Stress, and How to Handle It – by Raja Jesrina Arshad, Co-Founder & CEO of PurelyB

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1. What are the common symptoms of stress? What should women in Malaysia look out for?

Some of the most common symptoms women need to look out for include:

  • Sudden acne breakouts, allergy attacks, rashes and eczema
  • Feeling tired, weak and low energy all the time, even having trouble sleeping (which makes you even more tired!)
  • Easily agitated and frustrated, overreacting to minor and petty situations.
  • Sudden weight gain or weight loss without changes to diet
  • Frequent headaches and health issues
  • Drastic appetite changes – when you’re stressed, you may find yourself either with no appetite at all or constantly hungry no matter how much you eat. You also find yourself raiding the fridge in the middle of the night.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to acknowledge your unhealthy stress levels and how best to manage them.

2.  How does stress affect you personally?

It affects me very differently today compared to 2-3 years ago when I first started PurelyB. Back then, I was navigating through an intense fast-paced journey of entrepreneurship and pressure from shareholders, team members & stakeholders for the very first time. I didn’t know how to balance it all.

I’ve always been an optimist, but the overwhelming stress back then used to overpower me and negativity would seep in. It affected my mood and energy levels overall. I fell sick quite easily!

Today however, with the help of mindfulness and meditation, I always look at stressful situations from a positive perspective.

I now understand why the situation happened in the first place – and how it’s a good learning experience which will help me be a better person, leader, entrepreneur and friend, and make my business stronger.

Stars cannot shine without darkness. You have to go through tough times before you can achieve greatness and make amazing things happen. It’s a natural part of the journey, to gain the experience and lessons you need to help you climb greater heights.

Having this outlook on life has helped a lot in how I approach problems. I now never give up and only see positivity in the outcome. I’m also driven with passion and sheer determination to want to overcome the hurdles and get closer to achieving my dreams and goals.

3. As a founder of PurelyB what kind of stress do you face everyday? How do you manage it?

As a founder I deal with multiple stresses everyday! Haha, working in a fast-paced startup, it’s a high-pressured environment, especially with a mission like ours where we want to make a positive impact and help improve people’s lives.

There are stresses from the expectations and targets I set for myself (I’m a perfectionist!), and for the team and the company. There’s also the expectations and demands of investors, shareholders, customers, team members, not to mention crisis management when anything goes wrong.

Those are just some of the daily stresses I deal with at work. They will always be there, and is just a natural part of being an entrepreneur. I thrive on the stress, as it pushes me to be better, but I don’t let it overwhelm or overpower me.

I’ve learnt in the past 2 years that meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, and prayer helps strengthen myself to be able to deal with any stresses that come my way and view them positively rather than negatively.

Prayer is also a form of meditation, and doing them both regularly on a daily basis helps put me in a calm and relaxed state. That’s when I’m able to focus with “big picture” clarity and can quickly solve any issues that may crop up in the day.

I don’t dwell on the problems, I immediately just try to learn from the situation and work out a solution so we can keep moving forward and keep improving.

4. What do you think are the common causes of stress in Malaysia?

Definitely work is one of the key causes of stress. There are pressures in the work environment, overworking, and on top of that financial & family pressures. It was even reported in Financial Times (FT.com) that Malaysia has one of the worst cases of workplace depression and poor mental health in the world, because it’s seen as “taboo” and is rarely acknowledged and addressed.

That all needs to change, especially as improving mental health and mindfulness is one of the optimal ways to manage and overcome stress.

(Source: www.facebook.com/NicChungPhotography)

5.  What should Malaysian women do to overcome stress?

Meditation, yoga and breathing exercises are one of the most effective ways to put your body and mind in a calm, peaceful state. It doesn’t make you avoid the stressful situation but instead allows you to slow down, relax your mind, and examine your inner self and situation from a different perspective with a sense of honesty and positivity, letting you see the bigger picture.

Do away with negativity, self-judgement and criticism. Meditating regularly for just 5-10 mins a day, even when you’re not stressed is the best way to strengthen your body and mindset to be able to manage stress well and even motivate you to make healthy changes in your life.

The healing power of soothing meditation music with binaural beats have also been proven to help ease stress, reduce negativity, and even help encourage deep relaxing sleep. This has helped me immensely and I would recommend everyone to start practicing it.

  • Exercise Regularly and just keep active e.g. walking, yoga, swimming as it helps to release positive stress-busting endorphins and help reduce anxiety and depression. It’ll also help you sleep better which is important to rest your body and reduce stress-levels too.
  • Take Care of Your Diet & Nutrition: A healthy, balanced diet with plenty of nutritious energy-boosting ingredients helps maintain the immune system in times of stress. An unhealthy diet (especially one filled with processed foods, preservatives, chemicals, processed sugar, caffeine..etc) will contribute to illness, low-energy & fatigue, stress and depression. Well-nourished bodies can cope more effectively.
  • Mindfulness: Similar to meditation, strengthening your mindset and improving your mindfulness will make a huge difference in how you’re able to think more positively about your life, and prevent you from getting stressed and upset over minor matters and change your perspective on things.
  • Talk to your family or friends: It’s not healthy to keep thoughts that are frustrating you all bottled up inside. It will only worsen your stress levels and anxiety. It makes a difference when you can let it out and share your thoughts and worries with close family & friends. They offer comfort and may even help find you a solution that you didn’t think of.
  • Reduce intake of alcohol, drugs, and caffeine: These substances will only worsen stress levels in the long-run, despite the temporary relief they may offer.

What are unhealthy ways of dealing with stress?

  • Too much coffee & caffeine – whilst caffeine can be a quick fix to boost energy and reduce fatigue, they can actually make a stressful situation worse as it can cause irritability, restlessness and nervousness
  • Smoking & drinking in excess – These may be seen as a way to numb or relieve stress, however these two habits will cause even more stress and harm to your body in the long run.
  • Emotional & stress eating may seem like a harmless way to deal with stress, however it can lead to blood sugar imbalances that make stressful situations overwhelming to deal with, and can also lead to excessive weight and health issues.

6. What are the dangers of not managing stress? 

We all experience stress to some degree. It’s normal, and in healthy doses, can help push us to reach our full potential.

However, having too much stress, and not knowing how to manage it can undermine your physical and mental health. You’re also at risk of developing a range of illnesses, including depression, digestive issues, cancer and heart disease.

People often underestimate the root cause of a lot of our health issues, and how mental health and stress play a large part in our overall happiness, wellbeing and vitality.

www.facebook.com/NicChungPhotography

7. What would you say was the most stressful time of your life? How did you overcome it?

There have been a few key moments in my life where my stress and anxiety levels hit an all time high, but the most recent was back in 2016, about a year into running my business PurelyB.

As a first-time entrepreneur, I was experiencing a period of intense growth and speed, after we had just secured our first round of funding from Venture Capitalists. It was extremely stressful trying to manage meeting the demands of stakeholders, achieving our targets and goals, whilst trying to keep the fast-expanding team happy and stable. At the same time, I was also trying to ensure I did not neglect my family, loved ones and other parts of my life.

What helped me immensely during this high-pressured time was practicing mindfulness, meditation and prayer. Prayers have always been consistent but in the past I only explored mindfulness and meditation here and there, never going into it properly.

Once I practiced regularly, almost on a daily basis, with guided meditation and sound healing sessions, it helped me look at things differently. I started to look at the bigger picture positively.

I entered a state of relaxation of calm, where I know the problems or stressful situations are still there, but I know I can easily overcome them and work out the solution.

I was able to focus with more clarity and developed an approach to the business which helped me become a better boss, leader and entrepreneur. To this day, I’m continuously working on improving every day, never resting on my laurels.

Cleaning up my diet further and exercising more during this time also helped me cleanse out toxins and chemicals in my body. It improved my energy levels and overall feel-good factor.

When you’re stressed you tend to let your healthy diet slip at times, forgetting that it plays a factor in the healing process. Mindfulness helps you hone in on what’s really important and get back to your stronger, healthier self.

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Khairie Apirin
Hi, I'm Khairie, the editor. When I'm not writing, I'm at the gym, or trying to adult (unsuccessfully). I love a good story though, hence this site. If you've got a story you'd like to share, come - tell me. I'd love to hear about it.
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