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Managing Stress
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Managing Stress

I am currently working in a high-stress environment and catch myself gritting my teeth and tensing my body throughout the day. I try to take short breathers to let my body relax, but when I get home I am often grouchy and annoyed by little things. Do you have any suggestions to better manage this stress throughout the day?
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The most logical answer to this question is: to relax and tell your body to relax.  Apparently, your body is signaling you that for whatever reason you are not feeling comfortable, your central nervous system is being over-stimulated, and your muscles are starting to tense and contract.  If I asked you to relax, what would happen?  Yes, you’re right, you would tense your muscles even further.  

So, let’s look a little closer.  There are many reasons or factors why you might be experiencing these somatic responses to stress.  1) you are in a toxic work environment and abhor your job, 2) you like the work, but feel faced with unrealistic deadlines and pressures that under any other natural circumstances would say:  you’re being subjected to insidious torture methods to break you down and reveal top secret information.  3) you like the work and your fellow colleagues, but don’t feel that you are being recognized for your contributions, 4) you are being asked to do the job of 5 and can’t stay past 8 hours due to family responsibilities, and lastly, you are probably feeling pulled in a multitude of directions, at work, in traffic, when you get home, and the frustration being expressed is also indicative of not having any time or space for just you, or your needs.  Does this ring true?  any or all of the above?…..In the short run, it doesn’t matter what the reasons are, you are feeling a sense of urgency to alleviate your discomfort.  So, let’s look at some things you can do immediately.  

Try these approaches for at least a week consistently and see if you notice any difference.  If the discomfort persists, seek professional assistance to help you with your stress response.
1.  As much as possible, leave your desk to take your lunch break.  Treat yourself to lunch out of the office or building at least one to two times a week.  
2.  Every couple of hours, take a break and walk outside for 5 minutes.  If you are working at your desk and on the computer, you need to keep your body moving.   Tense, contracted muscles will contract more if maintained in the same position.  Our bodies were designed for gentle and easy movement.  It is very important to allow your body to recharge, even for brief moments during the day.  
3.  It would be great if you could take a shower mid-day.  So, what’s the next best thing? Go wash your face and brush your teeth after lunch.  It will feel refreshing and help you approach things with a fresh face.
4.  Take out your weekly calendar and schedule a meeting with yourself.  If at first, this seems utterly impossible, think of the alternatives.  Catching a 1-minute breath will not suffice.  You might try 30 minutes to an hour each day; organize to best meet your needs.  For example, maybe you schedule one 30-minute appointment in the morning and one in the afternoon.  The purpose is to regain some semblance of control over your schedule.  Granted, there will be times that urgent deadlines may supersede this appointment, but technically this should be the exception, rather than the rule.  
5.  Always print out your schedule the evening before you leave or review it just to get a sense of what is around the corner tomorrow.  Yes, I realize that in today’s workplace, there is no routine.  But you have to start somewhere:  baby steps.  
6.  Make sure that every day you are doing at least 1 major activity that is aligned with your top priorities.  According to the Pareto Law, 20% of your efforts yield 80% of your results.  So, what is the critical 20% that needs to happen for you to be the most productive?  
7.  Next, let’s look at the drive home.  Do you have an inspiration tape or CD that you can play in the car, or a favorite instrumental music CD that you can play that will help you with sitting in traffic?  Usually this time is best spent decompressing before you get home.  Sitting in traffic is not ideal but the right CD could ease this experience.
(If you walk home, enjoy this quiet time to start winding down from the day.)
8.  Last, but not least, returning home.  If you are constantly subjected to stressful conditions, you will need to build in 30-45 minutes to decompress from the day.  Taking a luxurious, soothing bath with or without Epsom salts might be a good way to begin the relaxation process at home.

*All of these techniques are designed for the short-term.  However, if, in fact, you are working in an environment that is toxic to your general well being then changing jobs may be the only way to get total relief.  Remember to listen to your body.  It is talking back to you.  If you don’t pay attention to your health or general well being, who will?
*** If you do not get immediate relief in the next couple of weeks, seek professional assistance to help you with your stress response.
Your forum coach, Wanda  

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