” she says.
“However, you can be stressed when really good things are happening in your business or personal life,” she adds. She also says that live events such as group readings, discussions and weekly meetings with scribes and other innovative people creates the potential for change and is a viable outlet for stress. Events such as a job promotion, securing a contract for your business or obtaining a cash windfall are examples of situations that can create healthy or positive stress. However, social isolation and loneliness are negative off shoots of stress.
With the advent of social media, the health risk of social isolation and stress-related health issues have become a focal point of some community-based groups. State and local grass roots organizations offer resources to young professionals, seniors and others about the benefits of becoming active in a community and avoiding the pitfalls of social isolation and stress.
How to Make Stress Work for You
A proponent of the written word and a testament to her own literary prowess, Kreyche says the lexicon of language can enable business professionals, entrepreneurs and others navigate stressful situations. She offers these tidbits of advice for how to make stress work for you.
*Deep Breaths. “Breathing makes you aware if your own sense of aliveness and vitality,” she says. When we take deep breaths,our heart rate slows down and relaxes the body and relieves stress.
*Yoga, Meditation and Feldenkrais. Specific exercise and therapy that improves the connection between the body and the brain. “All of these things have tremendous benefits for dealing with stress because these practices help us reclaim the body so that we are not walking heads,” she says.
*Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. Kreyche says much of the advice offered in the bestselling book of the same title by author Richard Carlson more than 20 years ago, is
still relevant today. However, she adds, “Sometimes, focusing on the small stuff provides some good reminders when we lose perspective.”