Photo by Crystal Sing

It does not matter if you do administration for a social enterprise or are a CEO and president of it all, work and purpose can often consume us. Because we can be so passionate about the cause, things can weigh heavily on our shoulders at times. We can get so involved that we lose perspective. We can become obsessed with details. We can get upset when our attempts at projects and relationships do not work the way we want them to work. And, because we are nearly always on the go, it can be difficult to take a full on break. It can be challenging to manage stress in the thick of it all.

My personal journey has taught me that learning how to cope with stress as a social entrepreneur is vital to my health and the health of the organization itself. While I regularly take days off and have learned to integrate rest into my life, I also have learned to integrate stress management in the middle of the daily minutia of life. Here are some of my favorite ways to keep that stress at bay and push forward with our goals!

01 | Practice Gratitude
Gratitude has a number of real benefits. Some of these are improved mental and physical health, and reduced aggression. I have found that when I am starting to spin out of control with anxiety that if I will stop in my tracks and give thanks mentally for one or two things going on, that it will help me have a better and more realistic perspective.

02 | Pay Attention to Breathing
Our bodies send us signals before we necessarily feel stressed out. For me, and for many, breathing plays a huge role in signal sending. When my breath is shallow and mostly from my chest, I know that I am beginning to feel overwhelmed. If I notice it, I try to take a second to take deep breaths. This is an old choir trick for me, but breathing from the diaphragm is much more beneficial than just taking shallow breaths. Lay down if you need to, or simply take 10 seconds to deeply breathe when you notice those short breaths. You’ll be surprised at how quickly this works!

03 | Consider a Mindfulness App
I do not think technology generally helps with stress, but I do believe that we can use it to our benefit. I have downloaded a mindfulness app which checks in once a day to see how I am feeling. I do not even need to open it up to get the benefits from it. I stop, look at my phone and realize that I need to check in with myself. How am I feeling? Why? If I am stressed or angry, I like to log that into my app and allow them to guide me through a (free) 3-minute meditation. It’s been so helpful!

04 | Enjoy community
None of us can make it alone. It’s super vital for us to have people that we not only work well with, but also enjoy, as community. When I feel stressed, I often try to make my meetings happen over dinner or coffee, where we can work through things but also enjoy one another. Be honest with this community. If you are feeling overwhelmed and need a small break, they will understand and give that to you. Try to cultivate community that “gets you” and will encourage you while being fair and honest with you.

05 | Step back
While we don’t always have the means to physically step back, we can often summon the mental space to do this. If you are fully immersed in a project, take a moment to go for a run. If you can’t get out to go exercise, take a few deep breaths and try to focus on the big picture. It is easy to get caught up in and overwhelmed with the details of your life and work. However, if you can figure out a way to step back mentally (and/or physically) to examine the big picture, you will be encouraged.

I am no stress-free guru, and I am constantly working through my own patterns of managing stress. However, I know how important stress management is. I believe in it. Though we often think of self-care as ordering out and treating ourselves, it also means employing important disciplines in our lives. For me, using these stress management techniques helps me take care of myself in a big way! I hope it works for you, as well.

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