A New Way to Work

Success and change without burnout by Dr. Geri Puleo

Archive for the category “Stress”

I Win…You Lose: How Politics and Sabotage Create Burnout

This is video #7 in a 10-part series focusing on the 10 ways that organizations burn out employees. I’ll discuss how environments that condone (or encourage) politics can lead to sabotage and employee burnout — plus I’ll provide tips on how to prevent it from happening in your workplace.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

We Don’t Have It! How Insufficient Resources Create Employee Burnout

This is video #6 in a 10-part series focusing on the 10 ways that organizations burn out employees.  I’ll discuss how insufficient resources lead to employee burnout and give tips on balancing the financial and human costs of providing — or NOT providing — the necessary resources.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Do As I Say! How Poor Leadership Creates Burnout

This is video #5 in a 10-part series focusing on the 10 ways that organizations burn out employees.  I’ll discuss how poor leadership leads to employee burnout and give tips on how to build relationships with employees and increase engagement.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

It’s About the Money! How Over-emphasizing ROI Creates Burnout

This is video #3 in my 10-part series focusing on the 10 ways that organizations burn out employees. I’ll discuss how focusing simply on financial results leads to employee burnout plus provide tips to balance tangible and intangible outcomes.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

What Did You Say? How Poor Communication Leads to Burnout (Video)

This is video #2 in my 10-part series focusing on the 10 ways that organizations burn out employees.  I’ll discuss how poor organizational communication leads to employee burnout plus provide tips on effectively sending and receiving messages.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

29 Holiday Survival Tips to De-stress at Home

Enjoy this holiday video: 29 survival tips to help you de-stress the holidays at home!

If the holidays have been stressing you out, register for my FREE on-demand 3-lesson eCourse: De-stressing the Holidays: How to Move From Bah Humbug to HoHoHo.

You will receive an email notification every other day, which opens up ea new lesson in the course — once a lesson is open, you’ll have full access until March 1, 2018.

Click here to register for this FREE eCourse.

Happy Holidays!

 

De-stressing the Holidays: How to Move From Bah Humbug to HoHoHo

De-Stressing the Holidays 2017 - IMAGE

Holidays can be great — something to look forward to the whole year.  But we can’t ignore the fact that the added personal demands can significantly increase stress levels.

De-stressing the Holidays:  How to Move From Bah Humbug to HoHoHo is a FREE 3-lesson eCourse available on demand. We’ll explore the reasons and emotions that may be contributing to your holiday stress — plus I’ll provide you with a variety of tips to help de-stress and enjoy the holiday season.  Watch the video at the end of this post for more information.

You will receive an email notification every other day, which opens up each of the 3 lessons in the eCourse — once a lesson is open, you’ll have full access until March 1, 2018!

Click here to register for De-stressing the Holidays.

Happy Holidays!

 

The Instant De-Stresser You Can Do at Your Desk

Breathe etched on stone heart

Breathing is natural.  It’s part of our autonomic nervous system, so we don’t even have to think about it.  But maybe we should consciously focus on our breathing in order to avoid stress and burnout.

Anxiety and stress have interesting effects on the breath.  Since breathing is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, changes in breath will occur automatically without our control.  For example, do you consciously instruct your body to breathe faster when your “fight or flight” response is triggered?  How about if you’re frightened – do you tell yourself to “hold your breath?”

Stress triggers the release of hundreds of different chemicals to surge through your body.  These chemicals create changes in the way that your body is operating so that you are better able to respond to the stressor.

A few years ago, I was co-presenting a workshop on using yoga to avoid workplace burnout.  One of the exercises that I asked participants to do was to take a deep breath.

Sounds easy, right?  But I was amazed at how many people don’t really know how to breathe.

Deep breathing involves using your diaphragm (a muscle located horizontally between your thoracic and abdominal cavities).  As a result, your waist expands out sideways while your lower pelvic belly moves down and out.  This allows you to support your breath – which is why it is the foundation of good singing.

But in the workshop, many of the participant inhaled loudly, scrunched up their shoulders, puffed out their chests…then held their breath.  This is a classic example of shallow breathing.

The Dangers of Shallow Breathing

While deep diaphragmatic breathing can calm you, shallow breathing tends to increase stress and anxiety on a physical level.  One study even indicated that simply changing to a shallow breathing pattern can actually trigger feelings of stress and anxiety (Plarre, Raij, et cl., 2011).

Shallow breathing (or “overbreathing”) is triggered by the “fight or flight” response to a perceived danger.  Even though you may feel like you’re not getting enough oxygen, these short rapid breaths are actually getting too much oxygen into your system.

Let me explain:  The act of breathing enables you to inhale oxygen (which fills your lungs immediately) and exhale carbon dioxide (which takes more time for your body to develop).  This delicate balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide goes out of whack when you’re stressed.

Overbreathing pushes out large levels of carbon dioxide – more carbon dioxide than your body is actually producing.  Because your levels are now lower than normal, your blood’s pH level is increased – which constricts your blood vessels and reduces blood flow to your brain.  As a result, it’s taking longer to bring oxygen to where it’s needed.

Which leads to feelings of needing more oxygen NOW – even though your oxygen levels are probably normal!  This rapid breathing makes you feel worse.  The cure is to slow down your breathing in order to get back in balance (literally and figuratively).

The effects of shallow breathing include:  chest pains, light-headedness, weakness, tingling in the hands/feet/lips, feeling feint, and a rapid heart beat.  If continued for a prolonged period of time, shallow breathing can also contribute to panic attacks.

If left unchecked, shallow breathing can become your accustomed way to breathe – in extreme cases, your body may eventually forget how to breathe in a healthy way.

Re-Learning How to Breathe

Remember those workshop participants who didn’t know how to breathe deeply?  I used a few very simple techniques to help them reconnect with their breath and reduce their stress levels:

Tip #1:  Focus on feeling your breath fill up your belly.  Many of us tend to keep our abdomens tight.  Maybe it’s a conscious effort to look like we have flatter abs.  But it might also be an unconscious physical response to stress.

Tip #2:  Relax your mouth and tongue.  Seriously.  It’s a simple technique that can automatically relax you.  Stress causes many people to tense their jaws, grit their teeth, or even use their tongues to reduce air flow.  Open your mouth slightly and relax – you’ll quickly learn where you are holding your tension.

Tip #3:  Count while you breathe.  One of the most effective techniques that I’ve used to quiet the mind and trigger a sense of calm is to breathe as follows:

  • Before you begin, commit to simply following the flow of breath – inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.
  • To begin, inhale for 1 count; then exhale for 2 counts.
  • Inhale for 3 counts; then exhale for 4 counts.
  • Inhale for 5 counts; then exhale for 6 counts.
  • Inhale for 7 counts; then exhale for 8 counts.
  • Inhale for 9 counts; then exhale for 10 counts.
  • Repeat.

The speed of your counting doesn’t seem to matter; I’ve done it relatively quickly or quite slowly.  Nor is the number of times that you repeat this process set in stone – it really depends on the sense of calm that you experience; generally, I feel much less stressed after 3 or 4 repetitions.

What’s critical is to let your inhalations fully extend down into your diaphragm so that you are breathing deeply.

Tip #4:  Feel with gratitude the life force inherent in your breath.  No, the chi (or qi) life force is not some “New Age-y” psychobabble – it’s just a simple fact:  breath is life.  Consciously taking a moment of simple gratitude for life itself also helps to keep things in perspective and reduce stress.

Breathing can be an instant de-stresser.  It can be done anywhere – in fact, you will be breathing everywhere!  To de-stress, simply take a few moments to focus on the breath and be grateful for its life-giving force.

For more tips on diaphragmatic breathing, check out this 2-minute YouTube video:   https://youtu.be/6UO4PYZ6G98.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

 

Is Burnout a Form of PTSD? How These Similarities Can Affect Business

When I presented my TEDx Talk on Burnout vs. PTSD:  More similar than you think… in 2014, I never expected the incredible response that I would receive.  People from around the world have reached out to me to share their own burnout experiences as well as their recovery.

So, a huge “thank you” to all of you who have watched my TEDx Talk on YouTube – we just passed 174,000 views!  Woo hoo!

If you haven’t yet watched the video, this blog post will discuss why I believe that burnout is a form of PTSD – and what that may mean to businesses.

The Similarities Between Burnout and PTSD

My Burnout During Organizational Change Model (B-DOC) is based on my participants’ experiences of burnout resulting from transformational organizational change.  Six characteristics emerged that were identical to those associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):

Burnout v PTSD

While workplace burnout might not be identical to PTSD resulting from the ravages of military conflict, many people emotionally and psychologically experience their workplaces as modern day battle zones.  Even though the dangers are NOT immediately life-threatening in workplace burnout, the feelings of hopelessness and abuse that my research participants experienced was nonetheless traumatic for them.

What’s important to remember is that the feelings of stress are not necessarily universal.  Each person reacts to a stressor in his or her own unique way – and this response can change over time.  Your perception is your reality:  if you perceive that the effects and impacts that the stressor is placing on you are negative, then you will be more likely to be fearful, angry, stressed out, and burned out.

In other words, the stressor is not inherently the cause of burnout – it is the individual’s perception and reaction to the stressor that can trigger the burnout cycle.

So, how did my participants experience the above characteristics of PTSD in their job-related burnout?

  • Exposure to a traumatic event or extreme stressor. Although many were mentioned, their burnout was often triggered by an abusive boss, unrealistic (and unachievable) deadlines, change that is constant and unrelenting, or a culture of sabotage and mistrust.
  • Response with fear, hopelessness, or horror. This was particularly evident when the worker’s expectations about the work environment were not met – leading to a belief that their workplace was unstable, aggressively combative, or lacking in moral integrity.  The reality was so different from their expectations that it fundamentally challenged their basic beliefs, work ethic, or confidence in their professional ability.  These workers lived in a negative state of apathy, hopelessness, and unrelenting fear about their ability to adequately perform their jobs.
  • Sleep disturbances, nightmares. Stress and fear trigger the adrenal glands to release cortisol to prepare the body for fight-or-flight – your body is mobilized to take action!  But highly stressful environments or situation that do not offer workers any reprieve also do not offer any time for the body to recover to its pre-stress levels.  This constant state of hyper-alertness leads to persistent sleep disturbances.  Over time, the lack of restful sleep significantly impairs workers’ ability to solve problems, make decisions, and develop creative solutions.
  • Depression, withdrawal. Findings in a recent study published in the International Journal of Stress Management indicated that 90% of participants who identified as “burned out” also met the diagnostic criteria for depression.  Additionally, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that anxiety disorders affect 40 million Americans (that’s 18% of the population over the age of 18).  In addition to feeling depressed (which may or may not have been clinically diagnosed), the vast majority of my participants only started to recover from burnout when they psychologically or physically withdrew from their stressful work situations.  Can a business really afford rampant burnout-related presenteeism or turnover?
  • Frequent mood changes, generalized irritability. Mercurial mood changes, generalized crankiness, and even “forgetting” how to laugh drastically changes how burned out workers interact with their coworkers, friends, and families.  With such negativity and pessimism, it’s no wonder that their productivity and performance deteriorate.
  • Avoid activities that promote recall of the traumatic event. Perhaps the most surprising finding that led to my Burnout During Organizational Change Model (B-DOC) was the tendency to “boomerang” back into burnout’s downward spiral if subjected to a similar stress-producing event (such as an abusive manager or mismanaged change initiative) even if it was at a different workplace.  This “residual burnout” quickly brought my participants back into their previous burnout.  By creating a new psychological contract with their work, they could move forward because they had determined clear boundaries relating to not only what they would give to an employer, but also what they expected (demanded?) in return.

Could the ADAAA Require a Reasonable Accommodation for Burnout? 

The original Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) did not consider PTSD to be a disability because the disability could not be separated from its symptoms.  Because medications mitigated the symptoms of PTSD, employers were not required to make reasonable accommodations.

However, that all changed with the 2010 amendments to the ADA (ADAAA).  PTSD is now considered to be a de facto physical disability and the mitigating factor of medications to treat PTSD is no longer considered to be sufficient to absolve employers from reasonably accommodating workers suffering from it.

Some potential reasonable accommodations for PTSD include granting employees additional time to complete projects and acknowledging that behavioral outbursts are part of the disability (usually responding by removing the worker from the stress-producing situation).

Here’s my question:  if the symptoms of burnout and PTSD are so similar, could burnout be a subcategory of PTSD?  While current psychiatrists do not make this correlation, it is interesting to speculate on how the workplace would change if employers would be legally required to reasonably accommodate burned out workers.

The result would be a fundamental shift in company policies and practices:

  • Employees would be actively encouraged to take vacation time – even to the extent of not “checking in” while away from the office.
  • Leaders and managers would be expected to recognize and appreciate the efforts of their subordinates – perhaps even being evaluated on their level of support on annual performance reviews.
  • Dedicated efforts would be focused on modifying (or even abandoning) policies, procedures, rules, and regulations that increase stress levels in the workplace.
  • Mental and emotional space would be given so that employees could engage in serendipity – releasing their creativity (without fear of reprisal) and fostering greater innovation.
  • Such an enlightened company would return humanism and humanistic ideals into the workplace.

The result is not only an enlightened corporate culture that emphasizes humanism and humanistic ideals in the workplace, but also an organization that experiences bottom line results due to enhanced productivity, performance, and overall employee job satisfaction.

Viewing burnout as the “new norm” in the American workplace is misleading and dangerous.  Not only are the workers’ psychological and physical health threatened by burnout, but so is the company’s brand and financial strength.  A burned out workforce will never be psychologically or physically able to produce the innovation, quality, and customer responsiveness that are demanded in today’s hypercompetitive market.

Burnout is real and is estimated to affect over 50% of U.S. employees (Families and Work Institute, 2017).  It’s time to identify and treat the warning signs of burnout before they lead to PTSD-type symptoms – and before they challenge the foundation of a high performing organization.

To learn more about my B-DOC Model, please click here to download my free white paper.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com.  

Paradigm Shifter #1 – Trust your gut

Paradigm Shift

I’ve observed that many of us rely almost exclusively on quantitative evidence, while ignoring or even disparaging our more subjective qualitative insights.

Is this indulgence in data-driven, linear analysis due to our fear of the unknown?

Are we so driven by “hard” data that we are blocking the “soft” insights available only through our gut feelings?

But, are our data-driven and intuitive minds really so diametrically different?  In other words, why is it so common to believe that a linear way of looking at a problem is the only way to look at that problem?

Anyone who has truly mastered a skill has what seems to be an uncanny ability to “see” things that others who are less skilled simply overlook. In fact, someone who has mastered a skill or craft often does not engage in the machinations of “hard” data analysis, but can “see” the solution to the problem or potential outcome quickly.

Should this master’s insights or suggestions be ignored? Hardly, because it often is the result of experience and a finely honed ability to recognize patterns or trends that lead to those insights.

Is our gut instinct based on this same foundation?

Gut instincts nag us to do something – even if it’s not necessarily what we had planned to do.  Often these gut feelings contradict our more linear perception of reality and we don’t heed the advice:

  • Remember that “funny feeling” you had when you accepted a job offer that sounded so good – even though “something” was telling you not to accept it? You only discovered (after much angst) that what the employer told you about the job wasn’t the reality of the job.
  • Or what about the time that “something” told you to get off the plane in which you were traveling? More than likely, you ignored your gut – but then gave yourself a head slap when the plane had to make an emergency landing down a runway filled with firetrucks and responders in hazmat suits. (This actually happened to me!)

In both of these situations, did you question why you didn’t listen to your gut?

So what leads to these gut feelings?

While the specific mechanism of what creates a gut feeling may not be fully understood, it seems that we humans are wired to have them.

In fact, I haven’t met anyone yet who does not acknowledge that they have experienced a gut feeling about a person or situation at least once in their lives.  Although the feeling may have defied logical analysis, the insight ultimately came true.

The sad reality is that gut feelings are often only acknowledged after the fact.  In other words, we recognize or admit to having that gut feeling only in hindsight.

Given the ubiquitous nature of gut feelings, the number of people who actually listen to their gut (anecdotally based upon my observations) is substantially smaller.

The question, of course, is why are we so afraid of acting upon our gut instincts or using them in our decision making? Why is it so challenging to accept these gut feelings before we act – rather than recognizing their wisdom afterward?

Perhaps it is the fear of being wrong or failing that prevents us from accepting the spontaneous insights of our guts. But what if our gut instincts are simply the result of processing information at a much higher speed than our more linear thought processes?

The Brain and the Mind

For lack of a better location, our gut instincts emanate from our brains – and the full capacity and capabilities of this amazing organ have not yet been fully mapped.

I’m sure that you’ve heard the recurring myth that people use only 10% of the total capacity of their brains. However, this assumption from the early 1900s has been debunked by current research.  The reality is that nearly every part of our brain is constantly active:  although only 3% of total body weight, the brain uses 20% of the body’s total energy.

In other words, the brain is constantly active processing, organizing, and storing external and internal information.

Maybe our gut instincts are the result of our brain sensing patterns or similarities with information that it had previously stored – information that would take longer to detect using purely linear thought processes.

So, why not become a little more receptive and accepting of the quicker insights of our gut feelings?

I’m not suggesting that quantitative data be ignored in decision making. Instead, I am suggesting that data be viewed as a tool that needs to be analyzed and interpreted by using both parts of our brains:  the linear quantitative and the creative qualitative.

Our experiences have shown that hindsight is always 20/20. But imagine how our lives would be enhanced if we finally learned to trust those gut feelings when they happen!

Trusting your gut is essentially a commitment to trusting yourself.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

 

 

 

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