I read an article in the London Times a few days ago that referenced a recent report, which found that professionals are suffering from “burnout” at an alarming scale. The primary cause was increased workplace stress and its impact.
Benjamin Franklin once famously said that the only two things that were certain in life were death and taxes. Workplace stress should be added to his list. The impact of stress is felt physically, emotionally and mentally and seriously impacts our workplace performance. It’s vital therefore that we learn how to address our levels of stress and learn practical methods to help us reduce it.
As I reflect on how I deal with work stress I am drawn to a lesson I was taught in grade school that has impacted me through the years. I was in fourth grade and one day when we entered the classroom the teacher had set up five different areas. She told us that we were going to spend the day exploring our senses. The first area had jars with different scents, some were sweet and pleasant and others were pungent. The second station had pictures of nature and we were asked to focus on all the details of the picture. The third station had five boxes and we were invited to put our hand thought a hole in the box and feel what was inside. At the fourth station we were blind folded and asked to taste three different things and guess what it was. Finally there was a tape recorder and headphones. It played five different sounds that we had to guess.
I learned that day that my dominant sense was sound. It was an important lesson as I use that sense often to help reduce my level of stress. When I feel my tell tale signs of stress, increased heart beat, tense muscles and a growing agitation, I turn to sound to help me refocus and reduce my level of stress. For me it’s a small table fountain. I turn it on and concentrate on the gentle sound for a few minutes. I shut everything else out and I find it calms me down and helps me refocus. At other times I turn on some gentle music, which has the same impact.
For others a different sense may work. I have a friend who when stressed goes to a window and focuses all her attention on a tree. She looks at how it’s shaped and the number of branches and leaves. It might sound strange but it works for her and helps in reducing the immediate feeling of stress. There are endless possibilities, smelling a favorite sent or candle or squeezing a ball. All it takes is a little experimentation and find what works for you.
Stress is a killer and unaddressed it can consume us. Maybe its time we all spent a little more time and explore our senses so we have another weapon in dealing with stress.