De-stress to work happier

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March 4, 2010 - 12:00 AM

A handful of eager listeners took in information from Neosho County Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent Tara Solomon Wednesday at “Knowledge at Noon” at Allen County Community College.
Solomon spoke about reducing stress in the workplace, and noted that Americans work an average of nine full weeks more per year than their counterparts in Europe.
That extra work leads to extra stress in our lives, she said, as workers juggle job obligations against family and personal health needs.
“What are we sacrificing” by adding all this stress to our lives, she asked. “Sleep, and relationships with friends and spouses,” are the big three, she said.
After posting a list of songs on a projector, Solomon asked the group, “Which song are you?” Selections included “Working for the Man,” and “I Owe, I Owe, It’s Off to Work I Go.”
Instead of starting the day with dread, Solomon suggested we “Whistle While We Work.”
She noted the best way to do this is by listing the most rewarding aspects of our employment, be it the friends and socialization we find in the workplace, the sense of achievement we get from our jobs, or merely getting paid.
“Reflect on your job,” Solomon offered, and come up with ways to keep it fresh, from task sharing to mentoring — or being mentored by — others.
“Cross train,” she said, “volunteer for new tasks.”
Especially, she noted, “focus on what aspect of your job you are grateful for every day — even if it’s just the drive home.”

RESEARCH has shown that the modern workplace functions best when workers have some autonomy, flexible scheduling and a strong social connection with fellow workers, Solomon said. In addition to happier workers, such conditions make for a more efficient and productive workplace, she said. “Our employers should know this,” Solomon added.
When overworked or overstressed, production decreases. In addition, “it does spill to our personal lives. Lack of schedule control leads to burnout.”
Solomon suggested employees use headphones and listen to music on the job. Music was listed as the topmost stress reducer in both 2008 and 2009, she pointed out.
Scheduling breaks into one’s day and socializing with co-workers are also proven ways to reduce stress on the job, she said. Workers with a strong sense of connectivity to their coworkers are more loyal to their employer as well, she noted.
Or close the door, if you have a private office, and establish a boundary that way, she suggested.
Another common stressor that is easily remedied is ensuring one has enough workspace and the proper work tools, Solomon said.
Other stress-busters are easy muscle tensing and relaxing exercises, going for a walk, or spending time with family and friends, she said.
“Life is what you think,” Solomon noted. “Athletes know you can’t give 100 percent, 100 percent of the time.”
Ultimately, she said, live life like a dog: greet those you love with enthusiasm, run and play daily, let others know when they invade your territory and when scolded, tuck tail and try to make friends.

THE NEXT “Knowledge at Noon” is also from the “Intentional Harmony” curriculum and will focus on helathy eating. The program will be March 10 in room A23 at Allen County Community College.
Neosho and Allen County Extension agents are preparing to merge into the Southwind District, and are sharing their skills and instruction in each county for the series.

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