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Is Taking FMLA the Right Step to Deal with Your Job Stress?

Stress on the job is a part of the workday – dealing with deadlines, multiple tasks, dealing with other people or customers, and balancing time with family/me-time. But there are times when these tasks can take its toll. There are times when too much work, too little time to get them done added with difficult relationships with either the boss or coworkers (or both) can become too much for one person to handle.

This is when the breakdown can occur: it may start with feeling more irritable than usual or an inability to sleep well; other symptoms can include: stomach upsets, inability to sit still or relax, crying spells for no reason, chest pain or palpitations, headaches or other pains. Thoughts then start running through the mind of how stressed you are, which then begin to focus on dissatisfaction (or hate) for the job, boss, coworker, etc. What does one do in this case? How should you handle the situation if you find yourself experiencing any or all of these symptoms?

One option a lot of people look to is to take some time away from the job, usually through the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) benefit. Using this allows you to be absent from the job without penalty so you can seek help to learn how to deal with your emotions which will allow you to return back to your job. However, is this always the best option? I think not; there are other ways to handle the stressors of the job and better manage them.

Taking FMLA is a process, starting with contacting your supervisor and Human Resources (HR). They will then direct you to specific paperwork that needs completed by either a psychiatrist, medical doctor or a licensed mental health therapist who needs to certify that you are unable to perform your work duties and need time off. It also means making a commitment to enter into a therapeutic relationship for a period of time until you work through the issues that led to having an inability to deal with your work situation. It also means exploring your coping skills and strengths, as well as any maladaptive thoughts leading to high stress. In some cases, anti-anxiety or depression medication may be in order.

While not negating that things can become so hard that taking FMLA is necessary, it is only a temporary solution so getting a better handle on how you deal with stressors or situations that are uncomfortable is the key:

  • Identify any and all situations, people or other ‘trigger’s that you feel you can’t handle or cause you distress at any level. Analyze these to determine what exactly is the root cause leading to the fear or anger that lead to these feeling, which includes your fears, hurts or concerns around them.
  • Identify your strengths and current coping skills – the ones you fall back on during times of adversity – as well as all the various strategies you use to relax, such as taking a walk or other forms of exercise, journaling, praying, or coloring. When you list these out, you won’t have to think about how to handle your situations – you just need to look on the list you’ve created.
  • Identify specific strategies to refocus your outlook and take control of the work you do and how you do it, which is totally in your control. Take an assessment of how your respond to certain situations to challenge them and then give options for how you can better deal with. Pay particular attention to your thoughts and how you feel about your work situation; remember that we can talk ourselves into stress and unhappiness so questioning the validity of your thoughts will help you to put them into proper perspective.

Properly dealing with work stress is something everyone employed needs to learn; having good strategies to deal with the workplace is necessary to survive. One of those may include taking time off through the FMLA but use that as a last resort. Arm yourself with other strategies and coping skills as they will help you be successful in your work as well as in your life.

If you’d like help with dealing with job stress and take back the control over your work, call today for a free Discovery Session to learn more: http://www.cyscoaching.com

Dealing with Holiday Stress in the Workplace

Today is the last ‘normal Friday of the year; with Thanksgiving week beginning, this is the time when our focus tends to go to holiday preparation and less on job tasks. Most people are taking off to see family for Thanksgiving so who picks up the work from them? Next Friday – Black Friday – kicks off the Christmas season, creating more stress.

While organizations are winding down their end-of-the year fiscal operations, there is a push to ensure the books look good. This can lead to stress for employees who are tasked to achieve organizational goals that will lead to a successful year-end. But there is another stress that the holidays bring within the organization which involves workers; this can include:

  • stress to get holiday preparations going, which can include: decorating the house, buying presents, baking holiday goods, going to parties, attending their children’s school functions, planning visits to families who may live out-of-town, or dealing with having family come to visit
  • worrying about taking time off for these preparations, either by realizing you don’t have enough time or working over-time to get the hours (and the money)
  • feeling pulled between work and home obligations and being in overwhelm and guilt at trying to please two masters
  • feeling lonely or sad as this time of year is when family comes together so many employees are far away from theirs, or are distanced, or are dealing with poor relationships or missing loved ones who are no longer here
  • worry about dealing with the hustle and bustle – and poor behaviors- the holidays can bring: rude or demanding customers, heavy traffic, unwillingness to be courteous or to help out when needed

I see this as a two-fold problem, which is that of the individual worker as well as the organizations. There are solutions that each can take to help sail through this holiday season more smoothly, recognizing that how each individual handles stress is an impacting force. Here are some tips to help the holidays be less-stressful:

  • For workers, making goals and lists will help to see what is in your schedule over these next weeks; I recommend taking a piece of paper for each task you believe you have to get accomplished, which can include: decorating, paying bills (you still have your daily life to consider), buying presents, sending Christmas cards, baking, parties or other functions to attend, travel plans, personal time (you do need to add yourself into the mix). Once you list them all, go back and number them in order of importance, which is how you can start ticking them off and feel more relaxed. For your work tasks, do the same – this way, you will know how to plan your days more productively. Be sure to have good tools in your ‘toolbox’ to help when you feel overly stressed or emotional; this can include: journaling, coloring, deep breathing, s0me form of exercise, asking for help, getting sleep, or a host of other good techniques to relieve the stress
  • For employers, they can recognize that this time of year is a time of high-stress; some interventions they can do include: paying attention to employees who may seem more irritable or other behavior changes that could indicate they are feeling stressed; having open dialogues with employees so they feel recognized; recognizing their work by allowing them some extra time off, perhaps 30 minute lee-way in the morning, at lunch or at the end of the day to attend to their to-do list; having a luncheon or bringing in snacks, or decorating the office. Any of these can make worker feels appreciated and recognized, which can get the work done while leaving workers more satisfied at the end of the day.

Stress will occur during this time but it doesn’t have to be impactful or debilitating. Being prepared and planned will help you merrily get through the holidays stress-free. If you’d like help getting through the holidays stress-free, contact us at http://www.cyscoaching.com.

Taking on Too Much (or Feeling Like It)

Do you ever take on too much (or it feels like you do)?  I know I have and, while I know I am making a difference, using skills and pursuing my passions, it still doesn’t take the feelings of overwhelm and resulting anxiety in trying to get “it”  all done – and done well.  I came to a realization earlier this morning after  spending this past weekend, and most of  of last night (5am), grading papers to complete one online class, starting 2 others, and writing an article for a publication, all while running my business.

While I took on all these tasks willingly, it still doesn’t take away the worry over how I will get them all done in a timely manner while giving value.   One thought that came to mind was the Serenity Prayer:

          God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference

I think this prayer helps to clarify that I can let go of trying to control my schedule and to be methodical in prioritizing everything on that schedule, which has helped to bring a sense of calm and accomplishment.  As you can see, this post is written late but, being true to my blog challenge – Day 26 – I may have finished other tasks earlier but, in letting go, got this done.  I believe I found the wisdom I needed 🙂

 

 

The Downside of a Lack of Sleep

Every day I hear employees who have  struggles of  unhappiness and stress on the job, and their number one complaint is a  lack of sleep; usually, they cannot fall asleep as they describe feeling tired but, as soon as they lie down, their brain comes alive.  These racing thoughts seem to have a life of their own and, no matter how much they try to find calming ways, the more their thoughts race.  A lack of sleep can have several causes but the impacts it can leave are significant.  The downside of a lack of sleep include:

 

  • mood problems like anxiety or depression
  • headaches
  • stomach problems
  • inability to focus or problems with concentration
  • irritability
  • pain-related problems
  • aging issues, such as bags under the eyes
  • weight-gain

When you don’t get a good night sleep, you can’t function well at your job and this can have serious implications to your job-security and for the safety of self/others.  The recent Fedex airplane crash was attributed to lack of sleep and stress.  Understanding the necessity of sleep is critical to your emotional well-being and to your work performance.  With adequate rest, you will feel better able to handle whatever lies in your day, have more fulfilling interpersonal relationships, and happier (which has far- reaching positive effects on performance).

Here are some tips that can help if you find you are sluggish at work and lacking sleep:

  1. Uncover the source of your issues – digging deep and identifying what your thoughts consist of is a key step to why you can’t sleep; is it worry about money, your family, your health or your job; is it a health issue that prevents you from sleeping, such as sleep apnea, body aches or restless leg syndrome
  2. Drain the Brain – this is where you take time, say 15 minutes, before your retire and write down all your worries and list all the tasks you believe you need to get done the next day.  You can’t hold on to those thoughts once written; it is helpful to keep a notepad and pen beside your bed so you can write down any thoughts if you wake up during the night
  3. Meditate – sitting in quiet and deep-breathing, such as with meditation, will help to push oxygen to your blood cells and provides relaxation
  4. Turn off the Switch – make a time every night where you disconnect from all social media, such as turning off your computer, cell phone, and even the TV.  Those only stimulate the brain so you want to ‘teach’ it to unwind and calm down
  5. Set a timer for bed – I read this somewhere to set a timer to signal bedtime, just as you do to wake-up; doing so trains your body and puts it into sleep-mode
  6. There are some foods you can eat, like turkey, whole wheat bread, peanut butter, honey, and drinking tea
  7. If needed, some supplements can help, like DHEA, Omega 3 fatty acids, Melatonin, or an over-the-counter aid. If sleep issues continue, then I would recommend a visit to your doctor to ensure it not anything more serious or for prescribed medications.

If work is causing you stress and leading to an inability to sleep, it is imperative to get a handle on it; look at what you can do to alleviate the work situation, such as looking at it from a different perspective, talking to your boss about how you might structure your work differently, and by having an ‘exit strategy’ if the situation does not improve.  Another downside of a lack of sleep is feeling hatred towards it so make sleep your friend and welcome it with open arms.  You will feel more refreshed and energized to get those work tasks done, and done well.

Are You Feeling Stressed Out? 5 Ways to Deal

In my business, I see clients on a daily basis who report they are feeling the effects of stress – either they are overworked at home or in their job.  They are being pulled in a lot of different directions and asked to take on too many tasks, so much that they are having trouble sleeping and find they are irritable and ‘snappy.’

If this sounds like you, what are you doing to get a handle on your stress level?  Left unchecked, it can lead to physical ailments, like stomach upset, chest pain, body aches, headaches, or disturbed sleep.  Over the long-term, it can lead to more severe problems, like heart disease, diabetes, or a form of dementia.  Studies are showing the negative effects of unmanaged stress can shorten one’s life and can lead to unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

Chemicals in the brain get released into your system through the adrenal glands, which are located over the kidneys.  Cortisol is one of these chemicals, which helps our bodies to prepare to deal with unpleasant situations.  But if there is no resolve, the body will keep releasing cortisol and create an overload on the body which can lead to aches, pain, and tiredness.  In trying to think of how to handle these adverse situations, the brain seems to never ‘shut off.’  It can seem like a never-ending cycle to feel “normal” again.

It does take some time, focus and effort to learn how to manage your stress.  Here are some tips to help:

  1. Breathe – deep breathing is shown to have healing properties as it gets oxygen into the red blood cells, causing them to expand, which creates the mind and body to slow down and relax
  2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation – this is an exercise where you simulate the tightening and releasing of the muscles in your body so they will relax when you begin to tense up
  3. Exercise – exercise, like walking, running, dancing, Zumba, bicycling, or even gardening, can release those endorphins to elevate your mood but it also proves that you can achieve and becomes a motivator for other activities
  4. Journaling and Gratitude – the art of expressing your pent-up feelings helps to release any negative thoughts, which helps to relax the body.  Writing 3-5 things that you are greatful for takes the focus off of your problems and raises your vibrational level and mood
  5. Natural Remedies – when stress gets unmanaged, some people may need to take medication to help relax and learn to deal with the sources of their stress level.  However, there are some natural rememdies to take, which can include Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Passion Flower, nuts, berries and Omega 3’s, like fish.

Getting a handle on your stress goes to the core of understanding what is leading you to feel you cannot handle adverse areas in your life.  You should examine where the overwhelm is coming from and then find ways – small steps – you can take to problem-solve and resolve them so you can live freely and fully.  Your overall satisfaction and happiness will increase and you will learn lessons to help you in the future.

Job Strain Can Lead to Heart Attack Risk

A recent study published in the medical journal, The Lancet, found that job strain increases your chance of having a heart attack.  According the study findings,  job strain “is associated with a small, but consistent, risk of experiencing a first heart attack.”  Those who have more demanding jobs or those who feel they have little freedom in decision making are more at risk than those who feel less-stressed.

I would include in this category workers who are unhappy in their jobs, have poor work relationships, or may be bullied.  Any type of job stress, whether real or perceived, can lead to a host of ailments which, if not handled and dealt with, can lead to a host of emotional and physical problems.  Some of these signs and symptoms can include:

  • feelings of sadness
  • headaches, backaches, stomachaches, or other body pains
  • chest pain or heart palpitations
  • stiff neck
  • digestive problems
  • irritability or anger
  • sleeping or eating problems, i.e. over/under
  • emotional bluntness or feeling cut-off
  • apathy or lack of feeling pleasure in prior activities/interests
  • colds/flu
  • forgetfulness, confusion, losing things, accidents

As you can see, a whole host of problems can arise if you are feeling stress on the job.  So what do you do?

Well, first off, pay attention to what your body is telling you.  If you find that you are getting sick frequently or losing things, for instance, those are often signs that you might be under some type of stress and are not dealing with it.  We typically manifest stress in a physical way so it is imperative to be aware of what your body is telling you.

Dealing with stress can include a myriad of techniques, but here are some of my favorites:

  • Deep Breathing – this simple act can immediately provide calming to the brain and the body; be sure to breathe in through your nose and exhale large, pushing out through your stomach to force oxygen into your red blood cells which leads to calming
  • Physical Exercise – we all know that doing some type of physical activity raises you endorphin levels, which increases your level of happiness; it also releases negative energy and, when you focus on pleasurable activities, like walking or dancing, it helps to put your problems in perspective so you can deal with them effectively
  • Meditation – this simple act – which is not so easy – is now one of the major relievers of depression.  Focusing on your breathing and shutting out the ‘noise’ brings focus of your mind and calms the body
  • Journaling – writing down your negative thoughts and feelings helps to release them in a safe way, while providing clarity for how to deal with these thoughts; it’s as if you get an outsider view and perspective. In addition to releasing negative thoughts, journaling is a great way to document positives that have come in to your life, which is the art of Gratitude
  • Coloring – this simple activity taps into your creative brain, which is where happiness lives.  I have written before on my Mandala book, which gives focus on calming

No matter which technique you use, take time throughout your day to decompress and effectively monitor your stress.  i would love to hear how you deal with job strain!

Dealing with Workplace Stress

There’s not doubt that the workplace today is a stressful one; employers are requiring their workers to perform and produce at higher rates than before.  A recent survey cited in my local paper found that 67 percent of workers reported having a high degree of stress, 24 percent reported medium stress and only 11 percent said they had low stress.  Sixty four percent is a high number of people who are feeling intense pressure to perform; I would imagine that they also are experiencing emotional and physical symptoms that detract from their ability to work at their level of performance.

It’s not just the work that causes stress  as the work environment can be a contributing factor.  This can include not having the right resources for the job, lack of communication on expectations, lack of rewards or incentives, or difficult coworkers.  One, or all, of these can be a source of frustration dependent upon your personality, work ethic or work-style.  For example, if you have the belief that work should be focused and ‘nose to the grindstone’, then you will be frustrated by workers who want to talk or take their time getting work done.  For whatever the contributing factors are, it is imperative that you learn how to deal with your stress so you can feel happier and healthier; the long-term effects of stress affect not only your physical and emotional well-being, but can affect the gray matter in your brain which can result in dementia later in life.

Here are some ways to help you deal with workplace stress; practice them and make them a daily part of your life:

1. Deep breathe – taking deep breaths, which mean taking a breath in through your nose and pushing out strongly through your belly will help to get oxygen into your red blood cells which expands, or relaxes them; this will calm your brain and your body so you can think clearly

2. Meditate – calming the body and the mind is a necessity when dealing with emotional situations; find a quiet space to sit and to go inward; you may want to say a chant or a word to help you focus. This can take practice to block out ‘the noise’ but the results are worth it

3. Exercise – physical exertion is a great way to release stress and the benefits of the endorphins is energizing and relaxing; do some type of activity you enjoy to keep the motivation going, such as walking, running, gardening, roller-blading, swimming, dancing, Zumba, or the like

4. Journal – writing out our thoughts and emotions is a healthy and safe way to release negative emotions, as you can “say” what you are thinking without anyone getting offended; writing also has a way of giving us a new perspective so you may uncover traits or habits that may lead to your stress, such as taking on other’s work to be ‘helpful.’  You can also capture all of the good work that you do and express gratitude, both of which help to lift the mood

5. Separate – reflect on the sources of your perceived stress to determine if your reactions are warranted; are there other factors that are not work-related that are causing stress, such as issues with your spouse or kids, or financial pressures all of which can compromise our ability to cope and taxes our system

6. Talk to Someone – it is helpful to find someone to talk to you in order to release feelings; you might turn to a family member, a friend, or you may want to seek out a professional, such as a counselor or a coach.  You could find one through the Employee Assistance Program at work, which is confidential and free.

Learning to deal with stress at work will help you to tap into your strengths and increase your coping skills so you can feel refreshed and ready to face demands handed to you.  Knowing the sources of stress will help you to deal with them and lead to a calm and happy life.

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