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The Hidden Toll: How Stress Impacts Women Entrepreneurs and How Daily Small Movement Actions (SMAs) Can Help | A 3-Step Plan

As women business owners, stress is a part of our daily lives. We often juggle multiple roles and face unique challenges as entrepreneurs, mothers, wives, partners, caregivers, home managers, mentors, leaders, philanthropists, volunteers, and more.  

The pressure to succeed, both external and that which we put on ourselves, combined with societal expectations and balancing personal responsibilities, can lead to significant stress and even burnout.

Being aware of when we are feeling stress and consciously creating ways to effectively manage stress is a core strategy to enhancing our overall well-being. One of the most powerful practices to manage and relieve stress, get centered, and create room and clarity in your mind is consciously increasing your daily movement.

In this article, I’m going to share a three-step plan to increase what I call small movement actions, or SMAs, along with a list of movement ideas to get you started with life-changing practice that will help you reduce stress while doing wonders for your mental and physical well-being. 


The Impact of Stress on Women Entrepreneurs


We hear and talk so much about stress that it tends to get brushed aside as just a normal part of our daily lives. While stress is normal and part of being human, how we respond to stressors in our lives can have a big impact on our overall well-being. 


Stress is more than just a sensation; it triggers a physiological response in our bodies. While stress can sometimes be a motivating force, pushing us to act or perform better, it can also cause severe consequences if it is ongoing and left unmanaged. 

Consequences such as: 

  1. Physical, Mental, and Emotional Health Issues

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), repeated stress triggers can push your body’s “fight or flight” response to get stuck in the on position creating overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that per the APA, can disrupt almost all of your body’s processes.

As a result, your health can suffer serious consequences including feeling fatigued, irritability, inability to concentrate, lack of sleep, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, sleep issues, heart disease, heart attacks, and the list goes on. 

In addition, our immune system also suffers, making us more susceptible to colds and other ailments. You may even recall that you caught a cold, developed a rash, or got a migraine during a period of high stress.

2.                Decreased Productivity

Stress can also prompt a decrease in our overall productivity. Studies have shown that stress can impair cognitive function, reducing creativity, focus, and clarity, while impacting our decision-making ability, efficiency, and productivity. In addition, because stress can also interrupt your sleep, your short- and long-term cognitive function can also be negatively affected.  

Most of us can remember a time when we experienced stress and had trouble focusing for long periods of time and/or sleeping at night. The lack of sleep can lead to further exhaustion, an even foggier mind, headaches, and other illnesses that can take us out of commission for days or even weeks, severely interrupting our productivity and business. 

3.                Strained Relationships: 

Let’s face it, we’ve all taken out our stress on our loved ones, partners, kids, friends, and even team members, at one point or another. This can manifest in a variety of ways such as: 

·        Snapping at someone for no apparent reason

·        Having a disproportionate reaction to something

·        Pulling away from the people we love or care about 

·        Shutting down and not effectively communicating

·        Putting others down or downplaying their contributions

·        Being distracted and not paying attention to our loved ones

·        Putting yourself down and developing a negative outlook

These reactions to stress have the potential to add even more stress to our lives through increasing strain, growing resentment, and inciting alienation from the people we care about the most in our lives. 


No one wants to experience any of these consequences. 


Here’s how movement can help keep stress under control while keeping us happier, healthier, and more productive. 


What Is Movement?

Let's begin with the difference between movement and exercise. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, they don't mean the same thing.


Exercise is goal-oriented, programmed activity. The goal could be to lose weight, increase muscle mass, improve your performance, or any other specific outcome.


Movement is physical activity other than what the body does to keep itself alive at rest (NASM). This includes everything from doing the dishes and walking the dog to playing with your kids or gardening.


Not all movement is exercise, but all exercise is movement (Faulkner et al., 2015; NASM)


Small movement actions (SMAs) are bite-sized actions that you can easily incorporate into your life without interruption while bringing greater health and happiness.  


In this article, we’ll be talking about movement, and in particular, SMAs.  


The Benefits of Movement

Movement has shown to have a wide range of benefits for our overall well-being, including a correlation with positive emotions due to increasing feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine.

Studies have shown that increasing movement can increase an array of brain functions and delay neurodegeneration (Cassihas et al., 2016; NASM), improve sleep (Wang & Boros, 2019; NASM), shift your mood, and increase stress tolerance, among many other benefits (NASM).

In addition, movement can provide opportunities for connecting with your kids, partner, parents, friends, your community, and most importantly, yourself. Plus, by joining movement classes, teams, groups, or leagues, or even just by joining your besties for a weekly walk, you’ll be increasing your social activity which has also been shown to reduce stress and improve emotional well-being.

Moreover, movement has even been shown to increase the likelihood of developing a sense of purpose and increasing meaning in one’s life (NASM).


The 3-Step SMA Plan

Increasing your movement begins with small movement actions that can add up to big progress in reducing stress and improving your overall health and well-being. 


Here’s a step-by-step plan to increase your SMAs along with some ideas to get you started on the road to reduced stress and a happier, healthier, and productive life. 


Step # 1 | Make the choice.

The first step is to make the conscious choice to move more. 


Step # 2 | Move more by taking more small movement actions (SMAs).

The second choice is to move more every chance you get. Take every rational opportunity to increase your movement.


Step # 3 | Remember that movement adds up. 

The third step is to keep in mind that the objective is to increase your movement to improve your overall well-being, and remember that at the end of the day, all movement adds up. 


That’s it! 


How to Increase Your Movement 

If you’re ready and have made the choice to start moving more but aren't sure where to start. Here are some fun ideas to kick-off your more movement inspiration! 

  • Go for a stroll instead of a scroll. Hop off social media and hop into a pair of sneakers and head out for a walk. 

  • Park further away than you normally would. Seems like it’s nothing but if you do this every day, you’re adding in extra steps and extra movement. 

  • Make all your calls, walking calls. As soon as you pick up your phone, pick your ass up off the chair and walk. If you can walk outside, it is even better. Add steps/mileage tracking up to make it even more interesting. You’ll be delighted at the additional mileage you gain as you get business done while getting in some bonus exercise. 

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. 

  • Turn on your favorite playlist and dance. Yeah, just dance, at least once a day. 

  • Go for a walk with your kids, dog, and partner every day. Make it your family thing to do together and talk about your day. 

  • Go for a walk with your parents. 

  • Take time to play with your kids every day—soccer, tag, flag football, hide-and-seek, active video games such as Beat Saber or Just Dance, among others. 

  • Turn your backyard into a fun movement playground. Install a tetherball or basketball hoop, draw a hopscotch court, put out some goal posts for a mini soccer field, or gather popular games such as cornhole, frisbee, or paddleball etc. 


Choose your favorite games and hop on Amazon to get started. The idea is to have fun outdoors by yourself or with your kids, partner, friends, neighbors, etc.!

  • Have a daily impromptu or scheduled dance session with your kids. If you’re stressed and you forget, your kids will remember and get you to boogie with them. 


If you don’t think these small movement actions are enough, think about how all of these actions and movements will add up at the end of the week! You'll feel better, reduce your stress, and improve your overall well-being.


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