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4 stress management strategies from Joel’s workshop

4 Strategies to Control Stress from a Stress Management Workshop

Stress is an enormous and ever-present problem in virtually every workplace in the world today. I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy managing stress workshops, teaching people how to manage stress before it manages them, before it takes over their lives and damages their careers.

So I wasn’t surprised recently, as I was finishing up a stress management workshop for Cisco Systems, to see Linda, a former client, headed in my direction.

“Joel, I really need your help. I’m so stressed out right now. And I don’t know why. It shouldn’t be this way.”

Linda’s story is all about good stress, something people don’t often focus on, and certainly don’t see as having negative consequences. She is a rising star in the banking industry and had just landed a job with a major financial institution. She had moved halfway across the country and hit the ground running in her new job. Already she was earning kudos from her C-level managers for her innovative ideas and problem-solving skills. She wanted recommendations and I reviewed stress tips from the workshop I just covered with her management.

Maybe so. But perhaps Linda has expectations of how things should be that are obscuring her vision of how things are. And how things are is having a serious negative effect on her physical and mental health. Pulling together some ideas from the stress management workshop I had just completed, I offered Linda the following recommendations:

  1. Give up the “shoulds.” Just because the job is good, the bosses are happy, and you have a brand new home—that doesn’t mean life will suddenly be all champagne and rose petals. Change of any kind is highly stressful. And here’s the dirty little secret: your body and your subconscious mind can’t tell the difference between good and bad stress. A new job and a cross-country move has roughly the same impact as the tornado that rips your house apart.
  2. Stay in the moment. Successful leaders manage stress by focusing on the now. What is happening in this moment and how am I interacting with that? Drop the merry-go-round of thoughts about the next big project, the management report, or planning a party for this weekend. Continually ask, “What is my top priority right now?”
  3. Develop a routine. When you’re under heavy stress, the temptation is to feed the tiger that is growling at your door rather than paying attention to your own needs. Stop staying late at the office or lying awake half the night planning your next client presentation. Develop a daily schedule that includes time for exercise, plenty of sleep, and healthy eating. Consider stress-reducing possibilities such as yoga, meditation, or massage.
  4. Do nothing. Schedule 15-30 minutes every day during which you do absolutely nothing but breathe in and out. If 15 seems impossible, start with 5 and work your way up. Soft music is fine, but get rid of radio, TV, kid noises, and those endless pings and dings that tell you you’ve got email, an instant message, or an urgent voice mail. They will wait.

At the end of our conversation, Linda looked vastly relieved. The first step in reducing stress, good or bad, is to acknowledge that it exists. Then, as Linda did, seek the advice of a skilled executive coach to help you develop coping strategies. This can actually alter your brain chemistry and greatly reduce your stress level.

Copyright © 2012 Joel Garfinkle, All Rights Reserved. Joel Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., and the author of 7 books, including Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. He has worked with many of the world’s leading companies, including Google, Deloitte, Amazon, Ritz-Carlton, Gap, Cisco, Oracle, and many more. Subscribe to his Fulfillment at Work Newsletter and receive the FREE e-book, "41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!"

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