Whether you’re juggling a job and a family, or just coping with a career alone, you don't have to have the word "stress" defined for you.
Photo: Skills for a job
Here are 12 ways to relax and overcome stress on the job:
1. Learn to recognize your own stress signs and don't repress them
Under tension, my mouth may become dry and you may get a migraine headache, but each of us is experiencing a physical clue to emotional or social stress - and both of us need relief before we can function well. Stress isn't a sign of weakness. It's a response to change and a warning system that tells your body to relax - except when you need the fight-or-flight response to escape real danger.
2. Recognize that you may be looking for the right things in the wrong place
A job is the right place to look for power and prestige, but the wrong place to seek love and support!
3. Don't medicate away your symptoms of stress
Medication is only useful to prevent panic and disorganization so that you're able to manage your stress, not mask it.
4. We're each responsible for our own self-esteem
When the husband is unemployed or is less successful than the wife, she should not have to make herself powerless to buttress his ego. A person can grow without having to cut down someone else.
5. Guilt is a feeling others lay on you
Shame is what you feel when you don't live up to your own expectations. A woman who tries to deliver 100 percent at home and 100 percent at work is doomed to suffer guilt for shortchanging her children and shame for her work inadequacies. Just knowing that studies show that even full-time mothers rarely spend 20 minutes a day entirely devoted to one child can be a guilt-reliever. What each child benefits from most are short periods of intimacy, not long periods of your mere presence.
6. A man who breaks down or cries at his desk is sounding an alarm for attention
When a woman cries or has a tantrum, people may dismiss it as "normal feminine behaviour" (according to stereotype). Therefore, women often need to ask for help or else their distress may go unnoticed.
7. Habits are false solutions to tension
If cigarettes, liquor and food really solved the problem, we wouldn't have lung cancer, alcoholism and obesity. Biofeedback and coping therapy (read on) can defuse tension before habits short circuit the body even further.
8. When you first feel stress, give yourself a mental X-ray to locate its source
Are you getting a headache before each executive meeting because you have to deal with other people's authority over you? Or because you have to assume the pose of a tough, authoritative decision-maker? Are you confusing your boss with your father? Afraid people won't like you if you're assertive? Think about the very worst thing that can happen to you in that meeting. Could you handle it?
9. Instead of bottling up your stress, becoming passive or hostile, try to use your energy to take charge of the situation
Plan how to tell your colleagues why you feel they've set you up for a fall.
10. The token woman in management can be a victim of the "Lone Ranger syndrome."
If you're given the promotion and the accoutrements of power - but no psychological support within the company - join a business women's club and develop friendships with other similar women in other companies.
11. Once you identify the source of your stress, challenge its logic
Suppose you're meeting your supervisor for the annual review of your work performance. Instead of spending a sleepless night or waking up with a knot in your stomach, analyze the situation. Is it in your supervisor's interest to put you down? Or wouldn't she want to find you doing well enough to reaffirm her choice of you to do the job? Even if she identifies a shortcoming of yours, where's the tragedy? Why defend your shortcomings when you can use her constructive criticism to strengthen your skills?
12. Stress isn't harmful as long as the body quickly returns to a restful state before physical and psychic resources are depleted
You can learn to relax with these biofeedback techniques:
- Diaphragm breathing: breathe slowly through the nose, expanding the stomach area, not the chest, and concentrate on the breath exhaling on your upper lip.
- Warm your hands: to raise the blood temperature in your cold, clammy hands, sit quietly and imagine your hands growing warm in the summer sun or soaking in warm, soapy water.
- Relax muscular tension: lie down (or sit comfortably in a chair), close your eyes and think only about your limbs getting limp and heavy and all the tension flowing out of your body through your toes.
These three exercises may sound bizarre, but I've tried them and they work.
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