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Reyer: Looking out for yourself helps in times of stress

  • Article by: LIZ REYER
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • May 6, 2012 - 8:11 PM

QI'm dealing with a family member's health issue and have a demanding job. I could use some practical advice on keeping myself together.

AIn addition to taking care of your family member and your employer, make a priority of taking care of yourself.

The inner game

Health issues often come wrapped up with fear about the outcomes. Even if the condition isn't life-threatening, it can result in anxiety-inducing changes. On the work side, high-pressure jobs have their own challenges under any circumstances. You may also be feeling anger, or even relief that positive changes may result. So, to start out, notice how you're feeling. Sit quietly, taking some deep breaths, and acknowledge your emotions. Accept that you're going to have a wide range of responses to the challenges you face, and recognize them without judging yourself.

Now imagine what it would look like to have an inner sanctuary where your only focus is on your own well-being. With your eyes closed, envision what you would see there, the sounds you would hear, even the scents in the air. It may be somewhere that you've been before, or a place that is completely imaginary. Create this retreat so that you can use it for brief respites when you're feeling overwhelmed.

Returning to the here-and-now, consider strategies that have helped you deal with stress in the past or new approaches that you might try. For starters, your list might include meditation or prayer, exercise, time outside, interaction with friends or family -- make the list as long as you can. If you choose to, ask others what they do to manage high-pressure situations, then borrow their tactics.

The outer game

Looking out for your own well-being requires effort, so the first step is to be sure that you aren't getting caught by inertia -- that can be a breeding ground for depression. Make a commitment to yourself and to doing at least one thing for yourself each day.

Try creating some structure. When you wake up, take some deep breaths and affirm your intention to have a positive day. Consider a resource such as the book "Five Good Minutes," which includes quick morning practices to help get your day off to a well-grounded start. Plan times for movement, fresh air and spiritual moments.

Notice when you're getting stressed-out. Know your warning signs -- tension in your shoulders, shallow breathing, headache -- whatever they are for you. If you can, take a few moments to refresh yourself in the inner sanctuary you created. If you're in a meeting or other less-private setting, take some full breaths to help your body cope, and remind yourself that you will make it through.

Get support from other people. Friends are a great resource; the key is letting them know what you're going through. It can also help if co-workers are aware of the extra pressure you're under. Also consider support groups related to whatever health issue is being addressed. It can be very beneficial to be with others who are facing similar challenges.

The last word

Maintain yourself so that you can bring energy and good spirits to meeting the other needs in your life.

What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at liz@deliverchange.com.

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