'General Articles' Category Archive

Posted on Nov 30th, 2006

Stress is a huge problem today and can result in serious illnesses if not managed properly. How can you cope with stress?

One of the most important steps to take when trying to deal with stress is identifying the cause of your stress. Stress exists when certain problems, wether physical or psychological, keep the body on alert all the time. Often times just identifying the source of the stress can make the stress disappear.

The rest of the article will focus on how to cope with stresses that you may face in life.

Adapt To It

Many people try earnestly to get away from what produces the stresses in life. They may end up moving away to try to escape the stressing conditions, such as working in a busy, noisy city.

While that may help to reduce your stress levels, it is not always the most effective or needed thing to do. For example if you get really stressed sitting in bumper to bumper traffic, leaving a little earlier or later might help to reduce the stress of being stuck in traffic. By adapting to the this it will help you gain confidence that you are in control of your life, which is an important thing to help cope with stress.

Raising children can often be very stressful for parents, especially when the children are out of control. What may be needed to decrease the stress from this source is to establish firm and consistent guidelines for the children to live by. After adapting guidelines for children many parents often feel a huge sigh of relief.

What if noise is causing you too much stress in your life? If you are at your house you could close a door to reduce the noise coming from the other rooms in the house. If the source is external, perhaps closing the window and drapes will help to dampen the noise. Ear plugs can also be an effective form to drown out the noise. Make sure your surroundings are pleasant by making sure the area you are in is neat and clean, this often helps in relieving stress as well.

While this may help to reduce the stress you are facing it will not likely eliminate the stress all together. But even if it helps just a tad, you will be better off.

Talk It Out

Bottling up your stress inside is not healthy for you. Think of how much more relieved you will feel if you get it off your chest by confiding in a friend who you love and trust. Your friend may be able to give you helpful advise. It is only natural for us to reflect our problems inward, but you wont be any less of a person if you discuss your troubles with a trusted friend. You may be able to benefit from the practical suggestions of a friend as well as bring yourself emotional relief.

Exercise Regularly

Regular physical exercise can be beneficial to help you burn all the extra sugars and fat in the bloodstream caused by stress. This will help counteract the effects of stress and help to restore your body to a balances state.

If you don’t particularly like exercising try finding something you are interested, perhaps a sport. If you don’t like sports exercise anyway! If you do this you will feel better, especially if you make it a daily routine.

Rather than taking the car to do your errands, if the place is close enough try taking a brisk walk. This might help you to "burn off stress."

Finding Balance

It is proper to find balance between work and recreation. While both have their place, too much of one or the other can cause stress in your life, so therefore it is very important to find a balance between these too.

Many of us hate it, especially getting up in the morning. But work is not an evil plague out to get us. It is beneficial to be active and productive, and it helps that the fact earning a living allows us to place.

When you are working be sure to regularly take a few moments to relieve the stress of work. Perhaps getting up and stretching or walking around the office, if permitted, can help relieve the tense feelings in your muscles, which will reduce the buildup of stress.

Make sure that your life is not dominated by work. Many people do this and are very stressed out because of the place their job has taken in their life. Make sure you make time for relaxation as well. Perhaps you have a hobby that you enjoy that will divert your thinking away from your stresses.

Sleep Is Vital

Many people today stay up really late, perhaps enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend, or watching late night TV that they say helps them to unwind. But whatever claimed relaxation they are getting from that outweighs the deep sleep that they need to really help unwind. Sleep deficiency is a stress on the body and mind and makes stresses in life even more difficult to cope with.

Sleep allows your body to repair itself. So if you are a stress victim try getting more sleep, and try going to sleep at the same time and form a habit out of it.

Changing Your Viewpoint

Often time our mental attitude is enough to make us stressed out. How do you view life and the problems that you are facing? If you are always so negative about things, it is only natural to assume that you will feel negative.

Learn to evaluate the your life’s priorities. Perhaps you have a new social gathering to go to, or are having a baby. Whatever it may be take the time out to think about how you are going to cope with the stresses involved, and how important they really are to your life. An evaluation such as this will help you realize your priorities and the limitations you should live by which in turn will help you be a much happier person.

Will It End?

Stress today is unavoidable no matter how we live or how happy we are. There are just so many things that can cause stress. So you much learn to accept it, and cope with it when it does arise.

For further information and articles on depression and other mental health disorders please visit HelpingDepression.com

Posted on Nov 30th, 2006

What is the greatest fear of man? Is it death? Pain? Poverty? Physical ailments? Loneliness? Surveys tell us that the number one fear among modern people is public speaking, of all things!

What is fear? We all know what it feels like, but what exactly is it? The dictionary defines fear as “A painful emotion or passion excited by the expectation of evil, or the apprehension of impending danger; apprehension; anxiety; solicitude; alarm; dread; to be anxious or solicitous for.” That sounds rather ominous, and it is. Now, what are we going to do about it?

Fear, however, can also be a positive emotion. Fear can also induce an adrenalin rush enabling us to rise to the demands of a particular situation. It could be the “extra” you need to run from the mugger, to sing in front of the crowd, to burst through the defensive line of the opposing team, to ask your boss for a raise and so on.

Fear manifests itself physically, often as a knot in the bottom of our stomach, as that tension headache in the lower region on the back of our skull, as subtle to massive perspiration levels across our bodies or dozens of other physical sensations. Is fear real? Sometimes, it is a result of very real and threatening circumstances, while at other times it is simply the resulting emotions caused by our apprehension and negative expectations concerning a certain activity, event or outcome. They feel the same however. Our bodies react in the same manner whether the fear is real or imagined.

Consider the acronym False Evidence Appearing Real. The letters spell fear, but what is the message? The obvious message is that whether or not the situation is real or imagined, our mind sees it as the same occurrence and our physical reaction is identical. Knowing this, we can now go to work.

Many years ago, Mark Twain said “Do the thing that you fear and the death of fear is certain.” He was as exactly right then as he is for today, as truth never changes. I have found through personal experience that if you are fearful about a certain event or situation, there are steps that you can take to make it more logical and less emotional. In other words, identify the false evidence that is appearing real and you are on your way to reducing that situations’ negative hold on you. Removing or reducing the negative emotion by identifying the false evidence will enable you to have the courage to do the thing that you fear.

For example, assume that you were called upon by your boss to do a three-month research project and present your findings and representations to the board. After you “outwardly and confidently” accept the assignment, your first gut reaction may likely be sheer panic! Right now, you are probably paralyzed with fear and shaken to the core. Where do you go from here? How on earth can you muster the fortitude to proceed?

Let’s break down this project and look at it rationally. These same steps can be used with little modification to address a wide variety of circumstances. For the purposes of this paper, let’s assume that you are quite capable of accumulating the data and extrapolating the results into a written report format and you now have concluded that portion of your assignment. What next?

1. Relax. Take a deep breath, hold for a 4 second count and exhale slowly. Repeat 4 times.

2. Close your eyes. Know that God gave you ample ability to do this. Be thankful.

3. On a blank sheet of paper, draw a line down the center so that you now have two columns.

4. Label column one as Positives and column two as Negatives.

5. Identify your negative emotions and write each one in the Negatives column. Write in detail as necessary. Clearly identify each feeling that you have relative to the assignment.

6. In the Positives column, write your strengths. Include your positive emotions. Examples: Do you have a pleasant voice? Is your work often complimented? Do people like you?

7. What are the likely outcomes from the assignment? Will you be promoted when you deliver your presentation? Will you receive a 20% salary increase? Will you literally die a horrid death if you deliver a poor presentation? Will they “boo” and heckle you in the boardroom? Be realistic. Examine the facts. What is the evidence supporting each possible outcome?

8. Identify the False Evidence Appearing Real. Does it look as threatening to you now in light of your recent analysis?

9. Study your audience. What do you know about each board member? Remember, they are also human beings just like you. They probably value their health and families too, just like you do. What types of presentations are they used to. What do they favor? Each board member’s personal assistant can most likely answer these questions for you.

10. Plan your presentation. Make an outline using your expected time allotment. Determine which presentation tools, if any, that you will utilize. Do you need a drawing pad, a projector, a laptop or any other aid? Plan for all contingencies.

11. Rehearse your presentation several times until you are comfortable with it. Remember to do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain. Rehearse again.

12. Remember, especially just before your actual presentation, that you and only you are now the expert on this particular subject within the confines of the boardroom. Be confident.

Remember what that famous 1960’s-70’s philosopher, “Broadway” Joe Namath, had to say in one of his commercials; “Look sharp, feel sharp… Be sharp.” Broadway Joe understood how to advance in the face or fear or adversity. He must have read Mark Twain.

These principles, altered slightly to fit any given situation, will always take the sting out of fear. “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.” That is absolute truth that does not change with the passage of time.

Daniel Sitter is the author of the breakthrough e-book, Learning For Profit, the revolutionary “how-to” book providing simple, step-by-step instructions to teach people exactly how to learn new skills faster than ever before. It is what the author calls a “skinny book”, a new generation of e-book designed for busy people. Containing no “filler or fluff”, it gets right to the point with no wasted time. It can be read easily and quickly on a computer, a PDA or printed for later reference.

Visit http://www.learningforprofit.com/ or contact the author directly. This e-book is currently available from C|net’s download.com, the authors’ web site and a variety of online book merchants. Mr. Sitter is also a contributing writer for many online and traditional publications.

Posted on Nov 29th, 2006

Your fears, anxieties, and other problems have the best of you and you don’t know where to turn for help. At some point you feel totally helpless as you struggle each day. What do you do? Here are a few suggestions on how to get out of this situation.

Always remember to get all of the facts of the given situation. Gathering the facts can prevent us from relying on exaggerated and fearful assumptions. By focusing on the facts, a person can rely on what is reality and what is not.

Learn how to manage your fearful thoughts that may be difficult to manage. When experiencing a negative thought, read some positive statements and affirmations that help lift your spirits and make you feel better. Remember that your fearful thoughts may be exaggerated so balance these thoughts with realistic thinking and common sense.

Take your problems to God. God is stronger than your stresses and anxieties. When the going gets tough, talk to God about your problems as if you were talking to a friend. Be persistent and be open in the avenues that God may provide to you in solving your problem. It is not always easy, however God is in control and he will help you if you ask him.

Don’t tackle all of your fears at once. Manage them one at a time. Try to learn what is the real source of your fears and anxieties. Knowing what the source of your problem is can go a long way in finding the solution. Think about it and try to figure out what is the source of your fears and anxieties. If you do not know, then ask a professional.

Managing your fears and anxieties will take some hard work. Trying to avoid you problems will do nothing in getting rid of your fears and anxieties. Remember that all you can do is to do your best each day, hope for the best, and take things in stride. Patience, persistence, education, and being committed in trying to solve your problem will go along way in fixing your problems.

Stan Popovich is the author of "A Layman’s Guide to Managing Fear" an easy to read book that presents a overview of techniques that are effective in managing persistent fears and anxieties. For additional information go to: http://www.managingfear.com

Posted on Nov 25th, 2006

When a great Zen Master returned to his country after many years of studying abroad the people asked what he brought with him. He said, “I’ve come with nothing but empty hands.”

What are these empty hands? What value are they of us today? Usually our own hands are full, filled with tasks, problems and possessions that seem impossible to put down. Our lives are crowded with decisions, plans and dreams. When these plans are not fulfilled, when events do not go as we would wish, or when change comes unexpectedly, many start to grasp and hold on. This grasping itself increases anxiety. Few know how to truly deal with change or understand why it is happening to them. Living by Zen shows us how to stop clinging and open both our hands and minds to the new possibilities that are always present for us.

Holding On

Many people’s lives are centered around accumulation. They become very proud of what they have accumulated; money, degrees, skills, friends, information, property, lovers. Soon they are so full they can hardly move, and yet they still search for more, cramming every corner of their homes and lives full. Before long, they even believe what they have is who they are. It is not so easy to stop accumulating and simply clean out the drawers. Many have not yet learned the value of empty space.

Along with the process of accumulation, the process of attachment appears. Many become afraid of losing that which they have. Everything seems precious, no matter what. How often do they stop and ask, “Do I need this anymore? Is it still valuable? When is it time to let go?”

How We Know Ourselves

Most of us feel we are our job, possessions, achievements, and relationships. This is how we know ourselves. If we lose one of them, we feel we have lost part of ourselves. Somehow we have not identified with the basis of all life, which is constantly moving, changing, growing. In order to expand our sense of selves it is necessary to stop fighting and resisting life, to become willing to let go.

But, whether or not we want to let go, life itself decides for us. Change comes in its own time, both giving and taking things away. When this happens, many suffer greatly from this sense of loss. A usual response is to hold on tighter.

When Change Comes

When change comes, the first thing we must realize is that the harder we hold on, the more we crush what we have in the palm of our hands. This is not the way to avoid suffering. In fact, the pain of loss is caused by resistance to what is going on. The more we fight what is happening, the more we resist the natural flow of life, the more we suffer and helpless we can feel.

There are many ways we hold on and resist what is happening in our lives - through domination, depression, denial, endless activity, immediately making new plans. By fighting change this way we are insisting that life meet our particular demands, fulfill our needs and expectations. A battle is set up. Much energy is squandered.

As we live by Zen, we find a different way of approaching change. When change, loss or disturbance comes, we plant ourselves in the center of the storm and allow ourselves to fully experience what is going on. Instead of being blown all over by the turbulence, we become the center of the tornado, filled with energy and focus. We let go of the ways we “think” things should be going and allow ourselves to fully be with what is. As we do this a great question arises - what do we really have that we can lose?

This question is called a koan; a question that cannot be answered rationally. As we work on this koan, our minds, heart and hands become empty, open and clear for a new way of understanding and being. As we stop clinging, and start letting go into the truth of the moment, we discover who we truly are and are filled with fresh wisdom.

Now as we are living by Zen fears diminish, grasping lets go and our sense of being becomes planted on a stable foundation. In this process we begin to experience life differently and also have a taste of who we truly are. Our hands then become empty too. Empty hands are pliable, flexible, and useful. They can touch and comfort, they can give and receive, they can do what is needed when the moment appears.

Cc/2005

Discover 2,000 year old Zen secrets to being calm, balanced and positive, no matter what is going on in your life through Living By Zen, (Timeless Truths For Everyday Life), http://www.livingbyzen.com by Dr. Brenda Shoshanna. She is a psychologist, speaker and workshop leader, long term Zen practitioner and teacher and also author of Zen Miracles, (Finding Peace In An Insane World), Wiley, 2002, Zen and the Art of Falling In Love and other books. Dr. Shoshanna teaches in universities, the community, online for Barnes And Noble University and is relationship expert on http://www.ivillage.com. Her wonderful program on Living By Zen is available at http://www.livingbyzen.com (Contact her at mailto:topspeaker@stressmanagementarticles.com. (212) 288-0028.)

Posted on Nov 21st, 2006

We wonder how many of you might recognise this scenario? Although it happened with a male manager, it could apply to men or women. The manager we worked with had been promoted to a more senior role and was experiencing demands from all sides. He became increasingly tired, was working long hours and spending less time with his family. His overall energy dropped, anxiety levels increased, sleep was disrupted and concentration and focus diminished. He no longer took time to exercise, found himself snatching meals of dubious quality and kept himself going with constant fixes of coffee and Red Bull. Apart from the impact on him – what do you think were the effects on his family and the people who worked for and with him?

Imagine what it was like working for him. How supportive was he as a manager? How clear was his direction and communication? Was he just seeing the errors and problems? Were his team, and colleagues, starting to feel stressed because of his behaviours?

What about someone working in a customer facing role, who has had trouble getting to work, pressures at home, a sudden increase of customer complaints and problems? The pressure gets to them and they start to become irritable with colleagues – and then with customers. What will that do to the colleagues and the business? The colleagues may be understanding for a while, but the longer it goes on, the risk is that they catch the disease! Communication and team support disappear and morale goes down. Suppose it gets worse and our person feels they cannot face it and so take some time off. Now who bears the brunt of this? Oh, and what happens with the customers? What would it be like to visit this workplace? Imagine what you would see, hear and feel.

Stress rarely happens in isolation or to one individual. (Although it may feel that way!) When someone begins to get stressed there will be a ripple effect spreading out from them. Those closest feel the effect first! Whether it is the person at the top who cascades the problems down and through the organisation, a line-manager struggling to cope with their job (especially when promoted into it) or a person with loads of pressures in their non-work life – they are contagious!!! The spread will be insidious if nothing is done about it. It becomes a vicious spiral and creates more work for those still there to do it.

Many of you reading this are aware that you have pressures on you from all sides, possibly from your family, your friends, colleagues, your own teams and direct reports – and yourself! Juggling your time and attention across these is a difficult challenge! What makes these pressures worse can be your own expectations of yourself and what you believe you should be doing. This could be concerned with demonstrating how capable and professional you are in your role. It could be because you feel you should be giving your family or friends more of your time and attention.

A consequence of this could be that you start to feel the pressure mounting and begin to react to things differently. Maybe you become less patient with some colleagues, the department who miss the deadline, the people in your team who do not communicate in the right way for you. If you are not careful you may be the originator of the “virus” and before long it is spreading to those you interact with and they start to act in a stressed way!

Why does it matter? Stress is likely to lead to problems within the business. These will effect the bottom-line, directly or indirectly. The most obvious impact can be loss of business, maybe through poor service, or poor quality. Your costs certainly rise, whether because of lower productivity or having to correct or rework mistakes. Then there is the “human cost” of low morale, probably leading to absences (eventually long-term) – and possibly leaving. This results in increasing staff turnover, with all the ensuing costs and pitfalls.

Stress accounts for around 40% of long-term absences – and can reduce performance by up to 70%!! If it leads to a high staff turnover that compounds the situation, disrupting the business, increasing costs (direct and indirect) and reducing profitability. It is estimated that over 270,000 people are absent from work every day due to stress related issues! 1 in 5 report feeling extremely stressed at work. That is 5m people!!

If you are an employer, or a manager, you need to pay attention to what is happening in your workplace regarding stress. It affects the people, performance and you! Stress is not an illness, it is a state and can be managed or changed. However, not doing so can result in someone becoming ill.

The other reason for paying attention to this is that there is legislation around it! There is the duty of care and responsibility attached to managers as part of the Health and Safety legislation. This means undertaking risk assessments, creating a positive environment and managing work activity to reduce stress and pressure at work.

You can use these questions to get an immediate sense of where you are meeting HSE criteria and where issues may occur for your business:

  • The culture of your organisation - how does it approach work-related stress?
  • Demands on people, such as workload and exposure to physical hazards. Is work sensibly scheduled so that the workload levels are right?
  • Control over their work and the way they do it – how much say do staff have?
  • Relationships – how do you deal with issues such as bullying or harassment? (Remember, up to 1 in 5 reports they have been bullied at work.)
  • Organisational change – how is it managed and communicated?
  • Understanding of role – do individuals understand their role in the organisation? Does the organisation ensure that individuals do not have conflicting roles or challenges? (Is there a clear definition of roles?)
  • Support and training from peers and line managers for the person to be able to do the core functions of the job – do you cater for individual needs and differences?

How well would your workplace score? Which areas could do with some attention? Remember, prevention is usually preferable to cure in most things. Pay attention to these factors and you can start to address stress early on, preventing it becoming a problem. This will reduce the chances of it spreading. If you can identify specific areas, or individuals, where stress seems to occur frequently, consider how you can “quarantine” them!

Look at your organisation, and yourself if necessary and think about what you can do against these factors to vaccinate it against stress! You do not want it becoming an epidemic – it is bad for business!! Make time to avoid pressure turning to stress for you personally and you will be in a better position to look at those around you and spot the early warning signs – and support the people who may be in danger of becoming the stress spreaders to stop them at source!

To keep yourself in the right state to avoid becoming stressed or a stress spreader, learn to be reasonable with yourself – and others. Keep things in perspective and set realistic standards and expectations for yourself.

When things are building up ask yourself:

– what will this look like in a year when we look back on it? (Or 3 years or 6 months.) How important will it seem then?

- what will be the worst that might happen if I don’t…….?(or do!)

- what am I gaining by always thinking I have to be "Superman" or “Superwoman”? How often do I manage it?

Stress can be contagious – and when it is the negative form of stress it spreads quickly and no-one enjoys it or benefits. Prevent it with your attitudes and behaviour to yourself and others.

Graham Yemm a founding partner of Solutions 4 Training Ltd and Managng Pressure. During his years as a consultant he has worked with a variety of major companies in the U.K., Europe, USA, the Middle East and Russia in Sales, People and Management Skills.

Graham is a Master Practitioner of NLP and was involved with setting up and running “The Business Group”, which promotes uses of NLP in organisations. He is an accredited trainer for the LAB profile programme – “Words that Change Minds”. His personal enjoyment comes from helping individuals to take more responsibility for their own actions– freeing them to feel they can make more choices about their lives.

Contact http://www.managingpressure.com or +44 1483 480656

Posted on Nov 20th, 2006

How much attention is paid to one of the biggest underlying risk factors within an organisation – the effects of stress? Not only are there a lot of potential risks arising from the spread of stress within an organisation, it costs them a great deal of money!!

Let us start with looking at some hard-nosed numbers (based on the UK.).

  • The CBI estimate that there is a cost of £4bn per annum to industry as a direct result of stress related absence.

  • This figure can rise to over £7bn when you consider the loss of productivity!
  • A recent survey by the HSE indicated over 550,000 cases of absence as a result of stress, depression and anxiety.
  • A further 66,000 were absent with heart problems as a result of stress.
  • There was a loss of nearly 13m working days in total.
  • The average absence was 28.5 days for stress-related issues.
  • 1 in 5 believe that their job is extremely or very stressful – that is 5 million people!
  • Up to 40% of absence is related to stress.
  • When stressed, performance can be reduced by up to 70%
  • The CIPD estimate that stress costs industry £522 per employee.
  • Had enough of this? Moving on to think about the risk of unmanaged stress to organisations we can start by looking at the “knock-on” risks.

    Where an organisation is suffering from stress problems there will be a number of probable consequences, all with ensuing costs to the business. Also, what other risks might they contribute to?

    1. If the atmosphere is getting worse there will be an increase in staff turnover. The costs of this are often overlooked or hidden behind some spurious justification. What is the direct cost of recruiting replacements? Oh, and the indirect costs? What is the cost of the loss of the experience and expertise? Staff turnover disrupts business in many ways and reduces profitability. Simultaneously, costs will increase too!
    2. When individuals are suffering from stress their work performance is likely to deteriorate. The quality of decision making will go down, possibly with faulty judgements being made. What is the risk to the organisation of this? It is probable that the rate of casual errors will increase too – with what consequences?
    3. The relations between people will be effected, for the worse! As communication, support or teamworking deteriorate then people will not enjoy coming to work and levels of commitment are likely to reduce. This will probably mean that customer service gets worse too – again, with what consequences? (This will also apply to internal customers as well as external.)
    4. As people become less motivated, and even demotivated, their productivity goes down and the impact of that is………?

    When we take into account the figures and also these probable knock-on effects, it makes sense to think about managing the organisation in a way which will reduce the potential impact of stress. Indeed, that is a key part of one of the HSE initiatives and the introduction of their “Management Standards for Stress.” Although these are not compulsory in themselves, there is legislation around it! There is the duty of care and responsibility attached to managers as part of the Health and Safety legislation. This means undertaking risk assessments, creating a positive environment and managing work activity to reduce stress and pressure at work.

    Before going further into these, let us consider what is meant by this word, “stress”. The HSE define it as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them.” A simpler option is to think of it as “the internalisation of pressure – where it exceeds your ability to cope.” When we hear people say things such as “We all need some degree of stress”, what is really being said is that we need some level of pressure to galvanise us to action. These pressures can come from all sorts of sources in a work and personal lives – and within ourselves too.

    The figure below, “The Pressure Curve” shows what we mean by this. If the amount of pressure is not high enough, we do not feel the need to respond and so performance is likely to be down. (Wonderfully called “rust out” in certain circles.) Have you ever gone into a shop, restaurant or somewhere on a very quiet day? What was the response and service like? This end of the scale can lead to problems from the boredom level!

    Get the pressure “right” and we are triggered to respond in the most effective way – and will operate at our “optimal performance” level. Moving along towards the end, the pressure levels increase and when this is too much the response is what most people think of as the classic stress problem, “burn out”.

    This rarely just “happens” suddenly. The pressures build up, the symptoms will become more and more obvious, the physiological and behavioural clues will be more noticeable. If the situation does not change, and the pressure become more manageable, the person who is at this end will probably start to become ill as the body sends out signals to say it needs to protect itself against this burnout.

    The challenge facing managers with this concept is to identify what is the “optimal” amount of pressure for each person in their team. We each interpret pressures in different ways. What one of us may shrug off, another will think of as a crisis and vice versa. Add to this, we all have various pressures influencing us which are external to our work. These can range from personal relationships to financial, environmental to practical such as travelling. Then there is the human capacity to create pressure on ourselves through having unreasonable expectations or by finding things to worry about over which we have no control! How well do managers know their team members to assess their personal “negative” and “positive” pressures?

    Why do the figures show such an increase in stress related problems in recent years? Has that much changed? In short, yes! There are a number of factors, and these are an indicator and not a comprehensive list.

    • Workloads – reductions in headcount yet the same or more work expected of the people left behind

  • The pace of life, hassles with getting around, speed of response to things
  • Expectations – of self and others
  • Lack of control over aspects of our lives
  • Materialism
  • Values not being met or having to operate in conflict with our values
  • What can organisations do to monitor and manage the stress risk?

    One of the first things to acknowledge that there is a risk. Too many managers, especially senior executives, want to hide their heads in the sand and deny that there is a problem, or potential problem. They certainly do not want to suggest that they may be a significant contributor to the problem! Stress is not a problem confined to the executive suite! In fact, a higher percentage of the workforce down the line will suffer stress-related problems than senior management. Having said that, the consequences to the organisation and the people of an over-stressed senior manager can be horrendous!

    The organisation can use a number of factors to assess whether there is problem. As in most forms of good management, gathering data is key. Work from facts and not only conjecture, though do not ignore it.

    One of the “standards” is to look at absenteeism, both the levels and any patterns. Is the level static or increasing? Is any area of the organisation suffering more than the others? What happens when employees return to work, do you have a meeting with them to find out the real reasons for the absence, and what you can do to prevent them recurring? Also, will the organisation offer support to help the employee? If there is a pattern in one area, what is being done to address the cause? (Is it the nature of the work, or the manager or the environment?)

    Look at the quality information. Is there an increase in errors, customer complaints or, are other standards not being achieved? Before chasing the teams or individuals and demanding improvements, explore why things have begun to slip. Talk to people about what is going on and how they feel.

    What is happening to the staff turnover figures? Any trends apparent? Is the organisation using exit interviews to find the real reasons behind the departure?

    To get a proper overview as an organisation, a good starting point is to carry out a simple audit. Questions in these areas will help to get an immediate sense of where the organisation is in terms of meeting the HSE criteria. It will also highlight where issues may occur.

    • The culture of your organisation - how does it approach work-related stress?
    • Demands on people, such as workload and exposure to physical hazards. Is work sensibly scheduled so that the workload levels are right?
    • Control over their work and the way they do it – how much say do staff have? Are managers reasonable in their expectations and treatment of their teams?
    • Relationships – how do you deal with issues such as bullying or harassment? (Another point, up to 1 in 5 people report they have been bullied at work.)
    • Organisational change – how is it managed and communicated?
    • Understanding of role – do individuals understand their role in the organisation? Does the organisation ensure that individuals do not have conflicting roles or challenges? (Is there a clear definition of roles?)
    • Support and training from peers and line managers for the person to be able to do the core functions of the job – do you cater for individual needs and differences?

    How well would your workplace score? Which areas could do with some attention? Remember, prevention is usually preferable to cure in most things. In this case, it is almost certainly a less expensive option! Pay attention to these factors and the organisation can start to address stress early on, preventing it becoming a problem.

    Another thing for the management team to do, is to develop an understanding of stress, its causes, symptoms and consequences. They can then begin to operate in a way which will create a healthier organisation. They can monitor the “health” using the approach above – and then set about managing to maintain a healthy environment. The secret to stress management is not about learning to relax, exercise or other coping strategies, although these do help. It is about getting to the cause of the problem and dealing with it from there. Good management practices, good communication, and supporting and caring for people will all help to reduce the risk of stress. Reduce stress and you reduce risks in many other areas of the business.

    Graham Yemm is a partner of Solutions 4 Training Ltd and Managing Pressure.During his years as a consultant he has worked with a variety of major companies in the U.K., Europe, USA, the Middle East and Russia in Sales, People and Management Skills. He has had many years of experience tailoring programmes to address organisational issues around sales, account management, negotiations, sales management and customer service – especially focusing on the communication and personal skills aspects.

    Graham is a Master Practitioner of NLP and was involved with setting up and running “The Business Group”, which promotes uses of NLP in organisations. He is an accredited trainer for the LAB profile programme – “Words that Change Minds”. His personal enjoyment comes from helping individuals to take more responsibility for their own actions– freeing them to feel they can make more choices about their lives.

    Contact http://www.managingpressure.com or + 44 1483 480656

    Posted on Nov 16th, 2006

    In this article on my series on the causes and solutions to physician burnout I wish to unearth not only one major cause of this problem but also help to touch on an irony that drives a large number of individuals into this grueling profession.

    When you ask a budding physician why they have chosen to become a doctor you will often hear such things as: the desire to help people, the intellectual challenge, the desire to make a difference in the world, the prestige, the good life style etc.

    One of the reasons that rarely comes up is the "need to be needed". Given the current spate of cases of physician burnout though I would like to suggest that in many cases this is the result of such a need.

    How does such a need manifest itself? Well often it does so as an inability on the part of the physician to say no to the patient when it is necessary or in their best interests. The doctor may "need" the patient to frequent their practice for many reasons: to give themselves a sense of purpose, a feeling of adequacy, to distract themselves from the sadness they might feel within, to help boost their own self worth and self esteem, or simply for monetary reasons.

    Whatever the reasons, what gets set up is a doctor-patient co-dependency that feeds the needs of both parties, at least for a while. This co-dependent relationship does have its limitations however.

    For instance, the doctor’s energy and time resources are limited and once they have made an unspoken contract to supply the patient whatever is needed i.e. effectively taking over full responsibility for the patient’s health from them, then they have set themselves on course to burnout.

    Often the problem doesn’t become manifest as one until this late stage. At such time the doctor finds him/herself unable to keep up their end of the contract, the patient either gets ill or they complain to the licensing body and everything starts to unravel.

    What is the answer to this dilemma? Well in my view it is necessary for a physician to stop and become acutely aware of the presence of such a need operating within them. In the case where a physician needs patients to boost their self esteem for instance, such an issue can often be spotted in the physician’s earliest behavioral role within their own families of origin.

    In such cases the physician-to-be is often the one who is "selected for" or "accepts" the role of emotionally or physically looking after an ailing family member and this then becomes what their self esteem and identity get structured around.

    In order to free one’s self from this type of co-dependency trap it is necessary for the physician to:

    1. Recognize that they have this problem and
    2. To release the need from within them once and for all.

    The latter can be done through a new and powerful life transforming modality called the Mind Resonance Process(TM) (MRP) that I have written about extensively here.

    If you wish to know more about MRP or to experience it directly kindly visit the web link below where you can download free an interactive audio clip on it.

    Dr. Nick Arrizza is trained in Chemical Engineering, Business Management & Leadership, Medicine and Psychiatry. He is an Energy Psychiatrist, Healer, Key Note Speaker,Editor of a New Ezine Called "Spirituality And Science" (which is requesting high quality article submissions) Author of "Esteem for the Self: A Manual for Personal Transformation" (available in ebook format on his web site), Stress Management Coach, Peak Performance Coach & Energy Medicine Researcher, Specializes in Life and Executive Performance Coaching, is the Developer of a powerful new tool called the Mind Resonance Process(TM) that helps build physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well being by helping to permanently release negative beliefs, emotions, perceptions and memories. He holds live workshops, international telephone coaching sessions and international teleconference workshops on Physical. Emotional, Mental and Spiritual Well Being.

    Business URL #1: http://www.telecoaching4u.com

    Posted on Nov 15th, 2006

    This is part five of a five part series exploring simple, easy to implement stress management techniques we can do every day. These are powerful techniques that are easy to learn and they do not take a lot of time or effort. If you do not have time to listen to a guided relaxation CD, or participate in an exercise program or meditate for 30 minutes each day, then these techniques will give you a quick way to begin to combat the effects of stress. No excuses, everyone has time for this stuff so let’s get to work!

    Something we seldom do is to take time for ourselves. I’m not talking about taking time to catch up on the millions of chores and incidentals that seem to never end, in addition to all our daily demands. The pace of our lives is quite literally out of control. We do more with less constantly. We sacrifice our sleep to cram everything possible into every waking moment and these days it is rare to find someone who actually does stop to smell the roses. This pace leads to a life that is out of balance, a life that centers itself on chaos, a life heading down the path to depression and total burnout. Believe it or not, it’s OK to stop life and get off for a while!

    Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed by the pace of my life, which at times boarders on the insane, I just tune out. Admittedly I should do this more often than I do, because I also struggle with allowing myself to find this peace. But this is part of self-care and gratitude and it should be part of our daily life. So, the trick is making the time to do some “Me” fun. I accomplish this by taking my day planner and literally scheduling in the time. I make an appointment with myself for fun and then do whatever I feel like doing, without guilt. I have found that by budgeting the time it makes me feel better about the whole process.

    Another positive choice I make when I’m feeling beat up by life is to take a break from information overload. I simply stop reading the paper, listening to the news and watching television. I just deal with my immediate world and the rest of it can all go to hell for a while. Now, I’m not advocating disassociation from the world because that would be an unreasonable thing to do. We do need to keep abreast of current issues in our society so we can be informed citizens, but I am telling you that taking a couple of days off form the constant bombardment of negative stimulus feels really great. And, believe it or not, the world will continue without you! The benefit to this is that when you deal with your immediate world, the larger picture does not seem as significant as before. This will help you to keep your perspective and stay on track. The world will seem more positive and your life will have greater balance and peace.

    If you take a look at all the stress management strategies we have discussed in each part of this article you can see that the effort needed to complete any one of these is minimal and best of all none of them require tremendous commitments of time. Literally just a few minutes each day of applying any or all of these concepts can lead to tremendous strides in managing your daily stress. Frankly, you can not possibly come up with any excuses to justify not trying some of these simple techniques. I hope you choose to do everything I have suggested, and would encourage you to explore deeper levels of stress management techniques as you begin to see the positive results emerge in your life.

    Good health!

    Rodger Ruge is a retired police officer, stress management trainer and author of The Warrior’s Mantra, Barricade Books. Rodger is available for stress management training and seminars. You can reach Rodger through his website at http://www.readyforce.net.

    Posted on Nov 14th, 2006

    In a Canadian Medical Journal there was recently published a survey which reported that over 40% of Canadian Physicians are on the verge of burning out. Although there are many reasons for this, which I hope to elaborate on in a series of upcoming articles, one of them is the physician’s inability to say no to their patients.

    This was highlighted at a recent conference on helping physicians heal that I attended recently at a representative medical association in which I heard the following comment from a participating doctor:

    "Many of us are reluctant to set limits on our patients’ demands on our time because some of them are going to get ticked off with us if we do so."

    On hearing this comment it struck me how the underlying issue here is one of being "afraid to say no." This fear of course is supported by deeper fears of: the patient getting ill, fear that the doctor will feel guilty or responsible, fear that the patient will report them to the local licensing board, the fear that they will be reprimanded, the fear that they will lose their license, etc.

    So what ultimately happens is that the sum total of these fears manifests in the physician’s inability to set limits on his/her patients i.e. to be able "say no" to endless demands on their time and energy. The net result is a physician who ultimately feels enslaved.

    Ironically this behavior also models to the patient that it is the doctor and not them who is ultimately responsible for their health.

    The physicians "think" that what is enslaving them is "outside" of them i.e. the patient and/or the licensing body. In fact what are actually enslaving them are their own "fears" of what they think will happen if they say no.

    They allow themselves, without realizing it to get seduced into the belief that "saying yes" rather than no, when it is necessary, will get the patient and their licensing body off their radar and hence will improve the quality of their lives.

    Ultimately however what actually happens is that they find themselves drained of vital life energy, unable to function, making mistakes, feeling overwhelmed, feeling stressed and burnt out, possibly feeling trapped and/or suicidal, possibly turning to drugs or alcohol to try and cope, unable to satisfy the patient’s requests, and eventually coming up against the licensing board.

    In other words the belief that "saying yes" is going to make their life better is absolutely false.

    If you are a physician and you follow me so far then I ask that you go within and simply note this for yourself and then notice how you feel.

    If you truly wish to begin to reclaim complete mastery over your life and your work then kindly visit the web link below and download an audio clip that I have posted for you there.

    Dr. Nick Arrizza is trained in Chemical Engineering, Business Management & Leadership, Medicine and Psychiatry. He is an Energy Psychiatrist, Healer, Key Note Speaker,Editor of a New Ezine Called "Spirituality And Science" (which is requesting high quality article submissions) Author of "Esteem for the Self: A Manual for Personal Transformation" (available in ebook format on his web site), Stress Management Coach, Peak Performance Coach & Energy Medicine Researcher, Specializes in Life and Executive Performance Coaching, is the Developer of a powerful new tool called the Mind Resonance Process(TM) that helps build physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well being by helping to permanently release negative beliefs, emotions, perceptions and memories. He holds live workshops, international telephone coaching sessions and international teleconference workshops on Physical. Emotional, Mental and Spiritual Well Being.

    Business URL #1: http://www.telecoaching4u.com

    Posted on Nov 13th, 2006

    Have you ever noticed what the harvest is from a bitter argument people or groups with contradicting views may have? Who’s the first prize winner?

    The one that supposedly wins becomes a short-term superior argument champion. The one who’s lost becomes momentarily an underdog in the situation. One way or another, a disharmony is formed.

    Besides disharmony, the feelings of stress, some anxiety and mild panic of the egos have stepped up their ill effects on the health of all parties involved.

    The cascading wildfire stress response of the body systems encounters yet another "item" to deal with in a day.

    Let’s have a look at a few simple ways of taming the heat of such moments and turning them into more productive, less anxious ones.

    Step One:
    Learn how to control your ego and temper by welcoming an opposing opinion. Use that opinion to your advantage by discovering yet another angle of looking at "the problem".

    Step Two:
    Give the benefit of the doubt to your "opponent". By doing so, it will immediately and markedly decrease the inner emotional turbulence on both sides of the table. The flow of events is bound to become more orderly. Remember this during any argument: BOTH parties have been previously wrong one time or another.

    Step Three:
    Let them talk themselves out. By listening more (practice), you will notice that you have more to say with fewer words. The time you give yourself by listening allows you:
    1. To be more tactful (better choice of words),
    2. To be sincere
    3. To find a common ground
    Listen and observe quietly to get clues you need for the next productive step.

    Step Four:
    When it’s time for it - delay no longer to set matters straight. A humble apology for your mistake brings out the very core of what we all are - gentle students of life at all times (no matter where).

    There you have it! Stress relief tips and self help that work for you when you play with them. Can you form such a positive habit to benefit from in many ways wherever you go? You bet!

    Lu Smith co-authored a unique book. Using their own case study, discover over 367 amazing techniques to outsmart stress effects on your health.

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