Lately, life has been a little stressful. The alarm clock goes off and it starts. “Am I late? What time is it?”. The kids won’t get ready quick enough. The dog takes forever to poop. You miss a meeting. You’re late to pick up something on your lunch break. Dinner gets over cooked. Your computer crashes. The inbox won’t stop filling up. A deadline moves closer then anticipated. You didn’t get to finish that one last chore before going to bed....
By the end of the day it just all piles up and accumulates in your brain. From there you think, analyze and decipher every last detail. For some this transforms into an anxiety disorder or destructive behavior.
But stress is avoidable.
So, why do all courses talking about stress contain the same crappy graphics and advice? It’s time to take back personal employee development and make better stress and anxiety courses! Here are the things I do and don’t want in a “Dealing with Stress” course.
Don’t throw horrible stock photos of people pulling their hair out or over exaggerating a sigh at me!
Including unrealistic images that try to add comedy, lightheartedness, or perceived phoniness to an otherwise serious subject irks me to no end. The push to remove and replace stock graphic photos has slowly been coming for years (which I’m thankful for!) and this is a perfect example of where not to use them. If you feel the need to add graphics then show the physical affects of stress with a fact filled infographic or "artsy" photo that shows what its like to deal with stress. If you have to include a person then pick a realistic looking portrayal.
Don’t tell me to breath and I don’t want to count to 10.
Unless your audience is filled with yoga enthusiast or meditation experts, learning the art of meditation and breathing in 10 minutes isn’t going to happen. That's why there are people dedicated to these crafts. It takes practice and discipline. In most courses I’ve seen it’s the first piece of advice and honestly the root of the advice is to remove yourself from the situation and give yourself a minute to compose and departmentalize your thoughts. Why can’t you just tell me that?
Do show me how to identify the problem
Knowing exactly what’s eating you will make the next step (analysis) a heck of a lot easier. So take a couple extra minutes to stop, go to a quite room and collect your thoughts. Many psychologists recommend writing out your problems, making a list or writing without thinking and just letting your emotions take over. The typical steps include problem identification, taking part in a deep analysis, and taking corrective action.
Do tell me to get some sleep, eat right and exercise
All three have been proven to keep anxiety at bay and decrease stress levels. A healthy body means a healthy mind (sorry for being so cliché!). One of the great by-products of solitary exercise like running or working out (sans a partner) is that you’re left alone with your thoughts. Sleeping gives you time to determine if the root of your anxiety is worth it or going to return. Providing your body with nutritious foods means that your body is ready and available for mental astuteness.
Do tell me to get distracted
Interacting with others will help keep your mind off stress and more on the conversation or activity. Resist the temptation to continue on your stress path by talking about the problem. It’ll just become a vicious cycle.
Another great distraction is humor. Whether it’s with a friend, watching a funny movie, or catching a few jokes from your favorite stand up comedian. Laughing stimulates your organs, increases your heart rate and blood pressure, and releases extra endorphins which are proven to combat stress and depression!
Laugher makes us feel good. Go outside! With the solitude of nature of you can appreciate the little things and be left alone with your thoughts.
Do use free resources
With the age of the internet has come articles, videos and presentations from leading experts on dealing with stress readily available to the public. Include multimedia in a course by linking to a Youtube Video and having the learner read an excerpt from a notable source. Think local by checking with your community health department to see if they have resources and statistics specific to your area. Maybe an individual will even be able to come in to provide suggestions or consult with employees free of charge for a short time.
Do explain the signs of serious anxiety disorders
Knowing when regular daily stress has turned into something more is really important. Being informed and knowing the danger signs can help start the path of successfully dealing with stress before it piles up into something require. At the very least recommend the individual speak with a professional to determine the severity and proper course of action.
P.S. Sorry if this article came off a little ranty. My journey with stress started in high school. Every time I tried to deal with school, work, family, friends, sports and theater I felt like the world was sitting on top of me. I developed Trichotillomania (which is a form of OCD where you pull out your hair) as a way to cope. As an adult it turned into worrying about money, driving and the probability of freak accidents. I’d freak out if I didn’t have enough of certain things like diapers, food and toilet paper in the house at all times. One day it took a serious turn and I started to have panic attacks. I didn’t know what was going on. All I knew was that it was stressing me out! VICOUS circle. I now understand my triggers and what I need to do to deal with it but it’s still a daily battle. When the stress levels hit an all time high last week (which is why I didn't post) I found myself in search of something on the internet. I find comfort in knowledge and it's actually one way I deal with stress. When I came across cheesy graphics after cheesy graphic and cliche advice I had enough.
Don't forget to comment below with your stress tips and tricks. As always you can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. Let's follow each other! I love learning from others :)