Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Feeling Overstressed? Try a mini-vacation

Whether it’s the pressures of work, the demands of our personal lives, a sudden crisis, or the on-going and chronic problems we must work through, most of us feel stressed and tense on a regular basis.  What we need is a vacation; A break from it all.  Unfortunately a true vacation is often not practical or possible.  And, it often provides only a temporary fix before the stressors return.

My solution to this is the mini-vacation.  A special break that can be enjoyed in just a few minutes – often all that we can spare.  Better yet, the mini-vacation is easily cost-free.  The important part is that it is scheduled – like a vacation, and is undisturbed “you” time.
Following are some ideas for having a mini-vacation.  This list is far from exhaustive, so please be creative and think up your own!

1.       Stare out the window.  Maybe you have a nice view of the City, a Lake or Ocean.  Look at the grand scene, or take note of the trees blowing in the wind.  Enjoy the quiet of this moment.

2.       Give yourself a hand massage.  Get some lotion with a fragrance you enjoy, take off any jewelry that would interfere and give yourself a slow nourishing massage of the fingers, wrists, and thumbs.

3.       Listen to some music.  Ideally, be able to do this with your eyes closed.  Hear the music without distraction.  Enjoy the melody, lyrics, or beat of the music.

4.       Stretch.  Stand up and stretch your back, your shoulders and neck.  Do a few yoga poses.  If you like, incorporate music into this moment.

5.       Read a book or article.  This is pleasure relaxation reading – the kind you wish you had time to do.  Allow yourself to escape into the characters and to read without interruption.

6.       Take a walk.  Getting outside to feel the sun, the wind, even the rain, can be refreshing and invigorating.
7.       Call a friend – If you feel socially isolated, and this is your biggest desire, this may be your ideal mini-vacation.  Be sure to limit your calls to people who inspire you and make you feel good.

8.       Daydream – Imagine being someplace where you are relaxed and happy.  Visualize it.  Hear the sounds that would surround you.  Make the day-dream as real as possible by combining it with music or a photograph if that helps you to escape into the moment.

9.       Write a letter – Perhaps you wish you had more time to correspond with others.   Write a letter to an old friend or loved one.

10.   Look at old pictures – Do you have an online photo account through Shutterfly, Flickr or SmugMug?  Revisiting happy memories of other “real” vacations and seeing images of your friends, children, or pets can revitalize and bring a smile to your face.

By putting your mind and body in a happy zone, even if only for a few minutes, you are giving yourself a much needed vacation from the rest of the stress that surrounds you.  So go on, schedule your mini-vacations, you deserve it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Stop Workplace Violence - Abandon the "Wait and See" Approach

In mid-February a shooting broke out in Long Beach, California between two high ranking ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents during a performance review.  A month earlier, an employee of McBride Lumber in North Carolina shot four of his co-workers, killing three of them, before killing himself.
Workplace violence of this sort makes headlines because it is rare and because it is shocking.  But the issues which lead to such outward demonstrations of hostility are not rare.  These acts of violence are not random.  While they may not always be pre- meditated, they are brought about by a history of tensions and anger between specific individuals in the workplace. 
One-time events do not create this volatility.  Single incidents may upset or confuse, but they don’t trigger a drastic response.  It is the historical repetition of events – be it bullying, intimidation, refusal to cooperate, or other unfair, unkind behaviors – which leads to these reactive measures.  The problem is, if we focus on the violence, we are looking for solutions in the wrong places.
As a conflict resolution and management expert, I see the commonality of the behaviors which lead to workplace shootings.  Thankfully, the vast majority of people never engage in such violent measures, regardless of the abuse they were suffering.  Instead, their reactions more likely lead to employee turnover, increased absenteeism, theft, harassment claims, and EEOC complaints.  These circumstances occur in most workplace settings, and even occur in other teamwork environments.  A timely example can be found with the UCLA Basketball Team.  A failure to discipline or force accountability lead to key players transferring schools, and caused a winning team to become a struggling one.
Most, if not all of this is preventable.  It begins with staff having a trusted place to bring their concerns.  They must believe that by bringing their concerns forward, they will get help.  There must also be a firm resolution, by leaders and managers, to bring swift, decisive intervention when problems perpetuate.  Conflict management readiness is, for this reason, vital to all businesses.  Staff must learn skills in conflict communication.  Human Resources, leaders and managers must have skills for addressing workplace problems in a way that empowers, rather than punishes, staff whenever possible.  And formal conflict resolution, such as mediation, must be engaged at the earliest possible time if other efforts fail to yield the desired results.
If you have questions about how to address these issues, or want to discuss the concerns of your workplace, please contact us for a free consultation.