Nina Spencer

Attitude, Desserts and The New Normal

Do you know what the links are between attitude, desserts and living in the "new normal"?

A Globe and Mail/CTV/Ipsos-Reid Poll created a flurry of Stress articles in our October, 2001 newspapers. You may remember headlines such as:

"Work Life Stress Mounting for Canadians"
"Canadians Feeling Weight of the World"
"Tension between Work and Home Growing"
"Fighting the Fear Factor: How Can We Cope?"
"Poll Finds Rising Stress and Fear in Canada"

This poll reports that one in four Canadians always or often feels stressed since Sept. 11th. One in three are now more anxious and irritable. Another poll, conducted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, reports two thirds of Canadians fear more for their personal safety and that of their families, and 57% are experiencing "severe or significant stress since the terror campaign began".

On-the-Job Stress has been a subject of conversation (and of some of my workshops, too!) for over the past decade. This isn't new. What is new is that larger numbers of employees are working with increased levels of stress. Stressed employees impact workplace results.

Are your employees more anxious and irritable now? Do they have shorter fuses with external clients and colleagues? How is that affecting customer service and inter-departmental communications?

If employees are having trouble sleeping, they may make fatigued, inaccurate and damaging workplace decisions.

How much room for error is there in the product or service your organization provides?

There is a growing body of research that shows a direct link between stress and physical unwellness, which then leads to lost productivity and absenteeism.

What have you noticed in your organization over the past two months?

In addition to the workshops employers are arranging for their staff, to deal with attitude and behaviour around change and stress, here are six very simple, cost efficient strategies to "keep it together" at work, and elsewhere:

1. Drink: Water...that is!

Drink six to eight glasses of room temperature water, or a little warmer, daily; starting with two in a row first thing in the morning. Distracting, mid-afternoon headaches are often caused by dehydration. Drink your water before you're pained and parched. By the time you're so thirsty that you've just "gotta hava drink"...it's too late; you're already dehydrated (and reaching for the aspirin)! 2. Come Together: Bring your team together for some lighthearted bonding. How about a year end / festive team breakfast? Team lunches run long and interrupt your stride. A team breakfast can invigorate and energize your team for the entire day!

3. Talk About Anything Else besides "the war" for a whole day!

I found myself talking about the "War on Terrorism" at every dinnertime, after Sept. 11. It took my 15 year old daughter saying, "Mum, you've talked about the war every day this week. Can we have one meal where we talk about anything else besides the war?" Out of the mouths of teens!

4. Sing with Gusto: Research shows that singing shifts the emotions and reduces fears.

It helps focus our thoughts on things other than worries and stress. On November 1st, CBC One Radio's "Ideas" program reported that the de-stressing power of music is so important that major teaching hospitals staff full time music therapists! The next time you're on your way to work, bring along your most inspiring and favourite songs. Provided that you're in a car, sing your songs out loud...with gusto! Yeah, it sounds a little silly and outrageous, and perhaps you couldn't ever imagine yourself doing such a thing, but consider how the potential benefits out weigh the risks! Yeah, someone might see you (but they won't hear you) and they won't even see you if you don't look! By the time you arrive at work you'll feel absolutely exhilarated! You may even have those uplifting lyrics running around your head the entire day, to keep you motivated!

5. Decide to be Kinder with Coworkers, Customers, Neighbours, Friends and Family, too.

Many of us wear our professional "bibs" all day, and then, when we come home, have our first irritable thoughts or words before we're even out of the front hall! A few years ago a little piece of physical serendipity happened for me that I've kept in its place ever since. I use a lot of small, happy faced stickers. One of these stickers mysteriously landed on the floorboard of my front door. As I went to remove it, that happy face looked up at me. I thought about the "coincidence" of this sticker being at my door step...that physical symbol of transition from "work life" to "family life". My intuition told me to leave it there, to act as a reminder to give the very same "best" to my family that I easily give to my clients, audiences and workshop participants. It's been there ever since. That little yellow faced symbol has reminded me, many times, of how I want to be and act with my loved ones in the next moment. Plant your own subtle symbols at work and home (and even in your car) to remind you of how you want to be and act. External reminders help...especially if we're so stressed that we're not thinking with our "higher brains".

6. Practice Positive Self Talk: Optimistic and positively focused people frequently use negative words without even knowing it!

Do you express what you do want by articulating what you don't want?" I f so, you are using negative talk. You're using it with others and you're probably using it on yourself. For example, do you say, "Have I caught you at a bad time?", drawing attention to the idea of "bad time"? Use the positive alternative of, "Have I got you at a good time?" They'll still tell you if it isn't, but positively focused words help influence your desired results. "Getting" this is so important and powerful that I will devote an upcoming edition to expanding on this very subject.

We all have the capacity to choose and direct ourselves to be peaceful inside regardless of what is happening outside. All we really have to do is exercise that choice. These six simple strategies can make a terrific contribution.

And just what are those links between attitude, desserts and the "new normal"?

If you create a numeric equivalent for each letter of "A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E" (example, where A = 1, T = 20), the word "Attitude" equals 100.

Desserts are delicious and most people would rather have them than not! "Desserts" reversed is "Stressed". In which direction would you rather go?

And the "new normal" merely is what it is.

It takes 100% of your positive, focused attitude and effort to choose "desserts" over "stressed", to successfully work and live in the new normal. Do yourself and those around you a big favour, and treat yourself to a metaphoric, and literal decadent dozen fine quality truffles! Now there's a dessert! And now, more than ever, you deserve it!