Stressed Out? Take Time Out to Get a Grip

Stressed Out? Take Time Out to Get a Grip and move into some stress free relaxation therapy sessions in your own home.

Kathy Hill-Epperson, HT(ASCP), leads a hectic and busy life. Some years ago, in addition to being a wife, mother and full-time employee, she was also a part-time college student. One of her required courses was stress management. “Boy, did I need that class!” she recalled.

Over the years, Hill-Epperson, who works as a pathologist’s assistant at Western Pathology Associates, Phoenix, AZ, which provides pathology services to John C. Lincoln Health Network, North Mountain Campus, Phoenix, continued to read books and articles on stress management.

Causes of Stress
One of the most common causes of stress in the laboratory is change, Hill-Epperson says. Stress is any change that requires adjustment. In the lab, some changes might involve new instrumentation, new employees, new computer systems or a lab consolidation. An example of positive stress in the workplace would be a long-awaited promotion that brings change of status and new job responsibilities.

Change is also a major stress factor in personal life. Examples of negative stressors are death of a loved one, divorce, illness or injury. Positive stressors in our personal lives can be getting married, having a baby or buying a home. All of these situations can be significant causes of stress.

Symptoms of Stress
If stress is not managed, many physiological problems can develop. A few examples of stress-related disorders include headaches, back pain, chest pain, high blood pressure, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems and compromised immune systems due to chronic stress. According to Hill-Epperson, researchers estimate that approximately 75 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are stress-related.

Reducing Stress
Employers can help reduce stress by communicating with employees via staff meetings or newsletters and by providing safe forums for employees to voice concerns or grievances. Employers should practice positive reinforcement and acknowledge employees for a job well done. Positive feedback is a good way to impact employee morale.

When new instrumentation or a new computer system arrives, all laboratory staff should receive adequate training on the new system, Hill-Epperson says. If employees feel confident and comfortable with the change, then everyone will have less stress.

She adds that lab management should tell new employees about their job requirements and expectations. Management should provide an abundance of training, mentoring and feedback during the initial training period (usually the first 90 days).

When a lab consolidation occurs, communication is important. “If employees are kept informed and updated and are allowed to provide input, then the transition will be much smoother,” Hill-Epperson said.

Managing Stress
The best way to reduce stress is to exercise. No matter how stressed out or busy one is, research has shown that exercise is the most effective stress reliever, Hill-Epperson says. Exercise helps to reduce anxiety and depression, contributes to better sleep and promotes a positive mental outlook.

Some ways to relieve stress while on the job include:

Practice deep breathing exercises while sitting at your desk or work station.
Leave your desk and take a walk on your break or at lunch.
Find a quiet place to meditate for 10 minutes.
Get up and stretch periodically.
Maintain a sense of humor. Tell a joke or funny story.
A few other quick stress reducers include:

Take a deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat five times.
Talk or write about what is bothering you.
Listen to soothing music.
Be optimistic and practice positive self talk.
Don’t be so serious. Laugh a little. Studies have shown that laughter not only relieves tension, but it also improves immune function.
“You can’t prevent stress from occurring because change involves stress and life is always changing,” said Hill-Epperson, whose stress management regime includes keeping a positive attitude, exercising, healthy eating, getting plenty of rest and laughing as often as possible.

Whether your stress is a result of a major life change or just the cumulative effects of everyday hassles, it is how you react to stressful experiences that can create a stressed response, Hill-Epperson says.

Many things in our work and personal lives cause stress. Knowing how to manage stress will contribute to better health. Take time out today to reduce stress for a healthier and happier tomorrow.

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