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Stress Management

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Stress is Relative: 5 Strategies to Manage Stress.

I always hear that stress is relative. Certainly, it can’t be as bad as a relative – like a mother-in-law, can it?

Stress can mount slowly as if the very sands of an hourglass slowly climb around your feet, or it can strike quickly much like a summer lightning storm in the Southeast. But one thing is certain, given our varied shades of personalities we each feel the burden of stress quite uniquely.

HelpGuide.org, an online resource geared to help understand, prevent and resolve challenges, advises you to identify your true sources of stress by looking closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:

  • Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million things going on right now”) even though you can’t remember the last time you took a breather?
  • Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (“Things are always crazy around here”) or as a part of your personality (“I have a lot of nervous energy, that’s all”).
  • Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?

This past 18 months of brutal economic reality may finally be offering us a glimmer light. However, it has not been without its casualties: Many who were scrapping to survive have since closed their doors, so many successful businesses have literally hit the reset button on revenue and margins, while a special few report record earnings and profits.

I talk with so many who feel the pressures of work and home life each and every day. It would seem the human condition favors equating our very self-worth to the sum of our roles (e.g. son/daughter, mother/father, employee, manager, association member, etc.) – almost as if the more roles we assimilate the greater our self-worth. Sadly, it is often our failure in a single role which gives rise to self-doubt.

But all is not lost, and HelpGuide.org goes on to outline at least 5 stress management strategies:

Change the situation:

#1     Avoid the unnecessary stress

#2     Alter the situation

Change your reaction:

#3     Adapt to the stressor

#4     Accept the things you can’t change

According to the National Victim Assistance Academy, U.S. Department of Justice,

How you think can have a profound affect on your emotional and physical well-being. Each time you think a negative thought about yourself, your body reacts as if it were in the throes of a tension-filled situation. If you see good things about yourself, you are more likely to feel good; the reverse is also true. Eliminate words such as “always,” “never,” “should,” and “must.” These are telltale marks of self-defeating thoughts.

But perhaps the fifth, and most important stress management strategy is:

#5     MAKE time for fun and relaxation!


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. Get the latest industry news, and follow ChangeForge on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook. You might also be interested in reading more from Ken in his weekly column on MPS Insights every Tuesday.


Stressed Out? Unplug and Sweat It Out!

3198765320_3dda9d7dce Most of the loyal readers of this blog are most likely urban professionals, sometimes called desk jockeys, or otherwise living in a profession typically termed as white-collar. We spend our days either out meeting and greeting clients, in meeting rooms trying to figure out why we are there, or click-clacking on the keyboard in front of us.

As we get dressed in our nice slacks or cinch up our new tie, we go through our day in a generally sedentary manner. Sure we move, sure go walk around, but in general we do not expend more calories than we take in.

Now I bet you are begrudgingly thinking just about now, “I don’t need another lecture on weight or diet.”

You would be right! You don’t.

Instead, I want you to take a few moments at the end of your day and observe if your shoulders have slowly climbed to your ears. Take a breather in your day and gauge whether you are using your full lung capacity. Take a look at yourself and see if you are furrowing your brow. Get up and walk around the office, and toss a ball – see how that makes you feel.

I bet you are like most people, unconsciously amassing stress throughout your day and week. What do you do about relieving it?

Try expending some energy for a change if you aren’t:

  • Do you work out before or after work at least 2-3 days a week?
  • Do you get out in your yard and work up a good sweat?

If I might share with you there are times I allow my workout routine to suffer because of work- or life-related excuses. I find I am much more susceptible to encumber unnecessary stress when I allow this to happen. I often don’t allow myself enough time to sleep, and tend to have only moderately healthy diet. As such, stress finds me even more easily when I find excuses not to work out – either in the gym or the yard.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but I really find the more I sweat the better I feel. Outside of that, physical labor can really help you stay humble and in touch with feeling like you have completed something in earnest.

How about you? How do you avoid stress?

Image courtesy of Bug-a-Lug.


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. Ken is also the founder of Seeking the Son. He is always interested in connecting; To discover the many ways you may connect with him, visit him at DandyID.


Do You Walk the Critical Path?

Do you find yourself often looking for more time in the day to do the things you need to get done? With competing interests and a growing plate of responsibilities, it has become rather difficult to effectively “juggle” your responsibilities. Family, work, honey-do’s, fun stuff, not-so fun stuff that you have to do – it all adds up and begins subtracting your time, your focus, and your energy reserve.

A simple question I have begun to ask myself, “Am I walking my critical path?”

The critical path is not a bad thing; the critical path, or Critical Path Method (CPM), is a project management tool used to define the total time it will take to complete all tasks in a project, as well as whether this project is on target, in jeopardy, or behind schedule. If the project is on-schedule to be completed in the desired time, it is considered to be on the critical path.

CPM has been taught to me time and again in both project management and personnel management. However, applying this to your life can be a real eye opener – IF you allow it to open your eyes.

Let’s say your life is the project. Generally speaking, none of us really know when we are going to die. However, many of us expect to live some period of time before we do, so this is where the Critical Path becomes important.

The key to this exercise is remembering your time is finite.

First, we must choose to do those things that are most important to us first and foremost. For instance, I do have to go to work everyday, but my top priority is to come home and be with my daughter at least 2 nights a week, have a date night with my wife 1 night a week, spend all day on Saturday with my daughter, and spend all day Sunday with my whole family. These are not flexible. If one has to be taken by some work priority, then it is replaced immediately with time from another of “my other days”.

When I ended my tour of duty with the USMC, they offered exit training. This was geared to help Marines, young and old, make the transition into the civilian sector more prepared. I must say, this was some of the best career advice I ever got.

First thing I was asked was to evaluate what was important to me. I thought it was money. So the trainer asked me how far would I ethically go for money? Would I move to the Middle East? Would I live on a submarine for 6 months at a time? Would I leave my family for a year at a time to follow the almighty dollar?

“Well, of course not.” was my reply. He then leaned in a little close so I could smell the coffee on his breath, and whispered, “So money is not what is most important to you then.”

This created the first, recurring task on my critical path – my faith and my family. Next, came my career goals , followed by my other goals such as education and fun.

My critical path became filled with goals that I “backed into”. I knew I wanted to make a certain salary figure before 10 years, I knew I wanted to finish my BS degree in 6 years, I knew I wanted to take a beach trip in 2 years. Those became goals I then turned into sub-projects and established milestones to accomplish – all keeping these in relation to my primary goal.

As I have reached the end of my 10 year goal setting exercise, I have found myself meandering a bit. I have allowed the noise and static to fill my head on more occasions than one, and have now began to reassess my critical path.

Here are some tips I have learned that I wanted to share:

1. Know yourself: Do you know what you want in life and how you are going to get it? Are you a student of life?

2. Know your goals: Which are set in stone and which are flexible?

3. Know how to achieve your goals: This requires integrity, resolution, patience, and empathy for others.

4. At the beginning of your day, write a list of what you have to get accomplished and what can wait if need be.

5. Allot time to put out fires if you know fires will come up. Do not begrudge the fires as they are another method of defining your critical path.

6. Seek out mentors and try to learn as much as you can from their wisdom (remember: mentors can even offer painful lessons of what not to do as well).

7. Seek out colleagues to share ideas and bounce ideas off of.

8. Set aside some self-reflection or meditation time in your daily routine. This will help you stay centered.

9. Find something that you can be the best and and be the best at it, but do not let it consume you.

10. Do not stress about the things you cannot control. Either focus your energy on the things you can affect, or create a resolution to put yourself in a position to affect the situation.

So, the critical path you must find is within you. It does not come in a wave, but in fits and starts at first. Then, like the rising of the tide, your critical path brings you a quiet power that cannot be stopped and a fulfillment no person can take away.