Archives for work stress
Mindfulness is spilling into areas beyond medicine, healthcare, psychology and neuroscience. It’s moving into programs in education with children and college students, parenting, athletics, the legal profession and business. Studies of Mindfulness in a business context have shown that increases in mindfulness are associated with increased creativity and decreased burnout and executive and corporate mindfulness leadership programs are emerging to meet the need. A 2001 FAA study found that multitasking reduces productivity by as much as 20%-40%, while a study with business men in Korea found practicing mindfulness increased productivity. Pacific Investment Management Co and technology leaders, Apple Computer, Yahoo!, Texas Instruments, Nortel Networks and Google have all already instituted mindfulness training and wellness opportunities on-site.
In recent years, discussion of bullying in school and its devastating impact on those who are bullied has made its way into mainstream consciousness. Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t stop at the school level. In one study, nearly forty percent of respondents reported having experienced at least some form of bullying at work (International Journal of Stress Management, August, 2012). Bullying in the workplace can take many forms, including: exclusion, verbal abuse, sexual intimidation, threats and ridicule. Common and somewhat insidious forms of workplace bullying include gossip, unnecessary criticism, wrongful judgment and unpleasant job assignment.
When we talk about mental health, we often talk about problems. We focus on how to reduce anxiety and depression, lessen conflict in relationships or ease uncomfortable symptoms for good reason. But we often overlook the importance of creating happiness. We might even assume that happiness just comes if we decrease our problems. We forget that happiness is something that we have control over. It's something we can make a conscious effort to increase. Happiness, of course, is great. And it goes hand in hand with decreasing problematic stress and other mental health problems. If we’re happy, then we’re not stressed, anxious or depressed. If we’re happy we’re better able to cope with mental health problems.
How often do you have stress headaches or difficulty sleeping? Does stress ever make you short of breathe, jittery or tense? Most of us experience some of these and other physical symptoms of stress. Clenched teeth, knots in your back, waking at night and queasiness are all common reactions to stress. In fact, many of us go through our days on automatic pilot, barely registering the affects stress has on our bodies. Physical symptoms of stress are extremely uncomfortable and can interfere with our ability to function on a daily basis. Over time, we can end up exhausted and feeling unable to calm down, relax tight muscles or lessen other aches, pains and physical signs of stress.
Really. It’s as simple as that. And as complex. Mindfulness is not necessarily setting aside time in your busy day to meditate. It is about being present and aware during the moments in which you are living your life. The challenge is to bring a sense of calm, centered awareness to everyday life. This includes times when you are angry, in an argument, feeling pressure, stuck in traffic, mowing the lawn, watching TV, working, talking on the phone, emptying the dishwasher, thinking about times you’ve been hurt, avoiding problems or eating. Some activities don’t require a lot of extra effort to bring a sense of calm and awareness. But others, such as difficult interactions and painful thoughts are hard to be mindful of. These are the times when mindfulness in daily life can feel complex.
With each breath we nourish our bodies, bring necessary oxygen to our organs and muscles and make life itself possible. Generally, we are unconscious of the ongoing rhythm of our breathing and often it is only when we have difficulty breathing that we pay it any attention. But this fundamental act of breathing is not only necessary to life, it is also a powerful tool in connecting to our sense of calm and centeredness. Through breathing we can connect to our bodies, our own internal rhythms and the experience of being alive.
Do you remember being a child, when so much was new? As a child, faced with new experiences throughout your day, you were much more likely to notice detail and richness in ordinary experiences. A child can spend hours splashing in the water in a sink. This is because the child approaches the water coming from the faucet as a beginner. The water is interesting and miraculous. In this case, the child doesn’t approach the water as if it already knows everything interesting about it. It approaches the water as a beginner, as if there is so much to discover.
Do you exhaustively search for information and systematically evaluate alternatives when faced with decisions? Or are you more likely to avoid decisions, come to conclusions based on a gut feeling or look to others for advice? People approach decisions differently, but each person’s own individual style of making decisions tends to be the same over time. Some people make choices and decisions with a logical and analytical thought process, while others are more intuitive and still others avoid making decisions at all.
No one is immune to stress at work. It comes when demands are high, with job uncertainty, when you’re expected to perform tasks you’re not trained in or skilled at and when you are working with difficult people. But, stress at work does not come from our work environments alone. Work stress, like stress in other aspects of life, comes from external pressures and strain, as well as from our own disposition and internal experience of stress. Individual differences affect how you think about situations in your life and how you deal with different situations. For example, one person may think of a potential lay-off as a disaster that means their life is spinning out-of-control, while another may see the same potential lay-off as an opportunity to explore new options.
In part I, which was posted on May 3rd, I discussed how people often engage in problematic behaviors, such as over or under eating, drinking and smoking in response to stress. In an American Psychological Association survey on stress, people reported lack of willpower as preventing them from making the lifestyle and behavior changes recommended by a health care provider. In order to improve their willpower, women said they needed to decrease fatigue, increase energy and improve confidence. Men were more likely to say they need more money, while women were more likely to say they need more time. Women identified household chores, in particular, as interfering with their willpower to cope with stress in healthy ways. This post will focus on improving confidence and finding time.