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spike bullet September 2004 - Stress Busters:  Managing Stress in the Workplace

Managing Stress in the Workplace
Resources (links, books, articles, humor)

color bulletManaging Stress in the Workplace

This article was inspired by a recent workshop we attended with Dr. Leonard Mees, author of Get a Life, America! Dr. Mees is a medical doctor who is devoting his life to helping people live healthier lifestyles and understand the damage that stress can do to the body.

He mentioned that stress is as damaging to the heart as cocaine is!!  Thatís quite a serious concept and he knows what heís talking about.  For more details about this, read his article (in the Articles section) that explains why he says that.

Now that we have your attention, here are some suggestions for preventing the damaging effects of the inherent stresses of modern life.  

You don't have to do everything listed here.  Just try one or a few things and see how they work for you.  The more you do eventually, the calmer you will be, the healthier you will be and the more you will be able to handle.   

Attitude

Make a choice to get up every day feeling excited, grateful for being alive and full of energy for the day ahead.

Acknowledge the good things in your life. Those could be your family, your partner, your work, your hobbies, your friends, your enthusiasm for sports, your pets.

What is it that really makes you feel better?  Let that be the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing on your mind when you go to sleep at night.

You can choose not to watch the bad news on television. You can choose not to worry about the worldís problems, your neighborís problems or your bossí problems or even your own problems.

The Fish Philosophy provides some great tips for how to have a positive outlook. One of the suggestions "Choose Your Attitude" suggests that when we choose to be happy and set our outlook to be positive, the world greats us with a smile. Try it.

The next time asks, "How are you?" reply with "Iím absolutely, positively spectacular!" You will be quite pleasantly surprised at the reactions you get.

Meditation

Meditation helps us BE in the present moment. You can meditate in the shower, at home before work in the morning or whenever you need to gain some peace in your life.  Starting to meditate for just a few minutes every morning before going to work changed my life; that was about 15 years ago.  I quickly found that I was more able to face the day in a more balanced way and it continues to provide me with a good start for every day.

Some basic methods to try:

  1. Sit with your feet flat on the floor (shoes off).
  2. Take a few deep breaths and concentrate on just breathing.  Or, you can visual a peaceful place that makes you feel calm.
  3. If thoughts or worries come into your mind, gently ask them to wait until later.

Even a few minutes of meditating can help you relax, lower your adrenaline levels, reduce your heart rate and reduce your blood pressure. More practice may be needed to keep your mind from being filled with "chatter."

This is a skill that is well worth learning.

Remember, the past is already done and cannot be changed.  The future is yet to be.  The only reality is the present moment and we have a choice about how to spend our present moment.  Meditation helps us focus on the present moment.

Our guarantee: Try meditating for a few minutes every day for 2 weeks.  If you are not 100% completely satisfied that your life is calmer, you will receive a refund for the purchase price of this article.

Music

Along with meditation, soothing music helps reduce stress.  

A true story: some years ago, the radio in my car broke so I took it into the dealer for repair.  Somehow, the radio got "lost" and I was without it for about 18 months.  I was forced to listen to my own thoughts as I drove around.  Eventually, the dealer found a  comparable replacement.  By then, I decided that I liked the quiet so  I bought some soothing music on tape and gave up listening to the news and raucous music that had been my previous habit.

Over time, I graduated to a CD player in a new car and still listen to the soothing sounds of water, birds and violins in the car.  Dealing with the traffic on the Los Angeles freeways for many years actually became bearable simply because of that soothing music.   

Exercise

Exercise is a great way to help the body integrate.  Just 30 minutes a day can haveComputer stress dramatic affect.  

You donít have to join a gym to exercise.  Simple things like walking up or down the stairs at work instead of riding the elevator make a big difference in how you feel.

For those who spend a lot of time at work sitting or working with computers, itís really important to stretch occasionally, breathe deeply; relax your hands, arms and fingers; relax your eyes and move your body instead of sitting slouched over in front of the keyboard for hours.

Take a walk around the block after you get home in the evening.  Do some push-ups or sit-ups.  Ride that bike that has dust on it.  Lift those weights.  Do whatever works for you even if itís just walking around your yard in the fresh air.

Physical exercise helps integrate the body with the mind (thoughts/intellect) and the heart (emotions/feelings).  When you have a problem to solve, one of the best remedies it simply take a walk even if itís just down the hall to the water cooler.  Often physical movement will help your mind get out of its rut and fresh ideas will appear.

Simple exercise practices can help prevent stress in your body and keep you much healthier overall.

Nutrition

Eating right is what your mother taught you, right?  Most of us have long since forgotten what we were supposed to eat for a balanced diet.  The current low carb craze has re-awakened the need to look at what and how we eat.  Fast food is great for an occasional meal, but is not designed to provide our bodies with the good nutrition it needs for long term good health.

Making meals yourself with fresh fruits and vegetables provides a start to good nutrition.  Eating vegetables is an important part of a good healthy lifestyle.  Dr. Atkins ó of Atkins Diet fame ó stresses that there are plenty of great vegetables that you have probably forgotten about.  And, there are plenty of low carb fruits, nuts, cheese and other foods that make great snacks without overdoing it.

Eating less processed sugar, less white flour and more reduced-carb meals provide great energy at a smoother level than the jolt our body gets from high-carb and sugar-rich snacks that leave us feeling hungry again within a short time.

Please note that each person must find a nutrition plan that works for them.  No one plan is right for everyone.

If you are not happy with your current weight or energy level, try making a change and see if you can find a better nutrition plan that fits your own individual needs.

Sleep

Many of us today are chronically sleep- deprived.  Getting a good nightís sleep might be a casualty of raising children, trying to keep up with work demands and just plain not understanding why it is so important.

Sleep provides rest for our physical body as well as rest for our busy mind and our busy emotions.  Most people need 7-8 good hours of sleep.

Staying up to watch the late evening news really isnít necessary.  What you see and hear there is mostly bad news, which can lead to nightmares and even less sleep.  So many people have to be up and going early in the morning that they miss the precious sleep that would help them fight off disease, viruses, colds and provide them with the strength to endure the many pressures that come at them from all sides.

Make a commitment to sleep whatever amount your body really needs.  If that is hard to do during the week, at the very least, allow yourself to indulge in sleeping late on the weekends.

Journalingmoving quill pen writing in a book

Writing in a diary or journal provides a way to express what we are feeling and over time, can provide great insight to what we need to know.  It also helps us focus on the present moment and hold off the pressures that seem to consume our time and our energy.

Some people discover they can write poetry or music.  Others find the answers to their problems appear magically on the paper in front of them or they find the computer keyboard starting to type out answers to their most distressing problems.

To start, take a few deep breaths and allow all the worries of the day to hold off while you write to yourself.  You may be surprised at what you learn about yourself.

Writing also helps you gain some valuable perspective on your problem.  If you are not sure where to start, try writing a letter to a friend, telling them what is going on in your life.  You will probably never send the letter; itís just a way to get you started.  Once started, you should be able to continue quite nicely on your own.

Listening

Listening is a great way to reduce stress.  Do you have a good friend who will listen to you without talking or giving advice?  If so, you are indeed blessed!

Sometimes, just explaining what our problem is to someone who listens gives us the ability to hear ourselves and find our own solution.  Talking also helps get the stress out of our brain into the light of day where it often doesnít seem so awful.  Combining a walk with a friend who listens while we talk through a problem can provide almost miraculous relief from stress.

Thereís a great poem, "Could You Just Listen?" (in the Articles section)  that says this much better than we can.

One thing that does not help is to use talking to someone else as a way of avoiding dealing with someone directly about an issue.  That only creates triangulation and can create even more problems. 

Prayer2 pilgrim children praying

For many people, prayer works and provides them with a sense of calm, peace, faith and hope.  We wonít attempt to explain or define prayer here.  Prayer is a very personal form of expression for each person.

Communication

Learning good communication skills gives us the ability to work out our issues with others.  It is actually amazing that so few people in the world. know how to communicate clearly, honestly or effectively.  It's no wonder we have so much conflict, confusion and outright war.  Often because we do not understand what the other person truly wants or needs.  

Communication takes many forms.  Dr. Mees describes three types:man and woman chatting over coffee

  1. Read my mind ó a passive/aggressive form where one person fails to communicate their wants or needs, and expects everyone else to read their mind.
  2. Aggressive ó a form that alienates people and prevents honest communication.
  3. Assertive ó a thoughtful, loving form that allows honest communication that is honest, vulnerable and allows the parties to see all sides of an issue.  At that point, they can come to a place of working out whatever is going on.

Learning to communicate what we need, what we want and what we expect puts us miles ahead in being able to resolve interpersonal issues.  

Since many of us feel the most stressed when we are not interacting well with someone we care about, the payback to learning how to communicate effectively is enormous.  It has saved business relationships, friendships, marriages, personal relationships and international relationships.  

Invest in some form of study that will help you learn better communication skills and you will find the value to you is 100 times the cost of whatever you spend. 

Self-Guided Imagery

A very simple technique is to allow your own mind to take you to a place you love, a vision of someone you care about or a place you want to visit.

If this appeals to you, put a small souvenir, talisman, picture or poster in your office that you can look at to trigger your self-guided moments of relaxation and joy.

Your journey may only take a few seconds or a few minutes but every time you take yourself away from the daily stress, you improve your overall health and well-being.

Some examples that I use: pictures of my family in my office, the splash screen on my e-mail program is a delightful picture of my 6-month old grandson laughing.  I also have some small colored stones in a dish from one of my favorite places, a couple small books of poetry with beautiful covers, a poster of a great group event that happened earlier this year and a small pink elephant.  When I look at them, they each provide a few moments of being present, rekindle good feelings and help keep stress away.

Many people have pictures of their loved ones, pets or favorite vacation spots. Windows XP provides a built-in screen saver feature where you can use your favorite photos for a slide show screensaver that will inspire you and take you away from the daily grind for a few minutes.

Love

This is surely one of the best stress relievers.  Feeling love and feeling loved generatefairy godmother sending love positive endorphins and allow all of your senses to feel better.

As the poets say, "love makes the world go around."  Hostile or angry work situations can make you physically ill.  

Being part of a fun, loving work group makes the day go faster, provides opportunities for personal growth and expression and allows the employees to function in a more healthy way.

If you work situation is not positive, itís time to look at your options.  Do you want to stay in a place that is not healthy or makes you sick?

More and more companies and organizations are realizing that the work environment has a great deal to do with an individualís health and well-being, which directly affects productivity and profits.

Laughter

"Laughter is the music of the gods" and "a laugh a day keeps the doctor away" are bothwoman dancing a jig excellent example of how important it is to have laughter in our life.  Like love, laughter creates positive endorphins and makes us feel better.

We have great fun every month finding fun items to include in our newsletter.  That takes away the pressure of the deadline that often looms large.  

At work, laughter is vitally important in helping people get along and see things in perspective.  A group that laughs together, stays together. 

Find appropriate ways to include humor and fun into your workplace and the benefits will be soon obvious.  People canít be angry and frustrated when they are laughing from the top of their head to the tips of their toes.

World Wide Web graphic  Internet Resources

book graphic  Books

  • Get a Life America!, Leonard R. Mees, Sabec Publishing, 2000.  ISBN: 0967550009
  • How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life, Tom Rath & Donald O. Clifton.  Gallup Press, 2004.  ISBN: 1595620036  
  • This Job Should Be Fun!: The New Profit Strategy for Managing People in Tough Times, Bob, Ph.D. Basso, Judi Klosek.   iUniverse, 2000.  ISBN: 0595141420
  • 301 Ways to Have Fun at Work, Dave Hemsath, Leslie Yerkes, Daniel McQuillen.  Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1997.  ISBN: 1576750191  

world wide web - articles  Articles

Downloadable article (PDF format 28 kb) - Stress is Killing Our Hearts by Leonard R. Mees

Could You Just Listen? - http://www.itstime.com/listen.htm 

Related newsletter articles:

smiley graphic  The Lighter Side  

  Soothing Music

These are CDs that we have recently purchased and highly recommend. 

About our resource links:  We do not endorse or agree with all the beliefs in these links.  We do keep an open mind about different viewpoints and respect the ability of our readers to decide for themselves what is useful.

spike bullet If you have comments about this month's topic, please let us know or take our newsletter survey.  If you would like to receive free notices of the new monthly topic, please sign up for our mailing list.  See our Privacy Policy

Page updated: March 31, 2014   
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