Pearl Stone Partners

Maintaining Composure and Managing Stress

By Courtney Schmidt (Alpha, DePauw University), Managing Partner, Pearl Stone Partners

In spring 2020 I found myself inundated with the phrases “in these unprecedented times,” “out of an abundance of caution” and “the new normal.” They were everywhere. We used them at work, they were in the news, they were even in commercials. It was a time of rapid change and uncertainty. Over the last year, those phrases evolved from anxiety-inducing to overused, to the point that they have almost lost their meaning.

I do not have answers to any of those questions. But I have spent some time reflecting on the concept of composure. Composure is a state of feeling or being calm and in control of oneself. At a time when most everything was operating outside of my sphere of influence and my sphere of control, I leaned into the idea that I could at least take action to foster composure.

My meditation game has never been strong. I procrastinated each day until I ran out of time, and I made endless excuses. Forbes has reported the neurological benefits of meditation, including improved concentration and attention. The Mayo Clinic has found that meditation not only has a mental benefit but can also manifest a physical benefit in helping manage symptoms of a variety of conditions. Check out these tips from Women’s Health magazine about how to start a meditation practice.

Quality sleep supports memory function, mood, motivation, judgement and even how we perceive events and the world around us. The American Psychological Association writes about the connection between stress and poor sleep. I’ve discovered a podcast by Kathryn Nicolai to help with sleep. Called “Nothing Much Happens,”  the podcast tells “bedtime stories for adults.” In the “bedtime stories,” truly, nothing much happens; this helps calm the brain so the listener can fall asleep faster. This podcast may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I can’t recommend it enough!

Finally, I found that I can do my best when I feel organized. (Maybe it is an element of being prepared, maybe it is an element of faking it until I make it?) Whether it is to-do listing, bullet journaling or reducing clutter, everyone has their own organizational method. My recommendation for managing stress and maintaining composure is to not slack in your personal organizational method. Truly, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

There are countless other ways to establish wellness routines, manage stress and prioritize self-care. Explore tips from the American Heart Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Vogue magazine.

Undoubtedly, some of the changes wrought by COVID-19 are here to stay; others will likely fade into memory as more time passes. Regardless, I plan to keep my stress-busting tools at hand. It took time to develop some of these habits – and my brain is still very easily distracted during meditation. But by maintaining these habits, I have been rewarded with better sleep, a clearer and calmer mind, and a sense of peace about what I can (and cannot) control. Cliché as the saying is, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I encourage you, whether at home or at work, to carve out time for your own composure habits!