Simma’s Tips for Managing Your Stress in This Stressed-Out Economy
By Simma Lieberman
Inside-Out & Top-Down Stress Management
To say the economic crisis in the US and the world has been stressful is to put it lightly.
Many people currently feel as though they have no control over their financial situation and they don’t know what will happen in the future. While we can’t control the economy, we can control how we react and what we can do to help ourselves stay focused, productive, and calm.
That’s what this newsletter is focused on: helping you (and those around you) manage stress. You’ll find two highly practical articles in this newsletter: one on managing your stress from the inside-out and another for those of you who manage others on managing stress from the top-down in your workplace. You’ll also find links to a number of our most popular stress-related articles on our website.
There is no time like now to take the reigns on your stress and start preparing yourself for a more balanced 2009!
Simma’s Tips for Managing Your Stress in This Stressed-Out Economy
by Simma Lieberman
Here are 13 ways to manage your stress, feel more in control of your life, and handle the external factors that affect you.
1. Review your finances
Talk to a financial planner or broker and develop a strategy for yourself. Have plan A, B and C. It’s important to have contingency plans. That way, you’ll feel more prepared, and less anxious. Determine if you’re fine for the next year or if you need to make changes, Are you planning to retire but not sure if you can? Are there financial decisions you need to make? Taking this step instead of staying vague about your finances will give you a greater sense of control. Treat budgeting like dieting: avoid any ‘crash’ budgeting that is too extreme. Instead, make a budget that includes an allotment for yourself so you feel are taking care of yourself.
2. Discuss Your Situation
Talk with your family and/or close friends about how you can support each other. You’ll feel less alone, more supported, and find solutions together. It’s much more stressful to keep it all inside.
3. Analyze What Stresses You Out
Become aware of and list the specific reasons for your stress. You’ll likely feel less overwhelmed once you have down in one place all the things that are stressing you. Also identify those areas of your life that feel secure and calm and make sure you are creating the time to focus on these areas.
4. Change Your Thought Process
Use thought stopping to rid yourself of negative thoughts and obsessive thinking that can interfere with your ability to sleep or problem solve. Learn this powerful technique in my free article, Managing Stress by Stopping Obsessive or Unwanted Thoughts.
Prevent or stop anxiety symptoms like heart palpitations and shortness of breath that can interfere with your ability to be productive or problem solve. It’s common at times like this to start predicting the future and imagine the worst case scenario. Focus on the fact that you have a house, clothes, food to eat, etc. This will help you get in the present, slow down your breathing, and calm down.
5. Create An Action Plan
Determine which stressors in your life you can control or change and make an action plan. Example: If you are worried about expenses, select the ones that are not necessary and eliminate or reduce them. There may be some that you can control or change but are not ready to do so. That’s okay. Set a timetable for taking action to resolve them.
6. Let Go of Things You Can’t Control
Identify which stressors you can’t control and learn to let go of them. Write the words “let go” next to those items so that you can begin to think differently about them. Worrying about or trying to control the uncontrollable takes up time and energy that you can use to control the things you can. Letting go is a process. Learn to use this process and let go at Stress; Control It, Change It or Let It Go!
7. Write Out Fright
Keep a pad by your bed and when you find yourself worrying or getting stressed out, write down those thoughts and visualize them leaving your head. Imagine that your brain is a clear slate since you have given your worries to the pad.
8. Breathe Out Your Stress
Lay down, close your eyes and take some very slow deep breaths as you let go of tension. Let your breath go through your body and allow your body to get heavy and sink into the bed or chair you are resting on. As you breathe in and out you’ll feel the stress leave your body. If you use this technique at night, you will fall asleep faster and have a much better chance of sleeping through the night.
No matter how worried or anxious you are, take time to exercise every day. Walking with a supportive friend or family member is not only a great stress reliever but will also help you make decisions and sleep better. This is not the time to think you have no time to exercise because you have “so much to do.” Drag yourself out. You can always go back home, but once you get started you’ll keep going.
10. Relax Before Sleep
Don’t watch the news, listen to talk radio or read the newspaper right before you go to sleep. Get ready for bed by listening to relaxing music or reading a good book or magazine.
11. Say ‘No’ To Naysayers
Eliminate or limit your time with people who are negative, whiners or victims. They are a drain on your energy and increase stress. These people want you to be like them and validate their complaining and get angry if don’t commiserate.
12. Draw Solace from Past Successes
Remember when you successfully handled another crisis. Think of the tools you used, who you spoke with, and how good you felt afterward.
13. Laugh to Let Go
Find something that makes you laugh. Laughing will give you a temporary break from feeling stressed and will clear your mind so you can think about solutions.
For more insight on managing your stress, read the following articles:
Tips for Managing Holiday Madness
Holiday Stress Hotspots: Manage Stress with Knowledge
Executive Stress Management
People at the top of any organization set the tone and culture. Whether you have 150,000 employees, 15,000 employees, or 5 employees, stress can be a contagious disease. If you don’t get inoculated yourself, you will spread stress throughout your organization, creating an environment where people get distracted, lose focus and an hour of work can take twelve.
Here is what you can do to help manage stress as a manager and executive:
Manage your own stress response. Use the tools mentioned in the preceding section in order to set the example.. Remember that a stressed employees are not able to do their best work and can lead to loss of revenue.
Don’t put unnecessary pressure on employees because you feel pressure. That won’t motivate or help people be productive.
Acknowledge employee concerns and insecurity regarding the economic downturn. Let them know how important they are to the success of your organization. Don’t delegate this to other people. They need to hear from you because leadership sets the tone.
Develop a communication process to inform employees about the current situation in your organization and apprise them of any changes . In the absence of information, people make things up, and start rumors which can cause low morale, conflict and loss of good employees and productivity.
Be more available to employees. A common complaint during stressful times is that employees never see senior leaders. Spend more time with your employees. Don’t invalidate their concerns, do paperwork or answer your phone while in conversation.
If you are not going to be available for a time, and have work that is important to the success of the organization let them know. That way they won’t be disgruntled and angry when they can’t reach you.
Inject some humor into your workforce. People feel more part of a team and less isolated under stress when they can share a laugh with their managers.
Contact us to learn more about Simma’s programs on Stress Management and Managing Stress in Stressed-Out Times.
Call Simma Lieberman Associates at (510)-527-0700.
Simma helps organizations create more profitable cultures and improve individual and organizational performance. She is a consultant, speaker, and trainer. Simma is the co-author of Putting Diversity to Work (Crisp Publications, 2003), a guide for managers on leading a diverse workforce.
Simma is often called “The Inclusionist” because of her ability to improve communication amongst people who are different. She is quoted in various national magazines and news sources, including The Economist, Redbook, NY Times, Investor’s Business Daily, First For Women, Human Resources Executive, Black MBA, MSNBC and Fox News. Her clients include McDonalds, Pillsbury, Lucent Technologies, Motorola, AT&T, Monster.com, Diageo, Stanford Court Hotel, and the Women’s Food Service Forum.