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7 Ways to Manage the Stress Mess

By Dr. Geri Markel On manage-the-stress-mess

Stop Stress From Lowering Productivity!

There is no end to the creative ways developed by leaders to help manage the stress of those under their command.

For example, would you imagine that soldiers far across the globe are taking ballet lessons to relieve stress? Recently, South Korean soldiers are doing just that. Participating in a ballet class at a military base near the demilitarized zone separating the two Korea’s in Paju, South Korea, the soldiers report that they find more calm, balance and friendships both at work and home.

South Korean soldiers take part in a ballet class at a military base near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, July 13, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

South Korean soldiers take part in a ballet class at a military base near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, July 13, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

How to Keep Stress in Check

Although you can’t always avoid stress, you can anticipate, manage, and stop it from spiraling out of control. Yes, you can deal with the potential negative forces of stress in your increasingly complex, fast-paced, and distracting world.

First, develop awareness about, and respect for, stress as a formidable barrier to performance. It is no secret that as stress increases, your focus and productivity decrease. Second, you identify the triggers of your stress as it relates to your leadership roles and responsibilities. Third, you employ proven stress management strategies.  The strategies you use depend on your strengths and interests. It is helpful to gather information about the strategies that are most appealing to you.  For example, you might employ humor for occasional and mildly irritating situations but rely on yoga or exercise for ongoing stress management.

Six widely accepted stress management strategies:

  1. Appeal to the senses. Colors, sounds, and smells can influence your mood. Become more mindful of the ways each affects you. In terms of color, ask, “How can I infuse different hues into by work/life to help me or others relax or perk up. For example, vibrant colors such as orange, bright yellow and emerald green are energizing while soft shades of blue and green are calming. In terms of sound, ask, “What sounds might distract, calm, or energize me or others?” Some people prefer the sounds of the ocean or rain while others like hearing birds, chimes, or music. Stressed and sluggish before writing an important report, you might spend a few minutes listening to a rousing John Philip Sousa march. In terms of fragrances, the scent of evergreen can energize and help your focus.
  2. Access nature. Your stress management scheme might include being in nature—our great balancer, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said. You benefit from the sights, sounds, and smells of nature, whether you face is in the sun or your eyes are on the stars. Can’t get outdoors? Try watching a video or listening to a recording of the sea or other natural resource.
  3. Add light. When the dark winter invades, millions of people suffer from the winter blahs. Many benefit from using artificial light to reduce the negative effect of seasonal darkness. If the blues are your constant companion, it may be useful to contact a medical or mental health professional about your options.
  4. Use humor. Humor and laughter are instantly powerful stress busters. When you have a good laugh, you relax tense muscles and take deep breaths. When you apply lightheartedness to your own foibles, you defuse negativity, gain a fresh perspective, and reframe unpleasantness. During brief breaks, you can enjoy cartoons, jokes, and humorous quotes or engage in a bit of playfulness with silly toys and puzzles for use during breaks. To begin a meeting, you can share a cartoon to focus others’ attention to a topic and provide a brief stress buster.
  5. Exercise. Want an antidote to stress. Even moderate exercise helps relieve stress and supercharges mental circuits to sharpen thinking and enhanced memory. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.
  6. Meditate. Doing meditation quiets the mind by focusing your attention on a repeated sound called a mantra. By mediating, you can quiet the mind and enjoy a deeply relaxed state without distraction. If you are unfamiliar with meditation, there are many articles and books available about the topic.
  7. Institute a productive habit. Get into a routine of using a stress management method during the day, particularly when you become mindful of increased stress. For example, take a few breaths, count to 10, stretch, and relax. Accept the idea that when you work intensely, you expend a great deal of mental energy. Even a brief break allows you to replenish that energy.

It doesn’t matter what form of stress management you use; it only matters that you find strategies that work for you. Then use those strategies consistently. Bottom line: You’ll feel less stressed and more attentive and energized. For a fuller list of stress management strategies, use my checklist: stress-series-checklist-stress-management-strategies-10-17-16


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