Stress Management: How To Make Your Well-Being a Priority in 2016

It’s 9:45 am. You have a meeting coming up at 10 am, that you aren’t sure you are fully prepared for. The report you are still in the process of designing is due at 4:30 pm. You glance at your phone to see that your son has texted you that he needs you to please bring his permission slip to the school by 4:30 pm today. As you check your calendar you realize you aren’t sure how on earth you are going to finish the project, make it to your son’s school, get your workout in and still get a good night’s sleep this evening.

In this moment, and in other stressful times of competing work and life demands, you have an important choice to make.

Will you spend the rest of the day in reaction mode – feeling as though each demand on your time is depleting your energy? Will you take work home with you – again? Will you cancel your  workout? Will you consider changing jobs in an effort to adjust what you perceive to be a work/life balance problem?

Or, will you take a moment to center your mind and your body first, so that you can proactively tackle the competing demands being placed on you? Will you ask for help from your colleagues and your family members to accomplish the day’s agenda? Will you put your health needs first on your list, rather than last?

As you can probably guess, this scenario is a case study in stress management. I have found in my coaching work with clients and organizations an interesting irony. The same people that would benefit from stress management techniques and/or individualized health and wellness coaching do not have the time to do the very things that would help them to manage stress. Unfortunately that also means that their stress level can escalate – creating conditions that threaten both their longevity (lifespan) and their well-being (quality of life).

When a person gets to the point in which the demands of their health, the demands of their work, and the demands of their life (relationships) are no longer getting along – and therefore creating serious consequences for their longevity and/or their well-being - then it is time to get these demands to “negotiate” with each other.

I call this moment, their well-being ultimatum.

In order to prevent this moment (or to handle it once it arrives), I recommend what I call “the 3 S’s”. I encourage you to consider ways that you can apply this “3 S” well-being ultimatum framework in your own life this year:

  1. Self-Care Daily
    When your work and life are demanding your “24/7” attention, it is very easy to think that your self-care practices of healthy eating, regular exercise, and/or adequate sleep can “just wait until tomorrow or next week.” But much like a caregiver at a loved one’s bedside needs to be reminded to take a break to take care of themselves, so too does anyone who feels they can’t take a break for themselves for self-care. Whether it’s a 10-minute walk to recharge your mind and body; a weekly yoga class; or 10 deep breaths when you are feeling overwhelmed, you can shift your daily mindset from being less reactive and more proactive by valuing self-care daily. No matter what. These practices will help you to promote your longevity – by either preventing or helping you to manage the potential health risks of chronic (non-communicable) diseases like obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
  2. Social Support Weekly
    Scholars and experts who study burnout, compassion fatigue and workaholism will tell you that one of the first signs of these conditions is that the individual stops making time for their loved ones. And, mental health professionals will tell you that most people do not realize they are having a “stress disorder” or other mental health illness; instead, it is usually someone close to them that can identify the problem before they can. Plus, communication scholars like me will tell you that social support predicts all dimensions of well-being: physical, emotional, social and mental (as I found in my doctoral dissertation). These are all great reasons to do something fun for yourself by making time for those you care about–no matter how busy you are.
  3. Services Monthly
    When I work with clients on their health, wellness and well-being optimization, we create a customized plan in which they define their goals and set a realistic timeframe for achieving them. This usually means that we work on one major issue per month. For example, one month we may explore what physical well-being means to them, and then help them to set and carry out goals that month that help them to achieve their ideal vision. Then, the next month we may work on what social well-being means to them in a similar way. We approach their year in a way that ensures we are addressing all issues of their concern over the course of 12 months– both those items that are critical to their health and welfare (threats) as well as those areas that will enable them to optimize their happiness and well-being (thrive).

It is my hope that by adopting this well-being ultimatum “3 S” framework, you too can live less reactively and more proactively in 2016!

About the Author
Dr. Suzie Carmack, PhD, MFA, MEd, ERYT is the author of Well-Being Ultimatum and a Professorial Lecturer in the Department of Health Studies at the American University. Over the past 23 years, she has coached over 2000 individuals, teams and organizations in the optimization of their health, wellness and well-being. As a yoga teacher and teacher trainer, she has trained over 1000 yoga teachers throughout the U.S., Asia, and the Caribbean. To learn more about Dr. Carmack’s research, online stress management tools, and upcoming events, please visit www.DrSuzieCarmack.com.

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