A friend of mine (Denise Butler) who is a health educator and Wellness Coordinator for the City of Richmond (VA) gave me the following words of wisdom yesterday concerning stress management, particularly when dealing with stressful situations at work:
1. Ask yourself "Can I control it?" and "Is it important?" - If the answer is NO to either, on some level you have to let it go.
2. Deal with stress at the time it happens and don't let it build. For example, go for a walk after a stressful meeting, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths right after a bad phone call, stick to a schedule and make "you time" part of that schedule every day.
3. Do what works...If you like humor, have a comic book close; If you like exercise, do it as often as you can; if you like to journal, keep it with you.
She told me that stress is a different "beast" for each person, is very important, and we can't let it get the best of us.
Now, why is this all so important....."chronic stress" or prolonged tension from stress raises blood pressure, increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, increases vulnerability to anxiety and depression, contributes to infertility, and hastens the aging process. It also can slow down wound healing, impair development in children, negatively affect memory, and increase the levels of visceral fat in the body contributing to weight gain.
After reading all that, it doesn't take a Rocket Scientist to realize that we all have to find our own ways to manage the stress that we face either in the workplace or elsewhere. Some simple steps you can take (and of course, follow Denise's recommendations about finding what works best for you) are:
1. BREATHE, BREATHE, BREATHE - just stopping to take deep breaths and otherwise being very aware of how much or HOW LITTLE you are breathing can make a huge impact on your stress. Regular breathing and periodic breaks where you engage in deep breathing exercises provide significant benefit.
2. LAUGH - You will be amazed how much less stressed you feel when you take time to laugh. Whatever it is that makes you laugh - reading a good joke book, seeing a comedy movie, being around funny people, etc. - DO IT.
3. Have your own personal saying when faced with stress - whether it is what Denise suggested ("Can I control it? and "Is it Important?") or something else like "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff....and it's all Small Stuff", come up with it for yourself and use it when you're under stress.
4. At work, get away from your desk periodically. It is scientifically proven that just taking a brief break periodically from your desk and going to spend even 10 minutes with someone who you like will re-charge you, boost your energy, and reduce your stress. I've tried it and it works.
5. Get enough sleep and in a sleep friendly environment - not a bedroom cluttered with papers and with all kinds of electronic devices buzzing.
Life is too short anyway, don't let stress manage you - you need to manage it. It can truly be a beast but you can tame it.