Rest time is repair time.
In 2002, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that high school teacher Darwin Baggett was eligible for worker’s compensation after suffering a heart attack. His lawyers had argued his heart attack was triggered by workplace stress.
Paramedic Randall Mottram was granted similar benefits by the Virginia Supreme Court. His doctors said he suffered from a post-traumatic stress disorder because of his job circumstances.
Such claims have broad implications for business as workplace stress continues to rise. Whether it’s job cuts, heavier workloads, or incompetent managers, there’s more stress than there should be. And there’s more stress than there has to be.
Of course, the stress isn’t limited to work. I’m sure you see it and feel it in many parts of your life. I know I certainly do. Just the other day, for example, the airline lost my luggage — and it was carry-on.
One jokester said there’s a little test you can take to see if you’ve got too much stress in your life. If you can identify with one or more of the following statements, you’ve got too much stress: 1) You see your life as one long stress rehearsal; 2) You don’t think twice about telling people, “I haven’t even had time to go to the bathroom,” and 3) You compulsively wear a swimsuit instead of underwear because you can’t rid the sensation that you’re treading water.
Hardly anyone would argue with the fact that there’s too much stress in our personal and professional lives. And just about everyone knows that too much stress costs a lot. It shows up in the cost of health care benefits, in the cost of lowered productivity, and in the cost of strained relationships on and off the job.
To make matters worse, you may get criticized if you seek help for your stress. If you complain about your extremely heavy workload because of all the job cuts in your organization, your boss may simply tell you to, “Suck it up. After all, you should be glad you have a job.” Or as film producer Samuel Goldwyn said years ago, “Anybody who goes to see a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined.”
Well I’m here to take a different stand. Rest and recreation are not a sin. Rest time is repair time. It is a time for renewing and releasing your energy and potential.
You may be fortunate enough to work in an organization that understands this. They not only talk about work-life balance, they actually practice it. They recognize the heavy demands of today’s competitive marketplace, and they provide training to help you deal with that.
And yes, there are organizations like that — or are trying to be like that. They hire me all the time to present my program entitled “TAKE THIS JOB AND LOVE IT: A Program for Managing Stress, Preventing Burnout, and Balancing Life.”
In the final analysis, however, it is your responsibility to take care of your own stress. It’s nice if your organization or the people around you help, but it is still your responsibility to manage and eliminate the stress in your life.
So let me give you a few simple methods that will help you do that. You can use any one of them or any combination of the methods. They all work. And they only take a few seconds or minutes at most.
1. BREATHE DEEPLY.
When you feel stress coming on, take a deep breath and slowly exhale. Do this three times. Deep breathing diminishes tension.
You might try my CD on “Visualizing Success.” It gives you an hour of guided exercises that will relax your body and your mind. In fact, some of my customers tell me they use it every night to ensure a good night’s rest.
2. SCATTER QUIET MOMENTS THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY.
Silence, stillness, and quietude lead to peace of mind. Are you taking time to do that? A minute here, a minute there can be very therapeutic.
That’s what Major General J. B. Medares did. As the leader of our national space efforts many years ago, he wrote about the power of relaxing quiet time. When he had a critical decision to make, he would turn away from his advisors, go to a window, stand there, stare out at the landscape, and just wait. Invariably, he said, an answer would come into his head.
3. LET YOUR BODY GO.
Sit in a comfortable chair. Put your head against the back and extend your feet. Raise your hands and allow them to fall limply on your knees, like a wet leaf on a log. Let every bit of your weight be supported by the chair and the floor — and just relax.
Do this for a couple of minutes once or twice a day. You’ll train your body to let go, and as you do, you’ll also let go of your stress.
4. DRAIN OUT THE IRRITANTS.
Take a few moments to imagine your mind as having a sink. The sink is filled with water and all kinds of other objects.
However, at the bottom of the sink are a number of dark, heavy objects weighing you down. They may be incessant demands from other people, impossible deadlines, financial challenges, or health concerns. Just imagine all those agitating, unnerving, stressful objects swirling around.
Then pull the plug on the bottom of your sink. See those objects flowing out of your mind. Let them go.
As silly as it sounds, those who do this will tell you it works. So you might want to give it a try as well.
5. VISUALIZE A PEACEFUL PLACE.
Visualize the most peaceful, beautiful place you’ve ever been, and by the power of your imagination, go back to that place. At one time, that place had a healing effect on you, and it can continue to do so. Take a memory trip to that beautiful valley, the ocean side, or a flower-filled meadow.
If you can’t think of such a place, try this one. With your back relaxed and your surroundings quiet, imagine yourself in the north woods, peacefully sitting with your back to a tree. The air is filled with the smell of pine and cedar. All is quiet, except the natural sounds of the forest.
Picture a lake in front of you, smooth as glass, except for the occasional leap of a fish. As you look through the trees, you see a mountain in the distance, surrounded by a few puffy white clouds. The sunlight is falling gently all around you, and it sparkles like diamonds on the water.
By filling your mind with such relaxing silence, your body will rest and your mind will calm. The tension of your daily life will be minimized.
You don’t have to go to work all stressed out. And you don’t have to go home all stressed out. Try some or all of these techniques, and you’ll manage your stress rather than have it manage you.