How to Survive Work Related Stress  Frank Barnhill M.D.

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Weíve all had those moments where we didnít want to go to work today.  Each of us has the habit of letting things build up to the point that we feel we just canít take any more.  Why.  Well, because weíre so busy trying to cram all we can into every minute of the day that we donít take the time to sit quietly and think about out stresses.  Then, when we do finally realize the huge load of emotions and stress we are carrying, bang, the firecracker is exploding.  Hey, donít advertisements tell you that if you arenít getting the most out of life that you are living life to itís fullest.  Does that mean youíve been cheated.  Just the thought probably makes you angry and guess what.  That anger makes stress burnout go at a faster rate.  Our goal should be to avoid getting to that stage of life.

Of course, in dealing with work related stress, you must first admit the stress exists, and try to identify the source.   Is it coming from the work itself, conditions at work, poor communications, poor health, or is it emotional stress from within.  Once you are able to decide which of these apply to you, and then youíll have taken the first step toward stress independence.  With these points in mind, letís take a look at a few stress management techniques to help you work toward independence.

Good stress management for today should have started yesterday.  When youíre ready to tackle todayís jobs before you go to bed at night, then you donít dream about them all night long.  So, just before you go to bed, make a complete list of everything you need to do tomorrow.  You will probably sleep a lot better with that worry off your shoulders and of course off your mind.

Of course getting a good nights sleep goes a long way toward helping you fight off stress.  But, a good breakfast is just as important in giving you the energy to battle stress.  Itís hard to deal with lifeís problems on an empty, gnawing stomach.  So, start your day with breakfast.

Give yourself permission to have a good day.  Look in the mirror and be positive about your right to have a great day.  Smile and laugh with yourself.  No, that doesnít mean youíre nuts.  Only you can control your feelings.   So, tell yourself that youíre gonna feel good today.  When you leave the house with your work list in your pocket, happy thoughts, and a smile on your face, youíve started your day off right.  If you drive to work, try to go a different way several times a week.  By doing so, you will see new things and your mind will be stimulated to think about those new things.  If you go the same way and do the same routines every morning, then youíre stuck in a rut.   Get out of the rut and experience things around you.  Donít eat breakfast at home every morning.  Instead meet a friend at a local restaurant.

Try to listen to-self improvement audiotapes or CDs on the way to work or when you get a chance on break or during an alone lunch.  Youíll find good ones in our recommended books section.  Everything you do that improves the real you, helps you build self-esteem.  When your self worth is high, you can deal with stress better.

We all do better at work if we have some control over our work environment.  Hey, my medical office exam rooms are decorated in themes.  We have a cartoon room, a western room, an antique room, and a Tikki room.  Iíve brought in items from home as my kids outgrew them, personal things such as pictures and collectibles, and purchased interesting things to help make my environment friendly to both patients and me.  You can do the same in your workplace.  I remember seeing a picture of a guy working in a textile mill, with a picture of his kids taped to the machine he used.   He changed his workplace to make himself feel better.  Seeing his wife and kids several times a day probably helped him focus on his job.  Providing for them was his goal in having a job.

Take a one-minute happy thought break at least twice a day.  All you have to do is close your eyes and think of a happy time from your past or imagine how good youíll feel on your next vacation.  This allows your emotional mind to recharge itself and of course prepares it to deal with the next stress.  Iíve heard this called a cheap vacation.

Avoid isolating yourself from others.  Start a lunch discussion club that meets once a week while everyone eats.   You can do this anywhere, but it tends to be more relaxing away from work.  Years ago, I had a group of patients who worked at a local hospital that met once a week to discuss being single.  To join the group, you had to be never married, divorced, or widowed and you could not have had sex in the past year.  They called it the ďno nooky clubĒ and gave each other tremendous levels of support for about five years.  Of course, members came and went dependent upon their status in marriage and sex.  Try to get some control over your work conditions.  You may be surprised that your boss would consider letting you come in later, if youíll work later.  I know gals who like to work unusual hours, because they get more done when no one else is in the office.  Likewise, a couple of guys I know at a local accounting firm go in at 5 am and leave at 2 pm for the same reason.

Make suggestions to improve everyone elseís work surroundings.  If everyone around you is happier, guess what?   Youíll be happier too.  We never live in a vacuum.  This is a real good self-worth builder, and it makes you more valuable to your boss and co-workers.

Celebrate everything.  Help organize parties for unusual events.  Try having Columbus Day, Presidents Day, and first day of spring parties.  These can be ten-minute parties at work or three hour ones after work.  Celebrating something makes everyone feel better.  You can even make up a day to celebrate.  In medical school, we had ďhat partiesĒ.  You had to wear a hat to get in.  There was no other reason to come.  We had guys that wore lampshades and gals come dressed as construction workers in hardhat.  These events achieved their goal; stress relief.

Well, I hope these tips will get you started on the way to your stress independence.  There are hundreds more that can be used, but these are the most common mentioned to me.  Please let me know if you have a few unusual ones.

Dr. Frank


These health tips are offered for your common sense use and are not intended to take the place of a visit to your doctor.  Your use of the materials implies your understanding that nothing herein contained represents individual medical advice.

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