Stress management (booklet version)

Stress management (booklet version)
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Tips, Insights & Tactics
Stress Management
Stop Just Getting By
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Tips, Insights & Tactics
Stress Management
Tips, Insights & Tactics
Stress Management
There are two types of stress. Positive stress is
called eustress. It’s the short-lived, motivating kind
of stress that helps incent us to prepare for a test, a
sporting competition or other challenge. Negative
stress is called distress. It’s the longer term, anxietyridden kind of stress. The purpose of this report is to
help you recognize and deal more effectively with
the negative stressors in your life.
Table of contents
Causes of Stress
3
Effects of Stress 4
Health and Stress
5
Stress Management
7
Stress Countermeasures
Stress Relief
9
Reach Out
Sleep Restfully
When feelings of isolation contribute to
your distress, tap your social networks.
Contact with friends and family provides
considerable support to help you cope and
decompress. They can also help you expand
your network, if you feel your social circle is
too small or limiting.
When the day is done, try consciously
relaxing your body before falling asleep.
Focus your mind on breathing and
relaxation to give yourself a calm, soothing
start on getting a restful night’s sleep.
Stop to Refresh
At work, it may be difficult to find a place
where you can relax for a few minutes
without feeling self-conscious or as if you
could be interrupted at any moment. In nice
weather, a nearby park may work. If nothing
else comes to mind, consider a short escape
to the parking lot, to sit in your car. Push the
seat back, close your eyes and focus your
mind on relaxing for a few calming minutes.
If you work from home, you might even
consider a power nap after lunch. It works
wonders for workers in Central America and
other parts of the world.
Tap Every Sense
Aromatherapy is the use of fragrance to
affect mood or behavior. Use of essential
oils is not without controversy. Check with a
licensed medical provider for advice. Scents
of lavender, chamomile and sandalwood are
often said to have a calming effect.
Seek the Help You Need
If you find yourself unable to relax or destress, it may be time to seek further help.
Consider setting up an interview with a
therapist, who specializes in stress relief, to
help you develop coping strategies that will
work for you.
13
Stress Management
15
Stress Relief
(continued)
Center Yourself
Yoga and meditation have shown great
benefit to reduce stress, calm anxiety and
enable a more positive, creative frame of
mind. Hatha yoga is a recommended style
for beginners. It will help you tone your
muscles, learn to control your breathing
and quiet your mind.
Rejuvenate
Access to massage is no longer limited
to luxury spas and upscale health clubs.
Its growth is in part due to its benefits in
reducing stress and aiding relaxation. Today,
massage is available at the office, events,
clinics and hospitals, and specialty shops.
Talk to your doctor and a certified massage
therapist to determine what’s right for you.
Just Be
If you have easy access to a pool or
calm waters, floating can provide a
unique and beneficial approach to
relaxation. There’s something about
water that promotes a sense of calm
and a connection with the natural
world that can wash away the day’s
worries and cares.
Reflexology is a specific type of massage
that focuses on reflex areas of the feet and
hands that correspond to organs, glands
and other parts of the body. Some office
workers gently rock an empty bottle or
a golf ball with their feet to help relieve
tension and stress.
Excess stress is the enemy of harmony and
productivity; at work and at home. It affects
our mental and physical well-being, and our
relationships. Some stressors are easily dealt
with. Others are more complex, and may
require a combination of strategies
to manage.
This report examines the causes and effects
of too much stress, and provides tips,
insights and tactics to help you reduce
the stress in your life.
Causes of Stress
Stress is created by the demands and
pressures we feel. Their effects can be
physical, mental and emotional. Although
we may try to compartmentalize our lives,
we are whole beings. What happens at work,
may affect what happens at home—or
vice versa.
Stressors aren’t entirely universal. What
upsets one person, another is able to take
in stride. So, it’s important to understand
which things are creating our individual
stress. Once we’ve identified our personal
stress triggers, we can begin to take action
to deal with them.
Take a moment to list the top five stressors
you’re currently dealing with in your life.
If you’re having trouble identifying your
stressors, below are a few ideas that
may help:
• Keep a journal for a week or two. At the
end of each day, write down a brief note
to identify what, where, who, how or why
you felt stressed. It won’t take long before
you’ll be able to see which things occur
most often and which cause the greatest
levels of anxiety.
• Divide your adult life into three segments.
For each segment of years, what recurring
factors do you remember that made
your life stressful at work, home or school
during that period. Are you dealing with
any of the same issues today?
• Here’s a list of common stress triggers:
Change—The larger the change, the
greater the potential stress. Is the change
happening to you or with you? Will
adapting be easy or difficult? Whether
you agree or not, do you understand the
reason the change is being made?
Stress Management
3
Causes of Stress
(continued)
FUD—fear, uncertainty and doubt.
Expectations—yours or those around
you.
Attitude/Perception—how does your
individual mental/physical health factor
into what’s distressing you? Your lifestyle?
Beliefs?
Overwork—particularly over long periods.
Isolation—lack of information/
communication.
Duration—chronic stressors.
Effects of Stress
Feeling stressed can have a multiplying
effect. For example, losing patience with
friends or family members, when what’s
really stressing us is something at work.
When we live with stress over time it can
begin to feel normal. We may raise our
tolerance, but eventually it will take its toll.
If you recognize any of the following
physical or mental symptoms of stress,
try to identify their cause.
Tight Muscles—usually in the neck,
shoulders, or jaw; or other nervous habits.
Somber Mood—humorless, difficulty
smiling, laughing or lightening up.
Tiredness—lack of energy or enthusiasm.
Sleep—difficulty sleeping, or difficultly
going back to sleep.
Temperament—irritable, easily angered,
anti-social behavior.
Emotional—inappropriate outbursts.
Anxiety—excessive, unable to move on.
Appetite—some research indicates
appetite increases in response to short term
stress and decreases in response to stress
over a long period.
Skin conditions—chronic conditions
like eczema and alopecia are exacerbated
by stress.
Excess—increased use of caffeine, alcohol,
tobacco, pain relievers or other drugs.
Long term stress will eventually affect
attitude, attendance and attrition at work.
Unchecked, it can lead to an impaired
immune system or other, even more serious
health conditions like cardiovascular disease
or cancer.
Stress Relief
Ease Up
The body’s natural response to stressors
is the “fight or flight response.” Breathing
and heart rate increases. Pupils dilate. The
body preps itself for physical action. We’re
perfectly evolved for threats of physical
danger. Not ideal for the stressors of the
digital age. Instead, we need ways to
counteract the body’s natural response;
to relax tense muscles, frayed nerves and
defensive postures.
Tension often shows up in tight muscles in
the neck, shoulders, arms and hands. You
may not even notice the subtle increase over
time. Try gradually clenching the muscles in
one area for 30 seconds, then release. Use
the sensation to help you relax even further
with the goal to release all the tension in
that area.
Start by exploring your senses. They’re
magical. Which ones have the most
powerful calming effects on you—
sound, scent, touch, taste or sight?
Tune In
The right music, or recordings of the
natural world like ocean waves or rainfall,
can have a powerful renewing effect. Today,
access to music has never been easier, or
more personal. Use it to reenergize or ease
tensions, clearing your mind to think more
clearly and calmly.
Take a Deep Breath
Conscious relaxation usually begins with
breathing. When we’re stressed our
breaths become shallow. Even a couple of
deep breaths can help us relax. If there’s
time to go a bit deeper, sit in a chair with
good support for your back and arms. Sit
comfortably with your feet flat on the
floor, the chair supporting you. Take slow,
deep breaths as you focus on feeling the
weight of different parts of your body being
supported. Start with your feet and slowly
work your way up to the top of your head.
Headache—or gastrointestinal upset.
Stress Management
13
Health and Stress
Exercise
Optimizing your health directly relieves
stress through activities like exercise. Plus, it
helps you to better withstand the negative
effects stress can cause. As in all healthrelated advice, consult your doctor or a
nutritionist to ensure you’re getting the
nutrients and vitamins you need, and for the
safety of any exercise or dietary programs
you adopt.
The benefits of exercise are well
documented. A workout provides immediate
stress relief through the release of pent up
energy. Like meditation, it can also focus
all your thoughts in the moment, relieving
your mind from its stressors. Longer term, it
improves your body’s ability to handle some
of the negative effects of stress.
Diet
Like nutrition, ensure your mind and body
get the rest they require. A proper night’s
sleep, regularly, helps alleviate stress and
helps you be more creative, energetic
and positive.
Strive for a healthy, balanced diet. Think of
food as something to nourish your body.
Assess your current diet, make reasonable,
incremental improvements and repeat. If
you drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages,
use moderation. The same goes for donuts
and other sugary treats.
Many nutritionists encourage adding
Omega-3, which occurs naturally in fish like
salmon and sardines, to your diet regularly.
Water
Sleep
Ergonomics
Good posture and good ergonomics when
working at a computer for extended periods,
will help fend off fatigue, physical stress and
potential injury. If possible, work at a raised
workstation so you can switch between
sitting and standing.
Drink plenty of water to keep your body
hydrated. Many enclosed environments
like offices, automobiles, and airplanes
especially, are arid. The water will flush
toxins, and get you up and moving for more
bathroom breaks too.
Stress Management
5
Health and Stress
(continued)
Watch for Patterns
Emotional Health
When something stressful occurs, try to
consider the long term perspective instead
of reacting with a short term response.
Take the high road. Cope with stress, with
maturity and intelligence, rather than
emotion. It will help you lessen the
stressor’s effect on you.
Acceptance
Perfection is an ideal, not a reality. Aim to
improve, not to be perfect. Accept where
you are at this moment, unequivocally.
Embrace your flaws as comfortably as
your strengths. Then begin a realistic,
incremental plan of improvement.
Unconditional self-acceptance is a
wonderful stress buster. Try it.
Self-Talk
Watch your language. The way you talk to
yourself is a great indicator of the pressure
you put on yourself. When you present to
a group, notice the difference between, “I
hope to do well,” versus “I expect to do well.”
If things go less than perfect, notice the
difference between, “I need to practice more
next time,” versus “I made a mess of that.”
We are often our own harshest judge. Why
not be your own best coach?
Note that the proper care and nurturing
of your physical and mental state
is not a cure for medical conditions.
Stress levels can affect the severity
of symptoms you feel, but consult a
doctor to treat any underlying medical
conditions directly.
It’s human nature to commiserate. We all
do it. But a little goes a long way. If you
find yourself revisiting the same complaints,
it’s time for a more strategic approach.
Try to identify the issue as clearly and
unemotionally as possible. Then brainstorm
solutions. And remember, it’s considerably
more difficult to change someone else’s
behavior than your own.
Think Big Picture
A famous prayer counsels us to accept
the things we can’t change; to have the
strength to change the things we can; and
the wisdom to know the difference. It’s
a simple guide, but not always so easy to
apply. Nevertheless, it’s worth stepping back
from most stressful situations, and giving
it a try.
Choose Your Complements
Neutral colors are selected to fade into
the background, but color can pack a
powerful psychological punch. Research has
shown that shades of green and blue have a
calming, soothing effect. Attention-getting
colors like red, orange and yellow have a
stimulating effect. Surround yourself with
colors that help mitigate the effects of the
stressors you feel most often.
Lighten Up
Humor is a wonderful countermeasure for anxiety. It’s next to
impossible to be simultaneously
anxious and light-hearted. In fact,
we naturally create a state of
giddiness or feeling punchy after a
prolonged period of stress or intense
effort. Foster your sense of humor
to take the edge off stressors. Some
workers keep a joke book handy, or
subscribe to humorous websites, so
that help is near whenever they feel
the need to lighten their mood.
Stress Management
11
Stress Countermeasures
(continued)
Learn from those who seem to handle
stress successfully. Ask them for ideas. Do
something kind for yourself. Frame the
situation in time. How will you look back on
this a week, a month, a year, from now?
Take a ten or fifteen minute break—alone.
Relax and wipe the slate clean. When you
return to the task at hand, try to keep your
new perspective top of mind.
Explore the Past
As you were growing up, how did close
friends and family members deal with stress.
Did you learn helpful or ineffective coping
skills from them? Leverage what’s useful
and try to be conscious of reactions that
aren’t helping.
Weigh Your Contribution
It’s easy for stress to ignite negative
emotions. Don’t go there. Instead, strive
to be assertive, not aggressive. When it’s
relevant, assert your opinions and feelings
instead of becoming angry, defensive or
passive aggressive. Remember, you’re either
contributing to the solution, or the problem;
reducing stress, or increasing it.
Follow the Money
Stress Management
Exposure to Stressful Situations
Money and work vie for first place on the
list of top stressors. If you feel as if you’ve
lost control of spending, try switching from
plastic to cash. It changes your perspective.
Or keep all your receipts, like you would for
an expense report. Total them up to see
where the money goes. When you have
the big picture, it’s easier to see where to
make cuts and how to approach spending
more strategically.
As individuals, we all cope with stress
differently. Our genetics, personality and life
experience all factor into our response and
ability to handle various stressors. There are
relatively few things in life we can control
completely. There are a few more that we
can influence. And there is a majority over
which we have no control whatsoever. Strive
to recognize the difference every day.
Once you’ve identified situations that create
stress, you can begin to lessen their effect.
Some can be eliminated completely. Others
may be unavoidable, but can be reduced.
For example, if you find the heavy traffic of
your rush hour commute infuriating, you can
choose to limit your exposure. Change your
hours, your route, or the method of your
commute, such as a carpool or bus.
When we encounter something beyond our
control or influence we have a choice: we
can worry about it (stress) or take control
of our reaction to it (de-stress). As Stephen
Covey, author of the landmark The 7 Habits
of Highly Effective People® advised, we
each have a circle of concern (larger) and a
circle of influence (smaller). When we focus
on concerns, our circle of influence shrinks.
When we focus on our areas of influence,
our influence grows.
Change the Pattern
Unplug
Mobile computing continues to blur the lines
between work and home. The always-on
compulsion is addicting and can usurp so
much of your attention, there’s no time left
to simply relax. Everyone needs downtime
to recharge. If you find you can’t help
checking messages throughout the evening,
try confining it to a specific time. Almost
anything can wait a few hours. You’ll be able
to respond more effectively and efficiently
when you’re well rested and fresh.
Manage Your Perceptions
The more stressed we are, the more
negative we become. Pay attention to what
you express to others and to yourself. This
is not a suggestion to sugar coat reality. A
glass with equal parts of water and air, is
just that. But the way we express what we
see, tells us something about our perception.
When you’re ready to decrease the stress
in your life, you can manage it in three
ways: exposure, countermeasures and
relief. Choose several of the strategies in
the sections that follow to create a plan
to manage and reduce the impact of the
stressors in your life.
One of the best ways to reduce stress is to
change the circumstances surrounding it.
And pay attention to your mood. If you’re
having a bad day already, give yourself
a few moments to relax and de-stress a
little before you immediately jump into a
situation you suspect will be stressful.
Take a Breath
Today’s relentless pursuit of productivity
raises our stress levels. We’re driven to
accomplish, but the reality is that we do our
best work when we’re fresh and energized.
Investing a little time to rest and refresh
usually more than pays for itself.
Stress Management
7
Stress Management
(continued)
Take a moment for a relaxing breath
every hour. If you work at a computer
continuously, get up and get away from
it for a moment. When you return you’ll
be more alert and relaxed. And take a
longer, more complete break at appropriate
intervals, from the day’s stressors. It will
help reset the balance.
Strive for Balance
Stress Countermeasures
Overload is a common cause of stress.
Before you take on more projects and
tasks, consider your current schedule and
commitments. Think in terms of balancing
your time across a variety of high-value
tasks—not just filling it.
When we begin losing control over our
projects and tasks we begin feeling
overwhelmed. As the feelings mount, so
does our stress. One of the most powerful
stress busters is organization and planning.
Plan Your Day
Any time you feel like your day is planning
you, stop at your first opportunity to reverse
the situation. Get organized. Take your
overwhelming workload and quantify it. It
may still be large, but it will be finite. And
what can be defined, can be managed.
Make a list of action items—monthly,
weekly or daily—whichever is helpful. Some
project managers like to end their workday
defining tomorrow’s action items and some
prefer to create their daily list at the start of
the day.
If it’s an option, delegate, or share your
workload with coworkers. If not, talk to your
manager and work out a plan to prioritize
your assignments.
Set Goals Realistically
yourself than others, imagine you’re setting
goals for someone else. Or try breaking your
goals up into smaller, more realistic pieces.
And as you work your way through your
milestones, don’t forget to celebrate
your success.
Practice Improvement
Counteracting different stressors can take
time to learn to do effectively. Be kind
to yourself. Give yourself time to learn.
Start small and build. Pick a specific stress
reaction, find a useful countermeasure and
learn to master it. For example, counteract
anger with calming strategies; withdrawing
with energizing tactics; and shutting down
with rejuvenating measures. Then move on
and up.
Change Your Perspective
When you’re caught up in the moment of a
setback; when you’ve lost perspective, stress
increases. To regain your balance, make a
successful break from what’s causing your
stress. Ask a trusted friend or associate for
advice—not empathy or validation—
useful advice.
Goal setting is an important aspect of
planning and organization. But don’t fall
into the trap of creating unrealistic or
unreachable goals. If you expect more of
Stress Management
9
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