Stress at Work

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.

Let Go and Relax After a Stressful Day at Work

“Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer.” – Leonardo DaVinci

The high demands of work can leave you feeling exhausted and drained. If you’re like most people, you have some really stressful days at work. Sometimes, when these build up, you may feel totally overwhelmed. It may seem impossible to fit one more thing into your day. It’s very important to carve out “me” time, even if it begins with 15 minutes devoted to just you. If you’re on a mission to be able to relax into your evening, then you’ll likely find the following at-home activities very helpful.

Try these simple, effective methods to help your mind and body become calm after a tense day at work:

1. Soak your feet in warm water. This is a surprisingly easy way to encourage relaxation. Soaking them in a bath of warm water will help relax tired muscles in your feet and eventually throughout the rest of the body. Here’s some of my tips:

• Avoid making the water too hot. Bath temperature water is best.
• Add some small smooth stones inside the water basin. Rub your feet on the stones to reduce muscle tension. It’s like a mini-massage for your feet.
• Add some aromatherapy oils to the water for added relaxation.
• Soak your feet while you’re doing something else that can help you unwind, like reading or listening to calming music.

2. Settle into a lavender bath.
This is one of the best ways to relieve stress after a tough day at work. Lavender essence is known to instantly soothe your senses and completely calm your nerves. All you need to do is fill your tub with water, add a few drops of lavender essential oil and jump in. You’ll instantly feel the stress slipping away.

3. Turn on some soothing music.
The peaceful sounds of instrumentals or nature can easily release tension from your body or your busy mind. Here are some ideas for soothing music that can help you create peace after a stressful day at work:

• Classical music
• Nature sounds: ocean waves breaking against the rocks or the sound of birds chirping
• Gentle spiritual music

4. Rest Your Eyes. After you’ve had your shower or bath, you can relax in bed with cool slices of cucumber placed on your closed eyes. Another suggestion is using and eye pillow that you can find at your local health store. Sometimes the entire body ends up feeling stressed when certain parts have been overworked. If you happen to spend a lot of time on the computer, soothing the eyes could easily bring relaxation to your whole body.

5. Drink Stress Relief Tea. There are several stress relief or sleep teas in supermarkets. Chamomile is an herb that you can rely on to calm and relax your senses and muscles. Try drinking a cup of chamomile before going to bed so you can get a good night’s sleep and feel rested in the morning.

After a few days of applying these at-home activities, you might even find that the stressors at work don’t affect you as easily. Because of this, your days will end up being less stressful overall. You will begin to look forward to your “me” time at night.

When you begin to care for your needs at night, your feelings of stress will reduce. Intentional relaxation is one way of taking care of your body. Remember that your body needs nurturing. Stress can really take its toll, but if you try some techniques to relieve tension, you’ll soon find yourself healthier and happier than ever before.

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.


Dealing with Stressful Work Environments

dealing with stressful work environments, stress at work“There cannot be a stressful crisis next week. My schedule is already full”-Henry Kissinger

Do you dread getting out of bed every day to go to work because your work environment is too stressful?  Many people find that it's not so much their job that causes them stress, but the people and the environment.  You may find that the people you work with are intolerable or that the setup of your work place is simply not conducive to getting things done efficiently. 

Dealing with stressful work environments is something many of us have to face every day, but you don't have to let it get you down.  Instead, by learning how to deal with your stress at work you'll be able to boost your energy and reduce frustration.

How to Deal with Stressful Work Environments

1. Create a space conducive to concentration. If your office is open-concept, you may find the hustle and bustle around you to be distracting.  If this is the case, try setting up your work space so that everything you need is right in front of you so you don't have to continually get up to grab stuff.  Also, try putting up a privacy screen (if possible), or rearrange your furniture or computer screen to create a barrier of sorts between you and the rest of the office.

2. Use positive imagery when you feel stress coming on.  Focus on a happy or peaceful moment in your past, or keep a picture on your desktop that will help to put you at ease.  Find a great screen saver to relax to for a minute or two during the day. Many people find that they can control stress by allowing themselves to go to a peaceful place for just a couple of moments.

3. Create a daily to-do list.  Many times when we are stressed out, it's because we are trying to juggle too many things without saying no from time to time. This causes our stress levels to rise quickly and uncontrollably.  When you create a to-do list, it won't matter how hectic the office gets or how many people are slacking off; you'll have a list in front of you that'll remind you what needs to get done for that day.  You'll feel more in control when you organize your day and you'll be able to find some peace in the chaos surrounding you. Have your to-do list ready for the next day if possible.

4. Learn how to meditate.  Meditation is a form of deep concentration that can help you restore peace and balance in your life.  You can make meditation part of your everyday life so when stress levels are rising, you can regain your composure nearly effortlessly.  As you practice your meditation techniques, you'll be able to do it without anyone even noticing, and you'll bring a calmer and more focused energy to the office.

5. Move around within the company or find a better fit elsewhere.  Many people simply cannot overcome the stressful environment in which they work.  Besides, no one should work in a situation where they always feel on edge. If you have a job that is too demanding or rarely allows for you to tend to your personal life, then it may be time to find a better fit.  Getting a new job can be stressful in itself, but when you find something that is right for you, you'll notice the old way of stressful living will melt away and you'll be left with a happier, healthier, and more peaceful life.

Workplace stress is at an all-time high, but in many cases, you'll be able to overcome this stress using the workplace stress tips mentioned above. If the work environment becomes too stressful and toxic to deal with, you'll want to take action.  After all, you must put yourself first if prolonged and unmanaged stress becomes destructive to your body and mind.

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.

Workplace Overload: What to Do When You Hit your Limit at Work

workplace stress, workplace overload, hit your limit at work Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?– Edgar Bergen

Working long hours is sometimes required for your job. You might occasionally have overtime, an extra project or a special meeting for your employment. What happens when this becomes a regular requirement? Putting in long hours can easily lead to workplace burnout. Extra hours at work can just be draining, leaving you feeling not appreciated and resentful.

According to the Stress in America™ 2011 survey, 70 percent of the people polled were stressed over work, which is second to finances.  Stressor can include anything from cranky co-workers, impossible bosses, and long commutes to huge workloads. Not to mention, how you view your job and workload. Your mind and thoughts can be your own worst enemy with procrastination, denial and perfectionism.

Work place overload and high self expectations can lead to burning the candle at both ends. A long time client, whom I’ll call Michelle, worked endlessly for her organization for close to 25 years. She rarely took a day off and cranked out well over 80 hours per week. “I’m in so much trouble. I have to get all of this done or I’ll get fired.” After looking at what mattered most, Michelle has not only cut back her work time and began sharpening her focus to get the job done.

What are some tips to relieve your stress when overworked?

Get Organized. There is a high price to pay physically, mentally and emotionally for working long hours. One of the most difficult tasks that folks talk with me about is organization at work. If there was the perfect system, then everything would flow easily during the workday.  Humans are such creatures of habit. It seems much easier to keep in the same routine every day. While developing systems are important, leave a little wiggle room for the unexpected.  Plot and plan for the expected things such as meeting, phone conferences and lunch. Add your daily goals and leave extra room. You can always go back and add another task if your plan goes well.

Take scheduled breaks. It’s so important to make sure you move away from your desk and stretch frequently.  Get your circulation moving by doing regular stretches for your neck, shoulders, back and hands. Do some deep breathing to get oxygen to your vital organs. This will not only decrease your stress level but will revitalize your body and mind.  Fill your water bottle on your break. Keeping hydrated will help you stay alert and keep on task. Fill the times when you have more energy to do tasks requiring more attention. Follow your energy cycle to be productive and help reduce your work hours.

Beware of extra projects. Say no when you have hit your work limit. Unreasonable expectations make it difficult to pass on a project. But it’s truly important to decide where the expectations are coming from- you or your employer. Take a look at the big picture when toying with accepting an additional project. The answer lies in balancing out the tasks on your list already and what is most important to you. Ask for help as well. That made a huge difference in my workload and still does today.

Take time for you. Check every day to see if you have scheduled space just for you. You are in control of your choices. At times, it truly doesn’t feel like it. Your perception of what your do with your time may not be exactly accurate.  Make sure you add something to nurture yourself every day. It will make a difference when you are faced with work overload.

Was this helpful? Learn how to reduce stress using the power of essential oils.

Stress at Work: Strategies for Dealing with Workplace Bullying

bullyingNever be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself. –Harvey S. Firestone.

Stress at work can come from many sources: workload, deadlines, and not enough pay for the job you do.  Difficult co-workers and bosses only add to the daily stress.  In fact, workplace bullying is on the rise. According to a survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 35 percent of the workers surveyed had either been bullied or are suffering from workplace bullying. The tragic part of this behavior is the victims who live with the high stress level at work that eventually spills over at home. Bullying can include physical and emotional abuse, threats or injury, or manipulation.  

Workplace bullying is degrading, demeaning and abusive. A few years back, I was harassed by my direct supervisor when I practiced as an occupational therapist. The stress was unbearable because I felt that I couldn’t escape it. Other co-workers talked about it as well, and it was a source of negativity no matter where I turned. I began to write down the harassment occurrences. I eventually left the job because of bullying and other reasons. Soon after, I decided to report the supervisor during my exit interview with human resources.

It truly makes me wonder how much bullying at work goes unreported. What about the employee, who is dedicated to their work, loves what they do and really want to stay at their job? How about the employee who has devoted many years of service to an organization only to experience hostility and abuse from supervisors or co-workers? How many people suffer in silence?

Bullying, of any sort is not about you. It’s about the bully getting control. But that doesn’t mean that you freely give away power of your life.  Taking responsibility is the first step. Blaming results in resentment and anger. It can perpetuate feeling out of control and without the ability to take action in your life. Place yourself in a place of strength. The most difficult part of bullying is that the harasser has to realize there is a need for them to change their behavior.  Bullying is nothing less than humiliating. Empower yourself with choices for your highest good. Learn about assertive behavior and practice in safe circumstances.

 Knowledge is power. Review the steps for disciplinary action at work. It’s important to have access to policies and procedures. Disciplinary action is never qualified as screaming, hitting, name-calling, threatening, or ignoring you. Find your human resource contact. Know your rights as an employee. If you don’t feel comfortable with resources at work seek out legal or outside support.

At last resort, you have a choice in seeking other employment. You may want to seek counseling support to weigh your options. Knowing your rights from an EEOC standpoint may require legal counsel.

The bottom line is you are worth being treated with respect at all times. Empower and arm yourself with support and knowledge.. 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 stress management coaching by helping people do what matters most every day.


Workplace Burnout: Thinking Patterns that Contribute to Healthcare Worker Burnout

The chances of experiencing workplace burnout in a healthcare setting are quite possible in a helping career profession. New technologies, increasing job demands and staff shortages add pressure to job performances daily. Doctors, nurses and therapists as well as social workers, clergy and many other staff are exposed to a variety of stressors that add to the basic quality delivery of care.

I have witnessed too many health care changes to count in a 25 year span in the healthcare field.  As a retired occupational therapy practitioner, I have experienced healthcare burnout, so much that it was a contributing factor in shifting professions. Being able to identify the signs of burnout is vital to the healthcare worker to prevent physical, emotional or mental difficulties.  Workplace or professional support can make the difference in any medical practitioner’s well-being.

Workplace burnout can be described as exhaustion of physical, emotional or mental resources and/or motivation, typically as a result of extended stress or dissatisfaction at work. Physically, signs of burnout can include muscular tension and stiffness, fatigue, poor sleep and increased reliance on substances, such as nicotine, alcohol and caffeine. Emotional signs may include loss of job enthusiasm, irritability, fearfulness, unfocused thinking, anxiety and depression. Mental signs can include, perfectionism, people pleasing behavior, and difficulties saying no to extra responsibilities.

As a healthcare professional, many mandates and policies change frequently, more often than we change our scrubs. What we have control over is how we think and perceive a situation. Here are two thinking patterns common to burnout in healthcare workers and choices to change our thinking:

  Thinking Pattern #1: Perfectionism– Perfectionism is an unattainable state. It’s the mode of thinking that imposes a cascade of unrealistic expectations that are steeped in self-criticism and negativity. The distorted side of perfectionist thinking is that it is actually self-depreciating and restrictive by nature. It is a form of fear-based thinking that paralyzes us from thinking outside the box. As healthcare professionals, we have specific policies and procedures that are required for our positions and for quality outcome for patients. Being a perfectionist on the job ratchets up expectations so high that it can actually hinder a healthcare practitioner’s ability to give a realistic, well-rounded decision. Instead, begin to examine thoughts that include the words like should, ought, always and never. Give yourself space to develop realistic expectations and thinking can reduce stress tremendously.

Thinking Pattern #2: People Pleasing-People pleasing thinking can be another perception trap. Learning to say no to extra responsibilities and setting boundaries that match your priorities are two key factors in shifting people pleasing thinking. Remember, if you are everything to everybody, inevitably you will have nothing left for yourself. Self-care is not selfish. Making sure you give back to yourself fills you with all the goodness you want to share with others. Setting boundaries allow you take charge of your life and help reduce job stress.

Learn to check your thinking at the door before entering work. Shifting perception in the areas of perfectionism and people pleasing can be life-changing. Remember to seek support at or outside of work when you see the signs to workplace burnout. 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 stress management coaching by helping people do what matters most every day.

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