By Robert Jones
EAP Trainer, The Village Business Institute
It seems like I often respond to the question, “How are you doing?” with the word “stressed.” A lot of us would probably answer the same way. Many factors create the stressors we deal with daily. The bigger issue to acknowledge is how we choose to deal with the stress.
Stress has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My stress comes in a number of different versions: full-time employee with The Village, full-time student working on my doctorate in Leadership, adjunct professor with a local college, advisor for a local fraternity, and, most important, a husband. For many, children, volunteering, and aging parents add commitments to schedules that create a feeling of stress. When talking about stress, I often hear that “nothing can be done” about it, because these are our responsibilities.
What I have come to understand living in a constant state of muscle tension, headaches, and a never-ending “to-do” list is the need to take care of self. As a society, we have forgotten to take care of ourselves.
A recent study by the Productivity Institute found a 15% increase in the number of hours worked over the last 20 years, and a 33% decrease in the number of hours of leisure. This lack of self-care is also evident in a recent survey of 2,300 employees eligible for paid-time off. Only half the people surveyed used their time, and of those, 61% worked during their time off; 40% of people forfeit their time off. This paid-time off is meant to give people time to recharge their batteries and refocus on life.
To quote author and business consultant Marcus Buckingham, “Many of us feel stress and get overwhelmed not because we’re taking on too much, but because we’re taking on too little of what really strengthens us.”
As we take on more and more responsibility, we are failing do the things that energize us. So how do we identify what we are missing?
In order to manage stress brought on by a lack of enjoyment, there are SIX DIMENSIONS OF WELLNESS that can guide an individual. These dimensions can offer people an escape and help to manage stress.
The first of these dimensions is occupational, which recognizes the personal satisfaction and enrichment in one’s life through work. Truth is, we spend more time awake at work than we do anywhere else. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget why we enjoy our work, and this can lead to frustration and a lack of focus. One way to remind yourself why you do what you do is to find that reason and write it down. Make it your screensaver or phone’s wallpaper so when you want to throw your hands up and quit, you have a reminder why you want to stay.
The second dimension is the need for physical activity. A hundred years ago, we were hunters and gatherers forced to be active in order to survive. Now with grocery stores, cars, and Netflix, our level of activity has decreased, despite the inert need to be active. So find time to go for a walk, garden, or play with your kids (or dogs) – any bit can help to alleviate the stress you are feeling.
The third is the need for social interaction. You might think of this as “going out with friends,” which can be true. However, the social dimension of wellness encourages us to contribute to our environment and community. You don’t have to run for city council or school board; your community can be the people you work with or your neighbors. It can be volunteering time with a nonprofit. I would recommend not volunteering in the same field you work in, because this will not help with your stress.
Intellectual wellness recognizes the need for stimulating mental activity. In other words, the need for a hobby. This could be a craft of some sort, or an activity like hunting and gardening, which promotes physical wellness, too. Just make sure the mental activity challenges you and offers some type of escape. I have seen this be successful for many people, and the skills developed can be truly amazing.
The fifth dimension of wellness is the need for recognizing our search for meaning and purpose in human existence or our existence, also known as spiritual wellness. For many people this may be attending church (which can also be social wellness), but it does not have to be that formal. Spiritual wellness can be your personal time to process what is happening in your life. This time can be spent sitting alone, playing a musical instrument, walking the dogs – whatever you do to ask those important questions in your life that need an answer.
Finally and most important is the need to be aware of and accept out emotional wellness. So often we forget that our emotions play probably the biggest role in managing stress. If we try to stifle our emotions we are not dealing with them; we are only burying them, and eventually we run out of dirt. Understanding why we are feeling what we are feeling, and knowing how to stop and deal with these emotions in an appropriate manner, is probably the most difficult part of stress management, yet the easiest way to control stress.
We are a stressed-out society that is spending too much time focusing on things that are not giving us strength. If there is any hope of controlling our stress, we are going to have to start putting time back into ourselves.
About the author
Robert Jones is an Employee Assistance Program Trainer with The Village Business Institute. Robert has a bachelor’s degree in History and a master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in counseling and leadership. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, and recently began working on his Educational Doctorate in Leadership. Robert has nearly 20 years of experience in the hospitality field and has been doing freelance training for almost 10 years.