Stress Management

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“People are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them.” Epictetus

American workers are in a perpetual of state of stress and anxiety.  Stress occurs because of our appraisal of a situation.  Our appraisal skills must improve to better manage stress.  The moment of stress begins with a situation.  A situation is a moment in time or an event, which leads us to some type of action or response.  However, before we take any type of action our brain responds automatically.

Our paleo brain determines if the situation is worthy of a stress response. Commonly this is referred to as ‘fight or flight.’  Many times our appraisal of the situation is completely inaccurate.   Consider the following approach to improve your appraisal skills:

Step #1: Ask The Right Questions: What is worst thing that could happen here?  Is my job at risk here? Is my life at risk here?

Step #2: Consider Three Columns to evaluate the situation

Column #1— Situation

Column #2 —Automatic Thoughts

Column #3 — Truth

Consider the chart below outlining a common example you might face at work:

Step #3: Substitute a different meaning for your default meaning.  The key is to replace the inaccurate meaning for a more accurate or true meaning.

Step #4: Sleep: Yes – get more rest to better manage your stress. This will also increase productivity.  How are your sleep habits? Studies show that wellness programs are great at focusing on exercise and nutrition, yet they are missing one of the most critical elements of wellness – sleep.  When you are sleep deprived your brain is in protection mode or thinks it is on the verge of being attacked.  This increases your stress and impairs executive brain function.

Dr. Michael Breus suggests that each of us has a sleep chronotype that determines whether we should go to bed early, late or somewhere in between.  In fact, he has a free test that allows you to determine, which chronotype is yours.

Your brain is exhausted by continually exercising the amygdala and the executive frontal lobe is not being utilized.

For the next 30 days, I would encourage you to utilize the 3 column method above to document your automatic appraisals and seek to replace those with more accurate appraisals.  Also, test to see if your brain experiences an increase in stamina and response ability by getting enough sleep.