Tag Archives: Managing Stress

Coming Home

In the last 20 years vacations have become stressful in a way they never were before due to email. I’m not talking about the people who bring their Blackberries with them and spend their whole vacations answering emails, where really they’re still working, only the scenery has changed. I’m talking about people who really do take vacation. The ones who leave the email behind. Who disconnect completely until they return to work.

This is the way vacation is meant to be. This is the way to recharge. Unfortunately, most people receive dozens or even a hundred or more emails every day. So all during our recharge time the emails are piling up.

This leads to an incredibly stressful return to the office.

It used to be that people would come back from vacation and have to return a handful of phone calls. Easy. Social. Not very stressful.

Now we have to work through the 500 emails. Type till our fingers are numb. Stress over trying to get unburied from the work that piled up while we were on vacation all while being deluged by the demands of being back in the office.

Here’s my solution. I think every manager should institute a bookend policy for all employee vacations. Here’s how it would work.

The day before vacation is considered an “out of office” day. You don’t have to actually physically be out of the office. But you aren’t allowed to answer calls or attend meetings. Your email and phone messages are already set to vacation. Your job on that day is simply to clear your plate of loose ends. If you don’t have any loose ends, then you can work on anything new and creative that interests you.

The day after your vacation is also an “out of office” day. Still no meetings. Your primary job is to get as many emails out of your inbox as possible that day.

This would make people happier with their vacations. It would also make them more effective in their work before and after vacations. They’d be more satisfied with and committed to their jobs.

Win-win-win. Let me know if you are a manager and decide to adopt this with your group.

Driving Styles

The light hasn’t even turned green yet and 5 people behind me are blaring their horns.

I thought I was a little late running the yellow light, but sure enough, as I check my rearview mirror 3 more cars followed after me.

Putting my blinker on was a big mistake. All of a sudden the cars on my left have all sped up, seemingly terrified at the prospect I would enter their lane in front of them.

These weren’t isolated incidents. These were consistent trends in my experiences in the car in Israel, Long Island, and the New York City area respectively. These styles each speak to the impatience of these societies.

What does your driving style say about you? Perhaps more important, what does it do to you?

Throw Yourself In

Yesterday I wrote that it is a video world. Today I offer this incredible video.

And yes, newsletter subscribers will recall that last June I posted another uke video. (BTW, this little guy looks like he has been watching that video too.)

For those of us who aren’t ridiculous musical prodigies I think there is a great lesson in the I’m Yours video. This kid doesn’t know the words. (I’m fairly certain that isn’t the Japanese translation he’s singing.) He’s just belting out something that feels right. He’s going with it. He’s in the flow and doesn’t care how it sounds. He’s loving what he’s doing.

Compare that with how adults act when they don’t know the words. Most of us clam up or mumble. Worse, we sing the wrong words and get embarrassed. Then we quiet down the next time or spend the next 20 minutes feeling bad or stupid. At some point between 5 years old and 25 we allow shame to overpower joy.

That isn’t the way it has to be. In fact, when you mumble, the shame creeps in. But when you belt it out the way this kid does, confidence and joy will conquer shame. So forget about judgments and throw yourself in.

Beyond the Lyrics

Do you speak French? Creole? Hmm. Me neither. Still, this is beautiful.
Once I got past the sheer enjoyment of watching and listening to that video it sparked thoughts about how we communicate? Did you understand what they were saying? Did you feel it?
We communicate in so many ways. All day long you are telling people things with your face, your body, your tone. The way you dress and walk carries a message.
What are you communicating outside of your words? When you get beyond the lyrics of your life, is the background music you are playing to people really what you want it to be?

Cast a Wide Net

I attended a bat mitzvah yesterday. The girl (my cousin’s daughter) performed beautifully. The ceremony was very nice and the Rabbi was terrific. With one odd exception.

There were two prayers, one for healing and one for mourners, for which the Rabbi spoke at length about the meaning of the prayer and named people and groups to include in our prayers at this time. What I found surprising was that he didn’t mention Haiti. This wasn’t a sad event he missed. Rather, he omitted what will go down as one of the greatest natural disaster tragedies in history.

This got me thinking about how people deal with sadness and grief. Not their own, but that of others. After 9/11 Giuliani suggested you should never miss a funeral. He seemed to mean this literally, but we should take it figuratively. Never miss an opportunity to reach out and support those in pain. This could be someone who has lost a loved one, and it could also include the more mundane – a colleague who missed a promotion or lost a sale or is just having a bad day.

“Hey, I’m sorry for what you are going through. That’s a tough situation. Is there any way I can help?”

It can even apply to people you don’t know or barely know. The person behind the counter at the coffee shop, the crossing guard at your kid’s school, or the receptionist you usually just walk past.

“Wow. I bet this can be a tough job sometimes. Thanks for always taking care of me.”

These actions are good for their own sake, but they’re also valuable to your future. After all, what is going to happen when you need support, when you lose a sale or get a flat tire on the way to work or just had a fight with your spouse or lost a loved one? Who will notice and support you?

The wider the net you’ve cast in the past, the more people will include you in their own nets.

The Healthy Observer

It used to be that news was something you could get for an hour per day. Thirty minutes for local and thirty for national and international. If you missed it, you could read the paper the following day. So when a tragedy struck somewhere outside of your neighborhood, your intake of that tragedy was limited to an hour of news and usually less. After all, the news programs had to deliver everything that had happened that day in just one hour, and without any scrolling text at the bottom of the screen to feed our hyperactive minds.

That’s the way it was, and much though I hate sounding like a crotchety old man, that’s the way it should be. Not just for watching a tragedy like the one now in Haiti, but for any great sadness, disappointment, or frustration in our lives. Ruminating and playing the same negative tape over and over  only serves to reinforce anxiety, anger, and hopelessness.

We should stay informed. We should not ignore the problems in our world. But we should limit our exposure to them. Give yourself a half-hour to get caught up on the news today. If you are frustrated or angry with something in your life and you feel you must experience that anger, allow yourself a few minutes to dwell on it. Then push yourself to move on. If you have a hard time moving on, try completing this sentence 10 times:

I am so incredibly lucky because . . .

BTW, I wrote yesterday about ways to help Haiti including my personal recommendation to text “haiti” to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross’s International Response Fund. If you did, you weren’t alone. Turns out the response was historic.

A Clue to Victimhood

A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to offer my book, Be the Hero, to one of my own heroes, Seth Godin. A few days ago he wrote a post titled, “The Victim.” I couldn’t help but wonder if it was inspired in part by his reading of Be the Hero. I know the language and sentiment are neither original to my work nor new to his writings. But I wondered.

In either case, he offers a terrific lens through which to determine when you might be falling into victim mentality.

Keep in mind this is a way to determine WHEN not IF you are being a victim. I speak to many people who try to convince me that they really do maintain a heroic mindset. (Though they always know other people who are in dire need of this advice.) The truth is that we all fall into victim mode at times. Seth Godin has simply offered us a useful test to recognize when we are there.