Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grief is natural after loss of job
Stress for Success
June 28, 2011

Have you lost a job during the Great Recession? Job loss is one of today’s most stressful experiences because it strikes at the very core of modern humans’ sense of survival.

Your job can represent much of your identity, meaning, as well as give your life structure. Losing it may hurt your self-esteem and confidence, disrupt your daily routine, and remove a significant part of your social network.

Here are five must-dos to help you through this stressful time.

1. Grief is your natural response to dramatic loss giving way to feelings of anger, fear, guilt, or depression. It’s important to acknowledge and face these normal feelings of loss.

One healthy way to grieve is to journal. It’s best to dump out your heart when you feel the most emotionally vulnerable; when your emotions are on the surface. Regular (daily) journaling releases your emotions, loosening their grip on you; you’ll find you obsess less.

Identify your repetitive and fearful thoughts. If they’re not helping you find another job, challenge them. If you call yourself a “loser” for having lost your job, challenge that by writing down as many of your life successes as you can think of. Get others to add to your list if you find it difficult.

2. If you’re holding on to your anger over being laid off, write your employer four letters you never send. Usually, the first letter is full of venom and hostility. Maybe your second letter will have a bit more understanding of why you were let go. Hopefully, your third and fourth letters allow you to move onto problem-solving and let go of your anger.

3. Accept your new reality. The sooner you do the sooner you’ll move on to replacing your income. Journaling and talking with others help do this making switching your focus from the past to the future easier.

4. Be kind to yourself. Let go of criticizing or blaming yourself, which dismantles your confidence when you need it the most. Knowing you’re not alone probably doesn’t help much but it can relieve you of some of your self-blaming.

5. Identify the lessons you need to learn from your experience and apply them to creating a more successful and secure future. So, if you spent excessively and didn’t save much during the good years, learn from this versus beating yourself up over it. Make a plan to live within your means not just now but for the rest of your life. Maybe your lesson is to work fewer hours and spend more time with family. Or to get the education you’ve always wanted.

For some it may turn out to be a golden opportunity to figure out what you really want to do professionally. It can motivate you to evaluate your life, to rethink your career goals, and rediscover what truly makes you happy.

Which lessons do you need to learn? Successfully moving through this difficult time can make you stronger if you apply what you’ve learned – no small accomplishment.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html and request she speak to your organization.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Best motivator for employees is greater control
Stress for Success
June 21, 2011

For years my husband kept a great customer service poster in his business office. It’s of Norman Rockwell painting a portrait of himself by looking at himself in a mirror. The caption reads, “Every job you do is a portrait of yourself.”

The portrait you paint of yourself through the quality of your efforts determines your self-esteem, which strongly determines your motivation.

Help your employees paint beautiful portraits of themselves and watch their motivation soar.

Supervisors and managers make or break an organization. Have you trained yours to encourage employee motivation? If not, it may be the main reason many of your employees walk out your door when the economy improves.

As tight as budgets are today management can still help create an environment that encourages individual motivation including:
· Generously giving out sincere recognition and appreciation
· Providing for professional growth opportunities

An even more important motivator is to increase worker control as much as possible. Increase their sense of being the author of their own actions, which leads to a sense of “personal causation.” This means the person feels in control of her life. She sees her efforts produce her desired outcomes all leading to greater intrinsic motivation.

Let’s look at its opposite: external control.

When a worker feels controlled by his boss, for example, it usually leads him to one of two reactions:
1. Compliance: doing what he’s told, which leads to alienation and disengagement because personal causation is lower.
2. Defiance: do the opposite of what’s expected; e.g., an employee’s reaction to a micro-managing boss is often passive aggressive, like sabotaging.

Neither of these dysfunctional reactions is good for productivity, innovation or employee retention. The less control a worker feels the lower his sense of personal causation, which creates more stress and the more compliant or defiant he becomes.

To foster greater autonomy in your employees give them more choice, therefore control. It’s a cost-effective - usually free - way to increase motivation. Consider these ideas:
· Micro-manage less (not at all is better);
· Improve delegation: describe your desired outcome and let the employee decide upon her own way of doing the job, with an appropriate amount of supervisory guidance, versus telling her how to do it. Personal causation could be much greater when allowed to figure out how to accomplish a job versus following directions.
· More involvement in problem solving and decision making where appropriate. Implement helpful employee ideas. Asking for their input then ignoring it only increases cynicism.
· Increase responsibility with the requisite training;
· Quick resolution of customer service problems to make workers’ jobs easier;
· Make work more interesting through cross training and job rotation;
· Make work more meaningful by showing how it fits into the organization’s larger mission and goals. Show how even mundane work contributes to the whole.
· Flextime for dealing with personal responsibilities;

Zig Ziglar once said, “Motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing. That’s why it’s recommended daily.”

What can you do daily to foster greater employee motivation?

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html and request she speak to your organization.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fathers go through pregnancy too
Stress for Success
June 14, 2011

I was incredibly fortunate to have had a wonderfully loving, strong, father – who wasn’t even at my birth. He attended a high school basketball game that night. Being the sixth and final baby, it seems delivery had become old hat to him.

Times have changed, though. The big message for expectant fathers from Michele Hakakha, MD, award winning obstetrician/gynecologist in Beverly Hills, and Ari Brown, MD, FAAP, an Austin, TX pediatrician, children’s health expert for WebMD and advisor for Parents magazine: It's your pregnancy too.

Hakakha and Brown, coauthors of “Expecting 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice for Your Pregnancy” (Windsor Peak Press, 2010), wrote their book for both expectant moms and dads. It’s the only pregnancy guide written by two MDs who are moms, and part of the bestselling book series that includes Baby 411 and Toddler 411.

Expectant fathers are much more involved in pregnancy and childbirth today. In fact, some are so intertwined with the pregnancy they experience symptoms like weight gain, nausea, insomnia, and even labor pains, called Couvade Syndrome.

Here are seven tips for dads adapted from their book:
1. Mind your own baby bump. Are you eating for two along with your wife? Your wife will lose a lot of her weight automatically when she has the baby - you won't!
2. Take one for the team. Get your TdaP shot as well as seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccines to protect your precious cargo. Seventy percent of babies who get whooping cough are infected by immediate family members like you.
3. Baby yourself. Have you been to a physician lately? Studies show many men ages 25-45 don't even have primary care physicians. Get a checkup. Find out how your health is doing so you can be around for your growing child.
4. Mind your moods. Research shows that partners are not only at risk for gaining sympathy weight; they may also suffer postpartum depression. Seek help if you feel overwhelming sadness, lack of desire to be around family and friends, severe fatigue, or trouble eating or sleeping after delivery.
5. Prepare for a dry spell. There can't be intercourse for six weeks after the baby is born. But, barring any health issues, you and your wife can have sex up until the last day before she delivers. Sex does not trigger labor - that's an old wives' tale.
6. Engage in baby talk. Babies recognize their parents' voices from inside the womb. So sing Hank Williams songs, recite poetry, or chat with your unborn baby. When your baby is born, she or he will already know you.
7. Dads can nest too. Expectant dads often feel an overwhelming need during pregnancy to rev up the power tools. Paint, spackle, drill, and build to your heart's content, but avoid toxic materials and fumes in the baby's room.

Enjoy the experience of becoming a father and growing as a family. On your deathbed, it’s largely what matters.

And, Happy Father’s Day to all fathers.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html and request she speak to your organization.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Four tips to help conquer your procrastination
Stress for Success
June 7, 2011

In spite of our survival brains contributing to procrastination by living more in the moment to survive versus the future where goals reside, you can overcome your delaying habits. Timothy A. Pychyl, procrastination researcher at Ottawa's Carlton University suggests the following. Use his ideas in sequence since each follows on the previous one.

1. Neutralize the irrationality of human nature: Researcher Piers Steel, University of Calgary, has shown that humans are predictably illogical. We perceive future rewards as less important than the task at hand, especially if the present task is more pleasant. To counter this, use specific mental images of your future as though it were happening right now. For example, if you’ve put off saving for retirement imagine your detailed, limited retirement budget and how difficult it will be to live on it. Include inflation and the toll it takes on just getting by. Imagine perhaps having to make a choice between eating tonight and taking prescribed medication. You can’t afford both. How does this make you feel?

2. Call on emotional intelligence: When willpower fails, it’s often because short-term emotional needs become more important than long-term goals: Like procrastinating on anxiety-producing tasks by indulging in distractions thereby putting off your responsibility. The greater your emotional intelligence the more likely you can overcome this tendency by acknowledging your negative emotions but not giving in to them. Progress on goals provides the motivation for taking another step so just get started. The negative emotions will pass.

3. Reduce uncertainty and distractions: How meaningful your task is helps determine your ability to overcome inertia. The less meaningful the goal, the less likely you’ll get started. You’re most likely to procrastinate:
a. On undesirable tasks
b. When you’re uncertain how to proceed
c. When the task lacks structure

Along with making your task concrete (tip #1) you need to reduce the uncertainty about how to proceed. Planning is very important for movement. When it’s time to act you’ll also need to reduce distractions. Stop checking email, seek privacy as much as possible, and create an environment that supports your willpower and focus.

4. Cultivate your willpower: Much recent research shows that willpower is like a muscle. You can extinguish it more quickly than you might imagine. When you do, a very negative consequence is losing some ability to control your behavior. To strengthen your resolve and stay on task:
a. Identify a positive value that’s relevant to your task at hand. Values are wonderfully motivating. If you value independence you won’t want to depend upon anyone in retirement. Putting away more savings now would honor this value and strengthen your willpower.
b. Mindfulness: Awareness is the first step in self-control, so keeping focused attention on your retirement savings goal will help you procrastinate less by strengthening self-regulation.

Understandable as procrastination is, ultimately you must put your energy where your goals are. If you don’t attain them, make them smaller and easier to attain expanding your goals as you progress toward them.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html and request she speak to your organization.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Low tolerance for frustration leads to procrastination
Stress for Success
May 31, 2011

To successfully procrastinate use the sure-fire “yes-but” technique: "Yes I know that I need to get that done, but not now." It typically works wonderfully. "I'd love to apply for that job, but I'm probably not qualified." The yes indicates your interest in the job. The but is your excuse for not applying.

Are you a yes-buter? Dr. Arthur Freeman and Rose DeWolf, authors of The 10 Dumbest Mistakes Smart People Make, say a common reason you may procrastinate in uncomfortable situations is because you have a low tolerance for frustration. Since frustration is a fact of life you'll need to tolerate disagreeable circumstances better if you expect to overcome this very effective stalling practice.

Acknowledging the unpleasantness of your task can help. But don’t go overboard. If you exaggerate how distasteful the job is you’ll be right back into “yes-but.” Instead, consciously acknowledge the due date of your commitment and at minimum create a plan of action as described below.

To move forward change your “yes-but” to “yes-and.” Instead of, "I'd love to apply for that job, but I doubt I'm qualified", say "I'd love to apply for that job and I need to find out about the required qualifications." “Yes-but” gives you excuses. “Yes-and” shows you the steps you’ll need to take.

"Delay is the deadliest form of denial," C. Northcote Parkinson said. So when you hear yourself use the “yes-but” as an excuse for procrastination immediately do the following:
· Write your project’s goal, e.g., "To land this job."
· List all of the steps you’d need to take to get it, breaking them down
into bite-size pieces:
o Get the contact information for the organization for which you want to work.
o Find out the qualifications.
o If you meet them, fill out an application.
o Follow up with a phone call to the employer.
o Etc.
· Write down a deadline for each and every step.
· Commit to each step, one by one.

If you’re unwilling to follow through with these steps, you can decrease your stress by admitting to yourself that you have no intention of looking into this job. Being honest with yourself requires being conscious of your choices. “I choose not to pursue this job because I assume I’m not qualified.”

Staying conscious increases the likelihood that one day you’ll make a different choice. Perhaps you’ll even pursue a job you fear you’re not qualified for by throwing caution to the wind and researching whether or not you are.

Get out of the procrastination mode and instead focus on a starting point. Each time you hear yourself say “yes-but” stop and instead say “yes-and” to see what the implied required steps are so you can start your action plan. Often, overcoming procrastination is simply taking that first step.

Mao Tse-tung once said, "The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step." Move toward your goal by taking one step at a time.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html and request she speak to your organization.