Stress and The Professional- Dean - WI

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Stress and The Professional

Stress and the Executive

Face it, doing business these days is stressful... very stressful.

Jobs are being shipped overseas, revenues are down, and expenses are up. The people who are responsible for the decisions that shape the future of business in America are under intense pressure and scrutiny. And it's probably not going to get much better in the foreseeable future.

Trying to do more with less in an unpredictable business environment has taken a huge toll on those who make the decisions.

Stress in the workplace is rampant, from the custodian worried about losing his job, to the desk employee who now has to do the work of three people. From the men and women who have to answer to upper management to those charged with making the tough decisions. Stress is everywhere in the workplace.

How does stress manifest itself?

Physicians see stress related health issues every day in the office. Whether it is hard-to-treat high blood pressure, heart burn, chest pain, headaches or insomnia, stress can take on many faces.

Business professionals, as a group, are coming into the office these days in greater numbers with stress-influenced conditions. Fortunately, many steps can be taken to reduce the impact of stress on one's health.

What can the stressed out professional do to tackle stress?

  1. Don't disregard your symptoms — All too often, high achievers write off their chest pain, headaches, and insomnia to stress. For many of these conditions, important causes may need to be ruled before attributing them to stress. Downplaying chest pain and missing the early signs of a heart attack could be disatrous.
  2. Listen to your body — If you are constantly feeling tight muscles in your neck or a burning in your stomach, maybe you need to slow down and re-prioritize.
  3. Listen to others — Maybe your spouse, best friend or coworker is right. Maybe you do need a break. Especially under stressful conditions, you can't do it alone.
  4. Be good to yourself — Especially when you are under a lot of stress, you need to take care of yourself. Eat right and don't skip meals. Get a good night's rest, and find time to unwind. Taking a 30 minute walk to unwind can make you far more productive when you return to work and allow you to be more focused
  5. Don't fool yourself into thinking that self medicating will help — Having a drink (or two or three) may seem like it helps you relax, but the temporary relief can quickly give way to drinking too much or relying on alcohol to calm you down.
  6. Pills aren't the answer either — Anxiety medications and sleeping tablets, like alcohol, can sometimes lead to long-term problems like addiction and impairment far more quickly than you may realize. Stress in the workplace is rarely a short-term issue and relying on temporary measures can be dangerous.
  7. Learn to relax — This is a skill set that can be learned and is not something high achievers are born with. Consider methods to enhance your ability to focus such as meditation, mindfulness and yoga. They can help you learn to "monotask" - to focus on just one thing. Most execs are great at multi tasking - that's how they got as far as they have - but are usually not nearly as good at monotasking - focusing on one thought, one person or one issue.
  8. Exercise — One theme that physicians often hear a lot in the office is "I don't have time to exercise, though I'd like to. I used to run 3 or 4 times per week, but since I was promoted, I just stopped doing it." Exercise is good for your heart and good for your mind. The body's natural "feel good" chemicals, endorphins, are released during exercise. They can lift your spirits and make you feel better. Even if you can't commit to running or biking on a regular basis, try to find ways to work in some form of physical activity every day. Park in the last row, take the stairs, bike to work one day per week, or pick a lunch spot that you can walk to. It all adds up.
  9. Just say no — Successful people often volunteer for extra projects, take on more responsibility than others, and generally say yes as a knee-jerk response. This is a great personality trait early on, but can soon give way to a schedule that has no wiggle room. Learn to say no. Practice it, perfect it, and use it. You have your limits.
  10. Get some help — Most high achievers got where they did by going it alone. They did it themselves. They aren't used to asking for help. Stress management is hard work too. Most of us weren't taught how to do it. There are a myriad of resources available to help you manage stress better. A good place to start is your primary care physician or family doctor. If you don't have one, get one. He or she can make sure that your symptoms are not due to something that needs further investigation. They can also give you advice and, if necessary, refer you to someone who specializes in stress management, such as a behavioral psychologist.

Stress is rampant in our fast-paced, results-driven society. While we often can't change the stress significantly, we can always change our response to it. Take charge of your body, learn to manage stress better and start to enjoy your job again.

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