After a routine meeting, a mentor’s earnest question surprised me because I already consider her to be exceptional: organized, energetic and a natural leader. In most situations she’s so cool and collected you’d guess she has the world on a string. She is unique, but she is not alone—I have heard many strong women say almost the same thing (including myself!). For this reason, I understood the subtext to her question: how can I feel more organized and less like I am barely keeping it all together?
One of the coolest lessons Strong Women, Strong Girls includes in every curriculum is one on stress management. Imagine… a room full of eight-year-old girls already talking about stress management! What an enlightened idea! Young women in school face so much pressure and stress—from the world and from within—that it’s crucial to address stress management as early as one would start talking with girls about college or careers.
So, here’s my answer to that exceptional mentor: I use the following strategies from the Strong Women, Strong Girls curriculum on stress management:
- In the midst of stress, take a breath: girls learn about closing their eyes and practicing deep breathing techniques as an “in the moment” stress management tool. It’s the most portable way to take a moment to relax your body and mind. I find that deep breathing while driving on the Dolphin Expressway in Miami (I keep my eyes open, of course!) allows me to manage my stress in traffic and focus on the road ahead.
- Exercise: it’s often hard to maintain a commitment to yourself when you’re busy, but moving your body can motivate your mind! For example, instead of sitting on the couch and talking about our day, my boyfriend and I talk while taking a long walk. This helps us work out our stress through exercise while we help each other come up with solutions to problems!
- Communicate: The Strong Women, Strong Girls lesson on stress management calls this “expression” because not every thought or feeling has to be expressed verbally. You can communicate in many ways; regardless, it’s important to maintain relationships with people who make you feel better when you talk with them. It’s also important to communicate to teachers, bosses and classmates whenever you need help or feel anxiety about a task, event or idea. It’s okay to share responsibilities with someone else, (occasionally) ask for a deadline extension, request tutoring or training. Asking and talking can solve or ease many problems!
- Save the last 6% for yourself: have you ever been anxious about an event not turning out just right? Do you ever feel guilty when you give 90% of your effort to something instead of 100%? One of my favorite science teachers told me that 94% effort is still an A… and to save the last 6% for myself! It is worthwhile to remember that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it’s rare for anything to turn out perfectly. Save your sanity by allowing room for a little imperfection while you’re striving to be the best you can be in this situation! If you’re doing your very best, you deserve an A for effort… and a moment to relax afterwards!