-Kelli McIntyre, Wellness Coach, Liberty Lutheran
Let’s face it. No one is immune to the pressures of life. We all face issues that we must learn to cope with in one way or another. Unfortunately, in my role as an Employee Wellness Coach at Liberty Lutheran, all too often I hear stories of staff members that didn’t address pressures in their lives, hoping those pressures would just go away, the way an ostrich sticks its head in the sand.
There are also some employees who, when faced with too much stress, choose harmful coping mechanisms – such as smoking, drinking, lashing out, and emotional eating. I can assure you that those things will not help you manage stress, and may also leave you feeling guilty and ashamed.
The demands from career and family can be mentally and physically exhausting. Liberty Lutheran’s workforce can be particularly prone to work/life imbalance – since so many staff members serve as different types of professional caregivers, and also care for their own families at home, once the work day ends. In an ideal world, we would honor ourselves the same way that we honor our residents, clients, and loved ones, by being proactive in seeking balance. But often caregivers put themselves last on the list of priorities.
“Obtaining and maintaining balance is the most important solution to managing life’s stress.” I use that statement as a guide for my own life, and when coaching employees who are trying to better manage stress.
Without the proper coping skills, high pressure situations lead to imbalance, which cause us to feel overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, and if unaddressed, eventually – we experience burnout. However, by using healthy coping mechanisms, you will find more energy to bounce back from the life’s pressures, regardless of their magnitude.
Start by asking – “How have I taken care of myself lately?”
Coping doesn’t have to be a big deal. You only need to identify what things give you energy, instead of zapping it. Positive stress management can be achieved through some combination of the following:
■Playing, dancing, or listening to music
■Prayer or other spiritual practice
■Writing in a journal
■Talking with friends/family
Too often, in times of high stress, instead of employing our healthy coping strategies, we choose to abandon the very things that keep us grounded. We convince ourselves that we don’t have time for exercise, we don’t take the time to plan and organize, we withdraw from our loved ones, and we indulge in self-destructive behaviors that provide only temporary relief.
Instead of self-destruction, I encourage employees to try authentically caring for themselves- especially during times of high stress. I challenge them to let off steam with regular exercise, nourish themselves with healthy meals, replenish with proper rest, communicate concerns with their support system, organize and strategize to stay ahead of the game, make time for hobbies, and to simply love themselves.
The pace and demands of this world are constant, especially for those who are caretakers. If we don’t prioritize our own need to be replenished, the world will gladly take every bit of vitality that we have- stealing our energy and balance. Stress management is a decision. It is a decision to create and maintain balance. The decision to manage stress needs to happen daily and it needs to happen on purpose.