Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Feelings of control boost employee satisfaction

Stress for Success

October 30, 2012

A new study by Harris Interactive for Everest College has identified American workers’ top job stressors:

1. Low pay (reported by11%), the second time this was rated as #1;

2. Annoying coworkers (10%);

3. Commuting (9%);

4. Unreasonable workload (9%);

5. Working in a job that’s not their chosen career (8%);

6. Work-life balance (5%);

7. Lack of opportunity for advancement (4%);

8. The boss (4%);

Not all was negative in this report:

• Last year 9% reported their biggest fear was being fired; this year only 4% did;

• 26% said nothing about work stressing them out at all, up from 21% last year;

There were gender, educational and regional differences:

• 14% of women reported low pay was their biggest stressor; 8% of men said the same;

• 11% of women were stressed because their job wasn’t their chosen career versus 5% of men;

• 14% of those with high school diplomas or less cited low pay as their first concern, followed by annoying coworkers;

• College graduates ranked unreasonable workload as their #1 (13%), followed by low pay (11%);

• Northeast workers reported workloads the most stressful;

• For Southern workers low pay was the #1 (14%);

• In the West, the top complaint was commuting (14%);

Perhaps not surprisingly, the highest concentration of employees who said nothing stressed them on the job (37%) were those making $100,000 or more!

During these economically tight times, employers could reduce employee stress while improving motivation and growth without spending a dime: give them more control.

In 1976 Richard Hackman and Greg Oldham reported that increased control enhanced motivation and growth for most positions. In 1979 Robert Karasek found that workers whose jobs were high in job demands but low in employee control over decisions reported significantly more exhaustion after work, trouble awakening in the morning, depression, nervousness, anxiety and insomnia than other workers. When workers facing high demands had more control, their stress decreased.

Updating these earlier findings is a 2002 survey of 604 employees by the Society for Human Resource Management and USA Today showing 94% of those polled consider autonomy and independence “very important” or “important” to job satisfaction.

Just one business example of putting this concept into practice comes from Ford Motor Company who in the early 1990s increased productivity, quality and job satisfaction by shifting its manufacturing operations at their Romeo, MI engine plant to a team-based approach giving employees far greater control over their work. Rather than being told what to do, employees talked directly to suppliers about parts, researched better ways to run equipment, and took independent action to eliminate product defects. This was so successful that Ford expanded it to virtually all employee targets allowing them to find ways to accomplish them.

What a bargain! Employers can improve job satisfaction without reducing actual workload or spending money.

So, how can you increase your employees’ work-related control? Ask them. I bet they have plenty of ideas.

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. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Try Yoga meditation to reduce inflammation

Try Yoga meditation to reduce inflammation
Stress for Success

October 16, 2012

Anyone who regularly practices Yoga can attest to its many benefits. But new research suggests it’s even more advantageous than previously thought.

A study by Dr. Helen Lavretsky, professor of psychiatry at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, and colleagues discovered that practicing a brief, daily yogic practice, which included Kirtan Kriva Meditation (KKM), reduced stress levels of people who care for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. They worked with 45 family dementia caregivers and found that 68 of their genes responded differently after KKM, resulting in reduced inflammation.

One group of caregivers learned KKM and practiced it 12-minutes daily at the same time for eight weeks. The other group was asked to relax in a quiet place with their eyes closed while listening to instrumental relaxation music, also for 12 minutes daily for eight weeks. Blood samples were taken at the beginning of the study and again at the end of the eight weeks.

“The goal of the study was to determine if meditation might alter the activity of inflammatory and antiviral proteins that shape immune cell gene expression,” said Lavretsky. “Our analysis showed a reduced activity of those proteins linked directly to increased inflammation.”

Since caregiving for a family member can be a significant life stressor it puts the caregiver at greater risk for health problems. Dr. Lavretsky reports, “On average, the incidence and prevalence of clinical depression in family dementia caregivers approaches 50 percent.” They also show higher levels of inflammation biological markers, often have weakened resilience to stress and an increased rate of cardiovascular disease.

Therefore, these findings are very important. Since it is known that continual inflammation contributes to a host of chronic health problems, this simple meditation could prove t be very valuable.

I researched KKM on-line and discovered it’s a Kundalini Yogic practice that uses chanting and finger poses (mudras). It reduces stress, increases brain circulation, and facilitates focus. Here are directions to practice it:

1. Sit in an upright position on the floor or in a straight backed chair. Rest your hands on your knees with palms facing upwards.

2. Chant the syllables Sa, Ta, Na, Ma; lengthen the ending of each sound as you repeat them, aaaaaaaaah.

3. Touch your index finger tip to the tip of your thumb as you chant Sa.

4. Touch your middle finger tip to the tip of your thumb as you chant Ta.

5. Touch your ring finger tip to the tip of your thumb as you chant Na.

6. Touch your pinky tip to the tip of your thumb as you chant Ma.

7. Chant the following sequence. Chant:

• Out loud for 2 minutes;
• In a whisper for 2 minutes;
• Silently for 4 minutes;

• In a whisper for 2 minutes;

• Out loud for 2 minutes;

Even if this seems foreign to you, why not try it? It won’t hurt you and maybe, just maybe it will help you deal with your caregiver stress, or any stress for that matter.

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. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Good family stress management habits important to kids

Stress for Success

October 2, 2012
I’m forever grateful my parents were great stress managers. They seldom reacted over-emotionally and didn’t solve my problems for me but taught me how to think for myself by asking me what my options were in dealing with them. Most importantly, they gave unconditional love, allowing me to risk learning and trying new approaches to challenges.

Parents are definitely kids’ primary stress management role models. How do you handle life’s ups and downs? Is this how you want your kids to handle them? Do you stuff emotions, release them through gasket-blowing or express them appropriately? Do you cope well with what’s beyond your control? All of your habits are observed and learned by your kids.

According to Dr. Rebekah Evans, an Arkansas psychologist, “Many people don’t realize (they’re) already practicing healthy stress management techniques …, such as getting enough sleep and openly communicating as a family. … A foundation of healthy habits makes difficult life situations easier to navigate. This school year, make a point of strongly supporting healthy habits and trying out new ones … as a family.”

The Arkansas Psychological Association recommends the following healthy habits:

• Exercise is the natural stress reliever and increases the production of endorphins. Demonstrate to your kids that physical fitness is fun, important, and necessary for healthy living. Have your children devote at least an hour per day to physical activity.

• Balance your diet at home to teach your kids how to make healthy food choices when they’re away from you and tempted by the plethora of garbage. Toss out the crap food and stock up on fresh vegetables and fruits.

• Put your kids on a regular sleep schedule. According to the Mayo Clinic, school-aged children should get 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night. A lack of sleep can negatively affect their moods, behaviors and physical health. Create a relaxing evening ritual for your family to unwind together before bedtime.

• Balance your kids’ extracurricular activities to avoid burnout from over-commitments. Assess how their activities affect their school work and relationships and limit these activities and your own commitments to reduce stress. As I wrote last week, declare one day weekly as a no-activities day for all. Use that day to connect in a positive way with your family. Your kids may complain about it but once you work to make it a positive experience, they’ll eventually look forward to it.

• Improve communication with your kids, vital to creating a healthy home environment. Talking about problems helps virtually everyone. Put your foot down and insist on sit-down dinners at least a few times a week with no electronic gadgets at the table. Again, the kids may complain but this is tradition worth encouraging. Meal time can offer indirect communication opportunities, which older kids respond more positively to versus sitting them down to talk about something you’re concerned about.

Establish healthy family patterns for the entire school year and beyond. For more information on family stress management, go to www.apa.org/helpcenter.

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. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.