Proceed With Caution:
High Stress Levels Ahead!
By Julia M. Rahn, Ph.D.
you one of many individuals who have read good articles on how to
manage stress? Do you say to yourself, “yes this makes sense and I
should practice some of those techniques”? Maybe you have even
tried for a minute or two or a full day to keep the suggestions
alive. Nonetheless, somehow life keeps happening and your attempts
at stress management fall to the end of the priority list. You say
to yourself, “When I have time, I will try again”.
fact is this is a common experience for most professionals even
though everyone knows that unmanaged stress is never a good thing.
Decreased productivity, poor co-worker relations, increased
absenteeism due to needing a “mental health day” or to take care of
a physical illness are just a few of the red flag consequences of
unmanaged stress. All of these negative outcomes originate from
individuals not taking care of themselves when stress levels begin
to increase but wait until their stress is at Level Red to do
something about it. Time and energy are then spent managing the
consequence of high stress levels, often causing more stress and
more negative consequences.
Imagine the positive outcomes if everyone knew their individual
stress signs (Yellow Flags) and did just one or two small behaviors
to counteract crashing into Level Red? Not only would productivity
and intra-office relations improve, but bothersome mental and
physical health symptoms would also decrease. Before anyone
attempts to change behavior, however, they must know their own
Yellow Flags that indicate danger zone ahead. Here are some
known and little known Yellow Flags indicating a crash is impending:
Early morning (3 or 4 a.m.) awakening
Eating that “oh I shouldn’t” piece of candy found in your
coworker’s candy dish
Feeling on edge most of the day
Feeling like you are walking through molasses on your way to
Hitting the snooze button 10-15 times each morning
Procrastinating on important projects
Drinking that “oh I shouldn’t” extra glass of wine at night
these signs are acknowledged there are many proven techniques to
prevent Level Red breakdown that also gives you better chance at
managing your stress, come out of it feeling healthy, productive,
and empowered. Here are five techniques you or your employees
could actually do, starting today, often with immediately stress
Remember to Breathe.
Breathe by directing air into your diaphragm and extending your
belly, then hold it a second or two, and then slowly let all of the
air out your mouth or nose. Repeat 3-5 times. Breathing in this
way will help slow your thoughts down, clear your mind, and get more
oxygen into your system to help you work more effectively.
Say a simple mantra
yourself. No you don’t have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), if
you repeat over and over “yes I can”, “I can stay calm” or “stress
is manageable”. You can also pick words that are meaningful just to
you. This strategy really works to start changing negative
self-talk into productive self-talk.
Take a walk around the block. It will help your mind
switch tracks from focusing on the problem to figuring out a
solution. To stay in solution-focused mode, it is believed that
exercising at least 20 minutes a day will keep those neurons firing
Complete a mini Progressive Muscle Relaxation protocol at
your desk. Pick various muscle tensing activities, such as pointing
your toes toward head, clenching your fists, and raising your
shoulders to your ears. Separately, tighten each muscle grouping
for 30 seconds and then release, feeling the difference between
tensing and relaxing. Once you stop tensing, your body wants to
relax and will assist you in helping these specific muscles to relax
which also promotes overall body and mind relaxation.
Draw circles. By any chance do you find yourself getting
frustrated while sitting in a meeting and are not in the mood to
think positively, can’t leave and go for a walk, and have already
tried the breathing and are still frustrated? One last resort
before blowing your cool is to just take your pen to paper and draw
circles. The process of actively doing something in your control
plus the symbolic representation of the circle (i.e. wholeness and
completeness) should be enough to get you through to the end of the
meeting. Of course, after the meeting it is suggested you take a
walk, remembering to breathe deeply in order to process out the
built up stress effects from the meeting.
As you can see, stress management can be simple. Now that you know
these five helpful stress management techniques, you only have one
decision to make. You can either commit to a few minutes a day of
conscious practice of these stress management techniques or you can
continue to avoid acknowledging your Yellow Flags that indicate you
are not managing your stress levels. You have a choice to stay
healthy and happy in the fast lane with green lights ahead or
crash and burn from hitting stress alert - Level Red and suffering
through the related consequences. It is your choice. Please choose
Read other articles and learn more about
Julia M. Rahn.
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