12 ways to beat workplace stress

Originally posted March 20, 2014 by Dan Cook on http://www.benefitspro.com

Work life today is hectic, to an extent that might have been hard to imagine just a generation ago. Stress levels are through the roof, and many workers struggle to stay engaged, let alone productive.

Author, lecturer and motivation coach Andy Core addresses these issues in his new book, “Change Your Day, Not Your Life,” offering advice on how to move from “striver” to “thriver.”

“To start reclaiming the goals that once inspired and excited you, you’ll have to change the way you approach your day,” he says. “Instead of a worker whose actions are dictated by supervisors and to-do lists, you’ll need to begin acting like the CEO of your own life.”

To get there, Core offers a 12-step Inner CEO program. (Yes, you can still drink on this 12-step path.)

1. Figure out what’s doable in a day.

To Core, it’s all about balance, not focusing in laser-like fashion on one or two goals or trying to get 50 different thing done with no focus at all. Working with a client he calls “Janet” whose life was way out of balance, he told her to start by trying to change what she set out to do one day at a time.

“Janet was disappointed when I told her that changing her life was just too hard. But I explained that turning your whole life around is too big a goal. I simply wanted her to change her day. Our whole strategy was to make small, doable changes that would, over time, create an unstoppable momentum.

“You must do the same. You must set realistic boundaries. You must create goals that can be accomplished in the space of a day. Remember, nearly all problems, challenges, and needs are best faced if they are brought down to the scale of ‘what can be done right now’ by taking on ‘one small piece’ of a difficult situation.”

2. Get big things done before 9 a.m.

Impossible, you may think. My third latte hasn’t even kicked in! But Core insists that any normal person can put several achievement notches on their gun belt before the dreaded staff meeting.

“Ever notice how your morning sets the tone for your whole day? If you get a groggy, frustrating start, you’ll probably feel sluggish and behind the eight-ball all day long. However, if you start your day with positive and productive ideas, actions, thoughts, and feelings, you’re likely to gain momentum throughout the day.”

This time he cites “Barry,” a real early bird who gets the worms. His “daily pattern involves getting up early, exercising, eating breakfast, spending time with family, and accomplishing several meetings or other work activities before 9 a.m.  The point here isn’t how early Barry’s alarm rings — it’s that he makes the most of the first several hours of his day instead of snoozing and procrastinating, as so many of us do. The truth is this: What you do first matters.”

3. DO first, then KNOW (not the other way around).

Core is one of those folks who believes that, once you put on your running shorts and shoes, you will get your butt out the door at 6 a.m., regardless the weather. Thinking about how something would be good for you doesn’t help. Thinking about how good it was for you after the jog — now that’s using your noggin!

“Most people believe that the knowledge that something is important should make you want to do it,” he said. “But in reality, that’s not the case. Study after study shows that knowledge alone usually isn’t enough to impact our desires. In fact, the opposite is true. First, you must do something — like bite the bullet and put on your workout clothes! If you experience positive feelings, attitudes, and results because of your action, you will learn that whatever you just did is good, and you’ll want to do it again, and again and again. Over time, you’ll develop a new habit, and you’ll become an evolved person.

“In other words, you must do in order to know in order to be different. Remember, nothing in your life gets better until your daily patterns get better.”

4. Own up to your junk hours.

“Junk hours” are those minutes we spend doing nothing to avoid doing something, Core says. You know them: checking your stock portfolio four times a day. Reliving the big game’s highlights with your cubicle buddy. Checking out the latest fashion posts on Pinterest. And on and on.

“In order to maximize each day, you need to own up to your junk hours,” he says. “You need to identify when you’re going through the motions of work, versus when real work is being done. Don’t be ashamed that your junk hours exist, because everybody needs to take breaks and shift gears. Your task now is to exchange your low-value ‘junk’ activities for ones that build greater health and value into your workday.”

5. Instead of adding to your to-do list, build a new pattern.

Make tough, priority-driven decisions, not longer check lists. That’s what this is about. Decide what matters to you in your life today, and build steps to pursue those goals.

“To build a productive new pattern into your life, you usually won’t have to add new tasks to your day. Instead, you’ll simply do what you are already doing, or want to do, in a way that becomes habitual,” he advises. “For instance, if you want to wake up an hour earlier so that you can jump-start the day, you simply have to change the time your alarm rings and the time you go to bed. It isn’t sufficient to simply trigger the start of a new behavior. You need to make sure that you have a motivating reason to make this change, as well as the confidence and energy to sustain it so that it becomes a pattern.”

6. Start with one thing. Then add another. Then another.

Referencing the No. 1 New Year’s resolution — I’m gonna lose weight — Core explains that the reason this rarely works out for people is that the goal should not be to lose weight, but to make healthy lifestyle choices. If we eat well, get rest, exercise and engage in activities that gratify needs other than hunger, the weight will disappear.

“Don’t take on more than you can handle. Break each goal down to its smallest components, then pick one of them to tackle. Pursue this change until it becomes a habit, then move on to the next one. Start with one thing and don’t add another until you’re ready. Positive motion creates positive emotion,” he says.

7. Make a big-box checklist.

Core’s a checklist guy. He just thinks most of us go about them all wrong. Here’s his advice:

“Make an actual, on-paper checklist each afternoon for the following day or each morning. Put a box by each task — the more important that task is for you to complete that day, the bigger its box should be.

“I focus first on my big-box tasks. At the end of the day, if most of them have checkmarks, it’s generally been a good day! Yes, prioritizing my daily list by the size of the boxes on it may sound simplistic, but it has made me feel much more accomplished and satisfied with my day. It also has helped me relax in the evenings because it is easier to remember the big boxes I’ve checked off, thereby making it easier to leave work at work.”

8. Think about it so you don’t have to think about it.

This is about focusing on what slows you down so you can speed up those particular processes or activities. He uses the example of preparing a meal. If you have trouble doing it, then plan meals ahead of time, maybe several days or even a week’s worth. Get the ingredients, know how long it will take, and maybe do some prep before you leave in the morning.

“Figure out where these areas are for you and commit to learning a new pattern. Yes, learning new patterns can initially be tedious and laborious. But once they’ve taken hold — often in three weeks or less — they’ll speed up your performance, streamline your effort, and lower your stress. By putting in some thought about ‘problem areas’ now, you’ll save yourself from having to think about them later. Eventually, this method changes once-tedious tasks into automatic behaviors.”

9. Infuse meaning into your work.

Let’s get this straight from the horse’s mouth: “First, let’s get one thing straight: Doing meaningful work does not mean that you will ‘love’ every second of it. ‘Meaning’ can simply be a recognition of what you enjoy about your work. With that understanding, though, you’ll be more motivated, productive, and satisfied. I recommend completing the following exercise:

• Focus on what gives you the greatest joy and meaning at work — be able to define it.

• Reflect on how you are making a difference at work and through your work — be able to give examples.

• Reflect on the meaning of your work as it relates to your core values.

• And then … seek to increase what you enjoy!

“You’ll come to find that the ‘administrivia,’ the mundane and routine chores required of you, and the not-so-exciting aspects of your work become easier to do and get completed more quickly if you have a strong focus on what you do find exciting, rewarding, or fulfilling.”

10. Seek to serve, not shine.

This one’s a little touchy-feely. Core urges us to put aside our ambitions and egos and approach life from the viewpoint of service to others. You Type A characters may have trouble with this one, but here’s what he recommends:

“To some extent, it’s human nature to look out for Number One. We all want to rack up accomplishments, receive accolades, and garner recognition. But in many situations, the desire to shine can cause you to get in your own way.

“Ironically, the key to shining is putting others first. People who channel their efforts toward making others’ lives easier are nearly always respected, included, and considered valuable. When you help others reach their goals and become their best, you’ll usually find that the same things happen to you.”

11. Fill up your energy bank account so you can make withdrawals when you need them.

In other words, don’t expose yourself to a lot of negativity. Don’t expend a lot of emotional coinage on projects or people who drain and frustrate you. Watch more romantic comedies and attend high school basketball games where kids play for glory only.

Says Core: “Know your needs and capacities and try not to exceed them on a regular basis. In other words, get enough sleep. Eat nutritiously. Exercise when time permits. That way, when you do find yourself needing to push the limits, you’ll have a healthy margin of energy, motivation, or whatever to draw on. Manage what you can manage as often as possible in order to compensate for what you cannot manage.”

And he advises us to stay present, in the present, and stop spinning our lives into a future over which we have no control.

“The future can be an inspiring thing… but it can also be a scary and misleading one. Awfulizing, what-ifs, and doomsday thinking can plunge you into paralyzing anxiety. And making incorrect assumptions can send you down the wrong path. That’s why, aside from setting goals for yourself, you should try not to let your mind wander into future outcomes. The only thing a person truly can do is to focus on the processes of today — and live them out to the max. Enjoy the process and take great joy in the rewards!”

12. Forgive yesterday so you can work on today.

As with the future, so with the past, Core tells us. Once we decide to stop projecting into the future, don’t replace that by getting stuck in a past we cannot change. Accept it, forgive yourself and others for what needs to be forgiven, hang on to the sweet moments for sustenance, and get your mind and body back into the now.

“Treat yourself with the same compassion and generosity you’d extend to another person who’d messed up or fallen short of a goal. If it helps, follow the two-hour rule I learned from one of my past coaches: When you have a bad performance or make a mistake, you have two hours to pout, scream, cry, wallow, or do whatever you think will help you deal with the disappointment. But when 120 minutes have passed, it’s time to start moving forward again.

Remember, nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. What sets thrivers apart is the fact that after a fall, they forgive themselves faster, get back up, and continue the journey forward.”

 


Workers stressed over finances

Originally posted November 15, 2013 by Maria Wood on www.lifehealthpro.com

Employees are more aware of their financial shortcomings, but with that increased awareness comes greater strain on their psyches. That was the major takeaway of a recent survey by Financial Finesse, a provider of fiscal education.

The third-quarter “Trends in Employee Financial Issues” survey revealed that 19 percent of employees report “high or overwhelming” levels of financial stress, up from 13 percent in the same quarter of last year. Similarly, 41 percent expressed uncertainty regarding their ability to achieve future financial goals, a significant jump from 34 percent in the third quarter of last year and 33 percent in Q3 2011.

What has them so worried? The U.S. economy and stock market were cited by 43 percent of employees as the major stumbling blocks to a secure financial future. That’s an increase from 42 percent Q3 2012 and 40 percent in 2011’s third quarter.

Employees in the upper age range – 45 and older – were the most anxious. According to the survey, 84 percent of those 45 or older admitted to some level of financial stress, up from 80 percent a year ago and 74 percent in the third quarter of 2011. Financial Finesse researchers attributed that escalation to the immediate and conflicting pressure those in that age group may be facing, such as paying for college for their children and caring for aging parents while at the same time trying to save for retirement and confronting higher health-care costs.

Awareness and action

The overall employee financial wellness score dipped below five (4.9) for the first time since the first quarter of 2012. Yet that decline, emphasized the Financial Finesse researchers, is not due to worsening cash and debt management – areas where employees are maintaining good habits. (For example, 88 percent said they pay their bills on time each month, the same percentage as the previous quarter.) Instead, the researchers conclude it is due to employees heightened awareness of their financial challenges.

Consequently, they are taking steps to address their concerns, at least at the older age bands. Forty-eight percent of employees who took a financial wellness assessment were 45 or older in the latest survey, an upward arc from 44 percent in the same quarter of last year and 43 percent in Q3 2011.

It’s also translating into improved retirement planning. When queried if they were on target to replace at least 80 percent of their income, or goal, in retirement, 19 percent answered yes compared to 18 percent a year ago and 12 percent in the third quarter of 2011. The older one gets the more they have made that calculation, with the highest percentages seen at 55-64 (23 percent) and 65 and older (33 percent).

Rising participation in work-based retirement plans was also charted, with the percentage climbing from 87 percent in Q3 2012 to 90 percent in the latest survey. More employees said they have used a retirement calculator: 39 percent in Q3 compared to 34 percent in the prior year.

 


11 Small Changes to Help Workers Manage Their Stress

Source: http://safetydailyadvisor.blr.com

You can't eliminate the stress your employees bring to work, but you can identify and eliminate organizational stressors. And you can provide tools and information to help workers manage their stress on their own.

Stress management expert Susie Mantell (www.relaxintuit.com) is a firm believer in the power of incremental steps when trying to manage stress on the job and at home. Here are some ideas Mantell recommends that you can use for a safety meeting on stress management:

·         Prioritize, streamline, delegate, and discard. When facing a task, ask if it's really necessary to do today, if there's an easier way to do it, or who might be able to help.

·         Break it up. Take 2- to 3-minute breaks every hour throughout the workday. Mantell also urges employees to "commit to doing one fun thing every single day without exception." Laugh, play a game, or cook a meal, as long as it's enjoyable.

·         Make time. Build time into your schedule for creative expression, healthy eating, moderate daily exercise, time with friends, and time in nature.

·         Be on time. "Last minute equals high risk," says Mantell. Running late creates stress in us as well as in others. Build in cushion time between appointments to allow for traffic and the unexpected.

·         Send negativity flying. If a co-worker is on the warpath, visualize an airplane with an advertising banner over that person's head. Imagine each negative word floating up into the banner, flying by and out of view. "Getting out of the line of fire can defuse a tense moment and preclude anxiety and stress," Mantell explains.

·         Relax and watch what happens. Do mini-meditations or mindful breathing while you're shifting between tasks or in line at the cafeteria. Getting a message, rocking a baby, rebuilding an engine, or playing an active sport can also produce a meditative state of relaxation.

·         Get essential nutrients. Go beyond vitamins and begin to think about daylight and laughter as essential daily nutrients. Get outside and take in some fresh air, even if it's just 10 minutes on a wintry day.

·         Consider what you're consuming. Rethink the role played by sugar, caffeine, and alcohol in your life. These can increase stress levels.

·         Watch your words. Negative internal chatter and self-recrimination are distracting and demoralizing. Never say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to your best friend.

·         Be kind. Do something kind for a different co-worker every day. Mantell points to the "cumulative, positive transformation that takes place when it becomes second nature to create joy and reduce stress for others."

·         Sleep on it. Sleep deprivation is threatening to become an epidemic in the United States, and stress is a major culprit. Try to get restful, restorative sleep every day, and watch your stress level decline.

 


Stressful Job? How to Find Inner Peace at Work

Source: http://blog.resumebear.com/

When you’re having a particularly high-stress day at work (or maybe that’s every day), sometimes you just have to take a minute to do something for yourself.

It’s OK to stop and breathe.

Deep down you might even  the chaos because, well, a job without a challenge can be terribly boring. But in order for you to handle your high-stress job in the best way possible, sometimes you need to just take a minute to regroup.

There are several things you can start doing to help you find peace at work both in the short and long term:

1. Take a Deep Breath

It’s more effective than you might think. HelpGuide.org says taking a few minutes to inhale and exhale deeply slows down your heart rate and helps you relax. In fact, there are stress hormones in your body that can be removed by deep breathing exercises.  Take breaths when you can, for instance, pause and breathe before you answer that next phone call.

Here’s a breathing exercise you can do right now:

Keep your spine straight throughout the movement. Inhale as you sweep your arms up and exhale as you return them to your sides. Do a total of 5 repetitions.*

2. Write Down your Frustrations

Source: http://blog.resumebear.com/

You can’t let go of your stress if you keep it bottled in your mind. Whether it’s anannoyingly competitive coworker or looming deadlines that are bothering you, don’t let your woes bubble up to the point of explosion. Writing down exactly how you feel is one way to unload your frustrations, do something about them and move on.

3. Go for a Jog

It’s the single best way for your body to produce endorphins and significantly reduce your stress level, according to the experts at MayoClinic.com. It may be tough at first, but try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily after or before work.

Have you tried hitting the gym during your lunch hour (or even just a walk around the parking lot)? You’ll come back and finish off your day refreshed, rejuvenated and less stressed. Just remember to take a quick shower afterwards!

4. Practice Minimalism

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated” – Confucius

One self-management technique that can also help minimize stress is to try to stop over thinking things. If you have a presentation coming up, you’ll find that if you stick to the bare bones and make your points as concisely as possible, then your colleagues will understand the information much easier — making your presentation more effective.

5. Go to Your Happy Mental Place

For about 60 seconds, stop, close your eyes, and focus all of your five senses to visualize a place that makes you happy. According to HelpGuide.org, visualization is a great way to “activate your body’s natural relaxation response.” Vividly think about what you’re, seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling and hearing. Then, open your eyes and come back to reality rejuvenated.

6. Try Yoga

This ancient art is meant to increase your self-discipline and push the limits of your determination. By concentrating all of your attention on Yoga poses, you’re able to rid your mind of worries and become more balanced in mind, body and soul.

Best of all, you don’t necessarily have to sign up for classes. Grab a mat after work and check out hundreds of useful Yoga videos with which you can follow along.


7 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Now

By Jane Porter

Source: Entrepreneur.com

In 2010, eight years into running her tutoring company, Ann Peaslee was reaching a breaking point. She was taking care of her ailing mother while trying to meet the demands of her business, Lehigh Valley, Pa.-based P.R.E.P. LLC. The web designer she'd hired wasn't following through on plans and Peaslee's ads weren't generating as much business as she'd anticipated. Then, one night during a thunderstorm, her house got struck by lightning, knocking out her business phone line.

To cope with the stress and keep focused, Peaslee began what she calls a "walk and talk" at least once a week. She walked the neighborhood streets with a friend for an hour and talked through whatever had been bothering her. "You are getting rid of your anxiety by just getting it out," she says. "It puts you back in the right perspective."

Incorporating a stress relief routine in your workday requires time and effort. But here are seven quick and easy techniques that may work for you:

1. Count your breath. Taking deep breaths and lengthening your exhale relative to your inhale will calm your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for triggering your fight or flight response, says Timothy McCall, author of Yoga As Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing (Bantam, 2007). Counting the length of your inhale and exhale and gradually lengthening how long you take to exhale will help counter this stress response. If you take four seconds to inhale, for example, work to lengthen your exhale so that it lasts eight seconds. While every person's breath count will be different, taking 10 breaths like this can help calm your mind and body.

Related: 13 Tips to Stay Motivated in the Dog Days of Summer

2. Sing it out. If sitting quietly and counting your breaths sounds impossible or unappealing, you can sing or hum to achieve a similar effect. When you sing or hum, you are naturally lengthening your exhale, which will slow your breathing and help calm you, McCall says. Be sure to breathe in and out of your nose as you do this. If the idea of singing or humming in the office seems silly, do it in your car on the way to work.

3. Drink more water. When your hydration level drops by even 2 percent, your ability to do simple math and make decisions is disrupted, says Mike Collins, founder of the Perfect Workday, a Raleigh, N.C., company that focuses on workplace effectiveness. "The more hydrated you stay, the better you think." Try keeping a pint-sized container of water by your desk that you refill three or four times a day.

Related: 7 Ways You're Wasting Time and Don't Even Know It

4. Do a body scan. Redirecting your focus away from your worries and toward your physical body for a minute or two can help alleviate stress, says Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk and co-founder of Headspace, a U.K.-based company that teaches meditation and mindfulness techniques to business professionals. Close your eyes and take half a minute to do a mental scan of your body starting at the top of the head. Notice the sensation of your feet on the floor, your body in your chair and your hands on the desk. Repeat this scan two or three times. Rather than being stuck in your loop of worries, you're turning your attention to the sensations of your body. "By shifting the focus to physical senses, you are stepping out of the thinking mind and bringing the mind into the body, which immediately has a calming effect," Puddicombe says.

5. Keep vacation photos handy. Another way to escape from stressful thoughts is to keep vacation photos or postcards nearby. When you feel stressed, look at an image for a moment, close your eyes and try to imagine all the sensations you were feeling in that place--what you saw, smelled, felt, heard and tasted. This technique will calm you by focusing your attention on the physical sensations of your body as you visualize a particularly relaxing place. "Try to activate each of the five senses," says Margaret Wehrenberg, author of The 10 Best Ever Anxiety Management Techniques (WW Norton 2009). "It's literally the antithesis of stress for a minute."

Related: Six Signs You Need a Break From the Startup Grind

6. Create a ritual. Instead of rushing to grab a cup of coffee or scarfing a snack, make a ritual of it, says Puddicombe. Take the time to notice the sounds, feel and smells of what you're preparing--whether it's a cup of tea or fresh fruit. Such a daily ritual can be soothing, helping you focus on something other than your thoughts, Puddicombe says. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it's something you have positive associations with.

7. Laugh out loud. Humor is the opposite of stress, according to John Morreall, president of Williamsburg, Va.-based Humorworks, which focuses on using humor in team-building exercises and other workplace activities. "In a stressful situation, you are emotionally engaged with some problem," he says. "When you laugh at a situation, you are distanced from the problem." To find relief in humor, Collins watches a YouTube video of a flash mob in Moscow dancing to "Puttin' on the Ritz." That never fails to make him laugh.