Work and stress. They sometimes seem synonymous. But they don’t have to be. Over the past year, things have changed phenomenally: but one thing has not and that’s work-related anxiety.
According to BreatheHR, more than “79% of us are often stressed at work” and “out of all British adults in employment, 75% commonly experience work-related stress. This has increased by a worrying 20% since 2018.”
And this has only magnified with the pandemic: job uncertainty, illness and people in and out of lockdown.
I’ve been making a personal list of all the things one needs to do to detox and de-stress: reading self-help books (check out How To Balance Your Life by Robin James), reconnecting with good friends on Zoom and Whatsapp, unfollowing toxic Instagram accounts and just disconnecting from the internet in general – a hard task when your actual job is being connected to everything.
Managing stress and anxiety: a yoga journey
As a yoga teacher and someone that works in marketing, I’ve been doing my fair share of yoga and meditation. The question people always ask me is: ‘How do you stay so calm? What is your secret to managing stress every day?’
That answer to that question isn’t always easy for me because I haven’t always been stress-free and calm. No, no dear friends: I, too, have had my fair share of anxiety.
For more than a decade, I’ve worked in the competitive, fast-paced – and it must be mentioned, highly superficial – world of fashion and beauty. After reporting front row and backstage at several fashion week seasons in New York, London and Paris, writing for women’s lifestyle websites; I started to feel like my work – and life – was lacking that coveted ingredient: purpose.
Sure, things were luxe and shiny: I worked with celebrities, influencers, models and makeup artists. I sat in boardrooms with beauty brand leaders to decide the fate of eye shadow pots, mascaras, glossy lipsticks and products yet to be created. But all of it felt very matte after a while (pun intended – you’re welcome). I decided it was time to really unpack why that was. So I packed my bags and headed to Bali. I had been hitting my yoga mat in various parts of the world for more than 10 years prior, but I decided to go all in. I highly recommend it.
Now, I try to incorporate mindfulness into my work: sprinkling in purpose, intuitive storytelling and enlightenment wherever possible in my projects and the content that I help strategically produce. I work with a lovely yoga brand (Yogamatters) and try to imbue my work with purpose wherever I can.
It’s not hard to be happy when you work with a great team whose goals are the same. (Did I mention that Yogamatters is such a great place to work?)
Still, even when you work for a yoga brand, life is not a magical yoga-loving carpet ride. You come across really interesting personalities, you get anxious because of deadlines and guess what, work is still stressful sometimes. So with that in mind, and especially because April is Stress Awareness Month, I thought it might be a good idea to coach you through some stress-management techniques that have helped me in the past – and that have also helped me about 30 seconds ago as I wrote this article.
Here are a few stress and anxiety tips for calming yourself down when you’re in what I like to call The Perpetual Mind-Numbing Emotional Spiral (PMNES):
Step 1: How to stop spiralling emotions
OK: so, things are getting a little weird. This is the moment where it begins, really: that wave of stress as something goes awry. Whether you’ve just received a not-so-nice-email or have just realised you’re out of coconut yoghurt, it’s easy to get flustered. Rather than finding solutions to your problem in that moment, it’s really just better to stop. Sounds easy enough but this is a really hard one to master: when things are getting stressful, I find that taking even just a few minutes to pause and think about the emotions flooding my heart and mind super helpful. So, take that moment, stop right where you are (unless you’re in mid-air for some reason) and count to 100. Do this while practicing deep belly breathing. Trust me, you’ll feel a whole lot better and that thing that was stressing you out might feel that much less scary after you practice this. Repeat as necessary.
Step 2: How to relate to the emotions of others
Often our stress comes from some of our interactions with others. As we’re working from home, those personal relationships start popping into your work life in more abrupt ways (read: husband starting the microwave whilst you’re on a work Zoom call). People can be really great but sometimes friends, family, partners and coworkers and the things they do on a daily basis can be pretty unnerving – and frankly confusing. And that confusion can be stressful. But, rather than tapping into those low vibration emotions that are so tempting to spiral into – annoyance, anger, jealousy, anxiety, depression, hatred, the list goes on – instead dive deeper into higher vibration emotions. Understanding the whys, the hows and the whats of human behaviour helps. Instead of mulling over the unexplainable, take some time to simply put yourself in another person’s shoes. How could that person be feeling? What could be driving them to act or respond that way? Most often, it’s change or fear or the fear of change. And we’ve all been there. Diving into higher vibration emotions such as happiness, joy, excitement, peace are your way out of the spiral. You know these feelings and honestly – they are wonderful. These high vibration emotions are always there for you even in the most stressful of times and it’s easy to forget that in the moment. Stepping outside of ourselves and connecting with the emotions of others helps us separate the stressful times from who we are as people every day. The negative feelings are there, they exist, but they certainly don’t define us.
Step 3: How to create (good) habits
There are loads of bad habits we should all try to kick – I’m thinking of my chocolate obsession as I write this – but there are a few self-care habits, too, that everyone should add to their list of things they always do. If I’m in my PMNES spiral of stress during the work day: I like to complete Step 1 and Step 2 while inside – or even better during a nice sunny stroll outdoors – and then follow it with a little flow using yoga cards to help me remember some key poses. If I’m feeling less active, I try a restorative lie-down or supine twist on a yoga mat with the cushy help of a pillow or bolster. If my mind is racing after work and I can’t get to sleep, I like to read books before bed and switch off from my phone at least an hour before I crawl under the duvet. Reading books help lull me to sleep. A sleep spray and eye mask gets me into a quicker slumber.
A meditation app that doesn’t cost the earth
There’s one app I turned to to help with my mindfulness: Medito. I had the pleasure of interviewing the founders of Medito on the Yogamatters Blog and found out more about how they find calming and de-stressing moments every day.