Posts Tagged ‘Controlling Stress’

Balancing Work and Family

July 28, 2016

Some days 24 hours just doesn’t seem to be enough. Between family priorities, practicing good self-care, and juggling work responsibilities, it’s easy to feel stressed. Even though we choose how to spend our time, our to-do list sometimes crowds out what gives us the greatest enjoyment.

Our lives naturally fall out of balance from time to time. When this occurs, we struggle to regulate our responsibilities and what we enjoy most. Taking the time to assess how things are going gives us insight to realign our priorities. Consider these questions when work and family are out of sync:

  • Do you regularly set aside time to spend with your family?
  • When you are with family, do you feel anxious or guilty about not working?
  • At work, what triggers you to feel like you should be spending more time with your family?

Strategies for Achieving Greater Balance

Limit distractions – There may be times of the day you are more distracted or procrastinate. How could you use your time more efficiently during this period? Perhaps limit the frequency you check emails or use social media.

Know your values – Write down what you desire most from life. What activities are important for you to do with your family? Determine what is non-negotiable in your life.

Say no – Practice saying no to tasks that fit outside your values. This helps you avoid the stress and tension of over-commitment.

Organize – Is your workspace messy? Your home cluttered? Taking opportunities to organize will save you time in the long run.

Remember, life will happen. When it does, things will typically fall out of balance for a time. Stay positive. Use the knowledge you’ve gained, take a step back, and assess. Proper planning is always a good start to swing an imbalanced life back into perspective.

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Tips for Relaxation

July 15, 2016

Stress is everywhere. Good or bad, without proper self-care, stress can feel like it might swallow us alive. Why? Any time a change occurs causing an adjustment or interruption in our life, stress results. We then produce physical, emotional, and mental responses. However, certain exercises can activate the body’s natural “relaxation response,” which slows breathing, lowers blood pressure, and makes for a calmer and healthier you.

RELAXATION BENEFITS

Relaxation techniques are helpful to reduce stress and improve our quality of life. We can even benefit our overall physical and mental health by reducing chronic illness, pain, anxiety, and depression. Practicing relaxation can also:

  • Improve concentration
  • Minimize feelings of anger
  • Lower heart and breathing rates
  • Reduce muscle tension and pain
  • Minimize fatigue symptoms

RELAXATION TECHNIQUES

Let’s practice on relaxation technique known as progressive muscle relaxation. To begin, slow tense and relax individual muscles. Start with your feet and work up your body to your head. This helps you become aware of muscle tension when you are stressed.

There are a variety of other relaxation techniques, such as meditation, art therapy, massage, yoga, and deep breathing. These activities can be done alone or with the help of another person. Consider downloading an app or free guided exercise. You may find one technique does not work well for you. Be persistent until you connect with one yielding results.

Relaxation techniques may not completely eradicate the stress in your life, but they can lighten your stress load. They are often low-cost, low-risk for injury, and easily performed almost anywhere. So, why not try it? There’s everything to gain and nothing to lose, except maybe some extra stress.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

May 24, 2016

Getting a full night’s sleep may seem like a luxury, but it’s important to your overall health. Sleep serves a critical role when it comes to your health and well-being – similar to eating, drinking and breathing. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night in order to feel rested and have the positive benefits associated with a full night’s sleep. When rested, we’re more alert, energetic, happier, and better able to function the next day. The benefits of good sleep also include improvements in short-term memory, productivity, sensitivity to pain, and the functioning of your immune system.

Tips for Better Sleep

If you have trouble falling asleep, there are a few tricks you can try to help you get the sleep your body needs.

  1. Set a regular sleep schedule and routine. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Having a bedtime routine lets your body know it’s time to go to sleep. Part of your routine may include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, listening to calming music, or dimming the lights.
  2. Limit naps to 20-30 minutes. If you nap, keep it early in the day. Napping late in the afternoon can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
  3. Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. Caffeine from food or drinks can disrupt sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep. And alcohol might help you fall asleep, but it will be restless sleep and you’re more likely to wake in the night.
  4. Take any medications that are stimulants in the morning. You can also ask your doctor to switch you to a non-stimulating alternative. Any drugs that make you drowsy should be taken in the evening.
  5. Avoid heavy meals before bed.  These can make you feel uncomfortable and keep you awake at night. However, if you feel too hungry to sleep, have a light snack.
  6. Avoid intense exercise within three hours of bedtime. It may make you too energized to fall asleep. Regular exercise earlier in the day, however, will help you sleep better.
  7. Keep a worry journal. Before you get in bed, write down any worries or pressing thoughts you have that may keep you up. Have a notepad and pen next to the bed and if something pops into your head, write it down. Then try not to think about these worries or thoughts until the morning.
  8. Limit liquids. If you wake up often to use the rest room, cut down on how much you drink late in the day.
  9. Have an environment conducive to sleep. For most people, this is a space that is dark, cool, quiet, and comfortable. Consider using room darkening shades, ear plugs, eye masks, or a fan to make your sleeping space right for you.
  10. Avoid plots that may get your adrenaline going before bed. Whether it’s a movie, TV show, or book, you don’t want your heart to be racing before bed. Instead, you should feel calm and relaxed when you’re ready to fall asleep.

If you still don’t feel well rested in the morning after trying the tips listed, make an appointment with your doctor. There may be an underlying cause that needs to be properly diagnosed. Your doctor can help you treat the problem or refer you to a sleep specialist.

Stress Self-Assessment

March 14, 2016

Feeling stressed? While everyone reacts differently to stress, your body, brain, and emotions have a unique stress response. Understanding these reactions can help you fine-tune your stress-reducing strategies.

STEP 1: EVALUATE YOUR RESPONSES
  • Pain – Stress can bring on immediate or chronic pain, such as back pain, headaches, nausea, jaw or fist clenching, muscle tension, etc.
  • Depression – Extreme amounts of stress can lead to symptoms of depression, including feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty.
  • Anger – Arguing and feeling short-fused with coworkers or loved ones is a common reaction when under stress.
  • Anxiety – Stress can trigger you to feel anxious, worrying or fearing the worst possible scenario.
  • Substance Use – Smoking, drinking excessively and drug use are all unhealthy ways of self-medicating your anxiety.
  • Eating – Overeating, skipping meals, and eating junk food with little nutrition are all ways people change their eating habits when under extreme stress.
STEP 2: EVALUATE COPING METHODS

Ask yourself the following questions to understand how you’re managing your stress load.

  • Do you have a support network in place?
  • Are there activities you enjoy?
  • Do you regularly get enough sleep?
  • Are there responsibilities you can delegate?
  • Do you practice relaxation exercises such as mindfulness, yoga, or meditation?
  • Do you have access to professionals who can help you?
STEP 3: TAKE ACTION

After you’ve evaluated coping methods, here are a few action steps you can take.

  • Address physical concerns – See your physician to assess any immediate physical concerns or questions you might have. Seek their recommendations for changes in your diet, exercise, or other habits.
  • Start small – Start with simple tasks, such as turning off screens or electronics earlier before bed or taking five minutes for deep breathing.
  • Recruit a friend – Accountability is key, so choose a friend or family member to encourage you on the path to positive changes in your life.
  • Take notes – Everyone responds differently to relaxation techniques or organizational tools. Keep a journal or use an app to track the strategies working for you. Seeing your progress can be just the motivation needed to continue good self-care.

THINKING WELL: Anger Management

February 15, 2016

Feeling angry is normal and healthy. What you do with your anger is what matters. We’re biologically wired to become angry in response to potential threats. However, we can’t respond with anger to everything. Anger management can help you learn the signs of anger and how to manage your reaction positively.

Some people are more likely to become angry than others. Even if they aren’t physically violent, they might be irritable, sarcastic, or constantly grumpy. Anger causes physical symptoms too, such as digestive and heart problems, high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping, headaches and the risk of substance abuse.

SEEKING HELP

How do you know if your anger is controlling you? If you answer yes to any of the following questions, consider seeking help.

  • Are you feeling constantly irritated or impatient?
  • Do you engage in frequent arguments with others?
  • Are you physically violent or considering violence?
  • Do you occasionally feel out of control?
  • Have you felt anxious or depressed about your anger?

HOW TO HELP

  • Identify stressors – Discover what is triggering your anger, such as work, rush hour traffic, or financial woes.
  • Notice indicators – Pay attention to any physical, emotional, or behavioral signs you experience when angry.
  • Examine thinking – Strive to correct your thinking and operate based on facts and good rationale.
  • Learn relaxation techniques – Practice mindfulness and deep breathing to soothe your body and focus your thoughts.
  • Focus on solutions

Anger management can help focus your energy on problems solving rather than frustration and hopelessness.

Remember, asking for help is never a weakness. Consult your doctor, mental health professional, or your employee assistance provider (EAP) for a referral. Consider attending a support group or check out other resources available online. Invest in yourself and learn to manage your anger instead of letting it manage you.

Avoiding Burnout

December 4, 2015

There are many “outs” in life. We can be stressed out, worn out, and maybe even need a time out. As passionate as we may feel about our work, we are all susceptible to burning out if we fail to exercise good self-care and relaxation techniques. Burnout is a constant feeling of exhaustion and pessimism in the workplace, which usually results in a decline in performance and passion.

There are several early warning signs of burnout. Do you dread coming back from vacation? Despise work tasks you one enjoyed? Is your overall attitude pessimistic toward your coworkers and your performance? The answers to these questions can all be indicators of workplace burnout.

However, burnout is preventable; consider these simple tips:

  • Take small breaks – Failing to take short breaks negatively impacts your overall performance. Concentration wanes after too long, so take a quick five or ten minutes. Your brain will thank you.
  • Evaluate – Take a step back to see how you’re using your time. Where and when are you most productive? How is the quality of your work? Being efficient does not equal being effective. Take inventory and prioritize your time.
  • Set vacations in stone – If you are financially able, plan that trip today. It will give you something to anticipate. Alternatively, consider doing a “staycation” and rewarding yourself with some rest and relaxation.
  • Engage new passions – Look for a new hobby to catch your interest during the week. Often new activities reignite passions for old ones.

Taking care of yourself with proper rest, exercise, and nutrition is essential to reducing your risk for a workplace burnout. You will have more energy, productivity, and passion for what you enjoy most.

Sick and Tired or Just Plain Ill?

November 10, 2015

“Feeling fatigued is something people shouldn’t ignore,” says Andrew Heyman, MD, MS. “When you feel fatigued and you do the normal activities – such as improving your diet, getting adequate sleep at night and reducing your stress – and you’re still fatigued and can’t do normal activities, then it’s time to see your doctor.”

Many services are available for people experiencing fatigue. Heyman notes that fatigue rarely stems from a single cause. “A lot of things happen that cause fatigue: our hormone levels change, our respiratory pattern changes, our heart rhythms change,” he says. “It occurs on all levels of the body, at the cellular level, the organ-system level, and can include psychiatric factors such as low energy from depression.”

Some causes of fatigue include, but are not limited to:

  • sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
  • ongoing pain, including conditions such as fibromyalgia.
  • an underactive thyroid, known as hypothyroidism.
  • use of alcohol, illegal drugs, or overuse of medications.
  • depression.
  • diseases such as mononucleosis, tuberculosis and AIDS.
  • malnutrition or eating disorders.
  • cancer.
  • congestive heart failure.
  • diabetes.
  • lupus and other autoimmune disorders.
  • chronic fatigue syndrome.

Possible treatments can include:

  • regularly getting enough sleep. Heyman says most people need about eight hours a night. In the 1940s and 1950s, he says, only about 15%of the population had less than seven hours of sleep a night; today, it is closer to 40%.
  • avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and drugs.
  • increase in exercise.
  • prescription medications that help to regulate one’s sleep.
  • vitamin and mineral supplements.
  • meditation and breathing exercises.
  • acupuncture, which is showing promise as a treatment to alleviate fatigue. Heyman notes that the needles used in acupuncture can have a stimulating effect on the body and can give people more energy.
  • physical therapy.
  • treatment of underlying conditions, such as talk therapy for depression.

Stress Less

October 2, 2015

You’ve probably heard countless ways to manage stress: exercise, get enough sleep, talk to a friend, meditate, write things down – the list goes on. But according to Huffington Post blogger Jon Wortmann, before you can even thing about managing your stress, there are three things you must do first.

Notice Stress

This seems obvious, but sometimes we’re so busy or distracted we completely miss our body’s signs that we’re feeling stressed. Have you been getting a lot of headaches or stomachaches? Does it fee like your having a panic attack? Has your appetite or sleep schedule changed? Your brain may be telling you something needs your attention. Instead of shaking off or ignoring these signs, consider if they’re connected to stress.

Admit You’re Stressed

This doesn’t mean you can’t handle what’s on your plate. Once you admit you feel stressed, you can begin to focus on what’s most important at that moment. Making these kinds of choices can tell your brain to turn down the alarm as you work to get things under control.

Focus on One Thing You Want to Think or Feel

If you find yourself in an immediately stressful situation (heart is racing, palms are sweating), focus on the emotion you want to be feeling. Imagine yourself in your favorite location, eating your favorite food, next to someone you care about, or anything that can help you feel calmer quickly. Being able to recall these calming memories in a time of stress can help you work through it and focus instead on what need to get done.

All About Assertiveness

July 16, 2015

Do you have a difficult time saying “no” even when you know you should? Are you frustrated because you are so busy attending to the wants, needs and desires of others that your own go unfulfilled? Have you ever walked away from a situation and wished you had handled it differently? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may feel challenged in the area of assertiveness.

What is assertiveness? What is the difference between being assertive and being aggressive? Will people think that I’m being pushy? These are common questions and concerns. Here are some pointers to help clarify what assertiveness is really all about.

Assertiveness is…

Assertiveness is expressing our thoughts, feelings and beliefs in a direct, honest and appropriate way. It means that we have respect both for ourselves and for others. We are consciously working toward a “win-win” solution to problems. A win-win solution means that we are trying to make sure that both parties end up with their needs met to the best degree possible. An assertive person effectively influences, listens and negotiates so that others choose to cooperate willingly (or feel safe to assert their own point of view).

Assertiveness is not…

Assertiveness is very different from aggressiveness. Aggressiveness involves expressing our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in a way that is inappropriate and violates the rights of others. It can be either active or passive, but no matter which, it communicates an impression of disrespect. By being aggressive, we put our wants, needs and rights above those of others. We attempt to get our way by not allowing others a choice.

Becoming assertive is a lifetime project. As you begin to practice some basic assertiveness skills, you will develop confidence in yourself. Some situations are more difficult than others, so you may want to begin practicing assertiveness skills in easier situations. It may be easier to assert yourself with strangers than with your supervisor at work or with your family. For example, while waiting in line and someone cuts in front of you, you can assertively say, “I believe I was next.” Keep practicing these skills and you will become a more confident, happier person.

Coworker Woes – Dealing with Unprofessional Colleagues

June 8, 2015

In many office environments, employees have less than collegial relationships, a new survey shows. Over twenty percent of respondents recently surveyed said they work with someone who is rude or unprofessional on the job. Of those, 68% felt coworkers frequently behave badly – and not just to the people who report to them. More than half (59%) of all workers surveyed said their boorish colleagues are equal-opportunity offenders, upsetting subordinates, peers and superior alike.

OfficeTeam, a staffing service specializing in the placement of administrative professionals, developed the survey. The interviews were conducted by an independent research firm and include responses from 532 full- or part-time workers 18 years of age or older and employed in office environments.

“Most employees will encounter an unpleasant colleague at some point, and how they interact with these coworkers can affect their careers,” said Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Tactfully handling challenging personalities requires strong interpersonal skills and diplomacy, which can help someone stand out for all the right reasons.”

Coping With Unpleasant Colleagues

Although nobody likes working with someone who is inconsiderate or unkind, the survey suggests those who have been in the workforce the longest may have built up immunity to bad behavior. Among respondents, 35% of those age 65 and older said inconsiderate coworkers should be tolerated as long as they are good at their jobs.

The Belittler – Belittlers routinely tear others down in order to build themselves up. Put downs, demeaning remarks and disparaging comments are common trademarks of this person.

Coping strategy: Your confidence is the belittler’s weakness, and he or she will back off if you stand up for yourself. Try refuting a belittler’s criticism by asserting yourself, using facts where possible. For example, if he or she puts down one of your ideas, say “it’s something that’s worked for X, Y and Z, and it’s also more cost-effective than what we’re doing now.”

The Credit Thief – Insecure about their status, credit thieves boldly steal your ideas and grab the glory when a project is successful. Curiously, they are nowhere to be found when things go wrong.

Coping strategy: Keep a written record of your activities and accomplishments. Give your manager regular status reports about the projects you are working on, and don’t hesitate to correct misperceptions (for example, “Actually, I did the research; John helped input the data”).

The Saboteur – Saboteurs have a knack for leaving colleagues in the lurch. Similar to the belittler, they like to make others look bad. Their tactics aren’t always overt, so you may not realize you are working with a saboteur until a critical deadline arrives. Then, you find you are unable to complete your part of the project because the saboteur has withheld important information.

Coping strategy: Be sure your supervisor or project manager knows the roles and responsibilities of each team member, and insist on regular progress reports so that saboteurs can’t take advantage of lapses in oversight.

The Rumormonger – Rumormongers like drama and often spread half-truths or lies by talking behind others’ backs. This is an especially dangerous type of coworker because he or she has the ability to tarnish your reputation.

Coping strategy: The best defense is to avoid engaging in any kind of gossip – remember that anything you say can be held against you. If the rumormonger starts swapping stories with you, say only good things about your colleagues and excuse yourself as quickly as possible.

The Slacker – This person may try to pass off tasks to other staff members. The slacker often claims he or she is “too busy” to help out yet will make time for water cooler chats and web surfing during office hours.

Coping Strategy: Be sure this person carries his or her weight on project teams by documenting the responsibilities of each member of the group and making for regular status reports. Hold everyone accountable for his or her portion of the project, and be firm with deadlines.