This series on stress has been focusing on organisational stress and we have looked at the role that the Christian servant leader has to play by adopting strategies that help reduce stress for the people in his team or organisation. So far we have not considered what you can do to reduce personal stress if, through reading these articles, you identify high levels of occupational stress in yourself. Colin Buckland shared some more tips with me.
If you are in the ministry or on the mission field you may find this series on ministry stress helpful as well.
Dealing with Occupational Stress for Yourself
So, here are 5 things that you can do to help reduce the impact of occupational stress on your life.
Stress Self Diagnostic
Well, I think the first thing to do is a bit of a self-diagnostic really. You need to start thinking about you. “Are the things we have discussed in this series especially present in me?”
You can engage trusted others with this; your spouse, a close friend, or a near relative who knows you well and aren’t ‘yes’ people. By that I mean they’re not just going to tell you everything you want to hear, but they’re going to give you an honest response… you can ask them. Some times we’ve had leaders go home and ask, “Am I irritable?” And then their spouse would say, “My goodness, I’m so glad to hear you say that, because you’ve been irritable for a long time.” They just haven’t realized.
So, self-diagnostics; don’t just rely on yourself when you do that, but ask these trusted others.
Review Your Workload
When you discover that you are exhibiting signs of stress then you need to start doing something. It’s a bit like you’re burning yourself in a fire, you need to get out of the fire. So, you need to start looking at your workload. “What do I take on?” “What do I say ‘yes’ to?” “What do I say ‘no’ to?”
You could actually start charting your working week, and look at the hours that you do. So, over maybe a two or three week period draw up a table of hours, fill it in. Nobody really likes to do this, but it’s amazing what it can tell you. Over a two or three week period you can look at how much work you’ve been doing. That might be the very cause of your stress; you’re just doing too much.
Establish Good Eating habits
Diet is important. If we eat good food and healthy food that will start to help minimize our stress. (There are lots of good books on this, run a search on Amazon)
Engage in Exercise
One of the greatest stress-beaters is exercise. Learn to exercise. We don’t necessarily have to get a personal trainer who runs us into the ground. Start doing something that raises your heartbeat maybe thirty minutes three times a week. That will make a huge difference to your stress levels. This is a stress-beater.
One other thing that you can do is learn to relax. Several times a day stop what you’re doing, relax. You’ll find that will make an enormous difference to you in your place of work.
You can use relaxation techniques like breathing, and thinking about warming liquid flowing through your body, and so on. There are lots of books that will give you lots of these exercises available in most good bookshops.
There are a couple of devices I could mention to help with relaxation.
One is a simple thing called a stress dot. This is a temperature sensitive dot that you can put on your hand. It’s colour-graded and the more stressed you get the more your body temperature changes and the colour of the dot changes. Your hands begin to get cool. It will show you, really in an instant, how you’re doing. These have been used on school children, to assess the stress levels of children at school. They are very effective so, it’s a good piece of work.
The other device is a bio-feedback monitor, which looks a little bit like one of those 1960s transistor radios. I remember I used to listen to one of those under my bed clothes at night, just a little personal radio. Well, you get this electrode that you strap on your finger and the device makes this annoying sound. The more stressed you are, the more heightened your system is, the higher the squeal. As you use it you can learn to relax and slowly bring that sound down until it becomes a tic-tic-tic. What you’re learning to do is relax.
The first thing that you can do is that self diagnostic. Consider the symptoms of stress that we have discussed in the this series; do you recognize any of them in yourself? If you do, then begin to work through Colin’s tips.
If your stress seems extreme then of course you should go and visit your doctor as soon as you can as well as take steps to reduce the sources of your stress.
Even if you have not recognized stress in yourself, one day soon it could be there. So we recommend getting a head start, consider your diet and begin an exercise regime. But more than that consider the insights that you have gained from this series and apply the lessons to your work life and your approach to leading your organisation or team.
Image: TheeErin Flickr.com