Thursday, May 7, 2009


11:30-12:45; Meeting Room 4

This session started with everyone filling out a self-assessment of their personal stress level that was designed to measure personal vulnerability to stress.

Stress is a function of events, attitude, and behavior. We can most control attitude. There are many physical reaction we experience when under stress. Its very hard for our bodies to manage all these experiences. There are also emotion and cognitive effects. Recognizing the effects stress have on you is a good way to clue into the need for stress management. Standard stressors include: work., family/relationships, finances, changing schedules, illness, substance abuse, care taking others, need to be "perfect", and loneliness. Its ok to be good enough. Defining what good enough means can help a lot to reduce unrealistic expectations. The audience also contributed the following as stressors: school, loss of significant people in your life, moving, seasons (winter), work transitions, media / news (turn it off!), keeping up with technology (and just keeping up in general), housework (laundry, home maintenance, etc.), daily little things (catching a train, keeping track of your keys...), noise, technology failures, and guilt ("one of the more useless emotions there is, throw it all out!").

What gets in the way of stress management? Never enough time, caring for others, isolation, poor diet, too little exercise, keeping score (why aren't they doing their share while I'm doing so much?), loss of perspective (you have to continually prioritize), drinking too much, too little sleep. The audience contributed: ever increasing work loads, shrinking work forces / layoffs, and feeling constantly overloaded to the point of inertia setting in (give yourself permission to ignore stress), and feeling that we have to be connected electronically 24/7,

A useful tool - do only one thing at a time - when eating, just eat, don't do anything else. Meditation also works for several people. Taking a FIVE minute break can be very helpful. Its very short and can make a great difference.

Laura doesn't have internet at home and has "trained" all her friends to call her if they need her outside work hours.

Its important to establish a personal support network. Potential sources include: family, friends, community, work network, and professional help. An audience member expressed discomfort with co-workers sharing too much personal information. Laura addressed this with the need to establish limits and acknowledged that this can be a tricky environment. Another audience member talked about the role spiritual and religious groups can play as part of a support network.

Skills to cope:
Logistics: planning, organizing, communicating, setting limits, delegating, establishing support.
Physical: breathing, stretching, visualization, meditation, progressive relaxation.
Other important skills include: establishing time limits for activities and conversations, redirecting conversations to clarify what role you are filling, managing interruptions ("give me five minutes" be or "lets schedule a time to discuss this"), using visual displays to indicate availability (green/red door hangers for free/busy so can close door and indicate ability to be interrupted or not), setting specific agendas, and holding regular meetings to conduct specific types of conversations that don't need to happen immediately.

"You have a right to set a limit to what you are doing."

An instant piece of control can be obtained through some physical tools. Daily meditation allows the brain to have a chance to detox and changes Laura's ability to manage stress. Just breathing and slowing down your heart rate is powerful. Daily meditation develops the ability to instantly enter a meditative state.

The audience was led through a progressive relaxation exercise. They sat straight, put feet flat on the floor, closed their eyes, and relaxed with heavy hands. Laura talked people through thinking about their body, starting with the top of the head, through the temples, the eyes, paying attention to breathing, relaxing the brow, going down to the cheeks, lips, nose, and this relaxes your entire head. Laura continued to talk the audience through relaxing their shoulders, back, and on down through their feet to the floor. This went on for approximately 5 minutes. It ended with each person being encouraged to take three breathes and open their eyes. She described this as a "body scan" and encouraged everyone to do this at any time they felt stress.

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