Cure for Work Stress
Geoffrey James September 10, 2012
Change the way you think about the future, and you can reduce (or even eliminate) stress.
Most people are convinced that stress is an inevitable part of the working world. They are wrong.
The level of stress that you experience is very much under your control. The trick is finding ways to exist "in the now."
Think about it: Why do people feel "stressed"? In every case that I've ever seen, it's because they're dwelling on future events over which they have no control. In other words, stress is just plain old worry--but rebranded so that it sounds less wimpy. (Nobody ever gets called a "stress-wart.")
For example, many people feel "stressed" because they "have way too much work to do." That sounds perfectly reasonable, but in fact, it's not the work that's creating the stress. It's worrying about what might happen (or not happen) if all that work doesn't get done.
Similarly, it's "stressful" if you have a job (like customer support) in which people sometimes scream at you. There's no question that such events are unpleasant, but the real source of the stress isn't the event but the anticipation that it's going to happen again.
Since stress is all about the future, the real cure for stress is to live in the present. Here are some suggestions for doing this:
1. Meditate or pray every day.
When done correctly, meditation and prayer place your thoughts in the present. When you're focused on your breathing, the energy flowing through your body, or the presence of God in your life, there's no opening for stress to get inside you. These activities not only create a respite from stress, they help train your mind to remain "mindful."
2. Set aside a daily time to plan.
Achieving goals is impossible without planning--and planning, by its very nature, involves imagining the future, including possible setbacks and problems. Limit your "future thinking" to a set time every day--and then spend the rest of your time executing the steps in your daily plan.
3. Detach yourself from results.
Though it's true the business world is all about getting good results, such results are usually achieved through the execution of a well-thought-out plan. Therefore, once you've made a plan, put your attention on the steps, not on the outcome. Until events prove otherwise, trust that you've created (and are now executing) the best plan possible.
4. Observe what's working (and what's not).
As you take action, note which actions seem to be leading toward your goals and which seem to be leading you further away. Rather than getting stressed about your "failures" while they're happening, use these notes to adjust your plan during your next planning session.
Do these steps take some practice and discipline? Absolutely. But the benefit--a largely stress-free working life--are well worth the effort.
Similarly, if you're "stressed" because people scream at you, following the guidelines can help you better prepare emotionally for the screamers (e.g., learn how to shrug it off) or, failing that, help you plan to find a job in which you don't have to deal with such people.For example, if you're "stressed" because you've got "too much work to do," following the guidelines above will quickly force you to realize that the concept of "too much" is meaningless and that you're going to get done what you get done. You'll start prioritizing what's most important and forget about what's simply not going to get done.
Being focused on the present eliminates stress even when disaster strikes. Suppose, in the middle of your workday, you get news that your biggest customer is jumping ship.
You could react to the news by freaking out and obsessing about how the lost revenue might ruin your company or your career--even though none of that has happened yet. Or you could remain in the moment, note that the event happened, continue with whatever you're doing--and then, when you're relaxed and feeling creative, devise a step-by-step action plan to win the customer back or find some new customers.
The moment you truly realize that stress is only a creation of your imagination, you'll feel a vast burden of dread fall from your shoulders. And if you practice the steps and start living in the moment, you'll find that stress, far from being inevitable, is simply a bad memory.
12 Tasks That Killer Employees Always Finish Before Noon
Jada A. Graves, U.S. News & World Report |
A recent study published in an American Psychological Association journal, Emotion, suggests that early birds are generally happier than night owls.
More than 700 respondents, ranging from ages 17 to 79, were surveyed and asked about their emotional state, health, and preferred time of day.
Self-professed "morning people" reported feeling happier and healthier than night owls. Researchers hypothesize that one of the reasons could be because society caters to a morning person's schedule.
It's certainly true that the working world does. Working "9-to-5" is more than an expression, but a standard shift for many Americans. It also stands to reason that those who like rising with the sun are also the most productive employees in the office.
Do you want to be more like them? Then take note of the tasks these high-functioning, productive, and more awake employees have completed before lunch:
1. They make a work to-do list the day before. Many swear by having a written to-do list, but not everyone agrees on when you need to compose it. According to Andrew Jensen, a business efficiency consultant with Sozo Firm in Shrewsbury, Pa., the opportune time to plan a day's tasks is the night before. "Some people like to do the to-do schedule in the morning, but then they might have already lost office time writing it out," he says. "It helps to do that to-do schedule the night before. It also will help you sleep better.
2. They get a full night's rest. Speaking of sleeping better ... lack of sleep affects your concentration level, and therefore, your productivity. Whatever your gold standard is for a "good night's rest," strive to meet it every work night. Most health experts advise getting a minimum eight hours of shut-eye each night.
3. They avoid hitting snooze. Petitioning for nine more minutes, then nine more, then another nine is a slippery slope that leads to falling back asleep and falling behind on your morning prep. Ultimately it also leads to lateness. "Anyone can be made into a morning person," Jensen says. "Anyone can make morning their most productive time. It could be that for the entire week, you set your alarm clock a little bit earlier, and you get out of bed on the first alarm. It may be a pain at first, but eventually you'll get to the point where you're getting your seven to eight hours of sleep at night, you're waking up with all your energy, and accomplishing the things around the house you need to before going to the office."
4. They exercise. Schedule your Pilates class for the a.m. instead of after work. "Exercise improves mood and energy levels," Jensen says. Not only that, but "there have been studies done on employees who've exercised before work or during the work day. Those employees have been found to have better time-management skills, and an improved mental sharpness. ... Those same studies found these workers are more patient with their peers."
5. They practice a morning ritual. Jensen also recommends instituting a morning routine aside from your exercise routine. Whether you opt to meditate, read the newspaper, or surf the Web, Jensen says "it's important to have that quiet time with just you."
6. They eat breakfast. Food provides the fuel you'll need to concentrate, and breakfast is particularly important since it recharges you after you've fasted all night. Try munching on something light and healthy in the morning, and avoid processed carbs that could zap your energy.
7. They arrive at the office on time. This one is obvious, right? Getting a full night's rest and keeping your sticky fingers off the snooze button should make No. 7 a cakewalk. If you're not a new employee, then you've already figured out the length of your average commute. Allot a safe amount of time to make it to work on schedule.
8. They check in with their boss and/or employees. We all know the cliche about the whole only being as good as the sum of its parts. In other words, if your closest work associates aren't productive, then neither are you. Good workers set priorities that align with their company's goals, and they're transparent about their progress.
9. They tackle the big projects first. You can dive right into work upon arriving in the office, since you made your to-do list the night before. And Jensen suggests starting with the hardest tasks. "Don't jump into meaningless projects when you're at your mental peak for the day," he says.
10. They avoid morning meetings. If you have any say on meeting times, schedule them in the afternoon. "You should use your prime skills during the prime time of the day. I believe that mornings are the most productive time," Jensen says, also noting that an employer who schedules morning meetings could rob his or her employees of their peak performance, and ultimately cost the company.
The exception to this, he adds, is if your meeting is the most important task of the day. "Sometimes you have to schedule a crucial meeting, or a client meeting, in which case you'd want to plan for a time when employees are at their peak."
11. They allot time for following up on messages. Discern between mindless email/voicemail checking and conducting important business. Jensen's company, Sozo Firm, advises clients that checking their inbox every couple of minutes takes time away from important tasks. Instead, set a schedule to check and respond to email in increments. Consider doing so at the top of each hour, to ensure that clients and colleagues receive prompt responses from you.
12. They take a mid-morning break. Get up and stretch your legs. Or stay seated and indulge in a little Internet surfing. According to Jensen, it's actually good to zone out on Facebook and Twitter or send a personal text message or two. "You should take 10-minute breaks occasionally," he says. "Companies that ban any kind of Facebook [use], texting, or personal calls can find it will be detrimental. Those practices increase employee satisfaction."
Just be sure not to abuse the privilege. "The best employees will respect their employer's time, and the worst-performing employees will find a way to waste time even if the company forbids personal Internet use," Jensen explains.
Belly fat linked to depression: Study
(NZ Herald June 2012)
Depression has now been linked to excessive belly fat, scientists have found.
Accumulating fat around the belly has long been linked to metabolic syndrome, a collection of problems that include high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose.
Recently, metabolic syndrome was linked to a greater risk of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia later in life.
Now depression has been added to the list of ailments linked to excessive belly fat, and losing weight through dieting doesn't seem to reverse the problem.
"Weight gain is the major contributor to metabolic syndrome and depression, but we also observed that in many people who are obese, losing weight is not enough to reduce the symptoms of depression," said An Pan, a nutritionist at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of the authors of the study, which appears in a recent issue of Diabetes Care.
"In fact, losing weight by dieting may actually increase stress and depressive symptoms," Pan says.
A better approach, he says, would involve more exercise, which helps the body burn some of the deep fat packed around abdominal organs - the cause of the large belly often carried by people with metabolic syndrome.
Those wanting to lose weight are encouraged to eat a healthy diet and participate in physical activity. Pan also recommends psychiatric counselling for people who are depressed.
The paper found evidence of a vicious cycle - metabolic syndrome contributes to depression, and depression contributes to metabolic syndrome, apparently by causing people to overeat.
Pan and the other authors of the paper suggest several possible mechanisms for this two-way interaction.
For example, depression affects the metabolism in ways that could increase blood pressure, reduce the body's ability to absorb glucose and promote the accumulation of belly fat. Also depressed people are more likely to lack the motivation to get exercise.
On top of that, some antidepressant medications promote weight gain.
In the other direction, metabolic syndrome promotes inflammation, which has been linked to depression, and makes the body less sensitive to leptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite after eating.
Low levels of leptin, as well as leptin insensitivity, have been shown to produce depressive symptoms. Also, damage to blood vessels in the brain caused by high blood pressure and other consequences of metabolic syndrome may produce symptoms of depression, and are believed to promote dementia, as other studies have found.
Another study, just published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, reports that pioglitazone, a drug that helps prevent diabetes by enhancing the body's sensitivity to insulin, also appears to boost the effectiveness of antidepressants in people with major depression.
The drug helped even when taken by depressed people who didn't have the metabolic problems that signal the approach of diabetes. The authors believe that pioglitazone (sold as Actos) counteracts depression by helping the body use glucose more efficiently, just as exercise does.
Apparently the accumulation of belly fat, which may be a consequence of too much sugar in the blood, also contributes to elevated blood sugar and several other problems, including depression.
"I think the major message of our paper is that depression, cardiovascular disease, stroke and other problems begin early even in people who do not have diabetes," says Pan.
"So prevention should begin early for people with metabolic syndrome. We should pay attention to their mental health, and for people with mental health problems we should monitor their blood glucose, blood lipids and blood pressure to control their risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke."
What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast
BY LAURA VANDERKAM
Mornings are a great time for getting things done. You’re less likely to be interrupted than you are later in the day. Your supply of willpower is fresh after a good night’s sleep. That makes it possible to turn personal priorities like exercise or strategic thinking into reality.
But if you’ve got big goals--and a chaotic a.m. schedule--how can you make over your mornings to make these goals happen?
Because I write about time management frequently, I’ve gotten to see hundreds of calendars and schedules over the years. From studying people’s morning habits, I’ve learned that getting the most out of this time is a five-part process. Follow these steps, though, and you’re on your way to building morning habits that stick.
1. Track Your Time
Part of spending your time better is knowing how you’re spending it now. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know that nutritionists tell you to keep a food journal because it keeps you from eating mindlessly. It’s the same with time. Write down what you’re doing as often as you can. Use my spreadsheet, a Word document, or a pad and pen.
While measuring your mornings, try tracking your whole week. The reason? The solution to morning dilemmas often lies at other times of the day. You may be too tired because you’re staying up late. But if you look at how you’re spending your nights, you’ll notice that you’re not doing anything urgent. The Daily Show can be recorded and watched earlier--possibly while you’re on the treadmill at 6:30 a.m.
As for the mornings themselves, you can be organized but still not be spending them well. Question your assumptions. You may believe that “a man who wants to keep his job gets into the office before his boss” because that’s what your father did, but your boss may be disappointed that he doesn’t get the place to himself for an hour first! If you decide that something is a top priority, do it, but understand that we have to do few things in life.