Stress Management Sessions – Lunch n Learn!

As part of Springfield Health Check’s Workplace Wellness Services, this “Lunch and Learn” series is available to any business who has hosted a SHC wellness event.  These sessions provide strategies from both cognitive and relaxation perspectives. Employees can benefit from this information, and from our over 40 other “Lunch n Learn” topics.  Sessions run from 30 minutes to one hour and are the perfect way  to extend your wellness message – with little or no budget.  Sessions are lead by certified stress management and other wellness providers.

Session topics:

Stress Management – Foundations

Stress Management – Slowing the Worry

Relaxation 101

The Physical Costs of Stress

 

Managing the Stress of Life

Stress comes to all of us. It comes in different ways and for different reasons. Stress in our family lives ripples into work; work stress impacts our home life. The impact of stress in our family lives can break relationships, ruin our health, and drain us financially. It is estimated one million employees on average are absent per day due to stress-related issues. Unfortunately, stress will likely never disappear from our lives. The more we extend ourselves, take chances, and enter into situations where we have limited influence, the more stress we experience. Stress can negatively impact our ability to cope with living life fully, the quality of our sleep, the way we make decisions, as well as how we socialize, eat, and feel physically.

Stress can manifest itself in our bodies in many ways and develop into serious, chronic conditions that require treatment. Symptoms can include headaches, muscle aches, hypertension, ulcers, hair loss, skin disorders, menstrual difficulties, among other symptoms. Intense stress can develop into anxiety. Changes in brain chemistry can occur as can neuro-pathways from negative thinking. Emotionally symptoms can be identified as negative thinking, worry, and even fear. From the stress emotions, we feel behaviors, such as loss of concentration, poor sleep, irritability, impulsivity, and relationship problems. According to the American Stress Institute, 75% – 95% of visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related problems.

Stress management offers ways for coping strategically with the stress we feel.

When symptoms have been identified, it is important to not just treat the symptom but the root cause – the stress. Research shows a well-rounded approach utilizing a physical outlet, such as walking or exercise, has multiple effects for those who can participate. Opting for a healthy diet by eating balanced and proportion-controlled meals can help reduce the impact of stress on our bodies and minds. Reducing caffeine is important.

Practicing a cognitive stress management approach can benefit many individuals and can potentially add a sense of control.  Listening to our self talk can clue us to the degree of emotional intensity we feel.  The cognitive step of self-monitoring can be a challenge and does require a commitment to learn and practice, especially when the stress is intense.  However, the effort to learn the techniques outweighs the practice to learn them. According to Eve Adamson, author of The Everything Stress Management Book, we all have personal stress. Adamson offers a stress profile that requires honest self-assessment and self-monitoring for best understanding. There are four parts which can support an increased sense of control over your response to the stressors in life:

  • Know  your stress point – the tolerance we have for one stressor differs from another and differ further from one day to the next
  • Know  your triggers – by anticipating a trigger, we can mentally prepare with positive self-statements reminding by thinking through a stressor versus reacting
  • Know  your vulnerability – understanding certain situations and people that cause us to feel uncomfortable can reduce stress
  • Know  your response tendencies – many unhealthy response tendencies follow unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. Replace poor behaviors with healthy ones, such as deep breathing. Replace negative or irrational thoughts with healthier thinking, such as positive self-statements

 

Utilizing this self-monitoring approach may have applications for one specific situation or relationship or for an over-all assessment.  Knowing you have prepared for a stressor helps to provide a sense of control over your reaction, even if not over the situation.

As with many stressors, anticipatory stress, the stress which comes from the thought and fear of what might or will occur, can intensify the stress response. This especially true with workplace stress. Knowing we must go to work each day can increase the weight of stress from the work place.

Studies show employees are experiencing workplace stress on an increasing basis. Workplace stress develops from such reasons as over work, poor job security, and frequent poor behavior of co-workers and managers. In some situations where bullying occurs in the work place, either from a co-worker or from a supervisor, the feelings of stress and helplessness can be intense. According to Gary and Ruth Namie, authors of The Bully at Work, there are a number of strategies which can help to ease the situation. Once again, one of the first steps is to do a self-assessment. Most strategies are developed in part by knowing our strengths and our sensitive areas. Many companies offer Employee Assistance Programs which can provide resources for stress – both at work and in life.

Not all stress is bad. Stress is a motivator when we are striving to improve or complete a task. In this level of stress we have a sense of manageability. We often feel we can overall meet the expected outcome, whether it is preparing for a gathering at home or preparing a report for superiors at work. We work strategies, such as preparation, to manage the steps to complete the task. We also may know who best to ask for assistance. The goal is obtained and the feelings which follow are generally positive.

The subject of stress is diverse in the way and the intensity it is experienced. So are the management approaches. When experiencing stress which is too intense, the first step is to prioritize time to learn more about stress, its impact, and its management. Individuals who experience intense stress or anxiety may prefer to seek professional help to learn new strategies and regain a sense of control.

If you decide to seek professional help, educate yourself on what questions to ask about the professional’s background in stress management. The importance of effectively managing stress is important to all aspects of life.

 

Article Published  in Healthy Cells, September 2013

Anne Godman, Certified Corporate Wellness Coach and Stress Management Coach

 

References available upon request.