Stress Management & The Keys to Self-Love by Elizabeth Schieffelin

When I moved to Shanghai six years ago, I had no idea what a fast-paced city I was arriving in. With a population of 27 million people and intensive growth, I felt like I was trying to paddle board through big wave surfing territory. As I’ve spent more time here, and developed tools to 'surf', my life has turned into a beautiful adventure, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

One of the biggest ongoing challenges I’ve experienced as a consequence of Shanghai's speed, is the high level of stress from the people here. Stress comes in all forms. No matter where in the world you are, whether you’re traveling for your job, or managing a growing family, stress is present. Every time we leave our homes and cross the street, check our email inboxes, and digest meals, our bodies experience stress. In my personal life, with my businesses and health coaching practice, I’m constantly reflecting on two big questions: 1) how can I reduce the stress in my life? 2) how can I more efficiently manage the inevitable stress that I experience? 

Dealing with stress is an essential skill we can work with to thrive. A simple way I offset the negative effects of a hectic lifestyle is to practice small acts of self-love. Self-love is a phrase that seems to be quite overused, so I’ll clarify how I define this concept. For me, self-love means taking care of my needs and prioritizing my own well-being and joy. Self-care is not settling for less than what my highest self deserves. By practicing self-love, we can ultimately take time for ourselves, slow down our busy lives, and treat ourselves, so we can live more healthily and happily.

Here are 3 simple ways to practice self-love:

  1. Consume food that nourishes you!

    Get yourself a nourishing breakfast that can serve as food for your brain, and give you the energy to start the day. Whether it’s a glass of warm water with lemon, an avocado smoothie, or a homemade baked good, listen to what your body needs. In my experience, it’s actually less about what I eat, and more about the intention behind it. The process of preparing food and savoring the smells and tastes is absolute self-love in action. As I make my morning green smoothie, I smile at the foods blending, and remind myself that I deserve this, and I love myself. I try not to multi-task during breakfast, no matter how tempting it may be to check my phone or plug in a podcast. Jon Kabat-Zinn calls it “voluntary simplicity’, and starting the morning on this note can shift the course of the entire day.

  2. Believe in yourself with intentional positive thoughts.

    It’s been proven in countless studies that positivity can boost productivity and happiness. As humans, we have the choice to believe just about anything - whether it’s limiting or empowering. For example, I can choose to believe that I’m getting stronger in my yoga practice, or that I’m not able to improve. Affirmations are a powerful practice for strengthening the positive belief muscles. Try writing down some of your strengths and keep reminding yourself about them! It’ll keep you feeling good for the rest of the week. I use a whiteboard marker and write an affirmation on my mirror every week, which I recite in my head as I brush my teeth every morning and evening.

  3. Set boundaries and learn to love the word "no."

    This has been my biggest practice this year! Being a kind and helpful person doesn’t mean saying “yes” to others all the time. Be clear with your boundaries and learn when to say “no” to work that’ll physically or emotionally tax you, or add harmful stress to your life. Having ambition can be great, but when I've exceeded my limit, I can’t do all that I’ve taken on well, and I often end up suffering from high stress. Make sure to only say “yes” to that which feels right. This is definitely easier said than done, so take it one decision at a time, one day at a time. Essentialism's author Greg Mckeown explains that the most effective essentialists evaluate a far greater number of opportunities than the average person, but say yes to far fewer of the opportunities. In fact, as a stress reduction exercise, I encourage you to say yes to reading his book - it has been a game changer for me in stress and life management.

In addition to daily practices of self love, going on retreat is a powerful experience that allows for deep reflection and realignment with how you’re doing. Although my daily meditation practice feels like a mini retreat, I’m committed to attending at least one extended retreat every year for self-reflection and de-stressing. I see it as one of the best preventative medicines available for self love and care. If any of this message resonates with you, I hope that you’ll join my sister Susy and me this October for a deeply healing experience in Bali!

We’ll be at the magical Blue Karma in Ubud for our Divine Feminine, Yoga & Sound Healing Retreat October 7th to 13th. We hope to see you there!