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Ideas on Coping with Workplace Stress for Better Health

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:06pm
I think about ways that people can approach health and wellness and where we can fail or succeed. How many times have you run out and bought gym equipment or a membership or somehow made one more promise to yourself that you will "stick to" a plan to get healthier?

If you didn't raise your hand then I am surprised.

Do you beat yourself up for not exercising or for "not having enough time?"

Where do you spend most of your day when you don't factor in sleep? Most would probably say "work." We spend a lot of time chasing a dollar to make ends meet or to have more stuff. There are innovators in the workplace who have made work more tolerable, occasionally entertaining....... hell a few places even make work more fun. Unfortunately, there are many punitive workplaces.

Dread going to work? Do you ever get the feeling like you would like to scream or run away or just plain quit? How do you manage your stress level at work? I think that addressing the roots of an ongoing stressful situation would keep people from simmering over at work, on the subway or the bus, reduce road rage and keep spouses and children a little safer at the end of the day.

Not everyone takes their unresolved stress out on others. Many turn their feelings and thoughts inward and some become depressed. I would posit that there are little changes employers and their minions could make to ease up stress in the work place.

Right now there is a somewhat punitive approach to healthy lifestyle in the work place. If you smoke you pay more. If you have pre-existing health conditions they may be excluded from your plan. If you aren't willing to eat through your lunch at your desk your co-worker may be seen as harder working and more apt to get a promotion. And if all the sitting makes you fat.......

If you don't "perform" - even though you feel you are always running as fast as you can - the threat of job loss or no raise or demotion may hang over your head. Is the boss always screaming? Do you have a toxic co-worker or two? Are you increasingly depressed or hostile?

How many drinks do you toss down after work before you feel better? How many potato chips do you eat? How many cigarettes do you smoke? How many hours do you feed avoidant behavior such as shopping, gambling or gaming? How many times do you project your anger or distress on your family because you don't have a way to get out those stressed out feelings from work?

I would like to see employers open up to the idea that stress reduction, and a friendly, respectful, and supportive environment, is highly beneficial to the health of the employee and the company's bottom line. It really doesn't have to cost a lot.

1. Don't tolerate bullies in the work place. Toxic employees and bosses need to go if they berate, belittle or otherwise foster or create a hostile environment. I learned a long time ago that no one is indispensable.

2. Set aside a small room or large closet and put in a little carpet or leave mats and chairs in the room along with a CD player and some soothing music or nature sound CDs. Stressed out employees can take a break in this room if need be. Meditation or music CDs can be available. A dimmer switch is perfect for getting the lighting just right.

3. Set aside a space for a fun room or a fun space outdoors. Invest in simple art supplies, coloring books, cartoons on CD for the indoor space and simple sports equipment for the outdoor space. Set up Guitar Hero in the fun space.

4. Teach interpersonal communication techniques and expect respect in the work place. Have a plan for conflict resolution before things escalate.

There are costs associated with stress including the taking of excessive sick/mental health days, poor day to day performance and consequences of poor health habits not to mention injuries in the work place.

I know many adults who enjoy coloring books, cross words and sketch pads. I've seen them use jump ropes and hula hoops too.

We live in a cover your ass kinda world, in the US anyways. Lighten up!! Taking care of stress is just as important as eating, drinking exercising and breathing. Since people spend so much time at work why not incorporate tools for a more positive way to cope with stress? People you work with are like the family you didn't choose, lol.

I can already hear some folks yelling "grow up!" thinking this is kid stuff. But people who remember how to be joyful and playing like a kid, how to be childlike (not childish) and be flexible and friendly are the most likely to thrive despite workplace pitfalls.

Besides, it's really tough to hate a coworker while she's playing with a hula hoop.

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