Stress in the Workplace and Tools to Diminish and Overcome Your Stress


Dr. Suzanne Engelman
California Licensed Psychologist PSY7977
Board Certified in Biofeedback
Certified Thanatologist
Certified Animal Assisted Therapist

LOCATION:
30131 Town Center Drive
Suite # 268
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

Office Phone:  (949) 460-4908 
FAX:  (949) 248-0421
Confidential email: srephd@hushmail.com
Suzanne R. Engelman, PHD, BCB, FT
My Background
  • Clinical Psychologist for 27 years
  • Special interests in treating stress-related disorders; private practices in Orange and Laguna Niguel
  • On Medical Staff at St. Joseph Hospital
    • see patients and their families with medical problems in the hospital
    • and as out-patients --including, anxiety, depression, medical problems; panic disorders; relational issues

Common Uses of the Word “Stress”

  • How many of you have used the word stress in the last week?
    •  “The rush hour traffic getting here really stressed me out this morning!”
    • “Making that deadline will be a real stressor!”    
    • “I’m so stress out at work and unfortunately my kids and husband get the brunt of it when I get home!”
Work and Stress
  • American’s # 1 Source of Stress is our jobs!!!
  • Jobs and careers important part of our lives:

    • Source of income
    •  Fulfill personal aims
    • Build social networks
    • Serve our professions and communities

BUT ALSO A MAJOR SOURCE OF EMOTIONAL and PHYSICAL STRESS

Work Place Stress

  • What at work is stressing you out?
    •  “My boss is being over bearing!!”
    •  “Getting that project done is overwhelming my life right now!!”
    • “I’m so scared of being laid off.  My wife will leave me if I am.”
    • “If that company buys us out, I’ll be laid off for sure!”
    • “Because of cut-backs and lay offs, I’m working 3 jobs instead of one and management still isn’t happy!”
    • “My boss clearly doesn’t like me…I’m afraid he’s going to fire me.”

SO…What is Stress?

  • Technically---something that makes a demand upon the body  (Hans Selye)
  • Pleasant demand- (ex getting a raise) or unpleasant (exp. Getting a salary cut)—in both, the body must readjust
  • Cannot escape stress—complete freedom from stress =death

Work and Stress

  • Layoffs, Resturcturing, management changes can increase anxiety about job security and increase stress:
    • Norwegian study: mere rumor of factory’s closure caused rapid increases in woker’s pulse and blood pressure
    • US Study: workplace injuries,accidents tend to increase in organizations that are being downsized

Work and STRESS

  • INCREASES HEART DISEASE
  • Nature of the Job that creates stress:
    • Perceived low rewards           
    •  Hostile work environment
    •  Long hours

WORK STRESS

  • Causes BURNOUT: emotional exhaustion, negative or cynical attitudes towards others and your self
  • Burnout: leads to depression, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, obestity, eating disorders, diabetes and some forms of cancer
  • Chronic Depression: Leads to reduced immunity to illnesses

KNOW THYSELF

  • BECOME AWARE of  what stresses you out and how you experience it; everyone is different:
    • Trouble making decisions?
    • Feel angry and more irritable than usual?
    • More frequent colds, cold sores, rashes?
    • Experience headaches, stomach/body aches, GERD
    • Can’t sleep at night?
    • Loosing patience with children and spouse?
    • Going for the fast foods?
    • More use of alcohol,medication, cigarettes?
JOB STRESS
  • JOB STRESS IS LEGITIMATE CONCERN FOR EMPLOYERS:
  • Costs US businesses $300 billion/year through absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover and direct medical, legal and insurance fees*
  • *APA, 2007

NORMAL Stress  response

  • Emergency Response System( Fight or flight):
  • “this is a test of the emergency response system”
    • Will save your life if you are in physical danger
    • Allostasis-robust dynamic coping mechanism that’s been around for 50 million years
    • A dynamic physiological resilence to rise to the challenge
    • Heart beats faster to pump more blood to muscles to escape; hormones, immune system all kick into high gear.
    • This primitive coping response--provides tools—energy, oxygen, muscle power, fuel, pain resistance, and mental acuity to fight the menace or flee……

ABNORMAL Stress

  • Emergency Response System stuck in ON
    • Animals escape danger, stress response ends ( Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers)
    • Humans respond to external events in a way that keeps stress response on– overwhelms, exhaust our ability to cope. This is called The Allostatic Load
    • As a results we feel tired, edgy, run down
  • If body cannot return to baseline functioning, disease results:
    • More colds, sense of inadequacy to meet needs of our friends, family, co-workers
    • feelings of helplessness and depression
    • Stress related illness: include colitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibryomyalgia, eczema, ulcers,Type 2 Diabetes
  • Thus---stress protects under acute conditions, when there is actual danger; but when activated chronically,can cause damage, and accelerate disease.

Turning off Stress Response

  • Physiologically CALM your body
  • Cognitively CONTROL your thinking
  • Behaviorally CHANGE your actions

PHYSIOLOGICAL: Calm the Body

Turning off the Emergency Response System (your stress response):

  • 3 Facts about Your Stress Response
    • The event is not dangerous
    • Its time limited
    • It feels much like excitement, anger, exercise

TOOLS to CALM your BODY at work

  • Deep breathing (practice when already calm)
  • Progressive Relaxation
  • USE BLUE DOTS (bought at any stationary store)

DEEP BREATHING TECHNIQUE

  • Stand up.  Place both hands on lower stomach. As you inhale, imagine that your stomach is being blown up like a balloon.  This allows the diaphragm to drop and enables air to flow all the way to the bottom of the lungs. As you inhale, your hands should move outward.  Breath in slowly to a count of four.  Then, as you exhale you draw your stomach in and your hands move inward.  Exhale slowly to a count of 4-6

Office Progressive Relaxation

  • Neck pain, shoulder strain, backaches are common to desk-bound workers. Caused by: poor posture, broken down desk chairs and  WORKPLACE STRESS!
USE YOUR BREAK

(CAUTION:  This is only to be done if you have no back, neck or shoulder injuries.  If you notice any discomfort discontinue the exercise and consult a physician.)

Stand up or sitting in place:  Bring your awareness to your shoulders. Notice any tension in your shoulders. Slowly begin by hunching your shoulders towards your ears. Tense your shoulders as you bring them towards your ears.

Once you have made them arch up as high as they will go, hold your shoulders in this position to the count of 5; then quickly let them drop; notice the decrease in tension.  Gently roll your shoulders around and feel the nice change.  Repeat up to 3 times.

BLUE DOTS

  • Purchase at any stationary stores,
  • Place around your work station:
    • On the phone
    • Ceiling
    • Work pad
    • Computer
    • Steering wheel in car
    • Whenever you see the blue dot—use this reminder to relax, breath, release shoulders

COGNITIVE: CONTROL YOUR THINKING

  • Change Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS) especially:
    • Fortune Telling:  Predicting bad events
    • Catastrophic Thinking:  It’s not only bad, its terrible

Thinking Errors that Contribute to Stress

  • 3 Common Mental Errors:
    • Overestimating likelihood that the bad thing will happen
    •  Overestimating the consequences
    • Underestimating your ablity to cope
TOOLS TO CONTROL YOUR THINKING: question the ANTS
  • “Is it 100% certain that the bad thing will happen?”
  • “What would you estimate the real chance would be?”
  • “Is there something different that might happen?”
  • “If the bad thing happens, what would it really mean to you and how would you cope with it?”
  • If the bad thing happens, what would still be good in your life?”

Tools to Control Negative Thinking

  • The idea is not to get rid of negative thoughts, but to accept them as “just thoughts”
  • Be an observer of experience, not a victim of it

(from Acceptance and Committment Therapy; Mindfulness Therapy)

TOOL to Change Negative thinking

  • Clouds Technique ( “Imagine you are standing outdoors in the daytime and you are looking up at the sky.  Allow your thoughts to be like clouds drifting by.  Clouds are a natural part of nature and it would make no sense to try to control or change them in any way.  All you need to do is observe them as they pass by.”

(from Metacognitive Therapy)

SERENITY PRAYER

“GOD GRANT ME THE SERENITY TO ACCEPT THE THINGS I CANNOT CHANGE: THE COURAGE TO CHANGE THE THINGS THAT I CAN: AND THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE

Behavioral: Tools to CHANGE YOUR ACTIONS

Exercise, sleep, diet, social support, time off

  • EXERCISE—Type II Diabetes is a form of allostatic load
    • Accompanies obesity, heart disease, high cortisol levels=body becomes resistant to own insulin
    • NIH Study found participants who change their lifestyle by walking + low-fat diet, reduced risk of diabetes by 58% vs particpants who took medication metformin reduced risk by 31%

Simple walking- best way to prevent heart disease

SLEEP

  • Poor Sleep/too little sleep—increases the allostatic load
  • Activation of fight of flight systems-leads to fatigue, eventually sleep;
  • Restorative powers of sleep are needed!

Social Support

  • Heart attack victims with depression had 3-4 times increase risk of dying when they had no social support
  • Social support benefits the immune system
  • Social support benefits those coping with life threatening illness—earlier death when little social support
  • MAKE FRIENDS

DIET/Use of Substances

  • Reaching for the fast food?
  • Increasing your use of alcohol
  • Smoking cigarettes?
  • Use of Recreational/other drugs?
  • GET CONTROL OF THESE OR GET PROFESSIONAL HELP

VACATIONS

  • In 2007 study by American Psychological Association, 50% indicated that they did not take their allocated vacation time
  • No matter how hectic life gets, make time for yourself and family

Other WORKPLACE BEHAVIORAL TOOLS

  • Make the most of workday breaks:  even 10 minutes of “personal time” will refresh your mental outlook: brief walk, chat with co-worker about non-job topic; breath/progressive relaxation moment
  • If you feel angry, walk away:  mentally regroup by couting to 10; walk longer, rethink situation

WORKPLACE BEHAVIORAL TOOLS

  • Set Reasonable Standards for Yourself and Others: don’t expect perfection; talk to your employer about your job description. Your responsibilities and performance criteria may not accurately reflect what you are doing. Work together to make needed changes will help your emotional/physical health and also your  organization’s overall productivity

TURN OFF and TUNE IN

  • SET RULES FOR YOURSELF:
    • Turn off cell phone or BlackBerry during family time, dinner time, vacations
    • Establish limited times when you return calls
    • Communicate your rules to others so their expectations of you are realistic
    • Make and live up to your own contract

LET TECHNOLOGY BE A TOOL FOR YOU RATHER THAT THE OTHER WAY AROUND!!

PERSONAL CONTRACT

I________________________Do hereby promise myself that I will work on my own energy/stress levels during the next five days by removing or diminishing these irritants:

1.

2.

3.

And by increasing or enhancing these delights:

1.

2.

3.

If I fail in any way, I promise to forgive myself and begin again.

_________________           __________

Signed                                  DATE

PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT

  • Changing unhealthy habits can be difficult
  • Seek professional help:
  • Your company’s EAP –Employee Assistance Program Talk with Psychologist

Suzanne R. Engelman, PH.D., BCB, FT

Contact Information:

Office

30131 Town Center Drive, # 235
Laguna Niguel, CA  92677

OFFICE PHONE:  949/460-4908

FAX:  949/248-0421

E-mail: suzyengelm@aol.com