September 2004 - Stress Busters: Managing Stress in the Workplace
- Managing Stress in the Workplace
- Resources (links, books,
Stress in the Workplace
This article was inspired by a recent workshop we attended with Dr. Leonard Mees, author
of Get a Life, America!
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.
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,
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 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:
- Sit with your feet flat on the floor (shoes off).
- Take a few deep breaths and concentrate on just breathing. Or, you can
visual a peaceful place that makes you feel calm.
- If thoughts or worries come into your mind, gently ask them to wait
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.
Along with meditation, soothing music helps reduce stress.
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 is a great way to help the body integrate. Just 30 minutes a day
can have 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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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 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
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.
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.
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:
- Read my mind ó a passive/aggressive form where one person
fails to communicate their wants or needs, and expects everyone else to read
- Aggressive ó a form that alienates people and prevents honest
- 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
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
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.
This is surely one of the best stress relievers. Feeling love and feeling
loved generate 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 is the music of the gods" and "a laugh a day keeps
the doctor away" are both 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.
- Disclosure: We get a small
commission for purchases made via links to Amazon.
- 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
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:
These are CDs that we have recently purchased and highly
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