is filled with pressures. Some are gentle nudges that
throw us temporarily off balance, others feel like
hard marble bookends, steely vises, or giant grinding
compactors. Pressures-- especially those "have
to's"--create stress. Learning to manage stress
can make a strong positive contribution to success
and personal well-being. Stress isn't necessarily
the enemy. Moderate amounts can enhance performance,
producing exhilaration and a sense of well being,
like the endorphin high experienced after aerobic
exercise. Good stress contributes to attaining goals
and fulfilling commitments. Bad stress is created
by negative emotions, unmanageable (or unmanaged)
events, environmental pollutants of various kinds--even
good stress in excessive amounts. Continually placing
mind and body under stress can eventually lead to
lapses in judgment, reduced creativity, emotional
burnout, and a host of degenerative diseases. One
way to help yourself manage stress is to make a list
of the stressors in your life, then examine each one
by asking yourself:
so bad about this--why is it stressful?
do I usually respond when this happens?
do situations like this usually get resolved?
I reduce the impact of this stressor through better
self- management? ...by improving a relationship?
...with an attitude adjustment? ...by changing a
health practice or taking a stress break.
To a point, the stress of being active and involved
is exhilarating--it's good stress. Only you know when
you've slipped over the edge into distress--the hazardous
zone. When the amber lights start flashing, good personal
management offers one of the quickest paths to stress
goals. Decide what's important and pursue it; decide
what's not important and demote its priority ranking.
Learn to say no.
organized. Keep a detailed calendar to remind you
of even the smallest tasks.
creative. Find new and better ways to do routine
tasks. Challenge yourself to shave a few seconds
off a job each time you do it.
your life in balance. Develop interests and supports
outside your primary work environment. Join a support
group and pursue a hobby.
Humans beings need other humans beings the way a computer
needs a power source. Women need contact with other
women--and men. Relationships energize us, and energy
in turn relieves stress.
your people base. Invite someone you like but don't
know well to have lunch with you.
a "secret pal" -- and begin a playful
thank-you notes to individuals who assist or collaborate
address people by name. If you think you'll have
trouble remembering someone's name, ask the person
to write it down for you.
Listening is a priceless skill and a rare gift to
offer others. It also reduces stress by ensuring
that your busy brain captures messages and instructions
the first time.
Feelings of anger, frustration, resentment, jealousy,
and boredom have an emotional and physical price tag.
Do you really want to pay it? When you find yourself
nourishing negative emotions -- brooding, worrying,
plotting -- remember that by changing your thoughts,
you can also change your feelings.
"play breaks." Keep a box of "toys"
in your work area. Occasionally take a few minutes
to juggle, work a puzzle, or throw a few baskets
into one of those miniature nets.
you're working on a tough project, cheer yourself
up with flowers.
a book of poems nearby. Occasionally, take a break
and read one--silently or aloud to family or colleagues.
a bulletin board of cartoons, whimsical items from
the media, and inspirational messages.
a little life into routine tasks. Practice line-dance
steps while you're walking the dog. Include a cartoon
in your next letter or report. Walk around the block
while you're waiting for copies to be printed.
and Vitality Skills
Sometimes you can't make stress go away, but you can
combat the effects of stress so they don't drag you
down and make you sick. You wouldn't board a plane
that you knew had worn tires or a faulty landing gear
so don't try to handle long-term stress with your
body overfed, undernourished, or out of shape.
in an exercise class--one filled, not with grimly
determined hard-bodies, but with folks having fun.
outdoors and take a walk. Make a game of noticing
little things you've never seen before.
a balanced nutritional supplement program. Antioxidants
are a must for combating stress.
air pollution by running an air purifier at home
or work. You might also try using an aroma-therapy
diffuser with different combinations of oils.
frequent 5-minute breaks to stretch, do self-massage,
meditate, or just clear your head.
Dianne Schilling is a San Diego-based
writer, editor and instructional designer who specializes
in the development of educational publications and
customized training programs for business and industry.
She is a founding partner in womensmedia.com. Send
e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.