Slip Sliding Away ~ Dealing With the Frustrations of Modern Life

You know the nearer your destination, the more you're slip slidin' away.
- Paul Simon

ARGH! Right now, my stress level is a 12 on a ten-point scale. It has just been one of those days. A piece of furniture I have waited five months for finally arrived, only to have one of the delivery guys drop it and break a glass pane as it was being installed. My quick trip to the market evolved into a quest as I searched the city for non-dairy sour cream. My office lights flickering were not a power surge, rather an indication that the building's wiring was failing and needed to be completely replaced. And the print job I eagerly anticipated was printed on the wrong paper stock. While the specifics may change, we all have frustrating days when it seems that the harder we work towards our goal, the further out the goal moves. On these days, we could easily digress into a rude morass. But being rude can only aggravate an already bad situation. Here are my top ten tips for reducing stress at work and home.

Reducing Stress At Work

  1. Count ~ slowly count to 10 before reacting to an upsetting problem or situation.
  2. Breathe ~ take in a deep breath of air through your nose, hold it for 3 seconds and release the air through your mouth. Repeat 5 times.
  3. Sing ~ memorize a song or a poem that makes you happy. Sing or recite it to yourself when you are feeling down.
  4. Mini-Vacation ~ take a thought vacation and meditate. Clear your mind of the current situation and think back to peaceful time -- a great vacation or a happy occasion - and let that positive emotion overcome the stress.
  5. Laughter ~ laughing is a great way to relieve stress. If you can not find any humor in a situation, tell yourself a joke, or ask a co-worker to tell a joke to you.
  6. Walk Away ~ if it is possible, excuse yourself and walk away from the situation. Sometimes a little distance or fresh air can help you see through a problem.
  7. Stretch ~ if you cannot walk away, stretch your muscles to relieve stress. Stand on your tiptoes and reach for the ceiling, or do big shoulder shrugs, touch your toes, etc.
  8. Give the Benefit ~ before jumping to conclusions, give the person you are dealing with the benefit of the doubt. Remain calm and ask questions to find solutions on which you can both agree.
  9. Warn Others ~ if you are in a bad mood and you can not do anything to shake it, at least be kind and warn others so they know not to take your emotional cues personally.
  10. Put It In Perspective ~ when all else fails, put it in perspective. Will this situation seem critical a week from now? A month from now? A year from now? Ten years from now?
Reducing Stress at Home
  1. Volunteer ~ giving your time is a great way to feel better about yourself as well as helping others.
  2. Take Up a Hobby ~ take the time to do something you enjoy doing; this will help to balance your life when stressful situations arise.
  3. Eat Healthy ~ a balanced diet will give you the energy you need all day (unlike the highs and lows sugar and caffeine produce).
  4. Sleep Well ~ tired and cranky is no way to go through life. Reward yourself by getting into bed early.
  5. Get In Touch ~ physical contact is a great stress reliever. Hug your family, hold hands or cuddle with your significant other, or play with the family pet.
  6. Work Out Regularly ~ exercise drastically reduces stress while at the same time making your body more physically fit.
  7. Get It Off Your Chest ~ bottling up feelings just increases stress. Talk to a sympathetic friend or write your feelings down in a diary or a letter to yourself.
  8. Schedule More Fun ~ pleasurable activities are important in life, plus they give you something to look forward to while going through the stressful times.
  9. Say "No" More Often ~ giving up unrewarding activities can eliminate stress. Examples include refusing inappropriate requests and turning down invitations from people you do not enjoy.
  10. Solve It ~ if there is a specific situation which is causing stress in your life, take two steps back and analyze the problem. There may be a solution and by solving the problem you will eliminate the stress. And when all else fails, I find a walk around the corner to get a Reese's Pieces Ice Cream Sundae can work wonders!

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ Recently, I was at an expensive restaurant and the experience was terrible. The service was bad, even though the place was half empty, and the food was just so-so. I left a 5% tip. My wife said that was just mean. What should we have done?

A: A tip is a reward for good service. If the service was not good, then you are not obligated to leave a tip. HOWEVER, if you are not leaving a tip, it is your obligation to speak with the management to tell them why you were not leaving a tip. After all, an experienced and trained server is able to handle situations when the restaurant is overcrowded, when the kitchen is behind or when food is not prepared properly. All is not lost, you can take this opportunity to call or write the restaurant. Many restaurants will issue gift certificates when a customer is not satisfied in the hope that you will give their establishment one more try.

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ An e-mail conversation I was having quickly deteriorated. To avoid any misunderstanding, I picked up the phone to apologize to the other person and to see if we could come to a mutual agreement. When I called, I began with an apology. She became belligerent and verbally attacked me. At first I tried to defend myself, but realized she was not even listening to me. I apologized again and then ended the conversation. Even now, I am not sure what went wrong. While we do not work together, we do frequent the same business networking circles. Should I try to contact her again?

A: Not knowing the specifics of the situation, I would say let this go. You should give this woman the benefit of the doubt. It sounds like she may have been having a bad day. Presume the issue is hers, not yours, and move on. Be sure to be cautiously pleasant, but not overly friendly, when you see her next.

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ My boss likes to save problems and projects for me until just before I am about to leave for the day. His timing is impeccable, especially on Friday's. This drives me crazy and I can feel my blood pressure rising. What can I do?

A: Let us assume that his goal is not to drive you crazy, but rather to get the work done. Based on this assumption, I would suggest meeting with your boss to talk about how he passes work along to you. You might decide to have a daily morning meeting to see what he needs you to do that day. Or, you might try to stop by his office mid-afternoon to see what is waiting to be done. It could be that your boss can only find you, or only thinks to find you, at the end of the day. By making yourself more available, the work transfer can take place earlier in the day thereby reducing your stress.