Sunday, November 7, 2010

How Relaxed Are You?

If man insisted on always being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unbearable without knowing it.
- Herodotus

In a recent article at ( Francesca Levy identifies the most relaxed cities in America. Levy writes, “If you’re having trouble relaxing, it might be because you’re living in the wrong city. Places with high unemployment, heavy traffic and long working hours can be physically painful to live in: Stressful environments can take their toll on your health, causing everything from headaches and back pain to high blood pressure and heart disease.”

In her research, Levy integrated six metrics that are closely related to stress to compile her research. Incorporated were unemployment rates, how many commuters spend an hour or more in traffic, and the average of how many hours people spend at work. Also included were health factors including whether most residents had access to health care and how they rated their overall health. The final metric was that of exercise and how many residents reported getting any kind of workout in the past month.

Cited in Levy’s article is Kathleen Grace Santor M.Ed., Ed.S a therapist and founder of Stress Management Center of Nevada. Santor adds, “Bringing the rest of the country’s stress level down to that of these calm cities starts with making stress-reduction techniques an everyday practice, rather that an obscure fad. There needs to be some kind of a mainstream way of coping with stress, It’s not part of the mainstream to cope with stress; it’s part of the mainstream to talk about how stressed out you are.”

Levy’s research identified the most relaxed cities as Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee, Boston, Portland, Ore., Columbus, Ohio, Denver, Colo., Seattle, Wash., Cincinnati, Kansas City, Mo., and San Jose, Calif. I am not a therapist, but you may want to consider these simple ideas for reducing stress and learning to relax.

Change your vocabulary. Santor said that it is not part of the mainstream to cope with stress but rather to talk about how stressed we are. And herein lies the problem, some people had rather talk about it than change. Change begins when you change your conversation from how stressed you are to how blessed you are. Richard Bach said, “Every problem has a gift for you in its hands.” The next time you face a difficult challenge; why not ask what the gift is as opposed to what the problem is. You might be surprised at the outcome.

Laugh at yourself. Some people are wound up so tight that if not careful they might snap. Bob Newhart said, “Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.” When you learn to laugh at yourself it can give you the necessary perspective that even when the situation you are working through is not funny, you can still have a smile in your heart. Robert Frost aptly said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” And since it goes on, why not go forward with a smile on your face?

Change your outlook. This has much to do with your attitude. Herm Albright said, “A positive attitude may not solve all of your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” Your attitude is a forecast of your ability to relax and unwind. If your attitude is bad your stress levels will mirror it. And the same holds true for the stress level of your organization. What you model will be duplicated. When you keep a strong attitude you will have a strong team.

Find alternatives to your routines. It is all too easy to accept the daily routines we have established as rituals. Even small changes in your daily routine can provide a reprieve from the grind that can cause stress. Why not conduct your next team meeting at a nearby park, or take a walk at lunch? Dr. Joyce Brothers said, “No matter how much pressure you feel at work, if you could find ways to relax for at least five minutes every hour, you’d be more productive.”

A Chinese Proverb says, “That the birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change. But that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.” You cannot change every stress factor that comes your way, but you can change how you respond to them. A relaxed leader is more prone to lead a healthy and happy organization. Why not give it a try!

© 2010 Doug Dickerson

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