Stress is something that all of us experience every day of our lives.  A certain amount of stress is productive because it keeps us alert as we adapt to changes in our environment.  Stress occurs any time we contemplate a change in the direction of our lives, confront a situation we feel is threatening, or have to adjust to either our thoughts or actions to meet new circumstances.

Each time a stress reaction occurs, it requires tremendous energy and places great strain on many of the body’s systems.  It is not unusual for many people to experience this stress reaction several times a day on a regular basis, resulting in enormous wear and tear on the body and the mind.

Effects of business travel on an individual may be severe stress and a host of stress-related illnesses.  Additionally, there are problems such as alienation and loneliness with consequent family and marital strife often caused or exacerbated by separation.  These frustrations often lead to anxiety, depression, alcoholism and being unfaithful.

Experts on alcoholism say that people with drinking problems tend to gravitate toward jobs that require travel.  Some of these experts believe that there is a higher rate of alcoholism in those who travel extensively for their careers than there is among non-travelers.  Travel affords the drinker not only the freedom to drink, but the freedom to suffer a hangover in private.

Unfortunately, there are few studies of the effects of prolonged travel on business women and men.  Employers appear to be skipping over this particular aspect of corporate life perhaps for economic reasons.  Few companies have enacted programs aimed at preventing problems generated by frequent or extensive travel.

However, it seems that a growing number of businesses have offered stress management workshops that focus on teaching participants to cope with stress and manage its effects.  The most common techniques are concerned with learning to relax and ease tension.  The first involves breathing systematically; the second technique involves learning progressive muscle relaxation while using the breathing techniques.  Thirdly, it is helpful to learn how to control your thoughts during relaxation via the art of meditation.  Finally, regular physical activity is known to be a catalyst for stress reduction.  Additionally, some individuals may find it helpful to seek counseling while participating in a stress management program.

There are also specific plays to minimize the time pressures in travel.  When you control the small time pressures, big problems appear to be more manageable.  According to Ross A. Weber, Professor of Management at the Wharton School of Business:

1.  When waiting for your plane to load, don’t rush to the gate immediately.  Rather, wait for others to board and avoid the frantic rush.  It’s easier than waiting on line.

2.  When deplaning, don’t bounce out of your seat.  Instead, enjoy the spectacle of seeing your fellow passengers jostling each other just to save a few minutes.

3.  Do not run to catch a bus, train or plane.  If you do miss it, you could have an unexpected bonus of time…an isolated period that could be put to use working on material, or simply relaxing.

4.  When driving, don’t frantically and dangerously shift lanes to seek the shortest line to approach a toll booth.  Rather, accept the line most convenient, even if it is the longest.  A minute or two later really isn’t going to make a difference in your life.

5.  While commuting, occasionally drive a different, perhaps longer and less busy route – it will be small adventure that relaxes the tension.

Remember, it is entirely up to practice what I like to call “enlightened selfishness”, which simply means taking very good care of yourself as a responsible, mature adult.  Taking care of yourself first, means that only then can you be effective in being responsible for others.

Dr. Lenore Millian

Posted by: Dr. Lenore Millian | February 21, 2013

Stress and the Holidays

ASK A PSYCHOTHERAPIST

Dr. Lenore Millian

Bergen County, NJ Psychologist

Stress… and the Holidays (What Happened to “Happy” and “Joyous”?)

Aren’t we entitled to be happy and joyous during the holiday season?  It IS supposed to be a magical time when dreams come true and our wishes are granted.  Indeed, the “holidays” are predetermined to be a rapturous reflection of our ideal holiday moments.  We tend to depend upon these memories (selective as though they may be) to sustain us when things get tough as we enter the holiday season.

However, it seems that many times stress during the holidays takes over our minds and bodies.  Life can become overwhelming just stretching to handle the many extra activities that are added to our days.  Each time a stress reaction occurs, it drains us of our energy.  In other words, thoughts such as “I MUST make the perfect turkey”, or “What does Aunt Sally really want as a gift?”, or “How can I possibly fit in another party?” can be disastrous to you as a person.  It can fiercely impact you as a spouse, as a partner, as a parent, and as an employee.

If you find yourself suffering some of the physical symptoms of stress (such as headaches, nausea, indigestion, sleeping problems, fatigue, etc.), here are some tips to help you manage your stress (it cannot be eliminated…just managed).

1.  Organize yourself in order to control what’s going on in your life.  For example, make lists and then check the chores off as you complete them.

2.  Use a calendar to plan out your days and weeks.  For example, Nov. 18 – buy spices for your holiday dinner, Dec. 3 – bring decorations out of the attic.

3.  Prioritize the demands made upon your time (not everything has equal importance).

4.  Say “NO” before you exceed your energy level.  (There’s just so much you can do!).  You don’t have to comply with every request made by family and friends.  Don’t wait until you are frazzled…you’re entitled to say “NO”!

5.  Make certain that your expectations are realistic (how many hours do we have in a day?).

6.  Take frequent breaks when involved in holiday preparation,  It helps you to gain perspective if you walk around the block, read a magazine and so forth.

7.  Don’t neglect to eat properly…you’ll feel better and much more in control of yourself.

8.  Remember…taking good care of yourself is your FIRST priority (or you will be unable to take care of anyone else).  For example,  a hungry wait-staff person cannot have the patience or stamina needed to be a competent server; she/he has to feel comfortably full before serving.

9.  Tackle one job at a time, one day at a time.  If everything doesn’t get done, it isn’t the “end of the world”.  Your need for perfection only leads to more stress.

10. Most importantly, accept yourself for who you are…a person with a heart full of love to give yourself (and others) a truly meaningful, though perhaps imperfect, holiday gift… a STRESSLESS you!

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