Statistics show that Americans are experiencing the highest levels of stress in over a decade thanks to varying factors including work, the economy, health and uncertainity about the future. 8-in-10 Americans say they experience stress frequently or sometimes, with younger populations
If you work in the technology sector, that stress is compounded by the rapid pace of innovation and continuing issues around representation, inclusion, equality and work/life balance. And technology itself amplifies these stresses with digital, always-online lifestyles impacting our attention, sleep and self-esteem in adverse ways.
There are different kinds of stress - from acute stress which is short-term and may be good for you in small doses, to episodic stress which is recurring or persistent enough to become harmful, and chronic stress which is grinding, never-ending stress that can lead to allostatic load and minimize your ability to cope with uncertainity in the future.
Stress can be detrimental to your physical and physiological health. The Science of Stress shows that the human body is geared for adaptive responses where perceived threats causes the release of hormones (like adrenaline and cortisol) that can elevate flight-or-fight responses or persist that heightened state of alert well beyond when the stressor occured.
The bottom line is that we all face diverse stressors (stress triggers) in our lives that we may not always be conscious of. And the intensity or type of our reactions (stress responses) to these stressors drives bodily changes that could lead to physical and mental health disorders if left unchecked.
Self care is key to any stress management strategy because it puts focus on intentional activities that we consciously participate in to improve our physical, emotional and mental well-being.
If we grow awareness of the problem, and provide meaningful toolkits and strategies for individuals to monitor and manage their stress, we increase our ability to lead happy, healthy and productive lives.
While I have been in the technology industry for over two decades, it wasn’t until early 2017 that I began to pay attention to the need for self-care. Or rather, it was the first time I began to consciously think about burnout, stress and strategies I could employ to help me control or cope with the numerous stresses we all face today.
The downside (if you think about it that way) is that there is no silver bullet. Self-care has become a never-ending journey of try/fail/learn/iterate cycles in mindfulness and introspection. The upside is the realization that with each story shared, and each cycle navigated, we can achieve two critical goals. First, we can begin strategizing in our own lives so we are more intentional and proactive in dealing with stress. Second, we can begin destigmatizing conversations on mental health so others are empowered to share their own stories and strategies openly. It is only then that we will truly understand the scale of the challenge, and institute resources and programs across our work, home, school and community lives to drive change with impact.
In the past few years, I started doing talks on self-care in various forums - from intimate events focused on under-represented communities (safe spaces for discussion) to keynotes at developer conferences (for awareness). And I’ve started exploring ways to broaden the conversation by using analogies that would resonate with different audiences. It has been incredibly fulfilling because of the many genuine conversations this has sparked - not only have I felt less alone in dealing with specific issues, but I have been able to benefit from (and build on) the insights and experiences of others to help drive my own self-care journey.
This site and blog sprang from the realization that it was worth collecting those stories and experiences in one place for recall, reflection and as resources that might benefit others.
I am patient zero for this effort. And my hope is, that in finding ways to help myself, I will be able to help others - or better still, motivate others to help themselves.