Awareness Caregiving Empathy Growth Parenting Positive Change Positive Potential Relationships stress management Workplace Health

Good Stress, Bad Stress. What Kind of Stress Do You Cause?

Hans Selye distinguished good stress (eustress) from bad stress (distress).

Sometimes it’s not easy to tell the difference.

You may dream of a stress-free life, but such a life could be boring . . . or empty.

Being a parent has been one of the biggest adventures of my life but it has never been stress-free. Parents are charged with a tremendous responsibility – the physical and emotional well-being of a baby, a toddler, a growing child and eventually a maturing adolescent.

There are special challenges and rewards with each child and at every stage of their growth. And as a child grows, so do we.

We also become a stress – mostly positive but at times negative – in the lives of our children. We set boundaries for behaviour, and we set standards and goals. Without these, they may not internalize appropriate values and achieve their positive potential.

Our words – and how we deliver them – can be a source of stress. Our children need our feedback at every stage. That feedback can help them to continuously improve and grow.

Too often, poorly chosen words can cause distress. Unhelpful criticism – that which does not improve our performance and that which attacks rather than assists – arises through thoughtlessness or our own darker motivations.

We can get into a pattern of reflexively blurting out hurtful and harmful remarks that harms both our relationship and the children we have been charged to nurture.

We are all interconnected – dependent on one another in great and small ways. We can harm or help others in our actions and in our words – what we do and what we fail to do, what we say and how we say it.

In the workplace, at school, in the field and at home, what type of stress do you cause others? What is your effect – positive and negative – on your partner, children, employees, coworkers and others you influence in your daily life?

Being more mindful of this, what would you do differently?

Balance Growth Healthy Living stress management Workplace Health

Stress: An Unavoidable But Essential Part of Living

At one of the positive points in our lives, my childhood friend, Stan said, “When I feel pain, I know I’m alive.”

Stress is like that. It’s an unavoidable part of life. 

We all know about some distant (or not so distant) relative (usually male) who does his best to avoid discomfort and work. He slides through (and out) of school by sleeping in, skipping out and exerting the absolute minimum of effort to just get by.

He doesn’t go out of his way for anyone. He waits for others to wait on him. He waits for them to tell him what has to be done. He avoids not only exercise but sweating itself. He avoids work as much as possible, and if he manages to get a job, he’ll do the least he can to keep it.

This stress-avoidance strategy ultimately fails. The sloth causes increasing stress to all around him until no further help is available. Ultimately, he’ll face the stress of survival alone . . . and the void of a potential unfulfilled.

Stress is essential to life.

Without positive stress, we would not rise from our beds each morning. Without internal and external stresses to move forward and challenge ourselves, we would never discover new opportunities and grow.

Without the stress of our everyday lives, the stress of pushing our limits, the stress of our failures and the stress of the major and minor traumas in the stories of our lives, we would never grow stronger, wiser or more compassionate. 

Next: What’s the “right” amount of stress?

Relationships Uncategorized Workplace Health

Work Stress and the Locus of Control

A sense of control – and recognizing that our actions can make a positive difference – can make us empowered and engaged patients. Without that sense of control, we feel overwhelmed and anxious, demoralized and depressed. Our emotional state can influence our physical state.

That locus of control is important in all aspects of our lives – at home, at school and at work.

If you are an employer or supervisor, it is crucial that you keep your staff members informed of changes that will affect them personally and wherever possible, consult them and elicit their feedback. Engaged and empowered employees will not only be happier and less stressed; they will be more productive.

With corporate downsizing and layoffs, the demands on individual employees can be overwhelming. If workers are not given sufficient time, training and support to meet their assigned tasks, they are set up for failure, stress and burnout.

We have to be vigilant of the signs that workers – or we ourselves – are becoming significantly anxious or depressed. Productivity plummets, and employees become physically or psychiatrically ill. These are the usual reasons that employees will need to stop work and go on “stress leave.”

Coming up:  Work stress – it’s recognition, management and prevention – and other important aspects of workplace health.

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Finding Meaning and a Sense of Control at Work

In an ideal world, each of us would meet our calling in our work. We would make a living doing what we love to do. Our unique talents and experiences – along with the support and resources we are given – would be met by the challenges of each day. Our work would be meaningful to us, and at the end of each day, we would feel we have made a positive difference.

But of course, in the real world, many of us are just working to pay the bills and to keep food on the table. As one of my best friends says, “It’s just a job.” At different points in our lives, our circumstances are such that we have to settle for a job that we don’t find particularly meaningful, challenging or the opposite – way too stressful.

But our ideals – and our dreams – are worthwhile considering if you are a young person considering your vocational options, an adult looking for work, a boss trying to engage employees, or a worker wondering how things could be better.

Just as we don’t have complete control over the circumstances of our lives and our physical health, we have to pause and consider those things that we can influence. When I work with patients with a chronic health condition such as congestive heart failure or diabetes, we focus on the things they can do to maintain mastery over their health – what activities will improve their condition, what types of food will reduce potential complications and what they need to monitor to slow down the progression of disease.

A sense of control – and recognizing that our actions can make a positive difference – can make us empowered and engaged patients.

Next: The importance of a sense of control to your wellbeing.

Healthy Living stress management Uncategorized Workplace Health

Healthy Work

How healthy is your workplace?

Considering that the average adult spends at least 40 hours a week there, your place of work is a major part of your complete wellbeing.

Workplace safety and the prevention of injury are very important, but just as your health is more than the treatment of disease, there’s much more to your workplace health.

How does your work contribute to the stress in your life? How does it affect your sleep?

Is your work meaningful to you? Is what you do aligned with your deepest values?

Do you feel physically well at the end of your shift?

Do you have positive relationships with the people with whom you work?

At the end of each day, are you happy to come home because of a job well done . . . or are you just relieved that it’s finally over?

Next: Finding meaning and a sense of control at work.

Coping with Loss Easter Grace Letting Go Love Relationships

Finding Comfort With Loss

My father-in-law passed peacefully this Easter Sunday. Recognizing that his long life was ending, he found strength and comfort with what mattered most throughout his life: family and faith.

One of his greatest strengths was his devotion to his family firmly founded on his loving partnership with my mother-in-law. His deepest joy and greatest pride was in his children and grandchildren. With each of them, he shared an unshakable faith and love.

Where do families and friends find comfort with loss?

We are told to hold on to our memories and that they will give us comfort and even happiness in the future. Yet in the immediacy of grief, those memories can be painful. The bereaved often feel an overwhelming void – a profound emptiness.

This is the effect of losing one who has been significant in our lives.

I remember that terrible feeling when my mother died nine years ago. With time, that void was gradually filled with a comforting feeling of gratitude – thankfulness for how I was enriched by my mother, recognition of how deeply she informed every aspect of my life, remembering much of what she had taught me and realizing how she remained an inseparable part of who I am and how I love others. I now find great peace and joy in sharing memories of my mother with my children.

We make sense of our lives – and cope with loss – through our stories. Our memories form the content of those stories. How we tell our stories interprets those memories. We are actors and coauthors in the stories of our lives.

The challenge for each of us is to live each day with the end in mind, attending to what matters most in the grand interweaving stories of our shared lives. At the end of each day and the end of each life, what matters most is love.

Coping with Loss Relationships

Confronting Our Mortality

Death informs life.

It can give us a perspective on our lives – and our relationships – that can lift us from the complacency of our common days.

It can give us urgency to do what we’ve always wanted to do and say what needs to be said: admitting our mistakes, forgiving others theirs, expressing appreciation and love. We can attend to what matters most when we anticipate the end of our own lives or the life of one we love. With this urgency, it can feel that we had wasted our precious time with not enough left ahead.

When death is unexpected, it is too late. Most often we leave much undone and unsaid. We wait too long to have those crucial conversations. We may be by nature quick to anger but slow to forgive. We may be even slower to apologize.

Yet we all know that our days are numbered though we live as if they will go on forever. It is our nature to get caught up in the business of living – pursuing what seems more important at the time. But when we recognize that our time with those we love is limited, we realize our relationships matter most.

Next: Finding comfort from loss.

Caregiving Easter Grace Letting Go Love Relationships

What Easter Means to Me: The Cycles of Life & Love

April to me is a bittersweet month. We celebrate my sister’s birthday, yet it is also the month 9 years ago that our mother died unexpectedly.

In grief, we are drained of the joy in life. We may feel empty and isolated, disconnected from the rest of the world. Much of what had once engaged or enraged us suddenly becomes meaningless.

That profound sense of loss is certainly the tone of Good Friday. So why is this day deemed “good”?

Mythologist, Joseph Campbell pointed out the double meaning of Christ’s atonement for our sins. In that word, he sees “at one”-ment. This is the recognition that we share identity with one another, with nature and with the divine.

As mortal creatures with human bodies, we are born, we grow, we live and we die. We are part of the cycle of life and death.

We are also part of a more profound spiritual and emotional dynamic – the cycle of love. Recognizing this lifted me from the depths of my own grief. When I looked into the beautiful faces of my own children, I realized that I saw them with the same love with which my mother loved us. In spite of our imperfections, we were loved. She saw the best in us even when we could not see it, and through love, she brought out the best in us.

That love – unconditional and undeserved – is a gift of grace. It transcends our individual needs, egos and self-interests. It transcends cultures. It transcends our own lives.

This Easter, we find ourselves within the cycle of love as my dear father-in-law is supported in palliative care. All members of our extended family have been graced with his kindness and love, and all participate in supporting him with love at the end of life.

Coping with Loss Easter Grace Letting Go Love

What Easter Means to Me (1st of 2 parts)

To many, Easter is a great long weekend: four days off sandwiched between two four-day work weeks. It seems a perfect time for a quick getaway to the ferries or up the Sea to Sky Highway, cross-border shopping or catching up on chores around the house.

But for Christians, Easter is more important than Christmas itself. On Good Friday, we remember Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate His rebirth.

It may at first seem difficult to understand but you don’t have to be a believer to recognize the profound emotional and spiritual symbolism – after death and desolation, life and hope.

Is it by coincidence that Easter is celebrated in early spring when the sun shines longer and cherry blossoms bloom?

Next: Finding meaning in Easter, life, death and love.