Behavior management is stress management

December 31, 1991|By Palo Alto Peninsula Times Tribune

You feel too tired to get out of bed. Even if you could muster the motivation, you're so cynical about your work that you wonder what it's all for.

When you do get out of bed, facial tics get worse. You find yourself getting angry and judgmental. You walk and talk faster but forget what you say and take twice as long to get your work done. Stomachaches and fatigue become part of your daily experience.

Behaviors and attitudes such as these may signal the approach of "burnout" -- a battering form of depression that can cost you your job and ruin your health. But pretending to cope will only get you so far.

The secret to handling the crunching pressures of daily life is learning how to manage it.

"Stress is the sense of enthusiasm that gets us going," said Janelle Barlow, a licensed clinical therapist and chief trainer for TMI of North America, an internal management training company. "Most people do better with a little bit of pressure, but if that pressure is increased, performance drops off."

Getting rid of that despondent, hopeless feeling and regaining physical vitality all comes down to changing the way you think and act, Barlow said.

Instead of elevating your blood pressure, change your behavior. Use your head, social skills and business experience to cope with irritating scenarios, she said.

* Examine your behavior to see if you're making your day harder for yourself. Get enough sleep and tackle uncomfortable tasks early in your day.

* Set priorities for your daily activities and avoid dwelling on the list of things left to do. Perpetual worrying will make you physically tired, Barlow said.

* Take a short trip to the "stress management cubicle" -- what Barlow calls the bathroom -- for a break from the pressure. And make sure you take time out before making major decisions.

* Use things in your environment to bring on relaxation. Pick out cues, like a ringing telephone or a stop light, and every time you come into contact with the cue, say out loud, "I am," breathe in, and then say "relaxed," and breathe out.

* Exercise is crucial to releasing stress. Barlow suggests writing exercise into your daily plan as an appointment and to honor it regardless of work demands.

* Listen to your "self talk," or what you tell yourself. "When you go to bed, tell yourself it was a great day," she said. "When you wake up, tell yourself that you feel rested and alert and have enough energy to get through the day."

* To make sense of the many things that demand attention, you must spend time with yourself and decide what is most important to you: family, career, community, health or emotional well-being. Stress is eliminated by making this conscious choice and living out that priority.

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