By Michelle Stagner
It has gotten to the point where you can’t sleep. Your body aches. You snap at your spouse…your kids…and your dog. These symptoms are common. So is the cause—job stress.
How can you get relief without quitting? Regular exercise, sound nutrition and some form of daily meditation are effective stress-busters. But there are some lesser-known antidotes to try…
Take a Sick Day
Do so before you feel you can’t stand the stress any longer. Temporarily removing yourself from the work environment gives you the time and the distance you need to reflect on the precise causes of your stress…and how to eliminate them.
If you don’t call in sick now, your body may soon force you to. Epidemiologists say that more than 80% of all visits to primary-care physicians are for stress-related illnesses.
Keep a Journal
Use your time off to experiment with keeping a journal. The idea behind “journaling” is to create a stress diary, in which you detail the sources of your work stress…and list what you like about your job.
When it comes to psychological stress, the way you perceive your circumstances plays a big part in determining your response to them. Often, we exaggerate work problems in our own minds. Writing them down helps us recognize this exaggeration.
Example: Louisinette, a registered nurse, came to me complaining bitterly about “never-ending paperwork” She insisted that she hated her job. Journaling helped her realized that she spent only one quarter of her time dealing with paperwork. The rest was devoted to caring for patients—something she truly loved. By changing the way she perceives her job, Louisinette learns to contain her stress—not exaggerate it.
Make a Chart
A thought-replacement chart is a tool that helps retrain your immediate responses to stressful situations.
What to do: Take a piece of paper, and divide it into three columns. Label the first column “Trigger Situations,” the middle column “Positive Thought Replacement.”
In the first column, jot down the regular sources of job stress. In the center column, describe your usual response to these situations. In the third, write what a friend would say to make you feel better…or what you would tell yourself if you were in a good mood.
Next time you find yourself in one of these situations, use those statements from third column to talk back to yourself. Doing so will change your perception and defuse your stress.
Example: Joseph felt overwhelmed by the increased workload associated with his recent promotion. Whenever his boss gave him a new project, he thought, “I’ll never get this done on time. I might as well give up. I don’t deserve this promotion.”
Joseph’s thought-replacement chart helped him change this self-talk to: “I can take it one step at a time. I can prioritize and delegate. I can do this job.
Joseph still has just as much work. But, his new, more positive perspective on the situation has helped him better deal with it.
Schedule Worry Time
Sometimes talking to yourself about a problem isn’t enough to solve it. In such cases, you must take action. If you find yourself spending too much time agonizing over what action to take, schedule regular “worry focus” sessions.
Allow 30 minutes a day to focus on what’s stressing you out. Brainstorm possible solutions on your own… or with the help of a coworker. When your time is up, banish any worries by telling yourself, “No, those thoughts are for the next worry focus.”
Don’t Forget To Relax
Balance your worry focus sessions with one or more daily “worry breaks”—predetermined times when you simply refuse to dwell on anything stressful. If the idea of having to remember to take your break makes you anxious, tie it to regular activity—a shower, jog, commute, meal or something else that’s already been incorporated into your routine.
Many people would like to try deep breathing or another relaxation exercise—but they get so caught up in the workday that they forget to take a break. In such cases, the solution is to set up a visual reminder.
Example: Vicki, a personnel manager, found that a few moments of deep breathing and visualizing herself sitting by a waterfall did much to calm her nerves. But she kept forgetting to take advantage of this technique until she hung a picture of a waterfall in her office to prompt her.
Think Twice About Caffeine
The coffee, tea, soda, etc., that you depend on to get through a stressful morning may cause additional stressful morning may cause additional stress later in the day. Two cups of coffee a day contribute to anxiety. More than two cups creates anxiety.
Find out how much caffeine is contained in the beverage you drink. To encourage yourself to have noncaffeinated alternatives, tape a note on your mug reminding you to have herbal tea instead.
Better still, keep a half-gallon bottle of water on your desk. Try to finish it by the end of the work day. It will keep hunger at bay, discouraging stress-related snacking. When your body is properly hydrated, it works better and produces more energy—energy you need to do your job well and fight stress.
Note: These tips can be found in The world’s Greatest Treasury of Health Secrets. Michelle Stagner is a professional trainer who lives in Plantation, Florida.