Achieve Results with Less Stress
Carrie Sioberg: And welcome to today’s webinar entitled Achieve Results with Less Stress! We are thrilled to have Marjorie Nichols with us today, who is an Employee Assistance Program Expert.
Ms. Nichols is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has provided and managed employees in the behavioral health field for over 30 years. Marjorie has written and facilitated seminars and workshops for hundreds of organizations and many Fortune 500 companies.
And without further delay, Marjorie, I will turn things over to you.
Marjorie Nichols: Thank you Carrie, and thank you all for joining us today! This is an exciting webinar and I hope that you leave with several takeaways.
Carrie mentioned that I have been in the behavioral healthcare field for over 30 years. I have a private practice and I provide employee assistance counseling for many folks through ValueOptions. And I want to let you all know that because I am speaking to you through my office experience and my heart as I am going to talk with you today about a high-stress work style and a low-stress work style.
So how I wanted to begin this webinar was to ask you all to respond to this Polling Question. So Carrie, I will turn it back over to you to ask the question and we would like your feedback.
Carrie Sioberg: Great! Thank you so much, Marjorie! So as we can see here, the Polling Question, it’s simply asking, I am a more effective worker when I multitask, am driven (at all costs), feel tense, and work without taking breaks. So what I will do is go ahead and launch that Polling Question within the GoToWebinar application and go ahead and give people a few seconds to answer that.
Okay. So Marjorie, it actually looks like we had 6 percent of the audience selected Very true, we had 24 percent selected B, Moderately true. It looks like we had 36% of the audience select Somewhat true, and it looks like we had 33 percent select, Not at all true.
Marjorie Nichols: Yeah. Thank you all for your participation! Now what I wish is I would launch the second Polling Question, which would be, now how many of you do work in that style?
What my intent with writing that Polling Question was to get you all to start to think about how effective and productive you believe you are when you are working in that high-stress work style? Some of you may still believe that your greatest achievements are met when you operate in this frenzied style.
Well, let me share with you some facts about this belief system. Certainly, we know that a healthy amount of stress, which is why I think some of you responded to be moderately true, because you are thinking, a moderate amount of stress really helps me, and you would be right with that, but I want to differentiate this.
So what I was attempting to describe in that Polling Question is to account for that high-stress or reactive work style. This work style embodies a cluster of behavior; hostility, irritability, and patience with self and others, sometimes seeing others as the enemy, always in a hurry. These are people that tend to over-schedule. They never feel as though they have a sense of completion. I could go on, but I want to give you some examples of that.
While some would argue this is the only way I can get things done, consider the results of this working style, reduced productivity, isolation from team, increased rates of illness, injury and disability. And if that's not bad enough, these are people who live with a sense of time urgency, angst, insecurity, and most prominent, a negative belief system.
So what do we do to reverse this dire condition? Well, the objective for today's webinar is to launch a self-assessment so that you can determine, are you a reactor, someone that is in this syndrome of angst and stress, or are you someone that practices a low-stress work style, a responder?
After you determine what your predominant style is, I will review how our belief system creates our realities, and how to rewrite your reality through a psychological modality called Cognitive Reframing. Through these strategies and some good old conventional wisdom of self-care you will be reminded of how to reduce your stress reaction and provide a healthy environment in your personal and professional life.
So let’s begin with that self-assessment, and before I begin to ask these questions out loud, what I want you to know is that when we study peak performers, we learn from them that they are constantly assessing their own behaviors for what works and what does not work.
As I read these traits, please jot down those that you demonstrate, even in the slightest. It's through self-awareness that we move to successful change. So let me begin.
Do you have trouble sleeping at night because you are worried about work? Many people that see me in my private practice report that they can go to sleep but they wake up frequently thinking about incomplete tasks, things they have forgotten, a conversation at work that bothers them and so on.
Are your thoughts preoccupied with worry, perhaps about completing your work? People who find themselves experiencing this tell themselves that there's just too much work to do and they will never get it all done. So much of their time is consumed with worry rather than planning and accomplishing what needs to be done.
Now, when I work with these people in my office what I find is that they have a distorted thought, that if they worry it means they care. If they worry, it creates a vigilance that helps them do their work more effectively. Well, that's simply not true. Not only that, but worry just drains our brain and it exhausts us.
All right! More questions. Do you isolate from co-workers? Sometimes we isolate from co-workers if our behaviors or our belief systems are in that reactive state, because others end up overwhelming us.
Do you complain about feeling fatigued but cannot take the time to relax? Do you take breaks or rather do you not take breaks?
Sadly, high-stress actors take on the belief system that in order to get their work done they have to work faster and work longer hours. What we know to be true is that when we take breaks, our brain reboots. I hope that's permissible. I am not a neuropsychologist, but in fact our brain does need our breaks to reboot.
So in doing so, taking these mini breaks, we allow our brain to gain more clarity and precision. It's all about working smarter.
Did you know that our brain needs a break about every 50-60 minutes? Did you know that our brain is an energy hog? If it's in continual use, particularly with negative stressful thinking, we are exhausted by the end of the day.
All right! I find myself digressing. Let me get back to these questions. Do you not take time off from work? Do you feel in competition with others? High-stress work style people are easily annoyed by their co-workers, have difficulty focusing on others, and find it easier to isolate and begin to develop a belief system that it's me against everybody else.
All right! Do you feel as though—well, rather let me ask it this way, do you find yourself thinking about how you are going to respond while someone else is speaking? This leads to the perception from others that you are preoccupied and not interested in them. Additionally, others may perceive of you as being frustrated, impatient and easily angered.
Certainly, when you are thinking about what you are going to say while someone else is speaking to you, you are not listening. Poor listening skills lead to errors and low work productivity.
Let's now look at the low-stress work style or the responder. These are people that see their job as an exciting challenge that will provide them intellectual stimulation. They maintain a calmness. When there are delays, changes and disappointments, these people sustain their serenity, because they have balance in their life and feel restored by friends and family.
They challenge themselves and their self-assessment to one, relax and rejuvenate, and then restructure any areas of their lives that need adjusting.
Two, they may ask, how can I be more organized, what are the priorities, what are the goals of my team, and so on?
Three, these are people that set reasonable expectations for themselves. They are optimists. They are resilient.
And four, they listen to their bodies, and when they are too suffering from brain drain, they relax without guilt.
So here are 3 takeaways that I want you all to have for today. One, the knowledge of what your predominant work style is, it doesn’t mean that you are acting always with all 10 of those categories or symptoms of high-stress work response, but I want you to be more aware of it.
And then secondly, that your approach to work can change.
And last, or third, that you empower yourself when you make that shift from the unhealthy reactive style to that of low-stress, and in making that change you will not be held hostage to damaging negative beliefs, brain drain, loneliness, and the other toxic effects of the high-stress work style.
Now, the shift means you need to examine and change your thinking. Keeping that in mind, let's examine how our thinking works. Our feelings and behaviors are a result of our perceptions and thoughts. It is said when we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.
Furthering that point, it was Shakespeare that wrote, “There is no good or bad, thinking makes it so”.
What would happen if we changed the way we look at work? Take a look at this graphic on this slide. If our view of work is that it’s intensely stressful, that perception of work determines how we think, and in turn feel about work, and lastly, how we act at work.
So if our perceptions of work is that it's a battlefield in which we are dodging bullets, our thought is firmly set to, this is a stressful place, which leads us to feel irritability, perhaps being overwhelmed, even anxious, but in a constant state of chaos.
Our feelings leak out, if you will, into our behavior. It's these behaviors that I have identified as reactive, that high-stress work style. All this reinforces a belief system that my workplace is a dangerous place that I must deal with it either aggressively or isolate and fly under the radar.
Now, let's consider the Cognitive Reframing of this reactive high-stress pattern. Begin this reframing by asking yourself some pointed questions. How will my actions affect others? If our view of work and elsewhere is stressful, we seldom evaluate what effects our actions and behaviors have on ourselves and others.
However, the next day or hours after we lose our temper or say something that might have been hurtful to another, we feel bad, right? This cycle of reacting in a high-stress manner makes us unhappy, lowers our self-confidence and the self-esteem and causes interruptive thinking that is negative. The bottom line is we are not productive.
So ask yourself these questions. And I know some of you are probably saying, oh, this is so hard to make this shift. This is the way I have always acted, it’s the way I am.
Well, first of all, remember that we can change our thoughts and our behavior and change we must or live in this perpetual frenzy. A way of shifting these reactions to our work and personal situations, to live more peacefully and happily, is to engage your responder versus your reactor.
The first question I have already asked, how will my actions affect others? The next is, how am I going to feel about this behavior tomorrow or the next day? How will my actions affect my self-esteem? This is important. What we know is that people who work in this high-stress work style or reactor ends up feeling bad about themselves which results in low self-esteem.
And if we are struggling with low self-esteem, what is burst is a self-destructive cycle. It's sort of goes like this, I don’t feel good about myself. I am going to eat more sugar, drink more alcohol, drink more caffeine; I am not going take care of myself. It's going to prompt us to feel even more irritable, agitated, and therefore more reactive. And then through that reactivity we don’t feel good about ourselves, so you can probably see that vicious cycle.
The next question, do I want peace of mind? Some of the time I ask people in my office, would you rather be right or happy, because oftentimes they find themselves arguing about something, at least in their head, if not with the co-worker or even their boss, in which they really are convinced they are right. And oftentimes that battle only results in unhappiness, frenzy, agitation, irritability. So my question always is, would you rather be right or happy?
The other thing I want you to consider with peace of mind, think about a vacation that you have been on, I just returned from one. We all know how restorative a vacation can be. At some point in our trip we feel at ease. So don't wait for a vacation to feel that.
All right! Next question, will my actions really be productive? This question begs with self-awareness. Reactors believe that they need to have a high-stress work style because it's productive. Deconstruct that belief system, it’s just not true.
And lastly, the last question, how do I want people to view me? All right! I hope that's helpful.
I am going to move to the next slide, which gives you an example of how to shift your behavior from reacting to situations to responding to them. So first, consider where you are in that self-assessment. Second, employ some of those questions. And thirdly, let’s gain more understanding of how to engage the responder.
So first, let’s affirm that when we change the way we look at things, things change, and that’s empowerment. So let’s do a quick experiment right now. I hope that you have a pencil or pen at your desk. So what I am going to ask you to do is to put that pencil or pen in your mouth length wise, so that the eraser end is at your right or left cheek and the lead is at the other.
Now, if you were to keep that pencil there for a minute or so, you would begin to feel lighter and happier. Why? Because you are smiling. Nothing about your current life has changed, but you smiled. What we know is that smiling changes how we feel. Okay, with me?
Here is another little tidbit. Frowning usually causes cognitive strain, which in turn can further our emotional response to work that is stressful and negative.
Now, consider changing your belief system to one of low-stress and change the way you experience the workplace. Such as, it is what it is, I am going to focus on what’s right, not what’s wrong. So it gets back to that mantra of focusing on what you can change, which is you, and letting go of what you cannot change, which is mostly everything else.
Remember, you promote powerlessness when you wait for things to be the way you think they should be. So on this slide our focus is one of responding to your workplace, which may include engaging with others using humor, finding a sense of lightness and fun, taking on your tasks singularly without interruptions towards completion.
I know many of your jobs are full of interruptions, because it’s the nature of your job, but reduce or eliminate the ways you interrupt yourself.
Now, you might ask yourself, I don’t interrupt myself, it’s others. It’s the co-worker that complains all the time or speaks too loudly. It’s my boss that drops work on my desk and telling me to drop everything else and do the work that he or she has just put on my desk. It’s the customer that’s asking me where the order is, and so on and so forth. I grant you, we all have a lot of interruptions.
And also, it's important to remember, a healthy amount of stress creates motivation, challenge and creativity, but get honest with yourself now. How much time are you spending thinking about how bad it is, how stressful it is, how annoying a co-worker is, how much you have to do, and so on?
My point is that when we are in a cycle of thought that is negative, awfulizing or catastrophizing, we are draining our resources to work efficiently and productively. After you have caught your thinking and shift your perceptions and thoughts, I want you to be reminded of other reliable tools.
Now, on this slide I want to jog your memory and encourage you to practice the tools that help you reduce surprises, manage workloads, prevent procrastination and getting sidetracked into unimportant activities. And they are, practice good time-management skills, plan, organize, prioritize, recall your accomplishments and use humor.
Now, when you practice good time-management skills, you are less likely to be caught off guard with emergencies. We don't have time in this webinar to go through this helpful skill, but I am going to talk at the end of this webinar what additional resources we can provide to help you strengthen these skills.
High-stress work styles are found in workers who do not establish an effective work plan. By that I mean, high-stress work style people do not take enough time at the front end to prepare, prioritize and organize their work. That means an organized desk, workstation, electronic files.
Do you know that we spend approximately 6 weeks a year looking for things, while responders or low-stress people know that when they work in a planned and organized style they reduce their stress?
Think about your workspace. Is it well-organized? Can you find what it is you need? Do you know where you can go to retrieve the necessary information to do your job efficiently? Do you prioritize your work so that you get the most out of your time?
Many of us know what time of the day we are most effective. Use that time to tackle the most challenging aspects of your job. Meet with your supervisor to reexamine what tasks are a priority, and do not assume. Remember we increase our stress when we have to spend time reworking a job, because we did not have the right information to begin with, or have the job, or have done the resource development that we needed to.
Again, let me emphasize, good time-management and good work ethics come from pre-planning and organization. Consider this ratio: 1 hour of preparation saves 3 hours of implementation. It’s working smart, and when we invest in this preparation, we reap the benefits of low-stress.
Let me remind you of what those benefits are, self-esteem, peace of mind, happiness and so on.
So you might ask yourself, why do I need to recall my accomplishments, that second to the last bullet? Actually, it has a lot to do with reducing your stress. You see, we are at a time in our culture, in our corporate culture that so many of us are doing so much, including our supervisors and managers, that there's not a lot of opportunity to hear "great job" or a "job well done."
When you list your own accomplishments and keep them written down, you are less likely to be bent out of shape when problems arise.
The last bullet on this slide is to remember your sense of humor. We know that a sense of humor improves morale and it has helped in healing illnesses. Now, consider the illness of the high-stress work style and apply a humor bomb to it.
This next slide reminds us of the tried and true that we need to practice daily, to eat well, to sleep well, to exercise daily, be a part of the solution, and build in those mini breaks that I have talked with you all about. I am going to drive home these outcomes to hope to engage all of you in some of these takeaways.
When you reduce your reactivity, you reduce your stress, you become more engaged and improve your relationships, and with that your self-esteem improves. So increase the humor and fun in your workplace.
Now, what I will do now is turn this over to Carrie, who can talk with you about your Employee Assistance Program and then I will summarize. Carrie!
Carrie Sioberg: Great! Thank you so much, Marjorie! That was just invaluable information in terms of really important reminders for all of us. So thank you very much!
We just wanted to remind people that are on today’s call, I know you all are from numerous different companies, but we want to make sure that folks do know that your Employee Assistance Program is here to assist you.
As you can see here on the slide, it is available 24/7, it is free and confidential. And your Employee Assistance Service is dedicated to help you achieve goals at work and in your personal life.
The EAP is staffed by licensed professional counselors who will work with you as personal consultants to help find solutions to variety of challenges you may be experiencing in your life.
So if you do have additional questions regarding managing stress or other potentially challenging situations that may be occurring in your life, please contact your Employee Assistance Program. That number can be located on your company's Employee Assistance Program website.
So thank you very much Marjorie for sharing your invaluable expertise! And I know you wanted to remind everyone of some additional resources they may pursue to continue really to explore additional stress management techniques in managing time.
Marjorie Nichols: Well, thank you Carrie! I do want to do that for you all. I mentioned time management skills and planning and organization and prioritization, which many of you probably employ. I would like to encourage you to visit Achieve Solutions website, which is your Employee Assistance Program website. There are award-winning articles on that website that will further what you have learned today in terms of time management, planning, and prioritization, because those are key.
Lastly, what I want to remind you all of, if you attended the webinar last month, it was on relaxation techniques and other stress management techniques. It was rather experiential. We actually walked people through the process of how to do deep breathing, relaxation and guided imagery, which we know helps for peak performance, as well as reducing stress. That has been recorded and it is on Achieve Solutions website.
So if you want more information on how to reduce your stress and this webinar has encouraged you to do so, you might want to check back on other webinars that have been done, and last month’s was on the experience of doing the physical reduction of stress.
Again, thank you all for your attendance today! It's a pleasure providing this webinar for you! And thank you, Carrie!
Carrie Sioberg: Thank you so much, Marjorie! Again, it was an excellent presentation, and thank you to everyone who was able to participate in today's presentation! We hope to see everyone again at a future webinar!