3 Ways Your Friendships Can Help You Conquer Stress in a Super-Charged World
Best-selling author, podcast host, and empowerment coach Alexandra Jamieson knows a little something about reinvention. Less than a decade ago, she was most famous for being devoutly vegan and for co-creating and co-starring in the Oscar-nominated documentary Super Size Me with her then-husband. But then came a heartbreaking divorce, followed by a return to an omnivorous lifestyle that generated an avalanche of internet hate. In order to restore order, calm, and meaning to her suddenly upturned life, Jamieson turned to her friends. Here, she shares how you can also find strength in your female friendships—and channel it to lead a more fulfilling life.
“I’m starting to feel guilty that I’m not ‘an activist,’ but my time and energy are tapped out right now,” a client said to me recently.
As a success and embodiment coach, I’ve guided hundreds of women over the last 17 years to their version of a successful, vibrant life. My client, a top performing saleswoman in her company and mom to two boys, wasn't the first to express this feeling of overwhelm—and she wouldn't be the last.
If you keep even a side-eye on the daily avalanche of news, you may have felt an abnormal amount of stress this past year while watching how politics, the economy, and humanitarian issues have played out. What’s a high-vibe woman to do? Can you keep up your energy to march for justice, debate the latest in politics (IRL and on Twitter), and feel good about your full moon rituals and green-juice budget? Can you care about being fit and fab while confidently standing as a feminist? How can we maintain the momentum of showing up, speaking up, and caring about the topics that pull at our heartstrings?
How can we maintain the momentum of showing up, speaking up, and caring about the topics that pull at our heartstrings?
Growing up with hippie-activist parents on an old organic farm outside of Portland, Oregon, helped me see the matrix of how self-care, political activism, and personal success can, and must, all weave together. One of my first memories is riding on the back of my mom’s Schwinn 3-speed as she cycled around town, the front basket stuffed with political pamphlets protesting the local nuclear power plant. It was the mid-70s, Roe v. Wade had just passed in the Supreme Court, and my parents watched Billie Jean King triumph for womankind in the Battle of the Sexes (the real event, not the movie).
My folks were on the front lines of political change, making local issues their own and weaving action into our daily lives. What we ate mattered. We talked about current events and our values over dinner. Dad was a progressive teacher, creating one of the first alternative-education programs for delinquent high school kids in Oregon, while Mom, the ultimate artist-hippie, hosted an organic gardening radio show for 10 years and kept my siblings and me home from school on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday before it was a holiday—because she believed it should be. She encouraged us to live life by our own values and rues, and I’m living those lessons with my own four-year-old podcast, Her Rules Radio.
The truth is that being hopeful and making a daily commitment to bringing more light to the world doesn’t mean you need to deny uncomfortable realities.
The truth is that being hopeful and making a daily commitment to bringing more light to the world doesn’t mean you need to deny uncomfortable realities. Your focus on fitness, crystal rituals, and positive mindset tools are actually the nourishment your politically leaning heart needs to persist. After all, the personal is political, and if the wage gap is still keeping our bank balances low, how can we, for instance, support our local yoga studio, run by socially minded women of color?
This is an extraordinary time filled with opportunity and truth. It’s also a frightening time of sweeping change and uncertainty.
Here are 3 powerful ways you can keep calm and carry on (doing good) by integrating wellness into your life.
Circle up with other powerful women
When we receive support and validation from other women we feel stronger, safer, and more empowered to make bold moves in our lives and the world. There’s good science for that: Women create biochemical magic when they share emotions with each other. We release oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone, when we laugh or cry with other women. So getting emotional in a group of girlfriends actually strengthens the group and feels good!
Recently I went to a fabulous vegan chili night hosted by my friend Yael, an ex-CIA officer, with a group of incredible women in Brooklyn. Hailing from the worlds of government, journalism, tech, real estate, and education, each woman grabbed a bowl of chili, circled the chairs, and stated her desires for the year ahead.
Women create biochemical magic when they share emotions with each other.
It felt incredible to witness such accomplished women express the same hopes and fears that have bubbled up when I've hosted similar women’s circles around the country. Stress from growing their careers in an unstable economy, worries about children in a social-media-fueled world, and frustration with changing immigration policy all came up.
I asked how they had been handling the stress of the last year, with politics, safety, and financial security at the top of their minds. “I’m eating more—gained 10 pounds!” replied one woman who worked in the Obama administration. “I drank way too much over the holidays. Trying to get along with my conservative family over vacation required a bottle of wine every night,” said one woman who works for a well-known venture capital group.
By the end of the evening, each woman had stated her desire for 2018. After sharing—out loud—her vision, each woman reported feeling more relaxed, stronger, and re-inspired to stay focused on her values. The same can happen during group fitness classes, running clubs, or book clubs where you talk, share, or cheer each other on. Teachers who offer sharing circles at the start or end of class enable this powerful chemical reaction to take place. Seeking out and creating these conscious communities is a proven way to handle stress.
Watch your words, honor your feelings
There are times when negativity is a positive. Of course, women have been warned away from expressing their frustrations and grievances, for fear of being labeled “angry,” “difficult,” or just a plain old "bitch." The fear of these negative labels has created a dam of silence, behind which stories of sexual abuse and inequality built up, finally bursting forth into the #MeToo movement.
Even though we've been taught to raise our vibrations with good thoughts, words, and deeds, sometimes a good, old-fashioned “bitch session” might be what you need. Defensive pessimism is a helpful mindset some people need to anticipate possible dangers ahead and make plans B, C, and even D in case life goes sideways.
When people know who you truly are and how you feel, then they can be authentic friends who stand by you.
Speaking your truth and honoring your feelings can be misconstrued as venting, but it can also be the best way to finally share your honest experience with people who support you. Take the risk. When people know who you truly are and how you feel, then they can be authentic friends who stand by you.
Once your truth is shared, and your experience witnessed, you will be able to take positive action in your life and reframe past troubles as opportunities for growth.
Call others in instead of calling them out
As we witness the redefining of race, gender, sexuality, and embodiment across our culture, we can inadvertently put others through a “purity test,” judging whether they’re “woke enough” to be part of our own revolution.
While we all strive to be more compassionate with ourselves as we grow, heal, and achieve our fitness goals, I believe we must strive to be compassionate for those who stand on the opposite side of the ideological divide. Hold compassion in your heart for those who have different life experiences to share, even as you speak your truth to power.
Hold compassion in your heart for those who have different life experiences to share, even as you speak your truth to power.
Being hopeful and investing in yoga and new moon rituals doesn’t mean you’re blithely turning a blind eye to the world or believe that everything is fine. Dedicating yourself to hope and compassion means facing reality and bringing all of your practices, skills, and heart to the work that still needs to be done.
Remember that client who felt too overwhelmed by her life to “be an activist”? I helped her see that she is raising two young boys to be compassionate and creative, which is part of her contribution to the world. As we reframed her parenting style as an activist stance, she felt re-connected to her values. Her guilt about “not doing enough” dropped away, and her commitment to her self-care skyrocketed.
In order for us to persist in our goals and achieve personal and collective transformation, we must be honest about our desires and feelings—and use that energy to move forward towards dreams and visions.
Remember: Your social life is one of the most important—and most overlooked—aspects of self-care. Plus, here's how the food you eat can affect your mental health.
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