Archive for category Stress management
In recently working with a new potential client who shared that a team of employees was unusually overburdened, one of our case managers and a training specialist in our BizPsych division helped with some project delivery ideas around “Emotional Resiliency.” The interesting part was hearing that a common approach to “Stress Relief” is simply sharing tools on how to potentially reduce it or even eliminate stress, rather than the resiliency approach, where employees are given tools on how to better respond. We can’t always eliminate stress, but we can adjust how we deal with it. But what happens, when those folks are not able to eliminate or even reduce the stress? In their minds, this stress is real and it’s not going anywhere. That is where the emotional resilience approach can be helpful. Rather than discounting their emotions by moving them towards a stress reduction approach, we can give them even more powerful tools on how to emotionally respond in a perhaps less stressful way.
By highlighting ideas like emotional awareness, sense of humor, internal locus of control, perseverance, and optimism a stressed out population can work toward changing their perspective about the stress and, in turn, limit the emotional toll that stress is taking.
Manager of Business Development
MINES and Associates
Healthy Decision Making. This phrase can encompass different meanings to different people. Most view this phrase as a representation of their eating habits – making the healthy choice to skip the dessert after dinner or to make sure they eat a healthy breakfast every day. But have you ever thought of applying healthy decision making to other aspects of your life besides diet and exercise? Making healthy choices can include stress management, finding balance between work and your personal life, or making decisions that have a positive impact on you and/or your loved ones.
One way to apply healthy decision making is to practice being responsive instead of reactive when making decisions. Often times when we make decisions, we are impulsive (reactive) in our actions without thinking about the implications. When we make decisions based on immediate gratification or intense emotions, we often don’t get the desired results we’re looking for. Think of the times in your life when you have made a decision based on immediate need and regretted it afterwards, like eating that second piece of pie only to end up with a terrible stomachache or having a bad day at work only to come home and take it out on your spouse or partner. When we give ourselves the opportunity to be thoughtful with our decisions and actions, we are being responsive. Being responsive allows us to make wiser decisions with a more ideal outcome.
Next time you need to make a “healthy” decision, try out these helpful tips:
- Give yourself the opportunity to think about your choices. Thinking allows us to break away from the intensity of emotions allowing us to make better choices.
- When your emotions are high, take a few moments to take some deep breaths. Deep breathing allows the mind to slow down and for emotions to cool.
- Don’t beat yourself up. If you make an impulsive decision, recognize it, think about a different choice you could have made, and then move on.
We’re not perfect but if you practice healthy decision making, you’ll find yourself feeling better each day leading you to a more fulfilled life!
~The HealthPsych Team
Employee stress is thought to be the leading health risk in the workplace and a serious hazard. The American Institute of Stress states that in the United States, about one million people are absent from work each day because of stress (American Institute of Stress, 2004). This has also resulted in more than 10 billion dollars in lost workdays for executives. Although it is difficult to be anything more than supportive to your employees dealing with their personal stressors, managers may be “key” in helping their employees deal with workplace stress (Collie, 2005).
The following are common workplace stressors identified by the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health (Collie, 2005):
- “The Treadmill Syndrome” - Employees experiencing this problem feel that they can never finish their tasks, they have too much to do, and need a 24-hour workday.
Possible Solutions: Check in with your employees often about their workloads. Don’t assume that everyone is comfortable with the same workload. If there are complaints over being overwhelmed, consider another hire for help or delegating tasks.
- Constant Interruptions - This stressor occurs when the employee feels that they cannot finish their work due to constant interruptions including phone calls, demanding supervisors, and constant foot-traffic into the work areas.
Possible Solutions: Be upfront about frequent interruptions in the early stages of the interview process. If you have an employee who complains about constant interruptions, see what you can do to accommodate a better workspace for them. This may include moving their desk, allowing them to turn their phone off and perhaps even working remotely.
- Uncertainty - This occurs when changes constantly occur without reason and clear communication.
Possible Solutions: Keep employees informed! Those three words are so important to keep your employees’ uncertainty nerves calmed. Whether they are large or small changes, communicate them. Even if they do not feel that the changes are significant, they will appreciate the efforts.
- Feelings of Mistrust and Unfairness - When employees cannot trust management, their performance suffers and stress increases.
Possible Solutions: Treat all of your employees fairly. The truth is, treating even one favorably or unfavorably affects everyone’s morale. Be sure to be honest with employees when they ask questions, and if you cannot communicate the answer, tell them that.
- Unclear Company Focus and Policies - When policies are ambiguous and employees are uncertain of the company focus, employees begin to stress.
Possible Solutions: Keep your policies in a working document and communicate the changes with the employees. If large changes occur, offer training so employees understand the policies as well as the reasoning behind them.
- Ambiguous Communication about Positions - When employees stress about whether or not their positions are secure they begin to feel helpless.
Possible Solutions: Wouldn’t you want to know that your job is secure? Of course! So do your employees! Be honest about struggles that could affect the business but be reassuring whenever possible. You will likely lose your best employees first if feelings of job uncertainty are lingering around the office.
- Lack of Feedback – When employees have no idea if they are meeting expectations, how they can improve, and how they are performing, stress results.
Possible Solutions: There are mixed reviews of standard performance appraisals but feedback is still important. Consider implementing regular meetings with your employees on a monthly or quarterly basis. Also, consider feedback on the spot when appropriate. This allows employees to evaluate where they are and how they are doing.
- Lack of Appreciation - When management fails to show employees that they are appreciated, employees begin to stress, compromising future initiatives on the employees’ part.
Possible Solutions: Why put forth any extra effort if it’s not noticed? Show your employees that you appreciate them; this can be as simple as utilizing “thank you” or holding an employee appreciation event.
- Inadequate Communication - When communication within an organization is poor, employees don’t know what to think, rumors begin, and so does stress.
Possible Solutions: Communication seems simple, but it wouldn’t be a stressor if it was a given. Communication doesn’t only refer to the top-down approach but also from the front-line up. Bottom-up communication not only shows employees that the managers care, but may also bring forth some great suggestions and ideas to the management.
- Inability to Control - The most commonly cited stressor within the workplace is the feeling of no control. Employees may stress about their lack of control over the outcome of a project or inability to contribute.
Possible Solutions: Involve the employees in decision-making, who knows the work better than they do? Employees love when their individual contributions fit into the big picture.
Dani Kimlinger, MHA
Human Resources Specialist
Collie, D. (2005, August). Top Ten Workplace Stressors. HillsOrient. Retrieved from http://www.hillsorient.com/articles/2005/08/202.html
The American Institute of Stress. (2004). Job Stress. Retrieved from http://www.stress.org/job.htm
“If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as getting.“
- Benjamin Franklin
This is the time of year when many people resolve to turn over a “new leaf” and make important changes in their lives. For a lot of us, that includes changing the way we manage our money. With the over-spending that tends to occur around the holidays, it’s easy to decide to make a budget – but the hard part is sticking to it. Below are some online tools to help you do just that.
If you feel like you would benefit from more personalized help getting started, you may consider checking with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org ) for accredited financial consultants in your area.
Happy New Year!
~The HealthPsych Team
Keeping an Attitude of Gratitude During the Holidays
It’s holiday time. This means family, friends, food, and fun. It also means unpredictability and a break in our routines which can lead to stress. It is easy to get so caught up in the details of the holidays. Will my sister like the gift I got her? Will the company get along? Is the ham overdone? It is also a time when ongoing stressors in our lives can feel magnified. We might worry if we can afford to give our children the gifts we want, family conflict can feel unavoidable, or it may feel like everyone else is celebrating while we feel more and more isolated or alone. Whatever the reasons might be, the holidays are not always the perfect celebration we sometimes expect. So how can we cope?
Last year my mother-in-law introduced a concept to our family that shone a new light on the season: The Gratitude Jar. Every family member was given a piece of paper to write down one thing they were grateful for in the previous year. We all had to share out loud what we were grateful for before putting it in the jar. Throughout the holiday, the jar was a reminder of all of the things we had to appreciate.
Practicing gratitude can be a simple and easy way to shift your thinking and reduce stress during the holiday season. Research has consistently shown that practicing gratitude can have many stress reducing effects (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/16/AR2007111601699.html).
Although the Gratitude Jar can be a great activity to share with family and friends, there are many ways you can practice gratitude to make the holidays more enjoyable:
- Make a short list of 3 things you are happy about in your life. Keep the list in your pocket and read it over whenever you are feeling overwhelmed.
- Write a letter to someone who is important in your life expressing your appreciation
- Volunteer. Spending time with others in need can remind you to appreciate the aspects of our lives we take for granted.
I want to wish you all a happy and healthy holiday and best wishes for the new year!
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” — William Arthur Ward
~The HealthPsych Team
How to make 2011 a successful year for you and your employees
Dr. David Javitch wrote a wonderful article published at Entrepreneur.com that I would like to share. As resolutions/goals are a popular topic at years end, his highlights can give a a great foundation for setting goals relative to your employees.
For example, he mentions that cross training employees can help motivate them and allow them to assist collegues in completing new tasks. Their value and and responsibility will naturally increase while motivating them.
You can find the entire article and the other tips here.
Posted by Ian Holtz, Manager at MINES and Associates.
All of us realize that stress is just a natural part of our lives. But some of the effects that ongoing stress can have on us can be debilitating to our health and thus only causing further chaos. One of the big ones is that there are just not enough hours in our day. But if we could each find a few minutes in our days or even make that adjustment to make time for the things that relax us, all of us would be a lot more efficient in what we attempt to accomplish. It could be just taking a few minutes in the morning after you wake up to stretch and breath or rearranging your normal schedule to fit in a yoga class here and there.
The first step is coming to terms with our stresses and then making the conscious decision to adjust and transform them to something beneficial. Here is an article on Stress Management from the Mayo Clinic to help you discover your reactions to stress and learn how to manage it.
~The HealthPsych Team
Isn’t it interesting that I have found myself doing almost weekly presentations on Stress Management. This comes from client requests in a number of different industries. There is always a different spin on what they need and why:
Holiday Stress – time of year just for fun
“It’s been a tough year with people being asked to do more with less…”
“It’s a challenging job – how do we transform that stress in a positive direction?”
“This is a super busy time of year – We want to help staff anticipate that and stay ahead of the stress”.
No matter what the particulars, the concept of “transforming stress” is a compelling one. In the courses I present, I define stress as “a normal physiological reaction to a perceived threat”. Our brains have built-in mechanisms that start emitting stress hormones in order to protect against threat. However, the amount and types of threats we experience in modern society are not what this process was originally designed for. Our brain does not initially distinguish between a “real” threat and a “perceived” threat. Therefore our body starts this chain reaction when we may be sitting in a meeting and we hear something we don’t like, if we perceive a slight from our boss or a coworker, or when our spouse tells us we need to sit down and review the ‘family budget.’
Eustress is the term that has been coined to identify the positive stress we experience to tackle the job at hand. Face it, it takes a certain amount of stress just to get out of bed in the morning and face the day. It takes even more to meet a challenging deadline, or to initiate a “courageous conversation.” All of these situations can be perceived as a threat. Our bodies create the appropriate amount of energy to face these challenges. However, when we experience an overload of unplanned and seemingly overwhelming threats, we move into distress. Volumes of medical research have indicated this stress can contribute to numerous major health and psychological problems including heart disease, cancer, major depression, and suicide.
The good news is that we can learn stress management strategies to transform stress into positive and healthful directions. At the least we can use cognitive psychology techniques to begin to view threats in a more realistic way. We can be proactive in keeping our bodies in a more balanced state through breathing techniques, meditation, exercise, nutrition, etc. We can use the energy that is created in stressful situations to learn and practice assertiveness, setting boundaries and learning optimism.
Finally, we are social creatures and all need social support to weather and manage the storms we experience. We typically don’t do so well when we feel we need to “do it all on our own.” Learning to ask for help, delegating appropriately, and forming ally relationships can not only help manage stress but prevent distress.
Here is an article that describes some of the physiological processes that occur in stress states and a case for considering transforming your stress.
Patrick Hiester, LPC
Vice President of BizPsych