Taking the Stress Out of Managing Stress
By Beth Leermakers
Employee Health Coach
Methodist Mansfield Medical Center and Methodist Charlton Medical Center
Why so much stress? We are overextended, committed to too many things, and not willing to say “no.” Women seem to be more overextended than men. Consider the average day for a working mom. From grocery shopping and meal preparation to school and day-care logistics to work responsibilities and taking care of aging parents — and don’t forget party coordination, volunteer efforts, and carpooling — is it any wonder that working moms feel stressed?
Are we really more stressed than our grandparents or parents? Probably not, but with instant communication, we are much more aware of our stressors. We often feel obligated to respond at all times of the day and night. Who wants to be “on” all the time?
Every day, I help employees at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center and Methodist Charlton Medical Center deal with their stress. Many people think that health care workers suffer more stress than others. That may be true if they are dealing with a life and death situation. But sometimes, we create our own stress by catastrophizing situations or focusing on the worst thing that could happen when, statistically, that disaster is very unlikely to happen.
What is important to remember is to keep stress in perspective. One way you can do that is to rate your stress on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least stressful. Ask yourself, “what is the worst thing that could happen? How likely is it, really? Will this situation bother me tomorrow? A week from now? Now, where is my stress on this scale?”
Methodist Health System has put employee well-being at the top of its list of priorities. Providing personal health coaches demonstrates that we understand how devastating stress can be to our employees’ health and how it can affect their abilities to do their very best. Left unaddressed, stress can reduce the immune system, exhibit itself in physical symptoms, and most important, make the individual’s life miserable. Individuals suffering from high stress are often sleep deprived and may have increased or reduced appetites. This can set up a vicious cycle that increases stress levels.
My goal is to help you adopt a proactive approach to take care of yourself. Helping you get off the stress treadmill so you can make life-enhancing changes is critically important to breaking the stress cycle.
Bottom line, how do you do it? The key is to start by making small changes such as taking a five-minute break twice a week.
Here are some de-stressing tips:
- Take a five-minute walk before, during, or after work.
- Eat one healthy snack a day such as Greek yogurt, string cheese, a hard-boiled egg, a tablespoon of peanut butter, or a piece of fruit.
- Take two minutes a day for quiet time for deep breathing or meditation.
- Do five to 10 wall push-ups.
- If you stress-eat, it might help to keep your hands busy when you feel the urge. For example, reach for a stress ball or work a puzzle.
- Learn how to say “no.” Set boundaries for yourself at work and at home.
- Unplug 30 minutes earlier than normal — that means Facebook, Pinterest, email, and even your TV.
- Take your vitamins. Studies have shown that stress can deplete important nutrients such as the B complex and C vitamins.
- Avoid caffeine, cigarettes, and alcohol*, which can cause cortisol levels to rise, stress to increase, and blood sugar to drop.
The benefits of managing stress can be plentiful:
- Reduced visits to doctors. Approximately 75 percent of referrals to doctors’ offices are believed to be related to stress.**
- You’ll improve your overall health and well-being.
- You may have more energy and feel better overall.
- You may sleep better.
If you’re ready to team up with an organization who cares about your well-being, then it’s time to choose Methodist Health System. Visit Jobs.MethodistHealthSystem.org.
© Methodist Health System
*Source: American Institute of Stress