By Jan Bruce
April is Stress Awareness Month, and there's something I think you and I can agree on: Life will always have stress in it, so learning how to manage it is a must-have skill. This month, we've got four powerful ways to help you strengthen your resilience ("Do this") and hold the line against stress ("Ditch that"). Consider them your non-negotiables -- the support you need to help you enjoy your days, grow through tough times, and do work that makes you proud.
Non-Negotiable No. 1: Giving
April also happens to be National Volunteer Month, and as it turns out, volunteering is an excellent way to decrease negative stress. In fact, we believe that giving is the antidote to stress. The sense of connection it give back to you -- to others, to strangers, to friends, to your community -- builds in you the wherewithal to cope when stress comes crashing down.
Give in a way that boosts connection
One of our favorite quotes about giving comes from the late, great Maya Angelou: "Be the rainbow in someone else's cloud." Not only do you help someone else, you get to be the rainbow -- something beautiful and uplifting! And you don't have to donate buckets of money, either. For instance, the benefits of giving can come when you:
Donate time, not just money. What groups or organizations in your town, church, temple, or the kids' school could use someone like you, even just a few hours a week? Nothing beats being able to interact with and collaborate with people in person.
Advocate for someone. Being a mentor for someone just out of school or new to your industry is a wonderful way to give back. Take the time to connect with a new hire, make a few calls on someone's behalf, or give a junior associate the feedback he's craving. It takes so little to help inspire and encourage someone else, and the rewards are tenfold.
Organize a group give. If you'd like to make a bigger impact in a small community, rally a team of friends or coworkers to pursue a giving goal together, whether that's helping out with a clothing drive, or raising funds as a group for a shared cause. When you team up for a collective effort, you share the wealth in more ways than one.
Stop comparing your life to others'
It's hard to be generous in any way if you're consumed with the jealousy, anxiety, and unnecessary stress that comes from comparing yourself with others. Compare, and despair, as they say. (And that goes for scrolling through someone's swimsuit shots from their week in the Keys.) Unless you do something useful with the negative buzz of comparison, all it does is drag you down. Instead, you have to become aware of your own habits and be honest with yourself about them.
Get to know what triggers your comparison troll. Set some rules about how often you go into those situations (ahem, no Facebook after 10 p.m.?). Look at the choices you're making in your life right now, because therein lies the real issue.
Let giving ease your comparing. Upping your giving and dialing down on your comparing will reinforce each other. The more you give, the better you'll feel about your place in the world and the work you're doing in it. The less you compare, the more energy you'll free up for activities that are much, much more fun. And remember, enjoying your life? That's a non-negotiable.
Learn more useful information about stress and your health! Order meQuilibrium's new book, meQuilibrium: 14 Days to Cooler, Calmer, and Happier, co-authored by meQuilibrium CEO Jan Bruce, Adam Perlman, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, and Andrew Shatté, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer.