Speaking of Work/Life Balance

Stress: Motivation for Work/Life Balance


By Barry Maher

Experts say that reacting to events as stressful is learned behavior. We can unlearn it and learn new ways to react. Of course none of these experts ever worked for your boss.

Still, it’s really not the outside event that’s stressing you out, is it? You and your body are stressing you out. You’re allowing the outside event to trigger that reaction.

Tactic: Ask yourself, does this really have to be a stressful situation? Do you gain anything from allowing it to generate stress?
Tactic: Consciously work at lowering the stress levels for the people you work with, changing the scale of the ambient stress around you. You’ll be surprised how quickly that can lower your own stress level as well.
Tactic: Sometimes simply backing off from a situation can lower your stress. Take meditation breaks. (That’s medi-TA-tion not medi-CA-tion.) Get out of the office for lunch. If it helps, play hooky occasionally — even if it’s just leaving an hour early on a Friday afternoon for a movie date with your spouse. Take your vacations. They’ll make you more successful not less.

Workers at one Japanese firm take a hula break everyday.

Paul Sheehan is an architect and the CFO of the Dyer Sheehan Group, Inc., a leading investment real estate brokerage in Ventura, California. He’s also a former professional musician. Paul handles stress as well as anyone I know. When he does need a break, he shuts off his phone and closes his office door — a sure sign he’s not to be disturbed. Then he picks up his guitar.

“I might spend 15 or 20 minutes concentrating intently on whatever song I’m writing,” he says. “And de-pressurizing. For those few moments, work becomes the farthest thing from my mind.”

Tactic: Take a one minute vacation several times during the day. Close your eyes and imagine yourself on the beach in Bermuda or skiing down a slope in San Moritz. Like the beer commercial says, “It’s a whole new latitude.” And you know as well as I how often a solution to an intractable problem pops up once you stop hassling about it and let it percolate around in your unconscious for a while.
Tactic: Seeing your situation through the eyes of others can’t help but put it in a completely different perspective. That’s why support and peer coaching groups can be so effective. And of course they also allow you to tap into a far broader range of experience than you could possibly gather on your own. Just being able to vent in a truly safe environment — preferably outside the company — can often deflate an overblown problem.
Tactic: In your off hours, if you happen to have any, find something interesting enough to keep you from obsessing about your job. This can be tough, especially when you consider that one of the main causes of lack of sexual interest in both men and women is preoccupation with work. Like Pandas, humans often have difficulty breeding in captivity.

If sex — or at least sex with your spouse — can’t get your mind off your job, find something that will. Learn to dance or play a musical instrument, exercise, play in a softball or bowling league, take courses in adult ed, take a day trip, have a night on the town, collect matchbook covers — or manhole covers for that matter — or just do something you’ve never done.

If you’ve got to obsess away from the job, do it about something other than work. Back in the early 70s, a good friend of mine got deeply into the “Paul McCartney is dead” hoopla.

“I decided to worry about that,” he said, “so I won’t have to worry about anything more important.”

If all else fails, worry about Paul McCartney. I mean, could Silly Love Song really have been written by the same man who wrote Yesterday? If he’s not Billy Shears, who is? What is really going on here, and isn’t it just possible that Brian Epstein and John Lennon were eliminated because they knew too much? And how does Marilyn Monroe fit into all this?

Final Tip: If you don’t have any off hours, get some.

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