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Strategies for Addressing Executive Women’s Unique Wellness Challenges

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In these times, and perhaps more than ever before, women require effective self-care and stress-relieving routines. According to University of Arizona research, women experience fewer stress-free days and more stressful days than men — and that study was conducted before the COVID-19 crisis increased psychological distress globally. Today, among other challenges, women in leadership and entrepreneurship have to deal with existing patriarchal hurdles and new stressors, and so self-care is more crucial for them than ever. Put simply: the need for woman executives to learn how to create stress-relieving routines and maintain health and wellbeing is paramount.

Tips for women execs to enhance wellness

There is no one-fits-all strategy here. Women in leadership, including entrepreneurs, can combine several strategies focusing on physical and mental health, but I have found that there are five essentials:

1. Prioritize wellbeing 

In today’s tumultuous times, it is easy for busy women entrepreneurs and leaders to postpone self-care. The most common response is, “I will focus on it when we attain a sense of normalcy” or “after completing this project”, but prioritizing work over health will often do more damage than good. Stress buildup increases the risk of burnout — threatening both work and health. Regardless of prevailing conditions or workload, make a commitment to prioritize happiness and wellbeing.

2. Rethink stress management approaches

Women need to reconsider how they deal with stress, including how addressing work-related dysfunction can often increase levels of tension. For example, say you experience appreciable distress after an employee delivers unsatisfactory work, but your solution is to redo that work yourself. Such an approach doesn’t address the underlying cause, so the employee will likely deliver unsatisfactory work in the future and put you through additional stressful episodes. Don’t try to avoid stressors; manage and tackle them promptly and appropriately.

Related: Small Actions You Can Take to Decrease Stress at Home and Work

3. Designate what you can

Traditionally, women juggle more roles than men. Working mothers, for example, can find themselves multitasking from running a PTA meeting to hosting book clubs to organizing office events. While these responsibilities might be fulfilling, they can increase stress levels. Each role comes with unique challenges and stressors, and so it’s vital to remember that you don’t have to do everything alone. Learn to designate responsibilities, or you’ll never have time to truly destress or focus on self-care. Agreeing to every request means prioritizing people-pleasing over wellbeing; to get more time for soul- and body-nourishing activities, learn to say no.

4. Create a safe place to destress

Women need a stress-free haven now more than ever. Living as we are in a stew of pandemic crises, socioeconomic turmoil and toxic politics, it’s easy to want to crawl under a bed and never come out. Successful women ideally have support from family, friends and their professional community, but incorporating places, at home or elsewhere, where they can quiet their minds is a valuable addition.

5. Keep in mind pandemic-related measures

Do everything in your power to protect and enhance wellbeing in this trying time, which is still with us. Adhere to social distancing and health guidelines to reduce the risk of infections, in and outside the workplace. Quarantines, lockdowns and social distancing can induce an emotional rollercoaster, but there are effective coping mechanisms to help adapt to this new normal. Meditation, deep breathing exercises and hobbies like cooking and gardening can help combat negative emotions and reduce stress and anxiety. Regular exercise is also needed to manage weight and balance cortisol levels in the body.  

6. Incorporate healthy habits

Physical and mental health are intertwined, so combine healthy diet, workouts and stress-relieving strategies. A balanced diet can help manage weight, reduce health risks and boost self-esteem. And stress in life is inevitable, but you can manage it with quick techniques as part of a self-care routine.

How to create wellness routines

To form an effective plan, it’s vital to understand psychological distress gender differences. It’s a fact that women analyze their emotions more than men, and likewise true that ruminating on negativities can increase both distress and stress levels. It’s been further demonstrated that executive women are more stressed than men, thanks to needing to adapt to gender roles, among other challenges. (For example, women in managerial positions tend to stress over gender-biased promotions and pay hikes.) To understand your strengths and weaknesses, list stressful and unhealthy habits and corresponding healthy routines and stress relievers.

Related: These Female Founders Put Health First to Thrive in Business

The top five self-care rituals: 

1. Get enough rest

A good night’s sleep is essential for stress management. Sleepy and tired women are impatient and easily agitated, increasing the risk of distress. To enhance happiness and health, ensure you get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

2. Maintain a healthy diet

Food rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants can reduce cortisol and adrenaline — both of which undermine physical and mental health over time. A balanced diet with essential nutrients can nourish the brain, lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and protect against oxidative stress. Water is also vital for proper bodily functions.

3. Schedule regular stress-relieving sessions

Combine several calming strategies, such as guided imagery, creating art and breathing exercises, and/or practice meditation after a stressful day. Also consider keeping a journal of positive interactions in personal and work life, then try to replicate these positive aspects to boost self-worth and confidence. Of course, sometimes just a hug from a loved one can do a world of good!

4. Make time for exercise

Mild to moderate exercise increases blood flow and overall fitness, so consider taking up yoga, tai chi, walking, jogging, dancing, or just gardening to reduce stress hormones and improve physical and mental health. Activities that you enjoy will ensure the best experience.

5. Cultivate a positive environment

The life of a woman in leadership is a rollercoaster, so cultivate a positive environment at work and home, and regard as a true resource positive relationships as the safe havens for destressing that they are. Meeting a friend for coffee after work can help wash away a myriad of frustrations.

Related: The Future of Women at Work and Living a Passionate Life

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