Stress at Work

5 Tips on How to Focus When Working from Home

work from home, home based business, distraction, can't focus, How to be more productiveWorking from home is definitely growing in popularity by leaps and bounds.  Epic numbers of people are starting businesses where they can work at home. It’s an opportunity to ignite your passion and create a dream business, whether it’s full time or after a regular work day. However, working from a home office comes with its share of stresses and can pose some challenges in the concentration department. How to focus when working from home can be a challenge.

Attention span…what?

A common trait of an entrepreneur is an amazing level of creativity. The downside is you can easily get detoured from work. Distractions pop up like Outlook dinging, phones ringing and of course, Facebook. Concentrating on one project can be blown when you remember something else that needs your attention. Insert your mind producing your latest fantastic ideas about another project.  And dare I mention that doing dishes and laundry seem like a much better idea than the project that keeps repeating on your to do list? The possibilities are endless to become overly sidetracked.

So how can you stay focused when working at home? Here are five tips to help you prevent getting distracted at your home office:

Designate home office space-and stick to it.

Create a space specifically designated for your work. It’s best to have a space where you can shut the door. Your desk area needs to be functional where you can grab what you need in a snap. Use calendars, dry erase and bulletin boards to keep you on task. Try using sticky notes of all sizes to guide you toward your goals and keep clear what your plan is for the day.

Be careful that you don’t work in an easy chair. An extra comfortable chair might be nice for a change of pace but there are some downsides.  There are greater distractions like the television or family members wanting your attention. Also, your posture becomes compromised with your computer or smartpad in your lap. You will begin to notice more tension in your neck and low back when working from your recliner. Sitting at a desk keeps you ergonomically fit

Keep a work schedule.

Set a designated time to work, just as if you were going to the office. Structure your day to include meals and breaks. Have ways to remind yourself to include self-care in your day. Stretch, drink plenty of water and refuel your body with nourishing healthy foods. The upside to working for yourself is that you can build in times to refuel your body, mind and spirit.
There may be times when you have to give a project and extra push to meet a deadline. Make sure you don’t get caught up in working too many hours. Sometimes it’s hard to shut off the computer for down time. Do practice keeping your time sacred for your best health.

Set personal life boundaries.

Set clear communications and boundaries with family, friends or roommates when you have a home office. Be clear about saying no to ongoing extra responsibilities. Teach your loved ones that time spent working at home does not equate to doing extra chores around the house. Plan your time and clearly set your limits with others.

Keep healthy foods and water on hand.

When you have a desk at home there is less of a temptation to hit a fast food drive-through. Prepare and plan your meals as well as keeping healthy snacks on hand. Drink plenty of water and keep hydrated. You’ll be surprised how this tip will keep you energized during your day.

Set times to connect with people.

Set specific times during the day that you’ll answer emails, respond to calls, and engage in social media. Set a timer to hop on and off the internet. Close social media tabs when working on your computer. This will reduce the temptation of checking the latest feed.

You can overcome the challenge of distraction when working from home. Create a system that best fits your style and personality and reduce stress when working from home.

Desk Work: Essential Self-Care Tips for Your Workday

Last week a massage client and I were talking about a National Public Radio show called “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” She asked me, “Have you ever heard of desk butt?” Laurie told me she was sure she had it, since she was working 6 days per week at a desk job while working on a huge project. She went on to tell me about a segment from this hilarious NPR show that had a limerick about an actual term ‘desk butt.’ Apparently, scientists from Tel Aviv University had research to support that derriere muscles were shrinking due to inactivity.

I looked for the report and sure enough, this study existed. Apparently, other factors contributing to this problem was a lack of activity and poor diet. Muscular imbalance happens in the body after sitting at desk for a long period of time. The front thigh muscles, or hip flexors shorten in length. On the flip side, low back, and back side muscles get over stretched. Sitting for a great deal of time then results in muscular stiffness and pain.

The fact of the matter is sitting at your desk for a long period of time can take a toll on your health. Whether you work from home or the office, you can make choices to take care of yourself during the day.
Here are some tips to keep active and take charge of your day:

Stand up. It’s that simple. Time can fly when you have your head down buried in your work. Remind yourself at least once per hour to just stand up and stretch at your desk. Better yet, walk around your office. This will help get some blood flowing and regain your focus.

Bottoms up. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water during the day. The first thing most people reach for is coffee when they feel sleepy. You might actually need water instead. Watch the amount of caffeinated drinks, especially after 3 pm. Extra soda, tea or coffee can add to anxiety and the jitters.

Get properly seated. Does your desk chair fit you properly? Office chairs are not one-size-fits-all. Many cubicles contain the same size desk and chair. I have one client who is a petite 5 foot 4 inch frame that sits at an identical desk as her 6 foot male co-worker. Some work places have ergonomic teams to help assess the best desk set-up. Ask your supervisor about other desk chairs in the building there may be a right one for you.

If you work at home, having the right office chair is important as well. Home offices sometimes begin at the kitchen table. It’s important, however to get a desk and chair that meet your needs. It’s not only a business investment, it’s important for your health and well being.

Eat healthy. It’s easy to skip breakfast and grab food on the run when you are in a hurry. You quickly lose track of what fuel you put in your body during the day. One tip that I use is to cut up and prepare food before the work week begins. Try to cut up vegetables such as carrots, celery, peppers and place in small snack bags. Grab fresh fruit and prepackage nuts or trail mix. I bake chicken in advance to create easy lunches, too. Then you can grab healthy food on the go!

Take breaks.  Value your body and mind by taking scheduled breaks during the day. Giving yourself space during the day allows you to fill your energy tank and deal with stressful issues head on. Do what relaxes you’re the most. Maybe it’s taking a walk or hanging with coworkers. You can also get away by listening to relaxation recordings to give yourself a mini-vacation.

What helps you stay healthy and take breaks during the day? Post your comments below!

Stress and Anxiety: Could Low Blood Sugar Be the Link?

Feeling stressed and anxious? Could it be low blood sugar?

When you have stable blood sugar, you will feel grounded, experience less overwhelm and stress, feel less anxious and have no cravings – if your cravings are blood sugar related (cravings can also be due to yeast, low serotonin, low endorphins, low catecholamines and low GABA)

Signs of low blood sugar may include:

• Anxiety, irritability, agitation, nervousness
• Feeling stressed and overwhelmed
• Feeling shaky between meals or when you skip a meal
• Poor memory, focus and fatigue
• Intense sweet craving at various times of the day
• Waking in the night (low blood sugar is one of many causes of insomnia)

Simple dietary changes to help stabilize your blood sugar

1.  Eat enough protein

• Eat at least 20-25g (4oz or palm-sized portions) of good quality protein at each meal
• Grassfed beef, lamb, wild fish, pastured chicken, turkey and eggs, dairy (if it’s not an issue for you), legumes
• This is not negotiable – you must eat breakfast every day! And within an hour of waking
• If you can’t quite give up your coffee make sure to eat breakfast first
• Make sure to include protein at breakfast! (egg, fish, chicken sausage, cheese/yogurt, even dinner for breakfast)
• Substitute packaged cereals with real oatmeal (if gluten is not an issue or buckwheat and add nuts, seeds, coconut, butter, yogurt or kefir or a scoop of whey protein
Smoothies are good too – use fruit like berries and banana, use water as your base, add 1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk, 20g whey protein powder (other optional additions: green powder or freshly juiced greens, yogurt or kefir, nut butters, freshly ground flax seeds)

2.  Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks

Protein, fat and carbohydrate at each meal and snack.
• Lunch example: protein= Beef, lamb, fish, chicken, turkey, legumes; fat=butter, olive oil, avocado; carbohydrate = starchy veggie like sweet potato or brown rice
• Meal ideas: meat and veggies, salad and protein, veggie soup with protein, lentil soup
• Snack ideas: boiled egg; crackers and hummus; fruit and a few nuts; crackers and cheese; raw carrots/zucchini and cream cheese
Always carry some nuts with you for emergencies! Pumpkin seeds are a great choice.

There are nutrients that also help with blood sugar control: the amino acid glutamine, and zinc and chromium.   It may also be helpful to have your adrenal status assessed because burned out adrenals can lead to poor blood sugar control, fatigue, digestive issues and other hormonal problems.  Doing a salivary cortisol test is the best way to do this.

All of this and much more is covered in great detail in The Antianxiety Food Solution: How the Foods You Eat Can Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood and End Cravings, now available in major books stores, at Amazon and via

Thanks to Elizabeth E for her recent comment on Amazon (this is an excerpt):

“I just recently finished reading this book and am grateful for such a great resource! I’ve already begun employing some of the suggestions laid out and they are helping. For example, I am making sure to include more protein in my breakfast and it’s definitely helping my anxiety!”

Trudy Scott is a food-mood expert and nutritionist who educates women about real whole food and finding natural solutions for anxiety and stress, depression and other mood problems, together with the sugar and carb cravings that often go hand-in hand with mood issues. She is author of  The Antianxiety Food Solution – How the Foods You Eat Can Help you Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood and End Cravings (June 2011, New Harbinger). Trudy is immediate past president of National Association of Nutrition Professionals and now Special Advisor to the board of directors. and

Workplace Stress: It’s Bigger Than You Think

There cannot be a stressful crisis next week. My schedule is already full. – Henry Kissinger

Even if you love your job, there are going to be days where you are going to experience stress. A 2012 Work Stress Survey revealed 73% of people were stressed out about at least one thing on their job. People surveyed (11%) worried the most about not getting paid enough. The next biggest stressors were annoying coworkers at 10% and 9% reported an unreasonable workload.

Many people let stress to get them down, but you don't have to.  You can learn to deal with workplace stress so you can use the stress to move you ahead instead of hold you back.

A Look at Workplace Stress

When you are stressed out about your work, you may feel like you are all by yourself.  Stress can make you feel isolated but of course, it isn't the case at all.  People you work with right now feel as though the workplace is the biggest stressor in their life, too. Sometimes just knowing this is enough to help you get through to the day so you can start feeling let go of tension.

Thankfully, there is something you can do to reduce workplace stress in your life.

Workplace Stress Solutions

Some solutions to workplace stress include:

• Letting the little things go
• Balancing work and family life
• Develop a support system of family and friends

Let the Small Things Go

The fact of the matter is when you allow yourself to take a more relaxed outlook it will help change your stress level.  The secret key is to not take things personally. Your job can become part of your identity, creating additional stress and hypersensitive to situations. Reduce you stress by shifting your perception. You are not your job. There are so many strengths you possess. Take time to explore what characteristics make you great at your job. It will help you to let the little stresses to roll off your back.

Finding Work-Life Balance

Job responsibilities can just overwhelm you with extra projects and reports. Working long hours add to stress and contribute to you not coping well.  You should make sure that you do activities that do not involve work, even if this is simply reading a chapter of your favorite book or picking up the phone to call a friend.  When you allow your work life to overwhelm you, stress will consume you too. In turn, you'll become less efficient and effective at your job. Make time just for you, even if it’s 15 minute time periods during your day.

Spend Quality Time with Those Close to You

Make sure you spend time with your friends and family.  It’s easy to allow our home to become an office away from the office. Make sure you have a support network of friends and family members who will remind you that there are so many things to do that aren't related to your work in any way.  It's also helpful to have this support network so that when you are stressed out, you'll have someone to turn to. Many times a support system helps keep us grounded when we would otherwise be wound up with work-related stress.
It's true that stress is a part of life, but that doesn't mean it needs to overwhelm you. Dealing with stress is something that needs to be ongoing so you can live a great life inside and outside of your working life.

Stress and Job Security: How to Deal with a Job Loss- Part Two

Most people never feel secure because they are always worried that they will lose their job, lose the money they already have, lose their spouse, lose their health, and so on. The only true security in life comes from knowing that every single day you are improving yourself in some way, that you are increasing the caliber of who you are and that you are valuable to your company, your friends, and your family -Anthony Robbins

The loss of a job can be devastating. It’s normal to feel hurt, angry, sad and frustrated after losing your job. The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to take care of yourself and your loved ones during this time. Times have shifted in the job force and what seemed to be a secure environment has now changed. Some changes can just happen out of the blue. Here are some tips take action if you lose your job:

1. Stay connected with others. The losing your job is more than losing income. There is a grieving process for your loss. What we do for a living can be associated with self-esteem, confidence and part of your daily habits, among other things. It’s so important to get support during this time. Dealing with difficult feelings helps you to move through the tough times and facing fears head on. Keep networking options open. You may find out about another job through people in your community.

2. Make a financial plan. Know your exact financial situation. Determine how much savings you can rely on and what bills are coming due around the corner. Draw up a short-term financial plan to follow while you figure things out. If you are in a relationships, discuss your plan with your spouse or partner. This affects both of you, so be sure to make plans together and agree on the changes in your spending habits to lessen the impact. Your children should know that times are a little tougher and that you need to cut back on spending. Reassure them that things will be okay and use age-appropriate information so as not to stress or scare them.

3. Get all the facts from your employer. Even though your job has ended, the final details are important to your financial future. Be sure you understand your insurance options, such as COBRA, so that you and your family can remain covered without any lapses during your search for a new job. Find out if you are eligible for a severance package. If one is available, find out every detail, such as beginning and ending dates for each of the benefits. Account for every dollar closely.

4. Apply for unemployment benefits. Check to see if you can apply online for benefits. This will help you expedite the process and get enrolled quickly. Unemployment benefits can bring in some much-needed income while you're job hunting.

5. Dust off your resume. Consider posting your resume online on job sites and Craigslist and print plenty of copies to drop off or mail. You can start your job search by looking online at job boards, forums, and classified ads, as well as applying directly to companies via their websites. The internet allows you to search right from the comfort of your own home, and can open doors of opportunity available to you.

6. Stay in the positive zone. Keep positive as much as possible. Continue with suggestion number one and have a support system throughout this process. Keeping positive will make a difference during job interviews and your overall attitude. Follow a regular routine as much as possible. You can continue to eat right, exercise and get enough sleep as before. Focus on carrying out your plan for finding a new job.

For over 25 years in the health care profession, Lisa Birnesser has studied stress relief techniques and have helped hundreds of people reduce stress in their lives. Lisa specializes in stress management coaching by helping people do what matters most every day.

Stress and Job Security: How to Deal with a Job Loss-Part One

Stress in the workplace is a huge issue among people today. According to Stress in America 2011 report, the three top stressors were money, work and the economy.  This amount of stress is spilling over into the home and family. Many choices you make every day may be based on money instead of what is valued in your heart. Job stress and having a secure position has really changed for many people.  Things are not always the way they appear but there may be a positive side to what now appears to be a tragedy.

Job security- is it real?

The more you seek security, the less of it you have. But the more you seek opportunity, the more likely it is that you will achieve the security that you desire.-Brian Tracy

Healthcare jobs and insurance reimbursement policies have changed several times since I graduated from college. It took me many years to realize how insurance payments were directly connected with my job security. My first experience with job loss was 20 years ago.  I was a therapy manager in a 220 bed nursing home facility. I worked for a contract services company that employed physical, occupational and speech therapists to nursing homes.  What I once thought of as a secure and stable job went out the window one day. I had a meeting with the nursing home marketing manager in the conference room one morning. When we were finished, I stood up and words on a computer monitor caught my eye. The screen had a cancellation letter of therapy services to my company. The nursing home administrator apparently forgot to close the file. I was devastated, along with at least ten other therapists who had lost their jobs. It was a direct reflection of what was happening with Medicare reimbursement and part of a big shift in therapy jobs.

It wasn’t over yet

And it wasn’t the end of more healthcare changes. The 1990’s were a roller coaster ride for many therapists. Six years later, I lost my job again and took a significant cut in pay, just after buying my first home. There were times when many therapists wondered how we were going to pay our bills, put gas in the car and food on the table. There were heartbreaking times when the very people I was asked to hire, I was also asked to let go. Therapists from other countries were losing their work visa status and were at danger for deportation. Times had changed from what many of us thought was a secure job. I was on another job hunt and actually found a home health position that I really loved. This career change helped me transition into eventually having my own business.

How my perspective changed

Security… it's simply the recognition that changes will take place and the knowledge that you're willing to deal with whatever happens.-Harry Browne

What I didn’t realize then was this was the nature of being a therapist as well as any healthcare worker. My perception of job security was a little twisted.  It would finally take another few years of working for a company before I had the courage that I could run my own business. It’s not to say that running your own business doesn’t have a new set of stressors and it’s truly not for everyone. But the fact of the matter is that how we all see careers and job security is radically changing. In my experience the grass was greener on the other side.

Several things really helped me during those stressful times that apply to any job loss situation. Part two of this article will discuss some strategies to deal with job loss.

For over 25 years in the health care profession, Lisa Birnesser has studied stress relief techniques and have helped hundreds of people reduce stress in their lives. Lisa specializes in stress management coaching by helping people do what matters most every day.

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