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Category: Stress Management
Most Stressful Jobs

There’s no doubt that our jobs are a major source of stress.  In fact, according to a recent poll, 30% of U.S. workers say they are “always” or “often” under stress at work.  However, some jobs are more stressful than others.  Here’s a list of the 10 most stressful jobs in the U.S. (according to CareerCast.com).

  1. Enlisted Military
  2. Military General
  3. Firefighter
  4. Commercial Airline Pilot
  5. PR Executive
  6. Senior Executive
  7. Photo-Journalist
  8. Newspaper Reporter
  9. Taxi Driver
  10. Police Officer

If you hold any of these jobs, it’s critical that you take good care of yourself in order to avoid burnout.  Take a look at this Info-Graphic on Stress and Your Health (http://www.bestpsychologydegrees.org/stress-and-your-health/ ).  In particular, review the Stress-Busters at the bottom of the page, which list great tips on how to relax and alleviate job stress.

For more information on managing job stress, listen to Managing Workplace Stress CD.

 
Balance vs. Burnout: A Key Theme at NAPW Conference

Wow – what an exhilarating experience!  I just returned from the National Association for Professional Women conference in New York City where I spoke on the topic of work-life balance.  Star Jones, former co-host of The View, hosted the conference.  Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post, and Martha Stewart, Founder of Martha Stewart Living and Emmy Award-winning Television Show Host, were keynote speakers.

Balance appeared to be a key theme at the conference.  Both Star and Arianna talked about the importance of taking care of self, and the high-powered women on the Power of Networking panel also discussed their challenges and successes with managing work and the rest of their lives.

For Arianna Huffington it took fainting from exhaustion on her desk, breaking her cheekbone and getting five stitches to make her slow down at work.  Arianna shared her fainting incident with the audience.  Five years ago, she was building the Huffington Post and had taken her daughter on a tour of colleges.  Once her daughter went to sleep at night, Arianna would start working.  When she came back from that trip exhausted, the fainting incident happened.

That was her wake-up call.  Arianna told the audience she’s “rediscovered sleep”.  “I’ve made a lot of changes in my life…I now strive to get seven or eight hours of sleep a night. You need time to recharge.”

Arianna encourages the same sort of stress-free living among her employees. She had two nap rooms installed at the Huffington Post offices, and “they’re full all the time,” she says. The company also offers weekly meditation and yoga classes for employees.

Star Jones had her own wake-up call when, at the age of 47, her doctor told her she needed open heart surgery immediately!  Star had no idea her health was at risk.  She just didn’t feel right.  She became very tired, started having heart palpitations and shortness of breath.  Fortunately, Star went to see a doctor, and an echocardiogram revealed she had heart disease.

Star now makes health a top priority and urged audience members to do the same.  As a result of her experience, Star is now a National Volunteer of the American Heart Association and is dedicating her “entire life’s work” to raising awareness about the disease.

There’s a key message we can all learn from these speakers.  It’s absolutely critical that we slow down and take care of ourselves.  Otherwise, we may not have a second chance.

 
5 Unconventional Tips to Relieve Stress and Improve your Mood

When undergoing a lot of stress, it’s important to get plenty of rest, exercise, and eat a healthy diet.  It’s also helpful to practice active relaxation techniques – especially when having a difficult day.  Here are five delightful and sometimes surprising ways to relax, relieve stress and improve your mood.

  1. Adopt a pet – Our furry friends give us unconditional love, and are always there when we need them.  Just snuggling up with my cat in my lap relaxes me.  Did you know that pets are good for your health?  During times of stress, relating to a pet can even lower your blood pressure.
  2. Listen to your favorite music – At the end of a stressful workday, listening to your favorite music elicits feelings of joy.  Music not only reduces anxiety and boosts our mood, but also helps us sleep better (which is another stress-reducer).
  3. Take a nap – According to Weill Cornell Medical Center, a mid-afternoon nap can help improve mood, memory, and learning – and it won’t interfere with night-time sleep.  If you have the flexibility in your day to take a cat nap, do it.  Snoozing for just 20 minutes improves alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy.
  4. Take a nature walk – Spend time outdoors in natural settings to relieve anxiety.  Surprisingly, as little as five minutes a day of walking in a city park, cycling, gardening, or other outdoor activity can boost your mood and sense of well-being (according to a study from the University of Essex, England).  When I worked at HP, I would take a walk outside along the par-course during my lunch hour.  I’d come back to work refreshed and ready to tackle my work again.
  5. Have sex – If you feel like you’re too tired to have sex after a long, hard day, think again.  Sex has many benefits.  Sex causes the brain to release endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that act as painkillers and reduce anxiety.  What’s more, sexual activity is associated with lower levels of depression, according to a study in the journal Society and Mental Health.

Pick your favorite idea and try it out the next time you need to relax and unwind after a tough day.  You’ll be delighted with the difference it makes.

For ideas on managing your stress during the work day, listen to Managing Workplace Stress CD.

 
Let Go of Perfectionism

Do you want to do it all and do it perfectly?  If so, you may be a perfectionist – a high-achiever who makes no room for mistakes. Those of us who fall into this category are always sensitive to weaknesses in ourselves and others.  Unfortunately, we are a rigid bunch, and we are prone to self-doubt and fears of disapproval.  Unlike people who strive for excellence, a perfectionist is driven and determined in a way that isn’t healthy. They are unable to enjoy the process of achieving because the pursuit of the goal causes so much anxiety. Wanting it all and wanting to do it perfectly is enough to drive any woman insane.

In a recent survey of U.S. working women, 61% indicated that “high expectations of themselves” was one of their biggest work-life challenges. In particular, they thought they should be able to do it all and do it all well. One woman commented, “I don’t have enough time to do everything as well as I would like – cleaner home, nice meals for my husband, more time with children and  grandchildren, etc.”

It’s important to have high standards for yourself, but be aware of the difference between high standards and impossibly high standards.  Always strive for excellence, but at the same time, remember that no one is perfect except God.  I love this quote by Michael J. Fox – “I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection.  Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”

We are susceptible to perfectionism, each one of us. Do you really need to cook a gourmet, three-course dinner each night? Or are leftovers good enough? Does your house really need to pass the white-glove test? Or can you live with a little dust? Does your home really need to look like a model home? Or will second-hand furniture do?

When I became a mom I realized I needed to lower my expectations or I would go bonkers. I used to follow my toddler around picking up her toys all day long. Ten minutes after picking up toys, more toys were strewn in the other room. My efforts achieved nothing and only exhausted me. Finally I learned to live with the clutter.  If you don’t let go, you’ll go crazy. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough. Now I go for “good enough.” Consider what’s good enough for you.

Rather than hold yourself to impossible standards, be a realist:

Recognize your limits.  Remember you are not superhuman nor do you have super powers.

Lower your standards when needed. You don’t need to live with the anxiety.  Your peace of mind is more important than living up to impossibly high standards.

Accept your imperfections. You might make a few mistakes.  You might even fail.  So what?  Let’s face it – you’re human.  Learn from your mistakes and move on.

Let go of perfectionism. Instead strive for excellence, but don’t expect perfect.

 
Unplugging from a Wired World

When was the last time you were truly alone and unwired?  No cell phone, no tablet, no laptop?  Many of us crave that kind of solitude, but in an increasingly wired world, it’s a rare commodity.

According to a recent poll conducted by Time magazine, one in four people check their mobile phone every 30 minutes, and one in five checks it every 10 minutes.  The survey found that nearly one-third of 25 to 29-year-olds actually sleep with their phones!  We check text and emails, and update our online status, at any hour – when we’re lying in bed or sitting at stop lights or on trains.  Sometimes, we even do so when we’re on the toilet.

For some workers, what at first may have felt like an obligation has become an obsession.  One could argue that, especially in this economy, it’s wise to be constantly wired – to stay on top of email, to please the boss.  But what about the downside?  What does this do to our physical, mental and emotional health?  We all need downtime – time to renew and refresh ourselves on a regular basis in order to be more productive over the long run.

We need to set limits in order to unplug from our wired world.  We need to take time to ourselves – with no cell phones, no PDAs, and no laptops – to reenergize.  Google and Nike, among others, provide space for employees to take naps or to meditate – a welcome respite from a busy, hectic workday.  One organization called Reboot has started the Sabbath Manifesto, a call to unplug one day a week to find solitude – or to simply take a day of rest with family and friends.  We all need a day of rest each week to recharge.  Even God, who created the heavens and earth, rested on the seventh day!  On an annual basis, we all need a vacation – an unwired vacation with no checking email and voicemail in our absence.  If we’re still connected with the office, that’s not a true vacation.  We need that time to rejuvenate so when we come back to the office we’re well rested and ready to tackle our work again.

So how about unplugging for an hour, a day, or a week?  Consider taking a meditation break during the work day, or a Sabbath day of rest, or a week-long vacation.  The peace and solitude will do you wonders!